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Eye On Boise

Tue., Jan. 28, 2014, 12:28 p.m.

Wasden launches re-election campaign, pledges to defend ‘rule of law’

Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden launches his re-election campaign Tuesday for a fourth term in office. (Betsy Russell)
Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden launches his re-election campaign Tuesday for a fourth term in office. (Betsy Russell)

Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden launched his re-election campaign today, pledging to continue to stand up for the “rule of law.” Among the accomplishments he listed from his 11 years in office: Pursuing more than 130 public corruption cases, resulting in 49 convictions or guilty pleas; prosecution of internet child sexual predators and establishment of prevention programs; launching 224 enforcement actions over consumer fraud that brought that brought in $41 million in restitution to victims and $32 million in fines and penalties; and suing the federal government over health care reform, prompting a ruling that helped define the limits of the commerce clause.

“Every four years, I have a job interview with 1.5 million people, and I’ve tried to keep the promises that I have made,” Wasden told a crowd of about 50 in the Statehouse rotunda, including family members and supporters. Among them was Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, who said he’s backing Wasden “110 percent.” Noted Ysursa, who is retiring after his current term, “He and I came in together, and have had some slight disagreements sometimes on the Land Board, but not very often.” He said as attorneys, both are committed to the rule of law. “We both stood in front of the people of the state of Idaho and took an oath to uphold the law – he has done that in exemplary fashion,” Ysursa said. “He’s a great attorney general.”

Wasden is seeking a fourth term. Thus far, he has no opposition. “There’s more work to be done to uphold the rule of law,” he said. “I’m working now to resolve a number of public corruption cases. We’re working to protect Idaho’s children from sexual predators. We’re working to defend the people of Idaho’s constitutional choice to define marriage. We’re working for the long-range solutions for Idaho’s endowment lands.”

Wasden famously sued the Land Board, on which he serves, over leasing state-owned lakefront cabin sites at below-market rates, despite the constitutional mandate to manage endowment lands for maximum long-term returns to the state’s schools. Wasden said since then, cottage site revenues have doubled. “It’s up about $2.8 million per year,” he said. “That was to fulfill our constitutional duty, our fiduciary duty, to Idaho’s schoolchildren.”

Last week, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring announced that he’d no longer defend his state’s voter-enacted constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and instead would join plaintiffs seeking to overturn the measure, saying he wanted the state to be “on the right side of history and on the right side of the law.” Wasden has taken the opposite approach, seeking and getting a federal judge’s permission to intervene in Idaho’s pending case to defend the state’s constitutional provision.

 “I’m obligated to defend the Constitution – that’s what my oath is, that’s what I’m elected to do,” Wasden said. “I’m obligated to defend it whether I agree or disagree. … The people of Idaho made a policy choice – they embedded it into the Constitution.” He said, “The people are entitled to have their lawyer, their elected lawyer, represent their view. Whether I agree or disagree is irrelevant.” He noted that when Idaho voters passed an initiative to allow expanded tribal gaming, he defended its legality, despite his personal opposition to gambling – and despite urging from like-minded gambling opponents to challenge the state’s law. “My duty is to defend it,” he said. Boise State Public Radio aired an interview with Wasden on this topic today; you can listen here.

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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