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Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson has been receiving well deserved accolades for his tireless efforts during the last 16 years to have major portions of the Boulder- White Cloud mountains preserved as wilderness. The resulting legislation, now signed into law, creates three new Idaho wilderness areas: the White Clouds Wilderness, the Jim McClure-Jerry Peak Wilderness, and the Hemingway-Boulders Wilderness. Together, they cover over 275,000 acres.

In addition to Simpson, there were many other players who helped make this possible, including a variety of environmental organizations, Senator Jim Risch, former Governor Cecil Andrus, and hundreds of individuals interested in protecting the area from future development. But I would suggest that none of this would have happened without the previous efforts of one Idahoan, the late Senator Frank Church.

I don’t suggest that because of Church’s leading role in passage of the Wilderness Act and the creation of other Idaho wilderness areas. Rather, I suggest it because Church almost single-handedly made it acceptable for senators, congressmen and governors, Republicans and Democrats alike, to pursue the protection of Idaho’s natural resources.

Idaho became a territory in 1863 due entirely to the discovery of gold. From the beginning, Idaho was viewed as a place where there was money to be made by exploiting its natural resources. Mining came first, followed by agriculture and timber. Of equal importance was an abundant supply of water to feed those industries.

For 100 years, few Idaho issues received greater attention than the exploitation of the state’s natural resources. When the Idaho Constitutional Convention was held in 1889, one of the most hotly debated topics was what to do with the land that would be transferred to the state by the federal government. The debate wasn’t whether any of it should be protected from exploitation, but whether it should be immediately sold off to private interests or held and developed by the state. In the end, those interested in having the state exploit the state owned lands won.

Perhaps no major Idaho politician better exemplified the mind-set of the state on natural resource issues during this period than Senator Weldon Heyburn, a Republican from Idaho’s Silver Valley. Heyburn was an attorney whose practice focused heavily on representing mining interests. During his tenure in the Senate, from 1903-1912, much of his effort was focused on fighting the emerging national conservation efforts of Theodore Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot. Heyburn was opposed to the creation of national forests because he didn’t feel that government should control vast tracts of land in the western U.S.

This mind-set was understandable. The United States was a growing country. It needed lumber for construction, gold, silver and lead for manufacturing and farm commodities to feed the people. Idaho had them all and if its economy was to grow, it needed to exploit both land and water. In addition, Idaho’s growing population didn’t come from people seeking enjoyment of its many natural wonders. Rather, they came seeking to improve their economic lot.

Sometimes the argument wasn’t whether or not to develop natural resources, but rather who should develop them. The debate in the constitutional convention over future ownership of lands was one example. Another was the debate in the 1950s over who should build hydroelectric generating dams in Hells Canyon. There was little opposition to construction of these dams. The bigger debate was over who should build them.

When Frank Church was first elected to the Senate in 1956, the state had suffered through nearly three decades of economic restrictions. The depression had brought about a general economic collapse. Then followed World War II with rationing and the lack of manpower. By the mid-50s, with the depression, Word War II and the Korean conflict behind it, Idaho was ready to once again become a juggernaut of economic activity and most of that activity would depend upon the state’s plentiful natural resources. Conservation and environmental protection were not high on the state’s list of priorities. Idaho didn’t even have a state parks system.

But Frank Church had a deep appreciation for largely undeveloped areas of Idaho such as the Sawtooth Mountains and sought the means to protect them. His role in passing the Wilderness Act opened the door for subsequent pieces of legislation he would sponsor, including the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act in 1968, creation of the Sawtooth National Recreation area in 1972, the Endangered Wilderness Act of 1978 which created the Gospel Hump Wilderness, and the Central Idaho Wilderness Act of 1980 which created what is now the Frank Church – River of No Return Wilderness.

Church’s actions demonstrated to other politicos that there was public support in Idaho for the protection of some of the state’s most treasured natural areas. His pioneering efforts opened the door to future Idaho officials such as Cecil Andrus, Jim McClure, Mike Crapo, Mike Simpson and Jim Risch to make protection of some of Idaho most scenic resources a part of their legacies. But it all began with Frank Church.

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Recent actions by some of Idaho’s politicos have attracted attention and comment both within Idaho and, in a couple of instances, in the national media. But the truth is that individuals who have followed Idaho politics over the years may not have liked what they saw, but certainly shouldn’t have been surprised.

The first was Representative Vito Barbieri’s lack of understanding that the female reproductive and digestive systems are not one and the same. It was the statement that launched a thousand jokes across the country, making it one of the most far-reaching actions to take place in the Idaho Legislature this year.

But Barbieri wasn’t the first Idaho legislator to be confused about female reproduction. In the early 1980s, Bill Moore served a stint in the Idaho Senate. Like Barbieri, he was a California transplant who moved to Kootenai County and gained election to the Legislature. During debate on an abortion related bill, Moore famously stated that there was no reason for an exemption for cases of rape, since a woman who had really been raped couldn’t become pregnant. Given their similar backgrounds hopefully the fault lies with their California roots rather than being a reflection of the thinking of their Idaho constituents.

Next comes the outcry over Idaho’s two U.S. Senators, Crapo and Risch, affixing their signatures to a letter to Iran’s leadership concerning the Obama administration’s negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program. The letter originated with Senator Tom Cotton from Arkansas and was co-signed by 47 GOP Senators.

It’s not the first time that southern cotton has divided our country. But for Idahoans, there should be little surprise about members of Idaho congressional delegation being involved. The stage was set for this decades ago.
In 1977, Idaho Congressman Steve Symms, travelled to Libya to negotiate with Libyan dictator Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi. Qaddafi was known as the “mad dog of the Middle East” and an enabler of international terrorism. Symms and Qaddafi both wanted things that they thought the other could help them get. Qaddafi wanted to gain access to a shipment of U.S. military planes for his armed forces. Symms wanted to gain access to Libyan markets for Idaho agricultural products. Both efforts failed.

Speaking of Iran, let’s not forget about Idaho Congressman George Hansen, and his solo diplomatic efforts with Iran. In 1979 revolutionaries took control of the U.S. embassy in Tehran and took 52 Americans hostage. Similar to the feeling of today’s 47 Republican Senators concerning executive branch negotiations with Iran, Hansen didn’t like what the Carter administration was doing to free the hostages. In fact he proposed that President Carter be impeached over the issue.

So Hansen made a solo trip to Iran to negotiate with the Iranian government for the release of the hostages. He wasn’t successful and, for the most part, was viewed as something of a nut, which shows how times have changed. Following in the footsteps of Idaho’s two congressmen, 47 Senators now see it as the role of Congress to get directly involved in executive branch negotiations with foreign governments. Who knew that eventually Symms and Hansen would be setting the stage for future actions in U.S. foreign policy?

And, finally, there is the refusal of three Idaho senators, Nuxoll, Vick and Hartog, to sit through a prayer offered by a Hindu cleric. Again, no surprise here. Religious intolerance is nothing new in Idaho.

The roots of the state were firmly anchored in religious intolerance. In 1890, Idaho adopted a constitution that prohibited a large part of the state’s population from voting based on their religious beliefs. Mormon’s had some religious beliefs that non-Mormons found offensive. Not unlike the three Idaho senators finding Hinduism offensive.

But it is unfair to target just these three senators for religious intolerance. In 1982, Idaho voters were given the opportunity to amend the constitution and remove the Mormon voting prohibition, which hadn’t been enforced for decades. While the amendment was approved, over one-third of all of those voting, over 100,000 Idaho voters, were opposed. It was a sad statement on religious intolerance in Idaho.

The next time something is done by an Idaho politico strikes you as strange or offense, don’t be so sure that it is anything new or original. With a little bit of research, you can generally find that the stage for that action was set at some point in the past long before Idaho’s current crop of elected officials ever took office.

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The announcement that the United States and Cuba are attempting to normalize relations is over half a century overdue. For over half a century, we have attempted to change the course of the Cuban government through denying them diplomatic recognition, enforcing a trade embargo and numerous other activities. The thought has been that these actions would steer Cuba away from its communist form of government and get rid of the Castros.

So after 54 years, how has that strategy worked? The U.S. has gone through ten presidents in that time. In Cuba, the Castros are still in power and their government is still communist. At the same time, U.S. businesses have been denied the opportunity to profit from doing business in a county less than 100 miles from our shores and our citizens have been denied the freedom to freely travel there.

Obama’s decision will draw far louder cries of criticism that the previous decisions of Nixon with China and Clinton with Vietnam, which is troubling. In the case of both China and Vietnam, we had fought wars with them that cost tens of thousands of American lives. With Cuba, we lost four U.S. citizens in the U.S. launched Bay of Pigs invasion.

The Marco Rubios of Congress will rant that the Cuban government is guilty of having confiscated private property. Absolutely correct. But China, Vietnam, Russia, Mexico and other governments we recognize have done the same. They will also say that the Cuban government is a repressive government with respect to many of its people. Once again, correct. But we do business with numerous others governments guilty of the same charge, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, China, Russia, Vietnam and many others.

Shortly after President Obama held his news conference announcing his decision to open diplomatic relations with Cuba, Florida Senator Marco Rubio appeared before the TV cameras. He gave all appearances of being in shock over the situation. And with good reason. He and a number of other politicians have built careers based on their opposition to the Cuban government. In most instances, they have represented states or congressional districts with a high percentage of Cuban-American citizens.

But times have changed. While the older generations of Cuban Americans – those who had lived in Cuba and immigrated to the United States – may still support things like the trade embargo, public sentiment has changed among the younger generations.

The U.S. maintains a fairly large interests operation in Havana. It will require little to simply change its name from an interests section to an embassy. Initially, confirmation of an ambassador will likely run into a roadblock, but with time that will also change.

Obama can take most of his actions to normalize relations via executive action. But the trade embargo is set in law and will require congressional action to be lifted.

Don’t expect that to happen any time soon. However, when a major effort comes to remove the embargo, it will likely come from the business sector, seeking to open new markets for their products. The petroleum industry will also likely make a push in an effort to gain offshore exploration rights from the Cuban government. Another U.S. economic sector that will make that push will be the resort and tourism industry. Cuba has huge potential for tourism and right now European companies are doing most of that development in Cuba. Unfortunately, the longer the U.S. drags its feet on lifting the trade embargo, the more likely it is that all of the prime beach front property will be developed by interests from other countries.

Two Idaho political leaders have taken an active role in past years in trying to improve relations between the U.S. and Cuba. Butch Otter was one of the leading proponents of normalizing relations as a member of House. As governor, he has led a trade mission to Cuba. Larry Craig was one of the leading proponents in the Senate where he sponsored legislation to help open the doors for the export of U.S. agricultural products to Cuba.

When Congress reconvenes in January, Idaho’s Senator Jim Risch will become the number two Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. This is the committee that will likely be the focal point of congressional efforts to normalize U.S. Cuban relations. His Republic colleagues on the committee include two of the most vocal Senate members with respect to U.S. foreign policy with Cuba and they also represent the two extremes on the issue.

Marco Rubio of Florida is a Cuban American and can be expected to pull out all of the stops to derail normalization of relations. Jeff Flake of Arizona has long been a leading proponents of normalizing relations.

As a member of the House, he was often joined at the hip with Butch Otter on this issue. He has made numerous trips to Cuba and was on the flight that brought Alan Gross, the imprisoned American, back to the United States.

Risch has nothing to gain by becoming an ally of the pro-embargo group. In fact, he and his Idaho constituents could have a lot to gain with normalized relations by opening the road for new markets for Idaho products, such as agricultural commodities and fertilizer. Hopefully, as congress begins to deal with this issue, he will consult with the two Idahoans who know this issue inside out – Butch Otter and Larry Craig. Better yet, I hope that Otter and Craig have already been pro-active on this issue and have already been in touch with him.

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When President Obama and his daughters paid a recent visit to a Washington, DC book store, two of his purchases were books by Idaho authors – All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doer and The Laughing Monsters by Denis Johnson. This was no fluke. Writers with Idaho roots are gaining more and more national prominence.

Earlier this week Idaho author and University of Idaho faculty member Kim Barnes was honored at the annual Governor’s Awards for the Arts with an Excellence in the Arts Award. She has also been a Pulitzer Prize finalist. Her husband, the much honored poet Robert Wrigley, also a UI faculty member, is a past recipient of the Governor’s Award. They are the first couple to be honored individually with the Governor’s Award.

On the same day that Barnes received her Governor’s Award, the New York Times arts section had a front page review of Boundary County resident Denis Johnson’s latest novel, The Laughing Monsters. Johnson has also been a Pulitzer finalist – two times. His book Train Dreams takes place in Idaho’s panhandle and won the Aga Khan Prize from the Paris Review. Train Dreams was reviewed in the New York Times by another Idaho writer, Anthony Doer.

Doer, who lives in Boise, has received wide acclaim. His latest novel, All the Light We Cannot See, occupies the number 8 spot on the Times best seller list. It has been on the list for 28 weeks. Longer than any other book currently on the list. The book was a finalist this year for the National Book Award.

Another finalist this year for the National Book Award, was Marilynne Robinson for her novel Lila. Robinson was born and raised in Sandpoint. In 2005 she won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for her book Gilead. She is currently on the faculty of the Iowa Writers Workshop, perhaps the most celebrated creative writing program in the country.

Mystery author Ridley Pearson is a part time resident of Hailey, Idaho. Pearson has written 48 novels. Many of them NY Times best sellers. His series of books featuring the fictional Sherriff Walt Fleming takes place in Sun Valley. A measure of the esteem in which he is held by other writers is his membership in the musical group Rock Bottom Remainders. Other members of the group include Amy Tan, Steven King, Dave Berry, Robert Fulghum, Barbara Kingsolver and Roy Blount Jr.

Idaho has been home to other prominent writers. Lawrence Gipson grew up in Caldwell and graduated from the University of Idaho in 1903.In 1904 he was a member of the third class of Rhodes Scholars. He became a noted historian and in 1962 won the Pulitzer Prize for History.
Mountain Home native Richard McKenna’s best known work was The Sand Pebbles. It won the 1963 Harper Prize and was made into a movie starring Steve McQueen. McQueen was nominated for the Academy Award for his performance.

Perhaps the most prolific Idaho born author was Vardis Fisher. His 1965 novel, Mountain Man, was made into the movie Jeremiah Johnson, starring Robert Redford. Much of his work was not well reviewed and was written in a style that makes it very difficult for the average reader to appreciate.

Other notable writers with Idaho ties are, of course, Ernest Hemingway and Ezra Pound. Hemingway died in Ketchum, twelve miles from Hailey, where Pound was born. Edgar Rice Burroughs, the creator of Tarzan, lived in both Pocatello and Parma. While living in Parma, he served a term on the city council.

But those earlier Idaho writers were few and far between. Today there is a growing group of Idaho writers gaining national prominence. With the highly respected creative writing program at the University of Idaho, and another getting established at Boise State University. we can expect to see these numbers grow in the coming years. It is something in which all of us should take pride.

Marty Peterson is a native of the Lewiston Clarkston Valley. He is retired and lives in Boise.

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On election day, while many Idahoans visited their polling places, I was 7000 miles away on Temple Mount in Jerusalem. For Jews, Temple Mount, the former location of their two historic temples, is their holiest site. For Muslims, the mount contains the Dome of the Rock and al- Aksa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam. The commonality for both Jews and Muslims is that the mount is the site where Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac. Both religions are descended from Abraham.

Temple Mount has been the focal point of differences between Muslims and Jews that have set off the current round of violence in Israel and Palestine. The day after we visited the mount, an Arab with ties to Hamas drove his car into a crowd of people at the base of the mount, killing two people.

I had two things I wanted to accomplish in Israel. The first was to visit a number of historic sites, including many that form the foundation for Christianity. There may be more historic sites and ruins in Israel than any other country. The second was to spend time in the Palestinian areas to try to get a better handle on things that are driving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. I began my visit as a fairly staunch supporter of the Israeli government.

The Jews have a sad history of suffering from discrimination, oppression, apartheid, confiscation of property and worse. Unfortunately, the more time I spent in Israel, the more it became obvious to me that the Israeli government has adopted a modified Golden Rule that goes something like “Do unto others as others have done unto you.”

There is no doubt that Hamas and other such groups provide a major threat to Israel. However, Israel doesn’t seem to understand that for a growing number of Palestinians, especially the young, things appear so hopeless that revolution is the only possible way out. Apartheid isn’t working any better in Israel than it worked in South Africa. In the United States, we launched a revolution against the British for much less cause.

Looking down on a Palestinian neighborhood in Jerusalem, I saw a group of teenagers throwing rocks at Israeli police cars, with the police firing tear gas at them. Watching this unfold I was told that such acts have become a recreational activity for Palestinian young people, since they have no parks, no recreation programs and little else to occupy their time. The Israeli government has responded with a law that provides up to twenty years in prison for throwing rocks at vehicles with the intent of damaging them.

Most Christian pilgrims in the Holy Land aspire to visit Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus. Bethlehem happens to be a West Bank town controlled by the Palestinians. Israel is now in the process of constructing a 26 foot high wall around Bethlehem and other Palestinian controlled areas. When completed, the wall will be 500 miles long. By way of comparison, the Berlin Wall was 12 feet high and 96 miles long.

The eastern border of the West Bank consists of two heavy duty barbed wire fences roughly ten yards apart, with the central area planted with land mines.

The construction of new Israeli settlements in the West Bank has received almost universal condemnation outside of Israel. They are viewed as a violation of international law and treaties such as the Geneva Convention. We drove by one of the settlements. It sits on a hill above a Bedouin camp. To construct the settlement, the Israelis not only confiscated Palestinian land, but also took away the Bedouin’s water source.

If there is anything about these settlements that Idahoans should understand, it is the impact of taking water away from one section of land without permission or compensation and transferring it to another.

We attempted to visit the site of Jesus’ baptism on the River Jordan, but came across a sign saying that we were entering a military zone and no photography would be allowed. It made little difference, since a guard turned us away.

There is at least one influential person in Israel who seems to have figured out how to bring all parties together for the common good. His name is Elias Chacour, the recently retired Catholic Archbishop of Galilee. Chacour is a Palestinian Christian. As a child when Israel became a nation, he witnessed Israeli soldiers first forcefully living in his family’s home (The similar British Quartering Act was one of the major causes of the American Revolution) and later the demolition not only of his family home, but of the entire village he grew up in. We had the opportunity to spend some time with him in Ibillin, the Arab town in Galilee where he lives.

Chacour feels strongly that the solution to many of the major problems in Israel lies with education. He founded and constructed a school in Ibillin attended by over 5,000 Jewish, Christian and Muslim students. He has also founded a university in the same town. He espouses “building peace on desktops” and is a three-time nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize. The day we visited him, he apologized for being late because he was out in a field doing repair work on a tractor.

Unfortunately, it is not the Elias Chacours that make up the governments of either the Israelis or the Palestinians. Until they do, it seems unlikely that we will see any lasting peaceful settlement to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

Marty Peterson is native of the Lewiston Clarkston Valley. He is retired and lives in Boise.

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I’ve been watching the Ken Burns’ series on the Roosevelts. They were the most influential American political dynasty of the twentieth century, which is something when you consider that we also had the Kennedys and the Bushes.

But Idaho has had its own political dynasty. A family that, by nearly any measure, has been the most influential political family in Idaho’s relatively brief history. Even those who have heard of it are generally not aware of its extent. It is a family tree that, examined in detail, includes such notables as Governors Robert Smylie and Cecil Andrus and Senator Frank Church. It is also a family that, while heavily Democratic, also includes some influential Republicans.

The tree begins with the arrival of Joseph Addison Clark in Idaho in 1885. He became the first mayor of Idaho Falls, serving from 1900-02. He ran unsuccessfully for governor on the Prohibition ticket in 1904. Two of his sons, Barzilla and Chase, also served as mayors of Idaho Falls. He had a third son, David, who did not hold elective office, but needs to be mentioned because of others in his line of the Clark family who did become major players in state and national politics.

Barzilla Clark served two terms on the Idaho Falls city council and was elected mayor in 1913, serving a single term. He was elected governor in 1936 and served a single two-year term. His daughter Lois married Merlin Young, who served as a state district judge before being appointed federal bankruptcy judge for Idaho. The Young’s daughter Patricia, a state magistrate judge, married Byron Johnson, and Idaho supreme court justice.

Chase Clark served two terms in the Idaho legislature representing Custer County. When his brother Barzilla resigned as mayor of Idaho Falls to become governor, Chase succeeded him as mayor. He was elected governor in 1942 and served a single two-year term. Following his term as governor, he was appointed to the U.S. District Court by President Roosevelt. His daughter Bethine married Boise attorney Frank Church, who was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1956 and served through 1980. The Church’s son, Chase, was married to Kelly Andrus, daughter of Governor Cecil Andrus and they have two children.

The third brother, David, had a son, D. Worth Clark. He was elected to the U.S. Congress from Idaho’s second district in 1934. After serving two terms in Congress, he was elected to the U.S. Senate, where he served a single term. D. Worth was married to Virgil Irwin. Virgil’s sister, Lucille, was married to Robert Smylie, who served as both Attorney General and Governor of Idaho. The Smylie’s son, Steve, served four terms in the Idaho legislature.

D. Worth’s daughter, Nancy Clark Reynolds, hosted local television shows in Baltimore, Boise and San Francisco. When Ronald Reagan was elected governor of California, Nancy was appointed assistant press secretary and later became a special assistant. After Reagan left the governorship, Nancy moved to Washington, DC, as a lobbyist for Boise Cascade and then Bendix. When Reagan became president, she took a leave of absence and moved into Blair House with the President-elect and First Lady. She was invaluable to the Reagans because she knew Washington better than anyone else around them. And she became invaluable to a growing list of clients because of her closeness to the Reagans. She became Nancy Reagan’s best friend. Her client list included the Motion Picture Association of America and General Motors, among others. She eventually sold her firm to Hill and Knowlton but went on to serve on a number of corporate boards, including Sears, Viacom and Allstate.

For over 100 years the descendants of Joseph Clark have influenced the shaping of public policy at the local, state and federal levels. Today their legacies continue to impact Idahoans through such things as the state parks system, the Wilderness Act, the Idaho Falls municipal power system, annual cost-of-living increases for Social Security recipients and many other ways.

It seems doubtful that Idaho will ever again see a family with this level of political influence. But perhaps it still isn’t over. Someday Idaho may see a politico who can claim both Frank Church and Cecil Andrus as his or her grandfathers and Joseph Clark as an ancestor.

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When former Idaho Congressman George Hansen passed away recently, the news stories focused on his troubles with the law, times in prison and his trips to Iran during the hostage crisis. There was no mention of any sort of lasting legacy left by Hansen. But the case can be made that he left a huge, although entirely unanticipated, legacy.

Hansen could be described as Idaho’s first tea party Republican. But were his wife Connie to have heard such a remark, she would quickly comment that the Hansen’s had nothing to do with anything containing caffeine. No, while he really was a precursor to the tea party movement, that wasn’t his lasting legacy.

That legacy is tied directly to his 1968 senate campaign against Senator Frank Church. Frank Church was seeking a third term in the senate and Hansen was a formidable opponent. In my mind, the two most effective political campaigners in Idaho’s recent history were George Hansen and Bethine Church. But I would give the nod to Hansen, primarily because he stood nearly a foot taller than Mrs. Church, which gave him the advantage in working a crowd.

Hansen was legendary in his ability to work a crowd and seek support. Nothing illustrates that better than his conviction for defrauding Idaho banks and about 200 investors of $30 million in an investment scheme. Of the 200 individuals he defrauded, 100 wrote letters to Judge Edward Lodge indicating that they had willingly given him their money and that, even though they lost it all, they didn’t feel they were defrauded.

Hansen’s entry into the 1968 Senate race sent a strong signal to Senator Church and his staff. This was going to be an incredibly difficult race and it would require organizing a re-election campaign unlike any that Idahoans had previously seen. Church was an outspoken environmentalist who supported the creation of wilderness areas. He was also an outspoken critic of the war in Vietnam. Both of these issues ran against the grain of many Idahoans at the time.

Church was surrounded by some of the best political minds in Idaho. Carl Burke, a Boise attorney and his childhood best friend, chaired the campaign. Verda Barnes, Church’s chief of staff, was one of the finest and best connected political organizers Idaho has ever seen. He had a highly experienced staff, including Jerry Brady who would later run twice for Governor, who were focused on his re-election.

The resulting Church campaign was filled with many Idaho firsts. Church opened the first congressional field office in Idaho and staffed it with Billie Jeppesen, who would later go to Washington to be the personal secretary for Secretary of the Interior Cecil Andrus.

It was also the first Idaho campaign to use 4 by 8 foot “Minnie” billboards. A thirty minute campaign film was produced that aired on television and was shown at political functions throughout the state. And there were Spanish language bumper stickers.

But the innovation that had the greatest impact on Church’s re-election effort was the development of a statewide voter identification program. Idaho had never seen a similar effort of this magnitude. Volunteers went door-to-door filling out forms on voter preferences, all in the days before the use of computers and phone banks. The identification of pro-Church, leaning to Church and uncommitted voters was critical to the success of the campaign.

Voters leaning to Church and uncommitted were targeted to bring them firmly into the pro-Church camp. On election day, a well-organized get-out-the-vote program was activated to try to get every last voter leaning to Church to the polls to vote.

On election day, the results were remarkable. Church obtained 60% of the vote and carried forty of Idaho’s forty-four counties.
While Hansen lost and went on to face all of his self-inflicted future problems, he forced Church to do things that had previously been unknown in Idaho political races. And this is where Hansen’s lasting legacy comes in.

Two years later, in 1970, the Church organization had kept much of its 1968 campaign organization in place, including the voter identification and get-out the vote programs. This was of critical importance to Cecil Andrus’ campaign for Governor. It undoubtedly made the difference and opened the door for the rest of his remarkable political career.

Were the last half of Frank Church’s Senate career and the political success of Cecil Andrus the lasting legacies of George Hansen? I think a strong case can be made for that.

Marty Peterson is a native of the Lewiston Clarkston Valley. He is retired and lives in Boise.

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John Evans left the governorship in 1987 – 27 years ago. Roughly two-thirds of Idaho’s current population were either under the age of eighteen or not even born yet when he left office. Given Evans’ low public profile after leaving office, it isn’t surprising that many Idahoans don’t recall his many years of public service. Many of them probably associate him more closely as the face in advertisements for D.L. Evans Bank.

John Evans grew up in Malad. His grandfather David L. Evans served in the territorial legislature and, following statehood was Speaker of the House. Like his grandfather, John Evans was a Democrat and a banker. He was elected to the state senate in 1952, at the age of 27. In 1957, when the Democrats took control of the Senate, he became senate majority leader. He left the senate in 1959 and was elected mayor of Malad.

His years as a small town mayor, rancher and banker provided him with invaluable experience and skills that would serve him well when he returned to state government, again serving as a senator, then lieutenant governor and finally ten years as governor.

When Cecil Andrus resigned as governor to become Secretary of Interior in 1977, Evans became governor. His ten years as governor were during some of the most challenging times that Idaho has ever faced. In 1978 Idaho voters approved the 1% Initiative, which placed substantial restrictions on the ability of local governments to raise operating revenues. Then came the economic collapse. The state’s economy had little diversification and was heavily dependent upon natural resource based industries. In a perfect storm, the bottom dropped out of the timber, mining and agricultural industries. As a result, state tax revenues plummeted.

Using his experience as a mayor, Evans understood the need for basic governmental services at the state and local levels. As a mayor, he also understood the need for setting priorities and operating in a fiscally conservative manner. The result was a mixture of reducing non-essential services, cutting operating costs and increasing the flow of state revenues. He also created the Idaho Department of Commerce to help begin Idaho’s economic rebuilding. With a legislature heavily dominated by Republicans and led by staunch conservatives such as Tom Stivers in the house and Jim Risch in the senate, Evans had his work cut out for him. But he rose to the occasion, working with a coalition of Democrats and moderate Republicans, he kept the ship afloat and laid the groundwork for an economic recovery that led to some of the best years that Idaho’s economy has ever seen. In many ways, his relationship with a Republican legislature was more productive than that of some Republican governors.

While many will remember that Evans successfully pushed for sales tax increases to help offset the decline in revenues, it is equally important to remember that he also ordered state employees work hour cur back to 32 hours a week to reduce operating costs.

After leaving office in 1987, Evans moved to Burley and took over the leadership of D.L. Evans Bank, his family owned banking concern with branches in Burley and Albion. It is a testament to John Evans abilities that he just may have been the most successful former governor that Idaho has ever had.

Evans had watched much of Idaho’s banking community swallowed up through mergers and acquisitions. Using his extensive experience of working directly with Idahoans as a legislator, mayor and governor, he recognized that there was a growing desire by many Idahoans to do business with a locally owned and operated bank that would provide personal service, rather than requiring customers to call a toll free number in some far away city. DL Evans Bank today is entirely family owned with twenty-one branches in thirteen cities and will soon expand with its $100-million acquisition of the Idaho Banking Co.

John Evans legacy is one of success at every level at which he worked. While he may be unknown to many Idahoans, there are few who have not felt the beneficial impact of his leadership in both the public and private sectors.

Marty Peterson is a native of the Lewiston Clarkston Valley. He is retired and lives in Boise. He was state budget director under Governor John Evans.

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The consensus seems to be that June was a disaster for first district Congressman Raul Labrador. First he presided over what most people are saying was the worst and least productive Republic state convention in Idaho’s history. Then he ran for House Majority Leader and appears to have been soundly trounced.

If his long-range plans call for building a career as an influential member of Congress, or for running for higher office, then the month was largely a disaster. But what if his long-range plans have goals unrelated to remaining in elective office?

The truth is, Labrador hasn’t seemed to be strongly driven by the need to deliver measurable results to his district, other than occasionally jumping on the bandwagon in support of legislation being sponsored by other members of Idaho’s delegation. Certainly not the way that former senators Jim McClure, Frank Church and Larry Craig were driven to address constituent needs. Nor the way that his second district counterpart Mike Simpson has been able to focus on strengthening the Idaho National Laboratory or trying to address issues related to wilderness.

Rather, most of his focus has been on pushing for a Congress that is philosophically true to the most conservative political dogma of the day. And he has been unflinching in this, with few exceptions. So unflinching that it has endeared him to many of the most conservative elements of our country. This unbending support of the far right philosophy and his natural ability to communicate in a calm and pleasant way has made him a favorite of the media.

Given all of this, why might June have been a great month for him? As chair of the state Republican convention, he was able to effectively work with the tea party group to keep the “regular” Republicans from controlling any element of the convention and actually keeping the delegations from two of Idaho’s largest counties, Ada and Bannock, from being seated. He was also able to assist in bringing far right standard bearers Rand Paul and Mike Huckabee to address the convention. While the convention accomplished absolutely nothing, the party gave no ground to those representing centrist Republican thought, even though tea party challengers were defeated by centrists in all but one statewide primary race.

The race for House Majority Leader was also an opportunity for Labrador to demonstrate that he is true to the interests of the far right. He was unafraid to take on the existing House leadership, along with most of the rest of the House, to voice his concerns about the need for the party and the House to shift much farther to the right, even though it likely further marginalized him as an effective House member.

So, given all of that, how does Labrador come out a winner?

He comes out a winner if, at some point, he contemplates leaving elective office and pursuing a career more financially lucrative than being either a Congressman or an Idaho immigration attorney. Former Senator Jim DeMint from South Carolina followed this course, leaving his $174,000 a year Senate seat and becoming head of the Heritage Foundation earning over $1 million a year. According to reports filed with the IRS, leaders of seven prominent conservative groups average salaries well in excess of $500,000 a year.

The billionaire Koch brothers pump hundreds of millions of dollars into such organizations, including, in addition to the Freedom Foundation, Freedom Works, Heritage Action, Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Partners. The Koch brothers probably see little to disagree with in Congressman Labrador. In fact Freedom Works supported his candidacy for House Majority Leader.

Labrador is comfortable before both the camera and microphone and has become something of a national media favorite when it comes to the far right. He has appeared on most of the major national news programs and has made repeat performances on some Sunday talk shows, such as Meet the Press. In fact, during his brief campaign for Majority Leader, he indicated that one the strengths he had over his opponent, Congressman Kevin McCarthy, was his ability to work effectively with the news media.

So another financially lucrative path that could be open to the Congressman is would to join the ranks of former elected officials such as former Congressmen Newt Gingrich and Joe Walsh, and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee who have become highly paid broadcast personalities. In fact, in late March, Congressman Mike Rogers, chair of the powerful House Intelligence Committee, announced that he was resigning both his chairmanship and his House seat to become a radio talk show host.

Although Glenn Beck, another talk show host, has never held elective office, he and Labrador are cut from much the same cloth and appeal to similar audiences. According to journalist Zev Chafets, Beck’s annual income “is greater than the combined salaries of the entire U.S. Senate – and you can toss in a few dozen congressman and cabinet secretaries for good measure.”

Labrador’s wife and five children have remained in Idaho, perhaps largely because of the expense of housing and living in the Washington, DC area. If at some point he decides to leave the House and accept a high paying job with one of the options I have suggested, June 2014 will probably be viewed as a great month that helped make it all possible.

Marty Peterson is a native of the Lewiston Clarkston Valley. He is retired and lives in Boise.

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peterson MARTIN
PETERSON
 

Following the recent Idaho gubernatorial debate, I made a quick check on the internet to see whether Dick Tuck had moved to Idaho. Tuck was the legendary political prankster who plagued Richard Nixon through much of his career. For example, when Nixon ran for California governor, he did a whistle-stop trip through the state on a train. At one stop when he was speaking to a large crowd from the rear car, the train departed in mid speech. About the same time, Tuck was spotted wearing a train conductor’s uniform and cap.

Tuck is 90 years old and now lives in Arizona. And he is the kind of person who would have gladly shelled out the $300 per person filing fee for Walt Bayes and Harley Brown to make them part of the 2014 primary debate for Republican gubernatorial candidates. The debate looked as though it had been infiltrated by a combination of Duck Dynasty and Z.Z. Top.

For those who view Idaho politics as something of a joke, the debate was a huge success. So successful that it was featured on the Tonight Show, the Today Show, the Daily Show and the Colbert Report, as well as overseas on German, Australian and British television.

However, for those of who have serious concerns about the present and future of Idaho, it was a disaster. Idaho once again came off looking to the rest of the world like a backwater state occupied by a bunch of know-nothing bumpkins. Certainly, Otter and Fulcher did fine, but they weren’t the focus of attention. The focus was on Bayes and Brown. For $300 each, they achieved Andy Warhol’s benchmark of fifteen minutes of fame.

There has been a lot of finger pointing trying to lay the blame for this fiasco. Some are blaming Governor Otter for insisting that Bayes and Brown be included in the debate. Others fault the media for allowing the Governor to dictate some debate rules. I’m not willing to point fingers at anyone, but I am willing to make some suggestions to ensure that we don’t see future repeats of this fiasco.

First and foremost, Idaho needs to change its filing laws for statewide office to better ensure the legitimacy of candidates who appear on the ballot. Present law allows anyone who is at least thirty years old and has lived in Idaho for two years to pay a $300 filing fee and sign a declaration of candidacy. Or, in lieu of the $300, you can submit a petition signed by 1,000 eligible Idaho voters. Why not amend the law and require both the payment and the petition, perhaps with some sort of statewide spread of signers similar to what is required for initiatives?

I also think that Idaho needs some sort of formal commission on debates for statewide office. Not a governmental entity, but a commission with representatives of the state media, the two major political parties and the voting public. This commission should, well in advance of elections, set specific dates and locations for debates and adopt fixed rules for the debates that aren’t subject to change by individual candidates. They should also set some sort of threshold to determine who constitutes a legitimate candidate. One such means would be to use the results of polling by professional polling firms and include only those candidates with something like 10% or greater support in the polls.

Without changes such as these, I expect to see Idaho becoming fair game for the Dick Tucks of the world. In fact it might become something of a national sport to see who can put together the wackiest and most attention getting Idaho candidates with the possibility that every four years programs such as the Tonight Show would spotlight the Idaho debates and invite some of the candidates onto national television to let the nation know how they, as Idahoans, propose to serve our state, the nation and the world. Not a bad return for a $300 investment. Especially if you don’t care how crude Idaho appears to the rest of the world.

Marty Peterson is a native of the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley. He is retired and lives in Boise.

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peterson MARTIN
PETERSON
 

I spent 36 legislative sessions wearing a variety of hats. During that time I got to know scores and scores of legislators. But when I look back at them, there is one who stands above the rest. He was Steve Antone, a farmer from Rupert who served in the Idaho House from 1969 until 1996.

He had a number of skills that would prove beneficial in his legislative work. He was intelligent, generally soft spoken, had a good sense of humor and the ability to get along with just about everyone.

For twelve years he chaired the important House Revenue and Taxation Committee. Most tax legislation in Idaho originates in that committee and, as a result, the chairmanship can be a powerful position. The twelve years Steve Antone chaired the committee were perhaps the most challenging from a budgeting and taxation standpoint that Idaho has ever seen.

In 1978, Idaho voters approved the 1% Initiative. Although well intended by its proponents, the initiative was incredibly flawed from a constitutional standpoint and unworkable from an administrative standpoint. Under Antone’s chairmanship, supporters and opponents of the measure, legislators and lobbyists alike, were able to come up with major revisions that provided limitations on the levying of property taxes by local governments, while still meeting various requirements of the state’s constitution and statutes.

I was executive director of the Association of Idaho Cities at this time and approached Antone about the possibility of his committee conducting a field hearing at the Association’s annual convention to receive input for city officials. No legislative committee had ever conducted a hearing outside of Boise. Antone gave it some thought, liked the idea, and took the committee to Coeur d’Alene that summer.

In the early 80s, Idaho’s natural resource based economy collapsed. Low prices for farm commodities, timber and minerals all combined to knock the bottom out of the state’s tax revenues. It was the worst fiscal situation the state had seen since the great depression. The solutions to the state budget problems had to be met with a combination of spending cuts and tax increases.

It fell to Antone and his committee to approve the series of tax increases.

In some instances such as with the sales tax, it was simply a matter of increasing the rate. In other instances, such as with the insurance premium tax, it involved significantly re-writing portions of the law to broaden out the application of the tax. It is also important to recognize that Antone, a moderate, had some of the most conservative members of the House on his committee. For three legislative sessions Antone and his colleagues wrestled with the problems of the recession and, in the end, while some essential services were reduced, none were eliminated and the state went on to both recover and economically prosper for a couple of decades.

I was state budget director at that time and in that role was the Governor’s chief tax advisor. I was in the midst of that activity and can attest that without Antone’s leadership, Idaho could have ended up being a far different place.

Antone’s legislative district included the cities of Ketchum and Sun Valley. While the legislature had made it clear that it did not support local option taxation, Antone felt that Ketchum and Sun Valley were a special case because much of the burden for local services was being brought about by tourists who didn’t pay local taxes. He embarked on an effort to provide for a special local option tax for resort cities. Resort cities being cities where tourism constituted the major portion of their economy.

The local option sales taxes now in place in 13 Idaho cities and Nez Perce county are all a result of Antone’s early success with the tax for Ketchum and Sun Valley.

Although these were all difficult situations, Antone’s leadership style made the difference in each case. Always level headed, he also had a good sense of humor that helped get things done. On one occasion four members of his committee were absent, which helped a bill to pass that might not have otherwise. After the vote, Antone announced that the vote had been a four gone conclusion.

Steve Antone was perhaps the most effective committee chair the Legislature has ever seen and certainly one of our all-time finest legislators. He was a true Idaho giant.

Marty Peterson grew up in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley. He is retired and lives in Boise.

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peterson MARTIN
PETERSON
 

In the spring of 1968, shortly before graduating from the University of Idaho, I drove down to Lewiston to hear Senator Frank Church speak at the old Lewis Clark Hotel. It was a standing room only crowd and I had managed to squeeze into the rear of the room. As I was leaving, I felt a hand grab my shoulder. I turned around and there was a lady I had never seen before with a wall-to-wall smile who said, “I saw you standing back here and I don’t believe that we have met. I’m Bethine Church.”
Little did either of us know that by year’s end, I would be in Washington, D.C., living in the Church’s guest room and joining Frank Church’s senate staff.

My initial meeting with her was vintage Bethine Church. She was the consummate politician, just as one would expect someone to be who had grown up in the midst of Idaho’s greatest political dynasty, the Clark family. Her father, Chase Clark, had been mayor of Idaho Falls, Governor of Idaho, and was appointed to a federal judgeship by President Roosevelt. Others in her family tree were governors, senators, federal and state judges. One was even Nancy Reagan’s press secretary.

When Chase Clark became Governor, Bethine moved to Boise and enrolled at Boise High School. There she quickly became friends with a group of students that included Frank Church, whom she later married. When Church eventually ran for the Senate in 1956, Chase Clark, Bethine Church and Frank Church’s best friend from high school, Carl Burke, formed the brain trust that helped Church unseat a Republican incumbent and win election to the Senate at age 32.

Joe Miller, a major political power broker in the latter half of the last century, came to Boise to advise the 1956 campaign. He had had a number of notable successes around the country and felt that the key to winning in a state like Idaho was political billboards. He laid out his strategy in a meeting at Judge Clark’s home that included Judge Clark, Frank and Bethine. Bethine blatantly told him that in Idaho his strategy wouldn’t work. An argument ensued, and Judge Clark told Bethine to go to the kitchen to help her mother. It was the last time that Bethine was placed in the back seat of a political campaign.

Her political instincts were excellent, her memory for faces and names was as good as it gets, and her knowledge of Idaho was remarkable. You could be driving down the road with her in a remote part of the state and she would suddenly tell you to turn right at the next country road. Then, a couple of miles down the road, she would tell you to pull into a farm yard where she would get out and go knock on the road. There would be delighted surprise on the face of the elderly woman who answered the door. And, before the day was over, she would have called each of her seven children and her six brothers and sisters – all Idaho voters – to tell them about the wonderful surprise visit she had had from Bethine Church.

Bethine Church had a better understanding of Idaho politics than most people, including her husband. In fact, had she ever entered into a primary election against him, the odds would have been in her favor.

In 1974, when Church was up for re-election, I was no longer on his staff and was living back in Idaho. It seemed to me that Frank Church was not as engaged in seeking re-election as he should be and that he could well be vulnerable to defeat. I took my concern to Bethine. We spent a couple of hours together and I laid out the reasons for my concern. I don’t know how much of an impact my concerns had, but in short order Frank Church became the kind of engaged candidate that I had first witnessed in the 1968 campaign. I have no doubt that Bethine was the driving force that activated him.
Bethine once told me that the Senator had told her that the thing that he most wanted from her was to have a comfortable home and a family he could be proud of. For those of who were fortunate enough to spend time in the Church home, they had succeeded on both counts.

When Frank Church passed away, Bethine had to decide how she was going to spend the rest of her life. I can remember visiting with her and both of us agreeing that there were few things sadder in Washington, D.C., than the widows of once important people trying to continue to live in a little bit of the spotlight they had once enjoyed. She knew better than that and decided to move back to Idaho, where she could continue to be a big fish in a little bowl. Next to marrying Frank Church, it was the best decision she ever made.

When I retired last year, Bethine shared the stage with Governor and Mrs. Otter and other dignitaries I had had the good fortune to work with over the years. Physically, she was just a shadow of her former self, confined to a wheel chair and engulfed in a fur coat. But she took the microphone and her remarks were, for me, the highlight of the program. In her ninth decade, her body might have failed her, but her mind was a good as it had ever been.

Bethine Church was a remarkable person in every way. Together with Frank Church, they constituted one of the most effective power couples Idaho is ever likely to see. What a wonderful Christmas gift to each of them that they are once again back together.

Marty Peterson is tiered and lives in Boise.

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