The far-right’s quest to hand our public lands over to the energy, timber and mining industries is unpopular, unwise and unconstitutional. But there is growing evidence that it may also be illegal.
The American Lands Council received $219,000 from 47 counties in 2014.
Most of those counties are rural and poor such as Idaho County where county commissioners have donated $15,000 of tax money to the American Lands Council.
The median family income in Idaho County.
The amount Ken Ivory paid himself in 2014.
Aside from the fact that Ivory is taking advantage of low income families, there’s a bigger problem. Last year, the American Lands Council hired a professional lobbyist who argued in favor of state control of public lands on Capitol Hill.
And that runs a foul of the law.
Most of the counties that Ivory dupes into donating to the American Lands Council receive federal funds from Payment In Lieu of Taxes and/or Secure Rural Schools, two economic assistance programs for poor, rural counties. In other words, Ivory is taking federal tax money and using it to lobby Congress, which violates the Byrd Amendment, a federal law that prohibits the use of federal grant money for lobbying federal officials.
But there’s more.
Ken Ivory is the Utah state chair of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a right-wing organization funded with Koch brothers oil money that writes legislation. It makes sense the Koch brothers are mixed up in this. State control of our public lands would allow oil, gas, timber and mining companies to ignore current environmental protections, making it possible to exploit natural resources with much less accountability.
This is Rep. Terry Gestrin (R-Cascade). He’s a member of the American Lands Council. On March 12, he introduced House bill 265, the “Interstate Compact on the Transfer of Public Lands Act,” which is a mechanism to privatize our public lands. Curiously, Gestrin’s bill was identical to one that was passed by the Utah Legislature in 2014 and one introduced in the Arizona House in 2015, a pattern that is common with ALEC-crafted legislation.
The Idaho Legislature has already spent $80,000 on a committee to study a “land transfer.” That committee learned that “land transfers” are unpopular, unwise and unconstitutional. What they apparently never learned is that “land transfer” is also a racket that takes money from lower income families and puts it in the pocket of Ken Ivory.
This racket also pushes the very edge of legality, appearing to violate the Byrd Amendment.
Now with Rep. Gestrin’s bill, the racket can carry on. Ivory can continue collecting money from poor counties while paying himself a plump salary. The Koch brothers can continue pushing for the privatization of our public lands and the average Idahoan can continue paying the bill.