BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A Republican U.S. House candidate in Idaho has been flying to campaign and political events on a private airplane owned by one of his biggest supporters, even though federal law generally forbids prospective office holders from flying on non-commercial aircraft.
Bryan Smith, an Idaho Falls lawyer seeking to unseat U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson in Idaho’s 2nd Congressional District in next May’s GOP primary, flew on June 27 to campaign events in Boise, Twin Falls, Pocatello and Idaho Falls aboard an airplane owned by Phenix of Idaho.
Phenix of Idaho is a construction company and federal government contractor founded by Doyle Beck, a Smith backer whose family has given the GOP candidate nearly $13,000 for the primary race against Simpson next year.
Smith and Beck also flew together to McCall, Idaho, for the June 15 Republican State Central Committee meeting.
Provisions of the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act from 2010 effectively forbid House candidates from noncommercial air travel, with limited exemptions. The intent was to end subsidization of air travel by corporations or others — and reduce potential for corruption, or the appearance of corruption.
Smith’s spokeswoman Carrie Brown, who acknowledged the flights, said the campaign inquired Wednesday with FEC regulators in Washington, D.C., about whether his air travel was appropriate.
“While we believe we followed the complex rules that guide this issue, we have requested the FEC to advise us on this situation and how to resolve it,” Brown said.
Smith didn’t report paying for use of Beck’s plane in his latest FEC financial report on July 15.
Brown said Smith received an invoice for the flight only after the quarterly reporting period ended June 30 and had intended to document the expense in his next filing.
Now, what he does will depend on the FEC’s response.
Records indicate Beck owns a 2008 Cessna 400, a turbocharged, single-engine plane that can fly 270 mph and sells new for more than $700,000.
Doyle Beck didn’t return a phone call seeking comment Wednesday.
Brody Aston, Simpson’s campaign manager in Boise, said the eight-term lawmaker would be monitoring the outcome.
“Campaign rules and regulations are complex and require significant attention to detail,” Ashton said. “I am sure the Federal Elections Commission will be looking at these violations closely and in due time will issue fines and sanctions where appropriate.”
FEC spokeswoman Julia Queen declined to comment Thursday.
The issue has emerged in recent FEC complaints, including an investigation that concluded this year when the agency determined a Michigan congressional candidate inappropriately flew on a private plane owned by the company of a supporter. The FEC issued a letter of caution but no fine to U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Michigan.
Before the current campaign to unseat Simpson, Beck and Smith both were supporters of Chick Heileson, a tea party-affiliated candidate who unsuccessfully sought to oust Simpson in GOP primaries of 2010 and 2012.
On its website, Phenix of Idaho lists having won millions in government contracts to perform work at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory site near Idaho Falls.
Contracts include a 1,000-foot runway at the laboratory for testing unmanned aerial vehicles and a $6.6 million project to excavate more than 500,000 tons of low-level radiological and chemical-contaminated soils as part of cleanup efforts at the desert site in eastern Idaho.