We tend to demand to know a lot about the background of those people who would be president, somewhat less for prospective members of Congress. Down to the level of state legislature, we usually ask fewer questions.
But here we have Mark Patterson, a Republican state representative from west Boise, for whom background has become a real issue, partly because of a dispute with the Ada County Sheriff over a denied concealed weapons permit.
But there’s more to it.
We know he heads a business called Rock N Roll Lubrication LLC, said to employ five people, which manufactures lubricant for bicycle chains, motorcycles and sporting equipment. The product has gotten excellent reviews, with (apparently) some cache nationally and internationally. The first Idaho state paperwork for it dates to November 2007; Patterson’s name is alone on papers filed in state business records for that firm. Before November 2007 — nothing.
Patterson’s legislative bio describes him as a “businessman and manufacturer specializing in building manufacturing companies from the ground up that serve the national and international markets.” He uses the plural, but persistent searches turn up no second or third manufacturing companies.
Most legislative candidates tell you where they were born and grew up, and give you an idea of the contours of their life. Patterson mentions that as a child he was in the Boy Scouts and the Civil Air Patrol, and that he lost much of his hearing at age 4. That’s about all. Usually, if a candidate went to college, they say where and when; if they did something else, they usually say that. Patterson’s different.
An Idaho Statesman article about him — after the weapons permit issue hit — said he was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, but declined to say where he has lived or list his occupations over the years.
His campaign in 2012 said he attended the University of Southern California and that he worked as a petroleum engineer, but has since acknowledged neither was true. He said in 2012 he studied at numerous colleges and universities, but specifics are lacking.
Something we know: Patterson was 21 in the spring of 1974 when at a bar in Tampa, Fla. he offered a woman a ride home. Police records say she accused him of raping her. He pleaded guilty to the charge of assault with intent to commit rape, later receiving a withheld judgment. He said since that he has no memory of that night, but later described it as a bizarre encounter with a woman. In 1977, in Cincinnati, he was again accused of rape. That case went to trial; he was acquitted.
Those are at least definitive times and places. Otherwise, Patterson’s background seems almost invisible until 2007. At least from readily available public documents, including campaign materials, we know not where he was or what he did. Patterson’s campaign website offers his background is in science and technology. Mark worked in oil, gas and geothermal exploration for 17 years. Where? For whom? And what else did he do in the three decades between his court appearance in 1977 and his Idaho business filing in 2007? What brought him to Idaho, and when? Was he associated with any groups, professional or otherwise?
How did Rock N Roll Lubrication launch and go international with such lightning speed, with no apparent backing noted on the records other than one person? If this was a brilliant exercise of business management, that would be a great story to hear. (You’d expect he would share it.) If not that, then what?
This isn’t a matter of tracking down every last detail about a relatively junior member of the Idaho House. I raise all this here because you likely cannot find a similar gap in the record for any other Idaho legislator, current or recent, or even not so recent. It’s a gap unlike anything I can recall in four decades of watching the coming and goings of elected officials.
Who is this guy?
Randy Stapilus is a former Idaho newspaper reporter and editor, author of The Idaho Political Field Guide, edits the Idaho Weekly Briefing, and blogs at www.ridenbaugh.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.