The Associated Press just reported this scoop: Secretary of State Ben Ysursa has opened a formal inquiry into whether Phil Reberger, Gov. Dirk Kempthorne’s former chief of staff, violated Idaho lobbying law when he met with a state legislator earlier this month over a disputed $50 million state contract. Reberger worked for Kempthorne in both the governor’s office and his U.S. Senate office for 11 years, before resigning in 2002 to become a consultant. He represented the successful bidders in two recent, controversial, huge state contract awards – the giant Medicaid contract that recently was awarded to Unisys Corp. and is being challenged in court, and the contract to oversee the state’s biggest-ever highway project, which went to Washington Group International.
AP reporter John Miller reported, “On Jan. 17, Reberger and Unisys officials met with Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, to discuss the contract, which is the subject of a lawsuit filed by EDS Inc. EDS contends it was improperly disqualified from bidding. Reberger is not a registered Idaho lobbyist, and Ysursa wants to find out if the meeting met requirements that people who are being paid by companies or special interest groups to lobby lawmakers on issues before the Legislature report their activities and spending to the state.”
Idaho Statesman political columnist Dan Popkey first revealed the meeting in a column earlier this week headed, “Governor’s ex-chief of staff should admit lobbying.”
Idaho law doesn’t require lobbyists to register if they only lobby executive branch agencies, though two senators are working on legislation to change that. According to the AP report, Ysursa sent a Jan. 25 letter to Reberger saying, “I am requesting that you provide me information pertaining to the manner and character of your meeting with Senator Dean Cameron and Unisys Corporation officials on January 17, 2006. … I am specifically interested in the context of the meeting in relation to” Idaho’s lobbying disclosure laws.