Survey: Idaho still has worst disclosure laws in U.S.

From the Twin Falls Times News

By Jared S. Hopkins
Times-News writer

Idaho recently ranked worst in the nation for public disclosure laws of its elected state officials just months after the House Speaker killed a measure that would’ve likely elevated its ranking.

According to the nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity survey, Idaho, Michigan and Vermont are tied for last – no personal financial disclosure laws have ever existed in any of the three states – and didn’t earn any points. All told, 20 of the 50 states are still receiving a failing grade.

Idaho was tied for last in both of the last surveys in 2006 and 1999.

Some legislators at the 2009 session were prepared to increase disclosure under a bipartisan measure sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, and Senate Minority Leader Kate Kelly, D-Boise, and supported by Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter. Lawmakers and candidates, plus their spouses, would’ve been required to file an annual report of income sources plus a listing of large assets like real estate. Income sources of more than $10,000 would have been required for disclosure.

But House Speaker Lawerence E. Denney, R-Midvale, opposed the measure, calling it unnecessary. He kept it in his desk drawer at the end of the session as the House and Senate wrangled with session-ending politics, stymieing its progress. It had passed the Senate unanimously.

“Citizens have a right to expect a certain amount of basic and personal information about their elected officials,” said Mary Boyle, vice president for communications for the open government group Common Cause. Disclosure laws allow the public “to make a judgment about whether there are conflicts of interest,” Boyle said.

Meanwhile, Louisiana’s ranking in the study jumped to first from 44 in 2006, thanks in part to a sweeping ethics reform package from Gov. Bobby Jindal. The CPI has reported on disclosure requirements in state legislatures since 1999 and bases rankings on a 43-question survey.

Kelly, a champion of ethics reform, said Idaho’s ranking is disappointing but hopes the state makes progress soon.

“It’s about public trust, and people do care about it,” she said. “The people who are in power might not care about it but in terms of establishing public trust in government and their government officials, it is critically important we have strong ethics laws.”

Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, pointed out how some states that received good marks for disclosure are sometimes embroiled in scandals. But he said the Senate made an effort.

“The Senate tried to take some reasonable steps forward that would’ve placed us a lot higher,” he said. “I’m all in favor of appropriate disclosure but for whatever reason that bill was not allowed to proceed.”

From the Twin Falls Times News

Not an IDOG member yet?