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Eye on Boise: Gov. Butch Otter’s campaign loan a win-win

BOISE – Idaho Gov. Butch Otter has forgiven a $131,000 loan he made to his campaign, leaving his campaign fund debt-free and with a healthy balance as he continues to say he’ll seek a third term as governor.

In his latest campaign finance report, Otter reported raising $215,369 in campaign funds since Jan. 1, spending $163,088, and ending the reporting period with $129,209 cash on hand. But both the contribution and spending figures are pushed up by the forgiveness of the $131,000 loan; that’s shown as both a contribution from Otter, forgiving the loan, and an expense for the campaign, paying it off.

Without that, Otter reported raising $84,369 in campaign contributions in the first six months of the year, with the largest donations $5,000 each from Monsanto Corp., Riley & Associates of Hayden, and rancher Harry Bettis. The spending figure, without the loan repayment, is just $32,088.

Meanwhile, while state schools Superintendent Tom Luna said last week that he’s planning to run for a third term, he reported raising only $4,750 in the last six months, with all the donations coming in the final week of the filing period.

His biggest donations were $1,000 each from CenturyLink PAC, from Raul Labrador for Idaho, and from Allen Noble. CenturyLink is part of an ongoing, $8 million-a-year contract between the state and Education Networks of America to provide Internet service to Idaho high schools through the Idaho Education Network.

Luna carried over $16,077 from earlier to make an ending cash balance July 1 of $20,827, but also reported $24,500 in outstanding debt, putting his campaign fund in the red.

New fed judge?

Idaho would get an additional U.S. District Court judge under legislation introduced last week in the U.S. Senate. The Federal Judgeship Act of 2013, introduced by Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Sen. Christopher Coons, D-Del., chairman of the judiciary subcommittee on bankruptcy and the courts, is based on recommendations from the Judicial Conference of the United States, the national governing body for the federal courts, and would create 91 new federal judgeships across 21 states to ease caseloads.

Chief Judge Alex Kozinski of the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals welcomed the bill, saying many of the nation’s most overburdened federal courts are in Western states. In addition to the new judgeship in Idaho, the bill would add two in Seattle, one in Nevada plus a temporary position, one temporary judgeship in Oregon and more than two dozen in California.

Allen Derr remembered

Hundreds filled the Barber Park Event Center in Boise last week to remember Allen Derr, the Boise attorney who won a landmark case in the U.S. Supreme Court to halt systemic discrimination against women and who left a legacy for Idaho journalists of standing up for openness in government.

Derr died June 10 at age 85.

The longtime Idaho Press Club director, who earned both journalism and law degrees from the University of Idaho, asked that donations in his memory go to his favorite program at the University Of Idaho College Of Law, the Pro Bono Program, P.O. Box 442321, Moscow, ID 83844-2321. From his obituary: “He believed with all of his heart that more young people studying law needed to understand that it isn’t always about making money; sometimes you just have to do the right thing for the sake of justice and your client.”

Star ratings up

Idaho schools fared slightly better this year in the state’s new “star ratings” system, with the number of top-rated five-star schools rising from 78 to 91, and the number of bottom-rated one-star schools falling from 35 to 22.

The number of four-star schools fell slightly, three-star schools rose slightly and two-star schools stayed roughly even. Meanwhile, the Idaho Department of Education reported that 90 percent of Idaho students scored at or above grade level in reading this year, and 82.2 percent of students scored at or above grade level in math.