U of I president puts $4,250 into GOP legislative primaries

In an unusual move, University of Idaho President C. Scott Green has donated $4,250 to congressional candidates ahead of the May 21 Republican primary.

One of the donations — the maximum $1,000 allowed under state law — went to Senate President Pro Tem Chuck Winder, R-Boise. This spring, Winder sponsored a bill intended to restructure the U of I’s controversial $685 million plan to acquire the University of Phoenix. The bill died in the Senate in late March, putting its purchase in jeopardy.

Two of the donations went to Reps. Matt Bundy, R-Mountain Home, and Lori McCann, R-Lewiston, who opposed a separate House proposal that would have allowed lawmakers to sue to block Phoenix’s acquisition to block. That proposal was passed by the House of Representatives, but the Senate never took it up.

In all five cases, Green contributed to candidates facing tough conservative incumbents or challengers. He has also contributed to former state Sen. Jim Woodward, who is running against Sen. Scott Herndon, R-Sagle, and Lori Bishop, who is challenging Sen. Tammy Nichols, R-Middleton.

It is not common for a state university president to interfere in partisan primaries. In an email Thursday, U of I spokeswoman Jodi Walker defended Green and his wife Gabriella’s donations.

“Any political contributions from Scott or Gabriella Green are self-funded and not tied to university dollars. It is their right, as citizens, to support any candidate of their choice,” Walker said.

Gabriella Green has contributed $25,000 to Idaho Deserves Better, an outside group campaigning against Sen. Dan Foreman of Viola, a hardline conservative who represents Latah County.

A screenshot showing the Greens’ political contributions in April, taken from the Idaho Secretary of State’s website.

The April donations are not C. Scott Green’s first political contributions this election cycle. In August, Green donated $10,000 to New Horizons, a political action committee led by then-House Majority Leader Megan Blanksma, R-Hammett.

April’s donations are not easy to match. Campaign finance reports list variations of Green’s name: his first and middle initials, or his first name Cumer. The reports also list two different addresses: the U of I Administration Building and the U of I Presidential Residence.

“There is no attempt to disguise this support, and in fact (the Greens) proudly acknowledge these donations,” Walker said.