Funding Details Of Controversial Election Season Publication "The Idahoan" Come To Light

May 10, 2018

"The Idahoan" purports to be a rarely published conservative newspaper. Idaho Democrats say it's actually a campaign mailer in disguise.
Credit Matt Guilhem / Boise State Public Radio

Information about the financial backing of a contentious publication purporting to be a newspaper is coming to light. Reports show “The Idahoan” was at least partially funded by donations from leaders at the Meridian-based software company T-Sheets.


Part of the $200,000 donation from Matt Rissell and Brandon Zehm, the co-founders of T-Sheets, went to publishing the so-called newspaper. The men gave the money to the Free Enterprise political action committee which is run by Lou Esposito, a listed editor of “The Idahoan.”

Included in the 48-page broadsheet is a conservative voter guide and endorsements of far-right candidates.

“I find it interesting about this piece, ‘The Idahoan,’ that this is very old technology,” says Jasper LiCalzi, a political science professor at the College of Idaho. “How many people are getting their information any more from newspapers?”

LiCalzi thinks part of the strategy behind mailing out the paper could have to do with its intended audience.

“You mail this out to hit the demographic you know is definitely going to vote – older folks, and they will read this,” LiCalzi says. “In 10 years, even five years, that’s not going to be the case. Even old guys like me are on Facebook and such like that.”

The Idaho Democratic Party has filed a complaint with the state’s attorney general’s office. The party contends “The Idahoan” is a skillfully crafted piece of electioneering material while the publication claims it’s a rarely published newspaper that only appears before elections.

For more local news, follow the KBSX newsroom on Twitter @KBSX915

Copyright 2018 Boise State Public Radio