Eye On Boise

TUESDAY, OCT. 18, 2011, 12:58 P.M.

Gov. Otter’s chief of staff leaves to take new lobbying gig

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter's chief of staff, Jason Kreizenbeck, is leaving his post at the end of this week to start a lobbying firm with prominent lobbyist and former state Sen. Skip Smyser, the Associated Press reports; Kreizenbeck will be replaced by David Hensley, currently Otter's staff legal counsel. Click below for a full report from AP reporter John Miller.

Top Otter staffer stepping down

By JOHN MILLER, Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Jason Kreizenbeck, Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's chief of staff since 2007, is leaving the two-term Republican's administration to form a government affairs business with a longtime Idaho lobbyist.

Kreizenbeck, 39, announced his decision Monday to leave the post in an email sent to Otter's staff and top government agency officials.

"It was not an easy decision for me to leave, but I feel that now is the right time," Kreizenbeck wrote to colleagues in the e-mail obtained by The Associated Press. He will be out of Otter's office by week's end and will be replaced by David Hensley, the current legal counsel.

Kreizenbeck planned to start a business with Skip Smyser, a former Republican state lawmaker whose lobbying clients include Altria, the maker of Marlboro cigarettes, phone company AT&T and oil company ConocoPhillips.

"I've done stuff internationally, in Washington, D.C., and locally," said Kreizenbeck, who worked as a top lobbyist for Micron Technology Inc. and was a vice chairman of the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, a pro-business lobbying outfit, before joining Otter's staff four years ago.

Kreizenbeck said the plan with Smyser became concrete about a month ago. They worked together in the late 1990s, when Kreizenbeck was fresh off working for the first U.S. House campaign of Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, and joined Smyser's law firm as a contract lobbyist.

"Skip's the first guy I worked for in lobbying," Kreizenbeck said. Smyser didn't immediately return a phone call seeking comment Tuesday.

Kreizenbeck was named chief of staff in November 2007, taking over for Jeff Malmen, who left the Otter administration to become the top lobbyist for Idaho Power. Kreizenbeck's position paid $130,500 a year.

Idaho has no so-called "revolving-door" restrictions such as those in place in Montana that limit former government officials from immediately lobbying their one-time colleagues. As a result, Kreizenbeck can begin lobbying Otter, cabinet officials and the state legislature after he departs.

During his tenure with Otter, Kreizenbeck played a role in some of the Idaho chief executive's signature legislative wins and losses. Earlier this year, Otter joined with Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna in getting Idaho lawmakers to approve a package of public education reforms, including a requirement that high school students begin taking classes online.

But Kreizenbeck was also at the helm during one of Otter's biggest policy failures, an effort in 2009 to ram through a series of tax and fee increases to raise millions of dollars to fix and maintain the state's roads and bridges.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Russell covers Idaho news from the state capitol in Boise and writes the Eye on Boise blog.

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