After all the fuss in Idaho GOP circles from when eastern Idaho GOP activist Doyle Beck surreptitiously recorded a conversation with state GOP Chairman Steve Yates and used the recording to claim evidence of a “secret society” within the party bent on undermining him, there’s plenty of sensitivity to the idea of politicians secretly recording one another. So today’s Idaho Falls Post Register story about state Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, surreptitiously recording a conversation with Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, after Hill had backed Nate’s GOP challenger in the May primary, is getting lots of attention.
Post Register reporter Bryan Clark reported that after receiving tips from multiple sources that Nate had invited Hill for a peacemaking chat after the primary and secretly recorded the conversation – which Hill discovered, and Nate admitted, before the conversation was over – Clark filed a public records request to Nate seeking the recording. Hill confirmed the incident had taken place, but had no further comment; Nate wrote in an email to the Post Register, “I am aware of only one such document that falls within the category that you are requesting. However, this is not a ‘public record.’” He said releasing it would infringe on his personal privacy.
Several legislative leaders told Clark that such a practice would be unethical. “Lawmakers that secretly record one another have no other motive than to set their colleagues up and play ‘gotcha’ with them down the road,” said House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley. “It’s conduct unbecoming a member of the House of Representatives, and I believe that it is misconduct.” That “conduct unbecoming” phrase is contained in the House’s ethics rules and could be grounds for an ethics complaint.
Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, told the Post Register that if Nate did record a conversation with Hill, it will undermine his effectiveness as a lawmaker. “In the event that the allegations are true … then that House member has a very serious credibility problem with all of his legislative colleagues, especially with the Idaho Senate,” Davis said. “I am doubtful that that legislator will have any influence for some time to come in the Idaho Senate.”
You can read Clark’s full report online here.