This week I was planning to write on another topic but the resolution sent out by the Bonneville County Republican Party Executive Committee urging Governor Otter to not use his new political action committee, Otter PAC, to influence GOP precinct chair elections was just too juicy to ignore.
Thanks to Local News 8, you can view the actual document here.
Pushed by controversial Bonneville County GOP Chair Doyle Beck and his compatriot District 7 GOP Chair/former congressional candidate Bryan Smith, this document is worth quoting (and commenting on).
Let’s start with the heading: “A Call for Party Unity”.
I really think this has little to do with Republican togetherness and more with Beck & Smith’s own concern for their political survival after the May 2016 GOP primary. If you squint enough, you can see that the words truly mean: “Stop the governor from working to get us out of our party positions.”
Consider their track record the past couple years of 1) Sending out a weird newsletter claiming Idaho Muslims were plotting to kill their fellow Idahoans, 2) Trying to elect a state party chair by not voting (which went down in flames once a Twin Falls judge got involved), and 3) Featuring their favored 3rd tier GOP presidential candidate (Rand Paul), a wacky New Zealand commentator (who claims the current U.S. Congress is filled with communists) and a Utah blogger who hates Abraham Lincoln, at the annual GOP barbecue in Idaho Falls. Maybe it wouldn’t be a bad idea if they were driven out of local GOP office this May.
Onto the substance of the resolution:
“WHEREAS, We the People of the State of Idaho enjoy a republican form of government that is guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States and the Idaho Constitution; and
WHEREAS, the unalienable rights of the people are an endowment from the Creator”.
Apparently, the fact that Governor Otter has formed a political action committee that might pry either of these gentlemen’s hands off the levers of party leadership is, somehow, a direct attack on the U.S. and Idaho Constitutions and the divine right of approval that both Beck and Smith enjoy. This is weighty stuff.
Next, we learn:
“WHEREAS, the foundational elements of the political process are the Precinct Committeemen who are individuals elected from their precincts by the people of their precinct”.
I found this clause very enlightening. I always have thought that voters, the people who actually cast ballots, are the foundation of the political process. How naive. The real core of the political process rests with the Precinct Committeemen (certainly not those uppity Precinct Committeewomen) elected by a few dozen of their neighbors. Now, I know these folks work hard (no one was a better, hardworking precinct chair than my dad) distributing yard signs and literature and persuading fellow voters. But, I suspect this is a setup for something else. Let’s read on . . .
Ah . . here we go:
“WHEREAS, to ensure the fair representation of the people, the election of Precinct Committeemen must be free of undue influence”.
Now, this is quite weird. The purpose of Precinct Committeemen (again, NO WOMEN, is the not so subtle message) is to “ensure fair representation of the people”. Now, I’ve liked my local GOP precinct committee chairs. But, I’ve never thought by voting for one that I was choosing someone to represent me is some kind of quasi-legislative body.
That idea is kind of spooky. I want someone who will turn out the vote and win campaigns, not spend their energy making public policy.
Consider the record of the Bonneville County Republican Central Committee. Just a few years ago, they voted to criticize well-respected Sen. Bart Davis (R-Idaho Falls), Sen. Brent Hill and Attorney General Wasden for opposing a blatantly unconstitutional effort to “nullify” federal laws. That was the same doctrine that South Carolina pushed roughly 150 years ago and was squashed in a little conflict called the Civil War.
I personally am far more comfortable with depending on my local mayor and city council, county commissioners, state senators and state representatives, state elected officials and such to represent me. And, as far as I can tell, that is what the U.S. Constitution, Idaho Constitution and Idaho Code seem to require. I can’t find the provision that says my precinct chair is my voice.
The next interesting section is one that talks about Idaho’s governor’s “supreme executive powers which include a list of his statutory and constitutional duties, namely to make appointments, sign executive orders, veto bills, draft budgets and oversee the executive branch. I can’t disagree with any of that.
But, where the resolution jumps the shark is the next part:
“WHEREAS, the Governor of Idaho creates the appearance of conflict of interest in the exercise of these “supreme executive powers” while also seeking contributions from individuals and businesses to the Otter PAC whose express purpose includes influencing the election of Precinct Committeeman.”
Maybe I’m dense but I can’t see the link between encouraging the election in a GOP primary of particular Precinct Committeemen and any real conflict of interest.
Is it that the governor might threaten to veto bills unless the supporters help fund a campaign to defeat/elect precinct chairs in in Bonneville County Precincts 6, 17 or 40? If so, I think that would violate other state laws.
Or, is it that the governor will only appoint someone to the Idaho Beekeeping Commission if the person runs for Precinct Committeeman in Boise County Precinct 2? Personally, that sounds like a punishment for joining (that’s a lot of flyers and yard signs to distribute to get on a volunteer-driven board).
Perhaps the concern is that Otter will sign an executive order designating days for gathering mushrooms on state land if the supporters will vote for a preferred list of precinct chairs in Shoshone County. I just want to know how the governor would know who they voted for in May?
I have a better suggestion. Otter PAC should just back anyone who wants to be a Precinct Committeewoman . Since the Beck/Smith resolution is only concerned with the governor targeting male GOP precinct chairs, strike a powerful blow against these folks by pushing a bunch of local women instead.
Heck, most women I know are far better connected in their neighborhood than the men. They would be unstoppable both in getting elected in the GOP primary and boosting Republican candidates in the general election. Win. Win.
This approach might also have the added benefit of getting rid of wacky men like Beck and Smith from Idaho GOP politics. Another win.
Written by Steve Taggart, Idaho Politics Weekly Contributor
Steve Taggart is an Idaho Falls attorney specializing in bankruptcy (www.MaynesTaggart.com). He has an extensive background in politics and public policy. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.