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“The Dummies”

carlson CHRIS


EDITOR’S NOTE: Please see below for a response by a reader referred to in this column; and a response from Carlson.

Hollywood has its Oscars; New York has its Emmies and its Pulitzers. Boston has its Eppies. As of today, Medimont has its “Dummies” – a ten inch lead question mark.

Dummies can be awarded anytime, anyplace for any reason at the sole discretion of the awards panel whose identity is kept secret to protect their lives from being ruined by an avalanche of nominations. Idaho has become such fertile ground.

While political in nature, that is not a requirement. The only condition is nominees have to live in Idaho.

The envelopes please.

The first ever winners of a “Dummie” are Idaho State Senators Maryanne Jordan of Boise and Grant Burgoyne of Boise—the two and only members of the Democratic Party on the Senate Judiciary committee. The prize is awarded because, as the Lewiston Tribune’s Marty Trillhaase put it, not only were Republican Senators like Majority Leader Bart Davis, asleep when Governor Otter’s nomination of State Police chief Colonel Ralph Powell to a second term came before them, the two Democrats had to be snoring.

There is no excuse for missing the opportunity to make the ISP Chief and his governor at least be embarassed if not downright ashamed of conduct unbecoming one serving such high offices. This is the police chief who told the media he would be conducting an investigation of Correction Corporation of America’s deliberately over-billing the State of Idaho 26,000 hours for supposed management of the maximum security prison outside of Boise.

A year later, when asked where things stood, he reveals that there was no investigation undertaken because he decided that over-billing was a civil matter, not criminal. Where was Senator Burgoyne, an attorney no less? Isn’t any theft over $500 a felony and by definition criminal? This theft was in the millions.

When did the chief make this decision? Was it ever discussed by he and the governor or any member of the governor’s staff? Did he discuss it with CCA’s lobbyist who just happens to be a former chief of staff for Otter? What did he know and when did he know it?

Why was his renomination not in the original package of Otter’s renomination of his cabinet sent in early January? Why should the public posit any further trust in an ISP Chief who if he truly acted of his own volition is worthy of nomination for a “Dummie” award himself, and if he was directed to do so, is covering for a governor who, like the chief himself, puts personal interests ahead of their public trust?

Some would excuse Senator Jordan as she was just appointed. Perhaps, but she reportedly has a lick of common sense. People wonder why Democrats are so few in number in Idaho and growing fewer? Look no further than this. They cannot take advantage of a golden opportunity even when it slaps them in the face. Snore on.

The second winner of a coveted “Dummie” is State Representative Shannon McMillan, R-Silverton, serving her third term. Rarely does one see a legislator so brazeningly vote against the interests of their own district. She voted against funding for the Idaho Youth Ranch near Cottonwood, a facility on the military model that instills discipline and responsibility in wayward youth that can still be turned.

The ranch is a classic example of pay a little now or pay a lot more later – a concept she does not appear to understand. Also, she was one of only a handful of votes against increased funding for education and more pay for teachers.

Rumors abound across the district she is planning on resigning shortly after the session ends with the presumption the Legislative district committee, which recommends names to the governor, will list son Jim’s name and Governor Otter will play along.

The son is a knowledgable attorney in Wallace, somewhat of an expert on water law. He understands even if his mother does not that most voters don’t particularly cotton to this type of backroom orchestrating.

Compounding such a scenario is that there will again be a primary challenge to McMillan even if it is Jim instead of Shannon, from Shauna Hillman. She is the popular manager of Wallace’s Northern Pacific Train Depot, is active in chamber and commmunity affairs, and plans to start doorbelling in Grangeville and Orofino soon. She recognizes she started late last time but has learned. Mining and timber interests in Shoshone County are expected to support her again.

Thus, Rep. McMillan receives the coveted “dummie” both for votes against her own district’s interests and for the hubris in thinking she can resign and designate her successor. That just isn’t the Idaho way.

– – –

James McMillan, an attorney at Wallace and the son of Representative McMillan, responded to Carlson:

I recently came across these articles:;, in which it is rumored that my mother is going to resign her seat and somehow designate me as a chosen successor.

As far as that is concerned, I can tell you, unequivocally and without hesitation, that these rumors are 100% FALSE. She fully intends to serve out her term, as well as seek re-election in 2016, and I am most certainly not in a position in my life or my business to be taking off to Boise for three months out of the year.

As such, I would ask that a correction be published whereever this column has been disseminated. You have both corresponded with me via e-mail in the past, and my office telephone number is hardly a secret, and so I am disappointed that you would perpetuate such a wild, unsubstantiated rumor without at least attempting to contact me to verify whether or not it is true.

I do not know who is spreading this rumor, but whoever it is, they are just plain making things up. Pure and simple.

I thank you for your attention to this matter.

Carlson responds:

James – columns, unlike news articles, are by definition opinions and interpretations and thus many columnists feel no obligation similar to a reporter’s to inquire when they come across a delicious rumor. I referenced it as a rumor and I’d heard it from four reputable sources , two in the county and two outside the county, but all saying they had heard speculation along these lines. I thought I went out of my way to make it clear that you in all probability would not be a party to such an effort.

In this case, though, I’ll concede I should have called you. I accept your absolute denial and do believe you are a person of your word. I do apologize for referring to you as Jim when you prefer James. You recognize I trust that one way to kill such idle speculation as you and some of your friends called it, is to just get it out there in the light of day.

As you know, I write to encourage people to think and look beyond the surface. From my standpoint it was an interesting and intriguing rumor.

I’m reminded of an old saying in politics: As long as they spell your name correctly, there’s no such thing as bad press.

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