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Posts tagged: Phil Hart

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.

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

Hart paid lawyer with campaign funds; state says nothing prohibits that

Idaho state Rep. Phil Hart paid $1,000 in campaign funds in 2011 to Coeur d'Alene attorney Starr Kelso, who's representing him in his ongoing fight against back state income taxes; Hart lost his tax appeal to the Idaho Supreme Court last week. But Hart said the payment was for helping him defend against a series of House ethics complaints.    The fourth-term lawmaker faced ethics complaints over his tax fight and an illegal state timber harvest; Kelso represented Hart at two House Ethics Committee hearings in Boise in 2010 and submitted documents on his behalf.

Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa said, “There's nothing prohibiting that.” Campaign funds can be used for anything “related to being a holder of public office,” he said. And while Idaho state law doesn't specifically mention the use of campaign funds for legal defense, Ysursa said, “We look to the feds for some guidance, and they have in the past indicated that legal defense fund use of campaign funds was OK.” There's a prominent precedent among Idaho politicians: Then-U.S. Sen. Larry Craig tapped his campaign funds for more than a quarter-million dollars after his arrest in a Minneapolis airport restroom sex sting in 2007, including $23,000 for an attorney to represent him in a Senate ethics investigation. You can read my full story here at

As May 15 primary approaches in Hart’s district, ‘whole lot of politics going on’ in North Idaho

Tax-protesting state Rep. Phil Hart may be the most controversial lawmaker in North Idaho, and his re-election bid for a fifth term in the state House has drawn a bevy of challengers in the May 15 GOP primary. It’s a far cry from the last election, in which Hart was unopposed both in the primary and on the general election ballot. But an unprecedented 20 percent of the vote went to a write-in challenger in the general election in 2010, after news broke about Hart’s court fights over back taxes and a 1996 timber theft case. He subsequently lost his seat on the House tax committee and gave up a vice chairmanship on the Transportation Committee to avoid House ethics sanctions.

Hart said this year’s campaign is keeping him busy. “I think there’s a lot more interest this year, just because people are paying more attention to politics,” said Hart; you can read my full profile of the race here at Hart's primary opponents include Ron Vieselmeyer, 71, an outspoken Christian conservative, ordained minister, former state lawmaker and current North Idaho College trustee; longtime Hayden real estate appraiser Ed Morse; and local firefighter Fritz Wiedenhoff. The winner of the four-way race will face Democrat Dan English in November.

Vieselmeyer said issues aren’t as much at stake in this year’s race as people. “It’s either somebody else wins and represents them, or they continue to have Phil Hart representing them,” he said. “And that’s been an uncomfortable situation for a lot of people.”

The district’s other two legislative seats are both held by close allies of Hart whom he recruited to run two years ago, Sen. Steve Vick and Rep. Vito Barbieri, both of Dalton Gardens. Both Vick and Barbieri face challenges in the Republican primary this year as well, and Democratic challengers are standing by to run against the GOP primary winners in November. That’s an anomaly for this district – no Democrat has even run for the Legislature from the district since 2002. Former Sen. Mike Jorgenson, R-Hayden Lake, whom Vick defeated in the primary two years ago to win the seat, is running against Vick; and businessman Mark Fisher is challenging Barbieri.

Fisher echoed Hart about the interest he’s seeing locally in this year’s legislative primary election, which historically has drawn low turnout and little interest. “There’s a whole lot of politics going on up here,” he said.
I also have profiles of the contested primary races in District 3 and District 4 in today's paper.

Hart: Pledges to continue to fight, says he doesn’t owe the state any tax

Idaho Rep. Phil Hart tonight issued a defiant press release after the Idaho Supreme Court unanimously rejected his state income tax appeal, saying he plans to continue to fight. “It is but another phase of my quest for justice,” Hart wrote in the release he posted on Facebook; you can click below to read it in full. He maintained, “I do not owe the State of Idaho any tax.”

Idaho Supreme Court unanimously rejects Rep. Hart’s income tax appeal

A unanimous Idaho Supreme Court has rejected state Rep. Phil Hart's appeal of an order to pay more than $53,000 in back state income taxes, penalties and interest on grounds of legislative privilege; you can read my full story here at In a seven-page opinion authored by Justice Jim Jones, the unanimous court held that the Idaho Constitution's legislative privilege clause from arrest or “civil process” during legislative sessions didn't protect Hart, or permit him to file his state tax appeal months later than anyone else would have been allowed to.

“Hart's untenable argument flows from his misunderstanding of the word 'process,'” Jones wrote. “In this case, Hart was not obligated to do anything but pay his taxes.” The state didn't try to “compel Hart’s appearance before a tribunal,” the court wrote. “No court sought to hold Hart responsible for a new legal obligation. No sheriff or other agent of the State sought to arrest Hart or compel him to appear anywhere or take any other action. In other words, no one tried to hold Hart liable to civil process. Rather, Hart sought to avail himself of … appeals procedures, which he had until January 4, 2010 to do. He missed that deadline by almost three months.”

Wrote the court, “In this instance, Hart is just a taxpayer, with no greater privilege than his constituents.”

The court also dismissed Hart's argument that 4th District Judge John Mitchell abused his discretion by refusing to delay a motion hearing when Hart was in Boise participating in a legislative debate; he wasn't required to attend the hearing. The high court wrote, “Hart's argument on this issue is devoid of reasoned analysis or relevant authority.”

The court awarded attorney fees and costs to the state. “Hart's position here is groundless,” Jones wrote.

Hart's first court appeal in his state income tax case charged that Idaho's state income tax is unconstitutional; that argument wasn't considered, because the appeal was thrown out for being filed too late. Hart, a tax protester who stopped filing both federal and state income tax returns for three years in the 1990s, while he pressed an unsuccessful lawsuit charging the federal income tax was unconstitutional, had 91 days to appeal his order to pay more than $53,000 in back state income taxes, penalties and interest for tax years 1996 to 2004, but instead waited more than six months, saying an intervening legislative session entitled him to more time. Because it was too late, his appeal was rejected, a decision he's now unsuccessfully appealed five times.

Federal judge dismisses Rep. Hart’s legislative immunity claim in federal tax case

U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge today dismissed one of tax-protesting state Rep. Phil Hart's key defenses in the federal lawsuit seeking to foreclose on his Athol home: That he's protected by legislative immunity. “Defendant Hart can only raise a legislative immunity defense if it is available under federal law,” the judge wrote. “He has not done so here.” Hart was citing a provision from the Idaho Constitution.

Plus, Lodge wrote that legislative immunity under federal law covers only “legitimate legislative activity.” He wrote, “The claims raised in this case are in regard to Defendant Hart's private actions in allegedly failing to pay his federal income taxes.”

The U.S. Department of Justice filed a motion to dismiss Hart's immunity defense; Lodge granted it. “Granting the motion in this case will avoid the expenditure of time and money that must arise from litigating spurious issues,” the judge wrote, adding that Hart's immunity claim “clearly lacks merit under any set of facts that he might allege.” You can read the judge's decision here, and our  full story here at, from reporter Tom Clouse.

Hart takes tax appeal to Idaho Supreme Court in CdA today…

By the way, tax-protesting Idaho State Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, takes his appeal of his state income taxes to the Idaho Supreme Court today; the arguments start at 11:10 a.m. Pacific time in the old courthouse in Coeur d'Alene, second floor, Judge Luster's courtroom. S-R reporter Tom Clouse is there and we'll have a full report.

Hart cites legislative privilege to fight home foreclosure by IRS

Tax-protesting Idaho state Rep. Phil Hart has cited his status as a state legislator numerous times in seeking delays in his court fights over paying back state and federal income taxes, pointing to the state constitution’s clause protecting lawmakers from civil actions during sessions. Now he’s using it as an argument for dismissing a federal lawsuit to foreclose on his Athol home for back federal taxes. In Hart’s reply to the federal lawsuit, in which the Department of Justice is seeking to foreclose on the home to pay off more than a half-million dollars in back taxes, interest and penalties, his attorney charged that the IRS claim is “barred” because a “notice of deficiency” was sent to Hart while the Legislature was in session. The IRS wants to sell Hart's log home in Athol and use the proceeds to offset more than half a million dollars in back taxes, penalties and interest; you can read my full Sunday column here.

Hart, Barbieri draw challenges in GOP primary

Two longtime Hayden-area businessmen have announced their candidacies against Idaho Reps. Phil Hart and Vito Barbieri in the GOP primary. Ed Morse, who is challenging Hart, is a real estate appraiser and consultant and board member of the Reagan Republicans group; Mark Fisher, challenging Barbieri, runs an employee benefits insurance and consulting firm and is a past president of the local Rotary Club. The two, who held a joint announcement last month at a Hayden deli, say they offer practical solutions to the North Idaho district's problems, from jobs to regulations, rather than ideological crusades with little impact. Hart is the tax-protesting lawmaker who's still fighting back state and federal income taxes; Barbieri, whom Hart recruited to run, is a first-term lawmaker who's pushed for nullification of federal health-care laws. You can read my full story here at

Hart gets delay in tax case, hires Kentucky attorney

Tax-protesting Idaho state Rep. Phil Hart has asked for and received a 30-day delay in the deadline to file his legal response to federal authorities' move to foreclose on his Athol, Idaho home for years of unpaid federal income taxes, interest and penalties. Hart, acting as his own attorney, asked for a delay until Jan. 5, which is four days before the start of this year's legislative session, to allow him time to bring on and qualify an out-of-state attorney and get him up to speed to file the response.

“Defendant Hart states that the purpose of the continuance is not for delay, but it is needed for him to obtain counsel and allow said counsel to be admitted … and review the case in preparation for filing an Answer,” Hart wrote in his motion to the federal court. Justice Department attorneys raised no objection, and U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge granted Hart a delay to Jan. 5.

Now, Hart has filed to have Kentucky attorney Charles E. McFarland represent him in the case. McFarland represented excavation business owner and tax protester Fred Allnutt Sr. of Ellicott City, Maryland, in an unsuccessful appeal to the 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in 2008, charging that a statute of limitations should bar an IRS notice of deficiency ordering Allnut to pay $2 million; the appellate court rejected the appeal.

The U.S. Department of Justice says Hart owes $549,703.48 to the IRS as of Oct. 31, for back income taxes, interest and penalties. It's filed in federal court to foreclose on his Athol home to satisfy the debt. The log home, ironically, was built partly from timber Hart illegally logged from state school endowment land in 1996, for which he never fully satisfied a court judgment. Hart, a Republican, is in his fourth term in the House.

Popkey: ‘Reasonable’ Republicans rebel

Idaho Statesman columnist Dan Popkey reports today on the latest splits among Republicans in North Idaho, with a new group backing “reasonable” Republicans and another saying it's so conservative it disavows Richard Nixon as liberal.

“You can’t be on the Republican Central Committee unless you can look through a keyhole with both eyes at the same time,” former state lawmaker Dean Haagenson told Popkey; he's among the founders of the new North Idaho Republican Political Action Committee, aiming to find sensible, business-friendly candidates for the May primary. “We’re raising money to support candidates that are better than Phil Hart.”

Popkey reports, “Hart, R-Athol, is the best example of how the North Idaho GOP has veered from its good government, Chamber of Commerce roots. After seven years in the Legislature, Hart owes the Idaho State Tax Commission and IRS more than $500,000. He pilfered trees from state land to build his house. He’s been elected four times. Hart says that knowing what he knows now, he couldn’t support Nixon because he expanded government.” You can read Popkey's full column here.

Fed complaint against Hart seeks to set aside ‘fraudulent transfer’ of home to trust

You can read my full story here at on the U.S. Justice Department's lawsuit against Idaho Rep. Phil Hart, which seeks to foreclose on his log home in Athol for more than half a million in back federal income taxes, penalties and interest. Through Oct. 31, 2011, the complaint says, Hart owes the IRS $549,703.48, for back taxes from 1996 to 2008.

Hart wasn't immediately available for comment. He's also fighting the Idaho State Tax Commission over more than $53,000 unpaid state income taxes, penalties and interest; though he's lost repeatedly, his appeal to the Idaho Supreme Court likely will come up for a hearing in April.

The federal complaint also asks the court to set aside the “fraudulent transfer” of the home to various parties including the trust, determine that the trust is a “sham entity,” and rule that “the United States has valid and subsisting federal tax liens on all property and rights belonging to Hart, whether real or personal, wherever located, and whether presently held or hereinafter acquired,” expressly including the Athol home. “The property shall be sold, and .. the proceeds from the sale shall be distributed in accordance with the court's findings,” the complaint states. It also asks that Hart be ordered to pay the federal government's court costs for bringing the case.

According to Kootenai County records, Hart's home, which sits on 10 acres, is only valued for tax purposes at $271,573.

Feds sue Rep. Hart, seek to foreclose on his log home for back income taxes

The U.S. Department of Justice has filed suit against Idaho Rep. Phil Hart in federal court, seeking to foreclose on his Athol home for failure to pay back federal income taxes, penalties and interest. “Hart has neglected, failed, or refused to make full payment to the United States of the assessed amounts and the interest and penalties accrued thereon,” federal prosecutors wrote in their complaint against Hart, filed in federal court in Boise, seeking $550,000. The home is the log home that Hart built partly from timber he illegally logged from state school endowment land, for which he never fully satisfied a court judgment.

Hart, a tax protester, also is currently appealing back state income taxes and penalties to the Idaho Supreme Court. He was removed from the House Revenue & Taxation Committee and agreed to give up his vice-chairmanship of the House Transportation Committee after ethics complaints were filed against him over his tax issues, his use of his status as a legislator to seek delays in his state and federal tax cases, and the timber theft. Hart continues to serve as a state representative, a Republican representing District 3 in North Idaho.

State reply to Hart tax appeal: Legislators subject to same rules as anyone else

Attorneys for the Idaho State Tax Commission have filed their response to Rep. Phil Hart's state income tax appeal to the Idaho Supreme Court, writing that Hart seems to be arguing different rules apply to him just because he's a state legislator. “Appellant appears to be arguing that his status as a legislator excuses him from the requirement to file a timely appeal,” the state attorneys wrote.

Hart, a tax protester who stopped filing both federal and state income tax returns for three years in the 1990s, had 91 days to appeal his order to pay more than $53,000 in back state income taxes, penalties and interest for tax years 1996 to 2004, but instead waited more than six months, saying an intervening legislative session entitled him to more time. Because it was too late, his appeal was rejected, a decision he's now appealed five times. You can read my full story here at, and read the state's brief here. Hart now has another week to file his reply to the state's response, and then the case can be set for arguments before the Supreme Court, which likely won't happen before April of 2012.

Hart argues his state income tax appeal was stymied by his House duties

Tax-protesting Idaho state Rep. Phil Hart is arguing that a district judge abused his discretion by refusing to delay a court hearing when the state representative was in Boise, debating legislation to permit guns on state college campuses that he strongly supported. Hart, R-Athol, devoted much of his opening brief in his appeal to the Idaho Supreme Court to arguments over how a Coeur d'Alene judge, John Mitchell, went ahead with a scheduled hearing in Hart's case on March 16 when the Idaho House was “debating a very important piece of legislation which my constituents most certainly expect, and would demand, that I be present to vote on.”

Hart, who is contesting an order to pay more than $53,000 in back state income taxes, penalties and interest from the tax years 1996 to 2004, disagreed with the court's ruling that the hearing - on Hart's own motion for reconsideration of Mitchell's order rejecting his case - merely consisted of legal arguments by the attorneys and didn't require Hart's presence, but that he could participate by phone if he chose to. He declined. State Tax Commission attorneys have cited “a pattern of delay and obstruction” in Hart's tax protests, and objected to any further delays. You can read my full story here at, along with a link to Hart's brief to the Idaho Supreme Court.

Rep. Hart appeals his state income taxes to the Idaho Supreme Court

Tax-protesting Idaho state Rep. Phil Hart is taking his fight against paying his back state income taxes to the Idaho Supreme Court, despite already having lost four appeals. Hart lost his fourth round in March, when 1st District Judge John Mitchell rejected Hart's request that the judge reconsider his December 2010 decision tossing out the appeal. In a 13-page decision, the judge twice termed Hart's arguments “simply wrong,” and called his central argument – that he'd actually filed his appeal one day earlier than the state says - “patently wrong.”

Hart, whose first court appeal in November of 2010 charged that the state income tax is unconstitutional, also is arguing that he should have months longer to appeal his taxes than other citizens because of his status as a state legislator. Plus, he's claimed a requirement that he submit a 20 percent bond when filing his appeal is unconstitutional. You can read my full story here at, and see the latest court decision and Hart's notice of appeal here.

Hart: ‘I think the complaints will keep coming’

Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, said his decision to voluntarily step down as vice-chairman of the House Transportation Committee - in an effort to avoid an ethics vote removing him from the post - was the right step to take, a day after he apologized to the House for his ethics issues. “I'm glad it's resolved,” Hart said. “I think it made it easier for the committee to wrap it up.”

Hart said he still expects another ethics complaint, not from another lawmaker but from a citizen, to be filed against him. “I think the complaints will keep coming until the political effect of them is diminished,” Hart said.

Hart remains embroiled in both state and federal income tax fights; he recently filed papers in Kootenai County asking a district judge to reconsider his strongly written ruling dismissing Hart's appeal of an order to pay more than $53,000 in back state income taxes, penalties and interest; a hearing on Hart's motion to reconsider is scheduled for March. Also in January, the IRS filed two more tax liens against Hart in Kootenai County; they include a $16,382 lien against Hart for 2007 federal income taxes, and a $14,168 lien against the trust that owns his engineering firm for business taxes owed from 2004; the federal tax agency already has filed nearly a half-million dollars worth of tax liens against Hart.

Ethics committee emerges, takes break

The House Ethics Committee has come out of executive session after nearly a full hour. Chairman Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, said panel members need a break, so they're going to go at ease for about 10 minutes. “We will take up in open session at 10 after the hour,” he said.

House Ethics Committee investigating Hart sets Friday meeting

The House Ethics Committee, which has pending before it a complaint filed against Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, has set a meeting for Friday morning at 8, with an executive session to be followed by an open meeting. The panel will meet in room EW 40 on the lower level of the state Capitol. Pending against Hart is a complaint, filed by Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake, charging that Hart violated his oath of office by fighting state and federal income taxes; repeatedly invoking legislative privilege in his personal tax fights; and illegally cutting trees from state school endowment land, using them to build his log home in Athol and never paying an outstanding judgment in the case.

In addition to that complaint, the committee also has received two citizen complaints, one from North Idaho political activist Larry Spencer, a Hart supporter, targeting Anderson; and the other from Hayden businessman Howard Griffiths, a former write-in candidate against Hart, questioning Hart's participation in a legislative meeting with judges including the one before whom Hart is currently pressing his state income tax appeal.

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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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