Las Vegas Hired Guns Deployed in Idaho Legislative Campaigns

Jim Woodward’s life story is a testament to the values that define true conservatism in Idaho. His dedication to serving the country is evident from his honorable military service in the Navy, where he embraced the responsibility of defending national security. Woodward’s commitment to family and community is equally profound, having built a life with his high school sweetheart in Idaho and actively contributing to the local community through various roles. His pursuit of education, culminating in a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Idaho, underscores a commitment to knowledge and progress. 

Despite this bona fide conservative legacy rooted in Idaho values, his campaign was marred by unscrupulous attacks from McShane LLC. In a particularly dishonest maneuver, mailers commissioned by McShane for his opponents depicted Woodward with a photoshopped face mask, falsely suggesting his support for mask mandates and lockdown measures—positions he did not advocate for—betraying the essence of honest and rational political discourse.

Scott Herndon’s campaign, on the other hand, presented a stark contrast, benefiting from the strategic involvement of consultants like McShane, known for their willingness to push the boundaries of truth. Herndon’s alignment with the Idaho Freedom Foundation required a campaign strategy that could aggressively challenge any perceived deviation from their doctrine–catching Woodward in the crossfire. 

It would appear that McShane’s team was willing to manipulate facts and exploit divisive tactics that proved to be instrumental in unseating long-time conservative Republican Woodward, reflecting a prioritization of ideological purity over genuine conservative principles. This approach was fueled by significant funding from shared donors between Herndon and the Idaho Freedom Foundation, enabling McShane’s controversial methods. The campaign’s dependence on such tactics underscores a concerning shift in political engagement, where loyalty to a specific faction and the financial backing to enforce it outweigh the foundational conservative Idaho values of honesty, community service, and patriotic sacrifice.

Political consultants like McShane offer a range of services to candidates for a substantial fee, focusing on crafting and executing a comprehensive campaign strategy. These services include developing targeted messaging, producing and distributing advertising materials (such as mailers and digital ads), managing public relations efforts, and often conducting opposition research.

Firms like McShane specialize in creating narratives that can sway public opinion, often employing sophisticated data analytics to identify and mobilize specific voter segments. Their work is aimed at enhancing a candidate’s visibility and appeal, navigating the complexities of political communication, and ultimately securing electoral success. However, the strategies employed can sometimes tread into controversial territory, including the manipulation of information and the use of aggressive tactics to discredit opponents, raising ethical questions about the impact on electoral processes and voter trust.

Originating from Las Vegas, Nevada, Rory McShane and his firm have gained notoriety among far-right figures nationwide for their readiness to employ scorched-earth strategies for clients with substantial financial backing.

McShane, LLC has demonstrated its commitment to winning through various means. For example, ahead of the 2020 election, a former McShane operative established the “Take Back the West” PAC, purportedly to investigate election fraud. This PAC, after receiving nearly $80,000 in donations, allocated most of these funds to McShane LLC. Another National Super PAC by the same name directed nearly $570,000 to the firm.

One of McShane’s top employees was involved in organizing a rally outside the Clark County Elections department, which was notably attended by the Proud Boys—a move intended to exert pressure on the electoral process to help one of their far-right clients. Despite public denials from the involved parties following media coverage, these actions raise concerns about the firm’s associations and tactics.

In Idaho, McShane’s resources have enabled far-right groups to significantly out-fund their opposition, albeit at a high cost to the candidates themselves. The funding for far-right campaigns that use McShane in Idaho often comes from a tight group of donors with specific legislative interests, many of which are self-serving. A prime example of this is the pipeline of donations from out-of-state mega-donor Stefan Gleason and his Money Metals gold and silver investment opportunities. Gleason and his companies max out their donations exclusively to far-right candidates and organizations aligned with the Idaho Freedom Foundation. 

These donations help candidates who lack the personal resources to run a campaign and hire expensive consultants like McShane, willing to push the false narratives that the Idaho Freedom Foundation network tests each legislative cycle. Mega-donor money is also given to far-right PACs that engineer dishonest campaigns attacking candidates that oppose Idaho Freedom Foundation-aligned candidates. The money, consultants, PACs, and messaging work like a machine to ensure a tiny group gets unqualified candidates elected who will remain loyal and vote for the self-serving interests of the collective group’s demands.

McShane’s approach includes mass-mailing campaigns that often contain misleading information, as evidenced by mailers for Scott Herndon that inaccurately labeled Jim Woodward as “liberal” and included manipulated images and claims.

McShane’s influence is also visible in the uniformity of their attack ads across various districts, indicating a lack of genuine grassroots support. This pattern is a crucial indicator of alignment with certain ideologies and groups, necessitating additional scrutiny of claims made in mailers developed by the McShane team.

The presence of McShane, LLC in Idaho’s political landscape has bolstered the far-right, posing a significant challenge to the state’s political integrity. It is important for voters to critically evaluate the sources of political messaging and reject the divisive and dishonest tactics imported from out-of-state interlopers who are paid to run hit jobs on real Idaho Republican candidates.

McShane recently hired Bjorn Handeen to represent their business in Idaho. Handeen is a longtime ally of IFF Chairman Brent Regan and serves in the Idaho GOP as the Region I Chair. His loyal support of Dorothy Moon and IFF-backed candidates goes back years.

Idaho voters should take the opportunity to visit the Secretary of State’s website and look at their candidate’s expenditures, and if payments to McShane are shown, ask yourselves: “Does this candidate really represent me and my family, or do they represent the Idaho Freedom Foundation?”

Copy-and-Paste Campaigns Run by a Far-Right Political Machine

Here are some of the candidates who spent a combined total of over $300,000 in payments to the Las Vegas-based campaign consultants. Here is a list of candidates who have paid McShane to help run their campaigns:

  • Dave Reilly
  • Branden Durst
  • Scott Herndon
  • Lucas Cayler
  • Brandon Shippy
  • Brett Skidmore
  • Chris Trakel
  • Carl Bjerke
  • Barb Ehardt
  • Jaron Crane
  • Jacyn Gallagher
  • Cornel Rasor
  • Christy Zito
  • Bonner County Central Republican Committee 
  • Kootenai County Central Republican Committee 

Other candidates who have benefited from independent expenditure campaigns aimed at their opponents include Idaho Freedom Foundation darlings, Tammy Nichols and Karey Hanks. Even Rep. Wendy Horman, who regularly carries water for the IFF, has paid McShane thousands of dollars to help her in a past election cycle.

Now we are hearing rumblings that IFF’s stranglehold on the many County Central Committees may enable McShane to collect even more consulting fees with a copy-paste style campaign to prop up Precinct Committee Officers’ races around the Gem State. 

This is part of the far-right’s latest move towards done-for-you campaigns where candidates loyal to the IFF network barely have to lift a finger as the far right political machine takes care of fundraising from their donor network which includes out of state backers like Stefan Gleason who also directs donations through his affiliated businesses Money Metals and SMC Properties.

IFF network affiliated groups and PACs like Stop Idaho RINOs, Idaho Freedom ActionIdaho Second Amendment Alliance, State Freedom Caucus PAC, and Citizens Alliance of Idaho run digital advertising and provide a small army of paid for door knockers to spread misinformation about the opposition campaigns.

Signs, mailers, websites and literature are often produced by consultants like McShane and the candidate can sit back, relax, and wait for the votes to roll in as they know the far right political machine has their back so long as they vote the way the IFF tells them to.

So much for Idaho values…

These expenditures reflect a significant investment in campaign strategies designed to maximize impact. However, it also raises questions about the influence of external consultants on local politics and the implications of their tactics on the democratic process. The reliance on such firms suggests a trend towards outsourced political strategies that may not always align with the community’s values and expectations.

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