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‘Systematic conspiracy’: Moon accused of trying to control Republican election results

An Idaho county Republican committee has sued the Idaho Republican Party, escalating a fight within the state over who controls the heart of the predominant party. Leaders of the Bingham County Republican Central Committee took the Idaho Republican Party to court Thursday in an attempt to stop the state party and its head, Dorothy Moon, from overruling the county party’s election of a new chairman. The lawsuit takes aim at Moon, a former legislator who was elected to chair the state’s Republican Party in July 2022. “We’re pushing back a little bit against getting overhanded,” Matt Thompson, who was elected chair of the county central committee in July, told the Idaho Statesman on Friday. “The way Dorothy Moon has been running the Republican Party — she wants it the way she wants it, and that’s all she’ll accept.”

County central committees in Idaho consist of precinct members chosen by local voters in May primary elections. Those committees also select four representatives — a chairman, a state committeeman, state committeewoman and a youth committee member — who make up part of the State Central Committee. The State Central Committee then elects a state party chair and also makes decisions about party doctrine and endorsements at seasonal meetings. When the chair of the Bingham County Central Committee announced he would resign earlier this summer, the committee held an election for a new chair in July, according to a complaint filed in the 7th Judicial District. A month later, Moon sent a complaint to the county party, saying the election had been improper because of inadequate notice to members and because two people attended the meeting virtually. Two weeks later, Moon announced the July election had been void and called a new election to select a chair on Sept. 18. The county committee’s lawsuit aims to stop Moon from taking over its election, at the same time that the clock is ticking to select nominees to replace the Bingham County prosecutor, who is resigning later this month. “We’re tired of the infighting, we’re tired of the strategies that are trying to tear our party apart so that certain people can get their way,” Bingham County State Committeeman Ben Fuhriman told the Statesman. He said the state party under Moon’s leadership has similarly intervened in county elections across the state in an effort to give far-right GOP members a stronger grip on the party.

Judge Darren Simpson on Friday granted the committee’s request to prevent Moon from holding a separate meeting, according to the committee’s attorney, Greg Chaney. A hearing has been scheduled for Sept. 28. Chaney is a Caldwell attorney who served four terms in the Idaho House before losing his bid for the state Senate last year. He was often criticized in office for his opposition to the influence of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, a far-right think tank that holds sway over many in the party. “I’d like to think that Dorothy is just trying to do what she thinks is right,” Fuhriman said. “But the pattern is there. Their goal seems to be to go around to every county they can, especially the smaller counties that aren’t really functioning at a high level, and try to take over, get people in the executive committees’ voting positions, so that when they have their state meetings, they can do whatever the heck they want with a rubber stamp.” In an email, Moon called the lawsuit “completely without merit and self-contradictory.” She said the election of the new chairman was held before the former chairman officially resigned, violating the Idaho Republican Party’s rules.

Moon said her decision to void the election could have been corrected if the county central committee’s vice chair had called a new election, but that the “simple remedy” did not happen. She would not have voted at her planned meeting, she added, and believed that Thompson would have likely been elected chair. WHAT HAPPENED IN BINGHAM COUNTY? The Bingham County Republican Central Committee’s chair announced at a meeting in June that he would resign because he was moving out of Idaho. On July 13, he emailed the central committee and noted that there would be an election to select a new chair on July 20. His last day would be Aug. 1.

That day, the committee elected Thompson, though two people were not allowed to vote. One was an “alternate precinct committee person” who doesn’t get a vote, according to the lawsuit, and the second was barred from voting remotely. Fuhriman said the state party implemented a new rule in June that prevented members from casting votes in secret ballot elections virtually, but that it’s unclear whether the rest of the committee can proceed with the election in person. He said the county attempted to follow the intent of the rule by preventing the virtual attendee from voting during the election. On Aug. 21, Moon sent the county’s committee a complaint from an anonymous person alleging the rules had not been properly followed during the election, and that adequate notice for the meeting was not provided, according to the lawsuit. Part of the problem, Moon said in her email to the Statesman, was that the election of a new chair was held before the former chair had officially resigned. In its lawsuit, the committee said it provided adequate written notice of seven days, and that it followed the electronic requirement by excluding the member who attended virtually from voting. The lawsuit also said that state party rules and the county’s bylaws do not say that the election for a new chair must happen after the current chair’s resignation.

Moon sent another letter on Sept. 5 to the central committee, notifying it that she had determined its July election was “void,” and she later scheduled a new election for Sept. 18, a date when the lawsuit alleged multiple frequent attendees “were known to be out of town.” A group called the Bingham County Conservatives sent out a notice about Moon’s planned meeting before Moon had even notified the central committee, according to the lawsuit. The central committee appealed Moon’s decision Thursday. Thompson said he fears Moon’s moves left the committee without a leader at a time when it needs to make critical decisions. He’s scheduled his own meeting for Sept. 21 to select candidates to fill the soon-to-be vacant county prosecutor attorney’s job. The current Republican attorney, Paul Rogers, plans to resign Sept. 22. If an elected county official vacates an office in Idaho, the official’s party has 15 days to send three recommended replacements to the county commission. “We’re nervous that we’re not going to be able to move forward with that work and Bingham County is going to be without a prosecuting attorney because we don’t have a functioning central committee, because the state (party) has stepped in and interfered with our work,” Fuhriman said.

Thompson’s appeal of Moon’s decision was sent to the first vice chair of the state central committee, Daniel Silver, according to the lawsuit. Silver replied the same day, telling Moon she could not hold a new election until the appeal went forward, which includes review by the state party’s Judiciary Committee. “I am concerned that you scheduled a reorganization meeting for Sept. 18,” Silver wrote in his letter, which was obtained by the Statesman. “Attempting to proceed with reorganization and ignoring their appeal is in violation of the IDGOP State Party rules.” He added that Moon’s Sept. 18 meeting “is not permitted to continue at this time.” Silver’s letter also noted that Moon has “sent out multiple letters of investigation to several counties and legislative districts over the past year.” The lawsuit asked the court to prevent Moon from holding her planned meeting while the appeal process occurs, which a judge granted Friday. ‘A SYSTEMATIC CONSPIRACY’ The lawsuit accuses Moon of conducting similar schemes in other counties.

“This is a continuation of a systematic conspiracy by Moon and her allies” to declare county elections void and call for new ones “under circumstances carefully manipulated and choreographed to elect persons sympathetic to Moon and her aims,” according to the lawsuit. In southeast Idaho’s Power County, Laura Anderson, one of three Republican precinct committee members, said an election was held to fill various offices in December, according to a court filing. In February, Moon said its election had been void and announced another election. Mark Fuller, a vice chair of the state party, told Anderson the meeting would begin at 7 p.m. March 21, according to the filing. When Anderson arrived at 6:35 p.m., she learned the meeting had already begun and the election had already been held. “Because I wasn’t there to nominate an alternative, the position of state committeewoman was filled by someone far more sympathetic to Chairwoman Moon than the person whose December election had been declared void,” Anderson said in the filing. Fuller, reached by phone, declined to comment.

Thompson, the recently elected committee chairman, said he’s tired of the infighting and the Idaho Freedom Foundation’s influence in the party. He said the Boise-based organization targets people it doesn’t think are sufficiently conservative, calling them Republicans in Name Only. “It just seems like the Idaho Freedom Foundation wing of it wants to call the rest of us RINOs and they have no idea what our politics are,” he said. “But they just stand over in the corner and call everybody else RINOs if you’re not part of their clique. … We need to all work together instead of working against each other.” The Freedom Foundation did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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