About a year ago, former Gov. Cecil Andrus shared with me some displeasure that the Idaho Governor’s Cup, a charity he helped bring into existence, had morphed. Once it was a modest education fundraiser. Today, it has political undertones that critics contend gives Idaho government an aura of corruption.
The Governor’s Cup, which raises money for scholarships for Idaho schoolchildren, often also has as its benefactors legislators, who get can travel, hotel and admission expenses often paid by lobbyists. Such all-expenses-paid vacations are perfectly legal under Idaho’s government ethics laws, so long as the payor doesn’t connect the gift with a vote or other official action. Furthermore, some participants have complained, mostly privately, that attendance and sponsorships are necessary “costs of doing business” with the state government.
Heightened scrutiny of the Governor’s Cup prompted some legislators to sit out the affair in 2016. The 2017 Idaho Governor’s Cup is happening as I write, and we don’t know to what degree legislators remain worried about appearances. But problems surrounding the Governor’s Cup will, no doubt, linger into the 2018 legislative session and into the tenure of the new governor. Fortunately, even minor reforms and operating adjustments would go a long way to boosting confidence in government integrity in our state:
The Idaho Governor’s Cup, measured by its outcomes of rewarding handsome scholarships to deserving Idaho high schoolers, is a successful venture deserving of accolades. No doubt it can continue to be a success even after reforms are implemented that boost integrity and government transparency.