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Flying the “Friendly Skies” in ID Sparks Calls for an Investigation

March 10, 2008

Boise, ID – Flying the "friendly skies" in Idaho may be worth a closer look by the Idaho Attorney General. Campaign finance reform advocates are asking for an investigation after several state legislators hopped on private, chartered flights last week to attend a Republican Party event. The flights were paid for by the executive of health products company Melaleuca, which is pushing legislation at the Statehouse.

Jim Hansen, with United Vision for Idaho, is a former state lawmaker who says those types of actions undermine the public's trust.

"Public officials have blurred the lines between their public responsibility and serving the private interests of lobbyists."

Hansen notes that it's the time of year when people can file to run for office, and he hopes stories like these inspire candidates who want to draw clearer lines between corporate lobbyists and public officials.

"They've gotten into this practice of interacting, almost like these private lobbyists are their friends, and they accept things from their friends."

According to state law, legislators are supposed to report such "gifts" on campaign finance forms or pay for the flights out of their own pockets. Hansen reports some legislators who were asked how they were going to account for the freebie didn't seem familiar with the law, although some said they intend to report the trip as an in-kind gift.

Deborah Smith/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - ID