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Idaho Politics

Political and legislative news out of Idaho.

Latest from The Spokesman-Review

AP: Labrador backers have been airing Minnick gaffe on Web for weeks

The Associated Press, in its full story today on GOP congressional hopeful Raul Labrador pulling a campaign ad that featured an out-of-context snippet of Walt Minnick from a 2008 Idaho Public Television debate - but not the comment two minutes later in which Minnick corrected himself - notes, “For weeks now, Minnick’s 2008 gaffe has been taken out of context on pro-Labrador websites. But Labrador’s new ad was the first time the campaign has officially pushed the mistake.” Click below to read the full report from AP reporters Jessie Bonner and John Miller.

Otter disputes Allred’s wolf comments

“I disagree with my opponent’s definition of sovereignty and his idea about the state’s role,” Gov. Butch Otter said today in response to Democratic challenger Keith Allred’s statements about wolves at a press conference this morning. “State sovereignty to me isn’t managing a federally protected species under miles of federal red-tape as a designated agent of the same government that forced wolves on the people of Idaho in 1994 without regard for the devastating impacts it will have on our wildlife, livestock and way of life.” Click below for the rest of Otter’s statement.

Labrador pulls new ad before it airs

GOP congressional hopeful Raul Labrador today sent out a press release announcing a new TV ad for which airtime was purchased by the Idaho Republican Party Central Committee, featuring an audio clip from the 2008 “Idaho Debates” between Walt Minnick and Bill Sali, in which Minnick mistakenly said, “We need a middle class tax increase,” then two minutes later, corrected himself and said, “We need to have a middle-class tax cut.” But the commercial uses only the first statement. Further, the “Idaho Debates” are copyrighted material belonging to Idaho Public Television, and IPTV hasn’t granted permission for it to be used in political ads. Idaho Republican Party Chairman Norm Semanko also sent out a press release touting and supporting the ad.

Asked about the ad, Phil Hardy, Labrador’s campaign spokesman, just said in an email, “We have been notified by Idaho Public Television that part of the material in our intended new advertisement is in fact copyrighted material, which we were not aware of.  As this is the case, our ad will be revised immediately and any material taken from Idaho Public Television will not be used.”

Minnick’s tax-increase comment in the 2008 debate was so clearly a flub that in an after-debate online discussion program, GOP activist Rod Beck, who was discussing the debate with Democrat Betty Richardson, said, “He talked about, ‘Oh, I want to give a middle-class tax cut,’ now of course he kinda sorta caught himself because he originally said ‘middle class tax increase,’ and his wife was down in the audience going, ‘Whoa, whoa, you mean tax cut.’ He later corrected that and said he wants to give a middle-class tax cut.”

Allred says he’d reverse Otter’s move to back out of wolf management

Keith Allred, Democratic candidate for governor, held a news conference on the Capitol steps today to announce that he opposes Gov. Butch Otter’s decision to pull Idaho out of wolf management, and that if elected, he’d reverse it. “We should be expanding state control, not giving it away to the federal government,” Allred declared. “If we want wolves de-listed, we need to stay in the game.”

He contended Otter’s move would harm the state’s efforts to win federal approval for a big wolf-kill in the Lolo district, and to push both in Congress and in court to get wolves again removed from the endangered species list. “With state control, Idaho monitors the wolf population and their predation rates on wildlife and livestock,” he said. “That’s the only way to show Congress, the courts and federal agencies that we can do the job they can’t. … We’re giving away our strongest argument at a critical time.” He added, “We’ve just, in a fit of anger, thrown up our hands and said we won’t play.”

Allred also called for ending the state’s contracts with Molina Health and with DentaQuest, two major Medicaid contracts that have run into big problems in recent months. “I will never claim to have balanced the budget by refusing, for any period of time, to reimburse the small businesses that provide services on behalf of the state,” Allred said. “Idaho can’t afford to see what Otter’s next mistake will be.”

Meridian Chamber endorses Minnick

A day after the Meridian Chamber of Commerce hosted a candidate forum for 1st District congressional candidates, the Meridian Chamber PAC has announced it has decided to endorse incumbent Congressman Walt Minnick in the race. “It was a real treat for the Meridian Chamber to host this forum,” said Cameron Arial, the chamber PAC’s chairman. “We express thanks to the candidates for their sacrifice and dedication to Meridian and the 1st Congressional District of Idaho.”

The chamber PAC said it endorsed Minnick “based on both his voting record in Congress over the last two years, and his expressed positions that were favorable to putting America back to work while fighting the huge federal deficit.” It also cited his business experience. Click below to read the full announcement.

Ad Watch: Allred faults Otter for state of Idaho’s economy

A new campaign commercial from Keith Allred, the Democratic candidate for governor of Idaho, blames GOP Gov. Butch Otter for the state of Idaho’s economy, saying Otter “focused on helping special-interest cronies instead of creating jobs.” Allred cites a big decline in the rate of personal income growth in Idaho since Otter took office, compared to surrounding states, along with a drop-off in the growth rate from 2006 to 2008 for the state’s gross domestic product, the very measure Otter has targeted to grow with his “Project 60” economic initiative.

Otter’s campaign counters that a USA Today article just named Idaho one of the states “leading the nation’s crawl out” of the recession, which noted that Idaho rose from 50th in the nation for personal-income growth during the recession years, to 10th since the recession officially ended in June of 2009. The article called that “the USA’s biggest rebound.” “National accolades don’t just happen without true leadership,” declared Ryan Panitz, spokesman for Otter’s campaign. “Gov. Otter made the necessary changes to government and got people working together to better our economy.”

Actually, said Boise State University economics professor Don Holley, “The economy’s not doing very poorly, and it’s not doing very well - it’s just like every other state, it’s kind of reached the bottom and not moved off of it.” The best and most up-to-date statistics on the state of the economy, he said, are employment and unemployment. Idaho had very low unemployment rates before the recession, but “we got worse faster than almost anybody else,” he said, led by the collapse of a highly speculative housing market. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

New Allred TV ad hits Otter on economy

Democratic candidate for governor Keith Allred has launched a new television commercial, which is airing statewide including the Spokane TV market, criticizing incumbent Gov. Butch Otter over the economy; you can watch it here. Coming soon: A look at the claims.

For-profit ed firm K-12 Inc. mounts independent campaign backing Luna

K12 Management Inc., a for-profit curriculum developer based in Virginia that provides the curriculum for Idaho’s largest online charter school, today donated $25,000 to a Nampa-based political committee, Idahoans for Choice in Education, which immediately spent $25,000 on an Arizona firm to handle broadcast advertising and production in an independent campaign supporting the re-election of incumbent state Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna.

The donation and expenditure were reported in required 48-hour notices of independent campaign expenditures within two weeks of the election, filed today with the Idaho Secretary of State’s office. The Idaho Virtual Academy, which uses the K12 curriculum, is the largest of Idaho’s seven online public charter schools, which allow students around the state to learn online from home under their parents’ supervision at state expense, rather than attend their local schools. Last year, the IDVA had 2,817 students enrolled, according to the state Department of Education.

Labrador, Minnick clash over ‘letter-marking’

NPR today aired a national story based on an investigation by the Center for Public Integrity into so-called “letter-marking,” or congressmen writing letters to agencies to request funding for specific projects, as opposed to earmarks, in which specific projects are funded in congressional bills. Idaho Congressman Walt Minnick was among those highlighted for opposing earmarks, but writing letters promoting projects from his state seeking stimulus funds, though he strenuously argued that the letters are nothing like earmarks. Instead, he said such letters merely show a congressman’s support for consideration for projects from his state; the funds were given out in competitive grants.

Minnick’s GOP opponent, Raul Labrador, brought up the NPR report at a Meridian Chamber of Commerce debate today, saying, “We come to find out that he has been looking for earmarks through a back-door approach, and I am completely against it. … It was NPR and the Center for Public Integrity that called him out, it wasn’t Raul Labrador.” Minnick’s campaign then responded this afternoon by listing bills Labrador voted for in the Idaho Legislature that spent stimulus funds. “Only one candidate in this race voted for stimulus money, and it was Raul Labrador,” said Minnick campaign spokesman John Foster.

Click below for a full report from AP reporter Jessie Bonner; you can hear the NPR story here.

Allred blasts Otter over DentaQuest

Democratic candidate for governor Keith Allred is blasting Gov. Butch Otter over the DentaQuest contract issue, on which Otter today announced a reversal, keeping all previously contracted dentists in the state Medicaid contract. Otter’s announcement came after a meeting with stakeholders he convened today. “There’s a right way and a wrong way to make changes,” Allred said in a statement. “Butch Otter’s ‘just kidding’ style of leadership is reckless.” He said Otter has “repeatedly made decisions which needed to be hastily reconsidered,” from eliminating state funding for parks and Idaho Public Television to pushing for a gas tax increase in 2008 and 2009. You can read Allred’s full statement here.

Otter announces reversal, DentaQuest will let dentists back into state contract

Gov. Butch Otter today announced the reversal of a move to kick hundreds of Idaho dentists off the state’s Medicaid program, a move that left both the dentists and their low-income patients scrambling. Otter, who convened a stakeholders meeting today, was put on the spot over the move in a televised debate last week against his Democratic challenger, Keith Allred, and independent challenger Jana Kemp.

“I appreciate all the leaders accepting my invitation to work this out together,” Otter said in a news release this afternoon. “That continuing discussion has gone a long way toward clearing up the misunderstandings among dentists and patients about changes to the Idaho Smiles program that led to over-generalization at last week’s televised debate about the reasons that some providers were not extended new contracts.”

You can click below to read Otter’s full release; it says the “Idaho Smiles” Medicaid program is being reopened to all previously contracted dental care providers. During the debate, Otter said the 150 to 200 dentists were being kicked out of the program for “doing too much … actually over-providing for their patients.” Allred criticized the move, which gave the dentists just 30 days notice, as typical of Otter’s leadership style, saying, “He just consults a very narrow group. … The dentists were happy to adjust - you’ve just got to talk to them, Gov. Otter.”

Minnick: ‘I have the skill set to do a business-like job’

Congressman Walt Minnick stressed his business experience in a forum before the Meridian Chamber of Commerce today. “I think I have the skill set to go back and work with my colleagues across the aisle to do a business-like job,” he said. Independent Dave Olson responded that his opponents have “wonderful backgrounds,” but said, “We’re going to try things in the future and not sit on our hind ends and say, ‘20 years ago I did thus and such.’ … It’s what you do in the future that’s going to make a difference.”

GOP challenger Raul Labrador said, “If you’re happy with what Pelosi and Obama are doing in Washington, D.C., I’m not your candidate.” He said Minnick has voted against some major Democratic proposals that he also would have opposed, but he said they still passed. “I would’ve stopped those things, just like I stopped legislation in the Idaho House of Representatives,” Labrador said. “I was successful in making sure that we did not have a gas tax in the middle of a recession - whether you agree with me or not, I think you have to give me a little bit of credit for actually fighting for my principles and fighting for things I believe in.”

Labrador: Dems ‘destroying our nation’

Among the comments so far at the Meridian Chamber of Commerce 1st CD candidate forum: GOP candidate Raul Labrador said, “The Democratic Party is destroying our nation.” He said “the worst thing we can do” is send Democratic Congressman Walt Minnick back for a second term.

Minnick, who like Labrador was responding to a question about how to reduce the federal deficit, said, “We’re going to have to do some things that are unpopular and Draconian. … There can’t be any sacred cows. … All options need to be left on the table. We must balance the federal budget. Send me back - it’ll be my No. 1 priority.”

Labrador’s comment on reducing the deficit: First extend the Bush tax cuts.

1st CD candidates face off in Meridian

The Meridian Chamber of Commerce is hosting a forum in the 1st Congressional District race today, featuring Congressman Walt Minnick, GOP challenger Raul Labrador and independent candidate Dave Olson. In his opening comments, Minnick told the crowd, “There’s no question but what our country’s in trouble.” Solutions to the nation’s problems, he said, “can only be done by the two parties working together and from the middle. They’re too toxic to be done by one party by itself.”

Olson, in his opening remarks, said, “The reason I’m running is because I’m not happy with the direction our country is going. … In a lot of cases I think it’s the guy in the middle who’s going to be able to work with either party getting things done.”

Labrador read a letter from a constituent who lost a high-paying job and is now working for $10 an hour, as is his wife, who is no longer able to stay at home full-time with their daughter. “I am running because of this man and every other man like him who in the last two years have lost their jobs,” Labrador said. He said the recession under the Obama Administration “has destroyed American enterprise, and I want to help the American people turn that around.”

Moscow senate candidate says religious mailers were hoax

Here’s a news item from the Associated Press, via the Moscow-Pullman Daily News: MOSCOW, Idaho (AP) — Republican State Senate candidate Gresham Bouma denies sending out religious-leaning mailers in Latah County that urged voters to become true believers or be “struck down.” Bouma’s campaign is offering a $1,000 reward for information on the postcards, which were made to look as if they carried his endorsement and told voters: “You are not a true Christian and you are on the path to hell.” The Latah County prosecutor’s office is also investigating the mailer, which said a vote for Bouma was not enough and urged voters to join Freeze Community Church, which Bouma’s family attends. Pastor Lloyd Knerr says his church has never prayed to “strike down” anyone. Bouma beat nine-term Republican senator Gary Schroeder during the primary and faces Democrat Dan Schmidt in November.

Click below to read a joint statement from the Latah County Democratic and Republican party chairmen disavowing the postcard.

Minnick’s legislative batting record exceeds other Idaho frosh reps

Freshman Rep. Walt Minnick has sponsored more legislation, and seen more of it pass, than any other first-term U.S. House member from Idaho in the past two decades. A Spokesman-Review analysis shows that Minnick has sponsored 27 bills or amendments in his two years in Congress, and 10 passed. Three more bills are lined up for possible passage when Congress reconvenes in November. Minnick’s measures range from successful tweaks to major Democratic legislation, like financial reform, to his own smaller version of a stimulus bill. He’s championed expanding job-training programs, banning earmarks, increasing veterans’ benefits and reforming the commercial credit market. A dozen of the bills Minnick sponsored were co-sponsored by Idaho GOP congressman Mike Simpson.

By comparison, in his freshman term in Congress in 1999-2000, Simpson sponsored nine bills and one amendment; one bill passed. Minnick’s predecessor in the Idaho 1st Congressional District, Republican Bill Sali, sponsored 16 bills and four amendments in his two years in office; one bill and two amendments passed. Minnick’s tally, both for sponsoring and passing legislation, also exceeds the first-term numbers for former Idaho 1st District Reps. Butch Otter, Helen Chenoweth and Larry LaRocco, the last Democrat to hold the seat.

Minnick’s GOP challenger, Raul Labrador, said, “I think the real question is how many jobs did these bills bring to Idaho? … Congress with Minnick’s assistance continues to spend too much money, over-regulate and tax us more.” You can read my full story here, and see the results of the bills-sponsored analysis in a bar chart here.

Minnick, Labrador pile up campaign cash for final stretch

Idaho Congressman Walt Minnick had nearly half a million dollars cash left in his campaign warchest heading into the final stretch of the campaign, more than three times as much as GOP rival Raul Labrador. In campaign finance reports filed today, Labrador reported raising $255,832 in campaign contributions in the last quarter, spending $178,253 and ending the period on Sept. 30 with $134,323. He also reported $2,000 in new contributions on Friday, $1,000 from a civil engineer in Puerto Rico and $1,000 from the Ada County Republicans. To date, he’s raised a total of $544,725 for his campaign, including $100,000 in loans of his own funds.

Minnick reported raising $524,958 in the last quarter, spending $1.18 million, and ending the period with $482,083. He also reported $13,600 in new contributions Friday, $3,000 of that from political action committees and the rest from individuals in Washington, D.C., New York and Massachusetts. To date, Minnick has raised nearly $2.5 million, and has $250,000 in loans of his own funds outstanding from his 2008 campaign but no new debt. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Latest Minnick ad faults Labrador on domestic violence votes

Idaho Congressman Walt Minnick has launched two new campaign commercials, one touting his work on veterans’ issues and the other criticizing GOP challenger Raul Labrador for his votes in the Idaho Legislature on domestic violence issues. Labrador has no beef with the veterans’ ad, which highlights Minnick’s Army service and his work on legislation to expand benefits for veterans and their families. But he takes sharp issue with the domestic violence ad, which features the mother of Angie Leon, a young Nampa woman who was killed by her abusive husband in 2003.

Labrador said his votes on bills in 2007 and 2008 couldn’t have saved Leon’s life in 2003. “I think it’s a shameful ad, because it seems to imply that if we would have passed the legislation that he’s talking about, that this poor family would have been prevented the tragedy that fell upon them. … In a political season, I could never conceive of using a family’s tragedy for my political purposes.” Minnick’s campaign defended the ad, saying Labrador has a “very troubling record on domestic violence issues.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com, and see the veterans ad here and the domestic violence ad here.

Last night’s 1st CD debate…

The Idaho Statesman’s Kevin Richert offers a breakdown here of last night’s 1st CD debate - who won, who lost, and how it went. It’s an interesting take. And here’s some background from the Statesman’s Dan Popkey on the Reagan tax issue that came up during the debate. As one of the reporter panelists, I found it to be a really good and lively debate, with each of the candidates having some fine moments and some low points. Among them: Raul Labrador displayed his formidable rhetorical skills and had the audience, which wasn’t supposed to be demonstrative, laughing out loud at some of his more creative cracks at Walt Minnick. Minnick articulated, for the first time I’ve heard, why he’s a Democrat. And independent Dave Olson pounded this point: “I’m the only independent in the race, period … I’m the only one that’s not obligated to either party.”

If you missed the debate, you can watch it online here.

Debate wraps up…

Wow, that was quite a debate. It just wrapped up, and the “Takeaway” online discussion is about to begin; you can watch here (click on “Watch Live”). Click below for a complete report on the debate from Associated Press reporter Jessie Bonner.