Latest from The Spokesman-Review
Here's a link to my full story at spokesman.com on today's court decision upholding Idaho's Sunshine Law and ordering a secret-donations group to reveal its donors by Wednesday. Fourth District Judge Mike Wetherell ordered Education Voters of Idaho to disclose its donors by 3 p.m. on Halloween. The group must “file all required further reports when required or face sanctions,” the judge wrote. Possible sanctions include fines and penalties contained in the state's Sunshine Law. In addition, anyone flouting a court order could be held in contempt by the court, and even jailed until they comply with the order.
Christ Troupis, attorney for EVI, said he's reviewing the decision and considering an appeal to the Idaho Supreme Court. Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, who sued to enforce the Sunshine Law's disclosure requirements, pointed to a clause in the law that forbids groups from concealing the true source of funds used in campaigns. Wetherell cited that clause from the law twice in his decision, once in bold-face. "Idaho law is clear and unambiguous," he wrote. "There can be no anonymous contributions either in favor of or in opposition to Propositions 1, 2 and 3." He also pointed to a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision in a 2010 Washington case, Human Life of Washington Inc., that upheld that state's similar disclosure requirement.
Fourth District Judge Mike Wetherell has ruled in favor of the state of Idaho in its lawsuit seeking disclosure of the secret donors to a campaign against three Idaho ballot measures; Wetherell ordered Education Voters of Idaho to disclose its donors by 3 p.m. this Wednesday, Halloween. The group must "file all required further reports when required or face sanctions," the judge wrote. You can read his 19-page decision here.
Wrote Wetherell, "A failure by the Defendants to follow the requirements of the Sunshine Initiative is in violation of the rights of Idaho citizens as provided by law, and a failure to grant injunctive relief at this time would permit the law to be violated with impunity and would result in irreparable harm to the voters of Idaho whose rights under the Sunshine Initiative the Secretary of State is charged with protecting."
The latest campaign commercial opposing Idaho's school reform ballot measures draws on a variety of criticisms of the measures to suggest they hamper teachers in doing their jobs. "We want to give your children the best education - but the Luna laws make that harder," says the ad, which is airing statewide, including in the Spokane-Coeur d'Alene market. The ad cites an array of criticisms of the measures, some directly related to the propositions and others more general, from school funding issues to parent fees.
"You have significant number of undecided, and I expect to some extent, bewildered voters who are trying to sort all of this out," said Jim Weatherby, emeritus professor at Boise State University. "I think some bewildered voters vote no or don't vote at all. I'm not suggesting that is their intent, but I think it could be an unintended consequence." You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
4th District Judge Mike Wetherell, after taking close to an hour of arguments from both sides in the secret-donations case, said he's going to try to have his opinion out by 5 p.m. today. "I don't know whether I'll make it, but I'm going to attempt to," he said. He added that the parties are "going to run out of here to the Supreme Court as soon as the opinion's done anyway, I'm sure," and Christ Troupis, attorney for Education Voters of Idaho, laughed heartily.
Asked afterward, he said if the secretive group that ran statewide TV ads backing Propositions 1, 2 and 3 doesn't prevail today in its bid to head off the Secretary of State's demands that it reveal the sources of the money for the campaign under the Idaho Sunshine Law, he will appeal to the Idaho Supreme Court. "These are important issues," Troupis said. "This needs to be a considered decision."
He maintained that EVI, which was formed on the same day and by the same people as a political committee that placed the TV ads, is akin to the Idaho Statesman newspaper or Micron Corp. in engaging in politics - the newspaper through endorsing candidates, and Micron in donating corporate funds to a PAC. But Deputy Attorney General Brian Kane argued that EVI is different, and that its activities show a clear effort to evade the Sunshine law and avoid disclosure. "There is a need for disclosure. The public has a right to know," Kane told the court. "This is the court's opportunity to let that sun shine."
Today is the absolute, no fooling, last day to register to vote in Washington. Any Washington citizen not registered by today will have to sit out this year's general election, which is kind of a shame, considering all the political ads you'll have to endure, for naught.
To register, you have to show up in person at your county elections office with a state-issued ID or supply the last four digits of your Social Security number.. Don't know where your county elections office is? Click here to find out.
Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton also suggests showing up early. In 2008, there was a big rush at the end of the last day. The office at 1033 W. Gardner closes at 4 p.m., and anyone not in line by then won’t be allowed to register.
If you live in Idaho, you can relax. It allows registration on Election Day.
Although television is full of 30-second campaign commercials, the Internet is awash in longer videos from diferent groups that have so much to say and show that it won't fit in that restricted time frame.
With a little extra time, they can go above and beyond… sometimes way beyond … what the campaigns are .doing. Here are a couple.
The first is from an independent SuperPAC, Winning our Future, which predicts the first sign of the Apocalypse will be an Obama re-election.
The second is from an anti-Romney group that collects the comments of the Republican presidential candidates from primary season.
Both are entertaining from a purely political standpoint. Which one you like better will probably be based on how you plan to vote for president.
2nd District GOP Rep. Mike Simpson and his Democratic challenger, state Sen. Nicole LeFavour, debated on live TV last night in the "Idaho Debates." You can watch the full debate online here. The two clashed over women's issues, from pay inequity to lawmakers' comments about rape. “For many women it’s been a rough year to watch Congress,” LeFavour told Simpson, “and I’m sorry you have participated in that.” He responded, “I’m sorry you feel that way, because it’s absolutely not true.” Idaho Statesman reporter Rocky Barker has a full report on the debate here.
The two also debated deficit reduction, energy funding and the Idaho National Laboratory, jobs, forest fire management and more. Simpson is a seventh-term congressman and former Idaho House speaker who chairs a key House appropriations subcommittee. LeFavour is an outspoken fourth-term state lawmaker who's served two terms in the Idaho House and two in the Senate; click below for a profile of the race by AP reporter John Miller.
Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) ― The eight-year, $180 million pact with Hewlett-Packard Co. for laptops required under public schools chief Tom Luna's education overhaul is dividing Idaho's Republican lawmakers. Rep. Lynn Luker of Boise said Friday during a meeting inside the Capitol the price was "double pretty much what we anticipated." Sen. John Goedde of Coeur d'Alene countered it's only 10 percent above estimates. Who's right? In 2011, Luna estimated the five-year cost at $70.8 million, or $14.6 million annually. For the first five years of the actual H-P contract, the cost is $82 million, about 16 percent higher, conceded Luna spokeswoman Melissa McGrath. And over eight years, the average annual cost runs $22.5 million, well over Luna's estimate when calculated yearly. Voters weigh in on the computers and Luna's additional education changes Nov. 6.
Wednesday is Halloween. While it is mostly a holiday devoted to raising the blood sugar levels of small children, it is also a time when older youths wander around looking for trouble to get into.
Among the easiest targets for such mischief are campaign yard signs. Mustaches and devils horns get spray-painted onto candidate faces, obscenities get scrawled on issue signs and some just flat disappear, never to be seen again.
While it may infringe slightly on your First Amendment rights of political speech, it might be wise to uproot your signs Tuesday, store them in a garage, basement or backyard until Thursday.
If you don’t, and something happens to them, don’t call the newspaper to report some deep plot by the opposing candidate or issue campaign to steal your sign.
Monday is the last day to register to vote in
To do so, you must show up with a state-issued ID or supply the last four digits of your Social Security number.
Several court decisions make clear that political contributions are protected political speech, so in most cases donors are free to make them. Missing from all the discussions about the kinds and limits of the donations, however, is the responsibility of the people on the other end of the campaign money train.
Along with the right to take gobs of money, don’t recipients have a duty to check out who is giving?
Vetting everyone who gives $10 obviously isn’t practical, and it might take the great minds of politics to determine what the trigger for a background check should be. But certainly when one accepts a five-figure check, someone on staff should be ordered to find out the bare bones 411. That may have saved the state Democratic Party some headaches, and a case of the flip-flops, last week over some $60,000 it received in recent months from J Z Knight…
To read the rest of this post, see videos of Knight or comment, go inside the blog
Here's a link to my full story at spokesman.com on last night's lively debate between Idaho GOP Rep. Raul Labrador and his Democratic challenger, Jimmy Farris. During the face-off, Labrador backed raising the Social Security retirement age to 70, cutting a third of the staff at the Pentagon and banning all abortions other than those to save the life of the mother. Farris differed sharply on the retirement age and abortion, but found common ground with Labrador on trimming military spending. "I think there are a number of places that we would agree and admit that we can find savings," Farris said. "If Pentagon staff is one of them, I'd certainly like to look at it."
Labrador said people are living much longer now than they were when Social Security and Medicare were started, and people like himself, at age 44, have to recognize "that I'm going to have a different program than exists today." Farris disagreed, saying a better way to ensure the solvency of Social Security would be to raise the cap on earnings subject to the Social Security tax.
On abortion, Labrador said he opposes making exceptions for victims of rape or incest. "I think life begins at conception, so I believe it's important that we protect life," he said. Farris said, "This is an issue where we strongly disagree. I do support a woman's right to choose what happens to her body. … I don't think it's the government's place to be making decisions for women about their health care." You can watch the full debate online at idahoptv.org.
The secret-donations case has now been assigned to a new state judge and a new hearing date and time set. Fourth District Judge Mike Wetherell will hear from both sides Monday at 1:30, on the state's motion for a court order forcing Education Voters of Idaho to disclose the source of the more than $200,000 it collected for a statewide TV ad campaign in favor of Propositions 1, 2 and 3 on the November ballot, the "Students Come First" school reform measures. EVI has maintained it's exempt from the state Sunshine Law's requirement to disclose its contributors; the state strongly disagrees, and is seeking disclosure before the fast-approaching Nov. 6 election.
Secret-donations case bounced back to state court, but today’s hearing is off - EVI wants a new judge
Here's an update from AP reporter John Miller: BOISE, Idaho (AP) ― A lawsuit to force a group touting public schools chief Tom Luna's education overhaul to reveal still-secret financiers is back in state court. The group, Education Voters of Idaho, sought a shift to federal court, to help it fight Secretary of State Ben Ysursa's demands. But on Friday, Ysursa's attorney and the group's lawyer, Christ Troupis, signed papers agreeing to contest the matter in 4th District Court. Even so, a hearing on Ysursa's lawsuit that had been set for Friday at 1:30 p.m. has been postponed ― and the original state judge removed from the case. Ysursa demands EVI disclose names of donors of more than $200,000 to broadcast ads promoting Luna's education changes before the Nov. 6 election. Troupis argues his group has the right to conceal donors' identities.
Bob Cooper, spokesman for the Idaho Attorney General's office, said, "My understanding is that the other side wants a different judge." No new hearing date has yet been set. "But they are talking," Cooper said, "and they're trying to get a new judge named and get a hearing set for Monday."
… even he has to show ID.
In August, state Rep. Matt Shea appeared to be mending bridges in the local Republican Party.
He attended a meeting of the Republicans of Spokane County and won the group's endorsement. The Republicans of Spokane County is an organization that formed a few years ago among some Republicans concerned that the official Spokane County Republican Party had been taken over by Libertarians and Constitutionalists not dedicated to party unity after the primaries.
Shea, who was an effective leader in the Ron Paul for president campaign, has been outspoken in his criticism of "mainstream Republicans." In the primary, he declined to offer a recommendation for incumbent Republican and nationally recognized GOP leader, U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers in the race for Congress. For governor, he supported Shahram Hadian over Attorney General Rob McKenna.
The state of Idaho has filed a motion in federal court to remand the secret-donations case back to state court, after attorney Christ Troupis, representing Education Voters of Idaho, filed a motion yesterday to remove the case to federal court. Troupis claimed it should go there because the issue involves the First Amendment and 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
In legal documents filed in federal court this morning, the Idaho Attorney General's office writes that "not one word" of the Secretary of State's complaint against the secretive group was grounded in the 1st Amendment, the 14th Amendment, "or any other provision of federal law. The substantive law to be applied was the Idaho Sunshine Initiative found at Idaho Code 67-6601." 4th District Judge Deborah Bail had scheduled a hearing for 1:30 p.m. today in state court on the state's bid for a court order forcing EVI to disclose its funding sources. It's now unclear whether that hearing will take place today or not.
The group funneled more than $200,000 in anonymous donations into statewide TV ads in favor of Propositions 1, 2 and 3 on the November ballot, and is refusing Secretary of State Ben Ysursa's demand that it disclose the donors under Idaho's Sunshine Law. You can read the state's latest filing here.
The state's lawyers argue that EVI is wrongly attempting to use the process of removing the case to federal court to delay disclosure until after the election, which is just 11 days away. "Defendants should not be able to use the processes of Federal District Court removal to postpone their day of reckoning under Idaho law until after the general election is over," they write. They also argue that federal law clearly allows removal only when federal issues are cited in the original complaint, not when the defendant cites a federal issue in its defense.
Register to vote today, or wait in a really long line on Monday.
That’s the message from Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton for those who want to vote in the November election but still aren’t registered.
Monday is the deadline to register, but Dalton warns that in 2008 — the last presidential election year, the county elections office was slammed on the deadline date.
About 150 gathered for U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell’s campaign rally this evening in Spokane at the Lincoln Center.
There wasn’t much we haven’t heard on the trail before, so here are a few miscellaneous thoughts:
— The Democrats appear enthused about the race for Congress. Sure, it’s still somewhat of long-shot for them and Democrat Rich Cowan did not come near to raising the $1 million he said was his goal when he began his campaign for the seat in Washington’s 5th Congressional District.
But he’s not Daryl Romeyn, who was the party’s nominee two years ago and who was not embraced by the party. Cowan has raised enough to advertise on TV and he even got a mention recently in the Capital Hill newspaper, Roll Call.
The secret-donations group that's fighting an attempt by Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa to force it to reveal its contributors before the election has filed a request to move the court case over the matter to federal court, the AP reports. The move by Education Voters of Idaho, which paid for more than $200,000 in statewide TV ads in favor of Propositions 1, 2 and 3 on the November ballot, came just hours before a Boise judge is scheduled to hear the state's motion for a court order against the group. Click below for a full report from AP reporter John Miller.
OLYMPIA — President Obama gave a thumbs up to Referendum 74, the ballot measure in Washington that would legalize same-sex marriage, supporters said today.
Not a huge surprise, considering Obama came out in support of same-sex marriage earlier this year, a few months after the Legislature passed the law behind Ref. 74 and Gov. Chris Gregoire signed it. So it was generally known he favors the concept.
Thursday he went a step further. Obama campaign spokesman Paul Bell said the president doesn't weigh in on every state ballot measure, but will on this one: "Washington’s same-sex marriage law would treat all Washington couples equally, and that is why the President supports a vote to approve Referendum 74."
The Washington Post Magazine has an extensive story today about Idaho Democratic congressional candidate Jimmy Farris, the former NFL football player and first-time candidate who's running against 1st District GOP Rep. Raul Labrador. The article, headed, "Election 2012: Former Redskins player Jimmy Farris in the run of his life in Idaho," is a warts-and-all tale of a neophyte candidate who takes on a political contest facing long odds, and particularly financially, discovers just how hard it can be. It's an interesting read; you can read it here.
OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire served warning today to her two would-be successors that the budget plans they push on the campaign trail won't work, and they'll need to find some sort of new revenue — usually translated as a tax increase — to balance the budget and meet the demand for better public schools.
At a press conference to announce a new federal waiver that will help the state save money by developing a new program for residents eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid, Gregoire said she was looking at a revenue increase for the 2013-15 budget she will propose next month.
Former U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, a fellow Democrat, and Attorney General Rob McKenna, a Republican, both have said they will not raise taxes if they are elected. Gregoire essentially dismissed that talk as standard campaign rhetoric.
"I'm not running for office," she said. They're candidates and "I'm a realist."
"I'm telling both candidates I don't know how you can meet your obligations for McLeary without new revenue," she said, referring to a state Supreme Court ruling that says the state needs to spend more to meet its constitutional requirements to fund basic education.
Inslee has said he can avoid a tax increase, in part, by finding savings in the state budget through the use of better management, known as "Lean" management. But Gregoire has already institute Lean management, and attended a conference earlier this week to discuss the progress made so far. It won't provide enough savings to free up the $1.1 billion needed to meet the needed improvements to public schools in 2013-15, she said, adding that she still supports Inslee, even though she disagrees with him on this.
McKenna is also wrong when he says he can find the money for better schools by capping the growth of other state programs, she said. Many programs aren't scheduled to grow as much as his proposed cap, and when costs go up in some programs, driven by a growing number of children in schools, families on social services or felons in prisons, the state doesn't have the flexibility not to pay.
"When your case load goes up, you have to match it," she said.
Both candidates have mentioned closing tax loopholes — credits or exemptions offered to certain businesses or industries to stimulate the economy and increase jobs. Gregoire said she said the same thing in 2004, when she was a first-time candidate for governor. But each exemption has a constituency that lobbied the Legislature to approve it, and will fight to keep it.
"You better be ready with a two-thirds vote" in both houses, which is what is currently required for removing any exemptions, she said.
Gregoire does have her budget staff reviewing ways to increase state revenues to include in the 2013-15 budget that she will propose later this year. "I have to, as part of my budget, put forth a solution."
They're looking for something that has the capacity to grow, would be considered fair, and survive a vote of the public, she said.
"I don't know what that is," she said. "Nothing is off the table."
Dozens if not hundreds of fliers left on cars and doorsteps against Spokane City Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin’s campaign for state Senate could violate state disclosure law.
The black-and-white fliers that appear to be printed with a copy machine or computer printer criticize McLaughlin, a Republican, for her vote in support of revoking the alcohol impact area in the West Central neighborhood. One version of the flier said, “Nancy McLaughlin voted for fortified malt liquor sales over safe neighborhoods. We don’t need that kind of representation in Olympia.”
Idaho GOP Congressman Raul Labrador will debate his Democratic challenger, Jimmy Farris, tonight on live statewide TV. The debate starts at 8 p.m. Mountain time, 7 p.m. Pacific time on Idaho Public Television; it'll run for an hour, and take place before a live audience in the state Capitol Auditorium. The public is invited to attend, and is asked to arrive early; doors will close several minutes before the live broadcast begins.
The event is part of the Idaho Debates, sponsored by the League of Women Voters, the Idaho Press Club and Idaho Public Television, along with an array of other sponsors; they've been a tradition in Idaho election contests for more than three decades. There's more info here.
Greg Hahn of Idaho Public TV will moderate tonight's debate; reporters who will question the candidates include myself, Dan Popkey of the Idaho Statesman, and Scott Logan of KBOI2 News. On Sunday night, the Idaho Debates will feature the 2nd Congressional District race, with GOP Congressman Mike Simpson debating his Democratic challenger, state Sen. Nicole LeFavour. That debate will begin at 7 p.m., also in the Capitol Auditorium before a live audience; Hahn will moderate, and reporter panelists will be Melissa Davlin of the Twin Falls Times-News, Clark Corbin of the Idaho Falls Post Register, and Emilie Ritter-Saunders of StateImpact Idaho.
The latest TV campaign commercial from opponents of Idaho's school reform propositions focuses on the number of Idaho teachers who have left the profession since the laws passed in 2011. "Since the Legislature passed Props 1, 2 and 3, over 1,800 Idaho teachers have left teaching," the ad says. That claim is based on data compiled by the state Department of Education. The department's data shows that 1,884 certificated Idaho teachers left the profession of teaching in the 2011-2012 school year, a number that rose sharply from the 1,276 who left in the 2010-2011 year. Both those figures were way up from the 2009-2010 school year, in which the data show 716 Idaho teachers left the profession, a figure that at that point had been relatively stable for three years.
That means the ad's claim is correct - if anything, it understates the figures. The laws passed during the 2011 legislative session; that was the 2010-2011 school year. So, depending on when in the year the teachers departed, it's possible that as many as 3,160 Idaho school teachers have left the profession since the reform laws passed. Read my full ad watch story here at spokesman.com.
The Spokane Ethics Commission ruled quickly on Wednesday against a complaint filed against Spokane City Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin.
Rev. James CastroLang, who leads the First Congregational United Church of Christ in Colville, filed a complaint alleging that McLaughlin violated city ethics rules when her campaign took an image from the city’s Webpage or Facebook page and used it in a campaign mailer.
McLaughlin, a Republican, is running against state Rep. Andy Billig, a Democrat, for the state Senate seat now held by retiring state Sen. Lisa Brown. CastroLang, a Spokane resident who supports Billig’s campaign, said he acted independently of the Billig campaign. He argued in his complaint that McLaughlin used city resources for her personal gain.
The AP reports that with the $180 million contract now signed for laptop computers for Idaho's high schools, lawmakers are suffering from sticker shock. In 2011, when lawmakers were considering the laptop plan, chief proponent and state schools Supt. Tom Luna and his staff estimated the cost for five years at $60.8 million. When costs for improving the wireless infrastructure are added to the equation, staff pegged the total five-year price tag at $70.8 million. Now, it's $180 million over eight years. Click below for a full report from AP reporter Todd Dvorak.
U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor stopped in Boise tonight to raise funds for Idaho GOP Rep. Raul Labrador's re-election campaign and urge Idahoans to send the freshman back to Washington for another term. "I believe in Raul," Cantor declared. "He has come in and joined this freshman class and has proven himself an independent thinker."
He also lauded Labrador's work on an immigration visa bill, the STEM jobs bill, which failed in the House last month. "He took the lead on that," Cantor said. "There's Marco Rubio in the Senate and there's Raul Labrador in the House."
Just moments later, after Cantor said he was "looking forward to a very productive lame-duck session" in Congress after the election - including action on the delayed farm bill and on debt reduction, entitlement reform and military funding - a reporter pointed out that the night before, Labrador said during a debate that he believes there should be no votes during a lame-duck session. Labrador, while debating Democratic challenger Jimmy Farris on KTVB-TV last night, said a lame-duck session that follows the election isn't the place for big decisions, when a new president could be coming in and members of Congress "are not really that excited to be back there." He declared, "Every major decision that is made during a lame-duck session is actually bad for America."
But when asked who would win that argument - him or Cantor - Labrador gestured toward Cantor with his thumb and said, "He will." "We've got some things that have to be addressed," Cantor said. "I don't want to see the sequester imposed. … We don't want that to happen. We have to vote on something like that." He said, "What's different about this year is the statute automatically will cause taxes to go up on everyone who pays taxes, if we do not do something to act to stave that off. So we're going to have to have some votes in the lame duck." Labrador said, slightly sheepishly, "He's the one who sets the schedule for the House, so he's the one who will decide. I don't think I will be."
Cantor arrived in a rainy Boise from Sacramento, and after a visit that included a quick tour of Micron Technology and the downtown fundraiser, will head back out to Montana. He's also scheduled to make stops in Salt Lake City and Phoenix. "This is all about House races," he said.
Here's the answer from state Department of Education spokeswoman Melissa McGrath as to how soon the $14.2 million "buyout" clause kicks in in the state's $180 million laptop contract, requiring the state to pay the contractor if it cancels the contract: "The buyout would not kick in until the state begins incurring costs. The state does not plan to do so until after Nov. 6. Right now, the state is in the process of working with HP and HP’s partners to develop a project plan based on the contract that was signed Tuesday. This will be done between 30-60 days from now, per the contract."
Also, it sounds like I'm not going to get the contract today. The SDE says their lawyers are still reviewing it before releasing it under the Idaho Public Records Law. "I would hope that you're going to get it tomorrow," McGrath said.