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Eye On Boise

Archive for May 2012

Talking politics on Dialogue tonight…

Tonight on Idaho Public TV's “Dialogue,” host Joan Cartan-Hansen will host a reporters and pundits roundtable discussion on the primary elections results, Idaho politics and more; on the panel will be Idaho Statesman editorial page editor Kevin Richert; Idaho Falls Post Register editorial page editor Corey Taule; Greg Hahn, host of IPTV's “Idaho Reports,” and myself. Got a questions about Idaho politics? Call in and ask us. The show airs live at 8:30 p.m. Mountain time, 7:30 p.m. Pacific. Before the show, you can send your questions in by email to dialogue@idahoptv.org; during the show, call in toll-free to (800) 973-9800. There's more info here, where you can also watch the show online after it airs.

Parker to leave Idaho GOP for lobbyist position at Holland & Hart

Idaho Republican Party Executive Director Jonathan Parker will leave his post after the June GOP state convention in Twin Falls to take a job as a lobbyist for the law firm Holland & Hart. Parker was appointed in 2009 by outgoing party Chairman Norm Semanko; he's stepping aside to allow the next chairman, chosen at the convention, to appoint the next executive director. Click below for the Idaho GOP's full announcement.

Tax-protesting Rep. Hart files for bankruptcy

Tax-protesting Idaho state Rep. Phil Hart, who lost his bid for a fifth term in the GOP primary two weeks ago, has filed for bankruptcy. In Hart's petition for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, he lists just three creditors: The IRS, the Idaho State Tax Commission, and Anderson & Krieger, a construction defect law firm in Sacramento, Calif.

Hart also is facing a foreclosure lawsuit from the U.S. Justice Department seeking to foreclose on his Athol home for more than $500,000 in back federal income taxes, penalties and interest, and a state order to pay more than $53,000 in back state income taxes, penalties and interest. Michael McFarland, Hart's Coeur d'Alene attorney in the bankruptcy proceeding, said, “I'm really not in a position to discuss details.”

Hart's filing doesn't list any debt amount, but that must be detailed in subsequent filings that the court has ordered him to make within 14 days; you can read our full story here at spokesman.com.
  

State: Allowing full viewing could identify or stress execution team

Allowing witnesses to view the full process of a state execution could identify or stress the members of the execution team, Idaho prison officials argued in legal filings late Tuesday. The Associated Press and 16 other news organizations say reporters — and by extension the public — should view all phases of the execution to accurately report the events or any complications that emerge. Idaho officials spelled out their legal defense in advance of court-ordered mediation, which begins Thursday under the supervision of Magistrate Judge Candy Dale; click below for a full report from AP reporter Todd Dvorak.

Solar firm that’s closing, laying off 250, got $1M-plus in state training funds

StateImpact Idaho reports that Transform Solar, the Nampa-based solar company partly owned by Micron Technology that plans to shut down and lay off 250 people, received a $3.6 million workforce development training grant from the state of Idaho in 2010, and has been reimbursed for a little over $1 million in training costs through the grant. StateImpact reports that the Idaho Department of Labor says when a company gets workforce training money and then closes, the hope is that those employees at least will have new skills that will help them in their next job; you can read their full report here.
  

Second bipartisan redistricting commission honored with City Club civic engagement award

All six members of Idaho's second bipartisan reapportionment commission that this year successfully drew new legislative and congressional district lines are being honored with the Dottie & Ed Stimpson Award for Civic Engagement by the City Club of Boise. In bestowing the award, the club noted that the previous bipartisan commission “broke down amidst intense partisan and regional discord,” but the second commission quickly reached agreement, and then, when its first effort was struck down in court, even more quickly settled on new district lines that passed legal muster. “Their efforts represent civic engagement at its best,” the City Club declared in its invitation to the award ceremony and celebration, which will be June 6 from 5-8 p.m. at the Esther Simplot Center for Performing Arts; there's more information here. Tickets to the celebration are $25.

The commission's six members are Democrats Ron Beitelspacher, Shauneen Grange and Elmer Martinez, and Republicans Dolores Crow, Randy Hansen and Sheila Olsen.
  

‘Youngest lawmaker’ claim prompts history lesson

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) ― A news story on Sunday saying a candidate for the Legislature could become Idaho's youngest-ever lawmaker prompted a history lesson. If Nate Murphy of Pocatello is elected in District 29 in November, the 22-year-old would become a young lawmaker, just not the youngest. The Idaho secretary of state erroneously told The Associated Press the titleholder was former Rep. Branden Durst of Boise, just 26 when elected. But there are others who were more youthful. Former Sen. Jim Yost was 24 when elected in 1972. And in 1951, Herman J. McDevitt joined the House at 22. McDevitt, a law student at the time, left his legacy in the mid-1960s by spearheading a lawsuit to force Idaho to adopt legislative districts that gave voters more-equal representation. McDevitt, a Democrat, died in 1988.

Also among the young lawmakers group: North Idaho Rep. Gino White was just 24 when appointed to the House by then-Gov. Cecil Andrus in 1987. And it's possible there were others even younger; Idaho's legislative librarian, Kristin Ford, said the Legislature has no records before the late 1950s of the birth dates of lawmakers.
  

Idaho Liquor Division bans ‘Five Wives Vodka’ as offensive, it’s sold in Utah

Idaho's state Liquor Division has declared “Five Wives Vodka” to be in bad taste and decided it won't be sold in Idaho, either on the shelves of state-run liquor stores or by special order. Division Administrator Jeff Anderson said the brand is offensive to Mormons. “It's masterful marketing on their part. But it doesn't play here,” he told the Associated Press.

“We're a little dumbfounded by it all,” said Steve Conlin, a partner and marketing chief for Ogden's Own Distillery, which makes the vodka; it's sold in state-run stores in Utah and Wyoming. “The average person can look at our bottle and they don't find it offensive. It's certainly not obscene, which is what it would require for it to be banned.” He added, “We have a product that has sold nearly 1,000 cases in six months in Utah. If the reaction is because of a religious concern, we think they are extremely misguided.” Click below for a full report from AP reporters Paul Foy in Utah and John Miller in Boise.

Invasive mussels on the move toward Idaho, the Northwest

North Idaho Rep. Eric Anderson's nightmare involves invasive quagga and zebra mussels slipping into Idaho's waterways and altering the very nature of the state. “It scares me, it really does scare me,” said Anderson, R-Priest Lake. He was a featured speaker Tuesday at the Idaho Environmental Forum, a periodic forum on environmental issues facing the state, and he had a chilling warning: Only five states - Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Wyoming and Montana - have yet to be invaded by the tiny, fast-reproducing shellfish that chokes out native species and encrusts everything that touches the infested water. And more and more mussel-infested boats are being intercepted on the way to Idaho, with the vast majority coming from the Lake Mead area.

Two more fouled boats were caught on I-90 in North Idaho on Friday, for a total of 41 so far this year - and the summer boating season is just beginning. If mussels show up in “any waterway in the Northwest here, it's going to eventually end up in the Columbia and out to the ocean,” Anderson said. “We're going to lose this whole system.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Family: Jones recovering after car crash, still in ICU after surgeries for broken bones

Idaho State Controller Donna Jones remains in the intensive care unit at St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center after a one-car rollover over the holiday weekend, but her family reports that she is recovering after undergoing surgeries to repair broken bones. Here's a media advisory issued today by the Controller's office and the family:

Boise, Idaho – The family of Idaho State Controller Donna Jones reports she remains hospitalized at St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center and has undergone surgeries to repair broken bones sustained in her automobile accident. Primarily due to the orthopedic nature of her injuries, her family noted that physicians are keeping Ms. Jones in the hospital’s intensive care unit for the time being. Based on Ms. Jones’ medical progress, her family continues to remain optimistic for a strong recovery.



“Although Donna was involved in a serious accident, her family has told me that she’s meeting the expected medical milestones, and on her way to recovery,” said Chief Deputy Controller Brandon Woolf. “They’ve also told me the seatbelt she wore saved her life.” 



Ms. Jones’ family expresses their appreciation for the superior care she’s received from the EMT personnel who first responded to her accident, as well as the care provided by the staff at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise. They also appreciate the efforts the media and Donna’s many friends have taken to respect her privacy. 

Well wishers may send cards or flowers to the State Controller’s Office at 700 W. State Street, Boise, Idaho 83720. 


Lincoln’s Idaho legacy to be featured in landmark new public exhibit

Newly elected President Abraham Lincoln sat for more than an hour with plaster drying on his face, to create a life mask that then was used to fashion statues of the imposing man. Five years later, in 1865, he sat for another life mask - and the difference in his features is remarkable, showing him horribly aged by the Civil War.

A look that intimate at the 16th president - who during those years also established Idaho Territory - isn't easy to come by, but thanks to a major donation to the state of Idaho by former Idaho Attorney General and Lt. Gov. David Leroy and his wife, Nancy, it's part of a unique collection documenting Lincoln and his ties to Idaho that will go on display to the public in a specially designed gallery next year. The new gallery will open during the celebration of the sesquicentennial, or 150th anniversary, of the creation of Idaho Territory; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Janet Gallimore, director of the Idaho State Historical Society, says she gets “goose bumps” thinking about what's in store. “David's collection is the finest collection of Lincoln material in the Intermountain West,” she said. “I'm just so excited that we will be acquiring this fabulous collection for the public. A great amount of Lincoln's significance for Idaho is going to be presented to the public for the first time in an exhibition venue.”

The new Lincoln Legacy Collection and Exhibition will be installed at the Idaho State Archives, a light-filled structure that stands just down the road in Boise from the historic Old Idaho Penitentiary, which was in use in territorial times. The archives now function mostly as a research facility; the new Lincoln gallery will be its first permanent exhibit open to the public, and is expected to draw busloads of schoolkids and other visitors.
  

Stevens: ‘It’s never too late, never too early to get on a bike’

U.S. rider Evelyn Stevens, who just a few years ago was a Wall Street investment banker and now is the champion of the Exergy Tour and likely Olympics-bound, thanked the boisterous crowd at the awards ceremony in Boise. “I know for myself and for all the women out here today, I think it was one of the most spectacular bike races I've ever participated in,” she declared. “I can't wait 'til next year.”

Stevens said she hopes her late arrival to the world of professional women's bike racing - and her meteoric rise in that world - inspires people to take up bike riding. “It's never too late, it's never too early to get on a bike,” Stevens said. Above, she pops open a magnum of champagne to spray the crowd and her fellow winners at the awards ceremony; at right, fellow Team Specialized-lululemon member and Canadian rider Clara Hughes - who took third in the Exergy Tour - douses Stevens with champagne.

U.S. rider Stevens wins Exergy Tour

U.S. rider Evelyn Stevens has won the inaugural Exergy Tour, taking the overall race and finishing a very close second in the tour's final stage to German rider Claudia Hausler, in a dramatic finish to the five-day professional women's bike race in Boise.

For the tour, the overall results were: 1st place, Evelyn Stevens; 2nd, American Amber Neben; and third, Canadian Clara Hughes. For today's final stage, Hausler was first, Stevens second, and Canadian Jasmin Glaesser third.

And they’re off…

The final stage of the Exergy Tour has kicked off today; here, the crowd of professional women cyclists heads up Bogus Basin Road, two sharp turns - and at least one multi-rider crash - after the starting line in Hyde Park, where today's race both starts and finishes.

The racers will cover 46.7 miles today, climbing 3,700 feet on an up-and-down course that will take them out Cartright Road, around three laps in the Dry Creek/Seamans Gulch/Pierce Park area, and then back along Cartright to Bogus Basin to Harrison Boulevard, for the finish at 13th and Resseguie in the North End. The race is expected to finish around 1 p.m.; entertainment and family activities are planned until 2:30, including the awarding of the overall trophy.

Outed Idaho Dem seeks new title: Youngest lawmaker

Nate Murphy knocked on 8,000 doors and spent just $10 on his successful 2011 campaign for Pocatello's school board, but the 22-year-old's current bid to become one of Idaho's youngest-ever legislators is exacting a higher price, reports AP reporter John Miller. Murphy is running for Pocatello's District 29 House seat as a Democrat in a Republican-dominated state. He also has a misdemeanor marijuana conviction from 2008 he knew he'd likely have to explain to voters before November. And in March, he was accidentally outed as gay after Idaho's only openly gay lawmaker told The New York Times that Murphy would be taking up her legacy. That's how his father and grandmother found out about his bisexuality.

Given those distractions, Miller reports, Murphy is working hard to refocus voter attention on the topics that matter to him, not diversionary issues he says distract from his core message of improving Idaho education, a theme that won him his School District 25 trustee seat last year. “At the end of the line, I think the election is going to be my record in public service and the issues important to my district,” he said; click below for Miller's full report.

Winner of race through Idaho mountains: ‘I didn’t anticipate it would be that steep’

German road race champ Ina Yoko Teutenberg won today's third stage in the Exergy Tour, a 57.8-mile women's cycling road race from Crouch to Idaho City with 4,520 feet of climbing through the mountains. “I didn’t anticipate it would be that steep. The mountains took a lot out of my legs,” Teutenberg said at the post-race press conference. Finishing just half a wheel back in second place was Canadian Leah Kirchmann, with U.S. rider Megan Guarnier placing third. A loud and enthusiastic crowd greeted the riders at the finish in Idaho City; the ride included ascending Mores Creek Summit, which had snow earlier in the morning.

Today's win propelled Teutenberg from fourth overall for the tour to second place, nine seconds back from tour leader Amber Neben of the United States. Evelyn Stevens, who like Neben is a U.S. Olympic hopeful for this summer's games in London, is third overall.

Tomorrow's final stage is a 46.6-mile road race both starting and ending at Hyde Park in Boise; the pre-race festivities kick off with live music at 10 a.m., and the race starts at 11 and is expected to finish around 1 p.m.; entertainment and family activities are planned until 2:30, including the awarding of the overall trophy. There's more info at exergytour.com.

Amber Neben wins Kuna time trial in Exergy Tour, takes overall lead

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: KUNA, Idaho (AP) ― Amber Neben won the 10.4-mile time trial second stage of the Exergy Tour on Saturday in the southwestern Idaho town of Kuna and moved into the overall race lead. With the win Neben also made a statement on why she should get one of two spots to represent the United States at the London Olympics in the time trial this summer. Neben finished with a time of 21 minutes, 37 seconds, some 15 seconds ahead of one of her chief rivals for an Olympic berth, Evelyn Stevens. The third racer in the mix, Boise-based Kristin Armstrong and the 2008 gold medalist in the event, sat out the race after breaking her collarbone in a crash in Thursday evening's prologue. Canadian Clara Hughes placed third Saturday with a time of 21:57.

State Controller Donna Jones in critical condition after car crash

Idaho State Controller Donna Jones was listed in critical condition at St. Alphonsus Medical Center today, after being flown there with injuries from a car crash on I-84 near Heyburn. The Idaho State Police reported today Jones was involved in a one-vehicle rollover about 12:55 p.m.  Jones, 73, was traveling westbound on the freeway, when her Cadillac Escalade went off the side of the road; she overcorrected and the vehicle rolled. She was wearing a seatbelt.

She was first taken by ground ambulance to Minidoka Memorial Hospital in Rupert, then flown to St. Al's, where she arrived in critical condition; at 7 p.m., she was in the intensive care unit and still listed in critical condition.

Jones' Chief of Staff Brandon Woolf told the Associated Press that the 73-year-old state elected official was on a personal trip and returning from eastern Idaho when the crash occurred. She was elected state controller in 2006, and before that the Payette native served 12 years in the Idaho House of Representatives. The crash is under investigation by the ISP.

Exergy Tour riders race across countryside, Cliff-Ryan wins stage

Theresa Cliff-Ryan, a U.S. rider and teammate of injured racer Kristin Armstrong, won the first stage of the Exergy Tour on Friday, a 76.7-mile road race through southwestern Idaho in a steady rain. Armstrong, who crashed in the race's prologue time trial on Thursday and broke her collarbone, was at the finish - just hours after undergoing surgery - to cheer her teammates on. German champ Ina Yoko Teutenberg came in second, and Australian Rochelle Gilmore third; based on combined times from the two days of racing, Teutenberg took the overall lead for the tour. As the sky turned from gray to blue, six riders crashed near the final turn in Nampa, including world champion Giorgia Bronzini of Italy. Click below for a full report from AP reporter John Miller. The professional women's cycling race continues through Monday.

BLM bans night-time use of Skinny Dipper Hot Springs on public-safety grounds

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has ordered Skinny Dipper Hot Springs in Boise County closed to all recreational use from sunset to sunrise, allowing only daytime use of the hot springs along the Banks-Lowman Highway along with the parking lot and access trail. “The closure will help provide for public safety,” the agency said in a news release. “Since 2004, there have been several fatalities, assaults and numerous injuries associated with night-time use of the area.”

Otter appoints Case to Ada commission

Gov. Butch Otter has appointed Dave Case to the Ada County Commission, to fill the vacancy left by the May 4 resignation of Vern Bisterfeldt. Case, a current Ada County Highway District commissioner who will leave that post, defeated Commissioner Sharon Ullman in the May 15 primary; click below for Otter's full announcement.

GOP Gov. Otter has a Dem-led agency

For the past three months, one of Republican Idaho Gov. Butch Otter's departments has been headed by a Democrat and overseen by a majority-Democrat commission. It's the state Tax Commission, which is constitutionally required to have four commissioners, with not more than two of them from the same party. But since GOP commission Chairman Bob Geddes resigned in February, Democratic Commissioner David Langhorst has been the interim chairman, and the fourth commission seat remains vacant. That leaves the commission with two Democrats and one Republican.

“David Langhorst is doing a great job right now,” said Otter's spokesman, Jon Hanian. “We have not named anybody else at the moment; he's continuing to serve in that capacity.” Langhorst, a former Democratic state senator from Boise whom Otter first appointed to the commission in 2009, said, “These positions are public trust positions - they're not political.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

First stage of Exergy Tour ends in heartbreak for local cyclist after high-speed crash

The first stage of the Exergy Tour kicked off under mostly sunny skies, with a large and enthusiastic crowd of spectators in downtown Boise to see the 103 elite women cyclists from around the world compete. But it ended in a heartbreaker when local favorite Kristin Armstrong, the 2008 gold medalist in the time trial and the last rider of the day, crashed midway through the course and broke her collarbone. Amazingly, Armstrong got back on her bike after her crash by the Boise Depot and finished the course, coming in 13th, showing she was on pace to have won with a blisteringly fast time. But she's now out for the rest of the tour, which continues today with a 77-mile road race starting from the Nampa Rec Center.

Final results for the day showed top honors went to Tara Whitten of Canada, one of the Team TIBCO to the Top riders whose bike was stolen a day before the race, then recovered by Boise Police on the BSU campus and returned in time; she completed the course in 4 minutes 9 seconds. Two other Canadians rounded out the top three: Gillian Carleton was second, and crowd favorite Clara Hughes, a Canadian cyclist and speed skater who's won multiple Olympic medals in both sports, came in third.

Evelyn Stevens, a U.S. rider and former investment banker who's one of Armstrong's rivals for a spot on the time trials team at the London Olympics this summer, placed fifth; and Amber Neben, the other rival, a former Olympian and the world time trial champion from 2008, placed 10th.

Armstrong is scheduled to undergo surgery this morning and still hopes to qualify for the Olympics, though she's out for the Exergy Tour; click below for a full report from AP reporter John Miller.

Luna named to Romney’s new 19-member Ed Policy Advisory Group

Idaho state Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna has been named to a 19-member “Education Policy Advisory Group” by GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. “I am proud to announce the support of this impressive group of policy leaders who are devoted to expanding educational opportunities for students,” Romney said in a statement. “Our education system is failing too many of our kids, and I look forward to working closely with these leaders to chart a new course that emphasizes school choice and accountability, the importance of great teachers, and access to quality, affordable higher education.”

Luna is the only state school superintendent named to the group; the other members all either work for private education companies, think tanks, universities or the federal government. Among them are K-12 education co-chairs Nina Rees, senior vice president for strategic initiatives at Knowledge Universe; and Martin West, a professor with the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Rod Paige, former U.S. secretary of education, was named a “special advisor” with the group; Luna worked for Paige under the Bush Administration.

Luna, in a news release sent out by the Idaho Republican Party, said, “I am excited to work with Gov. Romney to improve education across the country. As governor, he showed how states can truly put students first and raise academic achievement for all children. We have worked toward the same goals in Idaho, passing the most comprehensive education reform in the country to ensure every student can graduate from high school and go on to postsecondary education without the need for remediation. Now, we must make this is possible for every child in every state.”

Idaho Statesman columnist Dan Popkey points out that three members of the Bush Administration who are are advocates of for-profit education companies join Luna on the new advisory group, and also contributed to Luna's 2010 re-election campaign; you can read his report here. Click below for the full Idaho GOP news release; you can read Romney's full announcement here about his advisory group.

Judge Lodge orders mediation in press lawsuit over limited access to Idaho executions

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) ― A federal judge has ordered mediation between Idaho and more than a dozen news organizations challenging the state's policy limiting public access to executions. U.S. District Judge Edward J. Lodge handed down the order Thursday, two days after The Associated Press and 16 other news organizations filed a lawsuit seeking to force officials to let witnesses view executions from start to finish. The suit contends the media and other witnesses have a First Amendment right to view all steps of lethal injection executions. Idaho Department of Correction policy blocks from view the first steps of the process, including insertion of the IV needles into the condemned inmate. Lodge's order requires the parties to enter mediation on or before June 1 under supervision of Magistrate Judge Candy Dale. You can read Judge Lodge's order here; click below for a full report from AP reporter Todd Dvorak.

Local cycling star ready to ‘show Boise off’ to international competitors

Boise cycling star Kristin Armstrong, Olympic gold medalist in the time trial and headliner of the Exergy Tour, is clearly on her own turf in the five-stage women's professional bike race that kicks off today - the first stage, for example, tonight's prologue, has its turnaround at the Boise Depot, where Armstrong was married, as AP reporter John Miller noted in his report yesterday on the race. The final stage Monday, which starts and finishes at Hyde Park in Boise's North End, comes within a mile of her home.

Armstrong said, “I'm so happy to show Boise off to everybody.” At the opening press conference of the Exergy Tour yesterday, she said, “Last night I was talking to my husband, and I said, 'Wow, I really, I need all this stuff to start, because I have to get it out of my mind that I'm not just not going to a local race tomorrow. Because it's not often that we get to experience a world-class competition in your home town, waking up from your own bed, thinking you're going to roll down to a road that you ride a couple times a week. And you're going to actually be there with all of your competitors.”

Tonight's race, featuring more than 100 elite women bike racers from 18 nations, starts at 6:30 p.m. at Julia Davis Park, where it both starts and finishes; there's public viewing all along the route, with the most action likely at the park and at the Depot, which is the turnaround. It's designed in part to establish a seeding for the next stage, a 77-mile road race starting from the Nampa Rec Center on Friday. Festivities will start at 5 p.m., when the Expo opens, with live music from Bill Coffey & His Cash Money Cousins. Each day's stage features an Expo; tomorrow's in Nampa will include fitting and providing free bicycle helmets to the first 100 children ages 5 and under. There's more info here.

On the unsettled weather this week, including rain showers, Armstrong said she hopes the riders won't encounter thunderstorms in the mountains, but said aside from that, “The more weather the better, right? I mean, we're all tough women.”

Current, former governors clash over nuke waste; all say stick with ‘95 pact

In the past few days, three Idaho governors - former Govs. Cecil Andrus and Phil Batt and current Gov. Butch Otter - have published guest opinions in the Idaho Statesman newspaper with strongly worded messages about potential changes in the nuclear waste agreement Batt famously negotiated with the feds, guaranteeing that Idaho won't become the nation's future nuke waste repository. Today, Idaho Statesman reporter Rocky Barker sorts through the charges; you can read his full report here. The upshot: Both Andrus and Batt are urging Otter to stick with the 1995 agreement, and despite possible changes outlined by current INL Director John Grossenbacher, Otter is pledging that he will.
  

International women’s bike racing returns to Boise, in a big way…

After what Exergy Tour communications director Heather Hill called “a little bit of an unexpected glitch here on the first day” - the theft and then recovery, apparently unscathed, of $120,000 worth of racing bikes and equipment from one of the teams - the event is on. “We are humbled to be hosting over 100 athletes representing 18 of their home countries, many of whom will represent their home nations in the Olympic games this summer,” Hill declared. She said the women's bike race is aimed at “raising the bar” for women's sports. “Our $100,000 prize purse, the largest for a ladies' five-stage race in the history of the sport, is one example of raising the bar.”

Steve Johnson, president and CEO of USA Cycling, the organization responsible for identifying, training and selecting cyclists to represent the United States in international competition, called the Boise women's cycling race “an exceptional event.” Idaho hosted the Women's Challenge from 1984 to 2002; this year's event marks the return of high-level women's bicycle racing to the state. “This is probably one of the biggest and most exciting women's bike racing events in the world this year,” Johnson said. “You have some of the greatest … cyclists in the world here. You don't have to go to London. It's a great opportunity to see the top level of women's professional bike racing right here in Idaho.”

The race starts tomorrow with the Prologue, an evening time trial starting from and finishing at Julia Davis Park in downtown Boise, running from there to the Boise Depot and back, and starting at 6:30 p.m. That'll be followed by a road race starting from the Nampa Rec Center on Friday at 11 a.m.; an individual time trial in Kuna on Saturday; a 59.7-mile road race from Garden Valley to Idaho City on Sunday; and a final 46.7-mile road race Monday at 11 a.m. starting and finishing at Hyde Park in Boise, and looping up and through the Boise foothills. Spectators are welcome at all the events; there are details online at exergytour.com. The public also is invited tonight to festivities in the Grove in downtown Boise, starting with live music at 5 p.m., a “Walk to London” event led by Olympians and Paralympians, and the team presentation at 7 p.m.

Among those racing are Boise Olympic cycling medalist Kristin Armstrong and U.S. rivals Amber Neben and Evelyn Stevens, all three of whom are competing for two spots on the U.S. Time Trial team at this summer's Olympics in London. AP reporter John Miller has a full report here on the competition. Stevens, 29, is nearly a decade younger than her two rivals. “I found the sport of cycling a little bit later in life,” she said today. At the age of “25 or 26,” she said, while working as an investment banker at Lehman Brothers on Wall Street, she started off riding a bike in Central Park. At last year's U.S. championships, Stevens won, with Neben second and Armstrong third. But Armstrong has beat Stevens in time trials three times this year; she holds the 2008 Olympic gold medal in the time trial, and was world champion in 2006 and 2009. Neben was world time trial champion in 2008.

Also racing are six-time German champion Daniela Glass; current road world champion Giorgia Bronzini of Italy; 2011 Swiss national road champion Pascale Schnider; British 2008 Olympic gold medalist in the road race Nicole Cooke; Australian national road race champion Alexis Rhodes; Swedish national time trial champion Emilia Fahlin; current German road-race champion Ina-Yoko Teutenberg; three-time Australian national time trial champion Shara Gillow; and many more.
  

All stolen racing bikes safely recovered

Boise Mayor David Bieter kicked off the opening press conference of the Exergy Tour with some good news that was heartily welcomed by the assembled athletes: “I'm happy to report that all of the bikes have been found,” Bieter said. “They are in good shape, and the team will have their bikes to ride on.” He said, “Our kudos to the Police Department.”

Boise Police reported that the stolen racing bikes from Team TIBCO were recovered in three locations on the BSU campus, and appear to be undamaged. Their investigation into the theft continues.

Citizen tip led to recovery of six of 14 stolen racing bikes

The Boise Police say six of the professional racing bikes reported stolen from an Exergy Tour team this morning have been recovered by officers on the 1300 block of University Drive, locked together to a bike rack. BPD credited the recovery to a citizen tip, from a citizen who recognized that the bikes looked like those in pictures of the stolen property. There are still eight valuable racing bikes missing that racers need to compete; read the BPD's full update here.
  

Police say they’ve recovered 6 of 14 bikes stolen from race team

Boise Police now say they've recovered six of the 14 professional racing bikes stolen last night from a women's professional cycling team in town for the Exergy Tour, which starts tomorrow; KTVB-TV has a report here. The Idaho Statesman reports here that the six recovered bikes were found locked together on the BSU campus.

Bike theft ‘huge blow to the team’

The Exergy Tour has sent out the following statement on last night's theft of expensive professional bikes and equipment from one of the competing teams; the photo shows an example of what the bikes look like:

Last night several thousand dollars worth of bikes and pro cycling equipment was stolen from the Team TIBCO trailer in a Boise hotel parking lot. The team is in Idaho to compete in the Exergy Tour ladies pro cycling race. Below are the statements from Boise Mayor David Bieter, Boise Police Chief Mike Masterson, Exergy Development Group CEO James Carkulis, and Team TIBCO regarding this event.

STATEMENT FROM BOISE MAYOR DAVE BIETER

“I was angry and deeply disappointed when I learned of the theft of the bikes and equipment from Team Tibco last night. This is not the kind of community we live in and not the kind of welcome we want to extend to visitors for this wonderful Exergy Tour event. These are specialized racing bikes branded with the team’s logo; they’re of absolutely no use to anyone except the riders to whom they belong. I’m asking any members of the public who might have information regarding this crime to help us in securing the return of this equipment so that everyone can enjoy this great competition.”

 STATEMENT FROM BOISE POLICE CHIEF MIKE MASTERSON

“Crimes like this, which target a public event, don’t just hurt the victims; they hurt the entire community. Fortunately this kind of theft is rare in Boise, but that makes this particular incident all the more upsetting. Our detectives are working hard to track down the perpetrators of this crime and bring them to justice, and Crime Stoppers has pledged a reward of $1,000 for the return of the Team Tibco equipment, and the Mayor’s Office is in for another $1,000. As always, members of the public are the best partners of law enforcement in solving crimes like this, so I echo the Mayor’s plea and ask citizens to call 343-COPS (343-2677) if they have any information that might be helpful.”

STATEMENT FROM EXERGY DEVELOPMENT GROUP CEO, JAMES CARKULIS

“The Boise Police Department and the Office of the Mayor are working feverishly to apprehend these thieves and recover the equipment. Exergy is doing everything possible to make sure the teams will be on track to race tomorrow evening at the Prologue. This places a pallor over the event well before the start of such a positive experience for these athletes and for the sport.  We know these athletes are strong willed and determined and we shall find a way for them to compete.” 

STATEMENT FROM TIBCO – TO THE TOP

“Last night the Team TIBCO trailer van was broken into at a race hotel parking lot in Boise, Idaho.  14 bikes have been stolen, including six Specialized Time Trial Shivs and eight Specialized Amira bikes.  These bikes were top end race bikes, built with top of the line SRAM components.  The time trial bikes specifically are very unique and should be easily identifiable.  Our Reynolds wheels were stolen as well, including our time trial Element Discs and very special RZR 46s and 92s.  These wheels are also very unique and are not easily available.

“This is a huge blow to the team.  On the performance side, our riders now have to compete in the most important stage race in the country without their Specialized/SRAM /Reynolds time trial equipment.  The financial side is equally crippling.  Women’s cycling teams do not have big budgets.   This loss has a huge impact on the team’s financial health.

“We were really looking forward to the resurrection of stage racing in Idaho with Exergy Tour.  The team’s founder fondly remembers Idaho from the legendary Ore-Ida/Hewlett Packard Stage Race days.  This is not the Idaho that she remembers.  We are hopeful that the community can help us recover these bikes quickly so that our athletes can perform to the best of their ability in this important UCI race leading up to the Olympics.

“We thank George’s Cycles in Boise Idaho, who has offered a $500 reward for information leading to the safe return of our equipment, and we will match that amount. We also thank Exergy for contributing another $1,000 to the reward, bringing the total to $2,000. Please help us recover our equipment.”

Boise Police ask for help to find racing bikes stolen from elite women cyclists in town for Exergy Tour

A trailer-full of racing bikes belonging to a team of bike racers from California competing in the inaugural Exergy Tour, a professional women's bike racing event that kicks off in Boise tomorrow, were stolen when thieves broke a lock on the team's bike trailer parked outside their Boise hotel last night, and Boise Police are asking people to watch for the distinctive bicycles,which are marked with distinctive white TIBCO team logos and are valued at $120,000. The bikes are Specialized brand carbon fiber racing bikes; you can see the full BPD new release here, including photos of the bicycles. The bike wheels are Reynolds brand carbon fiber arrow style wheels painted black, with bold, white REYNOLDS lettering.

Sixteen teams from nine countries are competing in the Exergy Tour, which starts tomorrow and runs through Monday. They include many of the top women cyclists in the world, including athletes who are vying for spots on their respective Olympic teams for this summer's Olympics in London. Click below for a full report on the bike theft from AP reporter John Miller, who reports that the theft victims include Olympic hopefuls.
  

Press sues state over restricted media witness access to portions of executions

The Associated Press and 16 other organizations sued the state of Idaho today, challenging its execution protocols that bar media witnesses from viewing the entire process of execution, allowing them to see only the final portion. A 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals decision from 2002 declared it a violation of the 1st Amendment for media witnesses to be excluded from the earlier portions of the procedure, including the insertion of IVs for lethal injection executions.  “This lawsuit is really all about obtaining access to the entire execution process for viewing purposes. It's very important in a society such as ours to have full transparency in regards to the exercise of government authority,” said Chuck Brown, the attorney representing the news organizations.

The press had been in discussion with the state Department of Correction about the process since before its earlier execution of Paul Ezra Rhoades in November, and the department promised to review its procedures after that execution to address the concerns. However, it decided to make no changes, prompting the lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed today in U.S. District Court; in addition to the AP, plaintiffs include the Idaho Press Club, Idahoans for Openness in Government, the Idaho Statesman, The Spokesman-Review, and other news organizations from across the state. Click below for a full report from AP reporter Rebecca Boone. You can read the full complaint and exhibits here, including letters and emails back and forth between the press and Corrections officials seeking to resolve the matter short of court action.

McGee case still pending at Ada prosecutor’s office, could take ‘a while’

From the “whatever happened to” department of Eye on Boise, today we bring you: Whatever happened to the investigation into Sen. John McGee? And the answer is: It's still pending. McGee, R-Caldwell, the former Senate majority caucus chairman, resigned from the Idaho Senate on Feb. 22 amid charges of sexual harassment of a female Senate aide; the Idaho State Police investigated, and turned the case over to Ada County Prosecutor Greg Bower on April 13, who could decide to file criminal charges.

Asked today where the case stands, Chief Deputy Prosecutor Roger Bourne said, “It's still under advisement, we're still looking into it.” Asked if it's normal for such a case to take this long, Bourne said, “It's not like we have cases like this all the time that we have a history on, that I can tell you whether it's normal or not. We're looking into a number of things, and it's going to take us a while.” He added, “There's a number of variables, and we're looking at several things.”

Dumpster-diving mountain lion had ‘crossed the line,’ couldn’t return to wild

It turns out that mountain lions could be wandering the Boise River greenbelt at any time, preying on stay cats and squirrels, staying undercover, and keeping away from humans - and that's fine. The problem with the half-grown cat that was shot by police last night around midnight was that it had stopped behaving like a resident of the wild, and more like a townie - after its picnic on a deer carcass in a Warm Springs Mesa resident's front-yard flower garden, the lion had moved into town and stayed, gone for several jogs on the greenbelt, and then hung out on the BSU campus, where it was inside a Dumpster at the student union, feasting on garbage, when it was spotted.

“We did make a couple of attempts to try to get it out of town, and unfortunately, it stayed in town,” said Matt O'Connell, senior conservation officer at Idaho Fish & Game, shown here. The first plan was to use “aversive conditioning,” firing rubber bullets at the big cat to scare it back into the foothills it came from, when it was still in the Warm Springs Mesa neighborhood where it killed the deer, right across the street from a deep ravine leading back into the hills. But once it moved into town, that wouldn't have worked, and tranquilizing the animal could compromise it, O'Connell said, possibly sending it running into traffic or other trouble before the tranquilizer could take effect. “Employees saw the cat in a Dumpster on campus right near the student union,” he said. “The cat had kind of crossed the line between normal behavior,” and was going after human-provided - not natural - food sources.

Boise typically sees “one or two cats a year that wander into town,” O'Connell said. Typically, when humans encounter mountain lions, “Normally, the lion is going to run,” he said. “Lions are very wary of people. They're very clever at hiding. Most of the time it's not a worrisome thing.” He added, “If they stay on the greenbelt mostly out of sight, nobody knows about it.”

O'Connell said he was “disappointed” at the result this time, but added, “At least now people can use the greenbelt” without worrying about the big cat. “I feel bad for the animal,” he said. “I never like to see an animal, especially a young one like this, dying, but sometimes it's just the reality of what we have to do.”

Mountain lion shot after spotted at Dumpster near BSU student union

The mountain lion that had been prowling downtown Boise and the Greenbelt since the weekend was shot last night around midnight by Boise Police, after it was spotted near a Dumpster in the area around the student union building at Boise State University. “They did take it out,” said Idaho Fish & Game spokesman Mike Keckler. “We did take possession of the cat.” The mountain lion turned out to be a young, subadult female, about 50 to 60 pounds.

“She'd probably been chased away by her mother; by this point the mother's raising new kittens, and then tend to run off the older ones because they're busy with the new ones,” Keckler said. “A lot of times these young cats are trying to find their way, and in this case, this cat ended up in town and was staying in town, and as such did not make a good candidate for relocation.”

The Boise Police Department said in a news release, ” Ada County Dispatchers began receiving calls from citizens at approximately 11:30 p.m. last night indicating the mountain lion was in the area of BSU and the greenbelt, just north of the stadium. Idaho Fish and Game officers, along with Boise Police responded to the location. On the advice of Fish and Game officials, the cat was shot as it walked across the greenbelt pathway. Fish and Game have taken the animal into their custody. It is unfortunate that the incident ended this way, however, safety for the citizens of Boise has to be the primary concern when conflicts of this nature take place in an urban environment like downtown Boise.”

Grant on 1st CD Dem primary result: ‘It doesn’t actually make sense’

Here's a link to my full story at spokesman.com on how Democratic congressional candidate Jimmy Farris says he's learned a lesson, after he didn't actively campaign during his primary race and ended up with only a five percentage point lead over a mentally ill candidate who's facing felony charges. Farris lost to Cynthia Clinkingbeard in four of the five northernmost counties, plus two others. Jim Weatherby, Boise State University emeritus professor of public policy, said, “Apparently a considerable amount of the voters didn't know either candidate,” and just picked a name. “There is something to be said for a positive campaign where you're introducing yourself to the voters, and apparently he didn't do that either.”

Weatherby said it was unlikely that Republicans sought to make mischief in the Democratic primary by voting for Clinkingbeard over Farris. “There was too much action in the Republican primaries,” he said. Idaho Democratic Party Chairman Larry Grant said, “I would just caution anyone from trying to draw any conclusions from the numbers, because it doesn't actually make sense.” He noted that Democratic turnout was low, and Democrats allowed independents, third-party members and even Republicans to vote in their primary, while Republicans closed theirs to all but registered Republicans. “Once we get the data, we'll be able to tell who voted in which primary, and that will give us the answer,” Grant said.
  

Mountain lion on the prowl in Boise…

Boise Police and Fish & Game officials are on the lookout for a mountain lion that's been sighted repeatedly in town; people are being asked to call city police immediately if they spot the big cat, a 70-pound juvenile male. The mountain lion is apparently making its way in leisurely fashion from the Warm Springs Mesa area, where it feasted on a deer carcass in a resident's front yard on Friday night, down toward the Boise River Greenbelt - it was seen crossing Warm Springs Avenue and hitting the Greenbelt on Saturday night about 11:30. Then, early this morning, two reports came in of a mountain lion on the Whole Foods construction site near Broadway and Myrtle, followed by a report of the cat running east on the Greenbelt near Bronco Stadium.

“Chances are that cat probably either left the area or is bedded down 'til nighttime - they're nocturnal,” said Idaho Fish & Game spokesman Mike Keckler. “It might have just wandered down and wandered back where it came from.”

Keckler said the initial sighting came when the neighbor spotted a deer carcass, and then noticed a bit later that it had moved about 20 feet. “It was a mountain lion kill,” Keckler said. “Apparently the lion had dragged this carcass back and was feeding on it in a flower garden. When we got up there, the lion was gone. They waited and waited and waited and it didn't come back, so they removed the carcass.”

Mountain lion sightings aren't uncommon in Boise, Keckler said. “We live in prime mountain lion habitat here. The Boise Front is right here next to us, so it's not uncommon at all.” Wildlife including big cats tend to follow the river through the area, he said, which provides lots of cover along with attractive food, from deer to mice. “They'll eat house cats, they'll eat raccoons, they'll eat anything they can get their teeth into,” he said. Best case, he said, the big cat's already left town on its own, “because once they get a taste for hanging around town and they're finding food sources here, chances are it cannot be relocated.”

Farris on narrow primary win: ‘I’ve always been better in the 2nd half anyways’

Idaho Democratic 1st District congressional candidate Jimmy Farris, whose 53%-47% win over Cynthia Clinkingbeard in the primary was something of a stunner, given that Farris was the party's anointed choice and Clinkingbeard didn't campaign, after an arrest for pulling a gun on employees at a Staples store, had these thoughts when asked today when asked about the unexpectedly close margin:

“I think, ultimately, for me, I learned a lesson: You can't take anything for granted,” Farris said. “We made a conscious decision not to campaign against her. I didn't want to highlight any of the issues that she was having or anything that was happening with her. We chose not to debate or do anything that would really put her situation kind of in the public or highlight it more than it already was. So I think … it was a mistake on our part, not to really actively campaign as if there was a primary. I chose to try to protect her privacy as much as possible.” Clinkingbeard, a former physician, suffers from mental illness.

Farris is a first-time candidate who's a former NFL football player and a native of Lewiston. He said he didn't do “any real campaigning in the northern part of the state especially” during the primary campaign. Clinkingbeard won four of the five northernmost counties in the Idaho Panhandle: Benewah, Bonner, Boundary and Kootenai. She also edged Farris in Canyon and Payette counties.

Farris said he's heard speculation about crossover voting and other factors, but doesn't want to weigh in on that without more analysis. “Lesson learned, chalk it up,” he said. “I've always been better in the second half anyways, so, made some halftime adjustments, we're moving forward focusing on Congressman Labrador.”

Idaho backs Montana in fight to preserve state campaign finance laws against Citizens United decision

Idaho is one of 22 states that have filed a brief today in support of Montana's fight in the U.S. Supreme Court to prevent the 2010 Citizens United decision from being used to strike down state laws restricting corporate campaign spending - even though Idaho has no such laws. Idaho allows direct corporate giving to campaigns, and unlimited corporate independent expenditures in campaigns. “But we do have requirements for reporting,” said Deputy Attorney General Brian Kane. Plus, Idaho places limits on direct corporate contributions to candidates that are the same as its limits as for individual contributions - $1,000 per election cycle for legislative candidates, which means $1,000 for the primary and $1,000 for the general, $5,000 per election cycle for statewide offices - and  several years ago beefed up its reporting laws to prevent corporations from evading the limits by giving the limit from each of numerous sub-entities.

“At the heart of Montana's case is their state regulation of campaign finance,” Kane said. “What we want to do is ensure that Idaho's regime of campaign finance laws is protected. There's a state sovereignty issue involved in our signing on.”

Plus, he said, “This doesn't happen often, but we actually got citizens who emailed and called our office asking us to sign on in support. … And that happens so infrequently, that we actually took notice of it.” Said Kane, “The Montana Attorney General is working to enforce his state's campaign finance law. And if the Idaho Attorney General's office were put in a similar position, we'd want to have support to enforce our laws as well.” Click below for a full report on the case from AP reporter Matt Gouras in Helena.

Duncan changes mind, says he now wants to appeal his death sentence

Notorious multiple murderer Joseph Duncan was back in a Boise courtroom this morning, as lawyers and a federal judge wrangled over setting a date for a new hearing into whether Duncan was mentally competent when he waived appeals of his triple death sentence for torturing and murdering a 9-year-old North Idaho boy. Duncan, brought to Boise from federal Death Row in Terre Haute, Ind., his hair close-cropped and graying and wearing a baggy white T-shirt, left all the talking to his attorneys on Friday morning. But in December of 2010, he submitted a hand-written, two-page letter to the court saying he now wants to appeal after all.

Duncan in the past has strongly opposed contentions that he wasn't mentally competent to make that decision in 2008. He underwent two lengthy mental evaluations before U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge ruled him competent and allowed him to dismiss his lawyers in that sentencing trial and represent himself; he already had  pleaded guilty to all charges. The lawyers filed an appeal to the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals against Duncan's wishes, arguing he was mentally incompetent.

“I have been very stubborn about not appealing my death sentence,” the condemned killer wrote. “My belief is that if I appeal, then I am acknowledging the system's authority to commit murder.” But he wrote that more recently, his younger brother had died, making Duncan his mother's only surviving son. “It would be utterly cruel, and indeed, inhuman, for me not to consider my mother's love when deciding what to do in regard to my own life,” Duncan wrote. “So I hereby inform you, and any others concerned, that I withdraw my waiver of appeal, and consent fully to all efforts and advice given by my attorneys to appeal.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Idaho Public TV human rights documentary wins national award

An Idaho Public Television documentary, “The Color of Conscience: Human Rights in Idaho,” has won the Silver Gavel Award for television from the American Bar Association. The hour-long special examines the development of the human rights movement in Idaho, including the small group of concerned citizens who stood up to the Aryan Nations, ultimately bankrupting the neo-Nazi supremacist group in North Idaho. The program also examines other current human rights issues in the state, from gay rights to immigrants to hate crimes. Marcia Franklin is the producer, writer and host, and Jay Krajic is the videographer/editor.

The national award was just the latest honor for the program, which also won a regional Edward R. Murrow Award and a Cine Golden Eagle Award, among others. You see show online at idahoptv.org/colorofconscience/.

Idaho switches execution protocol to single-drug lethal injection

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) ― Idaho's corrections chief says the agency is switching to a one-drug lethal injection for future executions of death row inmates. Idaho Department of Corrections Director Brent Reinke said Friday execution teams will administer a single, lethal dose of the surgical sedative pentobarbital. That's a change from the execution carried out by the agency last fall, when the condemned inmate was injected with three-drug mixture, which included pentobarbital. Reinke says the change was driven by difficulties in obtaining the other two chemicals used to kill Paul Ezra Rhoades in November. The decision makes Idaho the latest death penalty state to switch to using only pentobarbital in its lethal injection. Reinke says the one-drug protocol will be used in the June 12 execution of convicted murderer Richard Leavitt.

Idaho jobless rate drops for 9th straight month

Idaho's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate has dropped for the ninth straight month, falling to 7.7 percent for April. That's two-tenths of a percentage point down from March. Idaho Department of Labor spokesman Bob Fick said employers hired at seasonal levels in April, and the number of Idahoans with jobs was up by 1,700 from March. Hiring in all sectors was normal for this time of the year, Fick reported, except for government and professional and business services, which saw below-normal hiring. It was the third straight month that hires have exceeded the five-year average. You can read Fick's full report here.
  

Execution date set for Richard Leavitt

A death warrant was issued today for Richard A. Leavitt for the July 1984 murder of Danette Elg in Blackfoot, Idaho; the execution date is set for June 12, 2012. Leavitt's final appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was rejected on Monday.

Leavitt was convicted and sentenced to death in 1985; he was re-sentenced in 1990, again receiving the death penalty. A federal judge ordered a new trial in 2000 due to issues with jury instructions, but that order was overturned on appeal in 2004. Additional appeals followed, but they're now at an end. Click below for a full announcement from the Idaho Attorney General's office.

Idaho completed its first execution in 17 years in November, putting triple murderer Paul Ezra Rhoades to death by lethal injection.

Primary election voters spurn tax-protesting lawmaker

Among the fallout from Tuesday's primary election:  Tax-protesting Idaho state Rep. Phil Hart's legislative career will end this year. Hart was defeated in a four-way GOP primary, edged out by Ed Morse, a longtime real estate appraiser from Hayden. Now Morse will face former longtime Kootenai County Clerk Dan English in November.

Despite high-dollar attempts by interest groups and even other lawmakers to target various legislative incumbents around the state for defeat, Hart and eastern Idaho Rep. Jim Marriott, R-Blackfoot, were the only legislative incumbents defeated by challengers in the primary. Both incumbent Kootenai County commissioners also held their seats. Meanwhile, Idaho's new closed primary drew record low turnout of just 23 percent of registered voters. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Six of Otter’s seven endorsees win their legislative primary races

Idaho Gov. Otter endorsed seven candidates in yesterday's GOP primary for legislative seats; all but one won. The exception: Former Sen. Mike Jorgenson, R-Hayden Lake, who lost a rematch with Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens, who unseated him two years ago.

The others: Sen. Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson, who defeated Sen. Tim Corder, R-Mountain Home, in a redistricting-forced face-off; Todd Lakey, who defeated Rep. Bob Schaefer, R-Nampa, in the GOP primary for an open Senate seat; Rep. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, who won a three-way GOP primary for an open Senate seat in District 14; Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston, who defeated challenger Maurice Clements; appointed Sen. Jim Rice, who beat Kent Marmon in the GOP primary for John McGee's former Senate seat in District 10; and Rick Youngblood, who won a three-way GOP primary for an open House seat in District 12.

Otter expects Idaho GOP to re-examine closed primary, after record low turnout

Gov. Butch Otter told the Associated Press today that he expects GOP leaders at their state party convention in June to debate the merits of the party's new closed primary election, after Tuesday's record-low turnout. “It will be, 'What should we do? Should we make any changes?' ” Otter told AP reporter John Miller; click below for Miller's full report. Otter was among those who opposed closing the primary, but the Idaho Republican Party sued the state and won, overturning the previous open primary system. Then, the party opted to close its primary vote to anyone other than registered Republicans.

Grant’s post-primary message: ‘Vote Democratic’

Idaho Democratic Party Chairman Larry Grant has issued a post-primary election statement calling on Idahoans to vote Democratic in November. “In many Republican races, voters saw a choice between someone they were angry with versus someone they were scared of,” Grant said. “Republicans who prevailed, by and large, are the same people who cut education funding and who have treated state government like it is their own private club.” You can read his full statement here.
  

Semanko pleads for GOP unity

Idaho Republican Party Chairman Norm Semanko has sent out a post-primary message, pleading for Republicans to come together after yesterday's bitterly divisive primary election. “2012 brings a great opportunity for Idaho Republicans - we must not, and we will not squander it,” Semanko writers. Of the primary he said, “Some would argue that this competition damaged the Party; I argue the opposite. I believe that the enthusiasm and energy we witnessed speaks to the strength of the Idaho Republican Party.” Click below for his full message.

Broadsword wins Bonner commission race

Continuing the statewide trend of more-moderate Republicans winning in yesterday's GOP primary, Sen. Joyce Broadsword, R-Sagle, defeated Bonner County Commission Chairman Cornel Rasor, and Broadsword will become a Bonner County commissioner, as no Democrats filed for the seat. Rasor is the current chairman of the Bonner County Republican Central Committee. Broadsword, a log home company owner, is a fourth-term state senator.

Rasor is a tea party backer and property rights activist who declared on his re-election website, “Zoning and owning are incompatible.” As commission chairman, he hired local tea party leader Pam Stout to coordinate a controversial county “Property Rights Council.” As central committee chairman, he sent a letter to Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer in 2010 seeking Arizona license plates to decorate the GOP central committee's county fair booth, after members objected to the fair's “fiesta” theme, saying decorating to the theme might be mistaken for a weakening of their resolve that English should be the primary U.S. language, or their support for cracking down on illegal immigration.

Broadsword got 2,857 votes, 51 percent, to Rasor's 2,744 votes, 49 percent.

Rep. Hart loses in GOP primary; Ed Morse to face Dan English in November

And now, well after midnight North Idaho time (and after 1 a.m. Boise time), Kootenai County has its final results, and they show an upset: Rep. Phil Hart has lost to challenger Ed Morse in the GOP primary. Hart had 1,746 votes, 31.2 percent, while Morse had 1,984 votes, 35.34 percent. Trailing were Ron Vieselmeyer with 1,116 votes, 19.94 percent, and Fritz Wiedenhoff, 751 votes, 13.42 percent. Morse will face former Kootenai County Clerk Dan English, who was unopposed in the Democratic primary, in November for the House District 2B seat.

Meanwhile, Sen. Steve Vick defeated former Sen. Mike Jorgenson in the primary, and Rep. Vito Barbieri defeated challenger Mark Fisher. In the race for the open House District 3A seat, Ron Mendive edged Jeff Tyler in the GOP primary, 50.14 percent to 49.86 percent - a difference of just nine votes. Rep. Frank Henderson defeated his primary challenger, 55.57 percent to 44.43 percent. And Luke Malek won the GOP primary for the House 4A seat, 65.5 percent to 34.5 percent for Jeff Ames.

First numbers finally in from Kootenai County: Hart trails Ed Morse

Finally, at long last, the first set of numbers from Kootenai County: In District 2, Sen. Steve Vick is leading former Sen. Mike Jorgenson, 59.4%-40.6%; Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, is leading challenger Mark Fisher, 53.1-46.9; and Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, is trailing challenger Ed Morse. Morse has 38.1%, Hart 31.1%, Ron Vieselmeyr 17.9% and Fritz Wiedenhoff 13%.

Meanwhile, in the District 3A race, Jeff Tyler leads Ron Mendive, 55.5-44.5; in 3B, Rep. Frank Henderson is holding off challenger Jack Schroeder 57.9-42.1; and for House 4A, Luke Malek leads Jeff Ames, 61-39.

GOP incumbents across state hold off challenges from the right in primary

Votes still are being tallied, but all three District 1 GOP incumbents appear to have easily held off challenges from tea party candidates. Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, had 70 percent of the vote over GOP challenger Danielle Ahrens, with 41 percent reporting. Rep. George Eskridge, R-Dover, had 66 percent over Pam Stout, and Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake, garnered 61 percent of the vote in early returns while holding off two primary challengers. They were among a number of GOP lawmakers across the state who faced challenges from the right in the primary and turned them back. Among them: Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston, who defeated Maurice Clements 60-40; Rep. Christy Perry, R-Nampa, who carried 51 percent of the vote and defeated three challengers; Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, who defeated challenger Douglas Pickett 57 percent to 43 percent; and House Majority Caucus Chair Ken Roberts, R-Donnelly, who defeated two challengers.

Still unknown: Kootenai County. More than two and a half hours after the polls closed there, Kootenai hasn't reported out results from a single precinct.

Results start to trickle in…

Election results are starting to flow in, though it's just a trickle to start with. No big surprises as of yet, with Reps. Mike Simpson and Raul Labrador easily defeating their primary challengers - 71%-29% for Simpson over Chick Heileson, and 82%-18% for Labrador over Reed McCandless - and Democratic hopefuls Nicole LeFavour and Jimmy Farris also easily defeating their primary challengers. That's with  108 of 945 precincts reporting. The Idaho Secretary of State's office has live results here.

GOP leaders talk unity while awaiting results of divisive primary election

At the Idaho Republican Party's election-night watch party at the Riverside Hotel tonight, party Chairman Norm Semanko led off by introducing Gov. Butch Otter. There are very few election results in yet; just a smattering of numbers from a few counties. Otter talked about the race for the White House and California's problems - repeating his earlier comment that “if California were my horse, I'd shoot it, it is so sick,” and forgot to introduce his wife, Lori. He also made no mention of the unprecedented divisiveness in the Idaho GOP this primary election season, saying only, “Let's bring this party together and go into November with victory on our minds and victory as our banner.”

State Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna gave a campaign pitch for his “Students Come First” school reform laws, which are up for a referendum vote in November. “We know what's best for our children, and when we go to the polls in November we are going to vote yes … to keep these laws,” he told the GOP crowd.

Semanko said as party members await the results, “We want you to talk about what you're going to do this November to make sure all of our candidates win.” And GOP Congressman Raul Labrador told the crowd, “We have the choice of supporting the candidates that win (the GOP primary), or we have the choice of shutting the heck up.”

Idaho reaches deal to boost prison medical care

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) ― The Idaho Department of Correction has agreed to increase staffing and dramatically increase medical care oversight as part of a long-running lawsuit over conditions at a prison south of Boise. The agreement filed with the U.S. District Court in Idaho Tuesday afternoon guarantees that the court will continue to review conditions at the Idaho State Correctional Institution for at least two more years before ending a decades-old lawsuit between inmates and the state. Idaho Department of Correction Director Brent Reinke said the agreement represents a significant step forward in the lawsuit, which was filed exactly 31 years ago. The agreement comes after a court-appointed expert made a scathing assessment of the medical care provided to inmates at the prison. The state and its medical contractor, Corizon, have disputed those findings. Click below for a full report from AP reporter Rebecca Boone.

Primary turnout light so far…

Initial reports are suggesting a light turnout for today's first-ever closed primary election in Idaho, though that could still change, since the 5-8 p.m. time is the heaviest voting period of the day. “From 5 to 8, you either make it or break it,” said Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa. “We just don't know.”

When I voted around 2:30 p.m. (non-partisan ballot only), things were anything but busy, and the poll workers said they'd only seen about 100 people so far, a turnout comparable to the Greater Boise Auditorium District election last year. Said Ysursa, “Auditorium district elections are not big-turnout elections.”

His office usually gets lots of calls on Election Day from voters unsure of where to go to vote; this year, he said, “I think people know where to vote - we're not getting those.” His office is offering a handy polling place location lookup on its website, www.idahovotes.gov. But those typical calls have  been dwarfed by calls about the new closed GOP primary and new party registration system. “The No. 1 call is people complaining a little bit about why in the heck is my party preference a public record, and why are we doing this,” Ysursa said. “We did expect those calls.”

The reason: The Idaho Republican Party sued the state and won, overturning the previous primary election system, allowing it to close its primary to anyone other than registered Republicans, and bringing official registration by party to Idaho for the first time since statehood.

Idaho voters head to the polls for first closed primary election

Idaho voters go to the polls Tuesday - they're open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. - for the first election under the state's new closed-primary system. Idaho's legislative districts have been redrawn since the last election, and many polling locations have changed. To check districts and where to vote, go to the Idaho Secretary of State's voter website, www.idahovotes.gov. This will also be the first Idaho election in which voters must register by party; click here for my full story at spokesman.com.

It’s happening again: GOP group tries to hijack another one’s name for campaign

Good grief. It turns out that it's not only up north that one warring GOP faction has tried to hijack another one's name (see this post from last week). It's happening in Twin Falls, too. Check out this press release from Twin Falls Republican Central Committee Chair Gretchen Clelland:

 

PRESS RELEASE

 

DATE: May, 14, 2012

FROM: Gretchen Clelland, Twin Falls County Republican Central Committee

TO: All Media

 

MISLEADING ADVERTISING CLAIMING TO BE FROM THE REPUBLICAN PARTY

 

In the last several days leading up to the GOP Primary election material falsely claiming to represent the Twin Falls Republican Party has been distributed.

 

This is particularly true in the Castleford Precinct where incumbent Republican Precinct Committeeman Terry Kramer is being opposed by Rick Martin. Martin has distributed literature against Kramer which says Paid for by Republican Central Committee of Twin Falls County, Inc.”

 

This deception should in NO WAY lead anyone to believe that the Twin Falls Republican Party, or ANY official Republican organization IN ANY WAY supports Rick Martin or his tactics. Whatever the Republican Central Committee of Twin Falls County, Inc.” is, it is absolutely NOT ASSOCIATED WITH THE REPUBLICAN PARTY IN ANY WAY.

More last-minute campaign money; PAC targets 2 county commission primaries

More last-minute campaign contributions, funneling of money between interconnected PACs and independent campaign expenditures are being reported today, the day before the primary election, with most coming from the same players. Here's today's roundup, updated as of 5 p.m.:

The Free Enterprise PAC reported spending $5,301 on an independent-expenditure campaign against Republican Lee Staker, who's running for re-election to the Bonneville County commission (Idaho Falls); and in favor of Brian Farnsworth, who's running in a three-way GOP primary for the Jefferson County commission (Rigby). The Free Enterprise PAC also reported receiving, on Thursday, $2,500 from the Idaho Land PAC, $4,500 from the Greater Education Movement, and $1,500 from GunPAC. All are among interconnected PACs operated by GOP consultant Lou Esposito. “We haven't restricted ourselves just to legislative races, but we're looking at races at all levels, and these were two that we thought made sense to get involved in,” Esposito said. “We'll be working more in some of the other local races in the future.”

Rep. Bob Nonini's Idaho Association for Good Government reported spending $2,626 on an independent campaign mailer Thursday for Scott Workman, the GOP primary challenger to Sen. John Tippets, R-Bennington. Idaho Chooses Life reported spending $2,021 since Saturday on ads in the Bonner Daily Bee targeting Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, and favoring her challenger Danielle Ahrens; and $1,556 on ads in the Idaho Press Tribune targeting Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston, and favoring her challenger, Maurice Clements.

IACI's Idaho Prosperity Fund has reported spending another $11,400 on independent mailers and ads for Sen. Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson; $2,500 to support Rep. Marv Hagedorn's bid for the Senate; $2,875 for a mailing and ads supporting Sen. Brent Hill, Rep. Dell Raybould and House hopeful Douglas Hancey Jr.; $2,225 on mailings and ads supporting Lodge and Reps. Gayle Batt and Christy Perry; and $3,500 supporting Tippets. Then it filed more reports at 4:55 p.m. today covering more spending on Saturday: Another $13,500 for Brackett; $1,350 in favor of James Holtzclaw, a House 20B hopeful; $4,750 in mailings and ads favoring Lodge and opposing Clements; another $2,000 backing Lodge; and $2,375 in favor of Lodge, Batt and Perry.

The Idaho Realtors PAC reported spending another $4,600 on mailings and ads backing Robert Anderst for the open District 12A House seat; the Idaho State Pharmacy Association PAC spent $1,113 on Saturday for a mailer supporting Lodge; and the Grassroots Liberty Coalition of Post Falls spent another $1,343 on ads and mailings supporting a list of candidates including Sen. Steve Vick, Reps. Phil Hart and Vito Barbieri, and House hopefuls Ron Mendive and Jack Schroeder, who is running against Rep. Frank Henderson, R-Post Falls.

Conservation Voters for Idaho Action reported late this afternoon that it spent $449 each for promotional items, like yard signs or buttons, for Boise Democratic House hopefuls Mat Erpelding and Holli High Woodings. Meanwhile, Idahoans for a Strong Economy, which shares an address and phone number with Conservation Voters for Idaho Action, reported spending $7,060 each for literature supporting Keough and Sen. Tim Corder, R-Mountain Home, and $10,000 for surveys, with a third of that to benefit Keough and Corder, and the rest on behalf of candidates Matthew Faulks, Sen. Monty Pearce's GOP primary challenger; and Merrill Beyeler, one of five GOP primary challengers to Rep. Lenore Barrett, R-Challis.

Meanwhile, Workman reported loaning his own campaign $3,378; the Nampa Firefighters PAC gave $1,000 to firefighter and District 2 House candidate Fritz Wiedenhoff; House Majority Caucus Chair Ken Roberts collected $2,000 in donations from the Northwest Grocery Association and MIEC PAC, which advocates for tort reform in medical malpractice claims; Ridgeline Energy gave $1,000 each to Reps. George Eskridge and Christy Perry; and House 31A hopeful Robert Butler loaned his campaign $1,400.

Grant urges Dems, independents not to register GOP, Semanko defends closed primary

In messages ahead of tomorrow's first-ever closed Republican Party primary in Idaho - and the Democratic primary, which remains open to everyone - the chairmen of Idaho's Democratic and Republican parties have issued statements. Idaho GOP Chairman Norm Semanko defends the closed primary, declaring, “We will have the right to select candidates who represent our values without interference from other parties or special interest groups for the first time in nearly 40 years.” You can read his full statement here.

Idaho Democratic Party Chairman Larry Grant, meanwhile, is urging against calls for Democrats and independents to register as Republicans and vote in the GOP primary. “If Republicans want to fight it out for control of the Republican Party, then so be it.,” writes Grant. “I have no reason to try to fix that. If they throw all the moderates out of their party, then I welcome them into mine.” Click below for Grant's full statement.

Bumper crop of last-minute campaign contributions, independent expenditures

There's been a bumper crop this afternoon of reports of last-minute campaign contributions and independent expenditures filed with the Idaho Secretary of State's office. Among them: IACI's Idaho Prosperity Fund reported spending another $18,000 on independent mailings and ads supporting Reps. Joe Palmer, Mike Moyle, Reed DeMordaunt, Sens. John Tippets and Patti Anne Lodge, Senate hopeful Rep. Marv Hagedorn, and House hopefuls Robert Anderst and James Holtzclaw, who are seeking open seats.

Meanwhile, the Free Enterprise PAC reported $4,044 in independent expenditures for ads in the Bonner Bee against Sen. Shawn Keough and Rep. George Eskridge, on top of $2,022 it reported for the same thing yesterday; so far, Free Enterprise PAC hasn't disclosed the independent expenditures it made for mailers against the two candidates, which PAC coordinator Lou Esposito said are among the expenditures in its earlier PAC report, which doesn't indicate which candidate the mailers are supporting or opposing, as Idaho law requires. Today, a letter went out from the Idaho Secretary of State's office to all PACs warning them that all independent expenditures must be reported, including amounts and names of candidates supported or opposed; you can read that letter here.

Other independent expenditures reported today: Doyle Beck, brother of GOP activist Rod Beck, reported spending $4,505 on a campaign in regard to Idaho Falls House hopefuls Ron Lechelt and Greg Crockett, claiming his campaign is just to “educate” people about the two and not to support or oppose them. North Idaho PAC reported spending $3,487 for literature and postage in support of Ed Morse, one of three GOP primary challengers to Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol. Idaho Realtors PAC reported spending another $6,050 for mailings on behalf of Anderst, Holtzclaw, Senate hopeful Todd Lakey and House hopeful Rick Youngblood. And Grass Roots Liberty Coalition of Post Falls reported spending $8,830 on ads, mailings and an event in support of Reps. Hart and Vito Barbieri, Sen. Steve Vick, and House hopefuls Ron Mendive and Jack Schroeder.

There were also a slew of last-minute campaign contribution 48-hour reports; among them: Free Enterprise PAC got $3,500 from Idaho Land PAC, and GunPAC got $5,000 from Lorna Finman of Rathdrum. All three PACs are run by Esposito. Candidates also filed a raft of 48-hour notices, from Sen. Patti Anne Lodge picking up another $5,000 from PACs and a local dairy to Rep. Bob Schaefer getting $1,000 from Rep. Bob Nonini's Idaho Association for Good Government PAC for his Senate run. Monsanto Corp. sent $1,000 to Rep. George Eskridge; Ridgeline Energy sent the same to Reps. Eric Anderson and Dell Raybould; and A.J. and Susie Balukoff donated $1,000 apiece to Senate hopeful Betty Richardson, while Susie Balukoff gave $1,000 to House hopeful Janie Ward Engelking.

Idaho's primary election is on Tuesday.

Twelve win Idaho Medal of Honor, 10 peace officers and two firefighters

Two firefighters and a state trooper rescued two children trapped in an overturned car in Fernan Lake. A Jerome police officer risked his life to apprehend a suspect during a high-speed pursuit in Jerome, even after being shot in the eye. Two Lewiston police officers rescued a victim who was trapped in a burning apartment. All are among the 10 peace officers and two firefighters who are being awarded the Idaho Medal of Honor this year, which will be bestowed in a ceremony next Friday at the Idaho Peace Officers Memorial in Meridian. “These twelve professionals have gone above and beyond the call of duty in their commitment to the service of others,” said Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, chairman of the Idaho Medal of Honor Commission.

The medal was created in 2004 and the first honoree was slain Idaho State Trooper Linda Huff; click below for the full announcement, including the list of this year's 12 honorees and what they did.

GOP lawmakers decry funneling of attack money between interconnected PACs as ‘money laundering,’ call for reforms

The thousands of dollars funneling between a web of affiliated PACs to target certain Republican incumbents has prompted some lawmakers to call for campaign finance reforms, the Twin Falls Times-News reports today. Times-News reporter Melissa Davlin reports that Magic Valley lawmakers like Reps. Fred Wood, Maxine Bell, Jim Patrick and House Assistant Majority Leader Scott Bedke are decrying the transfer of money from the House Victory Fund, traditionally used to help incumbent Republicans, to GunPAC, which is targeting their colleagues, including House Majority Caucus Chair Ken Roberts, R-Donnelly.

“That’s not the only finance issue making some Republicans uncomfortable,” Davlin writes. “GunPAC is one of four political action committees controlled by Lou Esposito, a Boise-based Republican consultant. According to campaign finance documents, thousands of dollars transferred between Esposito’s four PACs in the last month. Two of the PACs have the same treasurer, and three are located at 202 N. Ninth St. in Boise.” There's nothing illegal about any of that, the Idaho Secretary of State's office told Davlin, but some lawmakers think there should be. “In some cases, it looks like money is being laundered,” Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, told the Times-News. “It’s been shifted from one PAC to the next PAC to the next PAC. I think that should be illegal. It certainly is, in my opinion, unethical.” You can read Davlin's full report here.

Federal agents raid headshops across Treasure Valley, find Spice sales, charge owners

After a multi-year investigation, federal agents yesterday raided more than a dozen head shops across the Treasure Valley, and arrested the owners and operators on charges including conspiracy to sell and offering to sell drug paraphernalia; nine of the 13 were found to be openly selling “Spice,” or synthetic marijuana, which Idaho lawmakers outlawed last year. U.S. Attorney for Idaho Wendy Olson said, “The United State's Attorney's Office and its federal, state and local law enforcement partners will attack drug trafficking on all fronts.”

Sixteen people have been indicted, and at least 14 of them arrested. Boise Police Chief Michael Masterson said, “This investigation and the execution of these search warrants should send a strong message that if you're selling Spice under any name or packaging, you need to stop.” Matthew Barnes, federal Drug Enforcement Administration special agent in chage, said, “Criminal organizations that masquerade as legitimate storefronts to sell drug paraphernalia to our children will not be tolerated.” You can read the full announcement here from the U.S. Attorney's office about “Operation Headshop - Not for Human Consumption.”
  

Challengers outraise two incumbents, including Hart, in North Idaho’s District 2

In the hard-fought GOP primary races in North Idaho's legislative District 2, campaign finance reports show that challengers have out-raised two of the three incumbents, including tax-protesting Rep. Phil Hart. Hart has raised $6,738 for his campaign, while challenger Ed Morse has raised more than twice as much - $16,479 - and challenger Fritz Wiedenhoff has raised $7,748. That GOP primary also includes Ron Vieselmeyer, who trails with $3,791. Hart also reports a $31,827 outstanding debt to himself.

Meanwhile, GOP challenger Mark Fisher has outspent Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, a Hart ally, while former Sen. Mike Jorgenson has raised slightly less but spent more than Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens, in their rematch race. Vick, a former Montana state representative, was recruited to run by Hart two years ago, and defeated Jorgensen, then a third-term incumbent.

The campaign finance reports filed this week are Idaho voters' only chance to see who's funding  the various campaigns before next Tuesday's primary election. Click here to read my full story at spokesman.com on the reports in contested races in districts 2, 3 and 4.
  

Avista ‘disappointed,’ S-R stands by story

Avista Corp. issued a statement today saying it was “disappointed” in my article in today's Spokesman-Review on how the utility is spending thousands to target two North Idaho GOP lawmakers for defeat in Tuesday's primary, suggesting the article was misleading because it lacked greater examination of the entire scope of the utility’s political activities, including its activities in the state of Washington. The statement makes no claim that the article was inaccurate; you can read the full statement here.

Meanwhile, S-R City Editor Addy Hatch sent out a tweet noting that a link to Avista's statement has been posted with the story, and adding, “As far as setting the record straight, we believe the story is factual and fair and we stand by it.” And among the 25 comments (so far) on the online version of the story on the S-R website was this one, posted late this afternoon by commenter PerryE:

“I’m George Eskridge’s son, and a lobbyist myself. I agree with Avista that the article wasn’t quite clear enough on the fact that Avista warned my father several months ago, during Idaho’s legislative session, that if he didn’t vote Avista’s way that Avista would be sure that Rep. Eskridge wouldn’t be re-elected.

Growing up, during 'family summer trips' visiting the various Bonneville customers my father so diligently served, I watched my father advocate for cheaper power for utilities and their customers. Now he’s working very hard to ensure that the families in his legislative district have access to cheaper power to keep the lights and heat on as they also work to stay in their homes and put food on their tables.

Now, as Avista has been caught trying to make good on Colwell’s threats, at least Avista could have the decency to owe up to Avista’s political efforts. Their customers, and my dad’s constituents, deserve at least that much!”
  

Paul campaign disavows efforts to overturn results of Idaho’s GOP caucus

Ron Paul's national campaign is disavowing efforts by Idaho supporters to use little-noticed precinct committee races as part of a strategy to overturn the results of Idaho's presidential caucus, which Mitt Romney won with 62 percent support. “In Idaho, isolated instances of grassroots activists working toward an ostensible 'hostile takeover' of the GOP are not sanctioned by the Ron Paul national campaign,” national campaign manager John Tate said in a statement. You can read his full statement here; Paul placed third in Idaho's GOP caucus, behind Rick Santorum.

FBI agents ask judge to throw out claims against them from al-Kidd case

A federal judge is questioning the urgency that FBI agents felt when they arrested and detained an American Muslim under a law designed to ensure that witnesses show up to testify in court, reports AP reporter Rebecca Boone; U.S. Magistrate Judge Mikel Williams questioned Department of Justice attorney Marcus Meeks during a hearing today in a lawsuit brought by Abdullah al-Kidd against the federal government.

Al-Kidd, a U.S. citizen and former University of Idaho football star, sued former Attorney General John Ashcroft and other federal officials in 2005, after he was arrested and jailed as a material witness in a terrorism-related criminal case against Sami al-Hussayen, another UI student. Al-Kidd contends his arrest was just a ruse to give the government time to investigate him for any potential wrongdoing. The federal government maintains its actions were constitutional.

The U.S. Supreme Court has already thrown out al-Kidd's claims against Ashcroft and a few other defendants, and al-Kidd has prevailed in a claim against one prison and settled his claims against two other lockups. Now FBI agents Michael Gneckow and Scott Mace and the Department of Justice are asking the judge to throw out al-Kidd's claims against them. Click below for Boone's full report.

Campaign finance reports show Avista Corp. is targeting two longtime North Idaho GOP lawmakers for defeat

Avista Corp. is spending thousands of dollars trying to unseat two longtime North Idaho legislators, throwing its support behind tea party backed challengers in next week’s Republican primary. Being targeted is state Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, who supported unsuccessful efforts to establish a consumer advocate to review utility rate requests, and state Rep. George Eskridge, R-Dover, who advocates greater diversity in Idaho’s energy supply. Avista opposed both proposals.

Campaign finance reports filed with the Idaho Secretary of State shows that Avista has given each incumbent’s challenger $1,000, and has given $15,000 to three political action committees that are funneling money back to the challengers, Danielle Ahrens and Pam Stout, as well as sponsoring independent mailers and advertisements critical of Keough and Eskridge.

Neil Colwell, Idaho lobbyist for Avista, acknowledged that while the utility has supported Keough and Eskridge in the past it now would like to see them replaced, but cautioned against assuming all of the PAC contributions are being used exclusively to try unseating them. “We don’t totally control those PACs or anything,” Colwell said. But one of the three, the Greater Education Movement, reported spending money to support only one candidate since Jan. 1: Ahrens.

“We support candidates that are aligned with the interests of our customers and our company goals,” Colwell said. “And we just think we’re more in alignment with these challengers than the incumbents.” The three PACs are run by Lou Esposito, a highly connected GOP political consultant in Boise who was House Speaker Lawerence Denney’s pick to serve on Idaho’s legislative redistricting commission last year; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
  

Tracing web of PACs funneling money in House leadership fight…

Idaho Statesman reporter Dan Popkey traces the web of interconnecting PACs headed by GOP consultant Lou Esposito in his report today, “Idaho House Leaders Attempt Fratricide,” on the leadership rift laid bare by yesterday's pre-primary campaign finance reports. You can read Popkey's report here (turn off your computer volume first if you don't want the loud video ad blaring out before you read the story). His story highlights an unprecedented open feud in the House GOP leadership, with Majority Leader Mike Moyle on a tear to take down Majority Caucus Chair Ken Roberts, while House Speaker Lawerence Denney claims no knowledge and Assistant Majority Leader Scott Bedke tells Popkey, “I cannot condone any of these tactics.”

Reports Popkey, “Groundwork is being done by at least four interconnected PACs led by Lou Esposito, Denney’s appointee to the first 2011 redistricting commission. Esposito operates Spartac, a political consulting firm. He also is coordinating with a fifth PAC, Idaho Chooses Life, led by his friend David Ripley. Idaho Chooses Life is targeting some of the same candidates as Esposito’s PACs. The PACs are sending direct mail, identifying voters and turning out the vote.”

White supremacist sheriff candidate hosts cross burning in Bonner County

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: SANDPOINT, Idaho (AP) ― A white power activist campaigning to be the next sheriff in a north Idaho county hosted a cross burning last week with fellow members of the Idaho Ku Klux Klan. Thirty-three-year-old Shaun Winkler is also defending the act, calling it a historic ritual steeped in Christian roots. Winkler has been a member of the Aryan Nations and is a KKK imperial wizard. He is also courting voters in hopes of becoming the next Boundary County sheriff. The Bonner County Daily Bee (http://bit.ly/9XTS85) reports that Winkler let media attend the cross burning ceremony at his Priest River home Friday. Winkler says his ties to white power groups would not influence decisions if elected sheriff. He has framed his campaign around the message of cracking down on drugs and sex offenders.

Idaho Republicans turn on one another

With Idaho's first closed GOP primary just a week away, Idaho Republicans are turning on each other with a ferocity unseen in decades. Campaign finance reports filed Tuesday revealed everything from House Republican leadership money being funneled into efforts to defeat a member of House Republican leadership, to a Coeur d'Alene representative targeting two fellow North Idaho GOP lawmakers for defeat. Endorsements are being given and withdrawn, two Kootenai County GOP groups are clawing at each other's right to invoke the name of Ronald Reagan, and independent groups are mounting their own campaigns, either boosting or bashing various GOP incumbents under names like Free Enterprise PAC and Idaho Prosperity Fund.

“It is a divided party,” said Jim Weatherby, Boise State University emeritus professor of public policy and a longtime watcher of Idaho politics. “Primary battles are always tough. I think it's worse now, though, when the legitimacy of being a Republican is questioned, or one's assertion of being a conservative is questioned.” Steve Shaw, a political scientist at Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, said with Idaho's one-party GOP dominance, “There's nothing else to do so they're really going after each other.” Plus, he said, “They've gotten a lot more bitter or nasty.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Rep. Nonini targets two fellow North Idaho GOP lawmakers for defeat, finance reports show

Rep. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d'Alene, is targeting two fellow North Idaho GOP lawmakers for defeat, campaign finance reports filed today reveal. Nonini's PAC, the Idaho Association for Good Government, donated $1,000 each to the campaigns of Danielle Ahrens, tea party adherent and the GOP primary challenger to Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, and Pam Stout, the GOP primary challenger to Rep. George Eskridge, R-Dover, who also is head of the Sandpoint Tea Party Patriots. Nonini's PAC also donated $8,000 to the “Free Enterprise PAC,” which then sent out fliers in North Idaho targeting Keough, vice-chairwoman of the Legislature's Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, as “the No. 1 big spender in Boise” and touting Ahrens as “an actual Republican.”

Nonini's PAC also donated $1,000 to R. Scott Workman of Preston, the eastern Idaho primary challenger to Sen. John Tippets, R-Bennington; and last week gave $1,000 to the primary challenger of 11-term Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, the Senate Finance chairman.

It also backed two other House members who are running for the Senate, Reps. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, and Steven Thayn, R-Emmett, with $1,000 donations (Nonini also gave Thayn another $500 from his own Senate campaign fund), and gave $1,000 to freshman Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens; while giving $500 each to House incumbents Shannon McMillan, R-Silverton; Joe Palmer, R-Meridian; and Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens.

‘GunPAC’ taps House leadership $$ to target gun shop owner, vets’ advocate, and House leader

Here's the weirdest thing about the now-unfolding House Leadership Victory Fund/GunPAC story: Campaign finance reports show that all the House Leadership Victory Fund's fundraising and spending this year has gone to GunPAC - $10,000, 100 percent of its spending during the period (the leadership fund raised $9,000 during the reporting period). GunPAC has released a list of 40 endorsements in legislative primary races, including the challengers of six incumbents, three in the Senate and three in the House. The three House incumbents: Reps. George Eskridge, R-Dover, and Christy Perry, R-Nampa, and House Majority Caucus Chairman Ken Roberts R-Donnelly.

GunPAC, headed by GOP activist Lou Esposito, claims to be all about promoting gun rights. But of the three House incumbents it's targeting, one, Perry, owns a gun store; and another, Eskridge, is a military veteran who's championed military and gun issues. The third, Roberts, is the treasurer of the very Victory Fund whose money GunPAC is using to try to defeat the three.  

Esposito said, “Basically GunPAC's all about 2nd Amendment and 2nd Amendment rights, but there's also the other parts of it at play. You can't look at that just in a vacuum and say, well, are they just right on the gun issue and wrong on other things where we're losing either personal liberties or we're getting taxed to the point where it's hard to put food on the table and other things.” Esposito said the group's chairman is Stu Carty, and the only other one of its four board members he would name was Gerry Sweet; he also said Sweet wanted to make it clear that he dissented from the decision to target Perry.

Denney, Moyle use House leadership PAC to try to defeat Roberts

Here's a news item from the Associated Press:  BOISE, Idaho (AP) ― Top House Republicans Lawerence Denney and Mike Moyle are trying to oust their own Majority Caucus Chairman Ken Roberts from the Legislature by directing thousands to a political action committee that supports Roberts' opponent in Tuesday's primary. GUNPAC, a pro-2nd Amendment PAC, endorsed Roberts' District 8 foe, John Blattler. Denney, the House speaker, gave GUNPAC $10,000 via a House GOP leadership political action committee he controls. Moyle, the majority leader, chipped in another $5,000. Moyle said Tuesday that Roberts opposes him in leadership, so he's trying to get him ousted. Roberts, who is listed as treasurer of the GOP leadership PAC that Denney is using to unseat him, says he's disappointed, adding he thought House PAC money was to help incumbents in general elections, not knock them off in primaries. Click below for a full report from AP reporter John Miller.

90% of Sen. Pearce’s campaign spending went for defense attorney for ethics complaint

Sen. Monty Pearce, R-New Plymouth, the Senate Resources chairman, spent $4,400 in campaign funds to pay a prominent Boise defense lawyer to defend him against an ethics complaint that ultimately was dismissed, according to Pearce's latest campaign finance report; you can read the report here. Pearce's payments to Peterson Law Offices made up 90 percent of his campaign spending for the reporting period, which ran from Jan. 1 to April 29; campaign funds generally can be spent for legal defense if it's related to legislative service. Another lawmaker who took advantage of that clause in the previous reporting period was Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, who also tapped campaign funds to pay a lawyer to defend him against ethics complaints in the House.

Pearce, who faces Republican challenger Matthew Faulks of Payette in Tuesday's GOP primary, raised $10,010 in contributions during the period, with his biggest donations including $1,000 each from Idaho Power, Idaho Land PAC and Avista Corp.
  

Pro-business groups back incumbents with Libertarian-leaning rivals

Since last week, pro-business groups like the Idaho Association of Realtors have pumped some $30,000 into campaigns of Republican incumbents facing libertarian-leaning rivals in the May 15 primary, the Associated Press reports. In northern Idaho, Sen. Shawn Keough, of Sandpoint, and Rep. George Eskridge, of Dover, each banked at least $5,000 from donors including grocers, hospitals, insurers and real estate agents. Others to benefit were Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, of Huston, who faces Maurice Clements, a former Idaho GOP legislator in the 1970s who ran unsuccessfully as a Libertarian in 1988.

Keough told the AP that pro-business groups have aligned themselves with incumbents like her because they're concerned their rivals might have run as Libertarian or even Constitution Party candidates in the past. “The folks that are challenging the incumbents aren't necessarily reflective of Main Street Republican values,” Keough said. “It's indicative of what you've been seeing in terms of the split in the party the last four years.”

John Eaton, the Idaho Association of Realtors top lobbyist, told the AP's John Miller that his group gave Lodge $1,000 last week, on grounds she offers the most consistency for businesses than Clements. “He's the perfect example,” Eaton said. “He wants to legalize pot. That's the kind of stuff that the business community would never support.” Click below for Miller's full report.

Sali pitches for Hart at CdA fundraiser

Former Idaho Congressman Bill Sali, famous for introducing legislation in the U.S. House to suspend the law of gravity in a bid to highlight his opposition to the minimum wage, will pitch for tax-protesting Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, at a $25-a-head fundraiser in Coeur d'Alene this week, as Hart heads into a hard-fought four-way GOP primary next Tuesday in his bid for a fifth term in the Idaho House. The fundraiser, according to an ad placed on the Coeur d'Alene Press website by Hart's campaign and shown here, also will benefit GOP House candidate Ron Mendive of Coeur d'Alene, who faces fellow Republican Jeff Tyler of Post Falls on Tuesday for the open House seat formerly held by Bob Nonini.

Tyler is a founder of the Reagan Republicans and Pachyderm Club GOP groups, while Mendive is allied with the United Conservatives of North Idaho group, in an increasingly testy divide in Kootenai County's Republican party. That split has become so nasty that one side is attempting to hijack the other's name, Reagan Republicans, by filing legal documents, a move the RR's dubbed “identity theft.” There's more info on that here and here.

Sali is no stranger to intra-party controversy himself. In 2006, then-GOP House Speaker Bruce Newcomb called Sali an “absolute idiot,” and earlier, when now-Congressman Mike Simpson was speaker of the House and Sali was a member, Simpson threatened to throw Sali out of his 3rd-floor speaker's office window; Sali reported the threat to the House sergeant-at-arms. Sali served 16 years in the Idaho House and one term in the U.S. House before losing to a Democrat, Walt Minnick. This year, he hinted he might run for the state House again, but never filed.

The latest campaign finance reports…

Here's why reports are required within 48 hours of last-minute contributions for the final week or so before the election: Because it's after the last campaign finance reporting period, and otherwise, no one would know about any of it until after the election. The pre-primary campaign finance report for Idaho legislative races in the May 15 primary is due on Tuesday, covering the period from Jan. 1 through April 29. Contributions of $1,000 or more after that reporting period, from April 30 to May 13, must be reported with 48-hour reports.

Some candidates already have begun filing their pre-primary reports; you can see them here. Among those whose reports are in: Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens, whose nearly $13,000 in contributions included $1,000 from Rep. Bob Nonini's Idaho Association for Good Government PAC, $500 from Lorna Finman and $250 from former state Rep. Jim Clark, R-Hayden Lake; and Vick's challenger, former Sen. Mike Jorgenson, R-Hayden Lake, whose $12,000 in contributions included $1,000 from the Coeur d'Alene Tribe, $1,000 from Avondale Dental Center in Hayden, and $300 from Lake City Ford.

Among today's 48-hour reports, the Northwest Grocery Association PAC donated $1,000 apiece to eight Idaho incumbents: Sens. Keough and Winder; and Reps. Anderson, Eskridge, Moyle, Perry, Rusche and VanderWoude. Four incumbents and one newcomer got $1,000 donations from MIEC PAC, which advocates for tort reform in malpractice claims against doctors: Sens. Keough and Cameron,  Reps. Hagedorn and Thompson, and Ronald Lechelt, a Republican seeking an open House seat in District 33. Micron handed out seven $1,000 donations to Reps. Denney, Hagedorn, and Raybould and Sens. Brackett, Tippets, Davis, and Hill.

Today's latest reports also show that the Idaho Prosperity Fund, affiliated with the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry business lobbying group, has mounted two more independent expenditure campaigns in legislative races: It spent $1,900 on a mailing and advertising in support of District 1 GOP incumbents Anderson, Keough and Eskridge; and $3,500 on a mailing and advertising on behalf of Sen. John Tippets, R-Bennington, who faces a primary challenge from R. Scott Workman of Preston. That's in addition to the group's earlier expenditures on behalf of Sen. Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson, who's facing off with fellow GOP Sen. Tim Corder of Mountain Home.

April state tax revenues beat forecast, for fifth straight month

April is by far the biggest month of the year for state tax revenue collections, as taxpayers all over the state file their income tax returns during the month, so it's closely watched for signs of the health of the overall state budget. The numbers are in now, and April's collections beat the forecast, coming in a scant $500,000 above but bringing the year-to-date surplus - the amount collected over the state's forecast for the year - to just over $37 million. That's for the 2012 fiscal year, which runs through July 1. Among the drivers of the April surplus was the sales tax, which was up 6.3 percent from the same time last year; and miscellaneous taxes, which are up significantly due to strong interest earnings, a settlement with a drug company and high collections from the mine license tax. Both individual and corporate income taxes were below forecast for the month, but both remain ahead of forecasts for the fiscal year to date.

You can read the state Division of Financial Management's April revenue report here, and the Legislature's April Budget and Revenue Monitor here. This is the fifth straight month that Idaho's state tax revenues have exceeded forecasts, and lawmakers budgeted below the forecasts. State lawmakers set the current year's budget assuming just 3 percent growth in state revenues; instead, it's been more than 5.7 percent. That means a big and growing year-end surplus this year, which lawmakers have decided should go directly into the state's rainy-day fund. With the current numbers, nearly $60 million will go into the state's Budget Stabilization Fund on July 1.

IACI tries again to defeat Sen. Corder, after failing in 2008

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) ― The Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry is spending thousands to help its chosen candidate win in a primary between two southern Idaho Republican incumbents. The pro-business group's political action committee reported $5,500 in independent expenditures to support Sen. Bert Brackett of Rogerson over Sen. Tim Corder of Mountain Home. IACI president Alex LaBeau said Friday his group distributed thousands of pro-Brackett flyers featuring praise from Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter. The reason Otter agreed to pitch in to oust Corder appears clear. Corder opposed the governor's coveted $35 million income tax cut during the 2012 session, Brackett supported it. LaBeau says he plans additional expenditures to help Brackett before May 15's primary. In choosing sides, IACI is resurrecting its 2008 fight with Corder. That backfired, however, when Corder won easily.

Much at stake in May 15 primary, and small numbers of partisans could make the calls…

Much is at stake in Idaho's May 15 primary election, from hotly contested county races to every seat in the Legislature, in a state where many of those races will be decided in the Republican primary.

But this year, for the first time ever, no one can vote in the GOP primary unless they register as a Republican – and more than a third of Idaho's voters identify themselves as independents. Add that to primaries that draw very low turnouts that have been dropping for years, redistricting that's added to voter confusion by shifting many into different districts with unfamiliar candidates, and the lack of a presidential primary, since both state parties already handled that with caucuses. “You could have a weak fringe candidate win in a primary like that,” said Jim Weatherby, Boise State University emeritus professor of public policy and longtime Idaho political observer.

Efforts are under way to inform voters and encourage greater turnout, including state-funded billboards, ads and posters, and extra poll-worker training. But if few heed that call, political convulsions could result, potentially sealing the fate of longtime lawmakers or giving an avowed white supremacist a shot at becoming the elected sheriff of Bonner County. You can read my full story here from Sunday's Spokesman-Review.

Kustra: Adler’s move to BSU fits university’s public affairs mission

David Adler, a longtime political science professor and constitutional scholar at Idaho State University who for the past two years has served as director of the University of Idaho's James A. and Louise McClure Center for Public Policy Research, has been named the new director of the Andrus Center for Public Policy at Boise State University – completing an arc across of all three of the state's universities.

“With our designation by the State Board of Education as Idaho’s public affairs university, Dr. Adler’s appointment allows us to realize the full extent of our public affairs mission,” said Boise State President Bob Kustra. “It not only recognizes the contributions Cecil Andrus has made to his state and nation, but it also allows us to carry out our public affairs mandate with the leadership of such a distinguished teacher, author, lecturer and administrator as Dr. Adler.”

The Andrus Center, founded by former four-term Idaho governor and U.S. Interior secretary Cecil Andrus, has focused since 1995 on providing a forum for non-partisan policy discussions on major issues in Idaho and the West. With Adler's appointment, the center will expand its programming to include the Constitution, civic engagement and education, political civility and the American presidency.

The UI has temporarily named Marty Peterson, the just-retired special assistant to the president and the university's former chief lobbyist, as interim head of the McClure Center; you can read my full Sunday column here at spokesman.com, which also includes a look at how North Idaho GOP legislative candidates answered the state party's platform survey.
  

Ron Paul backers plot to overturn caucus results, using little-noticed precinct races on May 15 ballot

Ron Paul backers have a plan to use state Republican Party rules to overturn the results of this spring's Idaho GOP presidential caucus, reports Idaho Statesman columnist Dan Popkey, and hand Idaho's presidential delegates to Paul instead of Mitt Romney, who won all of them after securing 62 percent support in the caucuses; Paul came in third, behind Rick Santorum. The plan revolves around winning little-noticed precinct committee races across Idaho in the May 15 primary; you can read Popkey's full report here (but first you'll have to wait through a loud advertising video). The Paul camp's machinations have prompted former Idaho Gov. Phil Batt to send out 20,000 postcards to Ada County Republicans, urging them to support precinct committee candidates who will up hold the caucus result and offering his list of endorsees.
  

The latest last-minute campaign contributions…

Here are today's 48-hour notices of last-minute campaign contributions of $1,000 or more for the May 15 primary in legislative races:  Blue Cross of Idaho gave $1,000 each to Sen. John Tippets, R-Bennington, and Rep. George Eskridge, R-Dover; Micron Technology gave $1,000 to appointed Sen. Jim Rice, R-Caldwell; Simplot Corp. donated $1,000 to House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star; and Tom LeClaire, a candidate in a three-way GOP primary for an open House seat in District 20, reported putting $1,000 of his own money into his campaign.

In addition, The Idaho Realtors PAC reported an independent expenditure of $1,350 on a campaign mailing in support of Robert Anderst of Nampa, who's in a three-way race for an open House seat in District 12; that's on top of the $1,550 the group reported spending in support of the same candidate a day earlier.

Lawmaker sells house, fights to live in business

The Idaho Statesman's Dan Popkey reports today that House Transportation Chairman Joe Palmer, R-Meridian, is embroiled in a fight with the city after he and his wife sold their home and took up residence in a converted office area at the back of their consignment store, a city zoning violation. Palmer says the city is after him, and said of Meridian Mayor Mayor Tammy de Weerd, “She despises the ground I walk on.” You can click below for the AP version of Popkey's report; you can read his original report here, but beware if you're somewhere where you don't want your computer to suddenly start playing a loud video: the Statesman website may first make you listen to a noisy video advertisement.

ISU emeritus prof who criticized Vailas fired

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: POCATELLO, Idaho (AP) ― A professor emeritus at Idaho State University says he's been fired from his part-time job in the campus library after writing an opinion piece that was satirically critical of school president Arthur Vailas. Leonard Hitchcock told the Idaho State Journal (http://bit.ly/qPO7Yr ) he was given the news Thursday. University spokesman Mark Levine said administrators on the Pocatello campus would not be commenting on the firing, citing personnel issues. Hitchcock worked as an unpaid volunteer for five years before he went on the university library payroll in January, earning $11 an hour as acting head of special collections. He is not the first university employee to claim he was fired for publicly voicing his discontent with the Vailas administration. The Idaho Supreme Court upheld the dismissal of professor Habib Sadid in December.
  

Senate candidate Nonini backs primary challenger to 11-term GOP Sen. Cameron

Rep. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d'Alene, who's running for the Idaho Senate, has made a last-minute $1,000 campaign donation through his PAC to the primary election challenger of the sitting chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert. That's a form of  political heresy in the Senate that Nonini hopes to join, where past attempts to back challengers to fellow GOP incumbents have brought major sanctions from the Republican caucus. “It's not particularly good form,” Cameron said.

Nonini's Idaho Association for Good Government PAC made the contribution Wednesday to the campaign of Douglas Pickett of Oakley, who is running against Cameron, an 11th-term senator and co-chairman of the Legislature's most powerful committee, the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee. Nonini, a fourth-term House member who's making a bid to jump over to the Senate this year, couldn't immediately be reached for comment; his contribution surfaced in the campaign finance reports that are now required to be filed within 48 hours of any last-minute contribution of $1,000 or more. That filing requirement took effect on Monday. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Senator’s taxpayer-funded letter to prospective new district raises eyebrows

Kris Sabo of Sagle was surprised when an official state-funded letter arrived in the mail from Idaho Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood, talking about Nuxoll's record and thanking supporters as she seeks re-election. “My gosh, she's from Cottonwood – where the heck is that?” Sabo asked. “If she's using our money to help her campaign to keep her job, that shows disrespect for our money. Nobody's going to pay for me to go out and try to keep my job.”

Sabo currently is in Idaho's legislative District 2, one of the North Idaho Panhandle legislative districts. But redistricting in Idaho will put her in the new District 7 next year, which stretches from southeastern Bonner County all the way south to the Valley County line at the mid-section of the state; Cottonwood is nearly a four-hour drive south of Sagle.

Though state senators can send out taxpayer-funded mailings, up to a $2,000 annual limit, this one's raising eyebrows because Nuxoll sent it to about 1,700 Republicans not only in her current district, but also in the new district she'd represent if she wins another term. “I just approached it as informing people. This is an informational letter,” Nuxoll said. “There might have been one negative comment.” She added that she sent it just to Republicans “because I am a Republican and I had to limit the number of letters going out to keep under my limit by the state.”

Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, says he wishes he'd addressed the old district/new district issue with senators, but since it only comes up every 10 years – when new legislative districts take effect – no one thought of it. “We probably should have discussed it and maybe even got some kind of ruling from the Attorney General's office,” Hill said. “We did not do that.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com, and click below for the full text of Nuxoll's letter.
  

Occupy Boise sponsors free screening Sunday of ‘Inside Job’ documentary

The Occupy Boise group is sponsoring a free showing of “Inside Job,” the 2010 film about the nation's financial industry crisis of the late 2000s that won an Academy Award for best documentary and is narrated by Matt Damon. The showing is in the Capitol Auditorium this Sunday at 2 p.m.; it will be followed by an informal discussion. There's more info about the movie here.
  

Idaho GOP candidate platform surveys highlight divide in party

Now that the Idaho Republican Party is requiring candidates to pledge their support to the state party's platform or outline where they disagree, the candidate surveys are taking on new significance as primary elections approach, reports AP reporter John Miller, and they've divided the state's dominant political party. Jonathan Parker, executive director of the state GOP, told Miller the review “gives people the opportunity to find out where the candidates stand.” But critics such as Priest Lake Republican Rep. Eric Anderson say it's an unnecessary “purity test.” “It's silly,” Anderson said. He added, “There's always going to be things in life you disagree with.”

The platform includes planks such as calling for the repeal of the 17th Amendment, which let voters, rather than state legislatures, elect U.S. senators; returning to the gold standard; abolishing the state's redistricting commission and handing that task back to the state Legislature; and calling for state nullification of federal laws. Click below for Miller's full report.

Medical marijuana initiative snuffed out; backers collected just 5,000 signatures

Here's a news item from the Associated Press:  BOISE, Idaho (AP) ― An effort to get voters to decide whether to legalize medical marijuana in Idaho has been snuffed out. Compassionate Idaho Lindsey Rinehart says the Boise-based group fell far short of the 47,500 signature needed for a ballot initiative this fall. Rinehart tells KTVB-TV (http://bit.ly/Io7NS2) the campaign struggled to overcome challenges for funding and advertising, and ultimately collected only about 5,000 signatures from registered voters. Still, Rinehart says public surveys show support for medical marijuana in Idaho. Leaders of the group intend launch another campaign to get the question before voters in 2014. Idaho is surrounded by states like Washington, Oregon and Montana that have legalized the use of marijuana for medical reasons. Republican Rep. Tom Trail failed again this year to get a bill legalizing medical marijuana approved by lawmakers.

District 2 GOP candidates challenged to sign tax-paying pledge

Former Idaho Sen. Mike Jorgenson, who's running again for the Senate seat he lost two years ago to an ally of tax-protesting Rep. Phil Hart, has signed and sent to all District 2 GOP candidates a “Republican Principle Pledge” pledging to “obey the law, honor Idaho courts and pay my taxes.” “I hope they all sign it,” said Jorgenson, a Republican from Hayden Lake, who said he was prompted by Hart's continuing tax and legal fights. “Quite frankly, people are so disillusioned with the antics of Phil Hart and the embarrassment that it's caused the county, the state, the party, that I thought it a good thing to make it a commitment to the constituents that the candidates would not have any part of that behavior.”
 
The pledge, in full, says the candidate promises “to the citizens of Kootenai County to be honest, have integrity, obey the law, honor Idaho courts and pay my taxes.” Fritz Wiedenhoff of Rathdrum, who's among three Republicans challenging Hart in the May 15 primary, said, “I think it's great, I think it's fantastic. I think it encompasses everything we are and we should be, and I'm planning on signing it.” Ed Morse, also a Hart GOP challenger, said he, too, plans to sign the pledge. “I think it may highlight some differences between some of the candidates,” he said. “I pay my taxes, I believe that all public office holders should not only perform lawfully but they should uphold the public trust.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
  

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About this blog

Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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