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Posts published in “Day: March 2, 2021”

Preserving the constitution


From a press release from one of our regular columnists, Jim Jones.

The Idaho Constitution is under attack...from Idaho legislators.

A group of Idaho lawyers has formed to protect the Idaho Constitution from repeated attacks by the Idaho Legislature. Former Idaho Attorney General Jim Jones said today that the group, the Committee to Protect and Preserve the Idaho Constitution, will engage in a variety of activities to prevent the Legislature from subverting constitutional rights of the people, as well as constitutional checks and balances.

“Legislators have shown an alarming disrespect for our State Constitution this session and it is incumbent upon members of the legal profession to call them to account,” Jones said. “The mission of our group is to blow the whistle on legislation that threatens the integrity of the Idaho Constitution and to use every legal avenue to oppose it.”

“We can’t and won’t stand idly by while the Legislature tries to deconstruct the remarkable Constitution that the Constitutional Convention delegates carefully crafted back in 1889 to guide our State into the future. It is fitting and appropriate that we announce our defense of this treasured document during the same week that Idahoans celebrate Idaho Day on March 4.”

“Senate Bill 1110 would make it almost impossible for the people to put an initiative or referendum on the election ballot. The bill is a direct attack on the bedrock principle of our Constitution--the right of the people to control their government. Article One states that the people, “have the right to alter, reform or abolish” the State government “whenever they may deem it necessary.” The Legislature would effectively take that right away from the people, if it passes Senate Bill 1110.”

Several bills would infringe on the Attorney General’s constitutional power to handle the legal business of State agencies. When Idaho’s Constitution was being fashioned in 1889, the delegates clearly understood and agreed that the Attorney General would be the sole source of legal services for the State. Two bills, Senate Bill 1090 and House Bill 118, would prohibit the Attorney General from representing the Idaho Department of Lands. House Bill 101 would allow State agencies to hire their own attorneys. “These bills are unconstitutional, as the Attorney General has advised the Legislature, but that advice has been rejected.”

House Bill 135 proposes to limit the Governor’s ability to respond to an emergency or disaster. The Attorney General has advised that some provisions are not constitutionally permissible, but the bill passed the House anyway.

“It is difficult to understand why legislators completely disregard sound advice from our elected Attorney General and persist in attacking the constitutional framework of our government. They have done so in a number of instances in the past, causing the State to pay millions of dollars to attorneys who have successfully challenged unconstitutional legislation enacted by the Legislature.”

The Legislature established the Constitutional Defense Fund in 1995 to defend the State’s sovereignty, which has included defending legislation that offends the U.S. Constitution. Thus far, the State has paid out over $3 million to attorneys who have successfully challenged the constitutionality of State laws, many of which were enacted despite warnings from Attorney General Lawrence Wasden.

“The Legislature’s Constitutional Defense Fund has primarily paid out funds to groups challenging Idaho laws in federal court for violation of the U.S. Constitution, but we intend to focus on protecting our State Constitution in State courts. If those actions are successful, we will seek fees from the Constitutional Defense Fund.”

Founding members of the Committee include former Idaho Attorney General Tony Park, former Deputy Attorney General Clive Strong, and long-time private practitioner, Bruce Smith, a senior lawyer of the Idaho Bar.

Park said, “In the coming days, we will be gathering legal talent from around the State to protect Idaho’s constitutional form of government. There is a good deal of concern in the legal community about the impact of these unconstitutional measures on the integrity of our government. If litigation becomes necessary, we intend to rely on volunteer lawyers who will donate their services to the benefit of the Constitution.”

Strong noted, “The Office of Idaho Attorney General serves an essential role in ensuring elected officials are given the legal advice they need to hear, not what they want to hear. The importance of preserving the role of the Attorney General is evident from constitutionally suspect legislation pending in the Idaho Legislature.”

Smith expressed concern that the bills designed to usurp the Attorney General’s constitutional powers are not only violative of the separation of powers, but would dramatically increase the State’s outlays for legal services. “The sponsors of House Bill 118 could not even estimate how high the cost would go.”

Run for something


I stumbled across something the other day you might be interested in.

It’s a website called “Run For Something.” My first thought at seeing those words had nothing to do with politics or campaigning for office. But, that’s exactly what it is.

With oversized type on the website, lots of colors, pictures of staff and successful campaigners, it’s filled with lots of information and sort of a kick to read. And, there’s a good deal to read.

“Run For Something” (RFS) has been around for a few years and has had some real successes. More than 55% of women backed by RFS won various offices from dog catcher to Congress in recent elections. And, 50% of the winners were people of color.

Here’s something else you probably don’t know. In races run in the last two national election cycles, IFS has helped flip seats in 20 states. Not bad for a group of young folks most of us have never heard of.

The organization is PROGRESSIVE. Large type! The whole reason for its being is to help more progressive - and therefore, mostly Democrat - folks into public office. An occasional Republican is supported but the key word is still “progressive.”

Some 8-thousand volunteers do most of the work with candidates. About 70% of applicants are under age 40, running for the first or second time. All applicants have one-on-one phone talks in which RFS workers get facts about who wants to run, for what and experience - if any.

There are four basic tenets candidates must meet in the process: be progressive, be rooted in their communities, be willing to work hard campaigning and are interesting and compelling to talk to. Ratings on those four points come from volunteers who have had in-depth conversations with many applicants.

There is a winnowing process to the point that RFS takes what it believes will be winners under the organizational “wing” and begins things. Using (un)social media heavily, there is constant moral and other support. They’re offered tactics that’ve been proven successful in other races. They get weekly open-ended calls from RFS strategists who’ve worked on previous campaigns.

If money is a problem - as it often is - RFS can help. In the 2020 campaign, RFS spent more than two-and-a-half-million dollars in hundreds of races.

Part of that help comes from RFS working partners and direct linkage with newer progressive organizations like Emily’s List, Campaign America, Voto Latino, Crowd Pac, Planned Parenthood and the Democratic Senate Campaign fund. There are regional fund-raising promotions. RFS is also the beneficiary of sizeable donations from individuals and carefully selected business partners.

Direct candidate support is also available in tactics, strategy, media relations, fund raising and contact with previously successful candidates. There are also regional directors with campaign experience who can be called upon for advice.

Feedback from winners is very positive with some doing endorsements on the RFS website.

The “dog-catcher-to-Congress” label is very true. RFS has been the key element to success in judicial races, legislative contests, city council, county commissions, congressional and numerous other campaigns. No matter what office you want to run for, “Run For Something” should be the first call you make.

Though it’s not specifically itemized on the RFS website, it’s obvious the group wants to make sure that any ballot - anywhere - doesn’t have an uncontested race on it. As we’ve seen so often in politics - especially at the national level - gaining access to one office can lead to a subsequent successful step to another.

We’ve also seen what can happen if there is an uncontested race. We’ve got a Marjorie Taylor Greene to deal with in Congress because no one would fill the open seat on a Democrat ballot.

Yes, “Run For Something” is a heavily Democrat-oriented group. And, yes, they tilt toward progressive minded individuals. And, yes, the organization of largely young people, out “to change the world.” But, RFS has experience winning a large variety of political contests. It has shown itself to be an organization to be reckoned with in city, county, state and national contests. It’s shown it can make a difference where it counts - the ballot box.

When you’ve got some time on your hands one of these days, give the “Run For Something” website a look-see. Even if you don’t want to be a candidate for something, you might know someone with an itch. The “Run For Something” site may be able to scratch that itch.