Common Sense PAC, founded in April, spent about
The PAC's treasurer is former Meridian Sen.
Bunderson said moderates need support from business to counter the strength of what he calls the "hard right" in the Republican organization.
"They're trying to reduce the size of the tent, keeping people out rather than bring them in," said Bunderson. "That's a losing strategy in my opinion."
Bunderson said the divide between right and center -- epitomized by this summer's fight over the GOP chairmanship -- puts at risk three statewide offices long held by the party: governor, secretary of state and superintendent of public instruction.
The PAC was financed by current and retired executives from
Contributing only to Republicans, Common Sense advocates fiscally responsible state government, problem-solving, civility and boosting education.
"The only criteria is common-sense, business-minded legislators," said PAC Chairman
SYMPATHETIC BATT TAKES A PASS
Black stepped in as chairman after failing to convince his golfing buddy -- popular former GOP Gov.
"I kinda appreciate what they're doing," Batt said. "They're trying to support folks who are less interested in politics and more interested in action. But I didn't want to turn my endorsements over to a group."
Her beef? The key role played by 2010 Democratic gubernatorial nominee
After losing that race, Allred became chief operating officer for Health Catalyst, a health care software company. In 2013, he became a principal at the
Allred took the lead in raising money for the PAC. Among the contributors were Allred's clients Midas, Micron, MWI and Simplot.
Yost said she fears Allred might be attempting to remake himself as a Republican after getting just 33 percent of the vote against Gov.
"I just wonder if he has an eye on the future by becoming involved with Republicans," Yost said. "I don't question his integrity, I just question the big picture."
OTTER ALSO WARY
Yost's concerns were shared by a number of lobbyists, Black said, including those representing the
"It seems a little odd that somebody that ran as a Democrat is now all of a sudden getting involved with a PAC that was contributing to only Republicans," said
Hauge said IACI was supporting many of the same candidates as Common Sense and feared word of Allred's involvement could backfire against business-friendly candidates with more conservative opponents.
"We didn't want to end up having something completely counterproductive," Hauge said, noting that HP, Micron, Midas, MWI Vet, Oppenheimer and Simplot are also IACI members. "It was a little bit concerning. On a scale of 1 to 10, how concerned am I today? Probably like 2."
The PAC sent
While the money was welcome, Malek said endorsements from two Common Sense members -- retiring Reps.
Malek said that Allred's might have a downside but that the PAC's aims are solid.
"Unequivocally, yes, bipartisanship is a double-edged sword," Malek said. "But when it comes to education, when it comes to being pro-business and creating jobs and being common sense, I think those are universal values."
Black said he's puzzled by the focus on Allred, a former Harvard professor who rose to
From 2005 to 2010, the group picked a handful of issues, wrote policy briefs and polled members. Allred lobbied lawmakers on ideas backed by a supermajority of members.
The Common Interest helped tie the homeowner property tax exemption to housing price inflation, and helped pass property rights protections and rules requiring legislative committee meetings be open to the public.
The group helped defeat Otter's proposed increase in fuel taxes because, it argued, such a hike would overburden average drivers. It failed in a push to raise beer and wine taxes to pay for treatment of drug and alcohol abuse.
The group went dormant when Allred agreed to Democratic entreaties to run for governor.
"We're not trying to resurrect
Allred said he nominally became a Democrat in order to challenge Otter and attempt to form a moderate coalition. He said some of the 20 GOP lawmakers who joined Common Sense recruited him to organize the PAC, which he views as consistent with his efforts to bolster the center.
At a meeting at Oppenheimer's Downtown offices, Allred brought about a half-dozen business leaders to meet with
Both told the group that their aim was to re-elect every GOP lawmaker. They also discussed which incumbents were likely to face serious primary opponents.
"In general, the business community is not supportive of those who may be more strident and divisive," Lewis said. "What convinced me was the quality of the group and of the businesspeople involved. We all have a common cause, which is to support candidates and leaders who want to find solutions. From a business perspective, that's what you're looking for."
Bedke, however, said Allred's role fluttered a red flag.
"I was curious, I guess," Bedke said. "But the fact that he had Micron, Simplot, Zions, WinCo, HP, etc., at Oppenheimer's office all wanting to sit down with the speaker and pro tem transcended the concern I may have had with the former Democrat nominee."
Hill said he and Bedke didn't vet contributions.
"We didn't know who they were going to give to and they didn't tell us," he said.
WHAT WOULD REAGAN DO?
Allred said the PAC won't contribute in the November general election but is discussing recruiting candidates in 2016. Zions CEO
Allred, from a fifth-generation LDS family, is now registered as an "unaffiliated" voter, like 53 percent of Idahoans.
"Those folks in the 53 percent are underrepresented in our political process," Allred said. "The closest thing we come to those folks being represented are probably moderate Republicans."
Bunderson, who broke ranks to endorse Allred over Otter, said, "I think he's more Republican than he is a Democrat."
And so what if Allred decides to become a Republican candidate, Bunderson said.
Sounding both amused and slightly irritated by all the speculation, Allred, 49, said he doubts he'll run again for partisan office.
"It's just not a natural home for someone like me that wants to take the best of both parties," he said. "If I saw a viable route for me to run and stay true to my independent principles, I'd probably do it. But I can't see that lining up."
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