A Hayden, Idaho businessman has filed to run as a write-in candidate against Idaho Rep. Phil Hart, saying Hart’s tax woes prompted him to jump into the race against a fellow conservative. “We all pay our taxes, and my feeling is what he did was wrong,” Howard Griffiths said of Hart. “There’s no justification for it. If we all took that attitude, and the way Washington’s printing money, this country wouldn’t last three minutes if none of us paid our taxes.”
Hart is the target of an ethics investigation in the Idaho House; in late July, a special House Ethics Committee cleared him, on a 4-3 party-line vote, of conflict-of-interest charges for voting on and sponsoring tax legislation while he was waging his own fight against back state and federal income taxes. He still faces a pending charge of abuse of legislative privilege, for repeatedly citing the constitutional privilege against arrest or civil process during legislative sessions to win delays in his state and federal income tax cases.
Other than the write-in challenge, Hart, R-Athol, is unopposed in his bid for a fourth House term in November. A civil engineer, he’s a tax protester who stopped filing state and federal income tax returns in 1996 while he pressed an unsuccessful lawsuit challenging the federal income tax as unconstitutional, a point he expounded on in a book he authored. Now, though Hart has resumed filing returns, public records show he owes nearly $700,000 in back state and federal income taxes, penalties and interest.
Griffiths, 62, sold his Hayden business, Clean Check Inc., three years ago; it sold an extendable backwater valve for sewer systems that he patented. He also worked as a Kootenai County marine sheriff’s deputy in the summer of 2003, and was the city of Rathdrum’s public works director from 1989 to 1994. ”I’ve never been in politics, but I guess I’m jumping in,” Griffiths said; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com.