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Eye on Boise: U.S. Senate delegation loses ground in digital IQ

BOISE – There was a time when then-Idaho Sen. Larry Craig was dubbed the “cybersenator” because he was the first U.S. senator to send out podcasts. Now, it seems, our digital edge in the U.S. Senate has slipped.

George Washington University and New York University’s Stern School of Business have completed a joint study that evaluated and ranked every senator for what it dubbed their “digital IQ,” or “online competence” based on presence on websites, social media following and sentiment, digital marketing aptitude and search engine optimization skills. Idaho’s results? Sen. Mike Crapo ranked 64th among the 100 senators, and Sen. Jim Risch ranked 93rd.

The top seven senators were dubbed “digital geniuses” and were led by none other than Sen. John McCain, who famously said “I don’t e-mail” during the 2008 presidential campaign. According to the study, he got his first Blackberry in January 2009 and “took to the Twittersphere,” and he now has 1.7 million Twitter followers and 630,000 Facebook “likes.”

The other senators who got the “digital genius” designation were Sens. Jim DeMint, Scott Brown, Al Franken, John Cornyn, Harry Reid and Barbara Boxer. Republicans led Democrats in the study, with an average digital IQ 5.5 percent higher than their colleagues across the aisle.

“Our thesis is that digital competence provides an opportunity for senators to authentically engage and mobilize voters and constituents,” wrote the two authors of the study, Scott Galloway, clinical associate professor of marketing at NYU Stern, and Doug Guthrie, dean of the George Washington School of Business.

So what’s the designation for our guys? Crapo’s score of 89 (McCain’s was 156) designates his digital IQ as “challenged.” And Risch? At a score of 68, he’s dubbed “feeble.”

New role for temp Statehouse

A million-dollar gift from the Laura Moore Cunningham Foundation will help turn Idaho’s Capitol Annex – formerly the Ada County Courthouse, and for two years the site of Idaho’s legislative sessions while the state Capitol was renovated – into a new Idaho Law Learning Center, housing the state law library, the University of Idaho’s Boise law program, and the state’s judicial and legal education programs.

The gift from the Idaho-based foundation is specifically for the building renovations which are targeted to be completed within two to three years.

The state law library, which is operated by the UI College of Law under an agreement with the Idaho Supreme Court, previously was housed in the Idaho Supreme Court building on its first floor but was squeezed out by the expansion of the state Court of Appeals; the law library is now split into two locations, the Supreme Court’s basement and space at Key Bank downtown.

UI President Duane Nellis said, “The Idaho Supreme Court, the University of Idaho and the Laura Moore Cunningham Foundation all have a long and rich history of serving the state of Idaho. This gift links to a shared heritage and moves us forward. We are gratified by the foundation’s investment in the university’s and college’s mission to provide public legal education to the state.”

The announcement came as UI started its first law school classes in Boise – third-year classes for roughly 30 students, temporarily housed at the Idaho Water Center.

Senators want fed appeal

Idaho Sens. Jim Risch and Mike Crapo have sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar urging him to appeal a federal court decision placing wolves back on the endangered species list, which they call a “most unfortunate decision.” The two ask Salazar to “vigorously” appeal the decision to the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, adding, “It is imperative that the Department of the Interior put forth any and all necessary resources in order to successfully appeal and overturn the District Court’s decision.”

Idaho’s top Fish and Game officials already have called for the state to appeal the ruling; as a named defendant, Idaho can appeal on its own, but the lead defendant in the case is Salazar.

Goedde gets NCSL post

State Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene, has been appointed co-chairman of the education committee for the National Conference of State Legislatures, one of 12 standing committees of NCSL, the bipartisan organization that serves legislators and staffs of all states with research, technical assistance and more.

Goedde is chairman of the Senate Education Committee, a post he’s held for the past six years; he’s served on the committee for 10 years. He’s also a former Coeur d’Alene school trustee, and he serves on the University of Idaho-Coeur d’Alene Advisory Board and the North Idaho College Foundation Board.

Goedde is currently seeking a sixth term in the Senate; he has no Democratic challenger but faces independent Jeremy Boggess and Constitution Party candidate Ray Writz on the November ballot.

Otter hires reality show star

Gov. Butch Otter’s campaign has hired Troy McClain, who gained fame as the runner-up on the first season of Donald Trump‘s reality TV show “The Apprentice” in 2004, to handle its communications.

McClain, a public speaker and consultant, brought with him former KTVB-TV reporter Ryan Panitz, an employee; the campaign announced last week that Panitz and McClain are its new press contacts.

“I love their business sense and their energy,” Debbie Field, Otter’s campaign manager, told the Idaho Statesman newspaper. “They add more creativity to our team.”