Press "Enter" to skip to content

Posts published in March 2021

More questions than answers


Congressman Mike Simpson’s rejoinder (TN, 2 /26) to my recent column on his “Save The Salmon” plan (TN, 2/21) raises significant questions, but provides few definitive answers.

The Congressman has his plan posted on his website ( and he and I both encourage people to read it. Simpson vigorously defends the plan, saying it provides certainty on the ongoing salmon recovery debate and thereby offers a path forward, an “opportunity” as the plan puts it. Many others disagree.

Simpson has served in Congress for more than two decades and has shown repeated good judgment and leadership for Idaho and the Second Congressional District. He’s thoughtful, hard-working and congenial, and over the years, there’s been much to applaud and little to critique in his performance. Voters appreciate him and return him to office by wide margins.

But here are some questions his salmon recovery plan doesn’t answer:

Lack of broad support. Big proposals almost always depend on broad consensus. In this case, Idaho leaders from the governor on down and key groups like the Farm Bureau and the Idaho Water Users have come out either against Simpson’s salmon plan it or have raised specific questions. If this salmon plan is so good, why is there such a wide array of skeptics? What are these leaders and groups missing here that’s such an ‘opportunity’ as Simpson’s plan asserts?

Jobs “retraining” for Lewiston. The plan seems to say those no-longer-needed port workers can just find jobs in recreation. Humm. This may surprise the plan writers, but many port workers may not want to become eco-guides, drift boat rowers, tourism managers or find other recreational jobs. Reminds me of Kerry’s and Biden’s comments that oil field and coal mine workers should just learn to make solar panels and learn how to code. Otherwise, they’re written off with shrug.

An article last week confirms that uses of a dam-less river would benefit drift boaters, bank fishermen and a few hunters, but general boating would be lost. Isn’t that what the ecos always want, an expansion of ”Birkenstock America?” (Spokesman-Review, 2/28). A designated “wild rivers” bill would surely follow in Congress to eliminate vehicle access, beyond any lawsuit moratorium. Simpson’s plan plays to the elitist group of urban recreationals at the expense of the rest. How’s that good for Idaho?

Product shipping. Lewiston’s port handles close to half the total grain shipments from Idaho. Losing that would cause a huge jump in transportation costs to truck and rail and would likely bankrupt many farms, plus clog highways with truck traffic. How is that good for Idaho? As many have stated, barging of wheat and other products remains the most efficient and environmentally-friendly means of transport.

Simpson’s plan has the support of the tribes. And why not? They don’t give up anything in this plan to help salmon recovery. Invoking their “treaty rights” and court-decreed “sovereignty,” tribal salmon netting takes thousands of fish, which are then sold like cordwood out of pickup trucks along highways. Why doesn’t the Simpson plan address this issue? The real solution here would be for Congress to restrict the scope of tribal “rights,” but that’s hardly likely under a Biden minority-dominated administration,

Electric generation. The four dams (which all have fish ladders) generate some of cheapest hydro “alternative” energy in the country, which power nearly a million homes. Yet, the plan blissfully waves this away in favor of alternatives like wind, solar and bio-mass. Let’s see. We breach perfectly good, cheap, non-fossil hydro facilities and replace them with subsidized, expensive alternatives that can’t maintain 24/7/365 energy. How does this make sense?

Water allocation. Does Simpson truly believe environmentalists will stand by while farmers, cities and industry seek the nearly 500,000 acre feet of salmon reserve water for agricultural and other beneficial uses? Ecos will surely continue to claim Idaho’s water, as they’ve done for decades. Does Simpson really think dam-breaching will put an end to lawsuits and Biden-ista closures? Yep, water in the West is for fighting. Under Simpson’s plan, farming and electric generation would suffer. Lawsuit moratorium or not, the ecos will just continue to sue, object, rail, fund-raise, etc. It’s what they do. Birds that quack like ducks are, well, ducks.

We all know how important agriculture and water are to Idaho. Where’s the success? The biggest ruse of the salmon recovery proposal is that it likely won’t work. Wild salmon have already been replaced by hatchery stock, which have DNA exactly the same as ‘wild” salmon; of close to 800,000 released smolts in a recent year, fewer than 25 returned to Redfish, and only one was a “wild” fish.

How’s that for a pathetic rate of return?

Stephen Hartgen, Twin Falls, is a retired five-term Republican member of the Idaho House of Representatives, where he served as chairman of the Commerce & Human Resources Committee.  Previously, he was editor and publisher of The Times-News (1982-2005). He is the author of two new books on Southern Idaho, “Tradition & Progress: Southern Idaho’s Growth Since 1990.” and “Spirit of Place: Southern Idaho Across Generations.” He can be reached at

At long last


It appears after the requisite Senate hearings this week that for the first time in its 172-year history the U.S. Department of the Interior, custodian of 247 million acres of the people’s land – one-fifth of the county – will be headed at long last by a genuine American, and a woman to boot.

New Mexico Representative Deb Haaland, a citizen of the Laguna Pueblo, will become the first Native American to helm the agency, a historic moment that some Senate Republicans seemed determined to soil with fake outrage and empty bluster. Haaland took it all with grace and dignity, telling the fire breathing John Barasso of Wyoming and Steve Daines, the rightwing zealot from Montana, after swatting away or correcting their nonsense, that she would be pleased to work with them.

This moment has been a very long time coming. With Haaland’s tenure, as Native American writer Julian Brave NoiseCat noted, “the inclusion of everyone—including and especially the erased and forgotten First Peoples of this land” will finally have taken place.

The Founding Generation – Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton and others – perhaps more than any other generation, at least until fairly recently, confronted the dichotomy of what the government of the United States visited upon the real first Americans.

Writing in 1818, President James Monroe, for example, acknowledged the burden of guilt associated with the wholesale white appropriation of the subsistence lands of Native Americans. “The progress of our settlements westward,” Monroe said, “supported as they are by a dense population, has constantly driven [native people] back, with almost the total sacrifice of the lands which they have been compelled to abandon.”

Monroe said the dominate culture had to recognize native claims “on the justice of the nation,” claims sadly that have rarely been honored in the intervening 200 years.

There have been many efforts aimed at redressing injustices to Native Americans, but they have often collapsed or simply been inadequate. In 1933, one of America’s great secretaries of the Interior, Harold Ickes, a crusty, opinionated Chicago progressive in the tradition of Theodore Roosevelt, was determined to turn the federal government’s fraught relationship with the original Americans on its head.

Ickes convinced President Franklin Roosevelt to allow him to appoint a controversial Native American rights activist and sociologist, John Collier, as head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). Collier was a quirky, if effective bureaucrat. He habitually smoked a corncob pipe, wore a baggy sweater in place of a suit jacket and was said to frequently carry a pet frog in his pocket. Few politicians liked him, but fewer still questioned the authenticity or depth of Collier’s commitment to more self-determination for tribes and individuals.

Collier’s legacy, mostly good for, but tinged with some bad, has been defined by “the Indian New Deal,” the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act that sought a wholesale realignment of federal government policy toward Native American tribes. Yet, even Collier’s well-intentioned strategy was, as many critics have noted, based on a white man’s understanding of what was good for the First Peoples. Even best intentions can be paternalistic and misguided.

The paternalism problem is perhaps best illustrated by the fact that when Collier’s appointment was announced some Indian rights advocates said if Roosevelt really sought to create a New Deal for Indians he should put a Native American in charge of the BIA. The suggestion was quickly dismissed by members of Congress who confidently and incorrectly asserted that no Native American was qualified for the job. The same attitude has hovered over the secretary’s position for generations, until now.

In our profoundly partisan times it was gratifying to see Haaland introduced for her Senate confirmation hearing by Alaska’s very conservative Republican congressman Don Young, who unreservedly endorsed his Democratic colleague. “She has worked with me,” Young said. “She has crossed the aisle, and as a member of this administration, I know she will do a good job.”

“Respectfully,” Young continued, “I want you to listen to her. Understand that there’s a broad picture.” Some senators, thinking all wisdom resides on their side of the Capitol, weren’t listening.

Proving the old adage that to understand politics you need merely to “follow the money,” Barasso, the ranking Republican on the Senate committee, claimed Haaland harbored “radical views” on fossil fuel development and use. The senator has received more than $1 million in campaign cash from oil and gas interests during his time in the Senate, and clearly knows which interest primes his political pump.

Haaland, ready to assume a job that will be consumed by a broadening climate crisis, replied to the senator from oil and gas with the only sensible answer possible: fossil fuels will be around for a long time, but developing alternatives is just plain common sense.

Other Republicans complained about protections of culturally important native lands that, at least in the view of Utah Republican Mike Lee, ought to be exploited no matter the cost. Haaland’s steady demeanor and deep personal and cultural connection to the American West will surely lead her to find a better balance than what another great Interior secretary, Cecil Andrus, once called the policy of “rape, ruin and run.”

The profound elevation of Native American perspective and wisdom inside the Biden Administration was further underscored by another announcement last week. Nez Perce Tribal member Jamie Pinkham, a wise, committed, collaborative and deeply respected expert on Northwest fish and wildlife issues, will have a high impact position with the Army Corps of Engineers, an agency rarely known to be sensitive about anything other than protecting its own turf.

Haaland’s appointment – and Pinkham’s as well – rather than being condemned by some as “radical,” deserve widespread praise, not only for the quality of the individuals involved but also for what the personal experience from Indian County brings to a federal government that has long marginalized, ignored, demeaned and disrespected the first Americans.

The only thing radical here is the over-the-top reaction to the reality that a capable, unflappable indigenous woman will finally have a job that should have been the domain of a Native American generations ago.

Turning point


Not so many years ago, House Bill 226 probably would have passed with a unanimous vote and likely no contrary debate at all in the Idaho House.

The reason - and the reason comes down mostly to just one - it failed, can be pinpointed. The debate on the main floor vote, lasting roughly an hour, is well worth watching, and you can see it for yourself.

The bill was floor sponsored by Representative Paul Amador, R-Coeur d’Alene. (In fact all of the main floor debate featured only Republicans.) The bill involved renewal of about $6 million in pass-through funding, a continuation of a program the state has participated in (without controversy), in the form of a federal grant - from the outgoing Trump Administration - with favorable comments from Idaho’s two Republican senators. The money would be under control of the state Board of Education.

The $6 million would go to local organizations, many of them in Idaho’s smaller and rural communities, to “provide education resources for children ages birth through five - in multiple formats - and support locally-controlled, high-quality, and family-focused programs and educators that support the optimal growth and development of young children.” The local programs would be designed and run by local committees made up of local people. An in-state non-profit organization called Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children would, under the state board’s oversight, distribute the money and provide assistance to the locals. The program had plenty of support from parents and educators around the state, and a number of state representatives had been personally involved and vouched for it.

Amador delivered a clear, airtight case for the bill.

But its chances of passage fell apart as soon as he finished his debate and Representative Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird, stood up.

She had been doing some “digging,” she said, and found the Idaho nonprofit was linked to a national organization, on whose website she found documents with some worrying language. “I don’t understand a lot of what is going on in our education system,” she said, but opined: “It is a world wide battle, it is so imperative that we fight for the hearts and minds of our little ones.”

Specifically, even watching the debate online, you could tell the atmosphere in the House changed when Giddings said she had spotted the phrase “social justice curriculum” and “critical race theory” and references to racial and gender equity. “I do not believe you are privileged based on your gender or your race,” she said - in an efficient but sharp turn into culture war - and adding, “So what is social justice and why are we teaching it to our children?”

“Please let’s not indoctrinate our kids,” she said. The state and local control over the structure and content in the actual Idaho program were all but forgotten the minute she waved the red flag words.

The red meat catchphrases - those with some juice this year, which will be different from those magic incantations next year - opened the door for the negative debate following.

Representative Ron Nate: “Can you see the forces lined up against Idaho choosing education for itself and for its preschoolers? Can you see the forces lined up against families and against communities? We think federal money is free. But it's not. It comes with controls. … the control is absolute, and the cost of freedoms lost is unaffordable. Say no to social justice being taught in Idaho preschools.”

Representative Barbara Ehardt spoke about a conference in New Orleans on early childhood education she attended, and said she perceived that motherhood was being denigrated there: “I don’t think for the most part these women and I shared very much in common, anyway I’m going to vote ‘no’.”

Representative Charlie Shepherd: “Any bill that makes it easier or more convenient for mothers to come out of the home and let somebody else raise their child – I just don’t think that’s a good direction for us to be going. I realize this bill is trying to help with early childhood care but are we really hurting the family unit in the process?” (After public uproar, he tried walking some of this back the next day.)

The bill failed 34-36; House Speaker Scott Bedke, by the way, voted in favor of it.

Going to show how you can use the magic culture war incantations, to defeat practically any bill at all.

Welcome to what passes for deliberative decision making in the Idaho Legislature in 2021.

An unmistakable gesture is needed


One of Trump’s enormous mistakes was unilaterally dumping into the trash the finely negotiated Iran nuclear pact, officially termed the “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” or J.C.P.O.A., that Secretary of State John Kerry had accomplished in an astonishing diplomatic coup never achieved before or since. Trump declared that the U.S. was pulling out of the pact, declaring it to be the worst deal ever. He imposed draconian economic sanctions upon Iran to force them to return to table to negotiate an agreement more to Trump’s liking.

Nothing happened the way Trump wanted. Iranian leaders ignored Trump’s threats and refused to consider renegotiating the deal while the sanctions were in place. Relations with the U.S. steadily soured as Iran has stepped up aggressive actions in the Middle East and appeared ready to return to production of nuclear weaponry. Our European allies largely ignored the U.S. sanctions and Trump’s threats and have continued as though the pact was fully operational. Russia and China have distanced themselves from the fray and are ostensibly trying to appear aloof, while working for their own interests in the shadows. The Middle East economy is in chaos. In the four short years of the Trump administration, the world situation with Iran has moved from one of easing tension and cautious optimism to one approaching the rim of disaster.

Prior to Trumps precipitous action. relations with the United States had been improving. Under the leadership of the more moderate Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s president who took over from the radical iconoclast Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2013, Iran’s civilian economy and its relations with its European neighbors was improving while its hardline military presence was softening. Although the country was also under the joint-but-supreme control of the rigidly militant Ayatollah Khamenei under its dual-headed government which no one in the West appears to understand, President Rouhani was making headway in many areas. Trump’s actions re-invigorated the position of the hard liners, making Rouhani’s tasks of any further improvement in relations with the West all but impossible. Rouhani’s term is up in June and the next five years depends greatly on whether the moderates can hold on to Rouhani’s position.

Biden has been tip-toeing around trying to get all the players back to a table somewhere to work out a solution. Iran refuses to agree to reopening negotiations so long as the economic sanctions are in place. Biden is being pulled by traditional diplomats who insist that any concessions by the U.S. must be met by reciprocal concessions from its adversary. The advice is that the U.S. should never concede one iota of any position taken until and unless there is a reciprocal and satisfactory concession towards the U.S. demands; that there must be a quid pro quo that we approve of. The result so far has been a frustrating stand-off, with no progress on the U.S. vs. Iran fronts and an impatient Europe getting more nervous as the war clouds of impending disaster continue to mount.

The answer seems obvious – at least to get the thing moving in the right direction. Biden should just undo what Trump did. Lift the sanctions and declare that the U.S. is once again a member of J.C.P.O.A. He can do this unilaterally with the stroke of a pen. It does not require Congressional approval. There in nothing written that says it has to have the approval of the other members of the J.C.P.O.A, meaning there is no need to get diplomats around any table somewhere. Just declare it done.

Do not misunderstand. The J.C.P.O.A. is not the best deal in the world, nor was it intended to be. It is full of holes and fails to address many problems that are in desperate need of solution. But the pact is a start; it is a beginning that no one thought possible, a first step that could lead to other actions. What is more, it had the support of every world power in the industrialized world. It was a remarkable diplomatic feat. Throwing it away because it was not good enough was just plain dumb.

There is no guarantee that trying to paste the thing back together again will work. But for sure it cannot make it worse, and the diplomatic symbolism of the gesture would be unmistakable.

Crapo and Covid relief


Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo hopes that at least a couple of Democrats will want to take a second look at the $1.9 trillion COVID relief package that is heading to the Senate. If that happens, he says, there’s a chance that money can be channeled toward the people who need it the most.

Crapo is all for passing another coronavirus relief package, even if it means increasing the national debt. “But I’m not for building a bridge from New York to Canada, which is part of their bill.”

The senator stands behind some parts of the bill that provides funding to individuals, restaurant operators, a Payment Protection Program for small businesses and vaccines. But he wants no part of spending $50 million for “family planning” services, such as Planned Parenthood, which according to Forbes, also is part of the package. The bill also provides $200 million to the Institute of Museum and Library Services and $270 million to the National Endowment of the Arts.

In other words, this bill has more pork than a sausage factory.

“Huge portions are not even related to COVID relief, or even closely related to COVID relief,” Crapo says. “The amount we’re looking for is much smaller, under $1 trillion, and is focused on COVID relief. We need to remember, this is borrowed money. The national debt is still a crucial issue.”

As Crapo sees it, what happens on COVID relief will set the tone for President Joe Biden and his working relationship with Republicans. If Democrats ram through the package without Republican support, or input, it could be four years of gridlock – which is something that Crapo hopes to avoid.

“There is significant potential for bipartisan agreements in the tax arena, trade arena and health care arena,” Crapo says. “If he wants to work with us, we are ready to work with him.”

Crapo, who this year moved from the banking committee to ranking member of the Finance Committee, is more certain about his cordial working relationship with Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Or., who chairs the finance panel. They’ll have their disagreements, starting with COVID relief, and Crapo’s office will churn out press releases expressing his opposition. But with both being from the Pacific Northwest, there’s a lot of common ground as well. Over the years, both have fought for more resources for wildfire management and the Secure Rural Schools initiative.

Crapo, naturally, hopes that Republicans will regain control of the Senate in two years and roles with Wyden on the Finance Committee will be reversed. In the meantime, he’s looking for a productive tenure as the committee’s ranking member – with an eye toward reducing the partisan rancor. His focus will be on issues such as tax policy, trade agreements, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

He backs away from the political fights that headline the network news. One common question is whether he backs Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell or former President Trump. Crapo’s answer is short, and blunt.

“I support Mitch McConnell as our leader and the caucus backs him as well,” Crapo says. “The media makes more of this matter than what’s there.”

Does Crapo agree with Sen. Lindsey Graham and others who view Trump as the party’s supreme leader? Crapo is bored with that one.

“I get that kind of question every presidential election cycle,” he says. “I’m going to get that question from a lot of people every year until the election. My answer is the same. It’s far too early to designate who will be the leader of the party in the presidential context. The decision will be made in the primaries, and I’ll tell you the leader after that process runs out.”

It’s clear that Crapo will never be a headline speaker at a CPAC convention, standing with the likes of Sen. Ted Cruz and railing about how the last election was rigged against Trump. But political grandstanding has never been Crapo’s style.

At the moment, he has more important business in front of him.

Chuck Malloy is a long-time Idaho journalist and columnist. He may be reached at

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.

A power-sucking creature


This session of the Idaho Legislature reminds me of those low-budget science fiction movies where a malevolent space creature comes to Earth to suck all of the power from the electric grid. Rather than plundering the grid, the Legislature has been trying to suck vitality from the Idaho Constitution by grabbing powers that belong to the people or to other government entities.

If legislators have their way, the people will lose their absolute right to initiate legislation as a means of getting around an unresponsive Legislature. The Attorney General’s office will be seriously wounded, driving up the cost of State legal services and reducing the reliability of legal advice. The Governor will not have the authority and flexibility to manage a public crisis. Local governments will not even be able to change the names of their streets, schools, parks and other public facilities, without the approval of our power-grabbing Legislature, thanks to House Bill 90.

One of the most egregious legislative power grabs is Senate Bill 1110, which would require the signatures of 6% of registered voters in each and every one of Idaho’s 35 legislative districts in order just to get an initiative or referendum on the ballot. The bill

would give each legislative district its own veto power to keep an initiative or referendum from being voted upon, making it almost impossible to use these important instruments of people power.

Had such a restrictive measure been in effect over the years, we would have no Medicaid expansion, the despised Luna Laws would still be on the books, and there might well be no campaign reporting laws.

The bill is an unconstitutional restriction on the right of the people to control their government. After all, Article One of the Idaho Constitution solemnly proclaims that, “all political power is inherent in the people.” It states that the people, “have the right to alter, reform or abolish” the State government “whenever they may deem it necessary.” How can the people possibly exercise that awesome power if they have to go through a power-hungry Legislature in every instance?

Twenty-three years after they ratified the Constitution, the people decided they needed a way to get around a recalcitrant Legislature. In 1912, they adopted the initiative and referendum for that very purpose. They gave the Legislature the authority to lay out the procedure for running an initiative or referendum, but not the ability to prevent the use of these important powers. Senate Bill 1110 is a constitutional abomination.

The Legislature wants to deprive the Attorney General of his constitutional power to handle the State’s legal business. House Bill 118 and Senate Bill 1090 would prohibit the Attorney General from advising or representing the Idaho Land Department. It is clearly unconstitutional. House Bill 101 would allow state agencies to hire their own lawyers, rather than going through the Attorney General. We had that system from the early 1960s to the mid-90s and it was a costly mess. It would degrade the quality of legal services and more than double their cost. The bill sponsors cannot even estimate how high the cost would go.

House Bill 135 is just the latest of several misguided measures to tie the hands of the Governor in responding to a serious emergency. Governor Little has certainly not overreached in responding to the pandemic and does not deserve the legislative strait jacket being fashioned by legislators.

These are just a few of the measures that legislators have conjured up to suck the powers belonging to others under our revered State Constitution. Let’s demand that they finish their legitimate business and go home. The longer the Legislature remains in session, the more it will suck.