Dollar Parade 

Minnick wins fund-raising race with Republican support

If money talks in the world of politics, Walt Minnick's campaign is screaming.

In the first quarter of campaign fundraising, Minnick lapped not only his fellow Democratic contenders for the state's First District Congressional seat, but also the two Republicans seeking office.

Between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, 2007, Minnick raised $410,253 while his nearest competitor, Republican Rep. Bill Sali, raised $58,775. This gives Minnick $310,000 cash on hand, while Sali is operating with just more than $100,000.

Minnick's fellow Democrats are further behind, with Larry Grant raising $24,861 and Rand Lewis with no recorded contributions. According to Federal Election Commission records, Republican candidate Matt Salisbury of Nampa has $5,441.

Minnick's contribution of $100,000 to his own campaign helped bump up the total, but so too has his courting of Republican donors.

"My approach has been basically to call people I know and who have some financial capacity," Minnick said. "Part of the reason is that I've been in the business and professional communities for 30-plus years in Boise and I know a lot of Republicans. Often Republicans have more money than Democrats."

Among those Republican donors/friends is Tom Loutzenheiser, CEO of Telemetric. Loutzenheiser, who doesn't live in the voting district, said he chose to support Minnick because of the pair's long-standing relationship and Minnick's appeal to moderate Republicans.

"He's a good leader," Loutzenheiser said. "Although he's a Democrat, he is pragmatic. He represents a moderate interest."

Minnick said he hasn't just appealed to Republicans, but he admits that a significant proportion of his contributions have come from GOP members.

"Once I talk to people, regardless of political affiliation, there is a common conception that a representative should solve problems and be responsible to the district they represent," Minnick said. "That's what businessmen do; they solve problems."

Tara Wolfson, Minnick's campaign manager, said Minnick began fundraising just after he announced his candidacy, and since then has been working his way around all 19 counties in the district.

The campaign has even launched a "Walt for Congress" channel on YouTube. The Web site can be found at YouTube.com/user/WaltForCongress.

"To raise the money we did, it has to be a broad support," she said. "[Republicans] want to make sure they have somebody who can bring home results ... Idaho has only two congressmen, and it helps when they can work across party lines."

Lewis is also preparing to kick off his own fund-raising campaign after spending the first quarter in what he calls a grass-roots approach.

"Which means we have to go out and talk to a lot of people," he said.

Lewis said he has spent a "substantial" amount of his own money traveling around the district, but he plans to start fundraising in earnest this week when he begins a series of town hall meetings.

"We don't have the money that our opponents do, so we must get out and talk to people," Lewis said.

In terms of Minnick's fund-raising success, Lewis said he's not surprised and added he has seen the same support for his own campaign from both independent voters and Republicans.

"A lot of people are now interested in the post-Bush period," Lewis said, adding that attitude will influence both the presidential and congressional races.

"If you have a strong Democrat [candidate], and we have three, any of the three will be able to sustain support from not only Democrats, but moderate Republicans," Lewis said.

Grant, who ran against Sali in the 2006 general election, said he's not surprised by Minnick's financial total, and even sees a silver lining for his own campaign.

"Nobody ever doubted Walt's ability to raise money," he said. "It's fantastic that that many people now understand that Idaho can be won by a Democrat."

Grant said he heard the rumors of Minnick's Republican support. "Clearly, there are a good number of Republicans that are dissatisfied with Bill Sali as a representative. If Walt can get some of the money, more power to him."

Grant recently opened his campaign office and hired a full-time staff, many of whom worked for him during his last political run.

While he is behind Minnick in dollars, Grant said his campaign is right on budget and he has a series of fund-raising events scheduled right up to the primary election in May. But beyond the primary, Grant also has to deal with a $67,500 campaign debt from his 2006 campaign.

It's the same situation for Sali, who still owes $167,623 from his last campaign. Previously published reports show that the bulk of Sali's debt is owed to an Arizona-based consulting firm and the company that did polling and direct mailings for the last campaign.

Sali has repeatedly pledged to repay the debt, but he seems focused on the current campaign.

"Things are going really well," said Sali's spokesman Wayne Hoffman, pointing to Sali's past fund-raising success.

Hoffman declined to comment on any of the Democrats' fund-raising totals. Instead, he said Sali's record will speak for itself.

"[Sali is] doing a good job as a First Congressional District congressman," Hoffman said. "As a result of that, people are very proud of his record and want him to stay in office."

As might be expected, Sali's rivals take issue with this.

"I don't get the sense that he has created a strong constituent of loyal voters who think he has delivered for Idaho," Minnick said.

While the Democrats are currently battling each other, they are all confident of their party's ultimate success.

"Whoever [the Democrats] nominate in the primary in May, they'll be a strong candidate," Lewis said.

Until the primary, every candidate will be in the hunt for more dollars to fuel the political machine.

"You cannot run a competitive campaign unless you spend money, and you can't spend it unless you raise it," Minnick said.

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