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Petty vindictiveness


(Open Letter to Idaho Senator James Risch)

Senator—attached to this column is a picture of the headstone in Boise’s Pioneer Cemetery that marks the gravesite of the late, great four-term Idaho Governor and Carter Administration Interior Secretary Cecil D. Andrus.

For years you two engaged in sniping at each other in what was recognized by most of the state’s political cognoscenti as hardball, partisan politics. You could give as good as you received.

During those times you amply demonstrated that you could be mean, vicious, and petty, that you lacked a sense of humor and viewed politics not as an exercise that found the greatest good for the greatest number but rather a form of war.

During all those years there was one thing I never thought you capable of - outright stupidity. Imagine my surprise then when you took your six-shooter out of its holster and shot both your feet?

This one act of vindictive insanity is going to be your legacy.

In case you’ve forgotten, Cece passed away August 24th, 2017, a day shy of his 85th birthday. Apparently the fact that he is under six feet of mother earth, and you’ve outlived your old rival is not enough for you. Reports out of Washington, D.C. indicate you put a hold on the $1.3 trillion spending bill and demanded that a provision passed by the House at the behest of your Republican congressional colleague, Mike Simpson, renaming the White Clouds wilderness area the Cecil D. Andrus White Clouds Wilderness be removed.

If not, you would see the federal government shut down. Seriously? One newspaper ran the perfect headline: “Senator Risch Picks Fight with Dead Governor---Loses.” How does it feel to have the entire world laughing at you?
As Cece’s press secretary, confidant and adviser for many years I was well aware there was little love between you two, but never in my wildest thoughts did I think you could be so petty.

Why? It can’t be that you and he quarreled over appropriate levels of education funding when you were the Senate Pro Tempore leader in the Senate, can it?

It can’t be that a number of times you tried unsuccessfully to over-ride vetoes or spike important appointments.

It can’t be that he was a better, more respected politician than you, or that he supported State Senator Mike Burkett’s successful effort to deny you re-election?

This attempt to take revenge is a true lose-lose for you. Why such animosity that transcends partisan politics?

Could it be that Andrus early on nailed you for the little man with a Napoleonic complex you often displayed? Andrus was on to the games you would play, such as having your desk and chair on a riser, and you’d then stand and semi-sit on the corner of your desk looking down on a guest who you insisted take a seat in a chair on the floor?

Then there was the time you were about to be sworn in as governor for six months. Invites were sent to all former living governors and all rsvp’d they would be there except Andrus. Do you were remember this, Senator?

You called Andrus at home and the conversation went something like this:
Risch: “Cecil, this is yourrrr governor. And your governor would respectfully request your attendence at his inauguration tomorrow.”
Andrus: “All right you little so and so, I’ll be there.” And he did attend.

Andrus had more class in his little finger than you will ever have. If you had an ounce of class you’d apologize to the Andrus family and to your colleague, Mike Simpson. I won’t hold my breath.

Shame on you Senator Risch for attempting such petty vindictiveness. You proved to one and all you are every bit the little man that you are.

Snoozing along . . .


Idahoans may soon find out the answer to an old joke question: what if they held an election and no one came?

In less than two months for all practical purposes Idaho’s next governor and its next member of Congress from the First District will be the winner of the May 15th Republican primary.

Does anyone care? In 50 years of observing Idaho politics I’ve never seen a less interested, not-paying-attention Idaho electorate. Maybe the campaigns have more visibility in southern Idaho, as all the campaigns are eschewing buying television out of the expensive Spokane market. The return on investment calculus simply says its too much to pay to reach what is seen as less than 10% of the probable GOP voters.

Quick. Tell me three major difference that separate the three major Republican gubernatorial candidates - Tommie Ahlquist, Lt. Gov. Brad Little, and Congressman Raul Labrador - from each other? Can’t do it, can you?

A low interest, low turnout vote probably favors Labrador whose hard right conservative base n theory will be the most motivated to vote.

However, the winner will be the one that has the best ground game - the one who has identified the most likely voters, has phone banks set up to call voters, can provide rides to the polls, has a top notch absentee and vote by mail operation, and has a direct mail program sending three or four pieces to all Republican households.

One suspects that if it comes down to who has the best ground game that will favor Brad Little in the governor’s race and in the congressional race will favor former attorney general David Leroy. The reason is they are more familiar to the state’s voters having run state-wide and have built a cadre of solid supporters - people who know them and more importantly like them.

An election that has attracted hardly any interest clearly will not be a change election, but will be a maintain the status quo. That too favors Little and Leroy.

Rest assured both races will be decided by the voters of two counties - Ada and Canyon, which between them hold 40% of the voters. Some pundits think this tilts the congressional race towards former state senator Russ Fulcher from Canyon County, but there is no evidence to support that. With seven R’s the winner may have only 20% of the vote and such races are impossible to predict.

Labrador released his first tv ad this past week, the last of the three major GOP candidates to do so. Interestingly, he repeatedly tries to reassure his base he is the only true “consistent conservative” in the race though Idaho voters grasp that all three are conservatives.

Labrador though is probably badly out of step on many of the issues with most Idahoans. His code talk about focusing more on educational performance than funding is just a slick way of saying he will slash educational funding despite public wishes to the contrary. It’s the only way he can reach his touted tax reduction plan calling for capping sales, property and income tax at a uniform 5%.

The guess here is that despite a low turnout many traditional conservative to moderate R’s will turn out and that most independents will vote in the Republican primary as well. All of this should see Little nose by Labrador with Ahlquist running third.

In most years one would think Ahlquist’s enthusiasm and charisma as well as being the fresh face would catch on. That doe not appear to be the case though and most observers won’t be surprised by Ahlquist finishing third.

The congressional race still appears to favor Leroy who has done an excellent job on the stunp demonstrating his mastery of the issues and underscoring his “constitutional conservative” views. His adroit dismissal of age questions has faded as he demonstrates vigor and with humor dismisses such questions.

A word about the Democratic gubernatorial primary featuring the party’s 2014 candidate, millionaire businessman and long-time Boise school board member A.J. Balukoff and former State Representative Paulette Jordan from Plummer. The first take was that she could actually win the nomination given the thin slice of liberal “wine and cheese” D’s in Idaho who nonetheless can deliver in the smallish Democratic primary.

Any chance she might have had though may have become foregone given her recent endorsement of gun registration for all firearms, and not prospectively but retroactively. There are enough D’s in Idaho who hunt who will dismiss her out of hand for taking such a position.

We’ll know more on May 16th when we will learn who our next governor will be and the new First District congressman. Don’t blink though or it may just escape notice.

The gentleman


He was a true gentleman - unfailingly polite, always as well spoken as he was soft spoken. Possessed of a subtle sense of humor, a bit shy, but he walked with ease among the rich and famous because he commanded their respect. When he spoke it was always on point; he didn’t waste words. The intelligence and common sense he displayed spoke volumes.

Though he hailed from Olympia on the wet-side of the Cascades, he and his older brother Ward attended Washington State. Though slight of stature he was a four-sport star athlete in high school as well as student body president due primarily to his leadership skills.

He bled Cougar red the rest of his days, which came to an end in late February when he quietly passed away, no doubt glad to rejoin his beloved wife, Retha, his life-long partner in every sense of the word. Not incidentally she was a Vandal.

His name was Jay Rockey; he was 90.

When Seattle’s community and business leadership, led by United Airlines then CEO, Eddie Carlson, decided in 1960 that the city needed to jump-start itself into the 21st Century, they hit upon the idea of creating a World’s Fair. Thus, was born Seattle’s iconic Space Needle with its revolving restaurant, as well as the Monorail and other venues.

They also turned to Jay Rockey to sell the concept to the rest of the nation, to make Seattle a “must visit” and peek into the future. That Jay Rockey succeeded beyond expectations is part of his legend. Twice the folks at Life Magazine put the Fair on its cover. Jay’s skills were critical to the Fair drawing 10 million visitors ensuring success and even a profit.

The day after the fair closed Rockey opened the door of Jay Rockey Public Relations. Retha ran the backshop, the accounting and payroll and they had one employee, Mike Dederer, who early on became a full business partner.

Almost immediately Rockey had a list of clients that read like the top membership of the Seattle Chamber. Indeed, before long George Duff and the Chamber was also a client.

Rockey was sought after not just by blue chip clients but by boards and foundations. During his career he was president of the Rainier Club, vice president of the Chamber, president ot the Public Relations Society of America, on the board of the Museum of Flight, the Ryther Child Center and the Downtown Seattle Association as well as a dozen others.

If Rockey was your friend it was for life. Don Kraft ran an advertising firm and he can testify to Rockey’s loyalty as can Spokane’s Dale Stedman who became a friend at WSU.

It was my privilege to have worked for Jay from 1982 through 1984. Rockey asked me to set up a public affairs division, find a deputy and also take the lead on serving his Alyeska Pipeline Service Company client and the proposed Northern Tier Pipeline. He was pleased when I selected young Mike McGavick from Senator Slade Gorton’s campaign staff to work with me.

Rockey was one of the first to work standing up. He had a high table upon which he had his old typewriter. Sometimes he would send a typed note with instructions, other times invite one into his office, but rather than “order” one to do something he would ask or suggest as a favor to him.

If Rockey had one regret it was that no governor named him to the Washington State Board of Trustees. Rockey studiously avoided partisan politics so he never was a big contributor to campaigns. He gave generously to the WSU Foundation and supported the campus chapter of PRSA named after him. It is WSU’s loss that he never was tapped.

The last time I saw Jay we sat together in Martin Stadium and watched with pleasure a rather average Cougar football team play above its head and upset USC, 34-14. Rockey couldn’t stop smiling.

Rockey can rest in peace, secure in the knowledge he was the best at public relations that ever walked. He was also the personification of a good guy finishing first.

Another billionaire?


There is another billionaire that appears to be laying the groundwork to run for President in 2020. Only this one intends run as a Democrat and he has hired one of the best in the business to put together the pieces and devise the strategic game plan - someone who just happens to be a native of Idaho.

You may have seen his television ads, especially if you watch CNN. The ads are well done and effective. The first flight made a clear cut case for beginning impeachment proceedings against President Trump. If you agree with Tom Steyer he gives you a website to go to and sign a petition which calls on Congress to begin the impeachment process.

Apparently over one million people have done so.

The second flight of ads are set in Philadelphia where Steyer speaks eloquently about the Constitution and the fact the President has done nothing about the unprecedented cyber attack on America’s voting system.

Both ad flights feature the tall¸ lanky, thoughtful Tom Steyer, an almost cowboy-like figure, who speaks softly but carries the big stick of someone who knows he is national player and has bought himself a place at the table.

Steyer made a fortune as a hedge fund manager who specialized in more risky investments than many of his peers. The return on investment was commensurate with the risk and his approach of risky investments in unstable spots around the world.

He was easily the biggest contributor to Democratic candidates around the nation last election cycle, doling out $187 million. He and his wife also give generously to charities and foundations and they’ve taken the “Bill Gates” pledge to give most of their wealth away.

Steyer made no secret last year that he was actively exploring running for governor of California or for the U.S. Senate against five-term incumbent Diane Feinstein. In mid-December he announced he would do neither.

So what does a ga-zillionaire who has spent hundreds of millions developing high name recognition do next? This is pure speculation - I have no inside track into his mind but I doubt he spent all those millions simply out of the goodness in his heart.

The logical conclusion is he has decided he would do a hell ‘uv a lot better job than the President and he is going after the ultimate prize in politics.

The clincher is that it is fact he has hired Idaho’s own Bruce Reed and is probably paying Reed a seven figure sum to put it altogether. For those of you who don’t know who Reed is, don’t feel bad. He studiously remains behind the scenes, but insiders consider him to be one of the best.

His resume is golden. The son of former Idaho state senator Mary Lou Reed and the late super lawyer, Scott, he attended Princeton following graduation from Coeur d’Alene High. (He was born in Boise 57 years ago.) Next to Cecil Andrus and Frank Church he is probably the most influential Idaho Democrat in the last half of the 20th century.

Reed received his M.A. from Oxford on a Rhodes scholarship then went to work as a speech writer for Al Gore. He helped found the middle-road Democratic Leadership Council, wrote speeches for Bill Clinton, and was his domestic policy director when Clinton was president. For President Obama, he staffed the Simpson-Bowles Commission and then served several years as Vice President Joe Biden’s chief of staff.

This latter job could prove problematic for Reed if Biden, as rumored, also runs. It is a reasonable guess that Reed, however, will stick with Steyer and help implement a game plan largely crafted by him.

Bottom line is keep your eye on Bruce Reed and don’t be surprised when Tom Steyer carries the D standard into battle in the fall of 2020.

Into the sunset


Governor C. L. “Butch” Otter sat for a somewhat retrospective look back at his three terms with Idaho Public Television recently. As it is with the governor, there were plusses and minuses. In many respects it reflected the enigmatic nature of the man himself.

For as long as he has been in public office, as gregarious and outgoing as he is, as personable and charming as he can be, few people outside of his wife, Lori, and his old side-kick, Mike Gwartney, really know him and what has driven his yen for public service for so many years.

Like all good politicians, he could present a different side of his personality to different folks at different times and to different audiences. The Butch Otter that loved riding horses on his ranch, or galloping into a rodeo ring, was much different as the international salesman for marketing Idaho products in Cuba, Mexico, China and Japan. He is a cosummate salesman---no one can take that from him.

Much like the man he acknowledges as Idaho’s greatest governor, at least on the Democrat side, Cecil Andrus, Butch remembers names and faces and has a long political memory. Like Andrus he is intensely competitive.

In fact I first met Governor Otter on the basketball court at the Boise YMCA playing noon pick-up games the winter of 1972-73. He was a newly elected rookie lawmaker from Canyon county. One can learn much by just observing others on the hardwood. Mike Gwartney loved to feed Butch the ball; the Governor loved to rebound and was a mite too quick to call a foul, and of course he hated to lose.

After two terms he left the legislature. These were years in which he also was working hard to make his mark at his father-in-law’s corporation, the J.R. Simplot Company. These years also saw his first abortive run for governor in 1978, where he placed a close third in the GOP primary.

Few folks know that Butch came from humble beginnings, that his parents, Regina Mary and Joseph, a journeyman electrician, were Catholics and Democrats. They had to sacrifice to send him to St. Theresa’s Academy, the forerunner of Bishop Kelly, from which he graduated in 1962. He was 20 when he graduated having had to sit out a year because of an accident involving gasoline exploding burning him and his brother.

He received his B.A. from the College of Idaho in 1967 after brief stints at St. Martin’s and at Boise State.

He emerged from these wilderness years, so to speak, still determined to serve the public and was elected in 1986 Lt. Governor, a post he served in for 14 years, the longest tenure for any one, before winning a congressional seat in 2000, where he served three terms before his election as Idaho’s 32nd governor.

In reviewing his tenure the Governor had a hard time citing outstanding successes. He does get credit for fighting for a gas tax hike to pay for needed infrastructure improvements, but he still makes no apology for eviscerating school funding and teacher pay during the early years.

And he still is proud of the $400 million surplus Idaho has in the “Rainy Day” bank.

Now that the economy is rolling along he is trying to close the gap of lost funding, but the state has steadily dropped by most national measurements. He seems to believe that technology improvements will also compensate but most are skeptical.

In the interview he made no reference to some major misteps such as the scandal surrounding the Corrections Corporation of America as well as the awarding of a major technology improvement project that was tossed out by a judge.

Neither does he seem to yet understand why former Governors Andrus and Batt fought him and the folks at the INL over the camel’s nose exception he sought to allow spent fuel rods into Idaho for alleged research. At one point he even referred to the late Governor Andrus as as “my former friend.” He clearly meant my late friend, for he truly mourns Andrus’ passing and there was great mutual respect.

In a way, Otter’s legacy will be written by the voters of Idaho as they weigh who should succeed him. He is backing his loyal Lt. Governor, Brad Little. They share much in common. Little has diligently done his homework, traveling with the Governor Otter all across the state for “Capitol For A Day” visits. In addition, on more than 375 occasions during the years Little has served as next in line he has been the acting governor when Butch is out of state.

Raul Labrador and Tommy Ahlquist are guessing that Idahoans want a change and they see Little as a fourth Otter term. They may be correct, but many others do not see this as a “change” election. Rather they see it as an endorsement of the Otter approach.

When all is said and done Butch presided over some challenging times and some economically good times. Most Idahoans, according to the Boise State issues poll, think Idaho is moving in the right direction. They appear to be comfortable with the Otter/Little approach. This writer’s wager is those rock-hard solid conservative Republicans will cat their ballots for staying the course, and that is good news for Lt. Governor Little’s prospects.

Game changer


In the wake of another school shooting, with all its heartbreak and tragedy, words from two of Nobel prize winning songster, Bob Dylan, come to mind: “Come gather round people wherever you roam/ and admit that the waters around you have grown/ and you’d better start swimming or you’ll sink like a stone/ for the times they are a-changing.”

And the second:

“How many deaths will it take till he knows/ that too many people have died.
The answer my friend is blowing in the wind/ the answer is blowing in the wind.”

Wake up folks. The water is growing and way too many of our children are dying.

Listen up, all my friends and readers for whom the Second Amendment is the most sacred part of the Constitution, you’d better come forth with some construction suggestions that will reassure the mothers of America that their children are still safe while at school.

The status quo is not enough. Clearly our government should just enforce the laws already on the books. That isn’t enough either, for they will learn, in a democracy, the power of the majority and angry voters can work their will.

Millions of mothers and women across the country are fed up with President Trump’s actions, not to mention his prevarications, philandering, petulance, and pettiness. Polls are starting to show a dramatic shift away from the GOP by women voters and millions more are registering to vote for the first time. And they sure as hell aren’t going to dutifully follow hubby’s lead.

A blue tsunami is shaping up and it may bring about changes, the likes that have not been seen, since FDR’s 1932 sweep. Make no mistake, my friend, this movement is targeting Republican office holders, especially members of the House of Representatives.

Women have every right to be angry with the most misogynistic President in US history. Just look at an sample of anti-female policies Trump is working on. For example, is it any surprise that a man who has 19 female assault charges against him has his Department of Education revising guidelines upwards for the burden of proof for students accused of rape?

On one of womens’ touchstone issues, the right to choose, his administration has made it easier for employers to strip from healthcare plans birth control costs.

Women, like most men, are as concerned about his lack of temperament and judgment and his inability to exhibit self restraint.

Single handedly President Trump is galvanizing the #MeToo movement which is going like topsy and is going to retire many Republicans in November, in part, because he is exercising zero leadership in this issue of protecting our schoolchildren.

Allow me to offer a constructive suggestion:

1. Looking forward, no one under 14, or anyone else can own a handgun or automatic weapon without first having attended and satisfactorily completed a firearms safety course conducted by the NRA.

2. Course instructors will receive additional training on how to spot potentially unstable individuals and can refer them for additional evaluation.

3. Future gun owners will have to have insurance just as car owners have to have insurance.

4. States will conduct the licensing of firearms and as done with licenses they will periodically need to be renewed.

5. Teachers who have taken the gun safety course will be permitted to open-carry in the classroom or carry as a concealed weapon. Teachers have to be able to protect themselves and their students.

Gun owners everywhere should recognize that change is coming. The issue is will they guide the change or will the change drive them.

Will first district voters ever learn?


The Congressional Candidate’s Forum this past weekend at the Coeur d’Alene Public Library sponsored by the Kootenai County Reagan Republicans was a depressing exercise testifying to the validity of George Santayana’s saying that “those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

The parallels to 2006 were uncanny. As Yankee catcher Yogi Berra once said “its déjà vu all over again.”

In front of a standing room only crowd of 300 people were six Republicans, all possessing solid conservative credentials. Three of the six gave thoughtful, constructive conservative-based answers to a series of questions, and three were hell bent on trying to establish that they were the only true blue conservative and the rest were dangerously close to being RINOS (Republicans In Name Only).

Does anyone remember Bill Sali? In 2006 when Butch Otter opened the seat up by his decision to forsake Congress and run for governor there were six Republicans who thought they saw a member of Congress when they looked in the mirror. An obscure little known state legislator from the Treasure Valley far to the right of many main-stream Republicans none the less emerged from the primary as the party’s candidate with just 26% of the vote.

Sali played up his adherence to Christian values, his 100 percent pro-life record and once he was seated he voted against the first legislation authorizing a Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for kids from low income households. He also voted against then President George W. Bush’s comprehensive immigration reform bill because it allowed for some amnesty. Sound familiar?

Sali was such a disaster as a congressman that he was defeated in his bid for re-election by Democrat Walt Minnick. This was the first time an incumbent was bounced after just one term since 1952 when Coeur d’Alene’s Dr. John Wood lost his bid for re-election to Democrat Gracie Pfost.

Of the three pandering to the far right the worst was Mike Snyder from Bonners Ferry. He is the living definition of a demagogue. He began his introduction by shouting “how many of you out there believe Hillary Clinton ought to be in jail?” Two thirds of the audience raised their hands but one brave person shouted loudly “no.” “How many of you believe Robert Mueller should be fired?” Again, two thirds of the hands raised.

“How many of you believe the Federal Reserve Bank should be abolished?” Again two-thirds of the hands raised. Utterly unbelievable there are that many folks who get suckered by such rhetoric¸ and not only don’t trust government but hate all levels.

Oh, there’s an exception though - Snyder says government is needed to enforce the right to life and no exceptions for the life of the mother, rape or incest. Snyder continued his pandering by shouting he would vote against any bill that contained as little as one penny for Planned Parenthood.

Later he implored the audience to drive the RINO’s out of the Republican party and he accused Arizona Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake of being RINO’s. One had the feeling that any one who didn’t agree with him was a RINO.

Initially Nick Henderson, the late Frank Henderson’s grandson and a commercial pilot, sounded sensible but before long he was charging that the entire Congress was corrupt and that he wanted to be there to clean up the corruption which he saw as primarily driven by lobbyists.

Former State Senator Russ Fulcher still comes across as one wishing to be governor which he originally declared for until Raul Labrador decided to run for governor. His answer for everything seemed to be read the Constitution and read your Bible and one will have the answers.

Any sensible person would scratch Snyder, Fulcher and Henderson from their list. None of the other three came across as zealots or single issue types. State Rep. Luke Malek (R-Coeur d’Alene), former Attorney General and Lt. Governor David Leroy and State Rep. Christy Perry (R-Middleton), all conveyed that they would work to make Congress functional again while adhering to their major conservative principles from balancing the budget to support for lower taxes and effective efforts to limit bureaucratic regulations.

Leroy’s experience separated him from Malek and Perry. His answers were more specific and his knowledge of the issues deeper. If grading the top three on a scale of one to ten I’d give Leroy an 8, Malek a 6, and Perry a 5. On the other side Henderson gets 3, Fulcher a 2 and Snyder a 0.

If you want someone who will be an island unto himself and not able to work in a legislative environment go ahead and vote for the reincarnation of Bill Sali. And history will repeat itself with a Democrat taking the seat back after one term.

There are polls, and there are polls


All pollsters tell clients that a poll is just a snapshot in time and attitudes can change swiftly. They also say the polling instrument is only as good as the input and how well questions are phrased. Garbage in, garbage out or filet mignon in, filet out.

Dr. Corey Cook is dean of Boise State’s school of public service. He also is an expert on polling. In an interview about BSU’s third annual statewide survey of 1000 Idahoans on issues of public policy and where they stand from health care and insurance to education to the economy to taxes to transportation he was candid, sharp and informative.

He went to great lengths to explain why this was a poll about public policy and should not be considered a political poll.

He conceded, however, that in keeping with transparency he should have acknowledged that the firm handling the polling, GSStrategic Group, is led by Greg Strimple, a nationally known Republican pollster. His firm is currently handling polling for doctor/developer and gubernatorial aspirant, Tommy Ahlquist. Dean Cook said he was convinced the firm had kept a firewall internally.

When asked the cost Cook said it was $50,000 for the 20 minute, 60 question poll - approximately $30,000 from public funds and the rest contributed by five private companies: Blue Cross, the Idaho Realtors Ass., Midas Gold, Monsanto and Western States Equipment.

The price did not include focus group sessions to test the wording of the questionnaire nor any follow up to verify contacts and responses.

Despite Dean Cook’s eloquent arguing to the contrary, almost any poll asking questions about public policy is by definition “political” and can be used for political purposes. Idahoan views on the inadequate underfunding of public education as well as teacher pay has ramifications when presented to the Legislature

Indeed, in several places the poll invites the respondent to choose between options on whether and how the Legislature should act.

Because it does have political implications it becomes critically important to understand decisions made with regard to internal dynamics. For example, the pollster has to choose between “weighting factors,” such as deciding to over sample in north Idaho to make sure the poll reflects a decent number of respondents from the ten northern counties.

Several variables come into play and in looking at these red flags should be raised. The split between calling those with land lines as opposed to cell phones was clearly subjective. Idaho is supposed to lead the nation in folks who just have cell phones. Thus, of the 1000 calls 590 were made to cells, or 59%. Dean Cook, estimates the correct number to be 65%, not 59%.

Cell phones tend to be the purview of the young and the tech savvy. Older voters stay loyal to their landlines and also vote at a much higher percentage than the young. So, weighing a higher value to a land line holder might be a shrewd move.

Other than saying they had purchased commercial lists to get to respondents who primarily use a cell phone, the Dean did not reveal the GSStrategic Group’s methodology and the firm did not return my calls.

In previous polls the Dean said they would ask whether the respondent had voted in the last presidential election. This is a wasted question for few want to self report to anyone that they did not do their civic duty. One is far better off to purchase a list of the active voters, the so-called four for fours in order to get a better read on a possible political result.

The gender split was almost 50/50. That’s ok for a policy survey but a political survey should be 53% women, 47% men. It is also fair to say that the BSU poll surveyed “white Idaho.” Hispanics comprise 11.5% of Idaho’s population yet the breakout on the cross tabs indicated that only 2.3% of the respondents were Hispanic. This is a most unfortunate undercount.

When it comes to voting by party preference the numbers don’t really reflect current demographics. The same is true for the response to religious preference. The BSU poll had self-described affiliation at 39% for independents (too high), 37% for the GOP (a bit low) and 16% for the Democrats (way too low).

As to religious affiliation, the 2017 poll indicated 115 respondents were Roman Catholic (too high), and 181 were LDS (way too low - it's more like 25%). The education numbers appeared to be badly skewed also as were the income numbers. BSU’s breakdown on education was 18% on high school grad or some high school but the Political Almanac shows the number at 38%. BSU’s 2018 survey shows the number at 50%. Which is it?

With income the numbers did not square with other data either. The Almanac indicated Idahoans with income under $50,000 was 52% of the population. BSU’s poll indicated it was 35%.

Bottom line is Dean Cook was correct. This cannot and should not be used as a reliable political poll. There are just too many questions. It is indeed about policy and accurately reflects Idaho residents views. Marty Trillhaase, the Tribune’s fine editorial page editor, drew the other correct conclusion. Idahoans say they are green/blue on the issues but they always vote red.



The Idaho Conservation League has a hard-earned and well deserved reputation for being an environmental organization that deals with facts and objectively pursues issues involving the protection of the state’s invaluable assets such as clean water, clean air and wilderness.

When challenged a few years back by the late Governor Cecil Andrus to work constructively for a mining permit with a company willing to adopt virtually all of ICL’s requests to ensure the mine would not harm the environment, Rick Johnson, their executive director, took on the challenge and ICL ended up endorsing the proposed Formation Capital cobalt mine 50 miles northwest of Salmon.

Thus, it was disappointing to see an op-ed by ICL’s Matt Nykiel that was nothing less than an ignorant, fear-mongering hit piece aimed at stopping BNSF’s proposed second bridge parallel to the existing bridge across a corner of Lake Pend Oreille.

As is typical with these kind of hit pieces, they always leave out inconvenient facts that counter their distorted version of the truth.

The facts are:

Fact: Idahoans will have a voice and the lead federal and state agencies have a history of soliciting public comment on projects like this. For Nykiel to say Idahoans will not have a voice is simply ridiculous.

Fact: When trains cross the Lake standard operating procedure is to slow down considerably as they cross. For over 100 years trains have been crossing the lake and to the best of my knowledge not once has there been a derailment above the lake.

Fact: BNSF is the industry leader in the installation of Positive Train Control (PTC), a GPS system that automatically slows a train if it starts to exceed the preprogrammed directive.

Fact: BNSF inspects more tracks more often and more thoroughly than any other railroad in the nation. It is a pioneer in the use of drones for inspection. BNSF also accepts responsibility for being accountable to all its neighbors despite Nykiel’s claim to the contrary.

Fact: BNSF works closely with all first responders along its tracks, underwrites special training for dealing with any hazardous waste spill and provides grants for purchase of hazardous waste response items. Note Nykiel does not cite by name those he claims are critical of emergency response preparedness plans.

Fact: At a Lakes Commission meeting Nykiel claimed the response plan was deficient. His view is not shared by those who worked on the plan’s development with BNSF.

Fact: Nykiel’s use of pejorative terms like gamble, roulette and risk is a deliberate prejudging and puts ICL on record as opposing something before there has even been one hearing.

Fact: From an environmental standpoint moving goods and materials by rail is still far easier on the environment and safer than using trucks.

Fact: Nykiel should admit that he has ICL already on record because of the group’s belief that coal and Canadian oil exacerbate the global warming issue. Thus his answer is to stop trains from carrying coal or oil---a clear interference with interstate commerce. But when you’re a true believer the end justifies the means.

Unfortunately¸Nykiel is prematurely dealing away ICL’s ability to be the constructive player they can be when they want to be.

(Editor’s note: Carlson was the founding partner of the public affairs firm, the Gallatin Group. BNSF was a major client for many years. In addition, the piece is entirely the author’s view.)