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Idaho needs better disclosure laws

Times-News Editorial Board
January 6, 2013
Twin Falls Times-News

The Citizens United Supreme Court decision opened the floodgates for dollars spent on political advertising. The rise of political action committees, and the idea that money is equitable to speech, gave us the most expensive political season in history. Idaho was not immune. PACs funneled money into contested state races, including the battle over the Students Come First laws and the Right to Hunt amendment. (In case you missed last week's articles, read them online: and

We don't have a problem with that. We are, after all, a media company. We get to have our say. Why shouldn't other groups? But when we endorse a candidate or proposition, a list of our names runs nearby. When you agree or disagree, you write letters stating your opinion, come to the office and speak with us or even cancel your subscription. Dialogue is created. You can be involved and interact with your local media source. We should demand the same from local politics. A recent two-part series on campaign finance in the Times-News revealed ways to skirt disclosure requirements, like transferring money between PACs so the original donors can't be identified. That's bad for politics because it kills dialogue.

When Albertsons heir Joseph B. Scott donated $250,000 to Education Voters of Idaho - a group supporting Students Come First laws - a number of teachers stopped shopping at the grocery store chain. Since money is now considered speech, we can call that political dialogue. But EVI tried to stop Scott and the rest of its donors from being named publicly. When forced by a lawsuit to reveal names, it turned out the group was poorly named: Most contributors couldn't even vote in Idaho. The list included New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Wyoming billionaire Foster Friess. We realize PACs are a new concept, and it will take time for courts and legislatures to come up with the legal construct to properly manage them. But we encourage our politicians to write disclosure laws in a way that promotes openness.

People have a right to know where the money comes from, so they can respond and be a part of the political process. Political action committees shouldn't be the only groups with a voice.

Originally posted at

The editorial posted here is provided by permission of its original publisher and does not necessarily reflect the views of Idaho Public Television.

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