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Better lucky than good

Corey Taule
February 20, 2013
Idaho Falls Post Register

It turns out the Idaho Senate was wise to reject Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's appointee to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Joan Hurlock of Buhl.

Actually, "wise" isn't the correct term. "Fortunate" is closer to the truth.

Hurlock became the second woman appointed to the commission when Otter called her name last summer. But in a rare occurrence, the GOP-dominated Senate dug into her credentials and experience.

Then came the criticisms. Not an avid sportswoman. California import. And most insidious, rumors of a conservation ethic. Said the man who led the fight against Hurlock's confirmation, Senate Resources Committee Chairman Monty Pearce, R-New Plymouth: "There's a fear of some environmentalism here. Just trust us, trust us in the way we see it."

After all the talk, a long and contentious committee hearing and a 19-16 Senate vote against confirmation, the bombshell dropped. Only it wasn't treated as a bombshell by policymakers or the press, just another of those factoids that makes the casual observer wonder if anybody is paying attention: As initially reported by the Idaho Statesman's Rocky Barker, Hurlock gave $400 to a man who opposed Otter in the 2010 GOP primary and made a name for himself through random acts of lunacy -- Rex Rammell.

Nobody knew. Not Otter. Not Pearce. Not the seven Senate Democrats who voted to confirm Hurlock, but now must be feeling a little sheepish about supporting a commissioner whose support for Rammell is rooted in his ideas about wolf management: Kill them all and ask questions later.

How could this happen? Hurlock was vetted by a committee that should have done three things immediately after pulling her name from the candidate pool. Find out if she has a criminal record. Find out if she owes money. Find out what candidates she supported. That's easy enough. Go to the Idaho Secretary of State's website, plug Hurlock's name into the searchable campaign finance database and there they are, four checks written to Rammell in 2009 and 2010.

Certainly, the donations bring Hurlock's judgment into question. Her hard-earned money went to support someone who angered sportsmen by running one of those canned-hunt operations in which the terms "fair chase" and "sporting chance" do not apply; a man who pleaded guilty to poaching in 1992 and followed that up in 2011 by illegally taking an elk.

Not even Rammell's joke about "Obama tags" was enough to dissuade Hurlock. Three of her four checks were cut after Rammell embarrassed the state with that comment.

Idaho appears to have dodged a bullet -- no thanks to Otter, who again failed to do his homework; or the Senate, which focused on the wrong issues. And neither does the episode reflect well upon those of us in the Fourth Estate. We had our narrative -- that of a woman being wronged by the Senate's redneck wing -- and we stuck to it.

Oh well, sometimes the old sayings hold true. In Idaho, it turns out, it really is better to be lucky than good.

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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