Slanderous Texts Target Nichols

On Thursday, voters in legislative district 10 received text messages claiming that Sen. Tammy Nichols had been arrested in Bonner County in 2003 for felony check fraud:

The problem? Nichols claims it was a case of mistaken identity, which means the PAC that sent the messages potentially committed libel. Ironic.

While the documents associated with the case file say that the person in question, “Tammy L. Scharff”, was also known as “Tammy Nichols”, the senator says she was traveling out of state at the time the arrest was made, and that she’s never even received a speeding ticket, much less a felony charge. She also says that neither the name on the document nor the birth date listed are hers.

Nichols joined KBOI’s Kasper and Chris to talk about the issue yesterday morning.

A few minutes of research would likely have cleared this up, but in our polarized political environment nuggets like this are too good to check. Sen. Nichols said on Facebook that she has contacted the Secretary of State’s office and is also pursuing legal action, in addition to making t-shirts featuring the image from the text message.

The PAC in question is Idaho Conservatives for Liberty, chaired by Amy Larsen, and has a mailing address at a private mailbox office in Eagle. The PAC formed last September and engaged in independent expenditures on behalf of Eagle mayoral candidate Brad Pike, who eventually defeated incumbent Jason Pierce in a runoff in December.

According to the new Sunshine website, Idaho Conservatives for Liberty PAC has $6,726.75 on hand, with the only expenditure reported this year being $127.25 for text message services through Twilio. The PAC received $5,000 from an identically-named LLC which was also formed in September with the sole member being the very same Amy Larsen and located at the same private mailbox. It used Registered Agents Inc. in Post Falls, which is often used to obfuscate information about who is being an organization. The LLC does not have to disclose its own donors, which seems like an obvious evasion of Idaho campaign finance law.

This election season has already seen misleading mailers from Young Americans for Liberty as well as a disingenuous campaign against Sens. Brian Lenney, Chris Trakel, and Tammy Nichols by the Idaho Liberty PAC, which is connected to Gov. Brad Little. This message from Amy Larsen’s Idaho Conservatives for Liberty is a new low, however, engaging in outright libel less than a week before Election Day.

I reached out to Nichols’ opponent, Lori Bishop, for comment, and will update this story if I receive a response.

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