City Council President Pro Tem Lisa Sánchez repaid several reelection campaign expenditures after she charged roughly $200 in personal expenses to her campaign fund.
Sánchez logged more than a dozen charges with campaign funds on personal meals, a car wash, and tickets to the Idaho Shakespeare Festival in the past six months. The charges, which total $221, potentially violated several provisions in the Idaho Sunshine law requiring campaign funds to be restricted directly to campaign activities and not for personal use.
‘A simple mistake’
After BoiseDev inquired about the charges, Sánchez said, “thank you for bringing that to my attention,” and directed her campaign manager to look into the issue. After a second look at the charges, the campaign removed eleven purchases from the campaign finance report, and money was transferred from Sánchez’s personal account to cover the cost.
She said it was a “simple mistake” caused because she has three debit cards that look nearly identical: One for campaign expenses, one for costs related to city council, and another for her consulting business.
“It happens sometimes where we use the wrong card and we end up having to transfer money and those might have been some that we missed,” she said. “I bank at the same place and (all of the cards) are green.”
Sánchez is the second-highest fundraiser in the November Boise City Council election, behind her opponent Greg MacMillan, with $43,418 raised in 2021 alone. She has $37,604 in cash on hand after the September campaign finance reporting period.
Meals charges ‘raise questions’ for Ada County Clerk
Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane and his elections staff reviewed the expenditures and he said several of the charges stuck out to him, particularly meals cheap enough that it can only be for one person.
“Some of them, there’s one in particular for Fanci Freeze, and having been to Fanci Freeze myself I can’t imagine it’s more than a shake or something as well as a few others,” he said Tuesday. “The low dollar ones are the ones that stand out. Another one is for Chubbs Delights, which is in Nampa, not here and that raises the question for me.”
Candidates are not permitted by Idaho law to use campaign funds for personal use, this includes meals or groceries they consume while campaigning unless it is at a fundraiser or a business meeting. Non-campaign-related automobile expenses and tickets to sporting events, theater productions or other entertainment events are also not allowed.
The expenditures the campaign paid back include:
- $5.51 at Java Downtown
- $4.77 at Java Downtown
- $6.62 at Flying M Coffeehouse
- $18 at Mister Car Wash
- $17.82 at Waffle Duchess
- $8.82 at Tacos El Rey #2
- $3.59 at Fanci Freeze
- $8.20 at Fanci Freeze
- $7 at McDonald’s
- $118 to the Idaho Shakespeare Festival
- $22.77 at Saffron Indian Cuisine
Other changes marked as Donations & Gifts
After BoiseDev’s inquiries, Sánchez’s campaign also reclassified several purchases from Food to Donations and Gifts. This includes purchases like $40 worth of Girl Scout cookies, which Sánchez said were gifts to volunteers. She is a lifetime member of the Girl Scouts and is a supporter of the organization.
The other purchases reclassified to donations include:
- $6.36 at Chubs Delights
- $6.62 at Flying M Coffee House
Sánchez stands by her use of campaign funds to purchase gas for her car. She told BoiseDev that she uses her own funds to fuel her car when she is not campaigning, making it an eligible expense to use funds from supporters for.
“The gas charges are considered a reasonable campaign expense because it is the lesser of mileage reimbursement or gas,” Sánchez’s Campaign Manager Charity Strong wrote to BoiseDev in an email. “The current reimbursement rate for mileage is .56/mile. Lisa has put an average of 175 miles each month on her vehicle for campaigning activities beginning in July. Reimbursement for mileage would be $294 versus the $200.19 that has been expensed for July, August, and September.”