N.Y. mayor Michael Bloomberg among Idaho education donors

N.Y. mayor Michael Bloomberg among Idaho education donors

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - An Idaho nonprofit group ordered by a judge this week to disclose its donors has collected $641,160 from contributors including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Albertson's supermarket heir Joe Scott, according to documents filed with the state.

Bloomberg and Scott are easily the two biggest contributors spelled out in disclosure forms filed by Education Voters of Idaho. Bloomberg gave $200,000 and Scott ponied up $250,000.

EVI had fought to keep its financial supporters secret after the group gave more than $200,000 to pay for campaign ads promoting Propositions 1,2 and 3 — the new education laws that are subject to a voter referendum on Nov. 6.
 
But Secretary of State Ben Ysursa bristled at the group's activities, and filed a lawsuit in state court seeking to have the donors disclosed in keeping with Idaho's 1974 Sunshine Law. 
 
On Monday, a judge ruled it was a political action committee that had to disclose donors under Idaho's Sunshine Law. 

"We wanted disclosure and that's what we got," Ysursa told The Associated Press after receiving the group's filing. "The citizens of Idaho in 1974 passed the Sunshine Law with 78 percent of the vote and said, 'We want disclosure of financing of ballot measures and candidates.' It's my duty to enforce that law. That's what we were after."
 
EVI, a 501(c)4 nonprofit group that claimed free-speech protections shielded it from identifying its contributors, complied and met the deadline.

But the group's founders, who include Debbie Field, the campaign director for Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter, say they are still considering an appeal to the Idaho Supreme Court.

"Although we strongly disagree with the ruling...we have decided to fully comply," Field wrote, contending the law is unclear if organizations like hers must report contributors. "We are disappointed you selected our organization as the vehicle by which you chose to clarify the law."

Disclosure disputes aren't novel to Idaho.

In California, the state's political watchdog agency is in court pursuing the identities of donors behind an $11 million campaign contribution aimed at fighting Gov. Jerry Brown's tax initiative and limiting political fundraising by unions.

And nationally, the Internal Revenue Service said in July that it's also looking into the role of 501(c)4 nonprofit groups in political campaigns.

It's not immediately clear why Bloomberg donated to EVI.

Scott's investment company, Alscott Inc., has invested in the past in Virginia-based K12 Inc., a company that sells online education courses to schools and was founded in 1999 by former U.S. Education Secretary William Bennett.

Altogether, EVI collected money from more than two dozen donors.  | Full List of Contributors

They include:

— The Republican Governor's Public Policy Commission, $50,000.

— J.R. Simplot Corp., $5,000.

— Clear Springs Foods, a Magic Valley trout farm, $10,000

— Foster Friess, a wealthy donor to conservative causes, $25,000

— The Idaho Forest Group, $10,000.

EVI formed in August, and its founders argued its status as a 501(c)4 nonprofit, with a broad mission of promoting education reforms beyond the Nov. 6 ballot measures, enabled it to take advantage of federal protections for the identities of donors.

They said Ysursa's efforts to lift the veil on anonymity will have a chilling effect on their First Amendment free-speech rights.

EVI collected the money, then paid $200,000 to a related PAC run by the same founders to finance television ads promoting the Propositions.