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Insider perspective: Legislative ethics committees weaponized to target conservatives

Insider perspective: Legislative ethics committees weaponized to target conservatives

Idaho Freedom Foundation staff
August 5, 2021
Idaho Freedom Foundation staff
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August 5, 2021

By Daniel D. Foreman | Special to the Idaho Freedom Foundation

I was the duly elected Idaho state senator for District 5 for the 2017 and 2018 legislative sessions, and I wish to make it clear I have no proverbial axe to grind against any past or present member of the Idaho Legislature. I wish them all the best, and may the Almighty guide their decision making as they steer Idaho’s course into our collective future. My comments represent my opinion, and are intended to be informative and hopefully motivational, because corrective changes in attitude, function, and sense of purpose in Idaho’s Legislature are sorely needed.

Having witnessed the recent House of Representatives ethics proceeding involving Rep. Priscilla Giddings, and in light of state government’s failure to follow state code and support the constitutional rights of the people of Idaho during the ongoing pandemic episode, I feel compelled to express my concerns over not just this most recent ethics-based event, but also a similar situation I endured while a member of Idaho’s Senate.

I entered the Senate with the intention of fully representing the people of Idaho and specifically my district by protecting their constitutional rights, being a watchdog against wasteful spending and expansion of government, and advocating for the abolition of abortion. I spoke out in support of all these objectives. I regularly voted against inflated spending bills, increased regulation, and fee increases on small businesses. 

I consistently stressed the need to amend Idaho law to eliminate the existing affirmative defense to having an abortion in Idaho. I know my public stance on these issues did not endear me to the Senate leadership of the time, namely President Pro Tempore Brent Hill and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Winder. My numerous contacts with these men, although cordial, left no doubt in my mind my advocacy for — and subsequent Senate voting record and floor speeches in support of — my stated objectives made them concerned. They did not want the ripples on the political pond my efforts generated. It seems the Prime Directive of politics is to avoid contentious issues and make no waves.

Having served two legislative sessions in the Senate, it became quite noticeable that senators were reluctant to speak their minds on the Senate floor and/or vote their true feelings on various issues. I know this because I saw it. I was there. I talked to senators about the issues up for vote, and I knew their true feelings. Yet, quite often I saw senators vote in opposition to their privately stated intentions. They justified their voting records to me by claiming concern for resisting the intended political outcomes of leadership. They also expressed extreme concern for voting contrary to the preferences expressed by the governor. This defines a reality of overcontrol by Senate leadership and unconstitutional interference in legislative affairs by the state executive branch.

Many times I was told by a committee chairman my function on the committee was to vote in accordance with the wishes of the governor and/or the head of whatever state agency was primarily interfacing with the committee. I witnessed committee hearings on issues opposed by the executive branch or agency chiefs cancelled with no notice to the dozens of citizens who had travelled to the statehouse to attend those hearings. These scheduled hearings dealt with things like state vaccination requirements for schools and the regulated use of CBD oil for medical purposes. I publicly and officially called out leadership for these representative government interferences . I know this irritated Senate leadership, because it publicized how the people were being denied a voice in state government. It is hard to participate in government when your invitation to exercise your constitutional right to speak at a hearing is revoked at the last minute with no reason given and no avenue for redress offered. 

Throughout my tenure as a state senator, I observed a process of subtle but effective control being employed. Many senators, myself included, felt as if key information on important legislative bills was kept from us until very late in the legislative session. Major budget bills were introduced to the Senate floor late in the session, and great emphasis was placed on voting in the affirmative with little or no debate on these critical and expensive pieces of legislation in an effort to end the session on schedule. Key bills that should have garnered long and intense debate were introduced so late in the session as to be summarily rushed through the voting process. It was not a simple matter of what leadership did or did not do. It was more a matter of how they did some things. I publicly opposed this short shrift approach with many “No” votes on the senate floor. 

Well, I was certain my vocal and public efforts to fully live up to my commitment to stand up for the constitutional rights of Idaho’s citizens by voting against wasteful spending, advocating for the right to life, and opposing the expansion of government was irritating the powers that be in the Senate – and likely the governor’s office. At approximately one month into my second session I was called into Sen. Hill’s office. Sen. Winder was in attendance as well. Hill asked me if I had authored a very unprofessional and mean spirited tweet in reference to a senator I shall refer to as Senator X. The tweet referenced the subject of abortion.

I told Hill and Winder I did not author the tweet, did not have a Twitter account, and had no idea as to the source of the tweet. Hill told me the Twitter account had my name on it, and I was to be investigated by a Senate ethics panel, because Senator X had filed an ethics complaint against me in reference to the tweet. Hill stated the investigation was a confidential and internal Senate matter and was not to be discussed in any way outside of his office. 

Shortly after my meeting with Hill and Winder, I started to receive numerous press inquiries related to the ethics charge in the matter. I saw an interview by CBS news during which Senator X accused me of ethics violations, stating I behaved in a disgraceful and unethical manner resulting in embarrassment to the Senate. No action was ever taken by leadership against Senator X for violating the Senate rules on confidentiality in regards to the ethics investigation. 

The ethics investigation dragged on for more than a month, during which I was subjected to an onslaught of press inquiries, telephonic harassment, death threats, and suggestions from Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian Kane that I submit to a polygraph test. I refused the test because I had done nothing wrong, and it was up to the investigators to prove just that. On one occasion, Kane was speaking to me when he pointed to his cell phone and stated there was activity occurring on the suspect Twitter account. He showed me a post printing on that account in real time. I asked him how I could be posting on a Twitter account when I had my cell phone in my hand, and he could clearly see I was not using it to post. Deputy Assistant Attorney General Kane told me the Idaho State Police as well as detectives from a local police department would be investigating my ethics case.

I eventually met with the ethics panel headed by Sen. Steve Bair. I told the panel I had nothing to do with the tweet, had no idea who was using this clearly parody Twitter account to impersonate me, and I had nothing further to add. Approximately one month later, Bair gave me the findings of the ethics panel. He said the panel concluded there was no probable cause to continue the investigation. He said they could not establish whether I had done anything improper or not. Bair also referenced other unfounded incidents about me that may not be in keeping with ethical standards of the Senate – even though the ethics panel was not empowered to look into anything other than the alleged tweet incident. He went on to say if I was accused of any further unethical behavior, the results of the tweet incident would be brought back to life and possibly used against me in further proceedings. His final admonition was to inform me he would not release the findings of the ethics panel, and I could not do so, even though Senator X had leaked the entire incident and made accusations to the media. 

Kane met with me in my office the same day I met with Bair. Kane told me the results of the ethics investigation could not be released to anyone, because it involved an internal Senate proceeding. He said I, as a member of the Senate, was prohibited from discussing the findings of the panel with anyone. My wife, who was present during this meeting, promptly informed him she was a private citizen and was under no obligation to keep secret the results of the ethics panel. She stated she was going to release an account of the entire episode to every major news outlet in the area. Approximately 15 minutes later, I was called to Hill’s office and told he was going to release a public statement to the media indicating there was no probable cause to continue the ethics investigation.

Again, with no animosity toward anyone, I feel justified in stating I was subjected to a weaponized and systemically flawed system of due process with regard to the investigation of a groundless and unsustainable ethics charge. I was the victim of a clear double standard in the sense I was sworn to secrecy while enduring a barrage of harassment, yet Senator X was allowed to speak at length to the media, making harmful personal accusations and charges against me later proven to be false. I was asked to take a polygraph test, made to interview with police detectives and left twisting in the wind for over a month for an investigation that should have taken at best one day. The use of social media parody accounts being falsely set up in the name of people in the public eye is well known. These phony accounts have been falsely used in the past in an attempt to embarrass sitting governors and other political figures. It was obvious it was a parody account with no bearing on me or my position as a state senator.

So, why was this non-incident made into a long ordeal for me? It was done for the same reasons Rep. Giddings is being dragged through what certainly appears to be a kangaroo court process of intimidation and warning to anyone contemplating standing up to a jaded, self-protective system of self-centered politicians that holds a death grip on the free expression of ideas and constitutionally mandated representative government. The message is quite simple and clear: If you speak out in support of the people’s issues; if you vote against bloated budgets; if you are pro-life; if you fight against expansion of government; if you stand for representative government and the “little guy” — they will endeavor to destroy your political career.

The separation of powers in government as mandated by the Constitution has been violated and perverted into a system dominated by the executive branch. Career politicians who serve themselves have replaced holders of public office who serve the people under the guidance supplied by our Constitution. Those like Rep. Giddings who know this is true are feared by those who value careers over service and prefer helping themselves over serving you, the citizens of Idaho. 

My friends, Idaho is worth the fight. We live in the greatest state with the finest people you will find anywhere. We have an absolutely beautiful system of government. Let us endeavor to fix what is wrong. Let us bring back the spirit of public service by public servants to our great state. It is past time to root out the selfish, self-protecting career politicians who long ago simply forgot it is an honor to serve. We must support our dedicated warrior-heroes like Rep. Giddings, for they fight to restore our system of government to the thing of beauty and freedom it once was and could still be.

Daniel D. Foreman, Colonel USAF, (Ret.)
Idaho State Senator, Dist. 5 (former)

View Comments
  • Bob holup says:

    Thank you Sir. If citizens only knew!

  • Al says:

    So the complaints, including cheneys very quickly after the von ehrlinger hearing, had nothing to do with giddings doxxing a 19 year old accuser and being evasive at best, partially truthful closer to reality, lying a distinct pissibility, about it. Its pure attack because of her politics and nothing else?
    Memories of Hillary and Bill Clinton come to mind. ..Remember the good ol' days when it was the libs who were the immoral ones we righteously attacked?

    • Haz says:

      Al -- Please correct your statement. Giddings linked to an already published and very public article available to everyone that contained the name of "Jane Doe" --- whose name was released to the public (doxed, if that's the word you want to use) by a FORMER LT. GOV and FORMER STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL. Giddings "doxed" nobody. Please stick to the facts.

  • I,m not playing you game says:

    I to have notified the Gov, that I will also tell everyone I know to get several of his so called Republicans out of office . If We The People don’t stand our ground. We will not own our ground . Take a good look at the world is it what you want your children and grandchildren to live in. I know I have seen this coming for years and I’m pretty sure everyone has. We need to stop this while we can, the media and newspapers are controlled by people manipulating our vote just like Brad little and the rest of his cronies. We need to do everything in our power to stop them . This is being done in our schools as well as in our community: These people are pretending to be working for the little man . That is all a lye and if we do nothing now we won’t have the opportunity to do it later. So I ask all the people in the community to speak up and back these individuals before it’s to late. We are just being brought to more government control by our own people that saying they have our backs . This is absolutely not true.

  • Al says:

    Out of curiosity, would you mind clarifying which govt actions, or inactions, during the pandemic (noting that IFF claims there was no "pandemic") violated which state or federal constitutional provisions?
    I say this because there has been such widespread looseness in reference to constitutional rights lately, wondering what specifics youre referring to? Pardon me if I'm inclined to just sweep the claim under the rug of so many ambiguous, nondebatable claims, unless i know what youre talking about.

    • Daniel Foreman says:

      The state government ignored state code during the pandemic episode. The Governor declared a state of extreme emergency and failed to convene the legislature within 90 days as required by law. The legislature also ignored state code by not self convening as required by law in light of the Governor’s failure to convene. When government ignores its own laws it is violating the constitutional right of the people to representative government. The voice of the people was not heard during the pandemic episode, because the legislature was not allowed to convene until far past the time frame mandated by Idaho Code. And when it did convene the Governor was successful in convincing the Senate to not even vote on ending the state of emergency as approved by the House. The failure of the legislature to convene in a timely manner, as well as executive branch interference with legislative functions was unconstitutional and violated state law. I call that a failure to protect the constitutional rights of the people. Furthermore, the executive branch made spending decisions in reference to all the federal monies coming into the state during the pandemic episode. It is the responsibility of the legislature to oversee the spending process. The legislature is the voice of the people. Cutting the legislature out of the spending process essentially cuts the people out of the process. This lack of voice for the people was unconstitutional. Also the Governor ordered citizens to quarantine. And he decided to close many businesses having deemed them to be nonessential. He closed schools and failed to stop municipalities and some businesses from mandating face masks and regulating the freedom to assemble and worship. The Governor allowed the state to advertise the experimental Covid vaccinations as being completely safe and approved by medical experts when just the opposite was argued by many doctors highly qualified in virology and epidemiology. In short the state government headed by the Governor violated the constitutional rights of the people as enumerated in the Bill of Rights. And there is no emergency clause in the Bill of Rights. I hope this answers your question.

      • RustyCarr says:

        Thanks for answering Al. Seems he is a little brainwashed by the atrocious mainstream media. Good grief!

      • Al says:

        Which idaho code section are you referring to? The one mandating convening legislature in the event of enemy attack, or some other section?
        Are we back to IFF's legal opinion that COVID was an intentional attack by China, is that what youre reffering to? Otherwise i am confused as to what law youre describing.

  • john livingston says:

    Democrats are not the problem in Idaho. Collusion between government agencies and corporations and lobbyists and collusion between the executive and legislative leadership is the problem. State agencies not being subjected to outside audits, and finally entrenched politicians----many legates of generations of familial political privilege are the problem. People of privilege---especially those who have not earned that privilege don't want to fight fair because they have never had to fight their own fights, to begin with. The Ethics Committee in the case of Priscilla Giddings was a joke. How many of the members of the committee will have their admission to the Governor's Cup next month in Sun Valley paid for by lobbyists who also contribute to their campaigns. How many of our politicians will not disclose or declare this obvious conflict of interest. Will the Governor's Cup admission and participation in activities be investigated by The Ethics Committee.
    Didn't think so.

    • Al says:

      So...did Priscilla Giddings earn the privilege of doxxing a 19 year old accuser of rape? And earn the privilege of telling half-truths, misleading statements about what she'd done during the van Ehrling hearing? Or do you just have a different belief of facts during that hearing? If so, shouldnt Giddings have defended herself with such facts instead of inaccurately blaming the committee for not serving subpoenas on her witnesses and walking out of the hearing (and ridiculously claiming she was just saving taxpayer money-as if the hearing would have concluded)? How do i earn the privilege in our society, service in the military with distinction gets me there?
      I think the starting point with what upset people is completely ignored by Dan Foremen and IFF in the interview Emri did. Our society disfavors what Giddings did even if IFF doesnt give a rip about what Giddings did to get this situation started.

      • Robert Stokes says:

        I don't give a rip of what you liberals believe. I'm voting for a true conservative, Priscilla Giddings and Janice McGeachin.

  • Bee says:

    Meanwhile at the Fed level,
    Crapo and Risch are on the list with RINOS such as Romney, Collins, and Murkowski who are screwing us with the ''Infrastructure'' bill:

    Here are the 17 Republican senators who voted to advance the bipartisan infrastructure plan:

    Roy Blunt of Missouri
    Richard Burr of North Carolina
    Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia
    Bill Cassidy of Louisiana
    Susan Collins of Maine
    Kevin Cramer of North Dakota
    Mike Crapo of Idaho
    Lindsey Graham of South Carolina
    Chuck Grassley of Iowa
    John Hoeven of North Dakota
    Mitch McConnell of Kentucky
    Lisa Murkowski of Alaska
    Rob Portman of Ohio
    Jim Risch of Idaho
    Mitt Romney of Utah
    Thom Tillis of North Carolina
    Todd Young of Indiana

  • KJ says:

    How to Keep Your State Red, And Keep Blue State Refugees Out

    Under the ‘police powers’ of the tenth amendment, it is clearly stated that the regulation of health, wellbeing, morality and education of citizens is under the sole authority of the states. Police powers are the powers of a state government to make and enforce all laws necessary to preserve public health, safety, and the general welfare of the citizens of the country.

    These powers originate from the English common law system, and when the Constitution was ratified in 1788, the states did not surrender their powers as a condition of creating the federal government. The federal government has very few actual powers, the states hold most of the power.


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