IDP Chairman Larry Grant on "Politicizing" GOP Ethical Abuses

by Larry Grant

In a recent editorial the Idaho Press-Tribune advised that Idaho Democrats should ignore the larger implications of the sad situation of former Sen. John McGee. You said we should “take heed” not to try to politicize his downfall.

I respectfully disagree.

First, I extend my sympathies to the real lives that were hurt by Mr. McGee’s actions. It is tragic to contemplate what becomes of his young family after such a public disgrace.

I also extend my sympathy to the staffer who was the victim of the “disturbing the peace.” According to press reports, this young woman lived in fear as the senator made unwanted sexual advances in our Capitol building. As she resumes her career, she must now somehow learn to trust her future bosses after an awful betrayal.

In my view, that’s what the situation is really about, not the squandering of forgiveness as your editorial suggests, but the betrayal of trust.

Your editorial warns that the only reason Republicans are caught amid so many ethical and criminal offenses is because there are more of them in office. I reject that conclusion because it sounds too much like “everybody does it.” There will, of course, always be mistakes, misjudgments and occasional reckless actions. But Idaho Democrats are working to stop those abuses that rise above the level of “mistake.”

Some have contended that Idaho Democratic proposals for an independent ethics commission are merely political posturing. If so, isn’t the GOP’s sound rejection of an independent ethics commission also political posturing? If that cynical view were reality, then why not choose the posture that actually ends up holding legislators — Democrats, Republicans and everybody in between — accountable?

Let’s face it, the GOP is against is ethics reform because the actions called for by Democrats would create barriers to the free use of lopsided political power. Revolving door legislation would make it more difficult to reward public officials or employees with lavish private sector jobs. Financial disclosure legislation would throw a bright light on the relationships between private relationships, lobbyist dollars and the votes made by legislators. And an independent ethics commission is less likely to cave to the pressure of a powerful majority, Democratic or Republican.

The Idaho Press-Tribune has reported the litany of abuses and excuses from an excessive, barely-checked GOP that has a leadership that relies on partisan distrust among the public and bullying among their caucus to sweep it all under the rug. How bold must the Senate GOP leaders be to respond to the Sen. Monty Pearce situation by making ethics complaints less transparent? By putting a gag order on senators who bring ethics complaints? What is that if not the raw misuse of political power?

Idaho Democrats are certainly hoping there is political gain in the public unveiling of the multitude of GOP ethical abuses. But that gain serves the public interest. That political gain will bring more reasonable, responsible leadership to our state. That political gain will make it harder for party leaders to bully their peers into narrow agendas by allowing them to form coalitions with reasonable members of the other party. That political gain is a gain for all of Idaho.

Take heed, indeed.