Constitution Party of Idaho: Arcane…But actually rather important for common citizens

 Arcane…but actually rather important for common citizensPosted on the Idaho Constitution Party’s website on June 14th, 2016

CP-Idaho’s website articles can be “macro” oriented. This time, however, we focus on a “micro” political item—specifically, down ballot citizens’ petitions circulating for the 2016 November General Election ballot.

Citizens’ petitions and the mechanics of them are about as arcane as one can get in elective politics. The things are laborious, expensive and sometimes confusing.  An explanation is required.

Citizens’ initiatives are too often overlooked as a mechanism to bring change to the long inbred line of incumbent corruptions. In fact, citizens’ petitions may be one of the only means to inject “hybrid vigor” into a senescent political system.  And in response, of course, the system makes them “difficult” to effect.

Surprisingly, several initiatives are actually circulating for 2016. One, decriminalizing marijuana, was abandoned—we suppose its proponents tarried too long at their hookah.

Another petition circulating (and one for which we find support) calls for a reduction in the state sales tax—knocking it down from a supposedly “temporary” 6% back to 5%.  Besty McBride with the League of Women’s Voters is sponsoring this sales tax reduction initiative. We’re unclear on the specifics, but apparently this petition is the second submission (likely amended) for this sales tax reduction measure.

And, we have two citizens’ petitions relating to campaign finance currently circulating. We wish to focus on these two initiatives. We support the idea that money is corrupting the political system—that’s one of those Homer Simpson “Well, duh!” moments. These two circulating initiatives on campaign finance are markedly different, though.

One campaign finance petition most likely will make it to the general ballot. It is sponsored by Democrat Holli Woodings of Boise City. If her name seems familiar that’s because Ms. Woodings stepped down from an Idaho Legislature seat to run for Idaho Secretary of State in 2014. Republican Mr. Lawerence Denney prevailed in the vacancy created when former Secretary of State Ben Yursa retired.

Ms. Woodings has the backing of a national Democrat and union consortium called EveryVoice, a 501 (c) (4) headquartered in Washington D.C., all the while decrying the affect of money in politics here in Idaho. Ms. Woodkings admits that over $100,000 has been put into this initiative drive, evidently modeled after a similar measure from Arkansas.

Trust us. It’s not like we’re against campaign finance reform. And, it’s not like we don’t get it. If anything the Constitution Party of Idaho is all too familiar with being hobbled against the gusher of influence money peddling  human chattel referred to as politicians. But dog gone it, the initiative put up by Ms. Woodings et al. is just tinkering around the edges. It doesn’t do much, in other words.

Her initiative proposes a sectional name change in the code…67-6610A. LIMITATIONS ON CONTRIBUTIONS. LIMITATIONS ON AND PROHIBITED CONTRIBUTIONS. It then goes on to “prohibit” campaign contributions by half measures. For example, donations to a state legislative candidate “shall be limited to an amount not to exceed one thousand dollars ($1,000) five hundred dollars ($500) for the primary election.” And, limited to $500 individual donations in the general election.

For a statewide office, individual donations “shall be limited to an amount not to exceed five thousand dollars ($5,000) two thousand dollars ($2,000) for the primary election” And the same amount for the general elections. Again, this is tinkering. It does not address the actual issue.

The other citizens’ petition on campaign finance is far more to our liking. We say this with no disrespect for Ms. Woodings, or for whomever they have on staff over there in Washington, D.C.  They’re fine folks, we’re sure.

The second petition circulating is sponsored by Idahoan Bob Perry of Hayden. This one, we think, is right, correct.

Mr. Perry would have section 67-6610A revised to say this:

Any person who contributes to a candidate or a political committee earmarked for a candidate must be a constituent of the office being sought. To be accepted, all contributions made to or for a candidate shall be accompanied with a full statement of the contributor’s full name and complete address which provides verification of constituency.”

Must be a constituent of the office sought…if the initiative did just that much, it gets to the heart of the matter. It would remove the influence peddling that Ms. Woodings’ Washington, D.C. 501(c)(4) seeks.

Unfortunately, Mr. Perry’s initiative may not survive. One of its opponents is the Idaho Attorney General’s office. Deputy Attorney General Michael Gilmore, a policy wonk somewhere in the architecture of the office, declares that it is his personal opinion that Mr. Parry’s initiative is unconstitutional underneath the full spigot of the “who cares?” infamous campaign finance decision known as  Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission 558 U.S. 310, 130 S. Ct. 876, 175 L.Ed.2d 753 (2010).

That Mr. Gillmore finds First Amendment “problems” with Mr. Perry’s initiative is far too rich, given that this same office gave a pass for Ms. Hollings’ 501 (c)(4) inspired measure. We submit that, if what Mr. Gillmore says is correct regarding Mr. Perry’s measure, then the unamended Idaho Code is itself unconstitutional—at 67-6610A.

We use the same so-called “logic” applied by the Attorney General’s office against Mr. Perry’s common sense proposal which seeks to limit contributions to only those constituents of the office being sought. Under the Attorney General’s “logic,” how can the state impose any limitation of any kind whatsoever on campaign monies? Why not foreign donations? For that matter, why limit voting to only constituents?  Why have residency requirements? Absurd, yes. But we argue a reductio ad absurdum…to make the point.

We think Mr. Perry’s measure deserves consideration by the Idaho voters, assuming it has gotten the sufficient number of petition signatures—which is 47,623 (6% of the state voters turning out to the previous general election in 2014) before April 30th, 2016. Idaho also added a distribution requirement in 2011—the petition must have 6% of the voters in at least 18 of Idaho’s 35 Legislative Districts. (Again, the incumbent monopoly doesn’t make it easy.)

Anyhow, these initiative signatures now lay with the respective county clerks, who have sixty (60) days from May 1st,  to verify the signatures. We will know by July 1st. But if Mr. Perry got his signatures, it’s on the ballot. We say Idaho voters should consider prohibiting the flash flood of unregulated slush funds pouring into Idaho from Timbuktu, the Hamptons, or wherever. Kudos to Mr. Perry. He has it right.

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