The Ethical Problems with Speaker Bedke’s Ethics Committee Makes my head spin
by Sue Dawson
From the Capital there have been rumblings that may suggest the possibility of ethics charges being filed against elected officials this session in the House of Representatives. The Ethics Committee has now been selected for the Idaho State House of Representatives; so let’s take a look at who is on this committee.
Representative Van Burtenshaw, a 2nd term Representative was selected as Chairman of the Ethics Committee by Speaker Bedke, a significant position for a relative new comer. His Financial Disclosure report from his campaign filed under the Sunshine Laws with the Secretary of State indicates that he ran a simple campaign this time around with $800 from his own pocket and about the same amount from a prior balance. In fact, Burtenshaw shows only one contributor, himself, and only two expenditures for the entire campaign.
The only problem is he violated the campaign disclosure laws when he accepted a contribution from Christi Perry and then turned around some weeks later and gave expenditure from his own campaign account to her. The law says all money over $50 for individual contributions flowing into a campaign must be reported. Maybe he made a mistake. Maybe he forgot to report the money he received in April and then forgot again when he gave the $250 back to Perry in May.
This is especially troublesome since he may very well be judging the ethics of Perry if she comes before his committee for an ethics violation for an alleged affair over a two-year period with another legislator. Meanwhile the State may be judging him for his own violations of the law. Burtenshaw and Perry have exchanged money, which was not reported by Burtenshaw but was reported by Perry. –Messy business, this ethics stuff.
Representative Wendy Horman, 3rd term, is now a committee member too. Representative Horman also received a contribution from Christi Perry. Both reported it properly. Are they friends? Or maybe this was Perry’s way of endorsing a candidate? Or maybe political favors are expected as many believe is common? The problem with this gift of money is that now Horman may be influenced by Perry’s contribution in her decision regarding Perry’s ethics.
Representative Lynn Luker, in his 6th term, gave $250 to Perry’s cohort in the affair, Senator Guthrie, in the Senate. Are Luker and Guthrie friends? Or maybe Luker respects Guthrie and his work in the Senate!? Also, Luker received significant contributions from House leaders for his campaign totally $2500. Although the House leadership contributes to many members’ campaigns, Luker was one of the top recipients.
Were these large contributions from leaders an influence on why Luker was selected for the Committee? Furthmore, since Bedke and Perry are friends and Bedke specifically gave Perry $1500 for her campaign war chest, more than he gave anyone else, would his relationship with Luker have any influence on Luker’s judgment of Perry? When it comes to money, Bedke clearly has high regard for both Luker and Perry. Surely they can work something out with Bedke’s influence.
The two other members are Representative John Gannon and Representative Hy Kloc, both Democrats, as required by the rules for committee selection. So far I have not found any conflicts of interest with these two.
It seems to me that the “Ethics Committee” has a few too many ethics problems of its own to be considered legitimate. If, in fact, Perry is charged with an ethics violation for her disgraceful affair with Guthrie. Then, Burtenshaw, Horman, and Luker, if they are honorable people, need to recuse themselves when they have such obvious conflicts of interest.
*The financial information cited in the above article is all taken from the Sunshine reports filed by each candidate with the Secretary of State’s Office. sos.idaho.gov/elect/finance/2016
2/6/17 – Edited for typos and to add source information.