Editorials and other Opinion content offer perspectives on issues important to our community and are independent from the work of our newsroom reporters.
Remember those incessant campaign commercials last year that interfered with your TV viewing while promoting the reelection of Sen. Mike Crapo? Ever stop and think how he could afford to buy that kind of commercial time? The Federal Election Commission and Open Secrets websites have some answers, and it sure doesn’t look like Crapo spends much time representing Idaho. Not if you measure it by who is responsible for funding his reelection campaign.
He’s been bought and sold to the highest bidders as far away as Great Britain and as close to Boise as the Vegas casinos. It may not qualify as a conflict of interest under the squishy federal campaign laws written by incumbents intent on minimizing the law’s impact on their fundraising, but it sure doesn’t pass the smell test.
Even a cursory glance at the records will uncover a host of contributions from entities as foreign to the average Idahoan as a snowless Bogus Basin. But what’s more obvious is how few of his contributions come from average Idahoans and how many come from wealthy out-of-state donors who wrote large checks to Crapo for his reelection campaign. In the two-year period from Jan. 1, 2021 to December 31 2022, his campaign reelection season, total contributions over $500 amounted to $2.1 million of his campaign total. His contributions from $200 to $499 amounted to $58,000. And finally, his contributions under $200 from whom Alan Jackson in one of his hits calls the Little Man, Crapo received $170,037, a paltry sum compared to the heftier sums and hardly enough to pay for those campaign commercials.
When you consider that generous sum of over $2 million from banks, private equity firms, hedge funds, and other financial institutions which relate to Crapo’s work on the Banking Committee, now you have a senator with loyalties to out-of-state special interests, not the working men and women of Idaho who his campaign commercials claimed is his top priority.
This gets more interesting considering recent revelations in the Idaho Statesman and other media outlets that Senator Crapo’s fingerprints are all over the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act of 2018. He was the chief sponsor of what he called “banking reform”, which exempted dozens of big banks under a $250 billion asset threshold from the Dodd-Frank Act which strengthened financial regulation after banks failed in the lead-up to the Great Recession of 2008. Both Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank which recently failed fell below that threshold and were exempt from the regulatory oversight measures.
The Congressional Budget Office which analyzes the impact of bills before Congress declared the bill “would thus increase the likelihood that a large financial firm with assets of between $100 billion and $250 billion would fail.” As chief sponsor of the bill, Crapo threw caution to the wind and proudly took credit for what was termed deregulation of banks. His friends in financial institutions rewarded him with generous campaign contributions and to this day he is running around denying his deregulation bill has any impact on the probability of bank failures. It’s an insult to any Idahoan who can put two and two together and come up with four.
The best example of how Crapo’s campaigns are tied directly to wealthy individuals and corporations out-of-state is his campaign’s reliance on Wall Street bankers like Blackrock, which has been called the world’s largest shadow bank. It’s a term used to describe a company with products and liabilities that are like a bank, but a bank that exists outside the regulatory framework intended for traditional banks. Blackrock unloaded $33,800 on Crapo’s campaign in the last two years in the form of 16 checks from Blackrock employees from New York, California, Connecticut, Maryland, and New Jersey. Federal law prohibits companies like Blackrock from contributing to a federal election campaign, but its employees, obviously at the direction and/or the approval of the company, fork over contributions to those who will lend a sympathetic ear to issues before the banking committee. Those are campaign contributions that have Crapo standing at attention.
President Joe Biden, Secretary Janet Yellen, and some senators have called for a strong regulatory framework for cryptocurrency to assure financial stability. Good luck getting that past Crapo on the Banking Committee. Given his disavowal of any responsibility for the prospect of more banking failures and his acceptance of contributions from outfits like Payward, Inc., a digital currency and exchange platform, which contributed $2,900 to Crapo’s reelection, not sure I’d bank on any crypto reforms emerging from the Idaho senator’s votes.
How do Crapo’s contributions from Idahoans compare to contributions raised out-of-stare? He raised a measly $170,033.32 from Idahoans during the two-year campaign period of 2021 and 2022 when compared to the $475,505.55 from folks in Texas and $245,636.50 from New York. No shock there since New York is the banking capital of the nation, but just a good thing for Crapo that he didn’t have to run last year’s campaign on Idaho contributions. The only commercials he could have afforded would have run in the middle of the night for insomniacs to endure.
Crapo is all about equal opportunity when it comes to his campaign contributions. He may not look like a “Vegas kind-of-guy”, but he managed to win $5,800 in campaign contributions from Frank Fertitta, the billionaire owner of Station Casinos in Vegas. He also accepted a contribution from Silver Eagle beer distributors of Houston, Texas. No telling why he had to go all the way to Texas to get a contribution from a beer guy in Houston.
The jury is in with a verdict on Sen. Mike Crapo of Idaho. He is guilty of representing billionaires and special interest groups from everywhere but Idaho. In fact, you could make an argument that Mike Crapo is the third U.S. Senator from Texas with all the cash he brought in from Texans.
I could go on for pages if today’s edition had room to detail the long list of contributions that compromise the work of Mike Crapo in Washington, where he supposedly represents Idaho. The FEC’s website is at your disposal if you want to see for yourself although I must caution you that it’s a byzantine record difficult to navigate. It makes one suspect that members of Congress designed it to cover their tracks.
It’s a sad commentary on the American political system that senators like Crapo can get reelected time and again with campaign funds tied to how he will protect out-of-state interests on Wall Street while purporting to represent the people of Idaho. I guess there’s always Senator Risch…. Nevermind.
Bob Kustra served as president of Boise State University from 2003 to 2018. He is host of Readers Corner on Boise State Public Radio and is a regular columnist for the Idaho Statesman. He served two terms as Illinois lieutenant governor and 10 years as a state legislator.