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Posts published in “Malloy”

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…)

More about Fulcher

malloy CHUCK
MALLOY

 
In Idaho

Opposition to Obamacare and Common Core are two of the hooks Sen. Russ Fulcher has used to attract conservative voters in May’s gubernatorial primary race. But he says the “fun part” of his challenge to Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter is discussing his vision for the state, which goes beyond ideology.

He’s thinking big and dreaming even bigger. As he sees it, Idaho is sitting on a gold mine of untapped wealth and prosperity – the kind that could put Idaho on the same economic path as North Dakota, Wyoming and other energy exporters that have bulging state revenues.

“It’s a game changer,” he said. “Washington and Payette counties have natural gas that is pure and plentiful, and a lot of it is on private land. We haven’t done anything with the resources we have, but we know they are there. There’s no reason why Idaho can’t be powered with Idaho’s natural gas and generate all of the benefits that come with it.”

He says that the natural gas could be harvested with little, if any, environmental impact and no fracking.
The holdup, he said, is with the state – not the federal government. “It’s the state that’s putting up hurdles in front of private individuals who want to develop this resource.”

Fulcher says that, as governor, he would provide the leadership to open the doors to a new industry and a new era of prosperity. “It’s a matter of getting with the Department of lands and saying, ‘here’s your charter: Knock down those hurdles and let’s get this thing cranking.’”

North Dakota, with its explosive growth, might not be such an attractive role model. But at least, Fulcher is talking and thinking beyond business as usual. It’s far more interesting than Otter’s bit part in a low-budget movie more than 20 years ago.

Fulcher has plenty to say about Otter – and not about movies. (more…)

An upset alert

malloy CHUCK
MALLOY

 
In Idaho

Governor Butch Otter, as the leader of Idaho’s Republican Party, should have clout when it comes to issues such as closed primaries. But on this issue, party loyalists are more likely to listen to former Sen. Rod Beck than Otter. Now, the governor is stuck with a voting system that could bite him on the backside as he seeks his third term in office.

Conventional wisdom suggests that Otter should have no trouble sailing through the primary and winning re-election. I’m not buying it.

With a closed primary and a probable low voter turnout, Senator Russ Fulcher has a legitimate shot at pulling off the upset. Fulcher doesn’t have Otter’s bankroll, and the media is largely ignoring his campaign. But Fulcher has one big thing on his side: People who vote in primary elections and have no hesitation about registering as Republicans. Tea party supporters and social conservatives aren’t bothered by the lack of press coverage; they don’t care much for Idaho newspapers anyway.

So Fulcher has a clear path to victory. The first step is rounding up those who supported Congressman Raul Labrador and former Bill Sali. Fulcher has served plenty of red meat to that crowd, voicing his displeasure with Obamacare and Common Core. The senator can count on help from social conservatives, who learned a long time ago that political power comes from voting in primary elections. Otter is many years removed from a DUI arrest and participating in tight-jeans contests, but religious conservatives have long memories and Fulcher is about as squeaky clean as a politician can get. Fulcher also could look to support from those advocating for term limits. All they need to know is that Otter is a 71-year-old career politician who is seeking a third term in office. And there’s nothing stopping him from going for a fourth, fifth and sixth term – unless he dies, or voters boot him out.

So don’t be too quick to write off Fulcher in this election. Otter supporters may like the numbers they see. But will their voters come out on May 20? I worked with former state Senator Sheila Sorensen’s congressional campaign in 2006 and we were pretty optimistic about the numbers we saw two months before the election. Bill Sali, the most conservative candidate in the field, was the clear winner. Vaughn Ward probably felt good about his numbers two months before the 2010 primary, but his campaign imploded and Raul Labrador – the more conservative candidate -- was the easy winner.

Those things happened when Republican primaries were “open” to Democrats, independents and anyone else who wanted to vote. Today’s closed-primary format sets up perfectly for Fulcher.

Otter’s concerns about closed primaries are legitimate. In a speech to Farmer’s Insurance agents, as reported by the Statesman’s Dan Popkey, the governor talked about voters’ reluctance to sign a paper declaring themselves as Republicans. As Otter accurately states, many people are disenfranchised with closed primaries, including state employees who are supposed to be non-partisan.

“Now when you sign this piece of paper, it says that ‘I am a Republican,’ and it’s the only way you can get on the Republican ballot,” he said.

In my view, it’s Otter’s own fault for allowing himself to be steamrolled on this issue. Sure, he made a few token statements in opposition to closed primaries, but he wasn’t putting himself on the line. After two embarrassing political defeats – the dismissal of Kirk Sullivan as the GOP chairman the killing of his gas-tax proposal to improve Idaho roads – Otter wasn’t about to take a third whipping.

“I didn’t think it was a good idea to do that,” Otter told the insurance agents. “But that’s what the party wanted to do and that’s what the Central Committee voted for, so that’s what we do.”

Now that’s what I call leadership … for a church mouse. Otter was merely employing the kind of political survival skills that have allowed him to hold high office for parts of four decades.

If he had stood up to the Rod Becks of this world and put up a real fight against close primaries – as one might expect from the party’s leader -- he would have lost big. And he knows it.

Listening to Batt

malloy CHUCK
MALLOY

 
In Idaho

Leave it to former Gov. Phil Batt to provide a sane voice of reason to a controversial social issue. He played the role of a statesman marvelously during his years in political office and he is just as relevant today as he encourages his fellow Republicans to “add the words” in the battle to end discrimination against gays.

Batt made a compelling argument in a recent op-ed that appeared in the Idaho Statesman. As Batt accurately points out, Idaho continues to feel the sting of the practicing Nazis in North Idaho. Large corporations, such as Hewlett-Packard and Boise Cascade, are rightfully concerned about Idaho’s negative reputation in regard to human rights.

But Batt’s reasons go beyond economics and politics. In his op-ed, he wrote about two of his grandchildren who were gay, or sympathetic to gay causes, and found success – in another state.

“These young folks love Idaho and I wish they lived here so that I could see them more,” Batt said. “However, they will never make this their home again as long as we maintain our distain for people who are ‘different.’”

The biggest battle that Batt and other proponents face is the mentality of his fellow Republicans in the Idaho Legislature. Batt’s thinking in more in line with Idahoans in North Idaho who successfully fought against the Aryan Nations, the Nazi group that settled in the area, and worked hard to restore that area’s proud image. Unfortunately, it’s people such as Rep. Lynn Luker, who seem to take their lead from the likes of the late George Wallace – the old George Wallace of the segregation era. Luker might as well be saying, “Discrimination now, discrimination tomorrow and discrimination forever … in the name of religious freedom.” All that’s missing from Luker’s rhetoric is a southern drawl.

Legislators should realize two fundamental concepts as they ponder this issue.

Discrimination in any form is wrong – whether it’s on the basis of age, race, gender or sexual orientation.

Idaho looks pretty stupid in continuing to tolerate discrimination against gays. Attitudes are changing even in Arizona and that takes some doing.

If Arizona can change, then so can Idaho. Years ago, Idaho was a white-knuckles holdout in acknowledging Martin Luther King Day as a holiday – which turned Idaho into a national laughing stock. The embarrassment ended in 1990, with the courage of Sen. Lee Staker of Idaho Falls and leadership of Senate President Pro Tem Mike Crapo.

The same kind of courage and determination can turn the tide on the “add the words” debate. Republicans may not listen to former Democratic Sen. Nicole LeFavour, who seems to widen the partisan divide every time she opens her mouth. But they can, and should pay attention to the words of Phil Batt, one of the great Idaho statesmen of our times.

Returning

malloy CHUCK
MALLOY

 
In Idaho

Retirement sucks.

I have tried retirement on for size since leaving the Idaho Statesman two months ago and it truly sucks. I’ve tried saying, “I’m retired,” for the last couple of weeks, but I cringe at the thought. So I’m not going to do it. I’m 63 years old, which may be too old to hold a job or be hired anywhere. But I don’t look or feel old, and I’m not going to act old.

Every now and then, I see stories about people who retire and end up dead within a short time. When my older brother was in his late 50s, he talked glowingly about retirement and some of the things he wanted to do. When he turned 62, he could hardly wait to begin his new chapter of life; he was planning to spend his golden years in New Mexico. Just before moving there, he was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer and died just after his 64th birthday. I’m not suggesting that retirement killed him. But he spent so much time looking forward to it and he had so little time to enjoy it. I’m as healthy as a horse and could enjoy retirement if I wanted; I just don’t want it.

For me, I want to explore some new challenges while tackling some old ones. I do volunteer work with the American Diabetes Association, which has the most honorable of missions – to find a cure for this deadly disease. I’d also like to dabble in an area in which I am familiar, which is Idaho politics. I still have opinions on what I see and read in the news and I’d like to use this forum for expressing my thoughts.

The difference between what I’m doing with Ridenbaugh Press and working for a newspaper is I will not be tied to deadlines and will not have to worry about satisfying the whims of cranky desk editors. I can do what I want, when I want and write pretty much how I want.

You know, retirement doesn’t suck so much after all.