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Eye On Boise

LaBeau: Lobbyists want ‘a level playing field’

Asked why, as a lobbyist in Idaho, he’s calling for more reporting requirements for lobbyists, IACI president Alex LaBeau said, “As a professional, you want to be able to put that information out there.” Plus, he said, “We want to be sure that we have a level playing field.” LaBeau said his group wants to know what other groups are doing as well.

LaBeau, speaking during a break in today’s meeting of the Legislature’s ethics and campaign finance reform work group, said he typically hosts some legislators at his group’s annual meeting each year. In the past, he’d report those expenditures promptly, broken down by legislator, and get them to the Idaho Secretary of State’s office, and they’d go into his lobbyist reporting records. But Idaho law doesn’t require those reports outside the legislative session to be filed until the following January, and now that the state has moved to online reporting, he said there’s no way for him to submit those reports early. LaBeau told the committee that lobbying now happens year-round, and reporting requirements should reflect that, as should the system for how those reports are filed.

LaBeau, who addressed the legislative panel this morning along with Elizabeth Criner, president of the Idaho Legislative Advisers, didn’t mention personal financial disclosure, another issue that the legislative work group has been tasked to address. Idaho is one of just two states that doesn’t require that disclosure from its legislators, or any other elected or appointed officials. “I don’t think that it matters to anybody,” LaBeau said. But he added that that issue is up to the Legislature, not the lobbyists. “That’s for them to decide,” he said.

This year, Vermont enacted its first financial disclosure requirements, making Idaho and Michigan the last two states without any such reporting. Idaho’s lack of financial disclosure – the mechanism that allows the public to decide whether they think lawmakers have conflicts of interest or not when they cast votes – long has contributed to the state’s very low grades in comparisons between states for their ethics and transparency requirements. In the Center for Public Integrity’s State Integrity Investigation in 2015, states were compared for their ethics and disclosure laws, practices and enforcement; Idaho earned a “D-minus.”

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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