At a press conference following an ethics hearing into his dealings in the Idaho House of Representatives, Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, said the panel was right to dismiss one of the charges against him and that he is glad that the issue has come up and been cleared away. Hart was under fire for allegedly using his status as a lawmaker to gain special treatment from the Idaho State Tax Commission and the Internal Revenue Service, as well as failing to disclose conflicts of interests when voting on tax-related legislation.
The ethics committee, consisting of four Republicans and three Democrats, was called by Speaker of the House Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale, at the urging of House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston. In its meeting Thursday at the Statehouse in Boise, committee members voted 4-3, along party lines, to dismiss the conflict-of-interest charge against Hart, and hold hearings on the legislative privilege allegation at later date. Republicans on the committee felt the allegations of Hart's failure to disclose a conflict-of-interest were too vague to take action on, while Democrats said that Hart's action created the appearance of impropriety that deserved a reprimand from the panel.
Hart told reporters gathered at a different room in the lower east wing of the Capitol that this experience would likely scare off potential electoral candidates in the future. He said that many people with whom he has had private conversations who have wanted to run for office were scared to do so because of mishaps or slip-ups in the past. "I hope that we don't have future electoral candidates scared away from the electoral process," said Hart. "I think if we shrink the pool of people who do run for office, then we are worse off, whether we are Republican, Democrat, or Independent."
He also said that contrary to recent news reports, he has been paying his state and federal taxes. An aide for the Athol legislator passed out a letter from a certified public accountant saying that after a review of Hart's finances, he found that he had paid more than $120,000 in state and federal taxes in the past five years. The more than $300,000 in liens placed against his assets, Hart said, is the result of the Internal Revenue Service revoking all his business-related tax deductions in the past eight years, which he said is pretty abnormal.
Here is Hart's full address following the ethics hearing:
Here is Hart's full address following the ethics hearing: Part 1:
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