The GOP-controlled Idaho Senate proved today that this body is incapable of policing itself on ethics issues. Idaho needs an independent ethics commission, an idea quashed this year by Republican leaders who have fostered a culture of arrogance and entitlement.Sen. Monty Pearce, Republican Chairman of the Resources and Environment and Committee, did not act badly enough to meet the high threshold for a direct conflict of interest, according to a bi-partisan committee. This is at best a pyrrhic victory for Pearce, who neglected to mention his oil and gas leases as he used his chairmanship to enable the very oil and gas company that he has a lease with to push through their legislative agenda. It’s a defeat for all decent, honest, hardworking Idahoans who ply by the rules and expect their elected officials to do the same. It’s clear that Senate rules are designed to protect senators, not the Idahoans who elected them.Where else but the Idaho Senate can a landowner who is actively doing business with the oil and gas industry as he shepherds their agenda through the legislature and then claim he behaved ethically when he failed to mention that pesky conflict? The only other place where that is standard behavior is in the Idaho House where Republicans joined senators to mock their conflict of interests rules because they believe the rules should not be applied to one of their kind.
Democratic Senators, who could not convince lock-step Republicans to take a serious look at Pearce’s obvious conflicts, are to be commended for having the courage to speak up.