Press "Enter" to skip to content

Posts published in “Carlson”

Say adios, Raul

carlson

Congressman Raul Labrador (R-1st CD-Idaho) ought to drop out of the race for the Republican nomination for Idaho governor. The reasons are multiple, but simple. They boil down to the incontestable fact that he and his administration would not be problem-solvers, they would be problem creators.

We elect governors to solve challenges and problems, to instigate solutions, not to become part of the problem by kicking the can down the road or pointing the finger of blame at someone else. Labrador forgets that when he points a finger at his opponents four fingers are pointing back at him.

Labrador’s 5x5x5 gimmick for further reducing state taxes is phony as a $3 dollar bill. Putting such an unneeded additional drain on the State coffers would eviscerate funding for k-12 education and Idaho’s colleges and universities. It would signal the end of the step increases for newly hired teachers and assure a continuation of the teacher drain out of state.

This past week he joined his congressional colleagues in the so-called Freedom Caucus in endorsing a shut-down of the federal government, once again putting ideology and partisanship ahead of the public interest and the best interests of his constituents. It’s downright disgusting.

He and GOP House and Senate leadership have known since last fall a show down was coming over the immigration issue yet the majority party did not call or hold a single negotiating session. Instead they just kicked the can down the road. The ensuing months saw Congress pass a series of continuing resolutions to keep the government operating while supposedly engaging in negotiations over a solution to the “dreamer” challenge as well as the reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

But no, they’d rather play Russian roulette with the lives of at risk children and ignore almost 800,000 people brought here while under five years of age by parents seeking to better themselves. As young adults today many are teachers or serve in the armed forces and they pay their taxes. President Trump considers them to be illegals and would rather send them back to a native land they have virtually no knowledge of.

Republicans like Labrador think the Democrats will get blamed. Guess again----their party and the president will be held accountable. Do you think for one minute there is a DACA child or a CHIP mother that does not know who is using their loved one as a pawn?

Do Idahoans really want this style of brinkmanship and ideology sitting in their governors’ chair. Do they really want someone who has no respect for state employees, who boasts he can cut a billion dollars out of the biennial budget?

Do they really want a conservative without a conscience who doesn’t support medicaid expansion and who believes in dismantling much of the local, state and federal framework that has arisen because of the need for services which individuals themselves cannot afford?

Do Idahoans really want as governor a person who like the president he idolizes, is a divider not a unifier? My guess is not. It’s a good guess also that many second district Republicans still remember Labrador supporting a wing-nut challenger to their own beloved congressman, Mike Simpson. Likewise many in eastern Idaho will remember Labrador saying that cuts at INL were to be expected and that people just had to recognize there were no sacred cows and all had to carry a share.

His gubernatorial race strategy of hiding out in D.C. so as to avoid joint appearances with his two main challengers, doctor/developer Tommy Ahlquist and Lt. Governor Brad Little, will not sit well with many voters either. He may have polls showing him leading but some pundits believe by primary day each of the three will have corralled about ¼ th of the expected vote and the remaining ¼ will stay undecided until primary election day.

Overall, conservative Republicans in Idaho may support President Trump until his policies start to bite and his inability to lead becomes even more apparent, but one suspects they’ll not want to see that kind of double-talking leadership sitting in the governor’s office in Boise. It’s one thing to have chaos in the White House, quite another to have it much closer to home. (photo/Gage Skidmore)
 

Corporate greed and Alaska

carlson

Alaska’s senior senator, Lisa Murkowski, has accomplished one goal that no other Alaskan senator, despite incredible efforts, ever achieved. Not the longest serving Alaskan senator, the legendary “Uncle Ted” Stevens; not her own father, Frank, during his time in the Senate; not the egotistical and shameless Democrat, Mike Gravel; nor Alaska’s junior senator, Dan Sullivan; nor Alaska’s only other Democratic senator, Mark Begich.

Senator Murkowski delivered what is close in Alaska to a near unanimous bi-partisan supported issue: Obtaining legislation that allows the nation’s oil companies to conduct exploratory drilling in the heretofore sacrosanct 1.5 million acre coastal plain of the Alaska National Wildlife Range, referred to by it initials (ANWR) and pronounced “An-war.”

It has been a long dispute over what may be a small resource, much smaller than Prudhoe Bay, according to the U.S. Geological Survey which estimates there might be enough petroleum product that Americans would consume in six months. Consensus estimates zero in on about 10.4 billion barrels of recoverable product.

In the meantime, wildlife biologists worry that the pipeline would interfere with the 200,000 member Porcupine Caribou herd’s historic migration route in addition to posing a threat to declining numbers of Polar bears.

Alaskans basically don’t care. They believe there’s lots oil underneath the refuge and it can be drilled in an environmentally safe manner and then fed into the existing pipeline without any problems. This also means additional revenue into the Permanent Savings Fund from which each Alaska citizen receives a check based on their length of residency, drawn on the interest from the fund.

The declining price of oil in recent years coupled with breakthroughs in technology that have placed the United States in a position of world leadership due to new extensive reserves has seen payouts decline.

Thus, Murkowski’s ability to successfully attach language to the new tax cut bill permitting exploratory drilling, even though President Obama put an overlay of wilderness designation on the refuge, was welcomed by most Alaskans.

Ever since President Carter signed the Alaska Lands legislation into law in 1980 the resource developers of the world have coveted this refuge. No matter how one dresses it, it is still a pig driven by greed There is no national need for the product, we’re awash in oil. Common sense says treat it like a Naval oil reserve, to be opened only if there is a national emergency.

Then there is an argument skillfully advanced by Carter’s Interior secretary, former Idaho Governor Cecil D. Andrus, in a speech to the annual meeting of the Sierra Club in 1979 in San Francisco. Call it “the last best place” argument. Behind him on the dais was a large map of North America.

Andrus began talking about all the oil and gas leases off-shore of the United States. He started off Maine, went down the Atlantic coast to the Gulf of Mexico, went up the Pacific coast to Alaska, went around the Alaskan coast to the far northeast corner of Alaska. He kept saying “we can drill here; we can drill there.”

He then asked the rhetorical question: “Must we have it all? Must we explore and exploit it all?” Can’t we say that all these other areas are enough? Can’t we say there is one area left where a pristine wilderness and an entire eco-system untouched is also a national priority, a value in and of itself that transcends mere dollars?”

He sat down to a thunderous standing ovation.

Senator Murkowski delivered the answer last week. “No, Cecil, you can’t. We want it all and we’ll explore it all and exploit it all. Money trumps everything.”

How sad. Some may say it was a blessing that Andrus, who passed away last August, did not live to see this travesty.
 

The quiet man

carlson

One of Idaho’s most effective “behind-the-scenes” operators is making the rounds at the Capitol building this week introducing his successor to legislators and key folks in state government. Well known in that small group of movers and shakers because he is one of its key participants, he is soft spoken and rather taciturn.

When he speaks though, others listen for his take is always matter of fact, objective, informative and to the point. He radiates integrity and commands respect because he possesses that rare quality called gravitas. He also has a subtle sense of humor and his word is his bond.

His name is Bob Boeh and he is the vice president for government affairs for the Idaho Forest Group. When he turns 70 on May 13th he’ll hand in his hard hat and formally turn his post over to Tom Shulz, the former director of the Idaho Department of Lands. Shulz knows he has a tall order in trying to fill Boeh’s boots.

Mark Brinkmeyer, chairman of the Idaho Forest Group (formerly known as Riley Creek Timber Company), would be the first to tell one that hiring Bob Boeh away from Plum Creek was one of the smartest moves he ever made. As a key advisor to the chairman, Boeh was instrumental in working on the management team that has seen IFG expand from one mill when Boeh first went to work there 20 years ago to six mills today with the recent acquisition of the St. Regis mill.

IFG’s other mills are at Moyie Springs, Laclede, Chilco, Lewiston and Grangeville.

Boeh’s 20 years with IFG following 26 years with Plum Creek gives him almost half a century in a business that has faced more than its share of challenges during the past half century. Boeh jokingly tells folks that it’s time to retire when you realize you’re older than many of the trees one is running through their mills.

Born in Butte and a 1970 graduate with a forestry degree from the University of Montana, one of Boeh’s hallmarks is he has always kept an open mind and has listened carefully to all the industry critics, including folks from the Idaho Conservation League and the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness Group, and not just to the traditional business support.

He also played a critical role in helping Plum Creek redo the way it was conducting business in the Rocky Mountain region. The day he saw Plum Creek described by a Republican congressman on the front page of the Wall Street Journal as “the Darth Vader” of timber companies he knew things had to change.

Then Plum Creek chairman Dave Leland also knew some changes had to be made in the way they did their job, as did the Rocky Mountain region vice president, Charlie Grenier, along with his deputy, Mike Covey (now the chairman of Potlatch) and Boeh.

They assembled their unit managers, foresters and biologists and listened to the harsh results of a comprehensive poll as well as a tough talk regarding how private timber companies had to recognize they might own the ground but the public had a vested interest in keeping water clean that passed through the land, maintaining air quality and protecting the wildlife that lived on the land. They had to recognize that any business operates by public consent.

It also became crystal clear that no matter how the industry tried to package it, most of the public hated clear cuts. Even business in their home communities detested clear cuts. With this information in hand Boeh and Grenier led their foresters through an exercise that evolved into a binding commitment to adopt ten principles of environmental forestry and some significant changes in the way they got out the cut.

The decision was also made to seek “green certification” which they obtained and not to advertise until they had walked the talk. One former critic was former Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus who early in his first term sent Leland a picture of a stream bed piled high with slash. Grenier invited Andrus to come take a second look during his third term and Andrus was suitably impressed at the changes.

Boeh, when asked what he considered his legacy to be, quickly cited opening meaningful dialogues with environmental groups, including forest collaborative groups, helping Brinkmeyer grow the business, and making clear cutting a practice of last resort.

Retirement plans call for he and his wife, Sandi, to visit as many of the national parks as they can, a cruise up the Inland Passage, continuing to raise and train hunting dogs, more hunting and fishing as well as more time with the granddaughter.

Those that appreciate professionalism, candor, integrity and ability will miss this quiet man who epitomizes the phrase made famous by President Teddy Roosevelt - walk softly but carry a big stick.
 

The art of ambiguity

carlson

For someone who claims not to be a politician, doctor and developer Tommy Ahlquist is displaying an amazing aptitude to master the art form quickly. He is speaking out of both sides of his mouth on two issues, gaming and a proposal to breach the four lower Snake dams to ensure Idaho’s salmon and steelhead runs survive.

On both he should have done more research than he did for his comments manifest a misunderstanding of the issue that is simply unacceptable.

Asked this fall if, like Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter, he would have vetoed a bill in 2015, only in a timely manner (Otter failed to act in time), which repealed state acquiescence to video historic horse races passed in 2013. Ahlquist said yes.

He saw the issue primarily as one of state “good faith,” and felt it was wrong for Idaho to encourage “small” businessmen to invest the millions in equipment and employee training and then jerk the rug out from under them. Whether two of his large contributors, Larry Williams and Harry Bettis, who were large investors in the conversion of Les Bois, influenced his stance is for the reader and the voters to decide.

Asked about the underlying but obvious issue that wasn’t this an endorsement of gambling forbidden in Idaho, Ahlquist opined that it was up to the courts and lawyers to decide if it fell under the prohibition in the Idaho Constitution. For Idaho’s gaming tribes (the Coeur d’Alenes, the Nez Perce, the Sho-Bans and the Kutenai’s) there is no doubt that these historic horse racing videos are gaming. They view it as unfair competition and are adamantly opposed which Ahlquist was told first hand when he met with the Coeur d’Alene’s chairman, Chief Allan, this past August.

As one legislator put it upon looking at the “one armed bandits” of historic videos with all the bells and whistles: “If it walks like duck, talks like a duck, looks like a duck, it’s a duck.” Ahlquist apparently doesn’t think so and will leave it to the legal beagles. In a move to have it both ways, though, he says he philosophically is opposed to any form of gaming (other than Idaho’s Lottery, presumably).

Coming from a self-styled “leader” one wonders just what his definition of leadership really is.

Similar sentiment regarding speaking from both sides of his mouth is being expressed by those who attended a Idaho Wildlife Federation forum at Boise State on December 2nd.. Asked where he stood on the issue of breaching the four lower Snake dams if a federal judge ordered such as the only way to save diminishing salmon and steelhead runs that come back to Idaho, Ahlquist indicated he was open to listening to all sides on the issue.

Even a willingness to listen was too much for the dam lovers who push backed hard prompting a clarification op-ed from Ahlquist published in The Idaho Statesman stating that a desire to listen was not an invitation to the dam breachers, that breaching was off the table. He stated in his clarification that he had always been opposed to breaching, something he did not state at the “Hook and Bullet” forum.

Ahlquist then displayed his ignorance on the issue by indicating that breaching was a threat to Idaho water rights.

Come again? Nice try at muddying the water but simply not true. Right now Idaho water contributes to augmented flows that assist smolt in getting to the ocean more quickly. Breach the dams and there is no longer a need for augmentation, something one would expect a candidate for the Idaho governorship to know.

Whoever on his staff “ghosted” the misleading op-ed ought to be reprimanded. If one didn’t know Alquist is not much of a fan of President Trump (He supported Florida Senator Marco Rubio for the presidential nomination) one might think he was taking a cue and dropping from his vocabulary phrases such as “fact-based, science-based, vulnerable populations,” etc.

He is mastering the art of a typical ambiguous politician, though. Now drop the posture and quit throwing stones at your opponents for being what you are aspiring to be.
 

If at first . . .

carlsonlogo1

Most folks can complete the ellipse in the title with the correct “try, try again.” The latest to utilize the thought that generated the well-worn phrase is A. J. Balukoff, the multi-millionaire businessman and developer, as well as long-time member of the Boise School Board.

Though soundly defeated in 2014 by Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter in a quest for the governorship, he is letting the word spread that he intends to formally declare a renewed effort in Idaho Falls on January 9th to secure the Democratic nomination. Following that he will take a state-wide swing hitting Twin Falls, Boise, Lewiston and Coeur d’Alene, finishing the announcement tour on January 13th.

He even has a primary opponent, State Representative Paulette Jordan (D-Plummer), who will generate interest and help to keep Democrats and independents home instead of watching many defect to the GOP temporarily in order to vote for the most rational Republican.

Balukoff welcomes a primary for he knows it will generate interest and, as the previous nominee he has invaluable personal relationships built up from his campaigning previously. While welcoming her candidacy, he is NOT taking her lightly.

He recognizes she is tall, an excellent speaker, and colorful. No one would use these phrases to describe A.J. Presumably she will be well-financed if gaming tribes across the nation line up and pony up. That is a big question mark right now. A.J.’s timing may be excellent in that a blue tidal wave may be forming that will sweep across the nation, though, and even Idaho could see a Democrat elected state-wide and perhaps to Congress.

It is clear also that Balukoff learned a lot from his first venture. His answers to questions during a 30-minute chat were crisp and on point.

One won’t hear phony budget cuts in spending nor irrational tax cuts at the state level to mimic federal cuts coming from his mouth. He clearly sees all three of the leading Republican candidates as pandering to a traditional Republican animus towards taxes regardless of the fact that no one, not even the businesses in the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry (IACI), are clamoring for tax relief.

The fact is business in Idaho is satisfied with the balanced three legged stool of state taxes (sales, income and property) and would rather see more investment in public education and college education.

A.J. remains passionately committed to better funding for education and teachers. He knows the key is expanding the economic pie and that the old Andrus formula still applies: “first you have to make a living, then you have to have a living worthwhile.”

Asked if he had a poll in the field, he said yes. Asked if the comprehensive statewide poll that probably cost $40,000 was based patially on deciding the degree of challenge represented by Jordan, and that it might provide a rational excuse not to spend $3 million of his own,” he said no, he was committed to the race and repeated he welcomed Paulette into the fray.

Balukoff is a student of Idaho history and knows in recent times several Idaho governors tried and failed to win the governorship in their initial run. Among this group one can find future four-term Idaho governor Cecil Andrus who lost both the primary and the general election in 1966; John Evans; Phil Batt; Butch Otter, C. Ben Ross; and C.A. Bottolfsen.

While he appears to be a much-improved candidate than he was four years ago, A.J. share the same challenge that faces Tommy Ahlquist - both are multi-millionaires, developers, and members of the LDS Church who must overcome the appearance of trying to buy their way into high public office.

Both also know and like each other with Ahlquist actually making the maximum personal contribution one could make to Balukoff in 2014. Both may have selected the party they are members of out of political convenience.

Neither has a particularly good and persuasive answer as to why Idahoans should entrust their future and those of their children and grandchildren to a political novice with no governmental experience but nonetheless thinks he can and should start at the top.
 

Baseball and equity

carlson

Most Idahoans who follow major league baseball know that Harmon Killebrew, the Hall of Fame home run slugger for the Minnesota Twins, was born and raised in Payette. They can probably tell you that Larry Jackson, a stalwart pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, and Vernon Law, a star pitcher for the Pittsburg Pirates, were also Idaho-born.

Ask even the most fanatic fan one can find if they could tell you anything about others on the list of 30 Idahoans who made “the show” or are still in the majors, and one is liable to see nothing but a blank look.

Ask if they could say any factoid about Bruce Ellingsen, a pitcher born in Pocatello, or Bob Martyn, an outfielder born in Weiser, who graduated from Twin Falls High School and went on to Linfield College.

Or how about Frank Reberger, a pitcher born in Caldwell, the younger brother of Phil Reberger, the former chief of staff to Dirk Kempthorne when he was a U.S. Senator and Idaho’s governor and considered by many to be the most influential Republican operative in Idaho.

The latter three “unknowns” share or shared one common denominator: for years they were denied the retirement benefits of Major League baseball which in 1980 adopted a rule that eligibility required a minimum of four years of major league service and was retroactive to players who were in the show between 1947 and 1979. The rule change caused 500 former major leaguers to be left high and dry, as if a high and inside fastball had been tossed at their heads.

The pooh-bahs of baseball do toss a small carrot to these players based on a complicated formula that doles out $625 for every quarter of service these players may have accrued. Under this formula a non-beneficiary could receive a maximum payment of $10,000 a year if he served slightly less than four full years.

Compare that to a vested retiree who can receive a pension as high as $210,000. Nor can the dole for a non-beneficary be passed on to a surviving spouse or other designee. This is what happened to Weiser born Bob Martyn, an outfielder for the Kansas City Athletics who played in 154 games between 1957 and 1959 and died at age 85 in 2015.

Given that the Major League Pension Plan has $2.7 billion in assets, according to Forbes, one would think baseball could be a tad more generous. The four year requirement explains why many former players cultivate relations with the management of various teams in part because if one becomes say a bull pen coach or a pitching coach he can significantly pad his retirement benefit or qualify for a nice pension.

Take for example Caldwell born former Vandal pitcher Frank Reberger. Drafted by the Cubs he made it to the majors in 1968. Shortly after making the roster he was drafted by the first year expansion San Diego Padres. He enjoyed some success against the San Francisco Giants so they went out and picked him up and the rest of his brief caeer was spent with the Giants until he left baseball in 1972---just short of the four year requirment adopted in 1980.

Ten years later he realized the value of qualifying for the major league pension. During his brief career he had gotten acquainted with the great Dodger executive Buzzie Bavasi who helped him get into the Angels organization as a bull pen coach. The day he reported for work in the Angels organization he qualified for the pension program. Later, the expansion Florida Marlins made him their first pitching coach.

During Reberger’ slightly less than four year player career he won 14 games and lost 15. His ERA was 4.51; he pitched 389 innings giving up 404 hits, issuing 197 walks and striking out 258 batters. He appeared in 148 games for the Cubs, Padres and the Giants. He started 37 games, and pitched five complete games.

Since he was a National Leaguer there was no “designated hitter”so he had 100 at bats with 23 hits (no home runs) for a .230 batting average. Today he is retired and resides on Camano Island in Puget Sound.

Pocatello born Bruce Ellingsen pitched briefly for the Cleveland Indians. He appeared in 16 games and was the starter in two. He pitched a total of 42 innings and finished with a respectable ERA of 3.21. Today he is retired and living in Laguna Hills, California.

In Bob Martyn’s 154 games he had 358 at bats with 94 hits which included 12 doubles, 11 triples ¸3 home runs, 35 rbi’s, and scored 35 runs while with Kansas City. Brief as some of these careers were one can bet that they all will always treasure that they were in “the show.” It would be nice to receive equity in a pension but there are some things money cannot compensate for or buy.

(Note: I am indebted to author Douglas Gladstone for much of the research in this column.)
 

Gaming will be an issue

carlson

The surprising and unexpected entry of State Representative Paulette Jordan (D-Plummer) into next May’s gubernatorial primary virtually guarantees that once again gaming in Idaho will be a major, controversial and divisive issue.

The 38-year-old Jordan will NOT be a single issue candidate by any means. Rather, the fact that the three-term member of the legislature is an enrolled member of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, which owns and operates the successful casino near Worley, is a former member of the Tribal Council, and sits on the boards of two national native gaming organizations guarantees a debate for the simple reason that much of her funding will come from gaming tribes.

The leading beneficiary of her entry has to be Congressman Raul Labrador’s gubernatorial ambitions. First, by challenging presumptive Democratic nominee, millionaire Boise businessman A.J. Balukoff (who spent $3 million of his own dollars running against Governor Otter in 2014), she will cause a number of Democratic and independent voters to abandon plans to switch and vote in the Republican primary.

This could have an adverse impact on Lt. Governor Brad Little’s campaign which quietly was counting on moderates in both parties as well as independents to register as Republicans and cast their votes for him.

Secondly, Jordan’s candidacy will force Balukoff’s campaign to spend money on a primary they had every reason to think theirs would be the only name on the ballot.

Make no mistake about, Jordan is a serious candidate and could even win the Democratic nomination. She is intelligent, articulate and well-educated. A graduate of Spokane’s Gonzaga Prep, she attended the University of Washington on a basketball scholarship. Over the years she has cultivated national Democratic contacts ranging from members of the Democratic National Committee to friends who worked in the administrations of Presidents Carter, Clinton and Obama.

Jordan is the fourth Native American to serve in the Idaho Legislature and the second to run for governor, though the first Native American female to do so. Three of them were or are members of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe (Joseph Garry who served both as a state representative and state senator and former State Representative Jeanne Givens).

The only non-Coeur d’Alene was former attorney general Larry Echohawk, a member of the Pawnee nation, who was the Democratic nominee for Governor in 1992 but narrowly lost to Phil Batt. He served two terms in the Idaho Legislature before winning the attorney general post.

Jordan’s timing may also be good inasmuch as the sexual harassment of women is emerging as a major issue that many expect will inspire more women to get out and vote, and in particular for any female running against a male.

The issue sure to be raised is that of the on again, off again historic horse racing video games that to many sure look like “one-armed bandits”. Many believe this issue breaks for Congressman Labrador, who says it is a form of gambling he would have voted against in 2013. Whether it is actually gaming is still before the courts.

Ahlquist and Little see it differently than Labrador and say the reversal by the Idaho Legislature in 2015 was a breach of faith by the state with businessmen who invested millions and had started hiring people to work at Les Bois in Boise, the Greyhound Park in Post Falls and a facility in Idaho Falls.

Both say they would have vetoed the repeal legislation.

Governor Otter vetoed the repeal legislation but waited too long to exercise his veto. Thus the matter remains in limbo.

As a member in good standing (Coeur d’Alene chair Chief Allan made it clear Jordan would receive tribal support), Jordan will articulate Tribal opposition to the so-called historic racing as an illegal expansion of gaming in Idaho and illegal competition that could threaten the viability of Native owned casinos.

Not willing to concede any voters to Labrador, especially Latter Day Saint voters who traditionally have opposed gaming, Alhquist says he is philosophically opposed to all forms of gambling but will leave it to the courts to resolve whether the historic racing video games constitute gaming.

Whether the issue supersedes Jordan’s other issues remains to be seen, but at a minimum she certainly has livened things up.
 

Mom in tennis shoes

carlson

My memory is the call came in the mid-morning of a fall day in 1991.
I was in the Spokane office of the strategic planning, communications and public affairs firm called The Gallatin Group, a regional consulting firm which I had founded in early 1989.

For the previous five years I had been the northwest regional vice president for Kaiser Aluminum, with 5,000 employees the area’s largest private employer. I was the visible face of the company including its lead lobbyist in Olympia. I was also an anomaly in that I was one of the few business Democrats.

On the other end of the phone was a State Senator from the Shoreline district outside of Seattle who I had not yet met - a young mother and former school board president named Patty Murray. A few years earlier while lobbying in Olympia another legislator made the mistake of sarcastically talking down to her and dubbed her as nothing but “a mom in tennis shoes.”

Even though there was an incumbent Democrat, former Carter Administration Secretary of Transportation Brock Adams, who planned on being re-elected in 1992, Murray was going to challenge him in the Democratic primary and she wanted my help.

We both knew Adams was ethically challenged, that he had reputation for chasing women including, it was rumored, women that worked for him. We talked for an hour and when the call was over I signed on - which made me one of the first “influentials” to back her candidacy.

Shortly thereafter the Seattle Times ran a story in which an office intern, the daughter of a long-time family friend, claimed Adams had drugged her and undoubtedly taken advantage of her drugged state. The public outcry quickly forced Adams to announce he would not seek re-election. Though Murray was the only one unafraid to take on the challenge earlier, several male congressmen quickly jumped into the race, thinking of course that the mom in tennis shoes would be easy roadkill. They were the first of many who underestimated Murray.

In the late spring of 1992, I was interviewed by a political reporter, Rebecca Boren, of the Seattle P-I, who had been assigned to do the candidate profile on Murray. Asked why I had been one of the first to support Murray I gave Boren an on the record quote that turned out to be the first quote above the fold on the front page profile:

“Patty Murray is the right person in the right place at the right time with the right message and she’s going to win.” Former colleagues in Olympia called to ask if I’d lost my marbles. I simply replied, “just you watch.”

My prediction was cast in concrete by one more arrogant male underestimating her - Congressman Rod Chandler, her Republican opponent in the general election. As the last week of October rolled around polls showed that Chandler had steadily narrowed the gap and indeed was thought to be narrowly ahead. One major debate, before the Seattle Chamber the last week of October, remained.

The lead, if there was one, vanished in the last 30 seconds of the debate.

Murray had finished her one minute summary and it was Chandler’s turn. Before a thoroughly stunned statewide audience, his supporters and the media Chandler leaned into the microphone and inexplicably began to croon the words to an old song: “Dang me, dang me/They ought to take a rope and hang me/High from the highest tree/Woman would you weep for me?”

It was condescending, insulting and women across the state were repulsed and in turn repudiated Chandler.

Murray was on her way to D.C. where she continues to be underestimated too often by too many. The roadkill are the number of former Republican congressmen she has defeated, and counting a couple of Democratic congressmen from her first race she holds the record for a senator rebuffing members of Congress (five) who challenge.

In the meantime she has quietly gone about producing fine legislation, working on keeping commitments to veterans, on fiscal reform (she and Speaker Paul Ryan worked out a compromise on fiscal reform), corrections to and abolition of the often overload of too much testing in the No Child Left Behind program, and the list goes on.

She is number four in the Democratic leadership. Should the D’s capture the Senate in the fall I look for her to possibly challenge Illinois Senator Dick Durbin for the Deputy leadership post.

As I watched the coordinated effort to force Senator Al Franken to be held accountable I could see her fine and deft hand at work. I couldn’t help thinking about the long road we’ve traveled. Senator Murray has always made me proud to have been one of her earliest supporters.

She is still the right person in the right place at the right time with the right message and she is still a winner.
 

Private jets, public helicopters

carlson

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s use of corporate jets and Park Service Police helicopters for what looks to be thinly disguised personal use has generated controversy, largely within the Beltway, and a formal investigation.

It has also led to several readers asking how the late Idaho Governor Cecil D. Andrus managed the matter during the four years he served as Secretary of the Interior for President Jimmy Carter. Besides being Director of the Office of Public Affairs, I also was Andrus’ press secretary which meant that I traveled when he traveled 95% of the time.

It is a fair question deserving an answer for it tells much about how one views public service and stewardship of taxpayer dollars.

Keep in mind that the Interior department in the 1970’s had the eighth largest air fleet in the world. When one considers all the agencies and bureaus within the department, it is easy to see how this could be. For example, the Interagency Fire Center at the Boise Airport owns as well as charters a number of different planes in order to fulfill its firefighting role.

Andrus had a “common sense” rule. The cornerstone was to save the taxpayer dollar as often as possible. This meant well over 90% of the time when flying out of the nation’s capital we flew commercial airlines.

Not only that, we flew coach class and ever the politician who never missed an opportunity we had seats at the rear of the plane and boarded last (despite most airlines offering to let us board first) knowing that those on the flight who recognized the Interior secretary would also note him walking to the rear of the plane.

I can recall only four or five times chartering a corporate jet usually because there was an emergency of some sort that required his presence as soon as possible. In those instances Interior’s Air operations paid full boat for the charter unlike Congress which just required reimbursement comparable to what a round-trip ticket would cost.

The rare instances we chartered a private jet were:

    To get to Plains, Georgia for the interview with Carter we chartered Boise Cascade’s jet to get to Denver to catch the Northwest Orient flight to Atlanta.
    When one of the Andrus daughters was ill and hospitalized we had a chartered jet ready to get him from Seattle to Boise the second he deplaned an Alaska Airlines flight from Anchorage.
    During a campaign trip to Texas that ran late we chartered a jet to take us from College Station to Dulles in order to make an 8 a.m. meeting in the office the next day.
    When the department’s KingAir would not start one summer morning at the Bremerton Airport, I ordered up a jet from Boeing Field to come to Bremerton and pick us up and then fly to Boise for a noon meeting and speech before the Poacher’s Club.

Two prop planes were available for the secretary’s use when traveling in the west: an AeroCommander stationed in Denver and a KingAir stationed in Boise. These planes were only used for official business, never for personal use.

As Interior Secretary Andrus also had access to the fleet of executive jets kept at Andrews Air Force Base and at Hickam Field in Hawaii which ranged in size from small Saberliners to the presidential 707’s. All these planes had the colors and markings of Air Force One with the United States of America on each side of the fuselage.

We utilized the Saberliners twice to take Andrus and his key Alaska advisors to and from Alaska for official business related to passaage of the Alaska Lands legislation. We flew first class only once that I can recall when we flew Air New Zealand for the 14-hour flight from Los Angeles to Auckland for a week long visit to New Zealand. While there the Prime Minister’s prop plane flew us to various destinations.

We then flew the vice president’s 707 back to Hawaii for a week long tour of the Trust Territories in the Pacific managed by Interior. During this week long show the flag tour we flew in a C-130 cargo plane. We added a stop on the atoll of Majuro in order to deliver emergency supplies to assist the inhabitants victimized by a sudden huge rogue wave that swept over the atoll.

I can state unequivocally we never used a Park Police helicopter period let alone for personal flights in and around the D.C. area.

The rule of common sense worked well. That coupled with an attitude towards public service that says you are privileged to serve and good service implicitly entails respecting access to taxpayer funded items. Andrus knew he was there to serve not to further his economic status by rationalizing personal use of private jets or public helicopters. Take note Secretary Zinke.