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Posts tagged: Butch Otter

Fund has more than enough to cover court-ordered legal fees in marriage case

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter said today that he’ll confer with the other members of the state’s Constitutional Defense Council – the speaker of the House, president pro-tem of the Senate, and Attorney General – before calling a meeting of the council to pay a new $401,663 judgment for attorney fees in Idaho’s thus-far unsuccessful bid to defend its ban on same-sex marriage. But Otter said he’s glad the Legislature last year, at his urging, deposited another $1 million in the fund, giving it a balance that can easily cover the payment with plenty left over.

“I always anticipated that we would try to keep a million dollars in that fund, so it would suggest to those who want to bring a constitutional question to us that we’d be prepared at a moment’s notice to take it on,” Otter said today. In 2012, the balance in the fund was down to just a bit over $300,000; lawmakers that year put in another half-million. This year’s million-dollar addition brought the fund up to nearly $1.7 million, well in excess of the current bill, which started accruing interest on Friday.

Here are the past expenditures Idaho’s Constitutional Defense Council has made from the state’s Constitutional Defense Fund – all for attorney fees:

  • $190,547 to Elam & Burke in 1995-96 for attorney fees in case involving nuclear waste shipments to Idaho National Laboratory
  • $47,606 for attorney fees awarded in the Idaho Coalition United for Bears v. Cenarrussa case, regarding ballot initiatives, in 2004
  • $380,526 for attorney fees awarded to Planned Parenthood in 2006 for case involving anti-abortion legislation that was found unconstitutional
  • $66,000 for attorney fees awarded to Planned Parenthood in 2008 for another case involving anti-abortion legislation that was found unconstitutional
  • $75,000 for attorney fees awarded to the Pocatello Education Association in 2009 for a case involving unconstitutional legislation related to donations to unions
  • $54,350 for attorney fees awarded in Daien v. Ysursa in 2011, a case involving ballot access for independent presidential candidates

Lawmakers have deposited $2.5 million in the fund since its inception in 1995.

Idaho joins 17-state legal challenge against Obama immigration executive action

Idaho has joined a 17-state legal challenge to President Obama's executive action on immigration, led by Texas Gov.-elect and current Attorney General Greg Abbott. “I joined this suit to strongly express my objections to this unconstitutional and misguided policy and its unilateral implementation,” Gov. Butch Otter said in a statement. “There is no question that the nation’s immigration system is broken and badly needs an overhaul. But the solution should honor the constitutional separation of powers, which dictates a broad-based collaborative process that includes Congress. It should not be implemented by executive fiat.”

Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden issued this statement:

“Quite simply the lawsuit Idaho joined today is about the rule of law and respecting the separation of powers spelled out in the U.S. Constitution. The President’s action overrides our system of checks and balances. A president just can’t on his own authorize that a federal law be ignored and replace it with an Executive Order. The approach being taken today by my office is two pronged. I have also signed a letter being circulated among my fellow Attorneys General demanding that Congress step up now, do its job and fix the immigration problems vexing Idaho and the rest of the nation.”

Click below for a full report on the legal challenge from the Associated Press in Austin, Texas.

Lt. Gov. Brad Little, Idaho’s governor in waiting

If newly re-elected 72-year-old Idaho Gov. Butch Otter didn't complete his full third term, Idaho's new governor would be Brad Little, the second-term lieutenant governor, rancher and former state senator who's been toiling full-time in the part-time, low-paid post since Otter appointed him to it in 2009.

Little's record seems decidedly more moderate than Otter's - he blocked Idaho's constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage for two years before reluctantly supporting the final version in 2006. But Little, 60, is an Otter fan who says his differences with the governor are more style than substance. He also says he fully expects Otter to serve out his term, but is ready should he be asked to step up.

That call already has come on a short-term basis: Little has served as acting governor on 247 days since he took office on Jan. 6, 2009. You can read my full story here from today’s Spokesman-Review.

Otter on Reinke resignation: ‘It’s a tough job; Brent has my thanks’

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter has issued this statement on the resignation of state Corrections Director Brent Reinke:

“I have appreciated Director Reinke’s effort, enthusiasm and empathy throughout my tenure as Governor. It’s a tough job, and nobody in Idaho history has done it longer. Brent has my thanks for his hard work and commitment. I wish him the best in all his future endeavors.”

Reinke took over the Department of Correction in January of 2007, after serving 10 years as the state's director of juvenile corrections; prior to that, he was a Twin Falls County commissioner and business owner.

9th Circuit lets Otter file reply, but not 57-page amicus brief

The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals today granted Idaho Gov. Butch Otter’s motion to submit additional arguments in the state’s same-sex marriage case, but rejected without comment his bid to submit a copy of a 57-page amicus brief from a Louisiana case that Otter argued presents “a gold mine of scholarship regarding the practical, real-world impact of redefining marriage.” Otter wants an en banc review, by an 11-judge panel, of the earlier 9th Circuit decision overturning Idaho’s ban on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional, which was made by a three-judge panel. Same-sex marriage has been legal in Idaho since Oct. 15; you can read the court's latest order here.

Otter files additional arguments to 9th Circuit in marriage case

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter has filed a motion with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals asking that the state be allowed to file additional arguments in its motion for an en banc review, a reconsideration by an 11-judge panel of the earlier three-judge panel’s rejection of Idaho’s ban on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional. “Since the Governor submitted his petition, the Sixth Circuit has issued an opinion counter to this Court’s ruling in the case, requiring a reply by the Governor regarding this new circuit split,” Otter’s attorneys wrote. They also cited an amicus brief filed in the Fifth Circuit same-sex marriage case in Louisiana, and submitted a copy, saying it has presented “a gold mine of scholarship regarding the practical, real-world impact of redefining marriage.”

“Plaintiffs … have no answer to Gov. Otter’s showing that by its ‘explicit terms’ Idaho’s marriage laws discriminate facially, not on the basis of sexual orientation, but on the basis of biological complementarity,” the lawyers wrote. “Removing the man-woman definition threatens serious harm to the institution of marriage, and, thus, to the children of heterosexual couples.” You can read Otter's brief here.

Change coming to committee chairmanships, some leadership posts in Legislature

When the Idaho Legislature convenes it organizational session on Dec. 4, six committee chairmanships and two leadership posts will be up for grabs, due to election outcomes, retirements and other moves. The chairmanships: Senate Education, Senate Resources, House Business, House Local Government, House Resources, and House Ways & Means. The leadership posts are Senate majority caucus chair and House assistant minority leader. You can read my full Sunday column here; it also includes a report on the recently filed arguments in Idaho’s same-sex marriage case, in which Gov. Butch Otter is seeking an en banc re-hearing from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals; and a state budget update.

Gov. Otter taking applications for new state insurance chief

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter is accepting applications through Dec. 5 for the state's next director of the Idaho Department of Insurance. Current insurance chief Bill Deal is retiring Dec. 31. “The successful applicant for this position will have big shoes to fill,” Otter said. “Bill Deal has been an exemplary director at the Department of Insurance and an exceptional public servant throughout his career. I’m looking for someone with unquestioned integrity, a high level of professionalism, and a commitment to responsive administration of the agency and to meeting the needs of Idaho citizens and businesses.”

The position is appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate; it's a full-time position that currently pays $102,000 a year. Click below for Otter's full announcement.

Qwest gave $35,000 to Otter campaigns since ‘06, Syringa donated to 2 of his rivals

Yesterday, I noted that Education Networks of America, the company that got the now-voided Idaho Education Network contract along with Qwest, has donated $18,250 to Gov. Butch Otter’s campaign, including $5,000 in September; and also has given $6,000 to state schools Superintendent Tom Luna’s campaign since 2009.

But it’s not the only player in the IEN deal that is a big campaign contributor. Qwest, now known as CenturyLink, is a prodigious contributor to Idaho political campaigns that has given even more to Otter. Since 2006, through its political action committee, formerly Qwest Idaho PAC and now CenturyLink Idaho PAC, it gave Otter’s campaigns a whopping $35,000.

Qwest also has given $3,500 to Luna’s campaign since 2011. And it’s donated to an array of other candidates from both parties, according to state campaign finance records.

Syringa Networks, the company that won the lawsuit over the contract, has, like Qwest/CenturyLink, donated to an array of candidates from both parties, though not near as many. Syringa gave $2,000 to Otter’s campaign in 2008. But in 2010, it donated $5,000 to the campaign of Keith Allred, Otter’s Democratic opponent that year. And in April of this year, it donated $5,000 to the campaign of Sen. Russ Fulcher, who ran against Otter in the GOP primary.

Idaho officials heartened by 6th Circuit ruling against gay marriage, say they’ll press appeal to U.S. Supreme Court

Idaho officials say they have new hope that their state’s same-sex marriage case could be taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court, after Thursday’s 6th District ruling upholding bans on gay marriage in four states – the first federal appeals court to rule that way, after a string of rulings unanimously going the opposite direction. Those have included Idaho’s case; the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals rejected Idaho’s appeal and overturned the state’s ban on same-sex marriage last month. Gay couples have been legally able to marry in the state since Oct. 15, and the state now recognizes marriages of same-sex couples that took place legally in other states.

Thursday’s ruling, which upheld same-sex marriage bans in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee, is “significant because it establishes a conflict among the circuits, and creates a situation in which the Supreme Court is likely going to have to resolve the issue,” said Todd Dvorak, spokesman for Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden. “Because of that, we are moving forward with our plans to file a petition for a writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court.” That’s the process for asking the high court to take up an appeal. Dvorak said the state has until Jan. 5 to file that petition.

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, who already has a petition pending with the 9th Circuit asking that court to reconsider its ruling, welcomed the 6th District ruling. “This decision reinforces many of the same points I have made in federal court here and in the 9th Circuit – that defining marriage is a states’ rights issue under the Tenth Amendment,” Otter said in a statement. Otter has continued to press the case, even forcefully speaking out against same-sex marriage in his election-night victory speech to GOP supporters late on Tuesday night. “I’m going to continue that fight as long as I possibly can,” he declared to cheers and applause.  You can read my full story here at spokesman.com, and watch video of the governor’s election-night comments here.

Otter thanks supporters, says Balukoff ran a ‘solid race’ that brought up important issues

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter has issued a statement thanking his supporters for his re-election to a third term, and saying he's “thrilled” with the outcome of the election, both in Idaho and across the nation. “I firmly believe that Idahoans have elected the entire slate of Republican officials here in Idaho because our message of limited government, personal responsibility and conservative values resonates with the majority of the electorate,” he said. “I'd like to send my regards to my opponent, A.J. Balukoff, for running a solid race that allowed us to discuss a variety of issues that are important to all Idahoans in a public forum.” Click below for Otter's full statement.

Republicans roll in Idaho - again

Here’s a link to my full day-after story at spokesman.com on Idaho’s election results. It took until this morning at 7, but GOP newcomer Sherri Ybarra eked out a slim win in the race for Idaho state schools chief, completing a Republican sweep of all statewide offices that echoed results in Idaho elections since 2006. Democrats picked up one seat in the state Legislature thanks to upsets in Moscow and Lewiston, but GOP dominance of the Idaho Statehouse remained otherwise unchanged – 80 percent of seats went to Republicans, down from 81 percent. “It was a good election for Republicans, and they got their voters out,” said Jim Weatherby, Boise State University professor emeritus and longtime observer of Idaho politics.

Otter: ‘It says something great about Republican principles’

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, in brief comments late last night to KTVB-TV, pondered his re-election to a rare consecutive third four-year term. “This is the first one in the 21st century,” he said. “What I believe it says, it says something great about Republican principles, and how enduring, how survivable they are, even when we have major differences in the party. It’s still those principles that people of Idaho want to be governed by.”

Otter faced a divisive primary challenge in May, when he defeated state Senate Majority Caucus Chairman Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian, by just 51.4 percent to 43.6 percent, with barely a majority of his own party backing his bid for a third term. Last night, Otter got 53.5 percent of the statewide vote to win a third term.

Balukoff concedes to Otter in gov’s race

A.J. Balukoff, the Democratic candidate for governor, has conceded the election to GOP Gov. Butch Otter; Balukoff said he offered Otter his congratulations in a late-night phone call. “Being governor is often a thankless job, and I commend Gov. Otter for his public service,” Balukoff said in a statement.

“I urge the members of my party and all Idahoans to come together, through our common values, to pursue our shared goals, so that we may rise to the challenges before us,” he said. “We ran a good race and we brought attention to some very important issues. And in the end, as a nation of free elections, we accept the decision of voters.”

Balukoff said over the past year, he's worked successfully to change “the tone of the conversation about education in Idaho. That's a victory—and it's a victory most of all for Idaho's children. But we have more work to do to make the people we elect to the Statehouse accountable to delivering on their promises and their obligation to put our schools and our kids first.” Click below for his full statement.

Republican Governors Association spent $1.2M on anti-Balukoff ads

The Republican Governors Association spent $1.2 million on an advertising campaign aimed at tying Democratic candidate for Idaho governor A.J. Balukoff, a Mitt Romney supporter, to President Barack Obama. “The Republican Governors Association was a key investor in Governor Otter’s re-election victory, spending $1.2 million on paid media,” the group said in a news release tonight. “The RGA ran three television ads in Idaho during the election, detailing Democrat A.J. Balukoff’s liberal record and his support for President Obama’s failed agenda.”

RGA Chairman Chris Christie said, “Governor Otter’s leadership in Idaho will continue to be a source of great strength for the state, and the Republican Governors Association is proud to congratulate him on his re-election.”

Otter thanks supporters, pledges to keep fighting same-sex marriage

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter told the crowd at the Republican Party election night watch party that he was reluctant to give a victory speech because he hadn’t yet received a concession call from losing candidates A.J. Balukoff and John Bujak, but he wanted to take the opportunity to thank his supporters. Otter also spoke out strongly and at length on his continuing opposition to same-sex marriage.

 “I believe our values are strong in Idaho, I believe we’re the last … right now in the United States to stand up for what we believe is traditional marriage. And I’m going to continue that fight as long as I possibly can,” Otter declared to cheers and applause.

“I don’t believe there’s anybody in the state of Idaho that is purposely discriminatory,” Otter said. “But there are values that we believe in. And we can accommodate those other things but we can’t give up on our values. We voted in 2006 to say that a marriage is between one man and one woman, in the state of Idaho. Now if they want to change the other 49 states, go ahead, that’s not going to bother me, but why should we change? Why should we leave our values? Why should we leave our moral principles because everybody else is? That isn’t what the founders want, that isn’t what our creator wanted … so we’re staying there.”

Otter also thanked state GOP Chairman Steve Yates. “Steve, you brought the party back together,” he said. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com on tonight's results in Idaho races.

Fact Check: CCA and the governor’s debate

In last night’s heated debate between the three leading candidates for governor of Idaho, there was much back-and-forth over the Corrections Corporation of America and the state’s $1 million settlement with the firm for understaffing the state’s largest prison and over-billing the state. Here’s a fact-check on some of the disputed points the candidates raised:

SETTLEMENT AMOUNT: Gov. Butch Otter said the settlement was for $1.3 million, not $1 million. You can see the settlement here. On Page 1 of the nine-page settlement, under “Release and Discharge,” it says, “In consideration of the sum of ONE MILLION DOLLARS AND 00/100 ($1,000,000), paid by CCA, the receipt and sufficiency of which Releasor acknowledges … Releasor does hereby fully, forever, irrevocably, and unconditionally release, acquit, and forever discharge Releasee from any and all claims … of any kind, whether known or unknown, suspected or unsuspected … arising out of the staffing of the ICC and existing on or before the date of this Settlement Agreement.”

Asked about the $1 million settlement during the debate, Otter said, “No, that was not the amount. … It was well in excess of a million dollars. … In fact, there was a bill outstanding for over $300,000 that was also part of the final negotiations.”

On Feb. 4, 2014, the Idaho State Department of Correction and CCA issued a joint statement announcing the $1 million settlement. “CCA will pay $1 million in compensation to the State of Idaho,” the joint statement said. “Additionally, the State of Idaho has denied CCA an annual inflationary increase in the amount of approximately $350,000.”

BOTTOM LINE: That denial of the inflationary increase isn’t mentioned in the signed settlement, though it may have been a part of the negotiations.

 “OFF THE HOOK”: A.J. Balukoff, the Democratic candidate for the governor, said during the debate, “The governor just admitted he doesn’t know if $1.3 million was a fair settlement or not. It seems like it’s prudent to do the investigation and understand what went on before you let a company off the hook.”

Otter responded, “A.J. knows different. A.J. knows if he’s done his homework, he knows that that contract is not final. That negotiation is not final. … If the FBI comes up with something, then all bets are off.”

“No, they’re not,” Balukoff responded. Otter said, “The criminal can go forward for anything else that’s found out.” Balukoff said, “That agreement and forgiveness of civil penalties does not go away.” Otter snapped back, “That’s not true.”

Balukoff said, “They can go after the people that have committed crimes, they can go after them for criminal, but the settlement for civil damages exonerated them for whatever other damages may be discovered.”

BOTTOM LINE: The exact wording from the settlement is, “The Parties desire to finally and fully resolve all disputed claims arising out of the staffing discrepancies.”

As I reported on Oct. 17, the settlement agreement itself says all civil claims are settled over the staffing issues, and doesn’t discuss criminal liability. In response to a public records request, the governor’s office provided a Feb. 17, 2014 email exchange between Mark Warbis, a top aide to Otter, and Mark Kubinski, lead deputy attorney general for the Idaho Department of Correction, on that question.

Warbis writes, “Does this release and discharge apply only to civil claims, or could this potentially block the pursuit of criminal claims should they emerge?” Kubinski responds, “The release section only applies to civil claims. The signatories are Division of Purchasing, IDOC and the Board, none of whom have any authority to waive any potential criminal charges. I’m comfortable with the language as drafted.”

 “CONTRACT IS OPENED UP”: During the debate, Libertarian candidate John Bujak said, “I have a little more information as a lawyer, I’ve seen some of the litigation that’s gone through the federal courts related to what was going on there due to the lack of supervision. The state has been exposed to the liability through the lack of supervision to a greater degree. I think the settlement was premature. I don’t think that number was a good number, and I would have liked to see more investigation before any kind of settlement was struck regarding the private prison.”

Otter responded, “A good lawyer would have read the entire contract on the negotiation, and would have found out that at the end, new information on a new subject, the whole contract is opened up. That’s in the contract, John.”

Bujak responded,”As a civil lawyer, whenever you settle a civil case you don't leave open-ended liability. The whole notion is it's risk management. Now, maybe they can be opened up to some additional liability in the criminal context, but there’s no additional civil liability that can be imposed under that contract. That civil liability was simply put to bed for a million bucks.”

Otter retorted, “Not true.”

BOTTOM LINE: There is no provision at the end of the nine-page settlement that matches Otter’s description. Prior to its signatures, it ends with this clause on Page 5: “Effectiveness. This Settlement Agreement shall become effective upon the date of execution by the last Party to execute the Settlement Agreement.”

AdWatch: Otter’s final campaign pitch is endorsement from Romney

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter has launched a new campaign ad in the final days before the election, featuring former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney endorsing him. Romney urges Idaho voters to “get out and vote,” and says, “What’s happening under Butch Otter ought to happen to every state, and you’re lucky to have this man as your governor.” The ad is running statewide both on TV and radio, Otter’s campaign said, including the Spokane broadcast TV market. Romney’s comments came during a campaign stop for Otter and GOP Sen. Jim Risch in Boise last week; Risch also has a new TV ad out featuring Romney’s endorsement. You can read my full AdWatch story here.

Watch the full governor’s debate…

The full, 90-minute debate between Idaho GOP Gov. Butch Otter, Democratic challenger A.J. Balukoff and Libertarian challenger John Bujak can be viewed online here. It was a lively and often heated debate that saw the candidates clash on an array of issues as Tuesday's election approaches. The debate, which was broadcast statewide on Idaho Public Television, is part of the “Idaho Debates,” co-sponsored by the Idaho Press Club and the League of Women Voters of Idaho. It was the final debate in the race before the election.

Balukoff: Analysis of Otter’s schedule shows he’s a ‘part-time governor’

A.J. Balukoff, the Democratic candidate for governor of Idaho, has analyzed a year’s worth of incumbent GOP Gov. Butch Otter’s detailed calendars, and concluded that Otter is a “part-time governor,” working only 27 hours a week in 2013, or 32.8 if receptions and travel time are added in. “Gov. Otter treats his job like he’s in semi-retirement,” Balukoff said in a statement today. “Many Idahoans are working 50 or 60 or more hours a week in two or three jobs and still barely scraping by. Idaho needs and deserves a governor who’s on the job more than part-time.”

In January of 2011, then-Idaho Statesman reporter Dan Popkey did a similar analysis, comparing Otter’s schedule for 2011 to 2009, before he was re-elected for his second term. He found that in 2011, Otter largely took Mondays off; took 41 personal days, a 28 percent increase over two years earlier; and his official appointments were down 21 percent and unofficial appointments down 64 percent.

Otter had no comment on the report then; in a statement today, his campaign said, “Being governor is not a typical 8 to 5 occupation. Gov. Otter is governor 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Mr Balukoff probably doesn't realize that the job of governor is a 24-hour calling.” You can see Balukoff’s full analysis here, and his full statement here; click below for the Otter campaign's full statement.

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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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