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Crapo’s a committee kind of guy

Sat., Nov. 22, 2008

BOISE – For the third straight session of Congress, Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo has been appointed to head the Senate Republicans’ Committee on Committees.

Now, that might not sound like much – a committee on committees? But it’s the panel that decides which committees GOP senators are assigned to. And this time around, longtime Idaho Sen. Larry Craig, who commanded several key committee posts, is stepping down, and freshman GOP Sen. Jim Risch is taking his place. Risch’s committee assignments will be key to the new senator’s ability to accomplish things for his home state.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said, like before, he thinks Crapo’s the one for the job when it comes to committees. “He has done a superior job of negotiating committee assignments during the last two Congresses, and I have full confidence that Mike will continue to make the conscientious and deliberative decisions which made him a natural choice to head the Committee on Committees,” McConnell said in a statement.

For his part, Crapo, who co-chaired Risch’s campaign, has promised to help Risch navigate the Washington waters, including those leading to committee assignments.

‘A very tough environment’

The news from the state Endowment Fund Investment Board, which reported to the state Land Board this week about the endowment’s investment earnings, was anything but sunny. The fund lost 13.8 percent in October and as of Oct. 31 had lost 21.9 percent of its value for the fiscal year to date.

“The results in November have not been good either,” investments manager Larry Johnson told the Land Board. “We’ve lost about 7.5 percent … for the first part of November.” Yet, he said, “All of our investment managers are performing as we would expect in this type of environment – it’s a very tough environment.”

Revenues from state endowment lands, which, like the fund, benefit public schools and other state institutions, have been “running about equal or better” so far this fiscal year, Johnson said.

The fiscal year, which ended July 1, the fund had a total investment loss before fees of 2.1 percent. That compares to an average gain of 10.2 percent over the last five years.

Pols share credit across party lines

This must be the new spirit of bipartisanship and unity that we’ve been hearing about nationally since the election: A joint news release headed, “Crapo, Simpson, Bieter help retain rail jobs.” The occasion: A federal waiver was denied for the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority to purchase 28 passenger rail locomotives from a Spanish firm rather than from the only qualifying domestic bidder, MotivePower Inc. of Boise.

GOP Sen. Mike Crapo and GOP Congressman Mike Simpson joined with Boise Mayor Dave Bieter, a former Democratic legislator, to push the Federal Transit Authority to reject the request for a waiver from the “Buy American Act” for the federally funded purchase. If the Boise firm lost that business to the foreign company, hundreds of Idaho jobs could’ve been at risk.

In the joint news release, Bieter said, “I’m pleased that the FTA saw the wisdom of allowing U.S. companies to compete fairly. My hat is off to Sen. Mike Crapo and Rep. Mike Simpson for all their hard work to keep these jobs in Idaho.”

The FTA’s deputy administrator informed the Massachusetts transit authority that it hadn’t “established sufficient grounds for a public interest waiver,” as it had neither shown that a waiver benefiting the foreign firm would introduce “significant new technology” or that it would “benefit the riding public.”

Minnick: ‘Very sorry it happened’

Idaho Congressman-elect Walt Minnick, asked about the Idaho Democratic Party anti-Bill Sali flier that included an illustration that revealed the Social Security numbers of Congressman Sali and his wife, said he’s talked to the party about the incident.

“It was an unfortunate oversight – it shouldn’t have happened,” Minnick said. “I am very sorry it happened. It was inadvertent.”

The flier, mailed to households throughout the 1st Congressional District, criticized incumbent Sali in part for his financial problems, including campaign debt and past tax problems; its illustrations included a photo of a state tax lien from 1988 for then-unpaid state income taxes on which the Salis’ Social Security numbers were shown. Sali’s campaign criticized the mailing as “despicable” and said it exposed the Salis to possible identity theft. The Idaho Attorney General’s consumer protection unit advised Idahoans who received the flier to shred it.

Betsy Z. Russell can be reached toll-free at (866) 336-2854 or For more news from Boise go to www.spokesmanreview. com/boise.

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