The Legislature’s working group on ethics and campaign finance reform has wrapped up today’s meeting, after more comments from the committee members and a request to Secretary of State Lawerence Denney to bring a list of recommended law changes back for the panel to consider at its next meeting Aug. 28; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
“I think we ought to keep it narrowly focused,” said Co-Chair Rep. Fred Wood, R-Burley. “We talked about transparency and disclosure, simple not complicated, keeping the sun shining on things.” He asked Denney to address “the greatest need for plugging holes and loopholes and whatnot.”
Sen. Todd Lakey, R-Nampa, said, “I don’t think we need to tinker with our contribution limits up or down. It seems to be working. … I think it’s more an issue of making sure expenditures are being reported.”
Rep. John VanderWoude, R-Nampa, said he’d also like some information on what other states have done that’s been effective. Sen. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, asked for recommendations from Denney on possible rules regarding fundraising during the legislative session.
Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, who was silent for the whole meeting today until that point, said he had a comment. Wood said, “Rep. Loertscher, I almost forgot how to say your name.” “Aw, gimme a break,” Loertscher responded.
He said, “You know, during this process I think we need to keep something in mind.” He pointed his colleagues on the committee to the website despair.com and its “demotivators” posters. “There’s one titled ‘government’ that I especially like. It says: ‘If you don’t like the problems we create, wait’ll you see our solutions.’ A word of caution as we move forward: Let’s not make this worse by creating a whole new set of problems.”
Loertscher said if lawmakers are restricted from raising campaign funds during legislative sessions, they’ll be at a disadvantage compared to their challengers, “because believe you me, our opponents are out there raising money already, and we’re handicapped by not being able to do that.”
Rep. Sage Dixon, R-Ponderay, who also had been silent for most of today’s meeting, said his priority is improving citizens’ confidence in government. After the meeting, Dixon said he’s new to the issue, and is “digesting” it. “I think we’re headed in a good direction,” he said. He hopes the panel’s work will help “reassure the public that we’re not abusing our public positions or funding.”
Wood said he got an email recently from retired Idaho Supreme Court Justice Jim Jones, who said he served on a similar panel decades ago that proposed numerous pieces of legislation, none of which ever were introduced. Wood said he believes Idaho’s current system is a pretty good one. “But we don’t have a perfect process,” he said. “What few holes we have, we probably ought to fix. But we ought not to fix anything that’s not an obvious, glaring hole.”