Month: May 2016


Most residents of the Gate City are familiar with the expression used by journalist, author and Oregon politician Richard Neuberger to describe the phenomena that characterized many of the members of Congress, who, once defeated, or opting to retire, stayed inside the Beltway never to leave the Nation’s capitol.

Many who travel to D.C., especially those coming from the west, almost immediately sense the surrealism that pervades the place. Too many people frenetically rushing about, caught up in their own self-importance no matter how small or trivial their little piece of power is. Then there are the 24-year-old still wet behind the ears staff for members of the House and Senate, who not too deceptively allow how their “horse” will be unable to meet with a group despite the meeting having been scheduled months before.

You see, the President has just called the member down to the White House, or there’s a special vote, but don’t worry, it is really staff who run the office (wink, wink), so you’re talking to the right person, the aide pretentiously proclaims.

The city is all about power, money, greed, pecking orders, influence-peddling misnamed as lobbying, and that lovely phrase used by attorneys—billable hours. The classic example is a Hill staffer who has moved down to K Street to lobby, after a decent interval, former colleagues who know how the game is played becausae they too want to cash in on their connections.

The former aide bumps into his old Boss who says hello and moves on after 30 seconds. The ex-staffer rushes back to the office and immediately bills ten of the firm’s clients $450 (his hourly charge) each though the meeting was only a minute.

Its all perfectly legal and after all, everyone does it. Even a decent former congressman I knew once billed an Indian tribe $10,000 a month for one luncheon with a minor official from the Environmental Protection Agency. They had a “retainer agreement” in which the client pays to have the former congressman on “stand by” in case he may be needed. Most normal folk cannot get back home fast enough. There’s a cost for this greed and lack of ethics, though. It also may help to explain why many Americans are looking for an outsider to come into that surreal world to restore sanity and common sense.

Many have lost any confidence in or trust for those who live and work in the greater D.C. area. The irony is that many folks who go to D.C. either as a member of Congress, or a staffer, or an appointee to some post, get trapped by the high salaries. When they start to explore returning home they realize they cannot afford it.

They may sincerely want to return, but everything from private schools to reading the Washinton Post and the New York Times to start their day keeps them in place. Don’t forget either the parties in Georgetown and the easy sex that underlies “business” relationships.

So what about Idaho’s Congressional delegation? When Neuberger wrote the essay for the Saturday Evening Post in the early 50s he reportedly was looking for a former senator in Pocatello and was asking about. An agent for Union Pacific looked at him and uttered the phrase “those fellows never come back to Pocatello.”

Well, it turns out that the agent should not have used the word never.

Not double-counting those who were congressmen then senators, nor those still in office, since 1946 of the 33 members of Congress from Idaho slightly less than half, 15, have returned home to Idaho while 18 have remained.

Despite Neuberger’s catchy title, in the case of Idaho, many did return to Pocatello. Sadly, Richard Neuberger was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1954 from Oregon but never had the opportunity to decide whether to return home. He died at the age of 47 in 1959 while still in office.



Forty years ago, like a dandelion spreading its seeds, the bumper stickers started to appear in and across Idaho. Then they proliferated like rabbits as native Idahoans announced their deeply held view: Don’t Californicate Idaho!

Folks in Ada, Canyon, Kootenai and Bonner counties in particular had a sense that an invasion was underway, but few realized at the time how much these transplanted Californians were changing Idaho politics. Many of the newcomers were retirees from places like Orange County and San Diego County, California, and with the huge uptick in real estate values in southern California, they were selling homes at multiples of two, three or four times what they had paid.

They would carry the proverbial boatload of cash north with them and quickly discovered they could buy twice the house size they had in California at half the price. Many of these immigrants were also public employees who were retiring – teachers, firefighters, police—and thus their generous pension was provided by one of the wealthiest and strongest public pension systems in the world – CALPERS.

The vast majority of these immigrants had fallen hard in 1964 for Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater’s conservative mantle which saw government as the enemy and the consumer of confiscatory taxes with few returns. California Governor Ronald Reagan, who delivered a memorable last minute television plea for Goldwater, picked up the standard and started his march to the White House.

Reagan narrowly lost the 1976 nomination to the un-elected but appointed vice president, Gerald Ford, who inherited the office from the disgraced Richard Nixon. In 1980, Reagan won going away just about the time the in-migration of Californians started to decline.

These California transplants became active in Republican party politics, both regionally and statewide, started to field quality candidates, and following the lead of a very active party chairman, former State Senator Phil Batt, executed in election game plans that brought about victory after victory.

When the smoke cleared the take over was complete. At the local level the GOP captured county commissions and city councils throughout the ten northern counties. The once solid Democratic north was now solidly Republican and Idaho was a one party state.

Thanks a lot, California, for these immigrants brought their values and views with them, which shows Idaho’s support for public education as a percentage of income and economic growth declining steadily since 1994.

Take second district Representative Vito Barbieri. In the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary this transplanted Californian has voted no on almost every spending bill that has come before the Legislature in the six years he has been in Boise.. This “head in the sand” approach has actually cost the taxpayer more through the annual adoption of over-ride levies that increases one’s property taxes to off-set the Legislature’s consistent under funding.

Rep. Barbieri also voted this year to cap the homeowner’s exemption at $200,000 which will result in further increases in property taxes in coming years.

Barbieri is relying on the voters remaining ignorant and not finding it conceivable that Republicans could ever do anything to increase taxes, Wrong.

Then there’s the case of Alan Littlejohn, a retired firefighter from Placer, California, who is running against State Rep. Eric Redman. He arrives here three years ago, retired, and in his early 50’s with an annual income from CALPERS of $59,000 a year. He decides he’s paid enough in taxes to support the public schools in California. So to hell with paying for Idaho’s children.

His solution is to require school levies to be approved by 2/3’s of the district’s eligible voters instead of the current 50% plus one of the registered voters.

The answer to stem this influx of disease and selfishness is to close Idaho’s borders to any more California immigrants (but we’ll still take Syrian refugees) and to send back to California where they belong any legislator that ever has had anything to do with California by birth, education or business.

We would thereby eliminate ten state representatives and five state senators (see attached list) but in going from 105 to 90 legislators think of the money we could save and put toward building a wall around Idaho.

Admittedly, we might lose a few good legislators but that’s just going to have to be considered a cost of protecting Idaho from further Californication in Donald Trump’s brave new world.

(Editor’s Note: Chris Carlson readily admits he recruited former student Kathy Kahn to run against “Veto Vito.”)

List of California connected legislators:
Name Current hometown Connection

1. Vito Barbieri Dalton Gardens, Dist. 2 law school in Fullerton
2. Don Cheatham Post Falls, Dist. 3 LA Police
3. Sue Chew Boise, Dist. 17 born in Oakland
4. Lance Clow Twin Falls, Dist.24 born in LA
5. Sage Dixon Ponderay, Dist. 1 San Jose State
6. John Gannon Boise, Dist. 17 born in Ross
7. Ryan Kerby New Plymouth, Dist. 9 Biola, La Miranda
8. Lynn Luker Boise, Dist. 15 Lompoc; Cal-Berkeley
9.Jason Monks Meridian, Dist. 22 born in Ridgement
10. Paul Romrell St. Anthony, Dist. 35 USC Hospital Admin
11.Lori Don Hartog Meridian, Dist. 22 born in Escondido
12. Maryanne Jordan Boise, Dist. 17 San Jose State
13. Jim Rice Caldwell, Dist. 10 law degree, W.H. Taft
14. Michelle Stennett Ketchum, Dist. 26 born in Sacramento
15. Janie Ward-Engelking Boise, Dist. 18 Whittier College



Every once in awhile Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter says or does something profound or meaningful – so much so one wishes to see much more of this side of his persona. He will always deserve credit, for example, for courageously standing up against the Bush Administration’s assault on personal liberties contained in the Patriot Act.

In late April, Governor Otter was touring the newly completed and much needed Northern Idaho Crisis Center. According to the account in the Coeur d’Alene Press the Governor asked good, probing questions and heard testimony from numerous supporters regarding timely crisis intervention. Local law enforcement was especially supportive.

At some point, noting all the support for the Center, a reporter asked the Governor what he thought about why most of the Kootenai county legislative delegation had voted against any state funding for the facility.

Mincing no words, the Governor hit the nail squarely on the head. “They are stupified by the cost and totally incapable of seeing the value. For a public servant that is almost unforgivable.” Otter then added, “It shouldn’t be acceptable to anybody, anymore just to hear the answer to a public policy question as “No.”

Chief among the always vote no crowd from Kootenai county is three term Second District Republican State Representative Vito Barbieri, from Dalton Gardens, who was clearly the object of Otter’s pointed comments.

Barbieri is one of those Tea Party nay-sayers who apparently believes there is virtue in voting no on any state spending. He votes no on most spending bills for the State Constitutional directed support for public schools. He voted no last session on a bill to crack down further on dead-beat Dads because the Legislature had not accepted an amendment prohibiting any teaching anywhere of Islam’s Sharia law.

Barbieri often votes no on budgets comprised entirely of federal funds or, for example, he voted no on that portion of the Fish & Game Department’s budget comprised entirely of fees and fines. According to the Lewiston Tribune, he voted against bills totaling $6.4 billion this past session. Go figure.

Barbieri may think he is a tremendous tiger on the budget because of the phony A+ rating he receives from Wayne Hoffman’s Freedom Foundation, a “political action committee” that masquerades as a non-political, advocacy public policy think tank. The truth is Barbieri’s votes are costing his patrons real money.

First, every time he votes against a public schools budget he is indirectly foisting another proerty tax increase on the patrons of the schools in his district inasmuch as the school districts have to seek passage of over-ride levies to replace lost or reduced state funding.

Secondly, he voted to cap the homeowner exemption at $200,000 which for the vast majority of his constituents will mean an additional property tax increase.

Third, he does not seem to understand the concept of “pay me now, or pay me more later,” which Butch clearly does understand.

Neither Barbieri nor his patron, Mr. Hoffman, want to acknowledge that their futile fight against government spending was lost years ago in the 1930s when the nation opted for President Franklin Roosevelt’s “government is the solution not the problem” approach to addressing the nation’s ills. The country rejected Herbert Hoover’s “the free market is the answer” approach.

In the interest of full disclosure I reside in the second district. When Barbieri referenced a woman having a gynecological exam by lowering a miniature camera into her stomach, that set me on the path of finding and recruiting an opponent. I did not have to go too far – in fact, just next door to talk a former student of mine, Kathy Kahn, into running.

Mrs. Kahn is smart, hard-workng (She’s already doorbelling), and charming. Furthermore, I recruited former Idaho State Senator Mike Blackbird to manage her campaign. They have a winnble strategy and her fund-raising is going well.

Trust me on this – Kathy will send the three-term, 65-year-old transplanted Californian into retirement despite the district being 2:1 Republican. One of the reasons was on display last week when the two them met at the Medimont Grange.

The format was the “town hall” and by all accounts Kathy did well. For his part, Barbieri displayed his condescending side, talking down to Kathy about what a tough, demanding job it was to be a legislator. He strongly implied the little lady was not up to the challenge.

Come November he’ll find out that Kathy Kahn can win and can do.

Veto Vito!



There’s a fond dream of mine that I awake the morning after the next president’s inauguration, regardless of who it is, and the media is in a state of shock. Why? Because the the new president’s first official action has been to announce he or she has no plans ever to attend another White House Correspondent’s dinner.

This exercise in mass narcissism has morphed from a simple evening dinner between the president and the D.C. media that was “off the record” into a three-day orgy of self-congratulatory excess, televised live and very much “on the record.”

The humor is biting but the president has the last word. President Obama could probably make it as a comedian in his next incarnation.

The event though has devolved into a cross between the Oscars and the inauguration – a three day festival of parties and excessive drinking.

This is the Fourth Estate at its worst – pompous, arrogant, demanding its due, pretentious and petty.

No longer is it just the correspondents and writers sitting at the table. Now the various media companies compete to see which can be a news maker by having the most powerful guest, say the vice president or the Speaker or the Chairman of the Federal Reserve.

Or which company will have the current “in” starlet with the most revealing dress as a guest. No longer either is it enough to score a ticket to the main event. Nope. There are pre-dinner parties and post-dinner parties that one must attend, and of course it must be the correct one. You know how important appearance is in the surreal, make believe world inside the “Beltway.”

This past weekend another one of these travesties was held. Of course the news was that creature of the media, that presidential candidate almost entirely created by the media, that ingrate, Donald Trump, did not attend. In a word he “dissed” the very people who think they had a hand in his creation.

Of course he did. What did the sponsors think he would do? If there is a quintessential example of narcissism, its Donald Trump. One suspects that next to the word in Webster’s Dictionary is a picture of the Donald. One of the world’s largest egos, grandest and greatest narcissists is not about to share the spotlight with either a bunch of junior Trump aspirants or even a President of the United States.

The ultimate irony is that the Fourth Estate, especially as represented by CNN, FoxNews, MSNBC, DID have a hand in the creation of the Trump phenomena. The number of minutes devoted to coverage of Trump compared to other candidates was simply staggering, through the fall, winter and spring.

There was always an underlying presumption that it was just a matter of time until the Donald would implode, that his base would figure out he was a fraud, a liberal not a conservative, a Democrat not a Republican, pro-choice not pro-life, for gay marriage not against. His support would then start to fade and reveal itself to be a joke.

It reminds one of song from the 60’s by the BeeGees: ‘I started a joke that started the whole world laughing. . . . . “ Turns out it should dawn on somebody that the joke is on the Fourth Estate. Trump rewrote all the rules, and because he was great for ratings, and ad revenue soared, exceptions and excuses were made for Trump.

What has not dawned on hardly any member of the Fourth Estate is the Donald figured out that most media has zero credibility with the voting public. All he cares about his his name identification, which he has in astronomic numbers, and that they respond to the agenda he dictates.

When the voting public has lost almost all trust in their government and simply don’t believe most of what they hear or read in or by the media, it should dawn on the Fourth Estate that a growing sentiment to send Trump to make changes in the way they do business is not merely aimed at government, its also taking dead aim on changing the Fourth Estate.