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Eye On Boise

Idaho’s constitutional defense fund hasn’t paid for a winning case since 1996

A special state fund created to help Idaho navigate state sovereignty conflicts with the federal government has paid out more than $2.1 million over the last two decades, nearly all of it spent on losing legal battles, according to an AP analysis. The Constitutional Defense Fund hasn't paid for a winning case since 1996, when Idaho reached a settlement with the federal government over nuclear waste storage and cleanup. The law allows the fund to be spent proactively — such as filing lawsuits or hiring public relations specialists to fight for state sovereignty — or retroactively, defending Idaho from lawsuits. A review of historical documents shows that it's almost entirely gone to the latter, writes AP reporter Rebecca Boone.

You can read her full report here. There's currently about $322,000 remaining in the account. Earlier this year, a judge struck down an Idaho law banning undercover investigations of farming operations, and the fund could be drawn down further if the state uses it to pay the plaintiff's attorney fees for that case.

Gov. Butch Otter has said he intends to ask lawmakers in January to shore up the fund with another $1 million. The fund has remained true to its purpose and concept, "defending the sovereignty of our state and our citizens," Otter said in a statement.

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.

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