Rep. Priscilla Giddings Opening Statement
*Editor’s Note: An Ethics hearing, chaired by Rep. Sage Dixon, was held in Boise, Idaho on August 2, 2021, against Rep. Priscilla Giddings, . This is her opening statement.
Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee,
I am Priscilla Giddings, Representative from District 7 and currently a candidate for Lt Governor. I come from a family of public servants; my father served in law enforcement for 50 years and my mother served in education for 34 years. I am a wife, a mother, a devout Christian, and all of my personal, professional, and moral development has been focused on truth and justice. As a military officer with over 20 years of service and as a state legislator I swore to uphold the constitution and the rule of law and I will always do those things to the best of my ability. I am not from a wealthy family, nor do I have a lucrative career to provide the means to spend tens of thousands of dollars in personal funds on legal counsel which I do not anticipate will have any bearing on this committee’s actions. Therefore, I will represent myself to the best of my ability, always sticking to the truth and I call upon this committee to also stick to the truth and not be swayed by hearsay, rumor, and agenda driven public opinion attacks.
There are 2 separate complaints against me today: one by Representative Chaney, and a 2nd complaint by Representative Bedke, my opponent in the Lt. Governor race, along with various others, including the entire democrat caucus. I deny all the allegations made against me in their entirety. These accusations are unfounded, biased attacks driven by partisan political goals, and I call upon this Committee to immediately stop this unwarranted waste of taxpayer funds by dismissing these complaints in their entirety. Should the committee continue, they will be unable to uphold any of these complaints to the satisfaction of any reasonable listener.
Copies of both my statements refuting these charges can be picked up in the hallway, as my responses were also not made public, even though Rule 45 requires it. These allegations are nothing more than crass attempts by my political opponents to take advantage of the woke, cancel culture movement that wants to destroy Idahoan’s individual rights for their own personal gain.
Early in the morning on April 16th House members were made aware that accusations against former Representative Von Ehlinger were going to be made public. That afternoon I saw a news article that only included information from the accuser’s statement and failed to include details from the response to the complaint. Although I don’t defend his lifestyle, I did and still do defend his right to receive the presumption of innocence and equal treatment under the law rather than becoming a victim of the whims of a “trial by public opinion.”
I called Von Ehlinger’s second lawyer, David Leroy at 2:11 that afternoon and asked why Von Ehlinger’s response hadn’t been publicly released as Rule 45 requires. I specifically asked him if he was going to redact the woman’s name when he sent it out and he said there was no legal requirement especially since there were no charges filed (in which it is my understanding that there are still no filed charges). When I called him again at 2:47 he told me he had sent the response to the Press. Shortly afterward, when I messaged Bill Spence of the Lewiston Tribune and asked him if he had received the response from David Leroy so local media could present both sides of the issue, he responded that he had. Later that evening I was sent a link to the Redoubt News article.
After skimming through it, I copied the link in my android browser and shared it on my Facebook page – I had no knowledge or control over the thumbnail image associated with the article. The next afternoon when I finalized my weekly newsletter and sent it out, in the Good Bad Ugly section I hyperlinked the same Redoubt News article. These two actions are the basis for the accusations against me.
I combined these 2 hyperlinked events on 1 piece of paper and copies are available for members of the audience to review. 3 days later on April 19th, David Leroy sent out emails requesting destruction of all copies of the Von Ehlinger response he sent out. It wasn’t until April 28th, almost 2 weeks after the news article had been published that this committee requested that the young woman’s identity be protected. After that request, Redoubt News hid the woman’s identity, and I deleted the entire post from my FB page. As for my testimony before this committee on April 28th, I stand by statement that I posted a link to a news article and that is not the same action as posting her name or a photo. A quick Google search or a tech savvy teenager could help explain the difference. Furthermore, I regard this as irrelevant, as any information in the internet age which is publicly released must be considered to be in the public eye from then on.
I am deeply concerned that the woke, cancel culture has provoked a climate of mistruth and mob rule right here in Idaho. As a result it is threatening Idahoans’ 1st amendment rights, as well as the presumption of innocence and the guarantees of equal treatment under the law that are enshrined in written and unwritten laws and tradition throughout our legal and justice systems. . Due process is one of the most important elements of a just society. Countless dictatorships and oligarchies have written laws which are only meant to look good for public consumption but are then twisted to serve the purpose of a domineering government. Anyone who grew up in the Cold War era should be terrified by the memories of the Iron Curtain and the mockery of justice their governments made as a matter of course.
Now, in the Idaho House of Representatives, our legal process and traditions have been derailed, and instead of a presumption of innocence any accused now seems to have a presumption of guilt and a burden of proof of innocence. The accused in this year’s ethics proceedings have enjoyed no privacy and no protection from a trial by public opinion, while the accusers have received every protection and absolute partisan partiality from those processes which should have protected them. The accusers have been supported by public taxpayer money while the accused are left to fend for themselves and indeed have been worked against by taxpayer money. Among many questions I have for and about this proceeding are:
- Why is the committee’s legal council a 20 year personal friend of Scott Bedke’s?
- Why was I never given a copy of the evidence until now?
- Why did Mr. Chairman say “everything is confidential” until probable cause is determined yet details of this hearing was given to the press before it was made public?
- Why has the committee reserved to itself the right to modify its Rules of Procedure at any time prior to or even during the hearing itself?
This Ethics Committee’s proceedings have failed to provide even a bare minimum of due process to any legislator who has been targeted or might yet be added to the list of the Committee’s victims, and essentially amounts to the imposition of an ex post facto law, something which, even in recent memory, no legislator would dare publicly support. Thomas Jefferson, who some on the Committee have likely quoted favorably in the past (again, when it suited them and their interests), had this to say on the topic in his August 13, 1813 letter to Isaac McPherson: “The sentiment that ex post facto laws are against natural right is so strong in the United States, that few, if any, of the State constitutions have failed to proscribe them. …The federal constitution indeed interdicts them in criminal cases only; but they are equally unjust in civil as in criminal cases, and the omission of a caution which would have been right, does not justify the doing what is wrong. Nor ought it to be presumed that the legislature meant to use a phrase in an unjustifiable sense, if by rules of construction it can be ever strained to what is just.”
We must remember that historically, the Ethics Committee has not been consistent about enforcing clear ethical violations. I did not commit adultery, I have not removed my opponent’s campaign literature off of residential doorsteps and lied about it, I did not get caught in a high school girls bathroom, I don’t have a record of domestic assault and battery, I’ve never had a DUI, and I have never had accusations of pedophilia being filed against me. All of these are ethics violations which have occurred in the legislature within the last few years yet have not been acted on by an ethics committee. It appears ethical standards are now relative and are subject to interpretation and enforcement by anyone who can garner a simple majority in this body.
In conclusion, the allegations against me are patently false, as is plain to every intelligent and honest person here. Throughout my entire life, from the Air Force Academy to my combat service to this nation to my membership in the legislature, I have always conducted myself according to the highest possible standard.
The historical actions of the Ethics Committee show its disregard for established constitutional rights, as well as its disregard for its own House Rules. It took action to expel a member without the prerequisite 2/3 approval of house members. I believe that based on this committee’s previous ethical inquest this year that there is nothing that I can say or do that will affect the outcome of what I believe is a predetermined verdict.
Therefore, I refuse to give this hearing unlimited time and resources. I will not be responsible for wasting any additional taxpayer dollars to prolong this politically motivated attack. Listeners should know that House Rule 45 does not require that I be in attendance here today but I was served a subpoena by the Chairman, who is appointed by Scott Bedke – who coincidentally is not only my accuser, but also my opponent in the race for Lt Governor. The subpoena specifically states that I must appear as a testifying witness. So when the Chair calls me back to appear as a testifying witness, I will respect the law. I will, however, defer any question that is a personal attack or designed to make this trial politically motivated; I will answer those by reference to this opening statement: that I have always acted with the highest ethical moral intentions and truthfulness. I personally, my children, and my husband have all been threatened with physical harm, as well as financial ruin and reputational defilement, and I will not subject myself to being lambasted by a series of hostile politically motivated irrelevant questions.
Mr. Chairman that concludes my opening remarks.
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