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Homebuilder group ordered to pay fine, disclose political contributions after Secretary of State investigation

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A court ordered a political action committee funded by Ada County homebuilders to disclose its donors and pay a fine after an investigation by the Idaho Secretary of State. 

Building Industry Group of Treasure Valley, a nonprofit industry group run by Tradewinds General Contracting Principal Steve Martinez and Avimor principal Dan Richter, settled with Idaho Secretary of State Lawrence Denney earlier this summer after the state investigated the group for spending campaign funds without filing the proper disclosures required under Idaho law. The group had to pay the state $2,500 and backdate its political contributions for the duration of 2021, totaling nearly $60,000. 

This stems from a complaint made by Tucker Anderson in December 2021 alleging the group used its nonprofit status to shield the identity of donors and then used the money to pay the expenses of the high-spending Conservative Citizens for Thoughtful Growth PAC. Anderson also pointed to political ads from BIG TV on Facebook, which the group ran without disclosure to the state or registering as a PAC. 

A screenshot from an ad against City Council Member Lisa Sanchez run by Conservative Citizens for Thoughtful Growth

CCFTG was highly visible in the 2020 and 2021 Ada County municipal elections, running attack ads against former Ada County Commissioner Diana Lachiondo and City Council Member Lisa Sánchez. The group has not run any ads in 2022, but Richter and Martinez sent out candidate surveys in recent weeks to those running in local elections this month asking candidates questions about growth, development, and if they were interested in an endorsement from the homebuilders. 

Anderson was pleased with the result Tuesday morning. 

“I am glad that the Secretary of State’s Office was able to come to a resolution with the PAC to enforce the laws that candidates and other PACs are already following,” he said in a text message. 

Martinez and Richter did not return a request for comment before press time. 

Some big donors revealed, but questions remain

The Idaho Secretary of State’s website now shows political contributions to BIG TV’s newly formed PAC backdated to almost a year. 

Starting in October 2021, the paperwork shows a $15,000 donation from Tradewinds and $50,000 from James Auld, a former Idaho legislator from the early 1980s and landlord who owns Auld Investment Properties. Idaho EdNews described him as a “longtime anti-property tax activist” in a 2014 story about Auld working with the Idaho Freedom Foundation to bring a tort claim against the Boise Independent School District. 

The Building Contractors Association of SW Idaho PAC donated another $5,000 in March of this year and Givens Pursley law firm partner Jeremy Chou gave $1,000 in April. In May, Avimor put in $25,000 and Hailey residents and owners of JHS Properties LLC Janne and Henry Burdick donated $2,500 in July. 

But, even if donors to BIG TV’s PAC are required to be disclosed, not all of the group’s funders are public. Nonprofits, like BIG TV, are able to keep their donations private, meaning if donors give money to BIG TV the group can then donate that money to its PAC and the source donors remain unknown. 

In March 2022, the nonprofit arm of BIG TV donated $10,000 to the PAC. The group also used this tactic to shield who funded a large portion of its activities in the 2021 election by retroactively filing paperwork to say the nonprofit gave $35,000 to the BIG TV PAC on November 18 and then using that exact amount of money to purchase campaign ads on the same day. 

Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel is a BoiseDev reporter focused on the City of Boise, housing, homelessness and growth. Contact her at [email protected] or by phone at (757)705-8066.

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