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News >  Idaho

State gets F on disclosure

Betsy Z. Russell Staff writer

Idaho is one of just three states in the nation that require no personal financial disclosure from its state Supreme Court justices, and one of four that require none from its governor, according to a new survey of states.

That makes Idaho the only state in the nation with no such requirements for top officials of any of its three branches of government. An earlier study by the same organization, the Center for Public Integrity, found that Idaho was one of just four states with no financial disclosure requirements for state legislators.

By contrast, Washington topped the new survey with the strictest financial disclosure requirements for its governor among all the states. Washington also was judged the most stringent in requiring disclosure from lawmakers.

“Washington was the only state to receive an ‘A’ grade in the Center’s analysis because it provided the most information to the public on its governor’s personal income and investments,” the center wrote in its report. “Eight states scored in the ‘B’ range, while 20 states received Cs or Ds.”

Idaho’s grade in the survey was an F. But Sen. Denton Darrington, R-Declo, chairman of the Idaho Senate Judiciary Committee, said the survey results didn’t bother him.

“If somebody had a conflict of interest, a Supreme Court justice on a case, and they don’t recuse themselves, there’d be a lot of hell to pay, I think,” Darrington said. “I don’t know how far we want to get into personal stuff. I don’t know if the public is protected by it in a small state like Idaho.”

When the Center for Public Integrity compared state disclosure laws for legislators two years ago, Idaho had just come through an ethics scandal in its state Senate involving a senator who introduced a bill to enable his own convenience store to qualify for a state liquor license even though it was across from an elementary school. He didn’t disclose his interest and instead denied it. That senator, Jack Noble, resigned before an ethics vote could be held on whether to eject him from office.

At the time, many lawmakers were talking about moving toward requiring financial disclosure for Idaho legislators, but nothing has passed.

Darrington said he’s “lukewarm” on the idea. “I’m not averse to hearing proposals, but I’m not out waving the flag on it,” he said.

He’s not convinced that Idaho needs financial disclosure for its justices, governor or lawmakers. “What’s the difference between Supreme Court and governor and legislators?” Darrington asked.

“If the assumption is that because of their holdings there’s a conflict on their actions, there wouldn’t be any difference, because legislators act – just as I as a schoolteacher voted on school appropriations bills,” he said.

Oddly, the three states with no disclosure requirements for Supreme Court justices are all adjacent: Idaho, Montana and Utah.

The four without such requirements for their governors are Idaho, Michigan, Utah and Vermont.

The center noted a series of scandals in states across the country involving governors who either failed to make required disclosures or violated state rules on receiving costly gifts.

It also reported that although nearly all states require financial disclosures from their justices, many state residents are unaware that such disclosures exist, and researchers were told in some states that they were the first ever to ask to see them.

The center said the financial disclosure information helps keep citizens and voters informed about possible conflicts of interest in decisions made by elected officials.

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