Sponsors of the “Stop the Shipments” anti-nuclear waste initiative claim an Idaho National Engineering Laboratory contractor is illegally campaigning against the initiative.
A complaint filed Thursday with the Idaho secretary of state charges that the company has been campaigning against the measure without filing the required disclosure forms.
The firm, giant defense contractor Lockheed Martin, denied any campaigning. Public Affairs Director Greg Ossman said no campaigning will occur under a $192,000 consulting contract Lockheed signed with former Gov. Cecil Andrus and former Sen. James McClure. And he said meetings held around the state since May, featuring Lockheed Martin Idaho Technologies President John Denson, were informational and not related to the initiative.
The initiative would void Gov. Phil Batt’s agreement with the federal government on nuclear waste, and would require legislative and voter approval of any future agreements.
Andrus and McClure in June sent a joint guest opinion to newspapers across the state supporting Batt’s agreement. That was about a week before the initiative qualified for the ballot.
Ossman said Thursday that the two wrote the opinion piece as private citizens, and it wasn’t paid for under the contract.
“They told us they were going to do it. They felt that they needed to do that on their own volition,” Ossman said.
The two, along with two associates, contracted with Lockheed May 9. They are being paid $165 an hour, with the $192,000 cap, to advise INEL on strategy, mission and public relations.
The money is taxpayer money, and has been approved by the federal Department of Energy as an allowable expense, Ossman said. He also contended that the guest opinion wasn’t campaign-oriented because it didn’t mention the initiative. “It was solely addressing the governor’s agreement.”
Neither Andrus nor McClure was available for comment late Thursday.
Former state Sen. John Peavey, who led the push to enact Idaho’s campaign disclosure law through an initiative 20 years ago, accused Lockheed of trying to skirt the law, commonly referred to as the Sunshine Law.
He also charged that a group of eastern Idaho businesses that filed a legal challenge to throw the measure off the ballot should be reporting its expenses under the law. The Idaho Supreme Court rejected the challenge less than a day after it was filed.
Chris Meyer, a Boise attorney representing the group, said legal action usually isn’t considered campaigning. But the group filed an initial form after the question came up.
Said Peavey, “Lockheed and their front organization obviously feel that the laws of Idaho don’t apply to them.”
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