BOISE – The timing of a supportive Idaho Freedom Foundation email blast praising an embattled state lawmaker’s failed gun rights legislation is raising eyebrows.
The email arrived in the inbox of nearly every Idaho legislator and thousands of others last week just as state Rep. Mark Patterson, R-Boise, was making national news over the loss of his concealed weapons permit. The Ada County sheriff said Patterson failed to disclose a 1974 assault with intent to commit rape for which he pleaded guilty and received a withheld judgment.
Patterson claimed the local sheriff was retaliating against him after he criticized the state Sheriffs’ Association for refusing to back his legislation that would have made it a crime for state and local law enforcement officers to enforce any future federal gun restrictions. The sheriff disputes that.
Idaho Freedom Foundation President Wayne Hoffman says the timing of the email was coincidental and had nothing to do with Patterson’s case. “We just thought it was an interesting little tidbit to share,” he said.
The email, which went to a list of nearly 5,000 addresses including more than 150 Idaho legislative addresses, also noted that the Freedom Foundation scores bills and tracks lawmakers’ voting records on them. After praising Patterson’s House Bill 219 as an example of legislation advancing “constitutional principles,” the email lists the foundation’s top 10 highest-rated Idaho House members in the category of constitutional principles. Patterson is tied for seventh on the list. Senate members aren’t mentioned.
Hoffman downplayed any suggestion that his group chose to highlight the gun bill at a time when Patterson was under heavy scrutiny as a way to remind lawmakers and others that the foundation backs Patterson’s positions.
“We could have chosen any bill,” Hoffman said. “We just happened to pick that one out to identify.”
The measure passed the House this year on a straight party-line vote, with all 13 House Democrats opposing it. It died in the Senate without a committee hearing.
A March 1 Idaho Attorney General’s opinion on the bill, written in response to a request from a lawmaker about its constitutionality, concluded the measure wasn’t unconstitutional but also wouldn’t have accomplished its desired effect.
Idaho law enforcement officers don’t enforce federal laws, Deputy Attorney General Brian Kane wrote, unless a specific federal law tells them to do so. So the bill sought to impose penalties for something that doesn’t happen now.
However, if a future federal law were to order local law enforcement officers to take enforcement action, it would supersede a law like HB 219, Kane wrote.
Hoffman said the attorney general’s opinion didn’t alter the Freedom Foundation’s view that the bill “advanced constitutional objectives in a good way.”
“Our team looked at the bill and found that it advanced those two constitutional principles, the 10th Amendment and the Second Amendment,” Hoffman said.
Patterson has said he plans to reintroduce the bill.
Hoffman said the Freedom Foundation isn’t involving itself in Patterson’s case. “That’s about politics, not public policy. That’s not an issue in which we engage,” he said.
In fact, he said, the mass email was written on the previous Friday, before Patterson’s case hit the news, though it wasn’t sent out until Tuesday. “That’s just the way things work out sometimes,” Hoffman said.