There is a special place where lawmakers and lobbyists rub shoulders, give gifts and enjoy merriment in the pristine beauty of Idaho. What’s more, there’s virtually no way to uncover who’s giving the gifts and who’s getting the gifts.
Welcome to the Idaho Governor’s Cup, the land of the lobbyists.
First off, the Governor’s Cup raises money for scholarships, which is a great cause. That’s not in dispute. But the format, which allows lobbyists to lavish lawmakers with expensive gifts, is seriously flawed. Here’s why.
If a lawmaker wants to go golfing:
- Shotgun competition — $1,500 per person
- Fly fishing clinic — $1,500 per person
- Mountain biking — $1,300 per person
- Home tour — $1,300 per person
- Hiking — $1,300 per person
- Wine tour — $1,300 per person
- Horseback riding — $1,300 per person
- Evening social events — $165 per person
Considering nightly accommodations are between $219 and $675 per night, the price tag really adds up for legislators who make $16,684 a year as elected officials.
Speaking of money, here is a list of event sponsors:
Sponsors pay between $35,000 and $4,000 to have their names emblazoned on the Goveror’s Cup website. For every $2,000, sponsors receive one “scholarship,” which pays the participation fees for one person of their choice — including Idaho legislators.
Here’s why that’s a problem.
In 2014, House Speaker Scott Bedke received $5,750 in campaign contributions from Governor’s Cup sponsors. How do we know? Because Bedke is required by law to disclose those contributions on an easy-to-access database in the Secretary of State’s office. Here are the numbers:
- Centurylink $1,000
- Intermountain Gas $750
- Simplot $1,000
- Micron $2,000
- Clearwater Paper $1,000
So how much in “scholarships” did Bedke receive during the Governor’s Cup?
We have no idea. The Secretary of State’s office requires lobbyists to report expenditures in a Byzantine system that insures secrecy.
Senate President Pro Tempore Brent Hill received $5,400 in campaign contributions from Governor’s Cup sponsors in 2014. Here are the numbers:
- AT&T — $400
- Blue Cross — $1,000
- Intermountain Gas $1,000
- Potlach Corp. — $2,000
- PhRMA — $1,000
What did he receive from the same companies at the Governor’s Cup?
Unless he releases those numbers himself, we will never know.
Bedke and Hill are two of the most powerful people in the state. It’s unfathomable that, under Idaho’s lobbyist reporting system, they can receive expensive gifts, meant to curry favor, without disclosing that information to voters.
Just this week, Idaho was given a D- in its State Integrity Investigation from The Center for Public Integrity. When it came to lobbying disclosure requirements, Idaho earned a D+.
In other words, there are many needed reforms.
In The Center for Public Integrity’s own words:
“Idaho’s lobbying disclosure information is made available to the public. They are not, however, compiled into a database that is in machine-readable form or easily searchable. The forms are all individual PDFs. There is also a summary list posted online containing all lobbyists and the information they’ve reported, but it, too, is posted as a PDF.”
In other words, if you’re looking for what Bedke, Hill or 20 other lawmakers received from sponsors at the Governor’s Cup, you’re out of luck.
Until lawmakers show a commitment to changing the system, we can only assume they prefer the status quo.