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Lawmakers note state’s low grades, ponder financial disclosure requirement

There were several mentions this morning at the Legislature’s campaign finance and ethics working group meeting about the very low grades Idaho earns in national comparisons for its campaign finance and ethics laws – including its D-minus in the Center for Public Integrity’s State Integrity Investigation that examined all states’ laws and practices in 2015. Rep. John VanderWoude, R-Nampa, noted that Idaho’s low grades often stem from its complete lack of any requirement for personal financial disclosure by legislators or other elected or appointed officials. “That’s one of the reasons we get dinged,” he said, and he asked Secretary of State Lawerence Denney, who had been describing campaign finance reforms he favors, whether the state ought to do that, too.

“That’s not really in my ballpark,” Denney said with a smile. But he added, “Certainly there are reasons for financial disclosure. There are reasons that a lot of people don’t like financial disclosure. ... Some of the things I’ve seen are very benign, and if they would help you to get that grade from a D-minus to a D-plus,” he said, it might be worth it.

The Idaho Senate unanimously passed a financial disclosure law in 2009, but it died without being assigned to a committee for a hearing in the House – when Denney, then speaker of the House, chose not to assign it.

Rep. Fred Wood, R-Burley, told VanderWoude that financial disclosure is a "whole different issue" from the campaign finance issues the committee had been discussing, and said the panel must consider its "scope." But the charge for the committee specifically includes considering financial disclosure and revolving door requirements along with campaign finance reforms. Asked later, during a break, about the issue, Wood said he's open to the panel considering the issue, and personally doesn't oppose financial disclosure requirements.

Idaho is one of just three states with no financial disclosure requirements for state legislators – or any elected or appointed state official.

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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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