Monday, June 24, 2024

The truth, the whole truth...

| November 28, 2010 8:00 PM

Since 1973, there has been a lot of squawking from anti-abortion advocates about the legal basis for Roe v. Wade. Sophisticated abortion foes argue activist judges are making laws rather than interpreting them; thus, the underpinning of Roe, the right to "privacy," is not valid because it is not guaranteed in the Constitution. If those Constitutionalists are serious about that argument, and not simply seeking excuses to outlaw choice, I would think they are equally outraged with the Supreme Court's ruling on the Citizens United case early this year.

Specifically, the Supremes ruled unions and corporations have rights equal to those of individuals to freedom of speech; thus these huge entities can now spend virtually unlimited sums of money on certain kinds of political advertising. The total tab in 2010 for political ads will approach $4 billion, a new record for a mid-term election and the end is not nearly in sight, thanks in part to the ruling.

The Court struck down a provision of the McCain-Feingold Act that prohibited all corporations, both for-profit and not-for-profit, and unions from broadcasting "electioneering communications." There is no justification for the decision in the Constitution. It is a peculiar situation: while the duties of the Supreme Court are outlined in the Constitution it is the Supreme Court that expands them.

Such practice is akin to the doctrine of inerrancy in the Bible; the Bible is inerrant because the Bible says it is. Arguments like these wash well with believers but are kind of hard for others to swallow. In any case, here are some results of the decision on campaign financing. I invite you to imagine where such things will go when corporations and unions get really geared up for 2012.


I received an anti-Allred mailer. There was nothing remotely pro-Otter about this attack piece; some of the points were pretty funny. It said Allred accepted $10,000 in contributions from the Democratic Governors Association, "a liberal Washington campaign organization." There is even a footnote to lend additional credibility, as though someone might actually doubt a Democratic candidate for Governor of Idaho accepted a donation from Democratic governors.

Point two was equally silly: Allred accepted money from the Idaho AFL-CIO. Democrats do such things. Unions and Democratic Governors tend to support Democratic candidates. OK, so what about Republicans?

The brochure was funded by the "Idaho Prosperity Fund" which listed a P.O. Box in Boise. An Internet search led me to the Idaho Association of Commerce & Industry (IACI), a conservative group of 300 employers who claim to be The Voice of Business in Idaho; they might well be. Commerce and Industry certainly deserve a voice in Idaho politics and IACI is reputable. I admire the code of ethics they prominently display on that same website.

IACI endorses Idaho candidates; 100 percent of those endorsed for statewide office - Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Controller and Superintendent of Instruction - are Republicans. In legislative races, about 90 percent of those endorsed were Republicans. IACI did not endorse conservative candidates running without opposition such as two very hard working and effective Republican senators, Shawn Keough and Joyce Broadsword, from Sandpoint and Sagle, respectively, or Rep. Phil Hart, formerly of the Idaho House Revenue and Taxation Committee. IACI prefers Republicans. There was nothing terribly misleading in the brochure for anyone willing to do five minutes of work on the Internet. I would have preferred identification with IACI rather than a smoke screen organization called the Idaho Prosperity Fund. So would the League of Women Voters, according to a Press letter to the editor of Nov. 10, written by Judy Edwards, though she did not comment specifically on the IACI brochure.


A second mailing piece from IACI did not pass the sniff test. It arrived a few days prior to the election and so was impossible to answer. Allred was branded a liberal who "wants to raise our taxes" based on his statement, "I'm not going to take any tax exemptions off the table." The brochure then stated the Allred plan "would end tax exemptions for Idaho families and small businesses." I have a tough time with that one. Allred was talking exclusively about enormous loopholes in Idaho sales tax collections; I doubt voters consider that an issue for families and small businesses. In fact, those loopholes protect mainly IACI members, the same 300 major employers, and here identification with IACI would be useful for voters, I think.

Both mailings are harbingers of unpleasant things to come; large corporations, according to my friend Ern Warner, are sitting on $1 trillion of investment income they can use as they desire. Unions may have similar campaign war chests; I simply do not know. But one thing of which we can be certain: we will see enormously increased budgets in future elections from both the left and the right. I have no illusions about one side being more moral than the other. In the past campaign it was not only the political right that engaged in last minute and unfair advertising.


An ad appeared in The Press two days before the election for the NIC Board of Trustees which was as anti-Ketchum and Nilson as the Allred pieces from IACI. It disturbed me to find the names of many of my friends on that ad which smeared its two targets with blatantly untrue statements and barely mentioned Christie Wood and Ken Howard, their opponents. It is instructive that many of the people listed as having paid for the ad have repeatedly come out strongly against exactly the kind of advertising for which they were now paying. I find that distressing.

The ad had one saving grace; it was so amateurishly done that I could find no one who had seen it, even among those who paid for it, most of them fairly prominent Democrats. Still and all, my friends should be hanging their heads in shame for sponsoring an advertisement that was so unfair that The Press felt compelled to editorialize against it about a week after the election. It likely was legal to print this piece of trash but it was clearly a lapse by a group of people who are, in the main, highly ethical and probably did not take sufficient care to protect their good names. I hope they do not in the future give either their money or lend their names to whoever actually produced that last minute attack ad. I am told both Wood and Howard were contacted by The Press and denied prior knowledge of the attack ad, which I believe to be true since they are fine people who ran clean campaigns. It would be nice, however, if someone would explain how that ad got into print and who was responsible for it.

"Justified Right" appears as needed on Sundays; its purpose is to comment on errors or misleading statements of "fact" that appear in The Press, mainly in letters to the editor and My Turn columns. To submit items, e-mail Timothy Hunt, at Please include the date of publication of the error(s).