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Lobbyists helping Idaho lieutenant governor

By JOHN MILLER Associated Press

BOISE – A week after new Idaho Lt. Gov. Brad Little said it was the “best practice” for elected officials not to accept campaign contributions from lobbyists during the legislative session, dozens of lobbyists with issues pending before the 2009 Legislature are chipping in more than $6,000 to sponsor a campaign event that benefits him.

This comes as minority Democrats promote a bill to forbid lobbyists from giving contributions during the session to elected officials like Little, as part of good government reforms. At least 16 states ban or restrict such giving from all contributors during legislative sessions; another 12 restrict giving by lobbyists, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Little, appointed earlier this month by Gov. Butch Otter, would use the proceeds to run for lieutenant governor in 2010.

During a taped Idaho Public Television interview last Friday, the former Republican state Senate leader from Emmett said lawmakers frown upon campaign contributions from lobbyists during the session, to avoid appearance of any impropriety or “quid pro quo.”

“Generally, if you look at the reporting, there is none,” Little said during the public affairs program “Idaho Reports.”

As lieutenant governor, Little presides over the Senate and is the tiebreaker in any deadlocked votes

Little added that while he’s never seen favors exchanged for campaign money in the Legislature, “it’s just the best practice, when the legislative process is going on, there’s no campaign contributions.”

But about 30 lobbyists are listed as members of the “Host Committee” for Little’s luncheon campaign event Friday in The Rose Room, a ballroom in downtown Boise.

To get on that committee, they had to pay at least $200, money destined for Little’s campaign fund.

The event is being organized by Republican operatives, including Jason Lehosit, who is also raising money for Otter that he could use if he chooses to run for a second gubernatorial term in 2010.

Contacted by the AP on Tuesday, Little conceded his campaign event three weeks into the Legislature conflicts with his statement on Idaho Public Television.

“Guilty as charged,” Little said. “It may appear a little disingenuous, but I never even thought about it.”

Little did say his role as lieutenant governor is different from that of lawmakers who are considering bills daily in committee hearings and have more contact with lobbyists attempting to inform and sway them to their cause.

“I don’t vote other than in a tie,” he said. “The fact that I’m a constitutional officer and don’t vote, I think it’s a little different.”

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