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A move for so-called ‘common-sense’ gun laws heads to the states. Plus, will Trump judges decide a decade of civil rights? (Broadcaster Note: Our 6-min. newscast now has an optional outcue at 3 minutes: “This is PNS.”)

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Cleaning up the Money Trail in Idaho Politics

February 2, 2007

Running for office in Idaho takes a lot of cash. Close to $5 million was spent on the governor's race alone this year, and that has campaign finance reformers anxious to make some changes. An Idaho legislative committee is considering a plan similar to those adopted in Maine and Arizona, in which citizens could run for office without accepting big money from private donors or corporations. It's an idea even many politicians appreciate, including former Republican Gooding County Commissioner Carolyn Elexpuru.

"When the politicians are elected this way, they wouldn't owe any 'favors,' or feel like they have to 'take care' of those who put money into their campaign."

If it passes, the Idaho Fair Elections Act would be voluntary. Candidates who pledge not to take big donations would qualify for a small grant to help pay their campaign expenses. Critics of such programs say private campaign donations are a form of free speech, and that making election grants would encourage "unqualified" people to run for office. But Boise School District Trustee A.J. Balukoff says there have been too many proven cases of campaign donations corrupting the decisions of public officials. He feels this law would restore public confidence and level the proverbial playing field.

"I think an alternative way of financing campaigns would encourage more people to run for public office. Here in Idaho, I think we'd see more competition for legislative seats."

Senate Bill 1037 will be heard by the Senate State Affairs Committee at 8 a.m. A companion bill would require personal financial disclosures for legislators. Idaho is one of only three states that doesn't track individual candidates' financial conflicts of interest.

Deborah Smith/Jamie Folsom, Public News Service - ID