Idahoans are sensible people. We know that the insiders club at the top of Idaho politics, the culture of political favors and endless cronyism, does nothing to benefit the vast majority of hardworking people in this state. Most of us still believe that the most qualified person should get the job, not the person holding the most IOU’s. We still believe in the American idea that the ballot box should more powerful than the checkbook.
Why, then, do we continue to tolerate elected politicians who hand out positions- positions that are meant to serve the hard working people of Idaho– as if they were party favors? Yesterday, Dan Popkey of the Idaho Statesman published an article highlighting Sen. Russ Fulcher’s pointed criticism of Gov. Otter for building his campaign machine out of lobbyists for government contractors and other special interests. Sen. Fulcher’s criticism was somewhat blunted by the fact this his campaign manager is a former lobbyist herself, but his underlying question remains valid – what do Governor Otter’s choices in who he surrounds himself with tell us about who he actually serves?
Governor Otter is certainly not the only politician to support the state appointments merry-go-round for the politically well connected. The race for Secretary of State recently rekindled the story of a scandal involving the appointment of the wives of former Speaker of the Idaho House, Lawrence Denney and former state Senator Mitch Toryanski to the Idaho Commission on Aging.
Perhaps the most troubling thing about the lobbyists in Gov. Otter’s campaign machine is that they are connected to some of the worst examples of state government waste that we have seen in the last year. Everyone knows that Gov. Otter has pandered to IACI for as long as the corporate lobbying group has existed, so the choice of their V.P., Jayson Ronk, as campaign manager is not particularly surprising. However, his other choices certainly raise eyebrows.
Before coming to the Otter campaign, Martin Bilbao received a job for the Education Networks of America, the Nashville, TN based company that has been under near constant scrutiny since winning the state contract to provide wireless internet connections to Idaho public schools. Lincoln Smyser represents the Corrections Corporation of America, another Nashville, TN based company that has plagued Idaho with scandals, lawsuits, and investigations for their shameful mishandling of the state contract to operate the Idaho Correctional Center. Elli Brown worked at Veritas Advisors, who you may remember was the lobbying firm that managed the failed campaign to defend the unpopular Luna Laws.
Idahoans are tired of scandal and waste in our state government. Stopping our politicians from giving special favors to political insiders is the first step to stem the flow of our tax dollars down the drain.