Press "Enter" to skip to content

Posts published in January 2022

Gunning for Idaho public schools


The Idaho Freedom Foundation (IFF), an extremist political outfit that draws dark money support, is dedicated to getting rid of public schools in Idaho. IFF’s President, Wayne Hoffman, put it this way: “I don’t think government should be in the education business. It is the most virulent form of socialism (and indoctrination thereto) in America today.” If that is true, one wonders why Idaho schools have not turned into a Marxist haven during the 132 years since Idaho achieved statehood.

As a matter of fact, Idaho public schools have provided a free education to kids from every economic level, faith, race, creed, political outlook, whatever, since 1890. Public education is what has made the Gem State what it is. It will continue to do so into the future, if the Legislature follows its mandate under the Idaho Constitution to properly fund a “general, uniform and thorough system of public, free common schools.”

IFF doesn’t care much about that history. It has amassed a large cadre of Idaho legislators who jump to its every command to degrade the schools. Two of them, Priscilla Giddings and Chad Christensen, follow IFF’s wishes 100% of the time. Four of its legislative underlings, Ron Nate, Tammy Nichols, Karey Hanks and Heather Scott, follow orders an impressive 99% of the time. Thirty-four legislators have an IFF voting record of 80% or more.

Acting through the numerous politicians it controls, IFF has done everything possible in recent years to financially starve public education from pre-k through college. Idaho is dead last in education funding among the 50 states, which makes it difficult to maintain a high-quality education system. When education results fall short, IFF and its legislative minions claim the system is failing.

IFF says the solution is to divert taxpayer money to private schools, which would devastate rural communities. Public schools, particularly in rural Idaho, are the glue that holds communities together, not only for education, but for school sports and a myriad of other activities.

Most rural communities would not be within reasonable driving distance of a private school. IFF’s education “experts” point to a study saying “69% of families resided within 10 miles of a private school.” Seems those experts should study some Idaho geography to find that is not the case in our far-flung state.

Those experts go on to claim that rural students could take advantage of online learning opportunities, apparently overlooking IFF vice president Dustin Hurst’s October 20, 2020 rant about online learning. Hurst said, “kids need to be in school” and that “the impact of closed schools on communities is devastating.” IFF can’t have it both ways.

IFF also pretends to be in favor of schools being governed by local school boards, but one wonders who would control the content of online learning. Seems that would be controlled by the for-profit online vendor. It would be helpful if IFF would disclose its funding sources so that Idahoans could see whether they include for-profit private school businesses.

Idahoans cherish local control of their schools and local elected boards have been in charge forever. It is representative government at its grassroots best. IFF claims that online schools have to be certified, but that is nowhere near local control of schools.

Idaho parents clearly have a right to have their say with school officials and school boards. If boards are not responsive, a remedy is available at the ballot box. What recourse is there if out-of-state online private schools start indoctrinating students?

Voters can and should stand up against the concerted efforts of IFF and its legislative henchmen to wound and destroy our public system. If we treat the system right, it will continue to educate our kids to succeed in a world that gets more complicated each day. If IFF is able to carry out its plan to close down the public school system, it will rip the heart out of Idaho communities. That would also put taxpayers at the mercy of for-profit schools over which patrons would have no control.

A special kind of disgrace


They smeared human feces all over the Capitol. My Capitol. Your Capitol. I just learned this today. Of all the outrageous acts committed on Jan. 6, 2021, this one struck a nerve with me, offending me worse than any other.

I read a lot of news and I may or may not have skimmed over the Republican Capitol defecation and subsequent feces-painting when reading reports of all that transpired on that dark day. But when a friend mentioned the feces today, I truly heard it for the first time and I was appalled. Smearing human feces in the U.S. Capitol building is a disgusting desecration — the act of animals.

I expect fecal activity in the primate house at the zoo. I also expect it from hardened felons with no maturity, no self-control and nothing to lose. I do not expect Republicans to spread their own excrement around the nation’s hallowed Capitol. They purport to love America yet they’re willing to desecrate a historic symbol of its government with their own feces, making much of the world cringe in revulsion.

Right on time, I received an email from one of the Republican propaganda organizations — I get the ones from the Democrats’ propaganda houses, too — that shed a little light on the people wielding feces. The Republican email gloated that a university professor had analyzed the statistical data of the Jan. 6 arrests to discover that — wait for it! — the Trump supporters weren’t Trump supporters at all! No, even worse, University of Chicago Political Science Professor Robert A. Pape discovered the Jan. 6 Capitol besiegers were not Qanon nut-cases but were mostly mainstream Republicans!

Is the GOP so deluded that they think anyone outside the party cares what type of Trump supporter showed up? Most of us knew a lot of so-called mainstream Republicans took part in the Capitol event because they blabbed it all over social media afterward. Business owners, lawyers, realtors, the list was endless.

An article in The Atlantic predicted they were “...a coalition of the willing: deadbeat dads, YouPorn enthusiasts, slow students and MMA fans. They had heard the rebel yell, packed up their Confederate flags and Trump banners and GPS-ed their way to Washington. ...After a few wrong turns, they had pulled into the swamp with bellies full of beer and Sausage McMuffins, maybe a little high on Adderall, ready to get it done.”

U of C’s Pape found “[m]ost arrested were under age 55, many were business owners, had college degrees and came from urban, not rural, counties that voted for Joe Biden in 2020.” Pape compared the statistics of those arrested during the insurrection with the statistics of three broader categories: individuals arrested in recent years as “right-wing violent offenders,” the U.S. electorate in general and Trump supporters.

In his academic paper “American Face of Insurrection,” Pape found “The insurrectionists closely reflect the U.S. electorate on most socio-economic variables and, hence, come from the mainstream, not just the fringe of society.”

In a related Foreign Policy article, “The January 6 Insurrectionists Aren’t Who You Think They Are,” Pape says, considering the mainstream nature of the Capitol participants, “...[m]any millions of Americans sympathize with the rioters who attacked the U.S. Capitol. This large mainstream, popular support for insurrectionist sentiments makes it easier to rationalize political violence in the future. There is a large mass of kindling waiting for an incendiary moment.”

Pape is predicting more violence.

I know I am going to hear from outraged Republicans that “it had to be all the Antifa people rioting in the Capitol — there’s no way Republicans would do such a thing.” The problem I have with this is twofold. First, it has been pretty well established that there were no more than a handful of Antifans mingled in with all the MAGA-hat-clad rioters. Second, the same people who blame the almost-nonexistent Antifans keep trying to hook every awful act on said Antifans. Oh no, the Republicans didn’t do anything.

They’re asking me to believe most of the crowd were Antifa members disguised as MAGA-hatted Trump supporters. And all the deplorable acts were committed by them, just to make the Trumpists look bad. Apparently, the Trump supporters were there as docile tourists.

Seriously? Do you really believe I’m that stupid? Worse, are you really so blindly ignorant as to believe your own cartoon fantasy? Everyone who unlawfully entered the Capitol on Jan. 6 is guilty.

By the many hundreds, Capitol rioters on Jan. 6 boasted about their actions, bragging all across social media. They posted thousands of photos showing their proud misdeeds. Examination of their social media footprints showed people who’d been posting right-side material for months. Many were well-known in their communities. Sorry, apologists, these folks aren’t Antifans. They’re Republicans, they’re Trump fans, they’re rioters and they’re guilty..

And some of them spread human feces around our Capitol building. Classy, huh?

It’s bad enough they broke in with their guns and nooses but some of them produced fresh excrement and painted the halls, too.


I lived in downtown Portland for years. I have been to dozens of protests. Yes, I know there are some real losers among the leftists who make protest a way of life. I also know there are a heck of a lot of teenagers and twenty-somethings at these gatherings who can only parrot the most mundane talking points of the protest du jour. Many are students, many are unemployed and many are there for the action far more than they’re wed to any specific cause. As long as it’s cool, they’re along for the ride.

The sad thing is I know Antifans who’d smear feces in a second. Today, to my shock and disgust, I discovered I also know Republicans who will stoop to that level — who will have a whale of a good time collecting their personal sewage and fouling the walls of the nation’s Capitol.

To be very clear, there is a difference between rioting on the streets of Portland and assaulting the U.S. Capitol. Misbehavior on the streets of Portland is mind-numbingly common — the city is famous for its unlimited tolerance and lack of accountability. Defiling and fouling our Capitol is in a completely different class of dishonorable actions.

In a million years, I never thought I’d be writing a column focusing on people who smeared human feces throughout the hallowed halls of Congress. Even more difficult for me to believe is that it was Republicans — people from my own party — who felt smearing excrement was an appropriate act.

The truth is a bunch of authentic Republicans stormed the Capitol and they did shameful things while they were there. No more quibbling, equivocating, excusing. And while we’re talking about excusing, please forgive my language when I say bluntly that Republicans committed a disgraceful and vulgar act when they smeared their own shit on my Capitol.

It’s your Capitol, too. If you’re not offended, something’s wrong with you.

Matthew Meador is a former food and wine writer, senior editor and a rare moderate Republican who now writes political commentary. Previously, Matt was an award-winning graphic artist who often put his skills to use during election seasons. Matt has served in various capacities on political campaigns, for pollsters and for elected officials. Contact him at

Photograph © Tyler Merbler via Wiki

The continuity agent


Kate Brown has been governor for just about seven years, and those years have been an extension of essentially similar - in broad-strokes ideas and governing approach - Democratic control of the top office reaching back more than a third of a century.

Those facts underlie the candidacies for governor of Republicans and an independent, as candidates for change. They are a central fact in a different way, and maybe even more centrally, for Democrat Tina Kotak, the recently-departed speaker of the Oregon House and in some estimations the front runner for governor.

Other Democrats in the race, such as Yamhill farmer Nicholas Kristoff (pending Supreme Court action) and state Treasurer Tobias Read, presumably would take a generally similar ideological course in a broad sense. But they are not in quite the same sense what Kotek is: the continuity candidate.

You can reach that conclusion just on the basis of resume. After this current term is done, Oregon will have a new (or nearly new) governor, Senate president and House speaker, a turnover unlike anything in a generation. Kotek has been speaker almost a decade, and retiring Senate President Peter Courtney has held that job twice as long. If Kotek is elected governor, she will be the primary long-timer in those ranks.

Kotek’s own statements attest to that. The lead statement on the front page of her campaign website says, “she’s running for Governor to continue building a future of opportunity and justice for every Oregonian.” Pay attention to the word “continue,” because she (reasonably) then goes on to cite achievements during her tenure as speaker.

Along similar lines, she said in an interview as she left the speakership: “we have to complete our promises. That is what the next governor has to do.”

Given her role in Oregon government, Kotek could hardly frame her candidacy in any other way, and her productive track record is something to run on, which she is. It is also a big part of what has allowed her to pick up strong organizational, party and financial support so far.

But sticking with achievements from the past can bring political challenges and perils.

Start with the regularly-cited, even after a period of months, Morning Consult polling report ranking Brown as the least-popular (in home state) of any governor, at 43 percent. At least one pollster in-state has said the number is consistent with other research. Whether that’s justified or not, the attitudes that reflects have ripple effects.

Brown did win election to the office twice, but she didn’t reach 51 percent of the vote either time. Since her last election, a gaggle of problems from Portland riots to Covid-19 have battered her, and they’re linked to her in many voters’ minds.

In Kotek’s case, it’s not just that her agenda lines up closely with Brown’s: The identification runs tighter than that. Both are Portland Democrats, both with leadership history in the legislature.

Their campaign support, financial and otherwise, overlaps heavily, notably from labor organizations but also well beyond. One of those key organizations is EMILY’S List, which contributed $800,000 to Brown in 2018. That alone will bond Kotek tightly to Brown.

Kotek is facing the strategic problem confronted by many vice presidents running for the top job, such as Al Gore and George H.W. Bush, even when seeking to follow presidents who were still popular: Linking to the positives but also trying to find ways to differentiate, to set a different course. Kotek has yet to do that.

She likely understands as much. Asked if she would seek Brown’s endorsement, Kotek sounded uncharacteristically cagey in her reply: “If she’s interested in making an endorsement, I would certainly talk to her about it.”

And not all of the similarities her opposition would point to are data points she’d want to play up. Kotek’s effectiveness has sometimes wrapped up in playing hardball, and her decision last year unilaterally to throw overboard an agreement with legislative Republicans on redistricting will surely come in for a few mentions again.

Now that she has full time to focus on her campaign, one of Kotek’s lead topics must be: How could my governorship be different in a positive way from what has come before?

Or she could stick with continuity. But she no doubt will be thinking about how often voters respond positively to candidates who position themselves for change.

The natural


When a former gypo logger from Clearwater County, Idaho was sworn in as Secretary of the Interior 45 years ago this week, history was made. Cecil Andrus was the first Idahoan ever in the Cabinet, a singular accomplishment for a guy who never completed college, but who, with grace and grit, distinguished himself as one of the great conservationists of the 20th Century.

For obvious reasons – I worked for Andrus for nine years and enjoyed an association with him for nearly 25 more years – I infrequently invoke his story. I am certainly not an objective analyst of the man who served longer as Idaho governor than any other, even as the basics of his career, without need for embellishment, speak to a giant of the state’s and nation’s politics.

The occasion of Andrus’s arrival in the Cabinet on January 23, 1977, does seem worth remembering, if only because there are so few like him any longer, a statement thousands of his former constituents would readily make without fear of contradiction.

“Your policies leave an indelible mark on our state,” John Evans said of the man he replaced as governor. “Your style and warmth have brought a new dimension to the governor’s office.” Indeed, that was a true statement.

President Jimmy Carter said of all his Cabinet selections, Andrus, whose tenure as governor overlapped with Carter’s time as governor of Georgia, “was closest to me in the past, the only Cabinet member I never had to hesitate on.”

The list of Andrus gubernatorial accomplishments is long, and arguably not matched by any successor, including: the creation of kindergartens, the state land use planning law, successful opposition to indefinite nuclear waste disposal in Idaho, champion of salmon recovery, cheerleader for a diverse and robust economy and a decently funded education system. Andrus signed the bill creating Boise State University, appointed the first women to the state’s highest courts and famously – and uncomfortably for his press secretary – dubbed the National Rifle Association “the guns nuts of the world.”

Andrus was tough. He remembered an insult and an enemy but also had a big soft spot for the underdog and the under-represented. I distinctly remember a meeting in a Moscow, Idaho hotel room with north Idaho bigwig Duane Hagadone who sought to float a golf green out on the surface of Lake Coeur d’Alene. The meeting didn’t last long, but the message was clear – the people of Idaho owned that lake, not some rich hotel developer.

The guy could deliver a zinger with a smile. When Washington Democratic congressman Norm Dicks objected to an Andrus nuclear waste embargo – spent nuclear fuel was accumulating in Dicks’ district as a result – Andrus quipped that the congressman, a former University of Washington football player, “had played too many games without a helmet.”

When people asked about the Andrus victory in 1970 over incumbent Republican governor Don Samuelson, a guy who could mangle the simplest sentence, Andrus would quickly stop any negative comment about Big Don. “Don’t say anything bad about Don Samuelson,” Andrus would say. “If there hadn’t been a Samuelson there never would have been an Andrus.”

Despite his disdain for the gun lobby – the NRA had given Andrus a failing grade in 1986 because he saw no need for armor piercing ammunition or assault rifles – he was likely the most committed hunter who ever served in public office in Idaho. After retiring from public life, Andrus came into my office one afternoon carrying a new shotgun. “I need to stash this with you for a while,” he said. “I can’t take it home while Carol is in the house, or she’ll know I bought a new gun.”

Many who remember Andrus remember his recall for names, as well as his sense of humor. After riding horseback in the big, raucous fair parade in eastern Idaho, I noted that the reception afforded the governor was pretty good. He smiled and said, “Yeah, some of those guys were waving with all five fingers.”

Joe Biden caused an unnecessary two-day distraction recently when he – correctly – labeled a Fox News reporter “a dumb SOB.” Andrus would have shared the sentiment but would have handled the reporter much differently. I know. I saw him do it many times. He would have fixed his gaze on the silly questioner and said something like: “You know, I’ve heard some stupid questions in my time and that is just the latest.”

Andrus frequently said being governor was his dream job in politics, a bully pulpit from which to set public expectations and above all solve problems. He saw himself, as he often said, “as a glorified problem solver.” He took the same attitude to Washington where he skillfully managed the sprawling Interior Department for four years. Knowing that his time in that office was limited, and with many problems sure to compete for attention, Andrus made a list of priority items. He kept that limited list, only about a half dozen items, on a yellow legal pad in his top desk drawer.

High on the list was resolution of the years-old fight over what lands to protect in Alaska, the nation’s “last frontier.” Andrus worked the issue with relentless precision, using all his skill as a strategist and negotiator to finally produce – during a lame duck session of Congress in 1980 – the greatest piece of conservation legislation in American history. The national parks, recreation areas, monuments and wildlife preserves in Alaska are his legacy to generations unborn.

It’s all too apparent that Idaho’s Andrus was a product of a different political era, a time when character and accomplishment counted for more than party or puffery. Andrus was a stickler for the rules of politics but reduced the rules for those who worked for him to a short list: no surprises, don’t cheat – on an expense account or in a political campaign – don’t drink at lunch, be on time, or better yet be ten minutes early, and remember that you work for the public.

When Andrus was sworn in for his third term in 1987, his Republican lieutenant governor C.L. “Butch” Otter, later governor in his own right, described the guy pretty well. “His focus has been on working together to solve problems,” Otter said.

Not a bad legacy.

Changing colors


There was a line, in the middle of a well-crafted Politico story about the increasingly bitter conflict among Idaho Republicans, that highlighted an idea most Idahoans today would dismiss as fantasy. But the thought got at least some backup from Idaho’s state Republican leadership.

The idea is that Idaho’s Republican split might have the result of moving the state toward something closer to politically competitive.

It came in a discussion of the heated intra-party battles familiar in recent years to Idaho Republicans: “That threat, that ruby-red Idaho could somehow turn purple, may not be as far-fetched as it sounds. As recently as the mid-1990s, Democrats were still competitive in Idaho, even as many other western states, including Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico, were more strongly Republican. Those three are now blue spots on the electoral map.”

Before you dismiss that as just an ill-founded media report, consider the point - a smart analysis - from state Republican Chair Tom Luna, who noted that those three states back in the 90s, like Idaho today, could be described as “a fast-growing state where Republicans were fighting with each other.”

In further support, I’ll throw out as well a bit of history from a generation before that.

It’s found in a new book (disclosure: I have just published it) called An Idaho Democrat, written by a Democrat who, years ago, won major office in the state and did well politically when that wasn’t supposed to happen. He describes the shifts and transitions in Idaho politics over the last few generations, and some of the granular detail that made Idaho politics different in the middle of the last century.

The Democrat is Tony Park, once the state’s attorney general (he held that office when I moved to Idaho in 1974) and has been active in the state’s politics since the 50s. The title of his book isn’t inadvertent: It is very much about what running and serving as a Democrat in Idaho is like and about.

He had some interest in politics from his high-school days and was a regular contributor of irritated letters to the editor of the Idaho Statesman, which was staunchly conservative then; Park had come up as an admirer of Frank Roosevelt and Harry Truman.

After starting his law practice in Boise, he got involved in local politics, and quickly realized he hadn’t chosen an easy path: “I was extremely ambitious, but the prospects for a Democrat in Boise in the early to mid-sixties were not promising. Ada County was solidly Republican, as was the state.” Ada County had not elected a Democrat to the legislature or the county courthouse in decades, and those places were his initial targets. Ada County was a sufficiently tough nut to crack for Democrats in those days that Frank Church lost a race for the state legislature before, a few years later, winning statewide for the U.S. Senate.

So he doesn’t sound surprised - not in retrospect but probably not at the time either - that he didn’t win those early races, for Ada County prosecutor in 1964 and the Idaho House in 1966. He learned about campaigning, however, and kept his losses closer than Ada County Democrats usually had. He also became involved in intensively organizing local Democrats well beyond what they’d done before.

In a day when voters were willing to split their ballots, as many did, steady campaigning and organizing made a difference. In 1970 Park saw enough progress that as Democrats looked around for a candidate to oppose an appointed Republican attorney general, he said he was interested. The Republicans, who had seen their party fractured in 1966, remained so in 1970, while the Democrats - who had been split significantly in 1966 - largely had patched up their differences.

“The more I looked at it, the better I liked it,” Park wrote, and he wound up winning; most of the statewide offices would go to Democrats that year.

Is there a lesson here for politics now?

It matters whether you’re organized, whether you’re campaigning hard on the ground and keeping in close touch with people, and whether your side or your opposition is united or divided.

Even in these odd days for politics, some of the basics are eternal.



I’ve had a few friends recently lean into me and whisper, “I’m registering Republican.” They want to have a say in the upcoming May Republican primary. There are some significant races lining up on that ticket.

It’s a good thing these folks are making their decision now because the Republicans in the legislature are trying to make such a switch a bit harder for unaffiliated voters. Remember, if you have a party affiliation, under current Idaho law, you must declare your party affiliation by the end of the candidate filing period (mid March). But lots of Idahoans (about 35% of registered voters) don’t like being affiliated with a party, thus “unaffiliated”.

I don’t really know the partisan affiliations of the whisperers, but I know their politics, since they share them openly with me, usually over a beer. I warned them of the potential deadline, and they already knew about it.

Remember, the Idaho Republican Party sued the state in federal court to close their primary election and won back in 2011. Because of that lawsuit, Idaho law was changed to make all primaries closed unless a party specifically wants them open. When the law initially passed, you could go to the polls on primary election day in May and chose a ballot, but choosing a Republican ballot got you registered as a Republican. Idaho Democrats have always kept their primary open, not feeling the need to be selective, since party registration is 4:1 Republican: Democrat.

But Idaho Republicans thought voters should be surer of their affiliation, so the legislature passed a law requiring registered Democrats to switch in March, before the primary. Now they want to make unaffiliated voters decide then too. Next there will be a blood test.

All this makes me wonder why us taxpayers are even footing the bill for a primary election. Why shouldn’t the political parties pay for this selection process? Oh, that’s right, we used to do it that way. State conventions, smoke filled rooms, party “machines” used to be the how politics were done back in the 19th century. Somebody decided having the taxpayer foot the bill would get the corruption out of party politics. What do you think?

Well, I hope my whispering friends are happy with their new affiliation. I thought I would see just what Idaho Republicans stand for, since my beer drinking buddies will be some of them. You can read their party platform on their website. It runs fourteen pages. Might want to keep it on your bedstand if you have trouble dropping off some night.

Some of it was old hat to me. The part about getting rid of the 17th Amendment of the US Constitution was familiar. Idaho Republicans think we should go back to having state legislatures choose Senators, not by a popular vote.

And I knew about their desire to abolish the Federal Reserve and go back to the “gold and silver standard” for currency.

But I didn’t know the Idaho Republican Party didn’t endorse the Redistricting process that’s in the Idaho Constitution. I didn’t take it personally, but I was surprised to know that was in their platform.

But I’m a kind of health care nut so I was pleased to read this: We support freedom of choice and personal responsibility in all medical decisions, including providers and treatments.

But then that “freedom of choice” sentence was preceded by twenty sentences saying how all abortions should be illegal.

I think the Republican Party ranks may swell a bit for this coming primary election cycle. But I’ll bet there are some folks casting Republican ballots who won’t agree with those platform positions. Heck, there’s probably a few Republicans in the legislature and statewide office that don’t.

I’ll be voting in the Democratic primary. Then I’ll go have a beer with the other two or three of us. Maybe some Republicans will join us. They’re welcome.

Why Crapo can’t quit


If former Idaho Sen. Steve Symms had played his cards right over the last 30 years, and kept running for re-election, he could still be in the Senate today.
And why not? Symms is 83 years old, just a few years older than President Biden, his mind is sharp, and he holds strong with his conservative views. He remains plugged into politics through his longtime association with a Washington-based lobbying group.

“My life is pretty simple,” Symms says. “I spend a lot of time with my wife, Loretta, children and grandchildren.”

Back in the day, supporters loved his brash style. Symms was elected to Congress in 1972 when he was in his early 30s and became a giant killer eight years later, riding the Ronald Reagan revolution and knocking out longtime Democratic Sen. Frank Church. Six years later, he defeated Gov. John Evans in another tight race.
But that election was the beginning of the end of his political career. “After the election, I said that one good thing was that I won’t have to do this again – and people were shocked,” Symms said. “I told them that I was going to do my job in the Senate, then get out.”

There were things he liked about the job, for sure. “Campaigning was like a sporting event to me – I loved it.” He also enjoyed the friendly banter with political reporters, such as myself during my time at the Post Register. He was one of the more accessible, and least-guarded politicians I worked with.

“A lot of people who serve like to attend meetings and talk with heads of state. They thrive on it. To me, that was torture. I was so glad when I wasn’t running again,” he said. “I also thought it would be good to give someone else a chance to serve. I’ve known others who have been in so long that they can’t quit – that’s what happens to some people.”

Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo appears to be at that point of no return, with his life revolving around Capitol Hill and the Washington Beltway. His wife, Susan, who never followed him to Washington since his election to Congress in 1992, spends much of her time with family in Utah.

So, coming “home” for Crapo means staying in hotel rooms in Lewiston, Coeur d’Alene or wherever he might be. And with him having one of the safest Senate seats in the country, there’s no reason for extended stays in stuffy hotel rooms – or attending things like Republican Party Central Committee meetings, which is practically a requirement for at least some office holders.

But Crapo is far beyond needing to cozy up to a GOP central committee. He has a $5 million bankroll to scare away any serious opposition, and state party leaders surely will support him over any Democrat that runs.

Crapo is not wired the same as Symms. Crapo seems to thrive on the minutia of Senate business, and less on the mixing and mingling that go with campaigns. From my end, it’s next to impossible to line up an interview with Crapo – and I’ve known him for almost 40 years.

It’s not surprising that his re-election announcement came via press release; for him it’s standard operating procedure. He has a small army of writers who churn out releases highlighting the senior senator’s accomplishments for bankers, farmers, rural schools. If he holds a news conference, it’s with fellow Republicans on Capitol Hill complaining about Biden’s policies.

There’s no spontaneity with Crapo. It’s all controlled.

But again, with a safe seat, there’s no reason for him to change. Republican leaders love him because he doesn’t make waves, and his congenial nature makes it easy for Democrats to work with him on bipartisan issues. Symms includes himself in the “I like Mike” club.

“I think he’s a good senator – a Harvard law graduate and smart as hell,” said Symms. “From what I see, he has one of the most conservative voting records in the Senate. He’s a guy who can work with other people, knows how the game is played and what to do.”

So, will Crapo still be in the Senate at age 83? My guess is that he’ll be there well into his 80s, assuming that his health is sound.
He really has nowhere else to go.

ctmalloy@outlook. Chuck Malloy is a long-time Idaho journalist and columnist. He may be reached at

And they applauded


“After the vote failed, there was a loud round of applause from Republicans.”

Fifty Republicans and two Democrats had just buried the vitally important effort to kill the filibuster so the Senate could get to the voting rights bill. And they applauded!

How in Hell can you be proud of yourself when your vote actually helped deprive possibly several million voters of the basic franchise of citizenship? How do you go home, put your head on the pillow and enjoy a good night’s sleep knowing what you just did allows some states to continue denying access to the ballot box to whomever they choose?

How do you do that?

Since SCOTUS “gutted” the current voting rights act 13 years ago (Shelby vs Holder) at least half-a-dozen states are either kicking people off voter rolls or denying access. One state has actually removed ballot boxes in a large, rural county. All but one!

Imagine the result. If the only place you could vote in your county was, say, 140 miles away, would you go there? A 280 mile trip just to vote? Would you do it? Or, maybe you don’t drive. Maybe there’s no one who can take that much time off to drive you.

The original voting rights act, at that time, had a provision that made certain states submit their voting plans to SCOTUS for review before each election. That was because each had practiced years of voter intimidation or discrimination. The named states were the usual culprits: Alabama, Georgia, the Carolinas, Florida. Etc.. Each had a bad history dealing with voters, especially Black voters. The Act contained that provision at that time.

Some nine years ago, Chief Justice Roberts - and crew - effectively erased that paragraph. Roberts (in)famously wrote the named states had shown “no recent problems” - they’d ‘reformed,’ in his opinion. There was no need for continuing the review of plans for upcoming elections. Life was good.

Before the ink on that opinion had dried, Georgia and North Carolina openly got to work to restrict access and require special voter identifications. Within one election cycle, restrictions were back in place. Voters - especially Black and Brown voters - were feeling the effects of new laws limiting their participation.

So, some new restrictions and ID hurdles are back. Worse than before. We all know it. SCOTUS denizens know it. Even Roberts knows it!


Nothing. Not a word. Not. A. Word!

So, Democrats came up with an extensive package of proposed laws to put things on the right track. A new set of requirements for states which - taken together - would put a stop to what certain of them were doing.

But...50 Republicans and two Democrats scuttled the whole damned effort by protecting the filibuster. 52-48. Sen. Paul, for example, can just dial up the Majority Leader and invoke the filibuster to stop voting legislation - or ANY legislation- in its tracks. He has and he will.

So, what now? It appears miscreant states are free to keep doing their dirty work - to keep denying access to certain voters - to set up any barriers their creative minds can create. Republicans in Congress have dropped the axe and SCOTUS is silent. What now?

I can’t speak to what Democrats in West Virginia are doing to deal with Manchin. Here, in the desert, Democrats have several promising candidates to take on Sinema in the 2024 primary. Open opposition to her continued “service” is gathering dollars. We’re working on it.

But, 50 Republicans “flipped the bird” to mostly Black and Brown folks, kept the filibuster, stopped the voting rights bill. Just said “NO” and went home to bed after a late session.

“Home to bed.” How do you sleep - much less live with yourself - after what you did? Crapo, Risch, Lee, Romney, Murkowski, McConnell, Thune et al.. A unanimous “finger-in-the-eye” of democracy. There will be repercussions for years after what they did. Millions of legal voters will be “ruled out” by bad-acting states. The most valued right of United States citizenship will be unavailable to them because of those irresponsible votes.

I have no idea what to do in the face of such flagrant disregard by politicians for their fellow citizens. Fifty-two. All of whom were elected. Elected by their constituents. Many of whom may not be allowed to vote the next go-round. How’s that for irony?

Oh, they’ll sleep well, those 52. But, I’ll be damned if I know how they’ll do it.

“And they applauded.” Damn!

Dishing out the motherlode


Even before they blew into Boise for the 2022 legislative session, Idaho legislators were rhapsodizing about the gigantic tax cuts they were going to bestow upon their voters–$350 million, $400 million, $600 million, the sky’s the limit in an election year. There is certainly enough surplus revenue in State coffers to sweeten the hearts of voters toward their incumbents, but it seems the process is backwards. Shouldn’t we take a lesson from most Idaho families and provide for all of the spending necessities before reveling over how much largess is to be handed over to voters?

With increasing prices for food, gas, rent, you name it, many budgets, particularly those of modest-income families, are being stretched to breaking. Families have to make sure enough of their income is set aside for basic necessities before laying plans to spend on non-necessities.

Over the last decade, our legislators have perfected a handy refrain when chronically underfunding important governmental functions like education, infrastructure, drug treatment, foster care, mental health, whatever else–”This is a tight budget year, we know we should do better, just wait for a fat year.” Well, the fat year is here and, just like a modest-means family, we should be hearing about how legislators are going to meet important funding obligations before they go about depleting the entire surplus.

Education is at the top of the funding list, having been shortchanged for well over a decade. One education advocacy group contends Idaho education is underfunded by about $1.3 billion per year. That includes $700 million for K-12, $340 million for higher education, $52 million to fund full-day kindergarten and covering $216 million in school district levies.

Before rushing into setting massive tax cuts in stone, the Legislature should make an in-depth examination of education and other important funding priorities that have been dramatically underfunded over the years. The funding levels should be increased to make programs properly functional before obligating the surplus for tax cuts and rebates.

When it is determined how much is not needed for important programs, any tax cuts should be parceled out in a more equitable manner than just favoring high earners. Bill Parks of Moscow, a retired business professor and founder of outdoor gear retailer NRS, hit the nail on the head with his suggestion to target “those who need it most, rather than just our highest income residents.”

He continued, “Individuals with gross income less than $12,550 and married couples with less than $25,100 are not subject to the income tax, but even people with modest incomes reach the maximum tax rate shortly after that. A single taxpayer hits the maximum rate of 6.5% at $7,939 in taxable income. For joint filers it is $15,878. It is obscene that a couple barely over the poverty level is paying taxes at the same marginal rate as those with incomes in the millions. Why not at least triple the five tax brackets so that the 6.5% rate kicks in at around $23,817 for single filers and $47,634 for joint filers? That would provide tax relief where it is most needed.

It is hard to fault Bill’s suggestion in these difficult times. While the State has a revenue surplus, there are many thousands of Idahoans who are struggling financially through no fault of their own. Many are on the verge of homelessness with Idaho’s unprecedented housing market. Revenues not urgently needed to restore proper funding for important State programs should be targeted for those struggling souls.