Years before a private prison company was even selected for Idaho – but just after the concept was adopted by the state – this space predicted that the future for that prison held news stories about scandal and lawsuits.

An accurate prediction: After high-profile news stories about the Corrections Corporation of America-run prison at Boise described it as a “gladiator school” and worse after violence and injuries, the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit in March 2010 “that alleged deliberate indifference by CCA officials, inadequate staffing and supervision, and a failure to investigate acts of violence.” About a year and a half later the case settled. (CCC did not acknowledge wrongdoing but did agree to make a number of procedural changes.)

Since then, Idaho’s prison population – the state has one of the highest rates in the nation – has continued to grow, according to the Department of Correction: “Idaho’s inmate population is 8,099 and has grown by more than 500 inmates since the fiscal year began on July 1, 2011. Idaho is managing its prisons at capacity and also houses more than 800 inmates in county jails statewide.”

So how is it resolving the difficulty? By entering into a new contract with CCC:

“Idaho has selected a Colorado prison to help house Idaho’s growing inmate population. This week, the Idaho Department of Correction notified Corrections Corporation of America of its intent to award a contract to house Idaho inmates at the Kit Carson Correctional Center in Burlington, Colorado. Idaho issued a request for proposals for beds in April. Two companies offered a proposal. The CCA proposal won based on an overall score of criteria that included bed availability, security practices, inmate supervision, and experience managing medium custody inmates. … The Department expects to finalize the bed contract in early July, and will send 250 male medium-custody inmates out of state in late July or early August. IDOC has already notified the inmate population, asking for volunteers for out-of-state placement.”

Note that the respondents were two companies – private companies.

Yeah, this sounds like another winner of a proposition.

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While the Republican arguments against Attorney General Eric Holder, leading to a House vote to charge him with contempt, have gotten wide play around the region – new Idaho Representative Raul Labrador was one of the leaders of the effort – the other side of the argument has gotten little.

There was a good article, nearly the only piece of digging journalism on the subject, in the magazine Fortune providing one of the few good perspective pieces on the Fast and Furious issue.

More succinctly, maybe, Oregon Democratic Representative Kurt Schrader, a Blue Dog, said: “The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform found no proof that Attorney General Holder authorized or condoned gunwalking, a program started under the Bush Administration. After the release of more than 7,600 pages of documentation, testimony by an agent involved in Operation Fast and Furious denying Holder had any knowledge of the program, the committee’s refusal to check past abuses or interview the Attorney General under President Bush, Chairman Issa went forward with a contempt vote having no solid evidence of impropriety by Attorney General Holder.”

Worth factoring in.

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Two posts here on the Supreme Court’s decision on the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”); one on Oregon and Washington, the other (to follow) on Idaho, these two areas living in separate worlds on the subject.

Oregon and Washington each have been moving actively on a track to try to change and, officials hope, improve the health care system in their states. How successful they will be we will know only a few years from now, but the effort at least is being made. And these haven’t been entirely partisan affairs; much of the Oregon health program, in particular, has gotten significant Republican as well as Democratic support.

Many of those efforts in both states have had some reliance on passage and enactment of the ACA, so you can sense some real relief in the governor’s offices (among other places) in these states.

From Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber, who may have been moving more aggressively on health reform than any other governor the country:

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And a statement from Washington Governor Chris Gregoire:

“I applaud today’s Supreme Court decision. Since the Affordable Care Act was signed by the President, we have worked tirelessly to implement it in our state, with my firm belief that it was constitutional and would ultimately withstand legal challenge. I’m extremely pleased that the majority of the Court agreed on the merits of the law highlighted in the briefs that I and others submitted on its behalf.

“The real winners today, however, are the millions of Americans and Washingtonians who have and will now continue to benefit from this Act. Among them are more than 50,000 young adults in our state who have gained insurance coverage through their parents’ plan, our more than 60,000 seniors who’ve annually received assistance to purchase needed prescription drugs, and the millions here that are no longer subject to unfair practices by insurance companies. And with this cloud of legal uncertainty removed, I look forward to the day not long from now when more than 800,000 people in our state will be able to use our Health Benefit Exchange to get the health insurance that they need but currently must go without.”

Both states are far from done on the work in the area, but the decision today will probably give them a boost to accelerate their efforts.

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Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

“You’re really a Republican, you just don’t want to admit it,” my publisher said to me the other day.

“I’m a business Democrat,” I countered, “if you insist on trying to label me.”

“No such thing,” he replied, adding “and just what the heck is that?”

Back and forth we go, having fun by trying to put each other on the defensive and deliberately distorting what the other says. We take our politics seriously and often disagree without being too disagreeable (at least in my case!). At the end of the day, though, we both say a pox on the houses of each party for being enthralled to their particular special interests.

Neither of us has ever voted a straight ticket and both of us sometimes despair about the future direction of both Idaho and the nation. We are both dismayed at the inability of the two parties to work together for the common good.

One of several reasons I would never subscribe to being allied with the Republican Party can best be explained by a recent Pew Research poll. Three out of five self-described Republicans disagreed with the statement that government has a responsibility to take care of those who cannot take care of themselves. For Democrats, by contrast, three out of four agreed with the statement, and that number has remained fairly constant over the last 25 years.

Significantly, even with Independents there has been a slight decline, with 70 percent agreeing in 1987 but today it has dropped to 59 percent.

Twenty-five years ago three out of five R’s accepted the notion of societal obligation to help the weak, the infirm, the mentally challenged, the homeless, the drug addict, the child of a single mother trapped in poverty. No longer is that the case.

This is a “social Darwinistic” attitude to say the least. Frankly, I don’t want to believe my many Republican friends no longer care about others. Many of them do and many are generous in their donations to various charities.

Rather, I choose to think this appalling factoid reflects that a considerable number of R’s are more concerned about the efficiency of the programs being delivered than that they want to stop the programs. Pew’s research indicates this attitude may indeed be part of the shift away from recognizing there are legitimate needs amongst many of one’s fellow citizens.

Twenty five years ago both major parties and independents were all grouped between 65 percent and 60 percent in agreeing with the statement that when something is run by the government it is usually inefficient and wasteful. Today there is a wide gap with almost eight out of 10 R’s agreeing with that statement but only four out of 10 Democrats.

Therein lies one of the sub-themes of this year’s presidential election, and both parties are crafting messages around it with the D’s portraying the R’s as heartless cost cutters regardless of how many people are hurt, and the R’s portraying the D’s as not recognizing unsustainable costs and that spending has to be cut, along with the proliferation of a gazillion needless regulations.

Fine, let that be part of the debate. What I personally don’t like to see is the vilification of all public employees by some people, who fail to recognize that a game warden they know as Fred, down the street, is a public employee, as is Katrina up the street who works for the Forest Service.

Put a face to the faceless bureaucrat and it’s a lot tougher to denounce your neighbor as some sort of free-loading, lazy government worker who nonetheless will inherit a rich pension plan.

Having a son who did two tours in Iraq when it was still darn dangerous, I have always appreciated folks who would stick out their hand and say to him “thank you for your service.” This 4th of July let me suggest that you do the same to that neighbor who is a public employee (and often a veteran). Say thank you for serving your country and your fellow citizens and tell them you really do appreciate that they work hard just like the rest of us.

I always liked a statement I heard Democratic First District congressional candidate Roy Truby say a few years back: “I have a hard time understanding people who say they love their country but hate their government.” So do I, Roy, so do I. Have a happy 4th of July, folks. Salute that flag and give a prayer of thanks that we truly do live in a great nation.

CHRIS CARLSON is a former journalist who served as press secretary to Gov. Cecil Andrus. He lives at Medimont.

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rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

I’m not anti-Republican. I’m not. I swear. I have friends who are… well, you know. But – from precinct to national level – more and more stories dealing with Republicans are filled with examples of ignorance of politics in general and the workings of all levels of government specifically. They’ve elected some goofballs to Congress who’ve proven THEY don’t know how it operates, either State groups continue to advocate party positions with no forethought of reality. All in all, what’s left of Grand Old Party leadership, in many states, is some old John Birch types with official titles they worked so many years to get.

The near-rabid GOP stalwarts in Idaho have provided the latest evidence of such ignorance, meeting in Twin Falls this month in state convention. As they do each session, they created a party “purity” platform with the usual impossible planks of going back to the gold standard, taking away the vote for U.S. Senators from fellow citizens, etc. But they topped themselves this year. They really did. Here’s just one example.

Idaho Republicans continually express contempt for all things federal. So, last week, convention delegates renewed their bid to blow up the federal Department of Education. Get rid of it. Officially. “Get out of Idaho; let us teach our own kids our own way and leave us the Hell alone.” Or words to that effect.

“So, what’s wrong with that?” you ask. “Several other state Republican parties feel the same way and, even though it probably can’t be done, what’s the big deal in Idaho being on that list?”
Well, here are some facts. Distasteful as it may be to make the point here, they’re federal facts from that damnable bunch of federal ‘liberals’ in the Bureau of the Census. (Public Education Finances: 2010) They may be feds but I still trust ‘em.

When you look at the 50 states – from the standpoint of how much money each spends per pupil for K-12 education – Idaho comes in 49th. The only one that spends less is – where else – Utah, where Republicans also want to deep-six the Dept. Of Education.
“Well, that’s not good,” you say, “But they still ought to be able to do it without the federal intrusion.” Oh, sure. No problem.
Let’s see now. Idaho – at 49th place – spends about $7,106 per pupil K-12. And 20.4% of that amount for each kid is – wait for it – federal bucks! Yep, even if Idaho Republicans are proud of their 49th place on that per-pupil spending list, without the feds they’d have to ante up another 20% just to maintain that national next-to-last ranking. Each year. Every year.

How many more bucks? Well, Idaho K-12 population is about 278,500. So total expenditures would be nearly $2-billion. If 20% of that goes away with the feds, Idahoans would have to make up $396 million just to remain 49th. Just to stay in the basement. Piece of cake! All it would take is a sizeable state tax increase. “A WHAT???” Yep.
In the northern part of the state, feds – read EPA – have spent hundreds and hundreds of millions of those damnable federal dollars trying to clean up Silver Valley which is terribly polluted by mine tailings and other debris. They’re still working. Helluva long term boost to the sad local economies.

But, hey, Idaho Republicans at convention still wanted to kill the EPA and rid themselves of all that federal largesse. While permanently keeping all that pollution, of course. Or maybe another state tax increase of hundreds of millions to take over the job. Sure.

Again, I’m not trying to castigate all Republicans. I was raised in a fine old Republican family by fine old Republican parents and grandparents. I’m not opposed to the idea of voting for an occasional Republican and telling my neighbors I did so.

But – in recent years – activities among those controlling the party have – more often than not – disregarded fact, shown ignorance of how government operates and seem to have not a clue how to advance their political position. When you select a Republican primary candidate for the U.S. Senate in Illinois, for example, who says “the time for cooperation and compromise is over” – well, the evidence becomes prima facie. If he prevails in November – if others of similar mindset do as well – the already shameful status of Congress will be a very real disaster threatening our national survival.

Despite idiotic ranting condemning all things federal by the Republican rank-and-file, many have been taking those federal farm and land subsidies, enjoying the in-lieu tax dollars for all those federal forests around their little communities, openly using federal dollars to subsidize state education monies, begging for more federal timber to cut and federal highways and bridges to get to those federal trees. Or mine in the federal ground. Or use EPA cleanup millions to prop up the local economy.

And in Idaho, they conveniently overlook the fact the current governor of their own party will eventually retire with a good chunk of federal dollars in his monthly check from his lengthy federal service in our federal congress. Along with the other four guys from their own party currently back on the Potomac. All of whom will be re-elected until past retirement age. Like their predecessors. To live out their lives enjoying their federal dollars.
Just more inconvenient facts. Sorry.

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Idahoans may be famous for their skepticism of government but they’ve made little use of the recall. It’s available, as Coeur d’Alene people well know. We’ll return there in a moment, and why their recent failed try is something relatively new.

Idaho is one of 19 states allowing; from the constitution: “Every public officer in the state of Idaho, excepting the judicial officers, is subject to recall by the legal voters of the state or of the electoral district from which he is elected.” (Members of Congress are not, as activists learned in 1967 when they tried to recall Senator Frank Church.) The numbers needed for petition signatures and votes at election are significant, but no particular reason is required; in some states like Washington, specific causes are needed, and not only the voters but judges have to agree that they are legally strong enough.

Thousands of officials at any one time are subject to recall, and considering the critics they inevitably accumulate, the remarkable thing may be that recalls are so rare. There may be a feeling it should be used sparingly, that regular elections are where changes ought to be made. In this season’s Wisconsin recall elections, exit polls showed 10 percent of the voters thought recall elections are never appropriate, and 60 percent thought only clear misconduct was reason enough.

No statewide official in Idaho has ever been recalled. An attempt some months back to recall Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna fell far short. Just two Idaho legislators, Aden Hyde and Fisher Ellsworth, have ever been recalled, both in 1971; a recent effort targeted at Boise Republican Senator Mitch Toryanski failed. The last county official recalled (in my memory and that of a long-time Idaho Association of Counties staffer) was Latah County Commissioner Mark Solomon in 1994.

Those successful recalls turn out to have been about the same thing: Elected official pay. Hyde and Ellsworth had supported a legislative pay increase. Solomon and two fellow commissioners (who narrowly survived their recall election) had converted the commission from part-time to full-time (with a pay raise). Little wonder Idaho elected officials get so nervous about raising pay for their offices.

Turning then to the partisan hotbed Coeur d’Alene, where (in the central city district) Democrats can be competitive, but also home to a highly energetic and vocal collection of Republican activist groups, a half-dozen or so. Some Coeur d’Alene city elections, formally non-partisan, have turned into partisan battles. In 2009 Council member Mike Kennedy, a Democrat, won on election night by five votes over Jim Brannon, a Republican. Not only a recount but a court case (reducing the margin to three votes) lasted a year.

That was the backdrop for this month’s recall effort, targeting Kennedy, Mayor Sandi Bloem and two other council members; recall backers failed to get enough valid petition signatures to force the election. The ostensible rationale was a council upgrade (using no tax funds) of a part of the city’s waterfront, but there was much more to it. This was a partisan battle of partisan sides, and it may be the first serious Idaho recall effort (unless you count Luna’s) waged in that context. Republican state Representative Kathy Sims was one of the leading activists. Jeff Ward of the Reagan Republicans remarked in a blog post, “Many of us are quite disappointed that we do not have a recall campaign to wage in August or November.”

Less partisan Coeur d’Alene voters may be less disappointed.

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Daily we get the reminders of just why Congress is held in such poor esteem. But that doesn’t mean there are no good ideas there.

Here, a couple from two first-term members of the Northwest congressional delegation.

One grew out of need pointed up by a recent audit by the Oregon secretary of state’s office, that even in this time of high unemployment many employers had some trouble finding the workers with skills and training suitable to positions opening – and not just low-wage positions, either. The audit suggested one basic problem is a communications gap between businesses and colleges, especially community colleges.

So, days later, on June 21, this: Democratic Representative Suzanne Bonamici proposed “H.R. 5975, the Workforce Infrastructure for Skilled Employees (WISE) Investment Act today to help identify local skills gaps and put Americans back to work. This is Bonamici’s first major piece of legislation since she assumed office in February. The WISE Investment Act establishes a pilot program that will provide grants to eligible workforce investment boards, community colleges, and other vocational institutions to hire local business liaisons. The liaisons will identify and analyze existing skills gaps and find ways to appropriately address them.”

Could be highly useful helpful to businesses and employees both, unless it’s derailed by the ideology that government can never do anything helpful.

The same day, Idaho Republican Representative Raul Laborador introduced a measure looking at another problem faced in the Northwest – most emphatically, in fact, in Oregon. The Secure Rural Schools program, providing federal funding for rural schools, is expiring and doesn’t seem likely to be extended.

Labrador has proposed something to help fill the gap, the Self-Sufficient Community Lands Act of 2012. It “would establish a program intended to generate economic activity for local governments and counties with National Forest System land through a management-focused approach. The legislation would create ‘community forest demonstration areas’ to allow the governor of a state to appoint local boards of trustees to assume management of selected federal forest acreage. The governor would then petition the Secretary of Agriculture to cede management of the demonstration acreage to the appointed board.”

Not ownership, but management of specific tracts, and under fairly strict guidelines, and not a sweeping change, but pilot programs to explore whether the idea might work on a larger scale, or under what conditions. A useful idea, prospectively, if not derailed by concerns of making any changes at all in federal land management.

A couple of new tests for Congress, in other words.

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The race for the Washington secretary of state’s office, which is open due to the retirement of Republican Sam Reed, doesn’t seem to be a logical hotbed of controversy, in part because Reed has handled the job so capably.

But this week, there is this: The appearance of this year’s voter guide to Washington candidates, or rather the fact that it is appearing on line rather than in print.

Democrat Kathleen Drew, a former legislator from east King County, who won her party’s convention endorsement earlier this month, has been critical of that. The Tacoma News Tribune reported that “She says Reed failed to ask for funding from the Legislature this year, and like other candidates she says she will make this a priority if elected.

Certainly voter guides like those in Washington and Oregon (Idaho never has gotten into them, as a state publication) are a good thing, and the more they’re used the better. (Our elections would be a whole lot better if voters paid attention to the voter guides and ignored completely all the commercials.) But is there real need to print and mail the hundreds of thousands of copies needed to cover the electorate? A couple of decades ago, maybe even 10 years ago, the answer might have been yes. But so few people now have no access to online guides that maybe an opt-in approach would be as advisable. And cost-effective.

And there’s even this: If something in a voter guide needs to be changed, use of an online guide would allow for the change. Once something is printed on paper, well, it’s printed on paper.

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The old Mark Twain quote about writing, that “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead,” was a reflection the idea that concise writing often takes more serious thought than does unleashing a mass of undisciplined verbiage.

So what should we make of Art Robinson‘s new 410-page tome, Common Sense in 2012?

Robinson is running, a second time, as the Republican nominee in Oregon 4, against long-time incumbent Democrat Peter DeFazio. His campaign hasn’t been as visible, yet, as it was in 2010, but that may have changed this week as his book landed – he calls it a “liberty book bomb” – around District 4. One correspondent there said it arrived at his house, “Professionally shrink-wrapped. Color cover. The works. A card inside said it cost $2.09 to print and was mailed by volunteers. Also “In all, about 6,000 contributors and volunteers participated.” Whatever that means. Very professional looking. … This was expensive. Full of his crap though toned down a bit for other-than-nut-case consumption. But somebody somewhere put some big bucks in this.”

Someone did; as of late April Robinson reported collecting upwards of $400,000 for his campaign. (DeFazio was a little north of $600,000.) But the cost need not have been high. He helpfully made the book available both via Scribd, an online document storage and viewing service, as as a pdf file; out of pocket costs for doing those things would be not much more than nothing.

The message overall is easily boiled down to Twainian levels: Congress and the federal government are bad, whatever they do is counterproductive, the market place will solve all, and no one outside government entities seems to have contributed to our problems. It’s a rather familiar message, and some of the rough edges from Robinson’s past have been smoothed off in this publication.

410 pages may be a longish read for the average voter, though. Maybe for good reason.

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The Albany-Eugene 115-kilovolt No. 1 transmission line, which the Bonneville Power Administration plans to rebuild. (Image/BPA)

Last week, Washington’s two main candidates for governor met in their first debate, at Spokane. The University of Oregon got a new president. A referendum on Washington state’s new same-sex marriage law won ballot status. Idaho Republicans prepared for their convention at Twin Falls.

The Oregon Supreme Court ordered released a mass of files held by the Boy Scouts of America on sex abuse allegations. PILT funds were released by the Department of Interior. The job picture improved slightly in Washington but worsened a bit in Idaho.

Federal officials started a launch toward creating a new national history park, commemorating the Manhattan Project. A system was set up for calculating property taxes online.

All this and a lot more in this week’s Briefings. For more, write us at [email protected]

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The Idaho Democratic convention may generate a few headlines but the Republican next weekend in Twin Falls may tell a larger story, when it makes decisions on picking a new chairman and approving platform and resolutions.

The chairmanship is opening with the end-of-term departure of Norm Semanko, and there’s not only no obvious heir, but also no now-obvious battle lines. The chair fight in 2010 was not about different gradations of “conservative,” or even ideology, but more about ins vs. outs. The outs (under Semanko’s banner) won. That may have taken a little air out, since winning breeds satisfaction rather than roiling energy. And this year, Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter evidently is (wisely, after losing two years ago) staying out of it. The divisions this year seem not nearly as sharp as two years ago.

A bunch of names have been floated. Some are not prominent statewide (the county chair of Elmore County, for example). At least one is well known – Dean Sorensen, a former legislator who (fairly or not) for some bears the “moderate” tag, not a good sign for election inside this party. A dark horse could yet emerge.

Then there’s Lawerence Denney, speaker of the Idaho House, quoted as saying he might be willing to serve as party chair and leave the speakership. This is an eye-catcher, since party chair is not nearly so powerful or influential an office as House speaker – or even, probably, most House committee chairs. Speculation here: It’s an indication Denney thinks he may be unseated in the organizational session in December by Representative Scott Bedke, the now-Assistant Majority Leader running for speaker, who seems to have deep and broad support.

But Denney’s candidacy, like others, is uncertain till the convention. It could be a relatively quiet and easy contest; a string of candidates each without much support each could drag things on; or there could be a squabble over issues.

Bringing us to platform and resolutions, subject of much discussion after the 2010 meeting when Tea Party favorites like repeal of popular election of senators, return to the gold standard and other such issues either were embraced or nearly so. There’s some discussion this convention might focus more on national issues and on lining up support for presidential nominee-apparent Mitt Romney, which would make for peaceful quiet.

Or not. The batch of proposed resolutions mailed to convention delegates includes, again, a bunch of hot-button items (one calling for a reversal on the closed Republican primary). Resolutions committee co-chair is Representative Bob Nonini of Coeur d’Alene, who may not shy from the hotter stuff.

The platform could go two ways too. Last time, the party called for sending out to candidates a checkoff form called variously a “survey” or a “loyalty oath,” in which they could declare which platform elements they support or not. Those responses apparently will be brought into discussion in the platform committee, which is slated to run about twice as long as usual. Based on that and longer debate, the platform might be softened from 2010, or the delegates might decide to get more creative.

Each of these choices will tell us something about Idaho Republicans this year.

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Bryan Fischer departed Idaho about five years ago, but the New Yorker article now out profiling him (“Bully Pulpit”) – the hook was his blast at a Matt Romney spokesman who happens to be gay, resulting in the aide’s resignation – is still well worth the read by Idahoans. He was a significant figure in the state for a number of years, and he had real impact on the evangelical community in the Boise area.

One of the sources for it was Boise’s Dennis Mansfield, who was once close to Fischer but parted ways years ago. (The specifics are detailed in part in the article.”

Mansfield’s blog has a fine post up today reflecting on Fischer. He wrote at one point, “Debating the rightness or wrongness of homosexuality in our culture is something that Bryan Fischer is actively engaged in, and has been for over a decade. You know what? I used to be there too. The term “righteous anger” would have been an appropriate term to describe the ferocity with which I would debate this issue, and others. The problem is that it doesn’t work. Somebody who yells and screams makes for great entertainment, but little else. I’ve found that is is exponentially more difficult to shut my mouth, and listen. It is also exponentially more rewarding.”

He closes with this from Corinthians 1: “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”

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When a fellow office-holder – especially a fellow member of a legislature or of Congress – gets into messy personal trouble, at least of the reaction from their colleagues of the same party has to be: Please go away. Just quit. Soon. It’s colleagues of the other party that would be happier to have them stick around.

Finessing this is never easy. Idaho senators had to deal with this in the case, last year and this, of (now-former) Senator John McGee of Caldwell, who last year had a strange drunken incident and this year was accused of sexual harassment. Under pressure from fellow Republican colleagues, he resigned before this year’s legislative session was done.

Now Oregon House Republicans have a Matt Wingard problem, and it too isn’t going to go away very quickly or easily – if, that is, Wingard stays in office.

The full story was reported by Willamette Week and won’t be recited in detail here. The core of it – not disputed by Wingard – is that he met the woman at a Christmas party in 2009; she joked he should hire her (as a legislative aide), and he did. Not long after, her legal allegation says, he began pressuring her to drink beer (she was 20, underage for alcohol), and they eventually had a sexual relationship. He says that was fully consensual, she says he pressured her into it. She eventually stopped coming to work, she said, but Wingard continued to pay her for some time anyway. (Wingard at least partly disputes that latter point.)

Regardless, the undisputed elements include delivering alcohol to someone underage, misusing the hiring function of a legislative office, and entering into an employer-subordinate sexual relationship. Wingard’s response in part included the line, “I believe that what two consenting adults do is their own business” – but the law recognizes that when one person in a relationship has power (such as hiring and firing) over another, there’s a real question about the nature of consent.

Wingard has been in Republican House leadership, and he simplified matters for his colleagues by relinquishing that job. But as long as he’s a legislator, this isn’t going away. In an election year in which Republicans and Democrats each hold 30 House seats, every one is precious. Including Wingard’s.

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Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

With his closely cropped hair resembling a military buzz cut one would think Denton Darrington was a former U.S. Marine. He’s not, but he is the living personification of the Marine motto – semper fi (Always faithful) — with his fidelity to family, friends, LDS faith, his state and country, the Idaho Legislature and the teaching profession.

After a record 30 years of service in the State Senate, Denton is leaving and returning to his farm full-time since he also retired from the classroom, having been an educator for 33 years. The people of Idaho in general and supporters of education in particular owe him a solid vote of gratitude for a job well done.

Rather than run against good friend State Senator Dean Cameron (R-Rupert), chair of the powerful Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee, when redistricting combined their districts, Darrington, true to his genuine modesty, chose to retire.

A walking encyclopedia of Idaho political history and an excellent practitioner of the art of politics, one wishes the veteran state senator was not so humble about his God-given skills. Urged by many friends to run for State Superintendent of Public Instruction in 2006, Darrington took a pass on grounds he believed he was not qualified.

Instead, the state ended up with the truly unqualified Tom Luna who has alienated most teachers and been the spear point for Republican attacks on the Idaho Education Association over issues like collective bargaining, merit pay, and on-line education.

Many believe Idaho education would not be at the nadir it has fallen to if someone like Darrington, with actual classroom experience and a working knowledge of politics, had been leading the SPI office during these perilous times.

The senator’s farm is outside of Declo, a small farming community a few miles east of Burley at the crossroads of State Highways 81 and 77. Early one morning I recently caught up with him before he jumped on his tractor.

I was following up on a request he’d made when we bumped into each other in Boise this winter. He wanted to provide me with the “rest of the story” on an item in my recent book on Governor Andrus which recounted an incident when I was working for the Idaho State Journal in 1970 and was the only reporter at a hearing on the SPI office budget.

Using hyperbolic language I’d described the hearing as a “kangaroo court” being conducted by two “red-neck” State Senators out to “lynch” then State Superintendent Del Engelking.

Darrington knew I was referring to a predecessor, Joe Preston.

At one time, Preston was a rising star in southern Idaho politics. Elected to the State House in 1964, he became good friends with another rising star, a young state senator from Idaho Falls, Terry Crapo, who through his leadership position was able to help Preston become in his second term the chair of the House Revenue and Taxation committee, the second most powerful position after Speaker, in the House.

In 1968 the district’s incumbent state senator, Don Loveland, vacated the seat for an abortive run for the GOP nomination to be the Second congressional district’s representative (He lost in the primary to Idaho Falls State Senator Orval Hansen).

Denton’s father, like Denton, a teacher and a farmer, and active in Republican politics, decided to run for the Senate seat. Much to his surprise, his neighbor and friend, Joe Preston, called him to say he had decided to run also.

Fair enough except Preston then ran a classic smear campaign against the senior Darrington that maligned both he and his wife, who also taught, for being a part of the state’s new PERSI retirement program, alleging the pair would be “ripping off” the taxpayers and conveniently skipping over facts like their own contributions.

Preston framed the race as a choice between “rip-off” teachers or good ole’ hard-workin’ Joe. Preston’s whole campaign was extremely anti-education. His tactics succeeded as he won, but it was a pyrrhic victory. In the process he so alienated many Republicans that he served only one term and was defeated in 1970 by Democrat radio station owner Bob Saxvik, who held the seat for three terms.

In 1976 Saxvik was in turn defeated by the GOP’s Dean Van Engelen, who held the seat for six years before vacating in 1982 for an abortive run for the GOP nomination for State Auditor (he lost to Nolan Young).

That opened the door for then Cassia County GOP chairman Denton Darrington who won the seat that he should have inherited from his father and held it for 30 years. Interestingly, he defeated then Democrat Bruce Newcombe, a future Republican House Speaker. And that’s the rest of the story.

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Carlson Idaho

A vigorous debate this afternoon in Spokane (watchable on TVW) between the two main candidates (almost certainly the two who will face each other post-primary) for Washington governor, Republican Rob McKenna and Democrat Jay Inslee.

They were not greatly imbalanced. McKenna talked faster, whipped through bullet points with crisp precision, probably got in more effective digs at Inslee than Inslee did of him, and scored more points in a formal debate sense. He also seemed a little cold and off-putting, even a little technocratic. Inslee was a little slower-paced, made fewer specific points and sometimes fuzzed those, but conveyed more of a sense of an overarching sensibility. He seemed a little warmer and more approachable. Both came across as smart and knowledgeable.

The debate was cordial, but both were careful to draw distinctions between them on almost everything. Toward the end McKenna remarked that “It’s good to have a strong contrast; we clearly have that here” (and they did) on the two-thirds voting requirement for legislative imposition of taxes. Attorney General McKenna supported it as policy, not just as a legal case, saying the voters were right to build a higher wall to passage of a tax after the state had raised a number of them over the years. Inslee’s response was that “It is a principle of democracy that we have one person, one vote.” The two-thirds requirement gives more clout to a person one one side of an issue.

The debate focused on the economy, education and budget matters. Asked about charter schools – there’s a prospective ballot issue to allow for some of them in Washington, overturning the current ban – McKenna said he would vote aye, while Inslee was in opposition.

These points could be among the keynotes of the campaigns to come, along with a couple of other comments each made. McKenna’s closing included the comment that “In Olympia, all we hear are excuses.” That almost sounds like a counterpoint to a comment Inslee made earlier, about concerns of a “my way or the highway” approach to governance – a reference he made directly to Republicans in Congress but which might also be applied to states like Wisconsin.

More debates to come. Watch them develop.

UPDATE: WHO WON? Self-selecting polls are never to be trusted too much, as they’re subject to gaming. But presumably since both sides may have had a crack at it, here’s the Seattle Times‘ online poll (self-selecting) at midday Wednesday on who won: McKenna 48.2%, Inslee 47.2%. A wash.

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Washington