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Carlson: Review and clarify

Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

This column has been running for a year and it’s appropriate to update a few issues I dissected during that time.

ITEM: They never go back to Pocatello.

Former Democratic First District Congressman Walt Minnick demonstrated anew this old saying about politicians once they leave office. After auditioning for a post with the Obama Administration as comptroller of the currency, Minnick and his partners formed – you guessed it – a lobbying firm called The Majority Group.

While barred by law from any direct contact with his former colleagues for one year, there is nothing that prohibits Minnick from directing others on whose ear to bend and arm to twist. As a former member of the House, he still has floor access privileges to boot.

Minnick’s mid-February move followed by only a few days the announcement by former Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) official Steve Israel that he would be forming an alumni association of the many former “Blue Dog” Democrats defeated in the last election by Republicans who may try to retake their old seats.

The thought is to stick together, try to influence the House Democratic caucus, share polling and fund-raising information to the extent the law allows, bank on the Republicans over-reaching and charge back.

Minnick did not return calls to his new office nor an e-mail request, thus leaving some obvious questions unanswered. Is he planning for a rematch? Most folks doubt it, but those bitten by the bug never say never. Is his wife, “A.K.” (a former tv newscaster and former Democratic state chair) and their children taking up permanent residency inside the Beltway? Will there be a business tie between Minnick’s new firm and the alumni association? Is there a particular market they will target? Does the firm already have a contract with the DCCC? Time will tell.

Don’t be harsh on Walt. He joins a large group of former Idaho elected officials and staff who once they tasted the D.C. power elixir cannot remove themselves. That list includes former Senators Steve Symms and Larry Craig, former Senate Sergeant of Arms Greg Casey, former Agriculture Under Secretary Mark Rey, and former Idaho Congressmen Orval Hansen and George Hansen, to name only a few.

ITEM: Congressman Mike Simpson reinserts provision on primacy of state water rights for non-navigable waters.

Kudos to Idaho’s Second District congressman for using his new position as chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and the Environment to reinsert language into a resolution that would prohibit the EPA from using tax dollars to try to remove from the Clean Waters Act language restricting EPA’s authority only to “navigable waters” in a state.

Anyone who cares about the primacy of state water rights and state management of groundwater and non-navigable waters should recognize the threat posed by this naked federal power grab by an agency increasingly operating as a law unto itself. State water rights are critical to the arsenal of arms folks in the Silver Valley can utilize to combat EPA’s attempt to cram a 50-year, $1.8 billion plan for unnecessary extension of clean-up efforts there.

The continuing reluctance of Gov. Butch Otter to support Simpson and state water rights is most puzzling.

ITEM: Sen. Mike Crapo finally introduces legislation to limit presidential authority to create national monuments. As first reported in this column last summer, Crapo introduced a Senate version and California Congressman Devin Nunes a House counterpart of a bill severely limiting the authority of presidents to set aside public lands for higher and better uses under the Antiquities Act of 1906.

Presidents of both parties, starting with Theodore Roosevelt through Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, have used this law often when a recalcitrant Congress refuses to enact needed legislation to protect some of the many special places on public lands. It has become an important bargaining tool for proponents of more protection as a means of forging compromises because national monuments are far more restrictive than wilderness or national recreation area designations.

Some feel Simpson’s 10-year process of negotiating an acceptable compromise to create the Boulder-White Clouds Wilderness will only become a reality if President Obama designates it a national monument. Congress would then undo that by passing Simpson’s bill.

Even if Crapo’s bill were to get to Obama’s desk, it is guaranteed a veto. It’s pure political posturing.

ITEM: Sen. Crapo and The Gang of Six.

The senator deserves kudos for his “Profile in Courage” action in joining five other colleagues in support of the Bowles-Simpson Commission’s set of recommendations to address the nation’s deficit crisis through a combination of entitlement reforms, spending reductions and tax increases. – Chris Carlson

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