Legislative Democrats are rolling out part of their ethics reform platform Thursday in the Capitol and one state senator they couldn't have asked for a better gift from Senate Republicans Wednesday.
However, one Democratic leader says he won’t use a decision made by GOP senators about one of their misbehaving colleagues to aid the push for ethics reforms.
House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, told IdahoReporter.com Wednesday that Democrats won’t utilize the recent mishaps by Sen. John McGee, R-Caldwell, to their advantage as they work to create an independent ethics commission and pursue other reforms.
But not everyone in Rusche’s party is on the same page. Sen. Les Bock, D-Boise, says he thinks McGee’s incident and the Senate GOP’s vote of confidence in the beleaguered senator will help the reform push. “Certainly, if you look at the broad scope of issues, the more things go unaddressed, the more the public loses confidence in the system,” Bock said.
The Senate GOP caucus decided Wednesday that McGee, who admitted guilt to driving under the influence after a June 2011 incident in which he spent the night drinking and then stole an SUV before jackknifing it in a driveway, will keep his post as majority caucus chair.
Instead of going after McGee or any other specific lawmaker, Rusche says Democrats will make the issue bigger than one individual or incident. “We’ll talk about the confidence in the institution of government,” Rusche said.
In the past few days, Rusche has accused GOP lawmakers of actions he calls arrogant, but he’s stopped short of pointing fingers because he needs Republican help to pass ethics reforms. In his office Wednesday, he said the plans he wants are greater than politics.
“Ethics is not conservative or liberal, Democrat or Republican,” he explained. “Ethics is doing the right thing.”
Even if the ethics commission Democrats want to implement had been in place when McGee’s drunken driving incident took place, Rusche isn’t so sure the senator would have ended up before the panel. “In my mind, what John did is a personal matter,” Rusche explained.
Bock agrees with Rusche that McGee’s mishap probably wouldn’t have landed him in front of the proposed ethics panel. “We’re really talking about one incident,” Bock explained. “I’m assured it’s one incident that won’t be repeated.”
But Bock says that if McGee – or any other senator – makes a habit of gathering drunken driving arrests, ethics complaints would likely be brought against the offender.