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Posts tagged: Shirley Ringo

Irony: Labrador’s biggest donation in past reporting period came from Eric Cantor’s PAC

A look through 1st District GOP Congressman Raul Labrador’s latest campaign finance report turns up an a bit of irony: Labrador’s biggest donation - $5,000 for the reporting period and $10,000 for the election cycle to date – came from the Every Republican is Crucial PAC – ERIC-PAC, the PAC operated by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Cantor was defeated in the Virginia Republican primary last month; Labrador mounted an unsuccessful challenge to his successor in his leadership post, losing to House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy.

Overall, Labrador raised a surprisingly paltry $48,145 for his re-election campaign during the two-month reporting period that ended June 30, while his Democratic challenger, state Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, wasn’t far behind at $42,838. Labrador’s total seems small for a second-term congressional incumbent seeking a third term – his campaign expenses for the period were $53,147, more than he raised – but he carried over big sums from earlier, allowing him to close out the quarter with $416,522 in cash in his campaign warchest.

Based on his spending, Labrador also clearly didn’t feel financially pinched in his campaign during the quarter: He continued to pay wife Rebecca a $2,022 monthly salary for working on the campaign, and he made $1,000 donations to three other congressional hopefuls’ campaigns, two from Alabama and one from Georgia: Dr. Chad Mathis, a conservative Christian and surgeon who lost a GOP primary in Alabama; Gary Palmer, longtime head of the Alabama Policy Institute who is running for Congress there; and Dr. Bob Johnson, another physician and Christian conservative seeking a GOP nomination in Georgia. Labrador reported no debt.

Ringo’s campaign finance report filed with the Federal Election Commission shows some contrasts with Labrador’s. While $19,000 of the congressman’s donations during the period came from PACs, including the Comcast Corp. PAC at $2,000 and New York Life Insurance PAC at $2,600, Ringo got just one PAC donation, $2,000 from the NEA Fund for Children and Public Education.

Labrador’s individual contributions of $29,045 included donations of $1,000 or more from 13 individuals in Idaho; nine in-state donors who gave less than $1,000; and five out-of-state individuals, all of whom gave less than $1,000.

Ringo received more than 80 donations of less than $1,000 from individuals in Idaho; two for $1,000 or more from Idaho individuals; and nearly 70 donations of less than $1,000 either from out-of-state individuals or from individuals who donated through the Democratic Party’s “Act Blue” online fundraising site. Ringo ran up $19,500 in debt, all in loans to her own campaign; and reported $13,877 in the bank at the end of the reporting period.

Stung by IEN mess, lawmakers hail stricter rules for state contract oversight

Idaho’s state Division of Purchasing is making progress toward better monitoring of multimillion-dollar state contracts, according to a new state report to lawmakers. Incensed over big problems with big contracts, lawmakers have passed four pieces of legislation in the past two years calling for better oversight; as a result, the division has developed enhanced monitoring requirements for service contracts that are worth $5 million or more over the life of the contract, along with other measures. Though that figure accounts for just 45 current contracts, it covers $2.6 billion in state funding commitments.

“That’s big bucks – billions,” said Rep. Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, co-chair of the Legislature’s joint budget committee and a member of the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee, which today received the new report from the Legislature’s Office of Performance Evaluations. She said lawmakers were spurred by problems with the multimillion-dollar contract the state Department of Administration signed with Education Networks of America for a broadband network to connect state high schools; this year, that contract for the Idaho Education Network ended up costing the state millions more than expected due to questions over the original contract award holding up federal “e-rate” payments that were supposed to cover three-quarters of the cost.

“I think the eyes opened,” Bell said. “There were details that were troublesome.” Big contracts like that are happening at “all levels of government, and no one was paying attention,” she said.

Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, JLOC co-chair, said, “Clearly we’ve had some difficulties, and I’m very happy that people are paying attention. We’re going to have to very carefully monitor our progress on this and make sure that we’re getting results. I would say we’re part-way there … but I wouldn’t say we’re at the finish line yet.”

The new report, a follow-up to one issued in January of 2013 on how the state could strengthen its contract management, notes that an array of contracts still are exempt from state purchasing rules – those issued by the Legislature, the judiciary, and under the offices of statewide elected officials like the state schools superintendent. The 2013 report called for lawmakers to consider setting minimum standards for all state contracting, including those areas, but no legislation was introduced. Sen. Elliot Werk, D-Boise, said today that he’s working with a group of lawmakers to address that and is hoping for bipartisan backing.

As a result of the legislation already passed, Bill Burns, head of the state Division of Purchasing, said administrative rule changes are in the works and will be presented to lawmakers in January to follow an array of recommendations from the 2013 report, from developing best practices for all agencies in contracting; to adding more oversight of big contracts, including from the division, the agency, and outside subject-matter experts; to notifying the Legislature prior to contract extensions and renewals. Burns said the division will ask lawmakers next year for a new training position to ensure the new requirements can be carried out; if the Legislature expands the division’s oversight to now-exempt agencies, it may need another position as well, he said.

Ringo said, “This is a direction we need to go, and I think that we’re making progress.”

Ringo: Hobby Lobby ruling ‘extremely disturbing,’ saw no corporations at church on Sunday

Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, who is running against 1st District GOP Congressman Raul Labrador, had this statement today on the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the Hobby Lobby case, which Labrador praised:

“Today’s Supreme Court decision in Hobby Lobby is extremely disturbing.  The message to women from the majority on the court is that their boss can have a say in their personal family planning decisions.  Today’s decision allows corporations to deny contraception coverage to female employees because of the corporation’s religious objections.  I saw many people from my community in church last Sunday, but I didn’t see a corporation there.

The administration and Congress need to fix this. We know Congressman Labrador won’t be part of the solution, but I'm confident that enough members of Congress care about women's rights to do what the majority of Americans want and protect contraception coverage.”

Ringo dings Labrador for ‘hobby of partisan in-fighting’

First District Congressman Raul Labrador’s Democratic opponent, state Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, had strong words today about Labrador’s announcement that he’ll run for U.S. House majority leader. “I have to admire Congressman Labrador’s consistency,” Ringo said. “First, he tried to divide Idaho Republicans by backing Russ Fulcher against Gov. Otter and opposing Mike Simpson in his primary. Now he’s trying to divide his party in Washington by running for a post he has no chance of winning and no business holding.”

Labrador actually was neutral in the 2nd District congressional primary race, declining to endorse either candidate, but he made a high-profile endorsement of Fulcher over Otter and campaigned with Fulcher in the final stretch before the election.

Ringo said, “We need a representative who understands the virtue of cooperation, and who would rather get a job done than throw up roadblocks. Far be it from me to complain when Washington, D.C. Republicans want to fight each other, but Idaho needs Congress to get back to work, and Congressman Labrador’s hobby of partisan in-fighting is really getting in the way.”

Idaho GOP warns same-sex marriage will lead to ‘disintegration of our society,’ Ringo calls on Otter to accept ruling

Catching up on a couple of items from yesterday:

The Idaho Republican Party issued a statement decrying U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy Dale’s ruling overturning Idaho’s ban on same-sex marriage. In it, party Chairman Barry Peterson said, “The disintegration of marriage will lead to the disintegration of our society. Judge Dale is wrong. The State has a valid interest in promoting the optimal circumstance for every child - and that is being raised in a home with both a loving mother and father.” You can read the full statement here.

And longtime state Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, who is running for Idaho’s 1st District congressional seat, sent out a statement calling on Gov. Butch Otter to “immediately accept the federal court ruling” and allow Navy veteran Madelynn Lee Taylor to be buried with her late wife, Jean Mixner, at the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery. “I know Gov. Otter is going to appeal this ruling – he has an election next week, after all – but I hope he’ll make a call to the cemetery’s administration and ask that they find a spot for Jean before he races to court,” Ringo said. “More importantly, I hope he’ll reconsider his position and embrace marriage equality here in Idaho.” You can read her full statement here.

Ringo to run against Labrador in 1st CD

Longtime Idaho state Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, announced Monday that she’ll seek Idaho’s 1st District congressional seat in 2014, the first opponent to emerge for second-term GOP Rep. Raul Labrador.  Labrador, a high-profile tea party favorite, just announced last week that he’ll run for a third term in Congress, rather than run for governor of Idaho, in an effort to quiet speculation that he said was getting out of hand.

Ringo, a former longtime high school math teacher who holds a key seat on the Legislature’s joint budget committee, said, “We all know that Congress doesn’t have a very positive approval rating at this time, with their inability to compromise and get things done. And I have the sense that Congressman Labrador is part of the problem.”

Ringo acknowledged that she faces an “uphill battle” as a member of Idaho’s small Democratic minority, but said she’s talked with moderate Republicans who are “not particularly happy with the direction that some of the more extreme members of their party are taking.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

A first: Ringo takes the gavel, chairs legislative panel

Rep. Shirley Ringo is serving her seventh term in the state House – but today marked a first for her: She chaired a legislative committee. “It’s the first time, and it’s something that I never expected to have the opportunity to do,” said Ringo, a Moscow Democrat, after this afternoon’s meeting of the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee. “So it’s a landmark day for me. It just shows if you stay around long enough, that about anything is possible.”

The Idaho Legislature and its standing committee chairmanships have long been controlled by Republicans. But JLOC has two co-chairs, one from each party; this year, it’s co-chaired by Ringo and Sen. Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls.

Ringo said, “I think we all appreciate JLOC’s role to look at policy and potential changes in policy.” The joint committee directs the Office of Performance Evaluations to study and report on issues involving state government and how it functions; she noted that recommendations from today’s report on improving contract management could save the state money as well as make programs work better. “I’m very interested in the next one we’re getting, to look at public employee pay,” Ringo said. “We all know that we have been remiss in our dedication to bring those to policy levels.” That report is due out Jan. 30.

Prosecutor: Secret tax deals not a crime

Here’s a news item from the Associated Press:  BOISE, Idaho (AP) — An Idaho prosecutor has declined to pursue a criminal case stemming from allegations that Idaho State Tax Commission leaders gave politically connected taxpayers inappropriate settlements. In a letter obtained by The Associated Press, Ada County Prosecutor Greg Bower told the Idaho attorney general’s office that even if the lawsuit’s allegations were true, “we do not see a criminal law violation.” Bower concluded the matter was best left addressed by the Legislature. Idaho Rep. Shirley Ringo had brought a civil case against tax commissioners. It’s since been dismissed, but Ringo’s lawyer, Robert Huntley, refiled claims after finding new plaintiffs who he says have court standing. When asked about Bower’s move not to pursue a criminal investigation, Huntley said Monday he’s still calling for an independent probe of the settlements.

Judge tosses Ringo’s tax deals lawsuit, but new version already filed

4th District Judge Cheri Copsey on Thursday “reluctantly” granted the state’s motion to dismiss Rep. Shirley Ringo’s lawsuit over secret tax deals for lack of standing, but said in her decision that Ringo’s allegations were “very troubling” and should be addressed. Ringo’s attorney, former Idaho Supreme Court Justice Robert Huntley, said he’d anticipated the ruling, and already had filed a new version of the lawsuit on Tuesday with six new plaintiffs who he believes have clear standing: three education associations, a public school student, a parent of a student, and a public school employee. “I think we’ll be just fine with the case with the six new plaintiffs,” Huntley said in an email.

Ringo, D-Moscow, in her lawsuit, submitted sworn affidavits from eight current and former state Tax Commission employees saying the commission has been improperly cutting secret deals with influential taxpayers, letting them off the hook for millions in taxes due.

Three ed groups seek to join lawsuit over secret tax deals

Three education groups are seeking to join Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, in her lawsuit over secret tax deals at the state Tax Commission, saying the alleged deals are causing education funding in the state to suffer.     ”We take the allegations very seriously,” said John Rumel, general counsel for the Idaho Education Association, one of the three groups. “The representative’s allegations indicate that because of some sweetheart deals and corrupt practices, a substantial amount of funds that should be going into the coffers of the state are not getting there.”

In addition to the IEA, the Idaho Federation of Teachers and the American Federation of Teachers local from the University of Idaho all have filed motions to intervene in the case as plaintiffs. The UI group represents 65 professors and staffers at the university; the IEA is the state’s largest teachers union, with 13,000 members. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com, and read the latest filings in the case here.

Sen. Hill on Tax Commission: ‘We’ve taken care of it’

Sen. Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, chairman of the Senate Local Government and Taxation Committee, said he doesn’t see great need to reform Idaho’s state Tax Commission. “We tried to address some of the concerns with compromises, and yet these whistleblowers keep claiming there should be no compromises, and I don’t agree with that concept,” said Hill, a CPA. “That’s why the Legislature stepped in and very clearly said, ‘Yes, there should be compromises under these circumstances,’ and we outlined those.” He added, “As far as I’m concerned, we have addressed this issue, we’ve taken care of it, but … we are certainly amenable to suggestions from the public, from other legislators, from anyone else of how we can run our government better, and that includes the state Tax Commission.”

Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, is proposing sweeping reform legislation, aimed in part at taking politics out of the process; but Hill said issues like property tax rules and revenue forecasts ultimately are decided by the state Legislature. “How you depoliticize the Legislature I don’t know - politics is part of what makes representative democracy work,” he said. “I don’t think politics is a bad thing necessarily.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Whistleblowers: Pending tax deals could cost Idaho $75 million

Idaho stands to lose more than $75 million just from tax compromises that are now in the works, according to a group of whistleblowers who are current and former employees of the state Tax Commission - including one $203,000 tax break about to be handed to a taxpayer on his $7 million private plane. “This is the worst scandal I’ve seen in Idaho since I first came here in 1950,” declared Robert Huntley, the former Idaho Supreme Court justice who’s representing Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, for free in her lawsuit against the state over the deals.

Ringo has offered to put the lawsuit on hold in favor of an immediate state investigation, along with job protection for the current Tax Commission auditors and managers who came forward with sworn statements about the deals. But so far, the state hasn’t taken her up on the offer; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com, plus see the full documents.

Three more Tax Commission workers go on record about secret deals, brings total to 8

Three current employee of the Idaho State Tax Commission - a manager and two auditors - have gone on the record in affidavits in Rep. Shirley Ringo’s lawsuit over secret tax deals, the Times-News reports today, making a total of eight current or former Tax Commission employees, each with decades of experience, charging under oath that influential people got big tax breaks at everyone else’s expense. Click here to read the full report from reporter Ben Botkin, and see the full documents in the case.

Ringo, D-Moscow, has offered to dismiss the state Legislature as a defendant in the lawsuit if the state convenes an investigation and offers job protection to Tax Commission employees to testify.

The new allegations…

Here’s a link to the letter that Rep. Shirley Ringo’s attorney, Robert Huntley, delivered to the Idaho Attorney General’s office yesterday on secret tax deals, with the three new sworn statements attached along with an earlier affidavit from Stan Howland. One note: One of the affidavits names two names, both of North Idaho legislators. The affidavit of Joe Schwartz, former longtime head of the North Idaho office of the state Tax Commission, includes a comment about  “Representative Hart of Athol,” saying he “refuses to file or pay taxes.” Hart’s tax case, which became public when he filed an appeal to the state Board of Tax Appeals this spring, indicates he failed to file state tax returns for three years in the 1990s, but there’s no indication that he’s failed to file since, though he’s disputing the amount due.

The affidavit also references “Senator Shawn Keough” as an example of lawmakers who allegedly threatened to “punish” the Tax Commission if it attempted to enforce certain laws and allegedly advised constituents not to comply. Keough said, “I don’t recall ever saying anything like that. I don’t remember anyone by that name. I would never tell anyone to break the law.” She added, “I am pretty astounded by the charge.” Said Keough, R-Sandpoint, “At this point, so that the air can be cleared, I would welcome a full investigation and perhaps a court of law is where that needs to occur to remove any cloud of impropriety or political pressure.”

Three more charge that politically influential taxpayers got secret tax deals

Three more longtime senior employees of the Idaho State Tax Commission have come forward with sworn statements charging that secret tax deals were offered to those with political influence, and now Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, is offering to put her pending lawsuit over the deals on hold in favor of an in-depth investigation of the charges. “I think it should make people realize that we have something very serious we’re dealing with,” Ringo said today.     She and her attorney, former Idaho Supreme Court Justice Robert Huntley, sent the three new sworn statements to Attorney General Lawrence Wasden yesterday, along with a letter offering to suspend the lawsuit if the state launches an investigation meeting certain requirements, and grants job protection to current Tax Commission employees who testify.

“We have found several people who work within the Tax Commission who would like to speak up, but they’re in fear of jeopardizing their employment,” Ringo said. Bob Cooper, spokesman for the Attorney General’s office, said, “We did receive Mr. Huntley’s letter yesterday, and we’re reviewing it.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Huntley offers to suspend tax deal lawsuit if state launches special investigation

Bob Huntley, attorney for Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, in her lawsuit over secret tax deals at the state Tax Commission, sent a letter to Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden today with three new affidavits attached from longtime senior tax auditors, all making allegations just as shocking as those in the original affidavit from retired senior auditor Stan Howland about special tax deals being offered to those with political influence, and Huntley proposed that if the state would convene a special investigation panel to look into the charges and follow certain requirements, he and Ringo would suspend their lawsuit that’s now pending in 4th District Court.

State: Ringo can’t sue over secret tax deals

Idaho’s initial response to Moscow Rep. Shirley Ringo’s lawsuit over secret tax deals:  She can’t do that. The state has filed a motion to dismiss the case, saying Ringo lacks standing to sue as a lawmaker, something she and her lawyer dispute. Meanwhile, Ringo’s filed an amended complaint saying the secret deals that allegedly allow some wealthy and politically connected taxpayers to get millions in breaks violate constitutional guarantees of equal protection under the laws. Ringo’s also asking for an injunction to stop all secret tax compromises until Idaho institutes a new system.

“If we don’t do something like that, it’ll just be business as usual,” Ringo said, “and sometimes these things take quite a long time to work their way through the system. … It puts a little bit more urgency on it.”Bob Cooper, spokesman for the Idaho Attorney General’s office, declined to comment on the pending case, saying, “We will make any response to the court.” Fourth District Judge Cheri Copsey has scheduled a Sept. 9 hearing on the state’s motion to dismiss the case. If she grants it, the lawsuit would end there; if not, Ringo is seeking a November hearing on the proposed injunction; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com, plus read the documents filed in the case.

Legislator’s lawsuit charges wealthy, politically connected got secret tax deals

A North Idaho legislator has filed a lawsuit against the state over secret tax deals that allegedly allowed some wealthy and politically connected taxpayers to get millions in breaks. Those deals violated the Idaho Constitution, said Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, which requires taxing to be “uniform.” Examples listed in the lawsuit, filed this morning in 4th District Court in Boise:

    * A wealthy Idaho resident was given a $1.6 million tax break before the audit report on that taxpayer’s case had been filed, and the case was removed from the Tax Commission’s auditors. Auditors had alleged the taxpayer was fraudulently claiming no substantial business operations in the state.
    * One state tax commissioner “reversed an audit adjustment on a friend and individual who is prominent in Idaho politics.”
    * A tax manager for a large Idaho company “told a commissioner in a protest hearing that his opinion was asked by the governor on all reappointments. This event occurred several months before the commissioner was up for reappointment and the taxpayer received a $100,000 discount.”

Ringo called the cases cited in the lawsuit “appalling.” “If those things have been going on, it just speaks to the need for reforms,” Ringo said. “I would put in on the emergency status, because I don’t want to accuse anybody of being corrupt, but I think it bears looking into.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

How to cope with budget crunch…

Here’s a link to my full story from Saturday’s Spokesman-Review on the latest on Idaho’s state budget crunch, from Gov. Butch Otter appealing for money-saving ideas from citizens to Moscow Democratic Rep. Shirley Ringo’s proposal for a 5 percent income tax surcharge to stave off deep cuts in services. Senate President Pro-Tem Bob Geddes had this reaction to Ringo’s proposal: “I can’t imagine that would sell well right now.”

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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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