Capitol & State

Why does Idaho need an ethics czar? Democratic leader actually draws you a picture

Democrats push for inspector general

Idaho House minority leader Mat Erpelding got creative to promote the Democrats' push for a state inspector general, turning to video and social media to enlist the public's aid in getting a bill introduced.
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Idaho House minority leader Mat Erpelding got creative to promote the Democrats' push for a state inspector general, turning to video and social media to enlist the public's aid in getting a bill introduced.

Democrats in the Idaho House have been pushing to create an Office of Inspector General to oversee Idaho ethics laws for years but mostly have been unable to get a bill introduced, much less heard. So now they’re getting creative.

A video posted online by Boise Rep. Mat Erpelding, the Democratic House Minority Leader, gives an entertaining three-minute spiel on why an Inspector General is a good idea. It is done in the style of an animated whiteboard “explainer.” Erpelding, who has classroom whiteboard experience, takes to it like a natural.

“I was trying to figure out a way to do a different type of information delivery,” Erpelding said. A production company partly donated its services and Erpelding put up $300 of his own to create the video. It’s posted on various social media sites including YouTube and Facebook, and his own site.

“In terms of constituents, I’ve gotten great feedback,” he said, adding: “Most people have commented on the creativity of it as opposed the content.”

The video has a folksy, unpolished feel to it, with one script stumble purposely left in for the sake of authenticity.

“My wife had to convince me that leaving the blooper in would work,” Erpelding said.

The video walks through government scandals of recent years that Democrats say make the case for an independent office that can investigate complaints of fraud, waste or corruption. Former Rep. John Rusche , D-Lewiston, Erpelding’s predecessor as minority leader, got a bill introduced last year with bipartisan support but it was quickly killed without a hearing.

This year, Erpelding has a Republican co-sponsor in Rep. Luke Malek of Coeur d’Alene, but they have not been able to get a bill introduced in committee. The window of opportunity for that to happen this session is rapidly closing.

“This year looks grim, but I figure we’re going to keep pushing and trying to build steam for it in the next session,” Erpelding said. The video, he said, “will have a long timeline. It’s something that people can watch for a long time to come.”

“Passing big pieces of legislation like this can take years,” he said. Even so, he does ask viewers to take action right away.

“I do want people to call their legislators and ask them to support it.”

Bill Dentzer: 208-377-6438, @DentzerNews

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