Idaho media should be embarrassed over McGeachin lawsuit

Idaho media should be embarrassed over McGeachin lawsuit

by
Wayne Hoffman
October 6, 2021
Wayne Hoffman
Author Image
October 6, 2021

Some people on the interwebs think I should be outraged at Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin because she refused to give out the names of Idahoans who had contacted her office for help fighting critical race theory in Idaho’s government schools. Actually, I’m quite proud of her. She did the right thing. 

It’s the Idaho media who I feel bad for. When I was a reporter, it was embarrassing to see one’s name as part of a news story. Reporters were supposed to report the news, not make the news or be the subject of a story. Now, the names of reporters are tied permanently to their brazen attempt to have the lieutenant governor jailed for her handling of the public records law. They should never be able to claim impartiality and write about anything involving the lieutenant governor ever again, but we know they will anyway.  

I have spent a lifetime advocating for government transparency. As a journalist and newspaper editor in the 1990s and 2000s, I fought and won many battles over the public’s access to government records. 

Working for the government in 2005 and 2006, I pushed state agencies to be more open and transparent about their activities. 

In 2010, the Idaho Freedom Foundation won a lawsuit against the city of Coeur d’Alene over its refusal to release the names and salaries of taxpayer-paid employees. 

In 2013, IFF forced a reluctant Legislature to create an online, permanent multimedia archive of floor sessions and committee meetings of the House and Senate. Today, that archive is accessible to anyone anywhere around the world. 

In 2015, the IFF worked with firefighters to change state law so that all meetings between government bodies and labor unions were opened to the public.  

My record on government records and the necessity for openness is the best around. 

Government agencies and employees routinely redact information that should be public, and this is a problem we encounter everyday. Quite often, Idahoans will find their public records requests greeted with ill-applied public records law exemptions, wait times that exceed the statutory maximum, excessive fees for documents, or claims that records you know exist don't exist. I’ve seen it all. People and organizations often have to sue to get the information they want from the government.  

Newsrooms usually generate a lot of public records requests. As a result, deciding which records to pursue in court can be a challenge. Resources are limited. Lawsuits are expensive. But if the missing information is significant to the public’s understanding of government operations or decisions, there’s a good reason to sue. I have witnessed and been party to many cases in which the news organization decided the value of the information being received was not worth the fight. 

In McGeachin's case, the Press Club sued over her decision to redact the names of private citizens who had made complaints about social justice indoctrination in our state's education system. There is little to no real journalistic value in recovering the names of the people who complained about critical race theory and leftism. 

Protecting the names of people who contact government officials is also consistent with what Matt Davison, the publisher of the Idaho Press, told lawmakers last year. Testifying on a bill that would block all legislative communications from release under the public records law, Davison told lawmakers that he’d be happy with a public records law that redacted the names of people communicating with their legislators, while leaving the substance of the communication open to public scrutiny. The Idaho Press is the newspaper that employs Betsy Russell, the president of the Idaho Press Club.

It’s obvious that the media decided to challenge McGeachin because of her politics, not because of the content they expect to find under the blackened out cells on a spreadsheet. Reporters have made it clear that, evidence to the contrary, they’ll never report that the lieutenant governor and the Idaho Freedom Foundation are right about the existence of critical race theory and other leftist ideologies in classrooms from kindergarten to college. 

McGeachin crossed them. She offended them, and they decided to make her pay for it. And then, when McGeachin decided to weigh her legal options before giving over the information ordered by the court, they decided to demand jail for the lieutenant governor, knowing that it would make really big headlines. After all, they’re the ones who determine what makes for big headlines. 

“But Wayne, the law says the records are public!” someone is bound to yell. And that is true. But the state’s public records law is a giant piece of crap. It’s become another legislative vehicle to reward secrecy to the politically connected, both in government and the private sector. I’m grateful for an elected official who will go above and beyond to protect people who unknowingly fall into that trap.

View Comments
  • Bobby W says:

    Wayne, you say multiple times in this article that the people contacting her were supportive of her and trying to fight critical race theory.
    But according to news reports, there were also people contacting McGeachin against the indoctrination task force's efforts.
    Are you lying or is the Idaho Press Club lying about this? What's the truth?
    And, as a self-described expert on this issue, are you saying also that McGeachin not only had good intentions but she went about the procedure as the Public Records Act requires her to (i.e. submission to the court for the court to confirm her refusal to disclose)? Would you tell us that she complied with the law or not, regardless of her intentions?
    Just wondering, since you're an expert on this....

    • Janice says:

      Why would you ask that in this manner? Makes it sound like you’re believing the opposite side of the political spectrum. All I want, as an American and a conservative Christian Idahoan, is the truth. IFF is consistent on that. Praying for IFF and for our state and politicians, every day. In all my 60 years, have never seen such a mess that leftist politics have constructed. Very sad but I know that the Lord God is in control.

      • Bobby W says:

        Why? Well, because there is conflicting information out there and I, like you, am interested in the truth. Is this "Janice", the subject of this article, our Lieutenant Governor? Then since you're actively responding, you can answer my questions more accurately and completely than Hoffman, I suppose, so I pose the questions to you.
        And, no, I have not been influenced by the media, whether from the right nor from the left. I am one of the last seemingly remaining Idahoans who READS THE COURT DOCUMENTS rather than relying on media summaries of them.
        And there is no doubt what Judge Hippler's opinion says.
        So, nope, "leftists" haven't influenced me, other than as I noted in my questions, where I say that media has reported that there are, within the public records, submissions against the task force's work as well as in support of it. Since I, along with the public, have not had access to those records, you can understand my question as to the truth of the matter on that question.
        Would you care to answer the questions? Dispel my skepticism?

      • Bobby W says:

        Indeed He is.
        Romans 13:1-2 says: "Obey the government, for God is the One who has put it there. There is no government anywhere that God has not placed in power. So those who refuse to obey the law of the land are refusing to obey God, and punishment will follow."

        And since I, like you and the IFF, desire the truth, you can understand why I asked Wayne, and now you, to answer my questions so that I know what the truth is given the leftist-slanted media. Thank you.

        • Dr. Craig Sjoberg says:

          Communicating "God's will" as equal to "Governments will" which was created and perverted by mostly imperfect men of self interest and wholly record breaking "POWER OVER OTHERS" EVIL INEQUALITY SYNDROME is Bobby W's own perversion.
          Our founders new this and wrote extensively on how man [in or out* of government predictably failed to be trustable or fully moral]
          *The PERFECT EXAMPLE is how corrupted men or women of the media horribly rape our first amendment and thru their illusion of "public trust" do further the evil "TYRANNY OVER THE MIND OF MAN" which Jefferson profoundly warned all of us about.!!

          • Bobby W says:

            That was fairly incomprehensible! Are you taking some of your patients' meds, doc? what are you on?

          • Joaquin Armendariz says:

            Maybe the doc struck a nerve, eh? I quote from a higher authority " Woe to the man whom scandal comes", St Matthew 18:7. The self delusion of the "conservative" US spectrum is breathtaking given that they oppose everything that will help this Republic survive and, simultaneously court Theo fascism and racism and use our flag as a political prop. I believe their political and social views are gangrene to our country.

  • Daniel Foreman, Colonel USAF (Ret.) says:

    I fully agree Wayne. Thank God for people of courage like Lt. Governor McGeachin. We need many more elected officials of courage, moral backbone and patriotic concern for the rights of citizens. Our state and nation are in serious trouble. We have substantial segments of government at all levels embracing deception, lies and just pure evil - that’s right, pure evil. Government far too often lies to the people, lines it’s own pockets and acts in blatant disregard of our God-given rights as enumerated in the Bill of Rights. It is time to call things the way they are in light of what is happening to us at the hands of government. Our electronic communications are spied upon, the media act as mouthpieces for government propaganda, government watchdog agencies (FDA, FBI, CDC) disregard responsibilities to protect the public, free speech is called threatening radicalism by federal, state and local officials, government funded agencies (universities and public schools) are teaching immoral filth and indoctrinating students in hatred of everything American and our president is coercing us to submit to dangerous, unnecessary, and untested, experimental so-called vaccines for fear of being denied our Constitutional Rights. How bad does it have to get folks before we act to stop this abuse? Our Founding Fathers faced this same tyranny a few hundred years ago. They tried every established peaceful and socially acceptable means to seek redress from the government of the day - all to no avail. Evil will not relent. We are sadly facing government tyranny that will only continue unless we stand up. If you are content to accept the government abuses of the day, then do nothing. And I assure you 97% of our people will do just that - nothing. But if you have American patriotism running through your veins, it might be time to look to the historical record of our Founding Fathers for guidance.

    • Janice says:

      Yes and, amen!

    • Mac says:

      Those that push back are arrested because there aren't enough folks standing up. Most people seem to think it's in Gods hands, although that may be true. People need to understand that he can do nothing if we do nothing, he cannot make things right without effort from us. None of those arrested for trespassing were lawful arrests.

    • Joaquin Armendariz says:

      Sir you should move to Russia unless you are one of V. (Ras)Putin's trolls in which case enjoy your life in the new theofascist Russia. A Chicano Vietnam Era Veteran native born Texan.

  • Bobby W says:

    So....wait, she "decided to weigh her legal options before giving over the information ordered by the court" but she is claiming reimbursement for $50,000 for her legal expenses, claiming taxpayers should cover the costs because they were "unforeseen". Sounds like she basically just wishes to be called a martyr but doesn't want the inconvenience or costs associated with being a martyr.

  • enemyofthestate says:

    Lt. Gov. McGeachin is being smeared by Idaho media and her political opponents, just as Sarah Palin was smeared by media and the ruling elite. McGeachin speaks out, speaks the truth.... oh no, the cronies in Boise cannot allow that.

  • Don says:

    This is hilarious. Conservatism in Idaho is all about wasting tax dollars on political stunts and then wasting more tax dollars from the consequences of said stunts apparently.

    • Bobby W says:

      She will be demanding taxpayers fund a recount of the public records next! The press says the "overwhelming majority" of them were against her and her task force.
      The only crap here, Hoffman, is the stuff youre slinging, it appears

  • Bee says:

    Let's keep our eye on the ball: 'critical race theory' in ANY Idaho school is the problem.

    We need a Governor and Legislature that stands up to protect Idahoans.

    • Bobby W says:

      I have yet to hear of any k-12 school in Idaho in which CRT has, in fact, been taught. McGeachin's task force isn't focused on that - because it's a losing argument. It's looking at anything it considers Woke, socialism, etc.
      If her task force had actually found an incident in which CRT was taught, doncha think McGeachin would have been crowing about it by now? She's non-stop on twitter about everything else that gets her fundraising $. She'd have been on Fox News by now with that info. She would have tried to order the National Guard to march into the school district while Little was away.

  • Bobby W says:

    Since Hoffman posted this article we see what a tool he is for McGeachin. She claims to protect peoples' identity. But we see that providing name and email address were both optional, voluntarily submitted.
    And being a public record, people submit their comments and info with knowledge that its a part of mandatory disclosure.
    And, of course, we now know what we suspected: she was lying. There was not overwhelming support for her-just the opposite.
    Its a pile of crap and Wayne blames it on the law and holds her up as a martyr.
    Ridiculous. Embarrassing. I am at a loss for more words.

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