Month: <span>February 2016</span>


You can follow what’s going on at the Idaho Legislature in many ways besides the conventional news media and digital streaming. One of them is through the reports released by the Idaho Freedom Foundation.

Another, it turns out, is through podcasts – such as one released last week by state Representative Kelly Packer, a Republican from McCammon, on the subject of the IFF.

The IFF, which is run by Wayne Hoffman, has been a major presence at the Statehouse for some years. It has generated news-type reports on legislative activity, and also made clear its support or opposition to various pieces of legislation, which Hoffman is careful to say does not constitute lobbying. (Not everyone agrees with that.) Its most impactful activity, though, may be its regular scoring of legislators on a “freedom index,” which is derived from support or opposition to various pieces of legislation. The scores informally are used to describe Republicans as relatively conservative or not. Those ranking low may be attacked as RINOS (Republican in Name Only), which can be hazardous in a Republican primary.

(Ironically, all this matters far less to the Democrats, who’d face sharper questions if they scored well.)

This week, in response, legislator Packer said that. “I just had finally had enough. I wanted to push back.”

She said this on her regular podcast, available online to her constituents and others. (The web address for this one is Packer is no RINO, as her overall comments and past work as a Republican county chair make clear. But in her latest podcast (at about th 6:20 mark), she had some sharp words for IFF.

“It’s more concerted this session than it has been in the past,” she said. Packer said she was at one time supportive of the group: “I was looking forward to having someone that would provide an honest conservative view as well.” Now, she said, “They don’t like me,” and the feeling seems to be mutual.

“There are just a lot of ironies and hypocrisies that I see in place” she said. “With a 501(c)3 those people that donate to them get a full tax deduction, but the offset to that is that they’re not supposed to be able to lobby, and yet they do. And in fact in the campaign season for 2014, I believe, they put up billboards smearing good conservatives . . . another hypocrisy is they’re very un-transparent even though they ask everyone else to be transparent.”

Her immediate concerns run inside the statehouse: “I watch people selling their votes in order to get a certain score, and that is worrisome to me. When you put on blinders and you simply follow any organization and you just do what they want you to do, then how can you really be saying you’re representing your district or the people that put you here; how can you say in good conscience you’re doing your due diligence ad understanding the issues well enough to do the right thing every time? You’re not. You’re turning your power and vote over to that organization …”

For several years, the IFF report card has been an influential medium within the Idaho Legislature. But as Packer’s podcasts show, there’s growing potential for other new media to counter and compete with it, which may come as a relief to a number of legislators and to many of their constituents.



Thursday night, Boise Democrats had two schedule-overlapping political events to choose from, both with reverberations in presidential politics.

One was the campaign kick off, at a downtown eatery, for TJ Thomson who is running for Ada County commissioner. Thomson’s political task is difficult (while Boise leans Democratic, Ada overall leans Republican), but not impossible for a well-organized candidate. And Thomson, a young and energetic candidate, will be nothing if not organized. For evidence, consider the 2008 primary (not general) campaign in Idaho for Barack Obama. It was extremely well organized – Obama won – and Thomson was one of its main leaders. A year later he was elected to the Boise City Council, where he still serves.

The other event was a campaign organizing event held at the home of former Representative Larry La Rocco, for a Democratic presidential contender of 2008 and today: Hillary Clinton. Some Democrats tried to scramble from one event to another.

I’m not suggesting here that these activities neatly split Clinton Democrats from those backing Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders; that didn’t seem to be the case. Based on what I heard from a bunch of Idaho Democrats this week, however, the race between the two in Idaho appears to be highly competitive. It is, in other words, a lot different from 2008 battle when one candidate, Obama, swept Idaho so decisively that Idaho became one of his best nomination wins anywhere in the country.

This time, in contrast, no one seemed entirely confident in predicting who will prevail when Idaho Democrats caucus on March 22.

Anecdotes I heard seem to suggest Idaho Democrats are splitting much like many of their counterparts elsewhere. Younger party members are said to be trending toward Sanders, their elders – and especially many people in party or elective positions – more toward Clinton. The differences didn’t appear to break much on policy or idea grounds. Sanders’ newness to the party and his Socialist tag were concerns on one side; fatigue, dynastic and trust issues linked to Clinton were problems cited on the other. Those disabilities were mentioned more than the assets the two candidates bring, which may have something to do simply with being a Democrat in blood-red Idaho.

There’s not much new in any of this for a close watcher of the national political contest, which seems to be tightening and becoming ever more competitive, and is getting ever more closely parsed. If Sanders does well in Nevada (an election still in the future as this was written), the nomination battle may become extremely close.

In a carefully-calculated chart labeled “Where Bernie Sanders needs to win,” polling analyst Nate Silver last week isolated states where Sanders and Clinton should, based on polling, demographic and other factors, do relatively well or badly. That chart suggested Sanders ought to do better than average in Idaho, winning in the Gem State by 11 percentage points if Clinton is ahead nationally by 12 points; and Sanders winning Idaho by a blowout 23 points if the two are tied nationally.

At least, that’s what a statistical analysis says. Clinton will have a large chunk of the Idaho Democratic leadership and a party base, and her campaign apparently has had staffers on the ground in Idaho, already at work organizing.

If the race is still competitive a month from now, which looks at least possible, Idaho really could become a Democratic battleground.


I’m on the road around southern Idaho this week – visiting Idaho Falls, Pocatello, Twin Falls, Boise, Nampa and other assorted locations. The occasion is showing (and giving away some free copies) of the book Crossing the Snake, which is a compilation of my Idaho columns.

Part of the idea too is setting down in places where newspapers are running the column, giving readers a chanc to converse. And me a chance to listen.

Reports from the road will be forthcoming. – rs

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The New Hampshire presidential primary seems to have set the shape of the Republican contest for some time to come, bringing into focus some questions awaiting Idaho’s Republicans. And for Idaho’s many establishment Republicans, those may be eerie questions.

This year’s Republican nomination battle is far more splintered in Idaho than it has been for many years. Four years ago, the establishment was solidly behind Mitt Romney, and until he dropped out in 2008 he had strong backing then as well. George W. Bush had the Idaho establishment firmly in his corner the two elections before that.

Idaho’s three-term governor, C.L. “Butch” Otter, and its longest-serving members of Congress, Senator Mike Crapo and Representative Mike Simpson, seem to have stayed out of the fracas so far. Maybe they were uncertain how the field would play out and how Idaho would react. Or they may have observed what happened to other endorsees. Senator Rand Paul, backed by Representative Raul Labrador, has dropped out. And Senator Marco Rubio, backed by Senator Jim Risch, Controller Brandon Woolf and Idaho Falls businessman Frank VanderSloot (a veteran of the Romney campaigns), only days ago seemed ascendant but had the daylights kicked out of him in New Hampshire, and his campaign’s future is highly uncertain.

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, backed by former Idaho Governor and Senator Dirk Kempthone, lives to fight another day, but right now seems a long shot for the nomination. Ohio Governor John Kasich, backed by Idaho legislators Marv Hagedorn and Robert Anderst, did well taking second place in New Hampshire (after barely registering in Iowa), but he invested almost everything he had – time, money, people – into that state, and has scarcely any campaign organization or built-in support in the states yet to vote.

Just two Republican candidates actually seem well positioned for the race to come: Texas Senator Ted Cruz and businessman Donald Trump. Cruz has a couple of fairly well-known Idaho Republicans backing him, Treasurer Ron Crane and former state Republican Chair Norm Semanko, but if there’s wider support it isn’t yet very visible. As for Trump, I’m not sure who his highest-profile Idaho backers would be. There’s a Facebook page called “Idaho for Donald Trump 2016” with 860 likes, but hardly any local content – almost all of it is reposts of national material. And yet statistically, Trump probably has a significant number of Gem State supporters.

Who will Idaho Republicans support for president, assuming – and this is looking actually more likely than not right now – the race is still competitive by the time Idahoans get to vote on it?

I read a fascinating analysis (wish I could recall where I saw it) drawing a structural distinction between the Trump and Cruz campaigns, and implicitly the difference between those two and a “conventional mainstream” campaign (like a Bush or Rubio, assuming one of them survives to the later stages). It goes something like this:

Trump supporters are mainly individualists, drawn to the campaign person by person or family by family, and are numerous but for the most part not well organized into groups. Cruz’ people by contrast tend to be organized, some in ideologically-based organizations (like the various conservative groups that have splintered the Kootenai County Republican factions), others tied to evangelical or other churches, still others linked to other kinds of organizations – groups with strong ideological or religious drives which have not been satisfied with the national Republican Party (which Cruz calls the “cartel”). Cruz has carefully reached out to these groups around the country, and won support from many of them. Then there’s the mainstreamers, who would be those most traditionally tied to Republican party organizations and officials.

What makes the Idaho analysis so hard is this: The first two groups, which clearly exist in substantial ways in Idaho, have not in the past played a large role in selecting the state’s presidential nomination choices. This year, those individualized dissidents and the dissatisfied small groups, who in the past often seem to have taken their lead from the party organization, appear much less likely to do that, and may go their own way – which might translate to substantial votes for Trump and Cruz, as in many other states.

Right now, the Idaho Republican establishment may have reason to be as spooked as the national Republican establishment is.



The story of how and why Jenny Steinke died last summer might be the kind of story that would goad a legislature into action. That’s because, had the legislature voted differently at any point over the last few sessions, she might be alive today.

Jenny Steinke, 36, of Idaho Falls, had for some years endured asthma, but generally managed it with the use of inhalers. In late August, her condition got worse, but she and her husband Jason put off medical treatment until insurance at Jason’s new job started on September 1. For a long time up to then they had been uninsured, since their employers hadn’t provided health insurance as part of the employment package. A serious brush with the medical profession, not to mention an actual useful health insurance policy, was financially either out of reach or a disastrous proposition.

The Steinkes were not a rare fluke case in their lack of health insurance. State officials have estimated 78,000 Idahoans are similarly caught in a gap, outside the provisions for a state health insurance exchange policy, or for Medicaid coverage. In many other states, as part of the Obamacare effort, Medicaid was extended to cover people like the Steinkes. Idaho is one of the states where it hasn’t been; while several task forces have recommended the expansion, the legislature has been resistant.

With medical assistance, asthma usually isn’t life-threatening. But Jenny Steinke’s case got worse quickly, unexpectedly fast, and hit a crisis. By the time she got to an emergency room, she was in a desperate condition. About three days later, she died.

On Tuesday Jenny Steinke’s physician, Kenneth Krell, the critical care director at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center, reflected on her case as he spoke to the Senate Health and Welfare Committee about the possibility of Medicaid expansion.

Krell told how the Steinke case, and others not so different, and their implications haunted him: “I kept asking myself, how could this be? How could, in a state like Idaho where we care about each other, could I be seeing deaths and really damaging illness on a nearly daily basis as a result of failure to expand Medicaid that cost tangible lives? It’s difficult to understand.”

He added, “Nearly one patient per day dies in this state as a result of not having Medicaid expansion. And that’s a direct result of that failure to obtain care at a stage when the disease process could be treated effectively and not only death, but hospitalization and illness prevented.”

That adds up, as the headlines around the state noted, to around 1,000 Idahoans who have died over the last three years because the legislature chose not to expand the reach of Medicaid.

After the hearing, no vote on Medicaid expansion was taken by the committee. The chairman did not, however, rule out a vote at some later time.

If Jenny Steinke were the only person who died because of that decision, the moral case involved here would be clear enough. But hundreds of Idahoans dying every year?

All legislative decisions involve weighing the good and the bad, and sometimes those decisions are close and difficult. (This is not, I should note, a case of inadequate resources; the state would actually save money with Medicaid expansion.)

Here, you have a lot of lives on one side of the equation, and on the other side – well, what, exactly, is it in this decision that is worth more than saving a life every day?


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Not so long ago, advertisers and viewers communicated mostly on three television networks and other mass media aimed at almost everybody.  We called it “broadcasting.”

Reach Your Target Audience Through Narrowcasting

To reach our target audience, we now need to narrowcast.  We choose among hundreds of communication options that connect with narrow audience segments.  The implications of narrowcasting are especially important for nonfiction indie authors advertising and promoting their books.

Narrowcasting is useful for an indie author with limited marketing funds.  It means you can forget about media that reach a wide range of people and focus on those interested in your specific niche.  The more narrowly you can define avenues for reaching the specific people most interested in your subject, the more effective your advertising can be.

In my last two posts on book advertising I wrote about paying for exposure through websites, email lists and sellers of price-discounted eBooks, and targeted advertising in social media such as Facebook.  Nonfiction authors can use these approaches, but still other narrowcasting alternatives may be just as useful.

Narrowcasting on Amazon

One of those, which may work better for nonfiction than for fiction and can be used most directly for eBooks, is advertising on  Because nonfiction books are placed in so many subject categories, you may be able to get your Amazon advertising in front of readers specifically interested in your topic.

Author Chris McMullen last year tried a new Amazon program which allows authors of Kindle books which are enrolled in their KDP Select program to advertise, using “bids” (somewhat like Facebook does in its advertising options) from two cents to $1.01 for each click they receive.  McMullen has posted a long article detailing the experience.  He concluded that the system has potential for some books if used carefully.

His central observation: “You really have to judge your target audience well to make the most of your targeting . . . It pays to spend extra time contemplating the probable habits and interests of much of your target audience (and it may take some trial and error).”

McMullen’s point about knowing the target audience also applies beyond Amazon and off-line.  In considering non-digital places to advertise, think about places, either physical or defined in some other way, where your audience and only your audience show up to converse and socialize.  Cost-effective advertising may be practical there.niche advertising to target audience

Advertising Where Your Niche Readers Are

Here’s an example.  I’m helping a writer who has drafted a book about how his city’s greenbelt was started and grew.  Because the greenbelt and the parks it runs through are public property, advertising options right there are limited.  However, if the parks department has any regular publications, there’s the possibility of getting a “sponsored” announcement or submitting a guest article or opinion piece.  A number of special events are held annually around the parks and greenbelt, and promotional giveaways of book copies are possible.  Another alternative is sponsored notices placed in the event materials.

A number of businesses provide services for greenbelt users, from renting boats and other equipment to drinks and snacks.  They might agree to post flyers about the book, maybe for a small fee, or help host a promotional event.  Recreation stores around town may catch the eye of other greenbelt users.

People interested in the history of the city may also have an affinity with the book, so the city’s historical museum – and its publications – may be a useful place to advertise.

This author’s city also has, as many cities do, popular websites which focus on local issues.  Those websites might be approached for carrying a guest post or other content, but also could be good prospects for advertising, since ad costs for many of those sites are low.

Outside the city, even outside the United States, people interested in park development and expansion may want to learn about a case study of how this particular park area was developed (from unpromising beginnings).  I’ve found several national associations, such as the City Parks Alliance, which regularly communicate with hundreds of public and private people and organizations interested in just that subject.  Advertising options in one or more of those organizations may be a good audience

Searching out these advertising prospects will send an author back to some of his original research sources, which may be a useful exercise.  You can think back to your original work on the book for answers.  What organizations did you contact?  What were your sources of information?  Where do the people interested in your subject congregate?  If you researched your subject thoroughly, you probably already have the answers to those questions.

Think about this carefully, and you may have a good idea where and how your advertising should be placed to reach your target audience.

Readers & Writers: I look forward to your feedback, comments and critiques, and please use BookWorks as your resource to learn more about preparing, publishing and promoting self-published books. My blogs appear every other week.

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