Everything tagged

Latest from The Spokesman-Review

Hart won’t be excluded from hearings

House Ethics Committee Chairman Tom Loertscher said Rep. Phil Hart asked Speaker Lawerence Denney if he should attend today’s meeting, and Denney checked with Loertscher. “I said we won’t have questions for him today,” Loertscher said. “We will not exclude him from any of the hearings,” Loertscher said. Here is the letter the ethics committee sent to Hart, seeking his formal response to the charges.

Ethics Panel Has 4 Possible Outcomes

The ethics committee has four possible recommendations it can make to the House regarding Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol: Dismissal of the charges; reprimand, which requires a majority vote of House members; censure, which also requires a majority vote of the House; and expulsion, which requires a two-thirds vote of the House pursuant to Article 3, Section 11 of the Constitution. Any recommendation also could carry a sanction recommendation, such as removal from certain committees/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.

Question: Which of the options would you choose for Hart?

Hart doesn’t have to respond…

Rep. Phil Hart doesn’t have to respond to the Ethics Committee, Chairman Tom Loertscher noted. “We may not receive a response - he doesn’t have to respond if he chooses not to.” Loertscher cautioned committee members about talking with Hart. “Just so that you know, I have not been approached by Rep. Hart at all on this matter,” Loertscher said. “I would caution the committee not to have those conversations and be careful.” Loertscher said he ran into Hart in Idaho Falls during the state GOP convention, and “he avoided me like the plague - we said ‘hello’ and that’s it.” Said Loertscher, “It was very appropriate.”

The committee has set its next meeting for Thursday July 29th at 9 a.m.

Ethics panel’s four options…

The ethics committee has four possible recommendations it can make to the House regarding Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol: Dismissal of the charges; reprimand, which requires a majority vote of House members; censure, which also requires a majority vote of the House; and expulsion, which requires a two-thirds vote of the House pursuant to Article 3, Section 11 of the Constitution. Any recommendation also could carry a sanction recommendation, such as removal from certain committees.

Ethics panel: All will be done in the open

Rep. George Sayler, D-Coeur d’Alene, said he’d like the Attorney General’s office to provide the House Ethics Committee with a legal briefing on the constitutional provision regarding legislative privilege from arrest or civil process during sessions. Committee Chairman Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, said, “That certainly is appropriate.” Rep. Bill Killen, D-Boise, also asked for briefing on applicable laws. Deputy
Attorney General Brian Kane said there are two issues: The constitutional privilege provision and whether it was abused, including questions about related laws; and House Rule 38 regarding conflicts of interest. On the constitutional privilege, Kane noted, “Since there is a current, live legal proceeding with regard to that, that question may actually be answered by a court.” But that doesn’t stop the committee from ruling on the issue with regard to ethics rules, he said.

Loertscher told the committee members that as soon as he receives Hart’s response, “I’ll see that you get that the minute that I receive that, so that you have a chance to review that.” Questioned by committee Vice Chair Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, on whether that document and others in the proceeding are public, Loertscher said, “Absolutely. All of this is done in the open. There’s no executive privilege here whatsoever. Everything that I receive with regard to this I’ll make sure that you all get a copy of that.”

Ethics panel briefed on process

Deputy Attorney General Brian Kane told the ethics committee, “You have the authority to take testimony, to hear from witnesses.” The committee’s decision will be in the form of a recommendation to the full House, he said. “Only the full body can take final action.”

Ethics panel asks Hart to respond in writing

Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, chairman of the House Ethics Committee, said, “I did send a letter to Rep. Hart asking for his response. … we want to make sure that we do this correctly and that we give everybody a fair opportunity to respond.” Hart was invited in the letter to respond in writing to the ethics complaint against him. “We would expect a response back from him no later than July 14 so that we could proceed,” Loertscher said.

Ethics Panel Convenes On Phil Hart Case

A rare House Ethics Committee convenes on Tuesday morning at 9 a.m. Boise time to review the conduct of Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol. The conference-call meeting is the first since the bipartisan panel was appointed last week; it will take place in the House State Affairs committee room, East Wing Room 40 in the lower level of the state Capitol, and you can listen to a live audio stream here/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. Links to earlier stories here.

Question: How do you think the Hart ethics investigation will play out?

Ethics committee convenes, Hart isn’t here

The House Ethics Committee has convened its first meeting; Rep. Phil Hart, whose conduct is being investigated, isn’t present.

Loertscher: ‘We want to do this by the book’

This morning’s first meeting of the House Ethics Committee will focus mostly on procedure, said Chairman Tom Loertscher, R-Iona. Deputy Attorney General Brian Kane will brief the committee on the process, and Loertscher said the committee will then assign the Attorney General “to do an investigation of what we tell him to do.” Then, after the initial investigation into the conduct of Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, Loertscher expects the committee to hold a full meeting meeting in late July.

As for this morning’s gathering, at which three of the seven committee members, including the chairman, will participate in person and the other four by phone, “I don’t think we’ll be here terribly long - it just depends on how many questions the committee members have,” Loertscher said. “We want to do this by the book.”

Ethics committee on Hart to convene

A rare House Ethics Committee convenes on Tuesday morning at 9 a.m. Boise time to review the conduct of Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol. The conference-call meeting is the first since the bipartisan panel was appointed last week; it will take place in the House State Affairs committee room, East Wing Room 40 in the lower level of the state Capitol, and you can listen to a live audio stream here.

Here are links to my articles in the past month about Hart’s tax woes:
     * IRS goes after Idaho lawmaker
     * Idaho lawmaker claims extra time to appeal taxes
     * Hart used session to hold off tax man 4 times, starting in first term in office
     * House to convene ethics panel on Hart
     * Hart defends tax fight, welcomes ethics probe
     * Lawmaker also delinquent on property taxes, paid late every year since 2002

Hart To Read Declaration Sunday

For those looking for something to do before the 4th of July Parade Sunday morning, you might want to head to Independence Point, where Rep. Phil Hart will be reading the Declaration of Independence at 9:30. A Berry Picker hijacked this e-mail from an unabashed fan of the controversial legislator who’s up to his arm pits in IRS and Idaho Tax Commission alligators as a result of overdue income taxes: “Come celebrate the Declaration of Independence on its birthday, July 4thIt will be read by one of Idaho’s greatest patriots, Representative Phil Hart. This will be a great gathering of friends for liberty to remember why we, just as our forefathers found ourselves needing to fight back against tyranny and regain our independence and freedom!” 

Question: Do you plan to be there? ;-)

Durst Questions Hart Panel Make-Up

(Branden Durst, D-Boise), on his blog, said that he isn’t completely satisfied with the members Denney picked for the panel, particularly the Republicans lawmakers.  … Durst was critical of the age, professions, political statures, and geography represented on the panel. Each of the Republican lawmakers – Rep. Bert Stevenson, R-Rupert, Rep. Rich Wills, R-Glenns Ferry, Rep. Tom Loetscher, R-Iona, and Rep. Dell Raybould, R-Rexburg – serves as a committee chairman when the Idaho House is in session. That, Durst said, could lead to a decision based solely on politics. “This is significant because it means that all of the majority members on the panel are fiercely loyal to the Speaker. I am not saying this is going to have an impact, but I do believe it is worth noting”/Dustin Hurst, Idaho Reporter. More here.

Question: Has House Speaker Lawerence Denney loaded the ethics panel inquiring into Rep. Phil Hart’s tax problems w/his lieutenants to control the outcome?

Ethics Panel To Discuss Hart Tuesday

The newly appointed House Ethics Committee investigating the conduct of Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, has scheduled a conference call meeting for 9 a.m. on Tuesday, July 6th. For those participating in person, the meeting will take place in the House State Affairs committee room, East Wing Room 40 in the lower level of the state Capitol/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. (Also: a list of the 7 ethics committee members here.)

Question: Are you bothered that none of the 4 Republicans on the ethics panel is from North Idaho or even the Idaho Panhandle?

Ethics panel to meet on Tuesday

The newly appointed House Ethics Committee investigating the conduct of Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, has scheduled a conference call meeting for 9 a.m. on Tuesday, July 6th. For those participating in person, the meeting will take place in the House State Affairs committee room, East Wing Room 40 in the lower level of the state Capitol. A live audio stream also will be made available on the Legislature’s website, www.legislature.idaho.gov; look for the link on the right-hand side.

Hammes: Phil Hart Abused His Power

Phil Hart (pictured) should resign from the Idaho legislature. Of course we know that is not going to happen. But at the very least he should offer a substitute to serve in his place until he has paid his state tax bill in full. That won’t happen either. Instead Rep. Hart will continue to serve in the legislature despite the fact he owes the state a bundle in overdue taxes. Which makes this screed as fruitless as n well, fighting the government with some bogus claims about the Constitution and income taxes. … There is never a shortage of wingnuts who confuse their disagreement with the income tax with patriotism. But it is quite another thing altogether for an elected official to abuse the power of office/Dan Hammes, St. Maries Gazette-Record. More here.

Question: What do you make of one of the most conservative newspapers in Idaho calling on state Rep. Phil Hart to resign, as a result of his tax problems?

Hart Ethics Panel Includes Sayler

House Speaker Lawerence Denney has appointed an ethics committee to investigate the conduct of Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol. Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, will chair the seven-member panel, and Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, will be vice-chair. The committee likely will meet in August. … Click here to read Denney’s announcement of the appointment of the committee; the other members are Reps. Dell Raybould, Bert Stevenson, Rich Wills, Bill Killen and George Sayler/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.

Question: Are you satisfied with the appointments made to the ethics committee investigating Idaho state Rep. Phil Hart’s tax problems?

Denney appoints 7-member ethics committee to investigate Rep. Hart

House Speaker Lawerence Denney has appointed an ethics committee to investigate the conduct of Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol. Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, will chair the seven-member panel, and Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, will be vice-chair. The committee likely will meet in August.

“I have full confidence in the Idaho House process and in the capable and experienced members I have selected for this committee,” Denney said. “It is important for both the House and for Rep. Hart to have this matter resolved quickly and in a fair, even-handed manner.” Denney said he would take no immediate action with regard to Hart’s committee assignments, because none of the committees on which Hart serves will meet before next January. The ethics complaint against Hart charges a possible conflict of interest due to Hart’s service on the House Revenue & Taxation Committee while fighting his own back state and federal income taxes, and possible abuse of legislative privilege for Hart’s invoking the privilege to seek repeated delays in his personal tax cases.

Click here to read Denney’s announcement of the appointment of the committee; the other members are Reps. Dell Raybould, Bert Stevenson, Rich Wills, Bill Killen and George Sayler.

HBO Poll: Ax Hart From Rev & Tax

  • Weekend Poll: Overwhelmingly, you Berry Pickers want House GOP leaders to remove state Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, from his position on the Revenue & Taxation Committee. 174 of 209 respondents (83.3%) said Hart should be removed from the committee as a result of his problems paying state and federal income taxes. Only 30 of 209 (14.4%) said he should be left on the panel. 5 of 209 (2.4%) were undecided.
  • Today’s Poll: Would you be more/less likely to vote for a candidate who took a loyalty pledge to support the Idaho Republican Party platform?

Richert: Remove Hart From Tax Panel

The preponderance of evidence points to a less colorful and more troubling conclusion. Hart seems to believe he can live by a different set of tax rules — different from the rules he helps to craft as a member of the House Revenue and Taxation Committee. Philosophically, Hart fits right into a conservative legislative killing field for tax reform. That’s how representative government works, and I get that. But there’s more where Phil Hart came from. House leadership can easily find another conservative for this committee, one who actually respects the rule of law. A House ethics committee will look into Hart’s tax problems. Regardless of the outcome, House leadership should relieve Hart of his seat on Revenue and Taxation/Kevin Richert, Idaho Statesman. More here.

Question: At a minimum, should GOP House leadership remove Rep. Phil Hart from the House Revenue & Taxation Committee as a penalty for his income and property tax problems.

Hart Late On Property Taxes Since 2002

Idaho State Rep. Phil Hart, who’s currently facing a House ethics review over his ongoing fight over unpaid federal and state income taxes, has paid his property taxes late on his Kootenai County home every year since 2002 and had to pay hundreds in interest and penalties. Tax records kept by the Kootenai County Treasurer’s Office show that Hart currently owes $1,011.23 for the 2009 taxes on the home, plus $55.04 in interest and $18.74 in penalties. Over the past eight years, he’s been as much as 16 months late on the property taxes on the home, and has paid $1,527.05 in interest and $325.64 in penalties and fees/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.

Question: What do you think? Now that he’s dating a future Kootenai County commissioner, Jai Nelson, who will be responsible for divvying up the county’s share of property taxes, will Hart become more prompt in paying his property taxes?

Hart also delinquent on property taxes, paid late every year since 2002

Idaho State Rep. Phil Hart, who’s currently facing a House ethics review over his ongoing fight over unpaid federal and state income taxes, has paid his property taxes late on his Kootenai County home every year since 2002 and had to pay hundreds in interest and penalties. Tax records kept by the Kootenai County Treasurer’s Office show that Hart currently owes $1,011.23 for the 2009 taxes on the home, plus $55.04 in interest and $18.74 in penalties. Over the past eight years, he’s been as much as 16 months late on the property taxes on the home, and has paid $1,527.05 in interest and $325.64 in penalties and fees.

A House ethics inquiry will look into whether Hart’s tax woes create a conflict of interest with his service on the House Revenue and Taxation Committee, and whether he abused legislative privilege by invoking it to seek repeated delays in his state and federal income tax fights. House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, said he didn’t know if the late property tax payments are relevant to the ethics inquiry or not. “Basically what he’s doing is he’s borrowing money from the county,” Rusche said. “I just don’t know what that means, but it’s interesting.”

Such property tax delinquencies are relatively rare in Kootenai County, where 88 percent of taxpayers paid up on time in 2008; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Statesman: Hart Besmirches Legislature

These antics reflect badly on Hart, and besmirch Idaho’s citizens’ Legislature. In an age of viral cynicism about politics and politicians, Hart’s conduct suggests that public servants are out first to serve themselves. So if ever an elected official has invited the harsh glare of an ethics review, it’s Hart. House Speaker Lawerence Denney said late last week that he would convene an ethics committee. … The allegations against Hart - conflict of interest and possible abuse of his elected position - deserve a thorough, public review. Both the outcome and the process will say something, good or bad, about the Legislature/Idaho Statesman. More here.

Question: Do you expect something positive to happen when the ethics committee reviews Hart’s tax problems?

Phil Hart: Fighting IRS Is Taxing Process

In 2004 I filed 1040 returns to get caught up. Suddenly I found myself in an IRS audit. I had to sue the IRS to avoid turning over the names and addresses of those who purchased my book, “Constitutional Income.” I was represented by the Center for Individual Rights, a Washington, D.C., public interest, freedom of speech law firm. The Center for Individual Rights won these lawsuits for me. The IRS audit report denied all my legitimate business deductions totaling $300,000. Why? An IRS employee told me “When you don’t give us everything we ask for, you get all of your deductions denied.” For them, this isn’t about the liens or the money; it’s about getting the names/Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol. Moscow-Pullman Daily News. More here.

Question: Do you think Rep. Phil Hart makes good points re: his long fight against the Internal Revenue Service?

D’s: Where Do Pols Stand On Hart Woes?

The Kootenai County Democratic Central Committee issued a press release today calling on Idaho elected officials to say where they stand on Rep. Phil Hart’s tax woes, which are the subject of pending House ethics committee; the committee will look into whether Hart had a conflict of interest in serving on the House Revenue & Taxation Committee while pressing his legal fight over unpaid state and federal income taxes, and whether he abused legislative privilege by citing it in seeking delays in his tax cases/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.

Question: Would you like to know where your legislators stand on state Rep. Phil Hart’s tax woes?

Kootenai Dems speak out on Hart

The Kootenai County Democratic Central Committee issued a press release today calling on Idaho elected officials to say where they stand on Rep. Phil Hart’s tax woes, which are the subject of pending House ethics committee; the committee will look into whether Hart had a conflict of interest in serving on the House Revenue & Taxation Committee while pressing his legal fight over unpaid state and federal income taxes, and whether he abused legislative privilege by citing it in seeking delays in his tax cases.

“Idaho citizens work hard and pay their taxes that provide for roads, schools and our national defense,” said Thom George, chairman of the Kootenai County Democratic Central Committee, in the release. “Even if we don’t always agree with how those taxes are collected and distributed we understand our responsibility to comply with federal and state laws. For Mr. Hart to refuse to pay his taxes for years and then fail to comply with a court decision ordering repayment is reprehensible. Each and every elected official in the state of Idaho should call upon Mr. Hart to step down immediately.”

SR: Hart Should Use ‘Common Sense’

Last Oct. 2, when Hart got word of his $53,000 obligation, he had 91 days – until the new year – to appeal. The deadline arrived “during the ten days next before the commencement” of the 2010 Legislature, so he waited until the session was over to submit his notice of appeal. The commission wants that appeal dismissed on grounds that not only did Hart miss the deadline, he failed to submit the full deposit required to be paid at the time of appeal. This is the fourth time Hart has invoked the legislative exemption during his six years in office. A strict reading of the Idaho Constitution may secure his right to do so. But for an elected official interested in maintaining his status as a citizen legislator, common sense would argue against it/Spokesman-Review Editorial Board. More here.

Question: What should Phil Hart do?

EOB: Hart Welcomes Ethics Investigation

Idaho state Rep. Phil Hart on Friday defended his long tax fight against the IRS and the state Tax Commission, and said he looks forward to telling his tale to a House ethics committee.    ”I would welcome the opportunity to tell my story,” said Hart, R-Athol, a third-term state lawmaker who’s unopposed for re-election in November/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.

Hart says he welcomes House ethics probe

Idaho state Rep. Phil Hart on Friday defended his long tax fight against the IRS and the state Tax Commission, and said he looks forward to going before a House ethics committee.    ”I would welcome the opportunity to tell my story,” said Hart, R-Athol, a third-term state lawmaker who’s unopposed for re-election in November. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Lake Questions Hart’s Privilege Claim

Asked about Rep. Phil Hart using executive privilege during legislative session to hold off the tax man, Marty Trillhaase/Lewiston Tribune writes in his Cheers & Jeers column today, (Idaho House Revenue and Taxation Committee Chairman Dennis Lake, R-Blackfoot) said: “I know other legislators have claimed similar exemption in years past. I know of one that claimed he was not subject to traffic fines while he was in session … that was proved to be erroneous. He ended up being liable for them. They can have those fights. They’re entitled to their own opinion, but when they’re proved wrong, they need to step up to the plate and pay the bill.” Full Cheers & Jeers comment (to 4th item) here.