Late last month, the Idaho Freedom Foundation filed a campaign spending complaint against former Boise City Councilwoman Lisa Sanchez, alleging misappropriation of funds.
Sanchez spent more than $14,600 on campaign finance in 2022, a year after winning a second term. He outspent his colleagues on the council, and according to campaign records, he used political funds for dozens of charges at restaurants, cafes, bakeries and supermarkets.
In a text message to the state of Idaho, Sanchez said the charges comply with Idaho law.
Last month, Sanchez lost his seat on the City Council when he inadvertently moved out of his district.
Ada County Clerk’s office spokeswoman Nicole Camarda told the Statesman that her office is reviewing Sanchez’s filing and plans to contact him.
Violators of campaign finance laws can be fined up to $250. If a person “knowingly and intentionally” violates the requirements, the person can be accused of misconduct.
The Freedom Foundation called the cost “suspicious”.
On Jan. 25, the Ada County Clerk’s Office received a complaint from the Idaho Freedom Foundation, a think tank that has a strong voice in the Legislature and says it fights against “socialist” policies.
The foundation, whose president is Wayne Hoffman, noted that other Boise council members spent significantly less than Sanchez in 2022.
Councilman Jimmy Halliburton reportedly spent $18 in campaign finance in 2022. Members Patrick Bageant and Elaine Clegg did not report expenses. Council Speaker Holly Woodings spent about $3,000, mostly on donations to the Democratic Party and on the Mailchimp platform that hosts her campaign website. Lucy Willits spent about $3,300 on a political consulting firm, Griffin Marketing, and on donations to Scott Bedke’s campaign for lieutenant governor.
“It’s not just the difference in total costs that makes me wonder if there’s something wrong going on here,” the complaint said. “The things he bought with that money seem questionable, shall we say.”
Hoffman blogged about Sanchez’s expenses two days before filing the complaint. The news of the cost of Sanchez was in 2022 KTVB’s first news.
Money spent in restaurants, bars, candle shops
On December 30, Sanchez spent about $32 at a Jimmy John’s sandwich chain.
He spent $700 in “in-kind” funds, which are non-monetary, at a Caldwell restaurant called Amano’s. In 2020, she spent $500 twice at the same restaurant.
In the text messages, Sanchez said he hosts tamale events as political fundraisers and Amano donated corn dough for the 2022 event.
Also in December, she spent about $189 at Wild Roots Cafe, $11 at Java Cafe in downtown Boise and about $85 at Modern Bar on West Grove Street. In January 2022, she spent about $500 at a Chandler restaurant. He spent $207 in May.
Campaign records show that funds were spent frequently in 2022, with most months showing spending on multiple days and sometimes multiple payments per day.
Spent over $100 at a North End candle shop in September. Twelve dollars were spent on a cocktail in June. About $16 at Pizza Hut in May.
The money spent on the campaign and “my work as a member of the council”
Sanchez has also donated to ActBlue, a Democratic philanthropic platform; at SquareSpace, a website designer that hosts its own campaign website; and other expenses.
In June, he sent $4,000 to Emily Walton, co-founder of Idaho Project 97, an organization created to fight extremism in state politics.
In the text messages, Sanchez told the Statesman that Walton worked for him as a paid consultant and that the money raised in 2020 and 2021 “was used to fund my campaign and my work as a council member.”
In 2021, after BoiseDev Sanchez reached out with questions of campaign expenses, she refunded more than $200, saying they made a mistake. At the time, secretary Phil McGrane said he was surprised by the small fees charged to restaurants.
Idaho prohibits personal use of campaign funds
Idaho campaign finance law prohibits the use of campaign funds for personal use, which is defined as the performance of “any duty, obligation, or expense of a person that exists regardless of a candidate’s election campaign or the person’s duties as a public office holder.”
The law lists purchases of clothing for campaign purchases, vacations, entertainment, meals and snacks unrelated to “advertisement activities” or public office duties as examples of prohibited uses.
“The 2022 spending was consistent with those guidelines,” Sanchez told the Statesman, referring to the Idaho law. He pointed to a place in the law that allows the funds to be used for “ordinary and necessary expenses related to a person’s duties as a public office holder.”
“As the only tenant serving on the Boise City Council, I am grateful to my campaign donors for ensuring that I have the resources I need to be an effective public servant,” he said. “I am far from rich. My contributors know this and have supported my ability to deliver results as a board member. “
In January, Mayor Lauren McLean began accepting applications for residents who want to fill Sanchez’s seat for the rest of the year. In November, all council seats will be up for grabs for the first time on a geographic basis.
Sanchez could ask to be reinstated – a possibility McLean indicated he “takes very seriously”. Sanchez has also indicated that he plans to run again in November.