Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Eye On Boise

Ethics advice for new legislators: Using position for personal gain is the only felony specifically called out in the Idaho Constitution

Deputy Attorney General Brian Kane briefs Idaho's newest state lawmakers on ethics laws, during a
Deputy Attorney General Brian Kane briefs Idaho's newest state lawmakers on ethics laws, during a "Law School for Legislators" session Wednesday that's part of Idaho's new-lawmaker orientation. (Betsy Russell)

Idaho’s newest state legislators are attending a “Law School for Legislators” today, with briefing from the Idaho Attorney General’s office on conflict of interest and ethics; from Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa on sunshine laws, campaign finance and working with lobbyists; and more. Deputy Attorney General Brian Kane told the group, “You can’t use your position for personal gain – it’s the only felony that’s provided for in the Constitution.”

Lawmakers who stand to gain personally from legislation must disclose that conflict of interest before voting on the measure, Kane said, and at that point may also ask to be excused from voting. But the assumption is that they’re required to vote, if they can ethically do so after disclosing the conflict – because otherwise, the constituents in their district are left unrepresented on that issue.

Kane said senators made 25 disclosures of conflicts of interest last year, and House members made 71, but lawmakers only asked to be excused from voting in a few cases. Kane, who has advised several legislative ethics committees in recent years, said, “No one, as far as I can remember, has ever gotten in trouble for over-disclosure. Every single scenario has been a failure to disclose.” He said, “Disclose – sunshine is absolutely the best disinfectant.”

On Jan. 14, an additional ethics session will be held for all 105 Idaho legislators, new or not; attendance will be mandatory.

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

Follow Betsy online: