Ada County GOP says its finances are amiss, blames former leaders. What they say

Nearly five months after six senior officers resigned en masse from the Ada County Republican Party, the group’s new chairman said it has improved its working relationship with the state Republican party – but that some dysfunction remains at the local level, including an ongoing feud over the party’s finances.

“We have a great working relationship with the state party chair and with all the members of the State Central Committee,” Chairman Thad Butterworth told the Idaho Statesman by phone. “I think the future of the party is great. I think we are recovering from this, and we’ve learned a lot, and we’re looking forward to really establishing our credibility with our donors, the Republican voter base.”

Since the resignations, however, the county party has not been able to access or update its website, because former Chairman Victor Miller – one of the officers who resigned in October – retains control of the domain, Butterworth said.

“It’s been one of the things that’s kept me fairly busy,” said Butterworth, a Meridian resident who works in software development and has advocated for expanded gun rights, greater school choice for parents and lower taxes. “We are trying to negotiate that release … we’re working with an attorney and trying to get control of the website back.”

At the time of their resignation Oct. 5, the six officers cited ideological differences and decisions by the state party that had made it “impossible” for them to effectively lead. They recited grievances against the state party, including that it does not trust voters to select candidates and has created a “new oligarchy that values control” and “un-Republican” bullying tactics.

“We can no longer support this system,” they wrote. “We hope that when the State GOP’s intentions and tactics are fully brought to light, the ship can be ‘righted’ to include all Republicans and to return power to the voters and the counties.”

The six were Chairman Victor Miller of Eagle; First Vice Chair Megan Reichle of Boise; Second Vice Chair Travis Clyde of Nampa; Third Vice Chair Barrett Tetlow of Boise; Treasurer Dave Litster of Boise; and State Committeewoman Kim Wickstrum of Star.

Voters cast ballots at East Junior High School in Boise. Disagreements within the Republican Party have affected the Ada County GOP. Its new chairman say former leaders did not manage finances adequately.
Voters cast ballots at East Junior High School in Boise. Disagreements within the Republican Party have affected the Ada County GOP. Its new chairman say former leaders did not manage finances adequately.

‘Concerning Errors and Omissions’

But Butterworth contends that the previous officers’ financial mismanagement, and not ideological differences, are the root of fissures in the local party.

“The ideological differences are fine – it’s good and healthy to have debate on that … having some differences of opinion enables us to come to good solutions,” he said. “The problem was that the former leadership had lost credibility with the body because of these financial issues.”

In early February, the Ada County party released the findings of a contentious and long-anticipated internal financial review. The review was triggered by the resignation of the treasurer, Litster, but was also the product of months of mounting frustration and a complaint by 17 members of the party that prompted the state party to order an audit, Butterworth said.

The internal review found that, under the previous officers’ leadership, the local party had repeatedly failed to follow its own bylaws and fiscal policies. The audit identified nearly 50 types of violations, including missing documents and assets, improperly paid taxes, and failures to seek competing bids when required, among other issues, according to a party news release that characterized these actions as “concerning errors and omissions.”

“It just really speaks to disregard and lack of care for following the rules,” Butterworth said. “What was disappointing to me was to see the level at which our previous officers had just ignored or been careless with the rules.”

In an email to the Statesman, Miller challenged the review’s findings. He shared the findings of an independent accounting firm the Ada County Republicans retained in 2023, which found that “expense coding appeared accurate and generally consistent” and that “all expenses appeared to be accurate and consistent.”

“The current ‘audit’ completely ignored this conclusion,” Miller told the Statesman. “In fact, the current ‘audit’ process has exposed the reality that the ‘conservative’ wing of the current Idaho GOP and Ada County Central Committees will harass and intimidate members of the party … they do not like.”

In an email to the Statesman, Butterworth said the independent review did not meet the requirements of the local party’s bylaws, in part because it reviewed a limited number of transactions. He said that the specter of a more thorough financial investigation was a driver for the former officers’ resignations.

As it became clear in late 2023 that a change in bylaws was going to bring about an internal audit, those officers resigned, Butterworth said.

“It was fairly obvious we were going to be able to pass” the proposed bylaws, and “there was going to be a larger sense of accountability,” Butterworth said. “I can’t speak to motives … I can’t say that was exactly the motive, but I can say, timing-wise, those factors were involved.”

A local rift, part of a broader trend

Jaclyn Kettler, a political science professor at Boise State University who focuses on state politics and political parties, placed the party fissure in a national context.

“We’ve seen in other states increasingly some debates or conflicts over resource expectations between party organizations,” she told the Statesman by phone. “There’s some interesting questions about the financial elements. How was money being used? What was it spent on? Were they paying their appropriate share to the state party?”

“And then of course,” she added, “we also have some of these ideological differences.”

When the Ada County officers resigned last fall, they blamed several controversial policies the state party had implemented. This included a rule that voters who previously belonged to another party must wait a year before registering as Republican. They also protested the state party’s “bullying tactics,” citing a new rule allowing central committees to censure Republicans who fail to fall into line with policies the state party supports.

In August, Republican Rep. Lori McCann of Lewiston spoke out about the issue in an interview with the Statesman after being censured three times in one year.

“It’s about Idaho GOP politics and what’s going on in our entire state,” McCann said. “There’s a lot of mistreatment against some real good legislators who are more in the middle or are trying to work with all the Republicans.”

Former state Republican party heads have pinned the blame for some of these trends on the leadership of Idaho Republican Party Chairwoman Dorothy Moon, calling her party one of “purges, division and expulsions” in a December news release.

In the weeks before Ada County officials resigned, local party leaders bridled at Moon’s attempts to get involved in the selection of local officials. Leaders of the Bingham County Republican party took the state party to court in October after Moon’s efforts to overrule the county party’s election of a new chairman.

Rep. Dorothy Moon, R-Stanley, wrote a letter urging feds to drop its charges against Bundy ranch militant Eric Parker.
Rep. Dorothy Moon, R-Stanley, wrote a letter urging feds to drop its charges against Bundy ranch militant Eric Parker.

In his email, Miller mused on the potential cost of Republican infighting.

“If Republicans do not start focusing all their energies on Democrats/liberalism instead of destroying each other, we will instead be ‘auditing’ why we lost seats in legislative districts and in the local county, municipalities, and school boards races.”

Litster and the Idaho Republican Party did not respond to emails and phone calls seeking comment.

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