Lt. Gov. Brad Little Nov. 20 released details about his financial assets, becoming the latest high-profile Idaho gubernatorial candidate to voluntarily share income information in a state that doesn’t require such transparency.
“(When) Brad is elected Governor he will voluntarily disclose annually,” Zach Hauge, Little’s campaign manager, said in an email. “For the highest elected office in Idaho, Brad feels that this level of disclosure is appropriate.”
Idaho is one of just two states that does not require elected officeholders to disclose any of their personal financial information. This allows elected officials to vote on public matters without disclosing whether the outcome might benefit their bottom line.
Yet the topic has become a key talking point for Idaho’s 2018 gubernatorial race after first-time political candidate Tommy Ahlquist voluntarily released information on his income, property holdings and business associations. Ahlquist said he owns 25 businesses and has 27 investments worth more than $5,000, but did not detail how much each asset is worth and did not include any of his possible debts.
Little on Nov. 20 went a step further than Ahlquist by using the federal disclosure requirements, which includes much more detailed information on types of income, value ranges of each asset and liabilities.
According to the documents provided by the campaign, Little listed assets valued at between about $12 million and $24 million in 2016. The specific value of Little’s assets couldn’t be determined because the report only noted the assets in ranges, not exact amounts. He didn’t report any debt.
Little has never disclosed his personal assets in his 16 years serving as an elected official in Idaho but he is the grandson of the “sheep king of Idaho,” Andy Little, who came to Emmett in 1884 and built an empire with 100,000 sheep.
That family business was listed Little’s largest asset — Little Enterprises LLLP —worth as much as $10 million followed by other privately held family businesses worth as much as $5 million. In total, Little reported investments in more than 60 different companies, including Micron, Kraft Heinz, General Mills, General Electric and Walmart.
In 2007, Little was one of seven Republican state senators to vote down a proposal that would have created a financial disclosure requirement for all statewide elected officials in Idaho, according to minutes from the Senate State Affairs Committee. The bill had been backed by Democratic lawmakers, who normally face opposition from the dominant GOP lawmakers in the Idaho Statehouse.
When asked why Little opted to disclose now, Hauge said it was because the 2007 legislation had been “brought by Democrat leadership.” Hauge added that Little supported the current bi-partisan legislative effort to study possible changes to Idaho’s campaign finance laws.
Meanwhile, campaign manager David Johnston said Ahlquist welcomed Little taking the political newcomer’s lead when it came to financial disclosure.
“Brad is on the record in the past being against financial disclosure so we are glad Tommy could help change his mind,” Johnston said in a prepared statement. “Our two career politician opponents have been in office for a combined 27 years and neither have supported state financial disclosure nor have they ever voluntarily disclosed. We are glad that a political outsider like Tommy Ahlquist can lead politicians to do the right thing.”
In addition to $56,505 from his lieutenant governor salary, Little collected an additional $21,895 in earned income from his business holdings.
The documents also list holdings for Little’s wife, Teresa, worth as much as $965,000 that include her family’s livestock and oil and gas holdings, as well as a handful of out of state investments.
With Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter announcing he won’t seek a fourth term, the race is expected to be Idaho’s most competitive of 2018. So far, the major GOP candidates are Little, Ahlquist and U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador — who has been required to disclose his assets and liabilities since being elected to the U.S. House in 2010.