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Posts published in “Malloy”

Never-ending?

malloy CHUCK
MALLOY

 
In Idaho

“Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” - Lord Acton

Sen. Russ Fulcher, fighting an uphill battle to end Gov. Butch Otter’s regime, should use this quote as his them for the stretch run of this primary election campaign.

This election is not about electing Fulcher as the Republican’s nominee for governor, or repealing Obamacare.

This race is about stopping a dictatorship.

No, it’s not the kind of dictatorship that produces oppression and mass killings. It’s about one man potentially holding power for a lifetime. Two terms – or at least two consecutive terms – is long enough for presidents and governors.

If Fulcher doesn’t take Otter out this year, then Idaho will be stuck with him – potentially for decades to come. Otter already has said he is not discounting running for a fourth term in 2018, which translates to this: He’ll run for a fourth term. Then a fifth term, a sixth term and beyond.

It’s not unusual for members of Congress to serve 12 years or more in office. But a senator or congressman is only one of 535 other members. They do not define the agenda, or the power structure, for the nation and states – as presidents and governors do.

When the same people are in power for so long, some very friendly relationships develop over time.
Looking at Otter’s campaign staff, he makes no effort to hide those relationships. His staff includes a representative of the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, the state’s most powerful business lobby. It also includes a lobbyist with Veritas Advisors; a representative of the scandal-plagued private prison company, Corrections Corporation of America; and a former lobbyist for the troubled school broadband provider, Education Networks of America.

It’s not illegal for money machines to be working on campaigns. But it shows there’s a lot of big money people and organizations who have an interest in keeping Otter in power. (more…)

News reports

malloy CHUCK
MALLOY

 
In Idaho

Kevin Richert, who for more than a decade was one of the best editorial writers in Idaho, has a new bragging right. He’s also one of the Gem State’s reporters, earning the title of “Reporter of the Year” by the Idaho Press Club.

The award was richly deserved – and made more impressive by the fact that he beat out two high quality reporters from the Idaho Statesman, Sven Berg and Katy Moeller. It’s ironic that the top award goes to someone who does not work for the traditional print media. Idaho Education News is based online, but it’s the best place to find out what’s happening in education and Richert does a great job.

The Idaho Press Club also has proclaimed a new kingpin on the print side in the Treasure Valley. The Idaho Press-Tribune was given the top award for general excellence, beating out the Times-News of Twin Falls and the Idaho Statesman. That award is surprising, because the Press-Tribune was in the top three in only a a few categories. The Statesman, which has an outstanding reporting staff, has enough awards to decorate a wall. The Times-News also has a generous number of awards.

So, how does the Press-Tribune get first place and the Statesman get third? I suspect the difference is on the editorial page, which is the heart and soul of any newspaper. The Press-Tribune under Phil Bridges, another Statesman alum who is making good, produces editorials that are worth reading. At the Statesman, the in-house material on the editorial page is the newspaper’s weakest link.

No doubt, there are high fives going throughout the newsroom in Nampa. But I can’t take the Press-Tribune seriously for “general excellence” until it upgrades its political and Statehouse coverage. Nampa is Idaho’s second largest city, the politics in Canyon County are hot and heavy, and there’s no excuse to leaving coverage to a depleted Associated Press staff.

The top award in that editorial writing category went to Jon Alexander of the Times-News, who has shown that longevity is not the only criteria to producing quality material. Third place went to Michael O’Donnell with the Idaho State Journal, which over time has gone from one of the worst pages to one of the best. (more…)

The mortgage fight

malloy CHUCK
MALLOY

 
In Idaho

Sen. Mike Crapo’s legislative effort to shake up the mortgage industry is the tale of two bills – and an example of why nothing gets done in Washington.

This is the best of bills and it is the worst of bills. It places stability in the mortgage industry and it destroys the mortgage industry. It preserves the 30-year mortgage and it destroys the 30-year mortgage. It saves taxpayers from potential economic disaster and it smashes the American Dream to bits. That’s what the special interests and hired guns are saying from both sides of the debate, and it raises the question: Who’s right?

This is not a battle between Republicans and Democrats, because Crapo has been working with Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., on the legislation that would phase out the two government mortgage giants, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. This fight is between special interests, which are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, or even millions, to either move the bill forward or kill it. Both sides say they are only out to protect the people, but I don’t buy it.

The intense lobbying effort tells me that the special interests are trying to protect themselves.
In this political dog fight, you have Crapo at odds with former Sen. Phil Gramm with a cast that includes the CEO of the Mortgage Bankers Association weighing in against a member of the Securities Commission’s investor advisory board – all of whom are creating different levels of confusion.

The only clear and concise message I’ve seen has come from a group called 60 Plus, which has run a series of attack ads against Crapo. Are the ads totally accurate? Probably not; but who cares? Run the ad enough times and a new truth emerges. The effort by 60 Plus has Crapo scrambling to try to reverse the negative perception. Unfortunately for him, dull op-eds and long-winded statements don’t cut it.

The 60 Plus ad shows side-by-side photos of Obama and Crapo as partners in a scheme to take over the mortgage industry and drive a wrecking ball into the financial futures of millions of Americans who have their financial futures tied up with Fannie and Freddie. The ad says that “ordinary Americans,” such as teachers, police officers, firefighters, could have their retirement savings taken from them. “The federal government will seize all profits,” the ad claims. (more…)

Idaho and the 17th

malloy CHUCK
MALLOY

 
In Idaho

The Idaho Republican Party endorses repeal of the 17th Amendment to the Constitution, which allows election of U.S. senators by popular vote – and not the Legislature.

I say get ‘er done, because it makes no difference. Election by the people and the Legislature would produce the same results in this Republican state. Idaho has not had a Democrat in the U.S. Senate since Frank Church and, since Democrats are so inept, I doubt if I will see another Democrat in the Senate in my lifetime.

So what kind of U.S. Senators would we get if they were elected by the Legislature? We’d have Mike Crapo, for sure. He was a former president pro tem of the Idaho Senate and a member of the House of Representatives before moving to the Senate. Who would fill the second slot? Why, it would be Jim Risch – a former Senate pro tem, majority leader, lieutenant governor and governor.

Both would be slam dunks in the Legislature.
In the past, Idaho has had Jim McClure, Steve Symms, Larry Craig and Dirk Kempthorne. They, too, would be easy choices for the Legislature.

So why bother with the formalities? Election to the U.S. Senate in Idaho would be like electing a pope, or appointing a Supreme Court justice. It would be for life – or until the senator decided to quit. Or, in the case of Craig … you get the point.

The argument for keeping the 17th Amendment is that election by the people produce a better and more accountable government. In most cases, and probably most states, that’s probably true. But, not in the Gem State. Idaho Republicans have no problem force-feeding repeal down the throats of the rest of the nation, and they damn well expect their elected officials to support that part of the GOP platform.
Elected officials, naturally, are reluctant to take away voting rights from the people. But I have no such problem since the electorate automatically votes the Republican ticket anyway.

Think of the time and money that could be saved if the Legislature elected U.S. senators. Crapo and Risch would not have to spend any time kissing up to big-money lobbyists and padding their campaign accounts. They wouldn’t have to worry about doing annoying little things like holding town hall meetings, or spending millions of dollars on advertising. The only people they would need to talk to are the Republican leaders of the Legislature. Get them on your side, and the rest will follow like sheep.

Repeal of the 17th Amendment would be one way to remove the influence of money in politics. It would be kind of nice knowing that we didn’t have a U.S. Senate that was bought and paid for by lobbyists.

Balukoff’s guns

malloy CHUCK
MALLOY

 
In Idaho

Democratic gubernatorial candidate A.J. Balukoff acknowledges that he hangs out mostly with his fellow Democrats. If he spent time in rural communities, and coffee shops not named Starbucks, he would know better than to take on the National Rifle Association – the sacred cow of special interests in Idaho.

Balukoff may well be correct about the NRA’s candidate survey being full of loaded questions, but he shouldn’t be surprised about that. The NRA is a defender of gun rights and many Idahoans love the organization because of that.

For a lot of Idahoans, the three most important issues in an election are: Guns, guns and guns. Rep. Raul Labrador’s town hall meetings often take on the flavor of an NRA convention. Of course, Balukoff would be the last person you’d see at a Labrador town hall meeting.
The NRA endorsement is the prized pig of any election season in Idaho. Even those who don’t get the NRA endorsement will talk about their avid support of the Second Amendment. But almost nobody takes on the NRA – except for Cecil Andrus, and Balukoff rightfully acknowledges is no Cecil Andrus.

According to a story by the Statesman’s Dan Popkey, Balukoff was advised by his campaign manager to stay silent on the NRA. So instead of following that advice, he issued a press release saying, “Special interests gave us Idaho’s guns on campus law.”

So under Popkey’s byline, Balukoff committed political suicide in the front page of the Idaho Statesman. How stupid can you get?

Balukoff ought to know the legislative chambers are full of people who think that universities, school classrooms, the streets and public places would be a lot safer if people who knew how and when to use guns were allowed to carry them. These lawmakers don’t need the NRA to tell them how to vote on gun issues.

If Balukoff was trying to do an impersonation of Andrus, who took on the gun lobby almost 30 years ago, it was a poor effort. Andrus is about the only person who could get away with calling NRA leaders “gun nuts.” (more…)

A fourth? A fifth?

malloy CHUCK
MALLOY

 
In Idaho

If Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter wanted to turn the governorship into his personal kingdom for life, the system is solidly in place for him to do so.

Otter will be 72 on May 3, and he doesn’t look it. He describes himself as “healthy as a horse,” and h every well could be feeling that way for many years – and decades -- to come.

So why not seek a third term in office? I didn’t think there was any way in the world he would be seeking a third term in the most demanding job in Idaho politics. But as long as he is feeling so well, then why not a fourth term? Or a fifth term? In 2034, he’ll only be 92 years old, so maybe he could think about an eighth term. Stranger things have happened. It has not been all smooth sailing for Otter in his two terms as Idaho’s chief executive. But, apparently, he loves his job. The perfect storm is in place for Otter to stay around for as long as he desires. Consider:

There are no signs of widespread “Otter fatigue.” People may get angry with him from time to time, but a lot of that melts away when the governor gives a friendly handshake, a pat on the back and shares some laughs. He doesn’t always give the greatest speeches, but nobody relates better to people on a one-to-one basis than Otter.

Money is always the name of the game, and the big donors are likely to continue to line his campaign war chest as long as he stays in power.

The majority of Senate and House leaders are backing Otter, and for good reason. He stood up to the Legislature just one time: That was 2009 when he promoted a 2-cent gas tax for Idaho roads. The Legislature took him to the woodshed on that issue and he has been as tame as a house cat ever since. A neutered governor always makes life much easier for legislators. (more…)

Picking ’em

malloy CHUCK
MALLOY

 
In Idaho

I did a lousy job with my NCAA basketball picks, so I thought I would try to redeem myself with a prediction of a different kind of Final Four – the Idaho Statesman’s editorial endorsements for the May 20 primary election. So, let “May Madness” begin (drum roll, please).

Governor: C.L. “Butch” Otter over Sen. Russ Fulcher. Otter favors Common Core; Fulcher opposes it; end of discussion.

1st District Congress: Rep. Raul Labrador over three Republican no-names. That is, if the Statesman endorses in that race. But it’s hard to imagine the Statesman taking a pass in a crowded congressional primary.

2nd District Congress: Rep. Mike Simpson over Bryan Smith, the pride and joy of Club for Growth. One tea party guy (Labrador) is enough. Bob Ehlert, the Statesman’s editorial page editor, already has lashed out against Club for Growth.

Secretary of State: Phil McGrane over three other Republicans. Ben Ysursa’s endorsement should tilt the Statesman’s vote toward McGrane.

The process, of course, won’t be so fast. Ehlert, Publisher Mike Jung and the community representatives will spend many hours in the vetting process – as other editorial boards have done over the years. But I boldly predict this is how it will turn out. Actually, it’s not so bold; these are safe picks for an editorial page that tends to play it safe.

I suspect the process will be about the same as it has in years past. The big change at the Statesman is there will be fewer endorsements – which can be viewed as good or bad, depending on your view of editorial endorsements.

“Previous Statesman editorial boards have made dozens, even hundreds of endorsements in these races,” Ehlert wrote in a recent column. “If we make more than a dozen I will be surprised, and that will happen only if we feel we have critical insight that will help you make your decision.”

He took some well-aimed hits on the old ways of doing business, stirring a Facebook reaction from the former opinions page editor, Kevin Richert, who especially took exception with this passage: “If we devote the time to do hundreds of 30-minute endorsement interviews with candidates we met only a minute earlier, we have to consider whether that is the best use of our time and platform – and to the exclusion of what other mission.” (more…)

A health request

malloy CHUCK
MALLOY

 
In Idaho

Earlier this week, I did something that I never thought I would do: Ask Sen. Jim Risch for more than $2 billion to fund two federal programs – without choking on my words.

Normally, that would be a tough sell because Risch is one of the leading deficit hawks on Capitol Hill. I was halfway expecting him to lecture me about bulging deficits and how run-away government spending is driving this nation to the brink of disaster.

That was not the case. I was in the nation’s capital as a guest of the American Diabetes Association’s lobbying day on Capitol Hill and I soon found out that he’s a member of the Senate Diabetes Caucus – which is a home run in my view. The senator was engaging, friendly and supportive of the cause.

He listened to the complications I have experienced from the disease, including an amputated toe, blindness and loss of my career, heart bypass surgery and – most recently – kidney disease. Risch has heard those kinds of stories and worse; at least I’m alive to talk about my problems. It is projected that by 2050, one in three people living in the United States will have diabetes. He is well aware of the threat diabetes poses to the nation’s overall health and is equally aware of what Congress can do to prevent this train wreck.

“The National Institute of Health does amazing things,” Risch said at one point. He’s on board with the NIH’s goal of finding a cure for diabetes, and $2 billion is a small price tag for that effort. He also is receptive to the proposals for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ($137 million) and the National Diabetes Prevention Program ($20 million). The millions spent on those worthwhile programs will save billions of dollars in the long run.

Risch clearly gets it on this issue. As one who has struggled with diabetes for the last 14 years, I am thankful that he’s in the U.S. Senate and appreciate there is such a thing as a Senate Diabetes Caucus. That sends a nice signal to the 25 million people in the United States who have this awful disease and the nearly 80 million who have pre-diabetes.

But he isn’t the only friend on Capitol Hill, or even in the Idaho delegation. Senator Mike Crapo also is a member of the diabetes caucus. I didn’t meet with him, but I was greeted by a legislative assistant, Kellie McConnell, who knew the issues and facts before I could present them. For instance, she’s aware that funding for a Special Diabetes Program will run out on Sept. 30 unless Congress takes action.

Her knowledge about the issues tells me that diabetes is high on Crapo’s priority list.
On the House side, Congressmen Mike Simpson and Raul Labrador are not part of the Congressional Diabetes Caucus, but they are well aware of the issues.
“Like you, diabetes issues are personal to Congressman Simpson, as he has experienced it with a close family member,” said Nathan Greene, a legislative assistant with the office. “It is an issue that he continues to look to engage in whenever possible.”

Labrador has spoken with me several times about diabetes, and how the numbers are of epidemic proportions among Hispanics. His legislative assistant, Bekah DeMordant, was taken aback by the thought of one in three people having diabetes by 2050. I won’t be part of that world, but she most likely will unless a cure is found.

Ultimately, we cannot count on Congress to wave a magic wand and make this problem go away. The best way to keep type 2 diabetes from spreading like wildfire is for people to take responsibility for their personal choices and their children’s.

But as I learned from my one-day lobbying experience, Congress can support the dynamic research efforts that will lead to a cure and promote prevention. From my standpoint, it’s good to know that Washington is aware and listening.

The why session

malloy CHUCK
MALLOY

 
In Idaho

This year’s Legislature should be remembered as the session of “Why,” as in “Why Bother?” Of course, nobody should be surprised.

My best preview of the “nothing to come” session was visiting with House Speaker Scott Bedke in his office. He took a call, and the conversation went something like this: “I don’t see the Chairman Wood (Health and Welfare Committee) moving away from the health exchange and I don’t see Chairman DeMordaunt (Education) moving away from Common Core. Next question.”

The next question should have been, “Why not bring up those issues?” It would be reasonable for the Legislature to discuss one year after the health exchange was created and to talk about some of the problems that have surfaced. On Common Core, it’s legitimate to ask, “Is this really where we want to go?” Common Core sounds good (like No Child Left Behind), but one of the worries is the execution of government standards for education.

Opposition to Common Core is one of the centerpieces of Russ Fulcher’s campaign for governor. It would have been interesting to hear more of his views on the subject.

Medicaid expansion certainly is a hot topic for discussion, but that horse died well before the session got under way. Proponents, including the Idaho Association of Counties and a leading business lobby, the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, were pushing for Medicaid expansion as an idea that could save the state millions of dollars in the long run. But the issue apparently was too hot to handle in an election year.

The “going home” bill, for practical purposes, ended up being the one to allow guns on university campuses – with the premise being that universities would be safer places if retired law officers and those with enhanced permits were allowed to carry guns. Let’s pray that the legislators are smarter than the university presidents on that issue.
This session, to me, has created a great argument for biennial sessions. If the governor and legislative leaders are hell-bent on avoiding tough issues during an election year, then why have them at all? Or, maybe they could have 30-day budget sessions every other year. (more…)