By Ruth Brown, Idaho Reports
Update: This story was updated from its original version at 9 a.m. Friday.
A review of gubernatorial candidate Ammon Bundy’s campaign finance report shows he paid $4,000 in campaign donations to the law firm that represented him in a criminal case.
The payment, made Aug. 8 to Idaho Injury Law Group on Franklin Road in Boise, is part of the public report on the Secretary of State’s website. Attorney Seth Diviney, who represented Bundy in the pending criminal case until Wednesday, works at the law firm. It isn’t clear what the payment was for; the finance report listed the $4,000 payment to the firm as a “general operational expense.”
Bundy’s criminal trespassing charge stems from an incident when prosecutors claim he refused to leave the property outside St. Luke’s Meridian Medical Center on March 12. In the incident, he is charged on suspicion of misdemeanor trespassing.
During a Wednesday hearing in that case, Diviney withdrew his counsel.
“Mr. Bundy wishes my firm no longer represent him,” Diviney told Ada County Magistrate Judge Annie McDevitt in the virtual hearing.
McDevitt granted Diviney’s motion to withdraw and set a status conference for Sept. 29. Bundy told the judge that he may hire new counsel.
Idaho Reports called Diviney’s office twice on Wednesday afternoon and left a message but received no response. Idaho Reports also called and emailed the Bundy campaign but did not receive a response as of Thursday morning when this story published.
Around 7 p.m. Thursday, Bundy left a voicemail for Idaho Reports regarding the payment.
“It’s just legal fees for the campaign,” Bundy said in the voicemail. “As you know, I’m being sued by St. Luke’s and most of those fees are going to that.”
Idaho law states that campaign donations may not be converted for personal use, meaning “a contribution shall be considered to be converted to personal use if the contribution is used to fulfill any commitment, obligation or expense of a person that would exist irrespective of the candidate’s election campaign or individual’s duties as a holder of public office.”
Bundy, the Ammon Bundy for Governor political campaign, and supporters are also being sued by St. Luke’s Health System, though Diviney is not named as a representative for Bundy or his campaign in that civil case. The health care system claims the defendants made false statements against the hospital and led protests that resulted in a temporary lockdown at one facility. The lockdown resulted in ambulances being diverted to other hospitals. It also alleges the defendants disparaged St. Luke’s, its CEO Chris Roth, and a St. Luke’s physician and nurse practitioner.
Neither Bundy nor the Ammon Bundy for Governor campaign have participated in the litigation with St. Luke’s. He has not appeared at any of the civil hearings. The next hearing is scheduled for Oct. 11 at 2:30 pm.
St. Luke’s attorney Erik Stidham, of Holland and Hart LLP, confirmed with Idaho Reports on Wednesday that Bundy had not named a legal representative in the civil case.
Chief Deputy Secretary of State Chad Houck said he was unaware of any complaints made about the payment.
“If a complaint is filed we would try and understand. Is it coincidental? Could it be using the same attorney for something relating to the campaign?” said Houck. “You can expense anything during a campaign that is pertinent to the campaign or the process of campaigning.”
It is unclear what Diviney’s office did for Bundy outside of the criminal case.
Should a complaint be filed regarding the campaign payment, it would be investigated by the Secretary of State and referred to the Attorney General’s Office.
On Sept. 7, Bundy issued a 38-minute explanation on his campaign Facebook page saying is aware of the lawsuit and knowingly is not participating.
“Everything I said I believed,” Bundy said in the video. “Everything I said I believe, still today, to be absolutely accurate and true.”
He said he believed his campaign for governor was “more important” than fighting the lawsuit.
Last week, a district judge sanctioned Bundy for his failure to participate and ordered he sit for a deposition in the case.
One closed complaint
A public record request filed Wednesday with the Secretary of State’s Office found the Bundy campaign did receive one complaint regarding campaign finances, but it was unrelated to the payment to the law firm.
The complaint, filed Jan. 20 by Sarah Richards, alleged that Bundy’s campaign did not report “crypto donations.” That complaint is now closed.
Houck said it was not a clear violation of Idaho law.
The Attorney General’s spokesman Scott Graf said Thursday that his office did not receive a referral regarding the complaint.
Attached below is a copy of Ammon Bundy’s campaign finance disclosure report for August, signed Sept. 13, 2022, available on the Idaho Secretary of State’s website.