More Politicos Living High

Here is a great story from the IDAHO REPORTER–the publishing arm of the IDAHO FREEDOM FOUNDATION.

A number of Idaho lawmakers and public officials won’t say who paid their tab to attend a posh weekend getaway in Sun Valley last month.

The group of the unwilling includes some of Idaho’s most powerful officials, including Senate Pro Tem Brent Hill, House Speaker Scott Bedke, House Health and Welfare Chair Fred Wood and House Minority Leader John Rusche.

Idaho lawmakers, officials and lobbyists, along with others willing and able to pay the bill, attended the 2015 Governor’s Cup in Sun Valley last month, an annual fundraising event that helps Idaho students pay for college.

Gov. Butch Otter, the third-term executive, hosted the confab, which featured golf, a wine obstacle course, a beer-related event, hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking.

The cover charge isn’t cheap. The event’s website lists golf at $1,500 for individuals, plus shotgun sports at the same rate. A “social participant” cost is listed at $1,300.

But many lawmakers didn’t pay their own way — at least for the fun stuff.

The Governor’s Cup allows corporations and other groups to invite lawmakers and cover their costs — a sponsorship of sorts.

Some lawmakers willingly — after two emails, that is — revealed their sponsors.

Rep. Mat Erpelding, a Democrat from Boise, attended as a guest of the AARP. The second-term legislator paid his own travel and lodging.

Rep. Rick Youngblood, R-Nampa, played on Molina’s dime. Molina runs Idaho’s Medicaid processing system and is best known for its 2010 struggles with the contract. The company’s issues delayed payments to providers for weeks at a time.

Youngblood also paid for his own travel and lodging.

Coeur d’Alene Racing paid for Rep. Jeff Thompson, R-Idaho Falls, and Idaho Central Credit Union funded Rep. Jason Monks, R-Meridian. Both legislators paid their own travel and lodging.

Some lawmakers wouldn’t respond to three emails asking for their sponsors, including Sen. Lee Heider, R-Twin Falls, Rep. Luke Malek, R-Coeur d’Alene, Rep. John Vander Woude, R-Nampa, and Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa.

Sen. Dan Johnson, R-Lewiston, told IdahoReporter.com he had a sponsor, but didn’t reveal which entity funded his entry during an email exchange. Sen. Abby Lee, R-Fruitland, was supposed to attend, but canceled her plans at the last minute. She, too, had a sponsor lined up, but also declined to reveal the details.

The covert dealings extend into the executive branch, too. Department of Insurance Director Dean Cameron, formerly the state’s top appropriator in the Legislature, attended the confab, but his office didn’t respond to an inquiry asking for sponsorship details.

Other top state leaders were more forthcoming. Jeff Church, spokesman for the Idaho Department of Education, said the heavyweight Boise law firm Givens Pursley sponsored Sherri Ybarra’s attendance. Additionally, Church said Avista and Monsanto covered Ybarra’s lodging.

Idaho Department of Commerce Director Jeff Sayer was sponsored by PNGC Power, which administers a number of electric cooperatives in Idaho and other states.

Businesses and other entities paid a pretty penny to sponsor the event and include guests. Premiere sponsors spent $35,000 for the privilege, a fee which allowed the companies to invite 16 guests. Next-level sponsors spent $25,000 and were allowed 12 guests.

The lowest tier sponsors spent $4,000 and were allowed two guests.

Centurylink, Mountain View Hospital and Mountain View Charity were the event’s 2015 premiere sponsors.

Other notable sponsors included Blue Cross of Idaho, Chobani, Molina, Idaho Power, Intermountain Gas, Avista, Monsanto, Regence and Micron, among others.
The Governor’s Cup used its proceeds from prior events to award 38 scholarships in 2015

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Something in there doesn’t seem right.

    If a corp is “the sponsor” they are really just making a donation to the organization.

    So the legislator is just getting a free ride.

    Where in the lobbying rules can a lobbyist give a “freebie” of $1,500?

    Happens all the time, so likely there is a loophole, right?

  2. Another note, according to their records the “scholarship fund” doesn’t even distribute all their money.

    They have a boat load of cash not being distributed.

    For the most recent record of 2013 they handed out 81 scholarships totaling $243,000 ($3,000 average). But at end of 2013 they had over $700,000 in the bank.


  3. Hasn’t a law been broken. Look at I.C. §18-1359 which limits gifts to $50.00.

  4. Idaho has the best democracy money can buy. I attended a meeting about insurance in the Idaho Statehouse a while back and the room as full of lobbyists for the industry, with a line suits with briefcases extending out the door and down the hall. There were maybe 5 citizens present, none bearing gifts for the Chosen Ones. It’s no mystery how ‘we the people’ are being impoverished while the corporations are rolling in money.

  5. Is it a real charity? Got any $$$ numbers for it?


  6. And people wonder why Corporatism is alive and well in the US. Here’s why. Objectivity fades away when palms are greased. Human nature. IFF is doing good work. “Conservative, principled” Idaho legislators should know better. Shouldn’t they?

  7. Since 1974. Just another obvious ” DOH ! “

  8. Grumpy ole Guy
    Oct 7, 2015, 11:56 pm

    I would think that after so many years of observing the functioning of the American political process I would be immune to reactions of reports such as this one. I am not at all surprised. I am deeply disappointed. The campaign formoney is never-ending.

  9. C’mon, people! If our legislators don’t experience lifestyle choices similar to those of the state’s millionaires, how can they POSSIBLY enact legislation that will improve the plight of those citizens?!! /sarcasm

    (I doubt it’s much different in any other jurisdiction. Term limits would be a good way to partially mitigate this abuse of “the system,” but old-timers will recall that when the citizens voted to impose term limits, our enlightened, entitled legislaters patted us on the head and said “no.”)

  10. Yes, Zippo, it is a real charity.

    And I am sure this is not the only ‘political’ event operated in this fashion– other states, others political “faiths”, other purposes.

  11. I was pleased that 2 of my reps (Burgoyne and McCrostie) did not attend. No idea about Kloc. He doesn’t respond to constituents (at least to me).

  12. Oh, well, as long as everyone is doing it… then it’s okay.

Get the Guardian by email

Enter your email address: