Ammon Bundy pays himself thousands of dollars in campaign money

This story was first published by Boise State Public Radio.

Ammon Bundy, the anti-government activist running as an independent to be Idaho’s next governor, has donated thousands of dollars in campaign donations to a company he owns.

According to campaign finance records, Bundy’s campaign has paid $13,500 in monthly installments of $1,500 since June 1, 2021 to Abish-Husbondi Inc, a company incorporated in Wyoming.

The address listed on his campaign finance report dates back to a warehouse in Emmett where he staged protests against and in defiance of Gov. Brad Little’s stay-at-home order in early 2020. County Property Records of Gem lists Abish-Husbondi Inc as the owner of the three-acre property.

The company name appears to be a nod to Abish, a character from the Book of Mormon who meets the missionary Ammon. Husbondi is an Old Norse word supposed to mean “master of the house”.

Bundy is listed as the company’s chairman and sole officer in an annual report filed June 7, 2021.

Idaho law states that generally, “A Contribution should not be converted by any person for personal gain.”

However, the law seems silent on the question of whether a candidate can contract with his own company. Explicitly prohibited activities include paying a candidate’s mortgage, utility bills, vacation, or college tuition with political donations.

“I am not aware of any active complaints in this area,” Chief Deputy Secretary of State Chad Houck said in a late January email. “The only time we would ask a campaign such a question is on the back of a filed complaint specifically detailing the alleged violations.”

Houck said Friday his office has yet to receive a complaint about the spending.

Asked about the payments to Abish-Husbondi Inc, Wendy Leatham, Bundy’s campaign manager, declined to say what they were for. They are listed as general operating expenses in campaign finance records.

In an email Friday, Leatham said the campaign “follows all budget laws administered by the Idaho Secretary of State.”

Bundy, who orchestrated the armed takeover of a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon in 2016, announced his candidacy for governor last year. He first said he would run for the Republican nomination, but instead opted to run as an independent in February.

Bundy’s campaign finance records also raise other transparency issues.

Freedom Tabernacle, a church incorporated in Idaho since 2011 and owned by vocal Bundy funder Diego Rodriguez, donated $5,000 to the Dec. 28, 2021 campaign.

A spokesperson for the Idaho Attorney General’s Office said in an email that registered churches in Idaho are not prohibited from making political donations under state law.

But the federal Internal Revenue Service explicitly prohibits 501(c)3 nonprofits from such political activities.

Freedom Tabernacle is not registered as a tax-exempt charity with the federal government, but churches that meet certain requirements are automatically considered 501(c)3 entities by the IRS.

Freedom Tabernacle also serves as a biller for online donations to Bundy’s far-right People’s Rights network, which has 50,000 members nationwide.

The church is part of a network of entities controlled by Rodriguez, a far-right pastor who has been spreading misinformation about COVID-19 and called the vaccine the “CovAIDS vaccine”.

Under the Freedom Tabernacle banner, it operates:

  • 4th Day Alliance, a ministry “dedicated to proclaiming the Glory of God through astronomy”
  • Dominion Books, which publishes Rodriguez’s five books on faith
  • Research and study the ministry of biblical teaching

Rodriguez is also the founder and president of Power Marketing Consultants LLC, a marketing firm that lists his wife and five children as staff.

On Dec. 27, 2021, his family each made $5,000 in in-kind contributions — the maximum allowed by state law — to Bundy’s campaign for a total of $30,000 for ad preparation and production. Rodriguez added another in-kind contribution of $4,860 the same day.

Bundy’s campaign paid Power Marketing Consultants $29,472.19 last year for advertising.

Rodriguez did not respond to a request for comment.

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