The context for the major campaign statement – a sweeping recital of policy and perspective – that Raul Labrador released on Jan. 30, is this:
Republicans have been in control of Idaho state government for the last two dozen years, about a generation. Whatever has happened, whether you like it or dislike it, they’re the ones who made it happen. Aside from a few terms when Democrats were state controller or superintendent of public instruction, they’ve held all of the state executive offices since 1994. And since then, they’ve consistently held more than three-fourths of the state legislative seats.
So bear in mind who Labrador, one of three main contenders for the Republican nomination for governor (the other two being Brad Little and Tommy Ahlquist), is talking about in his call to “Dismantle the power and perks of establishment politicians.”
One of his proposals is small bore, has only slight impact and will be obscure to most Idahoans – “The law governing the Public Employee Retirement System of Idaho allows special interest groups to participate in this state-sponsored retirement program that was intended for public employees. Special interest groups that lobby the Legislature shouldn’t receive a benefit reserved for state and local government employees.”
The other points he made have sweeping import.
He said, “In Idaho government, political connections sometimes impact how policies are developed and contracts are awarded. Sweetheart deals and special favors have become both costly and normal.” That’s what Republican governing of the state has wrought?
He said, “Term limits allow fresh ideas and innovations to rise to the surface, and can help stop corruption and cronyism from taking root. Conversely, concentrating power into the hands of people who have been in office for too long can lead to cronyism and, at minimum, a belief that political favoritism is behind policy decisions.”
Aside from the significant number of long-serving legislators, Idaho has a governor and lieutenant governor in their third terms and U.S. senators – and a representative, in the second district – with elective office background going back about as many years as the average Idahoan has been alive. (That latter number is 34.6 years.)
Then: “Idahoans are often asked to just trust that their elected officials aren’t personally benefiting from a government contract or policy change. It shouldn’t be this way. An elected official can have private financial interests, but when those interests are factored into public matters, that’s called corruption. Even the appearance of corruption can erode public confidence in government. It’s well past time for Idaho to require a thorough disclosure of potential conflicts of interest.”
That sounds a lot like the disclosure bill recently shot down at the Legislature.
And, “part-time legislators who transition into full-time Idaho government employment after their elected service are rewarded with an extremely valuable perk that’s available to no one else, full-time PERSI credit for part-time work. This loophole can be used to turn a pension worth a few hundred dollars a month into one worth thousands of dollars. This isn’t right.”
That would include, presumably, the current secretary of state, and a number of top officials in the Otter administration.
There’s merit to many of the points Labrador is making here.
In fact, it wouldn’t be a bad starting point for this year’s Idaho Democratic platform.
But I do wonder how a lot of Republicans, who have been happy at being in charge in Idaho, will react.