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Protesters work to prop up an elephant they are inflating on the Capitol Rotunda floor as part of a call for a state income tax.
OLYMPIA — As legislative leaders sweated the small stuff on the operating budget and other members awaited word of a deal, protesters called for something that isn't really on anyone's radar screen right now.
A progressive income tax for the state.
Members of the Backbone Campaign draped a banner for a state income tax over the fourth floor railing and chanted while others worked to inflate a large elephant on the rotunda floor. The sign on the side of the elephant, readable once it got nearly to full inflate: “Progressive Income Tax.”
While a proposal for a state income tax gets introduced by someone almost every year, there was no serious discussion of such a tax this year as legislators struggled with the budget. An initiative for an income tax on the wealthy was defeated in 2010, and several times before that, reaching back to the 1930s.
“Somebody's got to have the guts to talk abour real reform,” Bill Moyer, of Vashion Island, co-founder and director of the Backbone Campaign, said. Legislators should “stretch the boundaries of what the perceive is politically possible.”
Wednesday's SR business section included a story about how Washington and Idaho fare in a national ranking for total sales tax rates. (Not total taxes paid.) Washington's sales rate was fourth-highest; Idaho's was 36th.
The source is the nonpartisan DC think tank, the Tax Foundation.
What we didn't include were a few other Tax Foundation lists, including one last produced in 2009, which took into account all tax rates at the city, county and state levels. On that list, Idaho ranked just ahead of Washington for overall tax burden, which compares amount of taxes paid versus per capita income.
Idaho in that ranking was 28th highest in the country, at 9.4 percent of all income going to taxes.
Washington stood at No. 29, with a tax rate of 9.3 percent. Here are the data.
Notably, Idaho hits that mark because it has a state personal and state corporate income tax, while Washington doesn't. (Washington does have a business and occupation tax, however.)
Both have state and local retail sales taxes. For property taxes, Washington is much more burdensome: the per capita amount of property tax in the Evergreen state is $1,226; in Idaho it's $813.
This summary explains the Tax Foundation methodology for its tax burden ranking:
“For nearly two decades the Tax Foundation has published an estimate of the combined state-local tax burden shouldered by the residents of each of the 50 states. For each state, we calculate the total amount paid by the residents in taxes, then divide those taxes by the state's total income to compute a “tax burden.” We make this calculation not only for the most recent year but also for earlier years because tax and income data are revised periodically by government agencies.”
The federal taxes are not included in this ranking, in that the federal rates are uniform across all 50 states and would not really help determine what this list offers — a state-focused analysis of taxes paid.
The Idaho Supreme Court, without comment, has dismissed tax-protesting Idaho state Rep. Phil Hart's request to reconsider his state income tax appeal, in which he argued the court should have given more consideration to his legislative privilege argument. In a one-page ruling, the Supreme Court declared, “After due consideration, it is hereby ordered that Appellant's petition for rehearing be, and hereby is, denied.”
Hart appealed an order to pay more than $53,000 in back state income taxes, penalties and interest, but filed his appeal months after the 91-day appeal period had expired. He argued that because an Idaho legislative session fell just after the appeal period, his status as a lawmaker should entitle him to more time to file. The Idaho Supreme Court strongly disagreed, writing in its unanimous decision in April, “In this instance, Hart is just a taxpayer, with no greater privilege than his constituents.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
Tax-protesting Idaho state Rep. Phil Hart is asking the Idaho Supreme Court to reconsider its dismissal of his state income tax appeal, saying the court should have given more consideration to his legislative privilege argument. Hart appealed an order to pay more than $53,000 in back state income taxes, penalties and interest, but filed his appeal months after the 91-day appeal period had expired. He argued that because an Idaho legislative session fell just after the appeal period, his status as a lawmaker should entitle him to more time to file.
The Idaho Supreme Court strongly disagreed, writing in its unanimous decision in April, “In this instance, Hart is just a taxpayer, with no greater privilege than his constituents.” Hart's bid for reconsideration argues that the framers of Idaho's Constitution “were intimately aware that their full attention, without any distraction of any nature, was required in order for them, and future legislators, to accomplish their work on behalf of the people.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
Idaho Rep. Phil Hart tonight issued a defiant press release after the Idaho Supreme Court unanimously rejected his state income tax appeal, saying he plans to continue to fight. “It is but another phase of my quest for justice,” Hart wrote in the release he posted on Facebook; you can click below to read it in full. He maintained, “I do not owe the State of Idaho any tax.”
A unanimous Idaho Supreme Court has rejected state Rep. Phil Hart's appeal of an order to pay more than $53,000 in back state income taxes, penalties and interest on grounds of legislative privilege; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com. In a seven-page opinion authored by Justice Jim Jones, the unanimous court held that the Idaho Constitution's legislative privilege clause from arrest or “civil process” during legislative sessions didn't protect Hart, or permit him to file his state tax appeal months later than anyone else would have been allowed to.
“Hart's untenable argument flows from his misunderstanding of the word 'process,'” Jones wrote. “In this case, Hart was not obligated to do anything but pay his taxes.” The state didn't try to “compel Hart’s appearance before a tribunal,” the court wrote. “No court sought to hold Hart responsible for a new legal obligation. No sheriff or other agent of the State sought to arrest Hart or compel him to appear anywhere or take any other action. In other words, no one tried to hold Hart liable to civil process. Rather, Hart sought to avail himself of … appeals procedures, which he had until January 4, 2010 to do. He missed that deadline by almost three months.”
Wrote the court, “In this instance, Hart is just a taxpayer, with no greater privilege than his constituents.”
The court also dismissed Hart's argument that 4th District Judge John Mitchell abused his discretion by refusing to delay a motion hearing when Hart was in Boise participating in a legislative debate; he wasn't required to attend the hearing. The high court wrote, “Hart's argument on this issue is devoid of reasoned analysis or relevant authority.”
The court awarded attorney fees and costs to the state. “Hart's position here is groundless,” Jones wrote.
Hart's first court appeal in his state income tax case charged that Idaho's state income tax is unconstitutional; that argument wasn't considered, because the appeal was thrown out for being filed too late. Hart, a tax protester who stopped filing both federal and state income tax returns for three years in the 1990s, while he pressed an unsuccessful lawsuit charging the federal income tax was unconstitutional, had 91 days to appeal his order to pay more than $53,000 in back state income taxes, penalties and interest for tax years 1996 to 2004, but instead waited more than six months, saying an intervening legislative session entitled him to more time. Because it was too late, his appeal was rejected, a decision he's now unsuccessfully appealed five times.
U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge today dismissed one of tax-protesting state Rep. Phil Hart's key defenses in the federal lawsuit seeking to foreclose on his Athol home: That he's protected by legislative immunity. “Defendant Hart can only raise a legislative immunity defense if it is available under federal law,” the judge wrote. “He has not done so here.” Hart was citing a provision from the Idaho Constitution.
Plus, Lodge wrote that legislative immunity under federal law covers only “legitimate legislative activity.” He wrote, “The claims raised in this case are in regard to Defendant Hart's private actions in allegedly failing to pay his federal income taxes.”
The U.S. Department of Justice filed a motion to dismiss Hart's immunity defense; Lodge granted it. “Granting the motion in this case will avoid the expenditure of time and money that must arise from litigating spurious issues,” the judge wrote, adding that Hart's immunity claim “clearly lacks merit under any set of facts that he might allege.” You can read the judge's decision here, and our full story here at spokesman.com, from reporter Tom Clouse.
By the way, tax-protesting Idaho State Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, takes his appeal of his state income taxes to the Idaho Supreme Court today; the arguments start at 11:10 a.m. Pacific time in the old courthouse in Coeur d'Alene, second floor, Judge Luster's courtroom. S-R reporter Tom Clouse is there and we'll have a full report.
You can read my full story here at spokesman.com on the U.S. Justice Department's lawsuit against Idaho Rep. Phil Hart, which seeks to foreclose on his log home in Athol for more than half a million in back federal income taxes, penalties and interest. Through Oct. 31, 2011, the complaint says, Hart owes the IRS $549,703.48, for back taxes from 1996 to 2008.
Hart wasn't immediately available for comment. He's also fighting the Idaho State Tax Commission over more than $53,000 unpaid state income taxes, penalties and interest; though he's lost repeatedly, his appeal to the Idaho Supreme Court likely will come up for a hearing in April.
The federal complaint also asks the court to set aside the “fraudulent transfer” of the home to various parties including the trust, determine that the trust is a “sham entity,” and rule that “the United States has valid and subsisting federal tax liens on all property and rights belonging to Hart, whether real or personal, wherever located, and whether presently held or hereinafter acquired,” expressly including the Athol home. “The property shall be sold, and .. the proceeds from the sale shall be distributed in accordance with the court's findings,” the complaint states. It also asks that Hart be ordered to pay the federal government's court costs for bringing the case.
According to Kootenai County records, Hart's home, which sits on 10 acres, is only valued for tax purposes at $271,573.
The U.S. Department of Justice has filed suit against Idaho Rep. Phil Hart in federal court, seeking to foreclose on his Athol home for failure to pay back federal income taxes, penalties and interest. “Hart has neglected, failed, or refused to make full payment to the United States of the assessed amounts and the interest and penalties accrued thereon,” federal prosecutors wrote in their complaint against Hart, filed in federal court in Boise, seeking $550,000. The home is the log home that Hart built partly from timber he illegally logged from state school endowment land, for which he never fully satisfied a court judgment.
Hart, a tax protester, also is currently appealing back state income taxes and penalties to the Idaho Supreme Court. He was removed from the House Revenue & Taxation Committee and agreed to give up his vice-chairmanship of the House Transportation Committee after ethics complaints were filed against him over his tax issues, his use of his status as a legislator to seek delays in his state and federal tax cases, and the timber theft. Hart continues to serve as a state representative, a Republican representing District 3 in North Idaho.
Attorneys for the Idaho State Tax Commission have filed their response to Rep. Phil Hart's state income tax appeal to the Idaho Supreme Court, writing that Hart seems to be arguing different rules apply to him just because he's a state legislator. “Appellant appears to be arguing that his status as a legislator excuses him from the requirement to file a timely appeal,” the state attorneys wrote.
Hart, a tax protester who stopped filing both federal and state income tax returns for three years in the 1990s, had 91 days to appeal his order to pay more than $53,000 in back state income taxes, penalties and interest for tax years 1996 to 2004, but instead waited more than six months, saying an intervening legislative session entitled him to more time. Because it was too late, his appeal was rejected, a decision he's now appealed five times. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com, and read the state's brief here. Hart now has another week to file his reply to the state's response, and then the case can be set for arguments before the Supreme Court, which likely won't happen before April of 2012.
Tax-protesting Idaho state Rep. Phil Hart is arguing that a district judge abused his discretion by refusing to delay a court hearing when the state representative was in Boise, debating legislation to permit guns on state college campuses that he strongly supported. Hart, R-Athol, devoted much of his opening brief in his appeal to the Idaho Supreme Court to arguments over how a Coeur d'Alene judge, John Mitchell, went ahead with a scheduled hearing in Hart's case on March 16 when the Idaho House was “debating a very important piece of legislation which my constituents most certainly expect, and would demand, that I be present to vote on.”
Hart, who is contesting an order to pay more than $53,000 in back state income taxes, penalties and interest from the tax years 1996 to 2004, disagreed with the court's ruling that the hearing - on Hart's own motion for reconsideration of Mitchell's order rejecting his case - merely consisted of legal arguments by the attorneys and didn't require Hart's presence, but that he could participate by phone if he chose to. He declined. State Tax Commission attorneys have cited “a pattern of delay and obstruction” in Hart's tax protests, and objected to any further delays. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com, along with a link to Hart's brief to the Idaho Supreme Court.
Tax-protesting Idaho state Rep. Phil Hart is taking his fight against paying his back state income taxes to the Idaho Supreme Court, despite already having lost four appeals. Hart lost his fourth round in March, when 1st District Judge John Mitchell rejected Hart's request that the judge reconsider his December 2010 decision tossing out the appeal. In a 13-page decision, the judge twice termed Hart's arguments “simply wrong,” and called his central argument – that he'd actually filed his appeal one day earlier than the state says - “patently wrong.”
Hart, whose first court appeal in November of 2010 charged that the state income tax is unconstitutional, also is arguing that he should have months longer to appeal his taxes than other citizens because of his status as a state legislator. Plus, he's claimed a requirement that he submit a 20 percent bond when filing his appeal is unconstitutional. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com, and see the latest court decision and Hart's notice of appeal here.
Yet another ethics complaint has been filed against Idaho Rep. Phil Hart, this one by the write-in candidate who unsuccessfully ran against him in November. Hayden businessman Howard Griffiths, who garnered 25 percent of the vote for his write-in bid, sent in an ethics complaint even though officials say only House members can file those; earlier, another North Idaho resident, Larry Spencer, did the same, filing an ethics complaint against another North Idaho representative who had filed his own complaint against Hart.
Griffiths' complaint focuses on Hart's participation in a meeting between local judges and North Idaho lawmakers, at a time when he had his own tax appeal pending before one of the judges making the presentations. Hart's appeal of an order to pay more than $53,000 in back state income taxes, penalties and interest was rejected by 1st District Judge John Mitchell on Dec. 8; Hart filed a motion for reconsideration two weeks later and has a hearing before Mitchell scheduled for March.
Griffiths said it was unethical for Hart to go hear the judge's requests for funding and other consideration from the Legislature when he had his own matter before the same judge. “Here's Hart in the front row looking right at 'em,” Griffiths said. “The whole thing is, it's mind-boggling.”
House Speaker Lawerence Denney said he received Griffiths' complaint and forwarded it to House Ethics Committee Chairman Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, who plans to convene a meeting of the Ethics Committee next week. “I've got a perfectly good ethics committee - they might just as well be busy,” Denney said. As for Hart's participation in the meeting with the judges, Denney said, “I don't think it's inappropriate, but let's let the ethics committee look. I suspect that if they think there's probable cause, that there will be a complaint brought by a legislator.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
Tax-protesting Idaho state Rep. Phil Hart narrowly avoided a court order over the holidays when he belatedly filed his 2009 state income tax return three days before Christmas. The Idaho State Tax Commission went to court in December for an order against Hart, saying he’d ignored repeated notices that his tax return was due. Returns are due by April 15. In court documents, the Tax Commission noted that state records showed Hart had taxable income in 2009 of at least $16,155 – his salary as a state legislator.
Hart's belated filing prompted the state to drop that case, but he's still fighting an order to pay more than $53,000 in back state income taxes, penalties and interest from past years, on grounds including that his status as a state legislator should have given him months longer to appeal, though an appeal deadline had passed. He also contends Idaho's state income tax is unconstitutional. Though a Kootenai County judge dismissed Hart's appeal, he's now filed a motion asking the judge to reconsider that decision, with a hearing on the motion scheduled in March. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
Spokesman-Review columnist Shawn Vestal, in today’s paper, interviews Rep. Tom Loertscher, chair of the House Ethics Committee, about the Phil Hart case and why Loertscher was the lone vote against looking further into the latest ethics complaint against Hart. First, there’s that business of Loertscher saying, “As legislators we all have something in our past.” Writes Vestal, “Nothing whets the journalistic appetite like the prospect of a Gem State skeleton. I called Loertscher to drag the truth out of him. Do we really all have something in our past? ‘Don’t you?’ he asked. Why yes. Yes I do. More than one thing, perhaps. But the question, Mr. Representative, is do you? ‘I hope not,’ he said. ‘I haven’t shot anybody or gotten a deer out of season or anything.’
Vestal goes on to note, “He said he’s not endorsing Hart’s behavior so much as doubting whether his committee is the place to deal with it. I think it is, but Loertscher’s not necessarily a white-washer to see it otherwise. ‘Judgment Day eventually comes,’ he said. ‘When he’s exhausted all his remedies, he’ll have a bill to pay or not. That bill will come due someday … and then the hammer will fall. That’s the way it works.’” You can read the full column here.
After today’s House Ethics Committee deliberations, Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, said, “Well, I still think they’re looking for their allegation that shows that there is bona fide violation of Rule 76. … They’re still empty-handed.”
Asked what he hopes happens next, Hart said, “I’m hoping that I can get on with the legislation that I want to run in 2011,” including a new version of his “sound money” bill and others. The new bill will be “a similar concept” to Hart’s silver medallion bill from this year, he said, “although I don’t have anything finalized yet. There will be some changes from last year’s bill.”
Starr Kelso, attorney for embattled Rep. Phil Hart, said after today’s House Ethics Committee meeting, “What I can say is that the legislative process is a fluid and complex process where politics and due process meet. And so, I guess it was reasonable that they asked Deputy Attorney General Brian Kane to put his thoughts in writing. He seemed to me that he had expressed his thoughts verbally, but to require that they be in writing, that’s certainly the prerogative of the committee. So I wasn’t disappointed. They do what they do.”
Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, says his conversation with Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake, at the Legislature’s organizational session wasn’t confrontational. “I did approach him and I did say, ‘Eric, if you need to get together or if you see a need for us to get together and talk, I want you to know that I’m open to doing that and available,’” Hart told Eye on Boise. “And that was the first thing I said to him.” He said, “We talked for a little while. I do remember that that’s the way I initiated the conversation. It was not confrontational and it didn’t go on for too long. I did not tell him he’s being watched.”
Hart added, “I did tell him that I felt that in these types of situations, it should’ve started with a one-on-one conversation between he and I, I do remember telling him that. … That’s what I thought the starting point should have been,” as opposed to an ethics complaint. Anderson filed an ethics complaint against Hart; the House Ethics Committee voted 6-1 today to investigate it further and convene again in January.
House Speaker Lawerence Denney said today that Rep. Eric Anderson’s removal as vice-chairman of the House State Affairs Committee - shortly after Anderson had filed an ethics complaint against Rep. Phil Hart - was merely an oversight, but also said he’d warned Anderson of “fallout” if he filed the ethics complaint. As for the vice-chairmanship, Denney said, “What’s done is done, and we’ll continue for two years as it is.” He said, “When you get those names and everything out there, things change and sometimes we miss things. … Sometimes people who should get something don’t. It’s not that we’re punishing anybody, it’s that sometimes we miss it.”
Denney said, “No one was punished, even those who ran for leadership; we didn’t punish anyone.” Rep. Bob Nonini, who unsuccessfully challenged House Majority Caucus Chairman Ken Roberts, kept his chairmanship of the House Education Committee. But Rep. Cliff Bayer, R-Boise, who unsuccessfully challenged House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, lost his JFAC seat; Bayer said it was his choice to move to the Rev & Tax committee.
Anderson didn’t run for leadership, though he was rumored to be a candidate in the weeks before party leadership elections were held. But after he filed the ethics complaint, he lost his committee vice-chairmanship and also was denied his request for a third committee assignment, a seat on the judiciary committee. Anderson, R-Priest Lake, is a fourth-term representative; the vice chairmanship went to third-term Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa.
“You know, I don’t have a problem with him filing the ethics complaint,” Denney said. “When he came and asked me about it, I suggested that he have somebody else do it, because there could be fallout. You know, there are people in our caucus who fully support Phil Hart and there are people in our caucus who do not. So, you know, for one of our members to do that, I think it could be tough.”
Denney said, “I think Phil has every right to pursue all of his legal avenues. … In Phil’s case, we were very careful - I didn’t want to show that we were rewarding him, and I didn’t want to show that we were punishing him.” Hart, who at the recommendation of the House Ethics Committee was removed from the House Rev & Tax Committee, was simply reduced to two committee assignments instead of three; he saw no other changes. “That was his choice,” Denney said. Hart retained his vice-chairmanship of the House Transportation Committee.
Denney said he’s not concerned about Anderson’s report that Hart confronted him over the ethics complaint at the entrance to the House chambers during the Dec. 2 organizational session, and told him he was being watched. Denney said with a chuckle, “Well, you know, I think people are watching all of us.” He added of the confrontation, “You know, I think it would be hard not to do when they’re together.”
Here’s a link to my full story at spokesman.com on today’s House Ethics Committee meeting on Rep. Phil Hart, in which the panel voted 6-1 to launch a full investigation into the latest ethics complaint against Hart and reconvene in January, rather than dismiss the complaint today.
The motion passed 6-1, with just the chairman, Rep. Tom Loertscher, voting against it. “You know, as legislators we all have something in our past,” said Loertscher, R-Iona. He said he doesn’t feel that the “constitutional rights to exhaust our remedies ends the day we take office, or the day we run for office.” He added, “As it pertains to the timber sales, this certainly happened before his involvement in the Legislature, and I would hate to have an ethics investigation into my own personal background prior to my being a legislator. I’m not here to tell you that there’s anything you would find, but there might be something that someone would have a perception about.” With the motion approved, the Ethics Committee will convene again once the legislative session begins, at the call of the chair.
“We have before us a copy of the minutes of our last meeting,” Rep. Tom Loertscher said as the ethics committee came back into session. “On page 6, on the last page, Rep. Raybould moved that the committee dismiss the complaint of misuse of constitutional immunity by Rep. Hart, Rep. Wills seconded the motion, that motion passed 5 ayes and 2 nays. So we have dealt with this issue and brought it to a conclusion at that point in time.”
Rep. Bert Stevenson then made a motion to direct the committee’s staff and Deputy Attorney General Brian Kane to do “further investigation into these issues” and how they affect the “status of the Legislature and reflection on the Legislature.” He said, “I would move that we continue this hearing to a further date and instruct Mr. Kane to do that investigation that would be necessary, to the issue of the timber sales as well as other issues that Mr. Kane might feel appropriate to bring forth.” Rep. Rich Wills, R-Glenns Ferry, asked to include in the motion asking Kane to prepare an Attorney General’s opinion on the foundation of the claims in the ethics complaint. Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, asked to also include a review by the Attorney General’s office of the House ethics rules, and whether items not specifically delineated in the complaint can be examined by the ethics committee.
During the Ethics Committee’s break, over the speaker system is coming a muffled conversation by Rep. Phil Hart, talking at his lawyer’s office, and strains of music.
Rep. Eric Anderson said children have asked him how the courts could repeatedly say Hart was wrong, but he could continue to say he’s right. Rep. Tom Loertscher, Ethics committee chairman, asked Anderson, “Is Rep. Hart denied the opportunity to challenge … in any court … the same as any other citizen would have - does he have that right or did he give that up as a representative?” Anderson responded, “I’ve never implied that he does not have that right. It’s not in my complaint.” Loertscher said, “The only way that he could be in violation of these ethics rules is if he used his office to escape these responsibilities. … If there’s evidence of that, I think that we should proceed.” But Loertscher said he thought the ethics committee already had resolved that there was no such evidence with regard to the tax issues.
Rep. Bill Killen, D-Boise, took issue with that. Earlier, the panel refrained from dealing with Hart’s legislative privilege claim in his state income tax appeal because the appeal was pending, Killen said, but that’s since been decided, both by the state Board of Tax Appeals and the District Court. Both ruled against Hart. Killen said it’s time for the ethics panel to look at that issue. Loertscher disagreed, and said the committee decided “that he hadn’t abused that.” He said, “That’s what we decided at our final meeting.” Now, the panel has taken a brief break to review its minutes.
Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake, told the House Ethics Committee, “It could be an array of things that cause ethics issues to rise up. … I don’t know why we have an oath if it’s not going to be enforced.” He said he believes Hart has violated his oath of office. “I take that very serious when I raise my hand to swear on upholding the constitution of both the state and the federal government, I think that we all should and most of us do. But it is a reflection when we are doing things that are inappropriate, we have … diminished that oath. When one person, one part diminishes it, I think it’s diminished for all.”
Anderson noted that Hart has gone through numerous court proceedings on his claims, all unsuccessful. “There have not been any of these proceedings that have been favorable in terms of Rep. Hart, but yet he still continually as a legislator says that he’s done no wrong,” he said.
Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, said after reviewing Rep. Eric Anderson’s complaint, there was no mention in it of the silver issue. Therefore, he said, he apologized to the committee and it shouldn’t even be discussing it. Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, asked if under state laws and House rules, “If it’s not listed in the complaint, that we can’t talk about it?” In response, Loertscher asked Legislative Services Director Jeff Youtz to read the ethics committee rules. He did so. They make no specific mention of that question.
Loertscher said if items not specifically mentioned in the complaint can be brought up, “Then we could probably open this up to almost any action of any legislator at any time - do we really want to go there?” Jaquet asked Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake, to comment; he’s doing so now. “The intent there was to show that there is a pattern of behavior,” Anderson told the panel.
A half-dozen Hart supporters in the audience, who are wearing white paper cut-out hearts in support of Phil Hart, are grumbling loudly, “This is a circus” and other complaints about the Ethics Committee proceedings.
Rep. Dell Raybould, R-Rexburg, said if the Ethics Committee is going to proceed further “on this silver coin issue,” it needs a lot more information about the organization, the bill Hart introduced in 2010, and more. He said he didn’t think that was what the panel was gathered for today. Said Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, “I think we did resolve that issue already as to whether or not he was in violation of House Rule 38 in not disclosing to the body that he had some affiliation, because as he stated here today, he didn’t have that affiliation.”
Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, responded, “He did take an oath to uphold the laws of the state and the constitution of the United States and the state.” She said Hart’s involvement in the alternative currency movement suggested his bill might have been related to that, not just to promoting an Idaho commodity. “Should that bill have even been brought?” she asked. “There is some additional information that is murky.”
After Rep. Bill Killen, D-Boise, pressed repeatedly, attorney Starr Kelso finally conferred with his client, Rep. Phil Hart, and said Hart was not involved with the NORFED Liberty Dollars organization after 2006 or 2007. When he introduced legislation in 2010 regarding silver medallions as currency, Hart “had had no involvement with those folks at that time,” Kelso said.