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Shadow shogun

carlson CHRIS


Throughout much of Japanese history the Emperor has been a figure-head, the titular head of the nation, but considered semi-divine and thus above politics.

True power resided with a figure behind the scenes, a figure who weilded the real power through personal influence and patronage as well as being the chief administrative officer in the government. Often this figure stayed completely in the background, working in the shadows. In today’s political jargon one often will hear the phrase “he leaves no fingerprints,” but one knows the shadow shogun has instigated an action.

The most powerful and influential figure in Idaho politics today is NOT Senator Mike Crapo, nor is it Rep. Mike Simpson, nor Rep. Raul Labrador, nor Governor Butch Otter, nor Lt. Governor Brad Little, nor House Speaker Scott Bedke, nor President Pro Tempore Brent Hill, nor Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, though a good case could be made for each and everyone of these folks.

The most powerful, politically influential figure on the Idaho landscape today holds no political office. Rather he weilds his power through minions who do his bidding. Like the shadow shogun that he is, he prefers to stay behind the scenes. He rightly expects loyalty and he gets it because he is loyal to those who are loyal to him.

There isn’t a Republican in any office in Idaho who doesn’t know who he is, and wouldn’t think twice before crossing him. He appears to even own judges for most judges are keenly aware that he quite legally took out a judge who crossed him by putting up a candidate of his liking that defeated the wayward judge.

It is also well known among legal circles that Attorney General Lawrence Wasden pays close attention to the shadow shogun’s views.

His net worth reportedly exceeds $1.5 billion, making him the richest person in Idaho. What differentiates him from other Idaho billionaires, like the late J.R. Simplot, is he is absolutely unafraid of using his wealth to get his way. Thus, he contributes to candidates for many offices, not just the major ones. He spreads his wealth around viewing it as a form of investing. Of course like any good businessman he expects a decent return on his investment. He fully understands that money is the mother’s milk of politics.

He knows though that politics is all about cultivating personal relationships, not just giving money. Thus he entertains various political figures and by all accounts he can be as charming as he can be alarming depending on what the situation requires.

This “shadow shogun” is course Frank VanderSloot, the 66-year-old chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Melaleuca Corporation. A graduate of both Ricks (Before it became BYU-Idaho) and of Brigham Young University, he is a member in good standing of the Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints (He gets the “Temple Pass” needless to say), it came as no surprise that fellow Saint, Governor Mitt Romney, named VanderSloot co-chair of his fund-raising for his 2012 Presidential run. Nor was it a surprise that virtually every Republican statewide officeholder dutifully lined up behind Romney’s candidacy.

VanderSloot displayed his fund-raising prowess in Idaho by easily raising several million dollars for Romney, including over a million from his own personal coffers. Cross reference Romney’s Idaho contributions with a list of Republican officeholders, other prominent Republican contributors and the list of ward and stake bishops and presidents and it is easy to see that very few said no to VanderSloot’s “request.”

Some of Idaho’s political cognascenti were bemused when VanderSloot criticized fellow Saint and wealthy Boise businessman A.J. Bulakoff, the Democratic candidate for governor, for trying to buy the Idaho governorship by spending $3 million of his own money on the race—a severe case of the pot calling the kettle black.

If Romney decides to make a third run (And there are persistent rumors he will), VanderSloot will again play a prominent role. He will also continue to dominate the Idaho Republican Party through the State national committeeman, his employee and vice president for government affairs, Damond Watkins.

He is incontestably the most powerful behind-the-scenes figure in Idaho politics since the late Lloyd Adams (from Rexburg). He is the true Shadow Shogun. I doubt very much I’ll be receiving a phone call because of any disagreement with this assessment.

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