Numbers do not statistics make

A recent letter by Bud Franklinson caught my interest as statistics is one of my favorite subjects and an area that I’ve used throughout my career. The Idaho Secretary of State’s campaign finance website provides ample resources for those wanting to spend some quality time with numbers.

What do the numbers tell us?

Often that depends on whether your sample reflects the entire data set or is an exercise in cherry picking.

I’d like to focus on two aspects. One is independent expenditures. The other is looking at the totality of a candidate’s contributions.

Getting to all the data can be challenging as what shows up on a candidate’s reporting does not include independent expenditures. These include mailings, messaging, and ads paid for by an outside political action committee or organization that support or oppose a candidate.

The current legislative races appear to be a repeat of the 2022 primary where groups like Idaho Freedom Action (which does not report) engaged in a vigorous show of support for Idaho Freedom Foundation endorsed candidates and in equally vigorous opposition for candidates who worked for their constituents instead of IFF.

Now let’s look at contributions to a candidate. I chose to review contributions made to Travis Stolley and to Jon VanGesen.

The report I accessed shows that just under four percent of Stolley’s contributions are from out of state. VanGesen’s report shows 27-percent out of state contributions.

Contributions from individual donors run 96-percent for Stolley and 95-percent for VanGesen.

The point I’m making is that anyone can cherry pick a few numbers, but those numbers do not tell the whole story.

Informed voters dig for the facts.

Mary Ollie
Bonners Ferry