Editorial Roundup: Idaho

Recent editorials from Idaho newspapers:

Nothing grabs a politician’s attention like a wallet

Jan. 20

The Lewiston Tribune

Corporate America is singling out the 147 Republican members of the U.S. House and Senate who on Jan. 6 promoted President Donald Trump’s big lie by trying to overturn Joe Biden’s election.

They want to freeze campaign contributions to the perpetrators. While those political action committees have every reason to consider Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas., and Josh Hawley, R-Mo., fair game for helping to organize the debacle, they should not dismiss Idaho Congressman Russ Fulcher’s participation.

Among the companies that have closed their checkbooks are:

- American Express — The attempt to “subvert the presidential election results and disrupt the peaceful transition of power do not align with our American Express Blue Box values. ...”

- AT&T — “Employees on our Federal PAC Board ... decided to suspend contributions to members of Congress who voted to object to the certification of Electoral College votes. ...”

- Blue Cross Blue Shield — “In light of (the Jan. 6) violent, shocking assault on the United States Capitol, and the votes of some members of Congress to subvert the results of November’s election by challenging Electoral College results (the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association) will suspend contributions to those lawmakers who voted to undermine our democracy.”

- Comcast — It will stop contributions “to those elected officials who voted against certification of the Electoral College votes, which will give us the opportunity to review our political giving policies and practices.”

- Marriott — “We have taken the destructive events at the Capitol to undermine a legitimate and fair election into consideration and will be pausing political giving from our Political Action Committee to those who voted against certification of the election.”

- Verizon — “We will be suspending contributions to any member of Congress who voted in favor of objecting to the election results.”

Hallmark went so far as to ask Hawley and Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., who also voted to decertify the results, to return its money — $7,000 for Hawley and $5,000 for Marshall.

Another tier of companies — including Charles Schwab, Citigroup and Ford — have put all political contributions to Congress on hold.

If Fulcher isn’t paying attention, he should be.

In his last reelection campaign, the Idaho Republican drew one-third of his money from political action committees. Less than 3 percent came from small individual contributions.

Some of that cash comes directly from companies such as Comcast, which contributed $4,500 to his campaign.

Others, however, write checks to leadership and ideological political action committees, which are among Fulcher’s most generous supporters. They include the House Freedom Fund ($16,850), the Freedom Fund ($10,000), the Majority Committee PAC ($10,000) and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise’s Eye of the Tiger PAC ($7,500).

The spigot is being turned off just at a time when the GOP hopes to win back the House majority in 2022. So if money is tight and control of the House is on the line, you can bet leadership PACs won’t be as inclined to funnel scarce dollars to a fellow Republican from a district as reliably GOP as Fulcher’s.

So Fulcher will need to put the squeeze on his Idaho donors.

When he does, will they tolerate Fulcher’s behavior — or will they, too, take a stand against misleading the American people about the results of an election fairly won and repeating a lie that fueled an insurrection at the Capitol?

Ask that of the following Fulcher contributors:

- Melaleuca Inc. ($5,600), CEO Frank VanderSloot ($2,800) and his wife, Belinda VanderSloot ($2,800).

- Hewlett Packard ($3,000).

- J.R. Simplot Co. ($6,000).

- The Kootenai Tribe ($1,000).

- Mdu Resources Group, owners of Intermountain Gas Co. ($1,000).

- PotlatchDeltic Corp. ($5,000).

- Vista Outdoor ($2,000).

- Micron Technology ($5,000).

- Hecla Mining Co. ($2,000).

- U.S. Ecology ($5,000).

- Idaho Forest Group ($5,500).

- Idaho Central Credit Union ($5,500).

Now in his second term, Fulcher is early enough in his career that he can be swayed if Idaho corporations express their disapproval about his recent actions.

Congressman Mike Simpson and Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, all R-Idaho, need no such comeuppance. They voted to certify Biden’s win. Besides, they have precious congressional seniority on key committees — Simpson on Apprioriations, Crapo on Finance and Risch on Foreign Relations.

Fulcher is a backbencher who needs corporate Idaho’s support far more than it needs him.

Here’s a moment of conscience for Idaho business and industry — and for those employees who contribute to those company political action funds.

If they stand on principle today, America, Idaho and even Fulcher will be better for it.

Online: The Lewiston Tribune

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Legislature puts rules over people in not allowing remote votes

Jan. 15

Idaho Press

Rep. Muffy Davis, who injured her back in a skiing accident as a teen and now has limited lung function, was left in tears Friday when the House voted down a motion to allow her to participate in the session remotely.

Rep. Davis, we are not only mourning with you, we are outraged.

The House voted on an 11-49 party-line vote to deny the motion, which would have allowed remote voting only for “a member of the House who has a physical impairment that places them at high risk for serious negative outcomes such as permanent physical damage or death if they were to contract COVID-19.”

In presenting the motion, Davis also gave each House member a letter from her doctor, which notes that her spinal cord injury left her with impaired respiratory function including “a severely diminished ability to cough,” and saying, “Were she to contract COVID-19, this would likely be a life-threatening proposition for her.”

Lawmakers who voted against the motion are putting rules over people. Rep. Kevin Andrus, R-Lava Hot Spring, said he has “sympathy” for Davis but is concerned about suspending rules. The House, however, routinely suspends rules, including those forbidding eating or drinking on the House floor and rules requiring multiple readings of bills.

“Technology is amazing, but there’s so much you get from being in person,” Andrus said. “The non-verbal cues are critical.”

More critical than someone’s health and safety?

Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa, defended his “no” vote, telling the Idaho Press, “She took an oath of office, and when she ran for office, she knew what the rules were."

What a callous response. Here is a woman, your colleague, trying to do her job safely — and in 2021, virtual access is not a big ask. Davis should not have to plead with her fellow lawmakers for this option; House and Senate leaders should be the first in line to make sure this session is as safe as possible for all involved. Instead, leadership has put no mask mandate or social-distancing rules in place for the Capitol, and has refused to give at-risk lawmakers the option to participate remotely — leaving Davis to reluctantly file a lawsuit seeking relief, and next to ask her colleagues to approve a rule change that would let her work remotely.

“People’s health and welfare shouldn’t be partisan,” Davis, D-Ketchum, told the Idaho Press, her voice breaking. “And unfortunately this virus, which doesn’t care whether you’re disabled — it’s affecting everyone all over the world — has become a political pawn.”

In a statement Friday, House Speaker Scott Bedke claimed “the safety of all members of the House of Representatives, staff, and the public in the Statehouse continues to be my top priority.” We see this evidenced only by his words, not his actions.

Friday’s vote shows exactly why, during the worst health care crisis in 100 years, the Idaho Legislature cannot be trusted with the keys that determine whether people live or die. If they cannot even respect the life of one of their own, how are they going to respect the lives of ordinary Idahoans they don’t even know?

Republican leadership in the House and Senate are also pushing bills to limit the governor’s authority and increase the legislature’s power in emergencies.

Problem is, when you have an emergency, such as a flood or fire or, God forbid, a worldwide pandemic, the ability to act nimbly and quickly is vital. Can you imagine having to call back 105 part-time lawmakers so they can debate the best step forward? Would any company operate that way — entrusting urgent decisions to a 100-person committee in the face of an emergency?

We don’t want to see an imbalance of power giving one person, the governor, too much control. But this is the highest position we elect to represent the entire state and entrust with decisive action when disaster strikes.

If the governor needed legislative approval for any emergency spending, it would take weeks. There would be bickering, sideboards, renegotiating and hearings; suddenly, we’re a month into a devastating fire season with no funding and therefore, no relief.

Legislators are absolutely allowed to disagree with Gov. Brad Little’s handling of the pandemic. Our board itself has been critical of some of Little’s actions, or lack thereof. We saw a patchwork of chaos across the state as the governor stood back and let city councils, health district boards and county bodies fend for themselves.

But using the legislature as a countermeasure to the governor in emergencies is inefficient, costly and puts Idahoans at risk. It does nothing to solve the leadership challenge we saw in our state, and only makes dire situations more chaotic.

Limiting gubernatorial power is nothing but red meat for legislators whose constituents disagree with Little’s actions.

It’s the same partisanship we see at play with 49 Republicans refusing to make a small rule change so people like Rep. Davis can safely represent her district.

Online: Idaho Press

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Future calm demands confrontation with history now

Jan. 20

Idaho Mountain Express

To turn the page to a more peaceful future, Americans must make solid efforts to tone down rhetoric and seek bipartisan following the inauguration of President Joe Biden. Those changes won’t stick unless the nation confronts the origins of the chaos that led up to today’s transfer of power.

New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie recently pointed out that “Stop the Steal,” the catchphrase for election fraud used by Republicans following the Nov. 3 election, is the same kind of allegation that groups in power have always used to try to hold on to it.

The mostly white anti-government agitators who stormed the U.S. Capitol were just the latest example of such groups.

In 1874, a paramilitary group known as the Crescent City White League, which alleged tyranny by pro-black-rights politicians, occupied the Louisiana Statehouse. Federal troops finally ended the three-day attempted coup.

None of the insurrectionists were ever charged. By 1876, when a congressional committee gave the presidency to Rutherford B. Hayes of Ohio, the southern states regained the ability to strip black citizens of voting rights.

In American history, ensuring the legitimacy of white votes at the expense of those of people of color hasn’t been limited to Southern states, nor has violence been the only tool used to do so.

Since the passage of federal voting rights legislation in 1965, Republicans have used the fear of massive fraud to impose election restrictions that make it harder to vote. Not surprisingly, restrictions always fall most heavily on people of color.

The underlying argument behind voter-fraud conspiracy theories is that some votes and some voters are more legitimate and thus deserve to be in power. The argument is undemocratic. It is especially un-American.

Sending this flawed argument into the dustbin of history will require more than counterarguments. It will require that those who use it as an excuse for violence are held accountable under the law.

If something is feasible, it will happen again. The nation must hold accountable the people who took part in the violent anti-government attack on the nation’s Capitol on Jan. 6. It must hold accountable the people who perpetuated the lie of a stolen election.

The nation must reckon with the truth about its history. It has never been a truly multi-racial, multi-cultural democracy, but it can become one if we acknowledge that all voters are legitimate.

Online: Idaho Mountain Express