Lucas Baumbach, Republican candidate for the Idaho Senate in District 17, is no stranger to making political waves. The man best known for producing a video casting former Republican congressional candidate Vaughn Ward in an unflattering light is at it again, this time coming to the defense of a controversial state lawmaker. Baumbach, along with a small group of supporters, stood on the steps of the Statehouse in Boise Wednesday to show support for Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, the subject of an ethics investigation. Baumbach said the inquiry is the result of political games by Democrats, who, he said, have failed to produce viable policies for Idaho.
At the rally Wednesday, Baumbach called on those who support the Athol Republican to show up at the ethics panel hearing, scheduled for 9 a.m. Thursday in the lower east wing of the Capitol. "We're calling on citizens who love liberty to come to this hearing tomorrow at the Statehouse," said Baumbach. "We encourage citizens to stand up for our conservative legislators."
Baumbach also blamed Democrats for the investigation into Hart. "This ethics hearing ... was called my Democrats who have become especially partisan and desperate because their party has failed leadership that has failed our country for the last two years," he said. House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, asked for the inquiry after several media reports were published about Hart's alleged tax woes.
Here's video of the full address by Baumbach:
Hart has come under fire recently after a Washington state newspaper revealed that he had more than $300,000 in tax liens placed against him by the IRS and $53,000 from the Idaho State Tax Commission and that he may have improperly used his status as a state lawmaker to keep from paying taxes multiple times. The Idaho Constitution prevents state legislators from being served or arrested while the Legislature is in session.
Baumbach also released a statement Tuesday in support of Hart. The letter slammed Democrats and said that Hart is the target of the inquiry due to his ideological beliefs. "They (Democrats) will say anything to further their socialist cause," wrote Baumbach. "They will seek to destroy men, like Hart, who oppose big-government panacea at every turn."
Brian Kane, a deputy assistant from the attorney general's office who is advising the ethics panel, said at the first ethics panel meeting that lawmakers will need to decide if Hart used his legislative privilege too many times during his years in office. Bambauch thinks legislative privilege is one of the perks of the lawmakers and that Hart isn't the only legislator to use it. "It is pointless to have legislative privilege to avoid the distraction of polemical civil filings, if the Legislature is going to convene an ethics hearing each time the privilege is invoked," said Baumbach. "To punish Rep. Hart would be to open the entire Legislature up to frivolous lawsuits. This ethics charge alone will have a chilling effect on the legislative process itself."
Hart is expected to appear before the panel Thursday and is slated to testify.