After first saying, "I don't have a problem with it," Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna reimbursed a lobbying firm that represents Apple and other clients with an interest in upholding his 2011 education reforms in November.
Four state staffers were part of a table of 10 at Tuesday's City Club forum on Props 1, 2 and 3 featuring Luna and Rep. Brian Cronin, D-Boise. Most of the others at the table were guests of Luna's. Two representatives of the Boise firm Sullivan Reberger Eiguren were present, lobbyist Gloria Totoricaguena and an intern who studies at Boise State.
Luna repaid the lobbyists out of his own pocket, said his spokeswoman, Melissa McGrath.
"I wanted to let you know that Superintendent Luna did reimburse Sullivan Reberger Eiguren this afternoon," McGrath said in an email. "He does not believe there was any wrongdoing in his staff sitting at the Sullivan Reberger Eiguren table at City Club; however, he does not want even the appearance to be misunderstood. He never wants anyone to call into question the ethics of his staff who came to support him at City Club on Tuesday. Therefore, he thought it was in the best interest to reimburse the money from his personal account."
Immediately after the lunch I asked Luna about the lobbyists picking up the tab. He said he was unaware of the gesture, but that it was OK with him. Shortly before 2 p.m. today, I posted the blog entry below. About 3 1/2 hours later, McGrath emailed to say Luna had made the reimbursement.
As Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna defended his education reforms Tuesday he had support from a table front and center paid for by a lobbying outfit representing two technology companies and the Idaho School Boards Association.
Sullivan Reberger Eiguren covered the $25 City Club of Boise lunch fee for Luna Chief of Staff Luci Willits, Chief Deputy Jason Hancock, spokeswoman Melissa McGrath and "Students Come First" Director Matt McCarter. Also at the table were YES for Idaho Education Campaign Manager Ken Burgess, former Luna employee Camille Wells, and Gayann DeMordaunt, a GOP activist and wife of Rep. Reed DeMordaunt, R-Eagle. Rounding out the group were Luna's sister, Teresa, who heads the Idaho Department of Administration, and two Sullivan Rebeger employees.
The lobbying firm represents Apple, the leading player in the school laptop business; iSchool Campus, a Park City, Utah, "smart school technology company;" and the school boards association, which has endorsed Proposition 1 but is neutral on Props 2 and 3. Prop 3 would put laptops in the hands of every Idaho high school student.
I asked Luna about the free lunches after his debate with Rep. Brian Cronin, D-Boise.
"I didn't know about that," he said. "I don't have a problem with it."
McGrath said the lunch was on the up-and-up. "They did sponsor the table for us and it doesn't violate any state ethics for a public employee."
Lobbyists are required to report such entertainment spending in the aggregate. Only when more than $100 is spent on a single legislator, public or executive officials or member of his or her household does the Sunshine Law require disclosure of spending by name.
You can follow Idaho Statesman Politics on Twitter.