"No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions." --Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1804.
Dr. Kent Tingey, Idaho State University’s vice president for university advancement, stands outside ISU’s Stephens Performing Arts Center in Pocatello.


Mark Mendiola
Eastern Idaho

One of the nation’s most prestigious performing arts centers attracting top musicians and artists from throughout the world can be found in Pocatello – of all places.

Not many people would consider Idaho a cultural mecca, but Idaho State University’s $35 million L.E. and Thelma E. Stephens Performing Arts Center ranks among the best venues for concerts and performances anywhere.

The majestic Stephens Center prominently occupies nearly 17 acres atop Bartz Hill overlooking the ISU campus and the Portneuf Valley. Many Idahoans consider the Stephens Center one of the Gem State’s many crown cultural jewels.

“It’s made an unbelievable impact on the community and the state,” said Dr. Kent Tingey, ISU’s vice president for university advancement, estimating that economic impact in multi millions of dollars.

In 1998, Thelma Stephens, widow of L.E. Stephens, a potato industry pioneer, gave ISU $10 million as seed money for the project. The Stephenses were close friends of former ISU athletics director Milton “Dubby” Holt after whom ISU’s Holt Arena is named. She died in September 2006 at the age of 98.

Former ISU President Richard Bowen and Tingey helped spearhead a $152.5 million capital campaign to fund a variety of ISU projects, including the center’s construction, which began in June 2002. It was the largest fund-raising campaign in the history of Idaho higher education.

The 123,000 square foot Stephens Center’s highest point is its 83-foot-tall rotunda. Its electrical wiring totals one million feet or 189 miles. About 280,000 bricks were used in its construction. Two of its acoustic panels weigh 36,000 pounds each.

The Joseph C. and Chery H. Jensen Grand Concert Hall boasts 13,890 square feet and 1,200 seats; the Beverly B. Bistline Thrust Theatre, 8,212 square feet and 450 seats; the James E. and Beverly Rogers Black Box Theatre, 3,400 sq. ft. and 230 seats.

The Stephens Center’s first performance was “Man of LaMancha” in October 2004 in the Bistline Theatre. Its grand concert hall was inaugurated in April 2005 by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Others who have performed there include Carole King, Roger Williams, the Utah Symphony, Golden Dragon Acrobats, Glenn Miller Orchestra, Harlem Gospel Choir, Vienna Boys Choir, Peter Cetera, Celtic Tenors and several top military bands.

“We’ve had incredible people come to us and ask to perform here. Many, many artists have come because they have heard of the quality of our acoustics. They don’t need amplification,” Tingey said. “This has brought people to the state who otherwise would not have come. Many students and faculty members are here because of the performing arts center.”

Building Foreman Bill Stanton said the Stephens Center hosts up to 400 events a year and is designed for three additional expansions.

Mark Mendiola is a writer based in Pocatello.

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There’s been a chorus among conservatives – not least in the Wall Street Journal – about the federal interest in Idaho Falls’ Frank Vandersloot and the business he operates, Melaleuca.

Vandersloot is one of the bigger financial figures in the Mitt Romney presidential campaign. So when last month Vandersloot found that two federal agencies, the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Labor – both operating in the executive branch led by Barack Obama – were making regulatory inquiries (an audit of Vandersloot’s taxes and a check on several foreign temporary workers at a ranch), you can understand wondering about a possible connection between that and his political activity – his active support of the man trying to unseat Obama.

The timing is, as someone looking at the situation noted, “curious.”

Or it could be that this is routine agency business. Taxpayer audits and foreign labor checks are normal parts of what those agencies do. It happens.

Lacking smoking-gun evidence, we won’t draw any conclusions about that here. And we’d suggest that anyone eager to jump to that conclusion – that politics drives agency actions all the time – consider something else from this month, too.

When the state-level Idaho Economic Advisory Council met in Pocatello on July 11, it had money to distribute – close to a million dollars in block grant funds. (More will be spent later.) As Mark Mendiola reported from that meeting, “council members unanimously endorsed providing $399,000 to Bonneville County for a Melaleuca lift station to develop 6,600 acres of prime commercial land.”

That payout may very well have been a normal part of operations, and Vandersloot’s close relationship with most of Idaho’s top elected officials might have had nothing to do with it.

You wonder what Vandersloot’s supporters, so quick on the draw when it comes to federal agency action, would think about that.

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The Oregonian is weighing in, after a fashion, on the upcoming pot legalization ballot issue (Measure 80), with not one but two opinion page pieces on Sunday. Both seem extremely determined to miss the point.

The editorial starts, and includes a bit of, the on-the-one-hand kind of approach, acknowledging the arguments for legalization. Then it goes on to this: “But the choice before Oregonians doesn’t involve the expansion of a farcical medical marijuana program into a thoughtfully constructed legalization program. Instead, we’re being asked to swap one farce for another.”

The new farce, it argues, is the board which would regulate cannabis in the state, which under terms of the ballot would first be simply appointed by the governor, then include a majority of members (five of seven) which would come from the pot grower industry.

To be sure, that wouldn’t be a good idea. It also wouldn’t survive long; the legislature could rejigger the numbers and composition, and almost certainly would. The measure also includes a provision saying the new council would be assigned to do promotion of the product – not an unusual task for commodity commissions, but one you’d surely want on a leash. A leash which again, the legislature undoubtedly would provide. (In a case like this, it’s really not much of a stretch of argue that the legislature would act.)

That’s basically the sum of the editorial’s argument against the measure.

Like many ballot issues, Measure 80 includes a section which includes some justification for itself, a series of statements either demonstrably true or at least as arguable as statements on many another ballot issue. With this one, though columnist Susan Nielson takes issue, not by way of disagreeing with the specifics (which might be hard to do) but making argument that sounds just this side of paranoid: “It appears eager to indoctrinate the next generation into thinking of marijuana use as no big deal and cannabis cultivation as downright patriotic.”

Really? Pro-pot indoctrination?

Both articles carefully keep their arguments some distance from the real point of the ballot issue. The reality, as the pot advocates are well aware, is not that changing state law on the subject will immediately change reality on the ground. Marijuana is illegal under federal law, and if the measure passes in November it will remain so. The only real point of the measure is as an expression of opinion, of whether the current regime should stay in place, or some form of legalization should replace it. It’s almost a vast, formalized opinion poll intended to be part of a national shake-up on the subject; that’s why activists in a half-dozen states are trying to do something similar, to make a statement that might (if successful) be large enough to reverberate.

And you can argue legitimately about whether the country should move in that direction. But arguments like those in Sunday’s Oregonian simply miss the point.

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A long-held principle in electoral politics: Until the votes are counted, there are no absolutes – no 100 percent chance of winning, no zero percent chance of losing. Even in a race that looks like a slam dunk, there’s a little room for long-shot possibility.

So the newly-posted Facebook page from 2nd district Democratic challenger Nicole LeFavour, “Why Nicole can win,” makes for provocative reading. Widespread wisdom is that six-term Republican incumbent Mike Simpson is solidly positioned for a seventh term; is there an argument to the contrary? (Bearing in mind, it would be political malpractice for her not to pitch one.)

To start: Idaho’s congressional districts change this year, and the second now includes more of Boise than before, including nearly all its Democratic-leaning voters. “Some consider this district stronger for Democrats than Idaho’s first congressional district was when Walt Minnick was elected to U.S. Congress in 2008.” Maybe. But Minnick won in unusual conditions, and lost two years later.

Second, “Mike Simpson simply has never faced a democratic opponent who is both well funded and well organized. He has grown comfortable without a challenger for so many years and has spent much of his time out of state, his responses to constituent letters growing less and less personal.” The second point is a matter of perspective, but as to the first, Simpson has had serious opponents. He was held to 52% in his first 1998 run against former Representative Richard Stallings, and Simpson’s weakest re-elect in the last decade, 62%, was against former legislator and ace organizer Jim Hansen.

“Few people realize the level of name recognition and support Nicole has in Eastern Idaho where her work leading efforts to stop Tom Luna’s efforts to replace teachers with lap tops made her a familiar face and leader for thousands of teachers and parents.” She may get some help there, but remember: Luna won the district in a landslide in 2010, and the region has many legislators who backed his school change efforts.

LaFavour is a good fundraiser, at “almost $160,000 so far.” But: Simpson’s cash intake, as of June 30, was $955,982. Much of that has been spent, but he easily could raise more. She is a hard-working and strong campaigner, better than most – but not all – of her predecessor challengers.

The page rousts the elephant in the room: “For those who ask, can a gay person win, especially in eastern Idaho? Remember LDS families have gay kids too. … While there may remain dwindling tension over the issue of marriage, animosity toward gay people generally is quickly vanishing.” This is a wild card, but there are factors in play before you even get to it. LeFavour is a relatively liberal, north Boise Democrat campaigning in a district where most voters routinely support very different candidates. Presidential years in Idaho usually help Republicans. There’s literally nothing in the last two decades of Idaho voting history in the second district to argue for an upset.

Suggesting though – leaving aside the horse race – some real utility in her run. Instead of encountering a Democrat running as Republican-lite, or quickly forgettable, eastern Idahoans will be getting some world-view expansion. LeFavour is working hard introducing herself to people who rarely see or hear from anyone like her. In parts of Idaho where cultural norms and demographics are tightly limited, she could create a small revolution – an awareness of more than one way to look at things poliltically. Which may be a radical concept in some parts of the Gem State.

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Idaho Citizens Guide
Sample pages from the Citizens Guide 


The timing seems right, in a new political era when there’s too often not agreement about facts – a time when, as we may hold varying opinions as a matter of judgment, we no longer seem to be drawing from the same well of common information. This book, in the case of Idaho at least, is an attempt at pulling together a common well of information – data, at least, and some reasonably well informed perspective.

Three of us – Mark Stubbs, James Weatherby and myself – wrote the Idaho Citizens Guide in 1999 (it has been in preparation for a while before that), and we had no trouble agreeing on the facts of the matter, the matter being Idaho government, politics, special interests, civic involvement and related subjects. Stubbs, now practicing law in Utah, was a conservative Republican state representative from Twin Falls, just off the campaign trail running for the Republican nomination to a U.S. House seat. Weatherby was a professor of public affairs at Boise State University, and previously a lobbyist and executive director of the state’s cities association. I had been a newspaper reporter and editor, and was publishing books and periodicals on Northwest government and politics.

We had three very distinctive world views (still do), and our value judgments differed. But as to the facts of how Idaho government, politics and society generally actually in fact operated, we complemented each other but disagreed virtually not at all. We drew from the same well of information.

The result was a book that, we thought, would be useful to anyone thinking about (or already) active in Idaho’s civic life. It offered a guide to what all the pieces were, what the terminology was, how things happened.

We got some solid backing, from ex-governors from both political parties. Cecil Andrus: “You can’t read the Idaho Citizens Guide without increasing your knowledge enormously … I anticipate that it will become a standard reference volume in the libraries of every school, community, government office, elected official and campaign headquarters.” Phil Batt: “As a long-time Idaho businessman, I also appreciate the need of citizens to be able to understand their government and how to get things done. The Citizens Guide can help.”

It ran somewhat over 350 pages. We sold some copies, and then it dropped from sight, and has been effectively out of print for about a decade.

That is what we’re reissuing now – well, to be available next week. With a few minor alterations (the original included some maps of the Statehouse that would only confuse since the recent remodeling there), we’ve returned the book to publication as it was then.

There are a few pieces out of date. Some government agencies, not many, have been reorganized, for example. But in reading through it, what you find is that the well of facts now is very much like the well of facts then.

If you’re thinking of getting active in Idaho in some way, even to the point of voting, the Citizens Guide would be a good place to start to get yourself well informed.

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books Idaho

Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

Many citizens of this country – in my mind far too many – have little to no
idea how it operates, don’t understand how the institutions of government function or relate, don’t apply daily news stories to their own lives, find politics boring/distasteful and go about their own business thinking someone else will handle it. Until something goes wrong or adversely affects them. Then they holler.

While that sounds a bit arrogant, I don’t mean it to be. Evidence supporting that thesis is all around us. Even in Congress. Maybe especially in Congress. Just a few days ago, I was involved in another example of this too-large civic vacuum on my Facebook page. Someone is linked to that page; someone I don’t know but it appears we have a mutual friend or two. I don’t like that feature because that immediately makes your “friends” my “friends” and, in life, that’s not always the case.

But back to the Facebook evidence. This person seemed honestly motivated to start a discussion by asking if Mitt Romney should produce more tax returns than the one he already has and the one he’s promised to. I thought the answer was pretty obvious – he must – but the several dozen answers that came in over the next few hours showed how little some people really know about the important issues implicit in that question.

For the record, most of the respondents clearly had some good education judging by spelling, sentence structure and coherent thought. They seemed interested in saying their “piece” and – whether you agreed/disagreed with their position – did so with some apparent conviction. Problem was, some of those convictions just didn’t square with knowledge of the subject.

About half said Romney should put up several more years of tax returns. The other half said he shouldn’t have to. Now, that’s fine as far as personal opinions go. But some of the “reasoning” for not doing so clearly showed those “opinions” were not based on real knowledge of the situation, were short on fact and not offered with any real political understanding.
“He made his money and it shouldn’t be anyone else’s business.” ”He’s entitled to his privacy like the rest of us.” “I’d rather see Obama’s college transcript than Romney’s taxes.” “I don’t have to show mine so he shouldn’t have to show his.” Many opinions along those lines. To my mind, responses not based on the facts of the issue.

The problem is that the Romney tax returns question has taken on a larger life than it ordinarily would have and has produced more than one legitimate reason to press for their release. And Ol’ Mitt did this to himself.
While not required by law, it’s customary for candidates for President, Vice President or appointees to national office to open several years of financial records as a matter of transparency. Again, customary but not required. But I like the exercise. Romney – for whatever personal reason – won’t do that. His wife even said during a media interview “We’ve given you all we’re going to” then suggested more tax information would just be more ammunition to be used against her husband. I found that rather interesting.
What has taken this from just a matter of Romney making a decision contrary to recent custom to a major, legitimate issue is the evidence piling higher and higher that he has not been honest about his career, his sources of income and connections with the business world which he has made a cornerstone of his campaign. Government filings of corporate ownership, public statements of non-involvement with Bain Capital when he swore on official affidavits he was still the major stockholder and CEO, interviews in which he said he was making major Bain decisions that don’t match his recent disavowal of such actions, then saying he wasn’t making those decisions when public records show he did. Too many things don’t add up.

While Romney is perfectly within his rights to keep his tax information confidential personally, his recent public statements and claims don’t square with legal filings and his past history. His unwillingness to open these returns and offer the transparency necessary to reconcile his statements with facts has created the largest single problem of his candidacy. He’s put himself in a “damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t” box and given his opponent fertile campaign ground that could’ve been easily avoided at the start. Leading Republicans from left to right are telling him to “get them out there.” No matter, really. Whatever he decides now will cause him problems.

The absence of factual information is raising all sorts of questions about his campaign and his personal integrity. Has he been lying about his business background? Has he made millions but not paid taxes? Has he been investing overseas? Did he have personal Bain income after public claims he was not there? If so, why? Is he involved in other businesses that have not been identified? How did he get $20-million into an IRA when laws allow only a limited annual deposit amount – laws he would’ve had to violate?

What the recent Facebook exercise showed me anew is that many people apparently don’t make the connection of these returns with the honesty we seek in anyone who wants to be President of these United States. They equate Romney’s refusal as being the same as their own “right-to-privacy” and don’t see how the information within those documents has become more than just so many forms we all have to fill out. The real meaning of what, in recent days, has become the largest single issue of the Romney campaign doesn’t register.

Then, there’s Ann Romney’s statement that release of more tax information would give Mitt’s opponent “more ammunition” to use against him. Now he’s said the same thing. Those statements alone make alarm bells go off in my head. Is there official information or documents within those returns that wouldn’t look good for someone who’s running for high public office? Are there omissions that would constitute false filings? Is she saying the refusal is based on campaign strategy that it’s better to deal with questions of the unknown than to publicize facts that may damage Mitt’s chances? I think Missy Ann – and ol’ Mitt – have lobbed grenades into the story with those words.

I’ve seen at least two reports that Mitt has privately said to friends if he’d known he would be faced with full tax disclosure he wouldn’t have gotten into the race. If he did say that, it speaks volumes to me about his reasons for running and a lack of depth in commitment to the job. Also an odd thing to say when his own father made more than a decade’s worth of his tax information public during a presidential run and encouraged others to do the same.

The Romney tax story is important. More than it should be. But he made it so. He’ll have to live with that no matter the outcome. Still, it distresses and alarms me that the people who expressed their support for Romney’s decision on that Facebook page the other day seemed to know so little about why the story is very important. It makes me wonder if the nearly 50-50 split on that page is indicative of how the nation feels.

If so, it’s more evidence that far too many Americans know far too little about America.

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Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

It is often said “power corrupts,” and “absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

There are exceptions to that rule and one exists in Benewah County.

For almost 40 years one person has worn lightly with grace and humility the crown of absolute political power in this north Idaho county: County Commissioner Jack Buell.

Now 76 years young he has served the public interest well, won many friends along the way, and most would admit made some enemies also. Jack wears his heart on his sleeve. He personifies the old adage, “show me a man with no enemies and I’ll show you a man with no character. If you stand for anything in this world you make enemies.”

By this definition Jack may have lots of character. Two entities that have felt the lash of his tongue and done little to endear themselves to him over the years are the Coeur d’Alene Tribe and the Idaho State Police.

Jack is also what a fan of his, former Governor Cecil D. Andrus, would call a “lunch bucket” Democrat – a person who cares about jobs and people having decent-paying jobs where they make an honest day’s wage for an honest day’s labor so they can provide for their children’s education while also enjoying Idaho’s quality of life on weekends.

Given that both Cece and Jack come out of the “slab, sliver and knothole” business it is no coincidence there is a casual mutually respectable affinity between the two.

As the founder of Jack A. Buell Trucking he has provided jobs for many folks in and around Benewah County for many years. His unique “Jack Buell green” (reportedly a registered color) trucks which started by hauling logs but now also haul chips are a familiar sight on the roads and highways of north Idaho.

What few know is that Jack understands loyalty and believes in investing in people. He is especially loyal to his employees and their families and he knows too that it is a two-way street. During economically challenging times he strives to keep as many workers employed as he can and loathes laying anyone off.

People don’t forget that kind of loyalty.

For years now anyone who holds any statewide public office, or aspires to hold such offices, make it a point to trek to St. Maries, the county seat, to court and cultivate Jack. A shrewd judge of people and character, his recommendations about who to support and why he was voting for or against someone becomes an implied command for the many who respect him.

Though nominally a “business Democrat” he tends to the conservative side and thus has supported many Republicans running for high office. One doubts he has ever voted a straight ticket.

Long ago Jack mastered the art of ruling by humor, as well as the power of suggestion and the judicious use of a well-placed, well-timed killer question. While conducting the public business rarely does he flat order something be done. Nor does he make the mistake of thinking his personal business somehow magically merges with and becomes the public interest.

Jack would be the first to tell you he is not perfect. He has a temper and little patience for fools or connivers. He would probably acknowledge as valid the criticism that he does NOT exercise his influence and power as often as he could or should. Some believe he could pick up the phone and should pick it up more often to communicate his view of things be it to Governor Otter or Idaho’s congressional delegation.

He sometimes waits to be asked instead of making sure others in power know where he is on a particular issue.

Jack truly loves his community. His countless acts of both acknowledged and anonymous charity are the stuff of legends. He and his employees actively participate in most all of the many organizations in St. Maries. Jack also devotes considerable time to the varied and numerous state boards and associations he belongs to, where he again exercises considerable influence.

Like many workaholics it is hard to find Jack sitting still. About his only indulgences are cars and his plane, which he loves to fly.

A good example of the kind of public servant he is can be seen early most Sunday mornings. An early riser, he and good friend Richard Schumacker usually can be found mowing the courthouse lawn, or shoveling snow off of sidewalks in the winter, or doing litter patrol.

Will Rogers once said of land that “they just aren’t making it anymore.”

Nor is God making politicians like Jack Buell who understands that true power comes by truly being a public servant for all.

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

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Idaho’s glory is its outdoors and the living things in it. The ways Idahoans relate to that world have long helped drive its politics, and over time in various ways. Those ways could be the process of changing again.

One big change occurred in the sixties and seventies with the rise of environmental activism, which had an effect on how people could use the open lands, and drew some sharp, and changing, political lines. For a time those trends helped elect conservation-minded officials (think Cecil Andrus in 1970), later fueling the Sagebrush Rebellion. Those changes happened at a time when Idaho was more rural, and more oriented around resource industries, than it is now.

And more oriented around hunting and fishing, which like much public land use is tightly regulated.

Look over the Idaho Department of Fish and Game’s licensing numbers for the last couple of decades, and you’ll see some distinct patterns. First, bear this in mind: From 1990 to 2010, Idaho’s population went from just over one million, to nearly 1.6 million. If hunting and fishing are as proportionately large a part of Idaho life now as then, you’d expect license increases of 50 percent or more.

Instead, total resident licenses went from 333,700 in 1993 (the earliest year in the currently-maintained statistics), to 362,567 in 2011.

But that raw number is a little misleading, partly reflecting the changes in the kinds of licenses that have been issued. Many of the individual specific licenses show different patterns. The popular residential combination license, for example, went from 110,954 (in 1993) upward to 113,241 (in 1996), but has fallen consistently since, hitting 88,058 in 2011. Residential fishing licenses have grown modestly (from 102,733 in 1993 to 118,967 last year), but residential hunting licenses have declined from 58,349 in 1993, to 40,539 last year. Per-year sales of deer and elk tags fell during that time.

Among over-the-years comparable categories, one has grown big: The senior resident combo license, which sold 12,895 in 1993, and nearly tripled to 36,461. Seniors have been keeping up with hunting and fishing big time. Juniors have not. Sales for the junior combo licenses fell (these numbers compare 1993 and 2011) from 10,267 to 8,854; fishing dropped slightly, from 12,697 to 12,081; and hunting from 15,484 to 13,405. There’s a generational shift here, and the likelihood is for continued drops in hunting and fishing as the younger cohort makes up more of the population.

None of this is any kind of judgment against hunting or fishing, and the decline in numbers could become a problem not only because of state revenue loss but also in the wildlife management law-abiding hunters help provide. And Idaho isn’t unique in this; Oregon and many other states report similar licensing declines, probably for similar reasons.

It’s not hard to see why this would happen. As Idaho becomes more suburban (as overall it is), the more rural-based hunting and fishing traditions soften. At the same time, other outdoors activities remain as popular, or pick up steam. Camping remains a hot activity, and wildlife photography and birding are becoming increasingly active areas.

All these things are likely to have an effect on the way people see their out of doors, the way our policies should deal with them, and the politics that result.

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Our sense of the Washington governor’s race for, well, quite a few months, has been that it’s so close as to be a wash. And the polling continues to reinforce that.

Poll out today, from KING 5, gives Republican Rob McKenna 42%, and Democrat Jay Inslee 41% – essentially an even split.

The details below suggest no major hidden areas of support, or trouble, for either. McKenna has a somewhat more enthusiastic base of support, but that would be expected of a serious candidate for a party with few major holds in the state. On the other hand, he might have been expected to take a hit in this state for his backing of the lawsuit to overturn the Affordable Care Act, but the poll suggests no advantage or damage in that area.

And the attorney general’s race looks like a wash, too.

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First place in the upcoming primary election in Washington’s 1st will clearly go to Republican John Koster, he being the only Republican running a substantial race. The race for the other spot in the contest to go on to November is being fought out among a bunch of Democrats, most principally, it now seems, Darcy Burner and Suzan DelBene.

There are two decently-funded male candidates in the race too, but they seem to be behind in polling and fundraising. Three women, all veterans of major office races (in two cases previously for Congress), seem to have the major push.

The third is Laura Ruderman, a former legislator who has run for statewide office and is a tough campaigner. She has an unusual role here: Her mother is helping finance a PAC that’s been on the attack against DelBene, and that may not help her. She has on the other hand been campaigning strongly and raised money comparable to Burner; both have raised, at the end of June, close to a half million dollars. She got the endorsement of the Seattle Stranger.

Burner, who has run for the House twice before, has led in polling, and leads slightly in a new Strategies 360 poll – but in this one, by just one point, over DelBene.

DelBene, who has also run for Congress, has raised about as much money from other people as Burner and Ruderman but also has self-funded to the tune of a million dollars. In a race in which none of the Democratic candidates is especially well known (Koster, because of his various runs and sometimes wins on the ballot in the area in past years, must be better known in the new district than any of the Democrats), that money can matter, if it’s well spent.

More polling surely awaits.

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Most entertaining endorsement sheet of the day, from the Seattle Stranger (and its blog the Slog).

Considering who they are, there’s not much surprising here. (You didn’t think they’d endorse McKenna over Inslee?) But an entertaining read, even by alt standards.

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Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

Having been in and around the news media for over 40 years as a reporter, political columnist, Washington D.C. correspondent, press secretary, a cabinet agency director of a public affairs office; and, a consultant on communications strategy (critics call it spinmeistering), one would think I might be more tolerant of the media’s shortcomings.

But I’m not.

The critical role the media should play in public discourse is increasingly absent. There are fewer and fewer reporters who really do their homework, read voraciously, or even read their own publications. Objectivity is being lost in a sea of subjectivity and the Republic is suffering mightily.

Despite claims to the contrary, journalism is a craft and an art form. It is not a science and profession subject to professional guidelines and scientific criteria. I once was invited to speak to the Jay Rockey Public Relations Society at Washington State University. (Full disclosure: I once had the privilege and pleasure of working for Jay Rockey in Seattle. A pioneer in the public relations business and a true gentleman, my criticism is not directed at him.)

I started my presentation by saying all those there were making a mistake to major as undergraduates in areas like journalism, public relations, television and radio communications, marketing, etc. These are professional endeavors, or claim to be, and in my view belong in graduate school.

Rather, they should be majoring in a liberal art like history or English literature where they could get grounded in the humanities necessary to help make some sense out of the world’s chaos; that a liberal art could teach them how to think, analyze and communicate critically. The sense of history and literature would provide a needed and necessary perspective.

Needless to say, I wasn’t invited back.

The self-importance many media hold themselves in often just nauseates me. I wince every time I see a vacant talking head without a real clue interviewing a media savvy or media-trained person who easily transforms the interview into a 30 second commercial for themselves.

In particular I loathe the media’s self-absorption and self-righteousness.

A recent example was the various Idaho news organizations and associations that all jumped on the lawsuit to force Idaho’s Correction department to let the selected media observers observe and describe every salacious detail of entire process leading up to an execution.

Half the process wasn’t good enough. The “public” (Did you hear or see any clamor from the public?) had a right to know every detail—-this was an issue of transparency, a Constitutional right, etc., ad nauseum. Not!

Give me a break. Of all the important issues the media could be suing to obtain, the Idaho media unites behind the public’s supposed right to know every detail about a prisoner’s execution.

Let’s see—how about suing for the names of all the companies and individuals given tax breaks from the Idaho Tax Commission during the gubernatorial terms of Dirk Kempthorne, Jim Risch and Butch Otter cross tabulated with their contributor’s list?

Or how about the property sales, and the amount of the sale, of choice lots at the Valbois Resort virtually given for pennies it is alleged to many prominent /Republicans, both officeholders and others?

Taxpayers and voters in Idaho would be far better served by the media pursuing these subjects.

Not once in all the coverage did I see one word about the doomed prisoner’s right to privacy. Apparently once one is convicted of a capital crime they forfeit all their rights—including the myth of a right to privacy.

You see the media does not really recognize an individual’s right to privacy. If you are deemed by some editor sitting at a desk somewhere to be newsworthy, ipso facto, that makes you a public figure and you’ve forfeited all your rights, not the least of which is the right to be left alone.

Don’t believe me. Just watch and read carefully. Note how anyone who declines to speask to the media is portrayed as likely to be hiding something. After all, the false syllogistic reasoning is that if you have nothing to hide you’ll not mind talking to them.

In many respects in our sytem of checks and balances the media’s freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and freedom to designate who is and isn’t a public figure and what’s newsworthy is an unchecked power.

Add arrogance to their ignorance, this self-righteous and self-absorbed attitude and one can truly begin to worry about the Republic’s future. The media when it acts as a “pack” is every bit as zealous as the most fanatical zealot on any subject anywhere. Extremism in defense of their right is no vice. Just ask them.

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