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Opinion >  Column

Eye on Boise: Dissidents in Idaho GOP want to ‘denounce’ Otter for forming PAC

Bonneville County’s Republican Central Committee has voted to “denounce” Idaho Gov. Butch Otter for forming a PAC to raise funds and donate to Idaho campaigns, according to the Idaho Falls Post Register.

The effort in the eastern Idaho county is being led by county GOP Chairman Doyle Beck, who just last year helped the Integrity in Government PAC fund campaign attacks against both Otter and Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden in the primary – raising eyebrows because the PAC got direct donations from two county GOP central committees, in Clearwater and Idaho counties, for its attack on two GOP incumbents.

The Integrity in Government PAC raised more than $100,000 in a week for the attack campaign, which included mailings to every registered Republican in the state and came as Otter was being challenged in the primary by tea party-backed Russ Fulcher and Wasden by Christ Troupis. The PAC, chaired by Leigh Ann Callear of Idaho County with board members including Beck and two Idaho County residents, also donated $5,000 directly to Troupis’ campaign.

Beck told Post Register reporter Bryan Clark that he fears Otter will target precinct committee-level officials who challenge him; Otter says the new PAC will focus first on state legislative races, but if it raises enough money, could go down to the precinct committee level.

An email to Bonneville County central committee members warned that if they criticized Otter’s “crony capitalism” or his “good old boy network,” the new Otter PAC might target their seats, Clark reported. “If you say anything that draws the ire of the governor, then a Gov. Otter supporter will report your insubordinate behavior and you will be targeted,” the email stated.

The same county central committee had an open fight last month over procedures for appointments to several vacant seats, which some members charged occurred in a meeting that lacked proper notice.

Labrador claims questioned

The New York Times’ First Draft blog, which touts “Political News, Now,” took aim at a recent fundraising letter from Idaho 1st District congressman Raul Labrador. In an item headed “A guide to fundraising, tea party-style,” the Times wrote, “It seems Representative Raúl R. Labrador has a considerable view of his singular ability to oust a speaker, tame federal spending and decapitate special interests. We know this, because he is trying to raise money by saying so.”

It then quotes from a Labrador fundraising letter in which he says, “I sat in Speaker Boehner’s office and gave him an ultimatum: Change the way you’re running the House of Representatives or step down. The next day, he resigned from Congress.” And he says he “didn’t stop there,” and “told special interest groups that enough was enough and extracted $2 trillion in reduced spending over the next 10 years.”

The Times notes that “several conservative members” of the House went after Boehner “for the better part of a year,” and has this bit of snark about Labrador’s spending claim: “It is not clear what budget measure Mr. Labrador is referring to, but he generally votes against bipartisan budget deals and was not a major player in any fiscal negotiation.”

Labrador has been making similar statements for months, telling Idaho Public TV this fall that since he’s been in Congress, the federal deficit has fallen from $1.5 trillion to $450 billion. “If I weren’t here, that wouldn’t be happening,” Labrador said.

Board backs initiative

The board of the Central District Health Department, the public health district that serves the Boise area, has voted to endorse the College, Not Cancer Act, the ballot initiative that’s currently circulating to raise Idaho’s cigarette tax and lower state college and university tuition.

Steven Scanlin, board chairman, called the measure “a unique approach to improve public health in Idaho,” and noted that Idaho has one of the lowest cigarette tax rates in the U.S. and the lowest in the West, at 57 cents per pack. The ballot initiative would raise Idaho’s cigarette tax by $1.50 a pack, and lower public university tuition by 22 percent.

Broadband panel

A legislative committee crafting the way forward for the state after the demise of the Idaho Education Network has recommended a new stakeholders committee be set up at the state Department of Education to oversee and govern state broadband aid to schools.

The motion to locate the new oversight panel at the Education Department – rather than the state Department of Administration, which operated the IEN – passed unanimously. “The issue isn’t technology, the issue is getting business right,” said Rep. John Rusche, D-Lewiston. “We’ve had lots and lots of technology projects that have been driven by technologists, and don’t meet the business needs.”

The IEN, which sought to link every Idaho high school with a broadband network, ended after a court overturned the state’s $60 million contract award for the service, finding it was issued illegally. Since then, schools have contracted for their own broadband service, saving millions over the costs of the IEN.

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