A couple of weeks ago, the Idaho House State Affairs Committee overwhelmingly blocked introduction of a bill by Chairman Tom Loertscher (R-Bone). It would have required Idaho candidates and officeholders for state, county and city offices to file an annual disclosure specifying their and their spouse’s employer and occupation, all business entities in which they are an officer or any that paid them $5,000 or more in the past year, and businesses in which their ownership is over $5,000, plus a list boards they serve on.
Republican candidate for governor Tommy Ahlquist criticized the committee members who blocked introduction of the measure. Several Idaho newspapers blasted the decision.
Probably the most effective response to the silliness manifest by members of this committee has been in the Coeur D’Alene area. In response to a challenge from conservative activist Brent Regan, Mike Patrick, managing editor of the CDA Press published a disclosure of his own personal finances:
The Hagadone Corp. dba Coeur d'Alene Press pays the entirety of my salary as managing editor. I didn't earn $5,000 or more from any other source in the past year. (I didn't earn 50 cents or more from any other source other than my 401(k)). I own no entities and serve none as an officer. I am currently not serving on any board, but do personally assist Press Christmas for All, Tesh, Inc., and the Inland Northwest chapter of Boy Scouts of America in their major fundraising drives. My wife, Sholeh, works for The Hagadone Corp./Coeur d'Alene Press as an independent contractor (columnist for The Press and editor of Northwest Mining & Timber).
That triggered an avalanche of disclosures led off by Republican State Rep. Paul Amador and Coeur D’Alene Mayor Steve Widmyer, both who voluntarily released to the CDA Press the information that they would have been required to be file under the Loertscher bill.
That was just the beginning. Over the past week, one local official after the other in the area, including a county official, school board members, city council members, members of the local highway board, and various city board members have done the same. The CDA Press has offered to publish any disclosure provided, and they have done so on the front page day after day.
Here is one example of how innocuous these disclosures truly are – one by Steve Matheson, Kootenai County Treasurer:
Occupation: Kootenai County Treasurer
Employer: Kootenai County
Entities Owned: Steven Douglas LLC
Entities paying $5,000 or more: Kootenai County and Steven Douglas LLC
Spouse: Jeanne Matheson, CDA school district substitute teacher
Now is time for the rest of Idaho’s news media to offer to publish disclosures by any current officeholder and all candidates for office. Candidates and officeholders should also step up to the plate – voluntarily. All members of the interim committee that unanimously approved requiring financial disclosure should lead that effort.
What this all will show is which current officials and candidates are willing to let voters know what financial conflicts they might have. Those who refuse to disclose should be held accountable for their failure by their opponents, voters and local media.
Frankly, widespread disclosure will show how overwrought the claims were of those who opposed the Loertscher bill.
But, more importantly, as noted by former U.S Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, sunshine IS the best disinfectant to avoiding corruption, self-dealing and undisclosed conflicts. Let’s let the sunshine in – statewide – in Idaho!