Sometimes a noble fight lost achieves more than a pragmatic compromise.
Does this seem ethical to you?
Is it legal for the Speaker of the Idaho House to push a bill through the State Legislature on behalf of a development company only after that company fires a political opponent and hires a political ally?
The answer is yes.
Is it ethical? You be the judge.
Back in 2007, a California development company pushed for a bill that would allow it to pay for an interchange on I-90 with the sales tax collected at a yet-to-be-built Cabela’s store located next to the interchange.
The bill appeared to be going nowhere. Then the company asked Speaker of the House Lawerence Denney for advice. Soon after, the company fired its lobbyist, a established moderate Republican who opposed Denney’s run for speaker, and hired Julie Ellsworth, a Denney supporter and former House member who lost her seat four months earlier.
The appearance of impropriety prompted calls for a “cooling off” period, a mandatory two-year break between legislating and lobbying.
Denney would have none of it. “I have no desire to dictate who can and cannot get a job working as a lobbyist,” he opined.
Days later, Denney changed his mind, announcing that he would co-sponsor a “cooling off” bill. He did so tepidly. ‘‘I’m still not sure it’s necessary, but in this business, perception is reality,’’ he said.
Unfortunately, the bill came too late in the session. It died in committee without a hearing.
The next year, a similar bill was referred to committee at the beginning of the session where it sat for months before dying without a hearing.
Give Denney credit. He’s right. Perception is reality in the business of government. Idaho’s Secretary of State’s office has a long tradition of honesty and impartiality. The Gem State doesn’t need that tarnished with cronyism and malfeasance.
Idaho needs somebody with the reputation of fairness and honesty.