One more ethics mess at the Idaho Statehouse

On 21 occasions, Sen. Monty Pearce, R-New Plymouth, voted on oil and gas legislation.

On Wednesday, before the 22nd vote, Pearce disclosed that an oil company has leased drilling rights on his property.

Democrats have requested an ethics committee review, and say Pearce should be removed as chairman of the Senate Resources and Environment Committee. Pearce tells the Associated Press that he has followed the spirit and the letter of ethics rules, and says he is the victim of a political witch hunt.

Either way, this fiasco reveals yet another hole in the Legislature’s lax ethics guidelines.

First off, I’m not buying Pearce’s claim that he met the spirit of ethics rules. If he had, he would have been upfront, from the outset, about the lease. In an interview with the Statesman’s Rocky Barker Thursday, Pearce said he had never thought of the potential conflict until Wednesday’s vote; that simply doesn’t pass the smell test.

But let’s accept, for the sake of argument, Pearce’s claim that his 11th-hour disclosure met the letter of the rules. Pearce says that the Senate rules require such a disclosure before a floor vote — and, as such, he did what he had to do.

If that is the case, then the rules are woefully weak. The rules turn a blind eye to something Pearce and every other legislator knows — that the real blood-and-guts work of lawmaking occurs in committees. This is where bills are vetted, amended, advanced and scuttled. In committees, chairpersons such as Pearce are at the peak of their power. They can decide which legislation makes its way onto the calendar — and what legislation doesn’t.

No, the oil and gas issue didn’t suddenly confront Pearce on the Senate floor Wednesday. The legislation — supported by industry, including Snake River Oil and Gas, which holds a lease on Pearce’s property — went through Pearce’s committee. Same for oil and gas rules, approved earlier in the session. The indisputable fact is that Pearce has been a pivotal figure in a session-long oil and gas debate; for most of the session, he kept his personal stake to himself.

This final point would feel like piling on if it weren’t so pertinent: The Pearce mess arises at the end of a disappointing 2012 session on the ethics reform front. Last week, Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill said he wants to see the Senate make some early “baby steps” on ethics reform.

This Legislature has a long way to go, one baby step at a time.

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yes and he's witch!

The all powerful Republican leadership at it's best/worst! thanks Statesman staff for keeping an eye on these guys.

A free, professional press. Mission critical to a free society

A free and professional press is mission critical to a free society. An educated citizenry is mission critical to a free society.

"....professional press...." ?

If you think the Statesman fits this description, I've got some swamp land I'd like to talk to you about!

More professional than our Legislature....

A ways to go. Too many Flacs and PR press releases influence articles. I still think that Popkey's articles regarding Senator Larry Craig were trash. However....the Statesman is more professional, more honest, more trustworthy than our Legislators....

Ethics Legislation. It's time.

Mr. Denney's, Mr. Hill's talk of "baby steps" regarding ethics legislation mirrors that of a defense attorney defending an alleged criminal. Deny, Deny, Deny. Then Delay, Delay, Delay.

Mr. Denney's, Mr. Hill's "Tammany Hall Two Step" does not sit well with any Idahoan We Rocky Mountain Westerners know hooey when we hear it. All hat; no cattle.

We Republicans...the Dems and Indies need to work together to put an Ethics Initiative on the ballot.

Ethics Legislation. It's time.

I agree, but.....

It will have to come in the form of an initiative. Otherwise, it will be written by Pearce and Hart. I feel sorry for these people, they really don't know right from wrong.

Prediction

1) Ethics committee (2 dems, 2 repubs) votes 2-2. No verdict rendered.
2) In a secret caucus, Repubs vote to allow Pearce to keep his chairmanship.
3) Pearce is reelected in November, and claims to be totally vindicated.
Such is politics in Idaho.

You're right...almost

Other than the number of people on the committee and how the committee chairs are selected, I agree.
Unless they present some smoking gun, he is likely to be back next year with a "mandate" from the voters.

3 R's, 3 D's

two of the chosen serve on the same committee, Resources and Environment, that Pearce chairs. Brackett R, and Werk D.

Kevin Richert reporting on the Legislature's ethics is.......

like Bill Maher reporting on Sarah Palin's family.

Tetpilot:

I'm thick-skinned about you disagreeing with my views. You're as entitled to your opinion as am I to mine. But if you're going to insinuate I'm behaving unethically, I'm going to ask you to cite some evidence.

Kevin Richert
editorial page editor

well...

ty's just bumhurt you all nailed him on the parking ticket issue

When you don't like the message....

....attack the messenger.

why don't you

go and tell your daddy?

Idaho's Legislature is the embodiment of 'culpable & feckless'

I give the Statesman credit here...there has been a sea-change in the zeitgeist. Granted they're not going to get too far out in front, given how tenuous McClatchy's biz-model is in Idaho, but they have sensed a critical mass a-building amongst the 'great unwashed'. Unfortunately, they're probably a good 5 years too late, as the damages done by the rural gang of fanatics in the Idaho Legislature may take more than a decade to heal. The Statesman owes the people of Idaho a full accounting of just how perverse Idaho state government is from those, even prosperous "conservative states". 'Conservative' = lower taxes (much lower), better schools & infrastructure, easier-cheaper healthcare competition, far better economic development, municipal home-rule, etc, etc.

Until you can form an intelligent thought, I wouldn't worry

about Kevin.

"No his mind is not for rent, to any god or government." Neil Peart

am getting sick of it all

it seems that the Republicans just get one ethical mess cleaned up and----another is just waiting for them. i think that all of the incoming legislators should be issued a broom and a bucket when they go through orientation. it will be the most important item they get.