By GARY E. RICHARDSON
Early in the week of July 21, a packet of WikiLeaks documents hacked from Hilary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign was sent to the Idaho Press by an unnamed source.
The anonymous source alleged that Boise City Council President and mayoral candidate Lauren McLean is part of a “dark money” political fundraising effort to shield progressive donors from campaign finance laws that would require them to disclose their identities. McLean is campaigning to unseat Boise Mayor Dave Bieter, who is running for a fifth four-year term.
In support of the claimed election law violation, the “packet” included a March 2015 email to John Podesta, then-White House chief of staff. National Education Association director John Stocks had forwarded the email to Podesta, inviting him to a Ketchum meeting of the Idaho Progressive Investors Network, which McLean founded a decade ago. Stocks, a progressive organizer and Idaho state senator in the 1980s, is a member of McLean’s network.
Along with McLean’s meeting invitation, Stocks attached information about Better Idaho, a group that promotes progressive causes supported by several investors in McLean’s network.
On July 25, the Idaho Press headlined the story:
“McLean defends political fundraising through organization she founded”
The clear implication of the header is that McLean is on the defensive about her fundraising organization. You have to read on to learn that the emails are not about fundraising for her mayoral campaign but about work she did in her profession as an advisor to investors who want to fund progressive causes.
The story begins with this sensational lede:
City Council President and mayoral candidate Lauren McLean makes an appearance on the notorious website WikiLeaks, but she says it’s not in relation to any fundraising for political candidates or “dark money.”
The only actual appearance McLean makes (present tense) is her smiling photo above the lede in the online edition. Her forwarded emails made their appearance three years ago when WikiLeaks published the hacked contents of John Podesta’s computer.
Reading on, we learn that four years ago Stocks wanted to get Podesta to Idaho to take him on a hike in the Boulder-White Clouds roadless area to lobby then-president Barack Obama to designate the area as a national monument. Podesta never came.
In the rest of the story, McLean explains that neither her investors network nor Better Idaho raises funds for political candidates. Their purpose is to connect donors to Idaho causes they care about like education, public lands, and other issues affecting the state’s future. Because the work relates to clients’ financial decisions, members’ names are not published.
Gary E. Richardson is a former Idaho Public TV reporter/producer and ACHD commissioner. He is not endorsing any Boise mayoral candidate but says he knows “dirty tricks” when he sees them.
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