Post Register, Idaho Falls
Here's something you might not know. Larry Craig was against taxpayer-funded bathroom breaks before he was for them.
Craig, in 2008 and staring down the grim visages of the Senate Ethics Committee, argued that his wide stance was of no concern to the public. According to Idaho's former senior U.S. senator, what happened in that Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport bathroom was "purely personal conduct unrelated to the performance of official Senate duties," and, as a result, none of the ethics committee's business.
Five years later, Craig's story has changed. Today, Craig argues that his bathroom break and all that may or may not have occurred was, indeed, related to the job Idahoans elected him to do.
No, Craig has not seen the light. He has, however, seen dollar signs, nearly 217,000 of them. That's the amount of campaign cash Craig used to pay the law firms of Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan and Kelly & Jacobson in a fruitless attempt to overturn his hasty and revealing guilty plea to disturbing the peace. The Federal Election Commission filed suit against Craig, alleging he misused the money individuals and corporations gave because they supported his legislative agenda. Craig wants the suit tossed.
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson did not miss the now-retired politician's self-indulgent flip-flop. "I'm supposed to ignore that?" Jackson asked one of Craig's attorneys about his statement to the Senate Ethics Committee. Well, of course you are, judge. Just as Idahoans are supposed to forget Craig's "intent to resign" moment as he attempts to rehabilitate his image with a D.C. and Idaho-based lobbying firm and appointment to Gov. Butch Otter's Leadership in Nuclear Energy (LINE) Commission.
Well, so be it. Craig lied. Many politicians lie. And Craig has lots of company from folks in both parties. Democratic Congressmen Gary Condit and Charles Rangel tapped campaign cash to fend off legal problems. So did Republicans Tom Feeney and Jim Kolbe. Certainly a whole new generation of politicians anticipating problems waits with bated breath for the outcome of Craig's case.
Pay my own legal fees?
Perish the thought.
The whole thing is depressing ... but only if we allow it to be. It is always better to laugh than cry. And so, with a nod to the good old days when the late-night talk show hosts made Larry Craig a household name, stop us if you've heard this one, from Conan O'Brien: "Senator Larry Craig announced he's now rethinking his decision to resign from the Senate. ... Craig says he's going talk the decision over with his wife, and the guy in stall No. 3."
Feel better? We certainly do.
CHEER for LOERTSCHER
When it comes to enacting one of Obamacare's most sweeping change in the Gem State, Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, has become the voice of reason.
Under Obamacare, Idaho can extend Medicaid to low-income adults. No state has more reason to act. Under a law Loertscher sponsored in 1992, state and county taxpayers now pay the cost of treatment for anyone deemed unable to pay his medical bills.
This program now costs $55 million. Factor in medical inflation and rising case loads, and taxpayers could pay as much as $77 million next year.
"There's no end in sight," Loertscher says.
Unless Idaho agrees to expand Medicaid. Then, for the next three years, the federal government will pick up 100 percent of the cost of covering an estimated 80,000 Idahoans. After that, the state's share would never exceed 10 percent.
The choice comes down to expanding Medicaid and saving $6.5 million in the next decade or rejecting it and losing $284 million.
Gov. Butch Otter shied away from this fight. Ever the pragmatist, Loertscher has not.
Thursday, he successfully introduced two bills in the House Health and Welfare Committee he once chaired - a measure to expand Medicaid and another to repeal the state and local programs. It's late in the session. But if anyone has the expertise and the credibility to bring his colleagues around, it's this eastern Idaho conservative.
Good for him.