Writings and observations

You could say that the Trish & Halli show, formerly on KID-AM 590 at Idaho Falls, was at least a local outpost of political talk on radio dials dominated almost exclusively by national canned chatter. Of course, you also would have to say that its replacement by conservative talker Laura Ingraham will not change the philosophical tenor of the time spot, or the station, or talk radio in Idaho, much at all.

Still, Trish Oak and Halli Stone got their critics’ nickname of “Trash and Holler” by going after, on a very personal level, people in Idaho – people like House Speaker Bruce Newcomb, memorably, among many others. In their prime, they got people talking. But the kind of talk was often of the sort that tears communities, and neighborhoods, apart. Valuable as is locally-produced material (and business), Trish & Halli pushed the point, hard.

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When the laws on lobbyist filing and registration were passed, the idea was throw light on some of the dark corners of government policymaking, so that – if we care to find out – we can know who is working on what, and who is spreading whose influence in which directions. We can’t either know or understand how our government works, as a practical matter, without such information.

That’s why the February edition of the Idaho Public Affairs Digest will include (as it has before) a full list of registered lobbyists in Idaho. That list in itself tells almost as much about the way Idaho government works as anything brought to your attention in campaign season.

Phil RebergerBut not all of it. One of the names curiously absent from that list is that of Phil Reberger, a former chief of state for Governor Dirk Kempthorne. Reberger is a campaign manager of legendary skill, but he also has turned to other employment since leaving state government. In contrast to so many people in politics, Reberger has a positive aversion to the limelight; if his name never showed up again in an Idaho newspaper until it runs his obituary, that would doubtless suit him fine. But he is deeply involved governance and policymaking in Idaho.

Some of the evidence for this is concrete. Since 2003, according to records in the Secretary of State’s office, he has been a partner with (registered) lobbyist Pat Sullivan, who is one of the very busiest lobbyists in Idaho today, in the firm Sullivan & Reberger.

Most specifically, there is this: On January 17, Reberger and other representatives of a client of his – Unisys Corporation – met with Senator Dean Cameron, who co-chairs the budget-writing Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, about a contract Unisys was seeking with the state. Sounds like lobbying. But Reberger remains unregistered.

News reports about this (starting with a Dan Popkey column) got the attention of Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, who has sent a letter to Reberger, ” requesting that you provide me information pertaining to the manner and character of your meeting with Senator Dean Cameron and Unisys Corporation officials on January 17, 2006,” and asking for background information about the meeting.

Keep watch. Looks like some light may be thrown on a dusky corner of Idaho policymaking.

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Idaho