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Reminder: Butch Otter was no conservative, and now he backs the rigging of Idaho’s elections

Reminder: Butch Otter was no conservative, and now he backs the rigging of Idaho’s elections

Wayne Hoffman
September 14, 2023
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September 14, 2023

Butch Otter’s record as governor wasn’t a conservative one. Let’s take a little stroll down memory lane to remind Idahoans of Otter’s abandonment of conservative principles throughout his disastrous tenure as the state government’s CEO. It included:

  • Giving away multimillion-dollar pensions to his cronies in the Legislature.
  • Spending the state into oblivion at every opportunity; 
  • Implementing Obamacare in Idaho and getting frustrated that he couldn’t expand government welfare even more; 
  • Starting a multimillion-dollar corporate welfare program; 
  • Giving tax breaks to out-of-state big businesses at the expense of existing Idaho companies;
  • Binding Idaho to an international child support treaty that injures state oversight and autonomy; 
  • Vetoing a bill to let makeup artists work without having to get a government license;
  • Vetoing a bill to reform Idaho’s civil asset forfeiture laws;
  • Vetoing a bill to let parents use CBD oil for their children with intractable epilepsy; 
  • Vetoing a repeal of the grocery tax; 
  • Raising gas taxes and fees. 

And that’s just the highlight reel. So, let’s not act too terribly surprised that Otter is now backing a plan to rig Idaho’s elections by instituting “ranked choice voting” in the state and turning back the clock on Idaho’s closed primary system. Otter’s upset because politicians of his ilk — the lefty kind who love big government, bought and paid for and run by special interests — are now having a harder time getting their big government initiatives through the Legislature. 

The body is the most conservative it has ever been, and actual honest-to-goodness conservative Republicans are asking a lot of questions about Idaho’s regulations, taxes, and incubation of social justice and school indoctrination programs — problems that either emerged or were afforded protection during Otter’s terms as governor. 

When Otter was in his first term in Congress in 2000, my mentor, Ralph Smeed, asked Otter to write a preface to a booklet version of Ezra Taft Benson’s “Proper Role of Government” essay. Ralph would always ask rhetorically of me, “Do you know why I asked Butch to do that?” To which Ralph would answer, “To keep him honest.” 

Ralph explained that Otter’s commitment to conservative/libertarian ideas was tenuous. Tying his name to Benson’s essay was intended to serve as a reminder of his role in keeping government in its place and to keep Otter in check. It rarely worked.

Sometimes, Otter amazed, such as when he cast one of the few votes against the Patriot Act in 2001. But most often, Otter found ways to prove Ralph right. The governor was unreliable at best, and at worst, a willing conduit for the expansion of government and control by the likes of the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, the Idaho Education Association, and the Idaho Hospital Association.  

In 2017, I wrote that a plausible explanation for Otter’s behavior was that he was abducted by aliens and the real Butch Otter was being held in a cage on Talos IV, probably, hoping someone will recognize that there’s a pod person in his place by the crazy leftist governing patterns and positions. 

If we go with that theory, we know we don’t have the resources to mount a rescue. The Idaho Freedom Foundation does not yet own a spaceship. 

But we do have the wherewithal to fight the latest crazy, bad, awful, and downright dangerous-to-Idaho plan Otter is pushing. He's helping a known leftist organization, Reclaim Idaho, undertake a complete rigging of Idaho’s elections so leftists have a better chance of winning. If he’s successful, it will damage Idaho in ways more measurable than any other policy Otter pushed during his tenure.

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