The hearing itself was heartbreaking to watch as a legislator charged with an ethics violation weaved and dodged questions from what could have been an enlightening fact-driven proceeding. Instead, she distorted and flat-out lied about what she had done.
In the end, Rep. Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird, got off easy by being left on two of her three legislative committee assignments. The Ethics Committee mercifully tried to get her to show any remorse. She didn’t.
She was left on the Joint Finance & Appropriations, and Agriculture committees, but was removed from the Commerce & Human Resources. A full House vote will come later, but the Ethics Committee recommendation – or something close to it – is likely to hold but perhaps with more sanctions.
House Rule 45 gives the Ethics Committee four possible outcomes for ethics complaints. One is dismissal of the complaint as unwarranted or trivial. Two is a reprimand, which is a formal notice of displeasure. The third option is censure, which may be expanded to include various conditions, and four, expulsion from the House. (House Rule 45).
Given the known facts, censure seemed the appropriate overall sanction, but the Ethics Committee could have included additional conditions, such as removal from all three of her standing committees, and/or restricted her ability to introduce bills.
These would’ve been appropriate further actions, and may still be on the table, as any House member can bring a motion to add to the censure restriction recommendation when the full House votes on the matter.
In not getting a stronger sanction, Giddings effectively got a pass, and by implication, told the voters of Idaho - particularly female voters - that they can expect deceitful legislators like her to continue to exploit their legislative power to “out” sexual assault victims if it serves their political purposes.
Giddings called the hearing a mockery, but she knew exactly what she was doing when she posted a sexual assault victim’s name and photo on her own Facebook page and in her constituent newsletter. She did this in retaliation to the young lady for bringing the complaint against another right-wing legislator for sexual assault who has since been forced out of the House.
Giddings says she thought “Jane Doe’s” private information, name and photograph were within the public purview by having been previously posted, but that didn’t absolve her of her own actions. Knowing how bad it looks, she repeatedly attempted to deflect and lie about what she had done, both under oath and in various media interviews. Her fanatical anti-government followers picked up her chant that she was the real victim.
This is the way fanatics often work. They paint others as part of an imagined “enemy” to be destroyed. They alone have found the “truth.” It is this contempt for others which underlies many of her incendiary remarks.
As to the case itself, the evidence was clear. Giddings knowingly undertook a personal vendetta to attack the female sexual victim of another legislator. The assault itself was deplorable, and it is sad indeed to see another legislator telling Idaho women you can expect little support if you are assaulted or harassed.
The findings were severe, but the sanction, not so much. At the close of the hearing, R. Brent Crane, R-Nampa, repeatedly pointed out the evasive answers or non-answers that Giddings gave, some of which were direct lies. Other committee members and witnesses cited her complete lack of contrition or recognition that what she had done to a common citizen was simply wrong.
None of this apparently bothers Giddings, who is so power-hungry in her quest for to be the next Lieutenant Governor that she will crush anybody to get there, even a 19-year-old intern. She showed herself to be a callous and remorseless individual, undeserving of public office, much less of advancement.
The history of ethics violations in Idaho government shows that these incidents result in the person leaving office in disrepute. Even with further sanctions, Giddings is likely to suffer the same fate. She will fade in Idaho political history, a non-entity who left only a negative impact on the state and its people.
She will also likely get some sanction from the US Air Force, where she is a reserve pilot, at least for now. The specific sanction is unknown, but her conduct clearly is contrary to the Air Force’s long traditions of how officers should relate to others.
Voters in this state are unlikely to give an individual with Giddings’ obvious human defects an opportunity to spew more hatred and anti-female rhetoric. You can’t stay in office in Idaho long by telling half the population that they’re not worth protecting from sexual predators. Giddings has already diminished herself in the eyes of many by her deceits and lies. Whenever or how ever she leaves office, it will not be a day too soon.
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 can be reached at Stephen_Hartgen@hotmail.com.