BOISE (Idaho Capital Sun) – A popular online crowdfunding site known for helping people raise money for medical expenses, memorials and charities has become a campaign fundraiser in the race for a sits on the school board of Idaho’s largest school district.
Two candidates who ran for the West Ada School District School Board election in November – Lori Frasure and Mike Willits – have used the GoFundMe website to raise thousands of dollars. However, Willits sent the Idaho Capital Sun a statement on Wednesday saying he had withdrawn his name as a candidate and was no longer running for the school board.
Officials from the Idaho Secretary of State’s Office and Ada County Clerk’s Office told The Sun that it was not illegal for local Idaho candidates to use GoFundMe or other online crowdfunding sites to raise money for political campaigns.
GoFundMe also allows practice. Fundraising to support a school board and political fundraising is permitted under GoFundMe’s terms of service, a regional company spokesperson said.
However, they all pointed out that it was still the candidate’s responsibility to record all of their campaign finance contributions and follow all Idaho campaign finance disclosure requirements and laws.
Political fundraising is allowed, it is the candidate’s responsibility to comply with local election laws, âGoFundMe spokeswoman Jenny Perillo wrote in an email to the Idaho Capital Sun. âGoFundMe will help identify donors at the request of applicants. “
Campaign finance disclosure laws and transparency reporting are important because they give the public insight into who is trying to influence elections or politics using money. This year, new campaign finance laws are in effect for local candidates. Once local applicants have raised $ 500, they must begin filing reports with the state disclosing contributions. Campaign fundraising reports are available at Idaho Secretary of State’s Office website and available to search by candidate name, contributor name, political action committee, or expense.
If GoFundMe or other sites allow anonymous contributions and a candidate accepts an anonymous contribution, it could create legal problems for the candidate.
“There are no anonymous contributions,” Deputy Chief Assistant Secretary of State Chad Houck said in a telephone interview. âIt’s there (in state law) in black and white. It should be clear enough.
GoFundMe’s Perillo said the company will help applicants identify contributors.
Houck said he was not sure the Secretary of State’s office had ever been asked about local candidates using GoFundMe.
Houck said he couldn’t really advise applicants on GoFundMe because he wasn’t sure exactly how the online fundraising platform worked or what its current policies were. Houck said he had used the service to donate to a nonprofit in the past and knew GoFundMe was accepting anonymous donations at that time.
He also said that GoFundMe could change its practices or the data it provides at any time. That’s why he’s worried about making a definitive statement on GoFundMe; if it said “yes” or “no” today, GoFundMe could modify the data it provides tomorrow, which could change its answer.
âWe cannot make a recommendation from the Secretary of State’s office. I would be remiss to say whether or not a company like GoFundMe or any other vendor can be used, âHouck said.
âThe smart choice is for the candidate to understand the legal requirements and then find out if the platform can deliver it,â Houck said.
Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane says the most important thing is for the candidate to collect the information they need for disclosure.
“How they raise him is none of our business as long as they follow the law,” McGrane said in a telephone interview.
McGrane helped create a campaign fundraising brochure designed to help candidates comply with disclosure laws.
The flyer tells candidates, âAll money raised or spent on a campaign should be accounted for and tracked. This includes the use of the candidate’s personal money.
McGrane referred to former Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa when he spoke about his philosophy on transparency and campaign finance.
âThe goal is sunshine and transparency, without trying to penalize people,â McGrane said. âThe goal is to disseminate information. We want to do everything we can to help people comply. “
Houck and McGrane are running for secretary of state in 2022. Both told the Idaho Capital Sun they don’t use GoFundMe in their campaigns.
What applicants are required to report under Idaho law?
Campaign finance laws can be confusing and nuanced, especially for new applicants seeking unpaid positions, such as a seat on a local school board.
That’s why McGrane, the Ada County clerk, wanted to create a simple brochure to help applicants for the city, schools and local offices.
Here are some basic campaign fundraising requirements for city, school board, and local office candidates that McGrane highlights in his brochure. State specific laws can be found in Title 67, Chapter 66 of the Idaho Code, which covers campaign contributions and expenses and lobbyists.
- Candidates must account for all campaign funds raised or spent.
- Once a candidate has raised $ 500, the candidate must appoint a political treasurer and begin reporting campaign finances, including the sources and expenses of the first $ 500.
- The maximum contribution for individuals, businesses and political committees is $ 1,000 per election. Any one-time contribution of $ 1,000 must be declared and disclosed.
- No anonymous donations are allowed, whether it’s an unmarked envelope full of money left on a table at a campaign rally or an online contribution left on a crowdfunding site.
- If a candidate receives an anonymous donation of more than $ 50, the candidate may attempt to return it to the donor. If the candidate cannot determine the name of the contributor, the money “must be forwarded immediately” to the Idaho State Comptroller’s Office for deposit into the Public Schools Fund, according to Idaho law.
- Applicants must disclose and declare the full name and address of anyone who contributes more than $ 50. Applicants should always follow the full name and address of anyone who contributes less, as the $ 50 threshold is cumulative. This means that if someone gives $ 25 in September, for example, a candidate has to register their name and address, because if that person gives $ 30 more in October, that triggers the over $ 50 threshold.
- All campaign materials, such as posters and flyers, should include a disclosure statement, such as âpaid for byâ and include the name of the candidate, the position sought and the name of the political treasurer.
- Election candidates now all submit campaign finance reports to the secretary of state’s desk. online campaign finance portal.
- In election year, candidates must report campaign finance returns monthly, and the deadline is the 10th of each month. There is a $ 50 fine for each day a candidate delays filing the disclosure after the first 48 hours after the deadline has passed.
- Annual returns for non-election years are due by January 10.
How much money did the West Ada contestants raise?
The two candidates who used GoFundMe in the West Ada school board race – Frasure and Willits, who said he’s no longer running – both filed campaign finance reports on time with the secretary’s office. ‘State. This includes the August 2021 report, the report that was most recently due.
Frasure’s landing page on GoFundMe reported on Friday that she raised $ 12,920 through GoFundMe. Overall, she told the state she raised over $ 18,900 in total contributions.
Willit’s GoFundMe homepage says he raised $ 2,520 through the website on Friday. He told the state he raised more than $ 3,600 from all sources. There is no obligation for Willits or any candidate who drops out before Election Day to return the money.
Frasure did not respond to a text and voicemail message the Idaho Capital Sun left on Wednesday and Thursday at the phone number it listed on its campaign finance reports.
Idaho School Boards Association deputy principal and government affairs liaison Quinn Perry said she was not aware of any candidates who have asked the association for advice on GoFundMe. She said her first call would be to McGrane for more information if candidates asked for advice.
Idaho residents will vote in local school board elections on November 2.
Idaho Capital Sun is part of States Newsroom, a network of news offices supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c (3) public charity. Idaho Capital Sun maintains editorial independence. Contact editor Christine Lords with any questions: [email protected] Follow Idaho Capital Sun on Facebook and Twitter.