"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.

Cutting both ways

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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