"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.

Campaigning on your dime

carlson CHRIS


Governor C. L. “Butch” Otter brought his “dog and pony” show called Capital For A Day to St. Maries on July 21st. My, oh my, how it has changed since Governor Cecil D. Andrus, who initiated the program in 1973, and I walked the streets of the temporary “capital” (usually a county seat).

No entourage. No security detail. No advance team. No “show and tell.” No setting up a town hall meeting and expecting the citizens to come to us.

Nope. Just Cece and I, popping in and out of various businesses on Main Street, chatting with the owner and asking if they were having any difficult issues with any facet of state government. The day’s agenda usually included a noon speech at a Rotary or a Kiwanis Club and in the afternoon drop by visits to the local paper and other media to report on what he was hearing.

My role was to take notes, handle any media that might want to tag along and pass out the “Capital for A Day” post cards wherein folks could write a brief description of their issue and their contact info.

When we got back to Boise the governor would deal the cards out to appropriate staff with instructions to have an interim report back to the constituent within two weeks and a definitive answer within four weeks.

There was another significant difference. Once the Republicans selected their nominee to challenge Andrus in the August primary, the governor suspended the program.

“Butch” should take note and follow the Andrus lead. No matter how one slices it, or rationalizes it, to continue Capital For A Day in an election year after your opponent is selected is to have the taxpayers underwriting a campaign-like endeavor.

It’s a clear “conflict of interest” and a clear illegal contribution to the governor’s re-election effort by the taxpayer. Frankly, I’m amazed that no one has called Governor Otter out on this matter. State senator Russ Fulcher from Meridian should have confronted Governor otter on this in his closely contested primary challenge.

Democratic nominee and Boise businessman A. J. Bulakoff ought to send letters to Secretary of State Ben Ysursa asking his office to investigate the matter and make a ruling. If the Secretary of State says it is indeed a “duck,” (If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it’s a duck.), the issue should then be referred to the Attorney General for a determination on the amount of money Governor Otter and/or his campaign should reimburse back to the State Treasury.

Since the late May primary Governor Otter has conducted at least five Capital for A Day “campaign” trips to places like Bonners Ferry, Rigby, Wallace, Preston and St. Maries. Each one has to cost the taxpayer around $50,000 when one includes the value of the time away from the office the various cabinet heads and support staff involved involuntarily contribute.

Add in transportation for all, advance work, meals and motels, security details, and the number balloons quickly. It is all courtesy of the taxpayer. Even a president when his travel includes a mix of public business and politics (such as attending an evening fund-raiser) separates out and pays for through his political party the portion of costs that are allocated to politicing.

Governor Otter would have one believe it is all government business related to his job and to obtaining feedback from the voter. Pure poppycock.

At a minimum it is ethically questionable and an abuse of the taxpayer’s dime. The governor likes to call himself a fiscal conservative and pretends to be a vigilant guard of the taxpayer dollar, but apparently thinks nothing is wrong with the taxpayer subsidizing his re-election effort.

It is a classic reflection of the “arrogance of power” in which those who have served too long in high public office come to expect that the trappings of power and questionable use if not abuse of the taxpayer dime is an entitlement.

Voters should take note. Its just further proof that they should send him into retirement.

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