The lobbyists

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From a press release by Idaho gubernatorial candidate Russ Fulcher, about the number of registered lobbyists working on the campaign of his opponent, Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter.

Senator Russ Fulcher today said the hiring of yet another lobbyist to work on Gov. Butch Otter’s re-election campaign raises troubling questions about the influence of special interests on Idaho politics.

“The governor now has staffers from the state’s largest lobbying firms working on his re-election campaign. These relationships give people reason to suspect their government of wrongdoing, even when nothing illicit is taking place,” said Fulcher. “It makes people wonder whether the governor’s re-election is about advancing and empowering Idahoans, or advancing and empowering people with cash and connections.”

Lobbyists on the campaign staff represent companies that have contractual relationships with the state or have an interest in legislation expected to be considered in the 2015 legislative session.

“Is it legal? Probably. Does it look really, really bad? I sure think so,” said Fulcher.

Elli Brown, Otter’s latest lobbyist campaign staffer, most recently worked at Veritas Advisors, whose clients include the Idaho Chamber Alliance, which lobbied for an Obamacare insurance exchange and still wants Otter and the Legislature to pass a local option sales tax.

Jayson Ronk, Otter for Idaho Campaign Manager, took a leave of absence as Vice President of the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, which supported the insurance exchange and is pushing for more government healthcare via Obamacare Medicaid expansion.

Lobbyist Lincoln Smyser was added to the re-election campaign after the 2014 legislative session. He recently lobbied for Corrections Corporation of America, which had a scandal-ridden contract to run Idaho’s private prison, and the Idaho Trucking Association, which pitched a plan to raise gas taxes last session.

Martin Bilbao, a former lobbyist for Education Networks of America, serves as the Finance Director for the Otter for Idaho campaign. ENA was awarded a contract after Governor Otter’s business partner and best friend bent procurement rules to guarantee a contract over rival bidder Syringa Networks.

“A governor should leave a clear separation between elections and the formation of public policy. The people who lobby state government shouldn’t be on a governor’s campaign staff,” said Fulcher.

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