John Livingston

Can We All Agree on at Least One Thing?

Several years ago, I was honored to have lunch with one of the “Grand Dames” of Idaho Republican politics. She and her husband had built several businesses and raised a wonderful family. Her children had built their own businesses, and one became a lawyer. The lunch occurred during one of the many debates in the Idaho legislature over Medicaid Expansion. At the end of our lunch, this wonderful spry septuagenarian said to me—”Whether you are in Washington DC or Boise Idaho politics all comes down to three things—power, money, and sex and it doesn’t matter what political party you are in or what ideology you profess”. I feel marginally qualified to talk about the first two issues and less qualified to talk about the latter.

My mother who in Ohio had run many political campaigns several at the highest levels of State and Federal government had opined in a similar fashion at her retirement dinner celebration over 20 years ago. These two women, surveying not only the process of governance but also the very different process that is politics, at the end of their careers, may have been “jaundiced and hardened” but they were at least realists.

So, I believe that we can see in the deep division in the Idaho Republican Party today, elements of exactly what these two wise ladies were talking about. I believe that the conservatives and moderates in The Republican Party agree on 70-80% of the issues that are being contested today.

Where we disagree is on several social issues and just as importantly on the size of government and the process of governing. More specifically I believe that conservatives and democrats alike in our State are upset about their access to governance. When the establishment ruling monied class in our state control the corporate—lobbyist—bureaucratic deep state both sides believe that they don’t have a voice in government—at City Hall and in the State Capital. When the teacher’s union (IEA) and the hospital medical establishment (IHA/IMA) cast an influence over the budgeting process—2/3 of the State budget is allocated—and or distributed to education and Health and Welfare with 45% of those monies coming from the Federal government, then WE THE PEOPLE feel marginalized. Last week I watched several power point presentations presented before legislative committees by lobbyists that were polished and lasted well over 10 mins. I also watched several citizens before committees who were told the length of their presentations could only be 5mins. This was exactly the experience Citizens had in Garden City during hearings pursuant to a Special Area Permit (SAP) application by a developer. The developer and agents acting on behalf of the developer had 5 years to prepare their presentation and contributed to the political campaigns of the city fathers who would ultimately hear and rule on the application. The applicant had unlimited time before both Planning and Zoning and City Council. Individual citizen objectors were allowed only 5 mins.

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I mention our personal experience before The Garden City Fathers because City Council and (P&Z) should be as much as possible apolitical and non-partisan, but the issue is the same as what happens before our legislature and in Washington DC. Corporate interests and lobbyists with money—much coming from out of state, have an unfair advantage over everyday citizens—we are who our elected officials are supposed to represent—or not(?)

The issue is “power and money” in each instance, and I believe after being elected to office many—not all of our elected officials, act as if their responsibility is to the best interest of the City or the State, and not to the people who elected them. “Power and money” in politics before an election, needs to be divorced from money, influence, and favor during the course of governance.

I believe much can be done by all sides to decrease the influence of money in our State’s politics. Decreasing the size of government, decreasing the cost of government, decreasing the influence of special interests needs to be a priority for conservatives and moderate Republicans and Democrats.

The voice of individual citizens needs to be the priority, and this can only be done by decreasing the amount of money and influence of special interests.

As a Christian Conservative, I am Pro-Life, anti-drug, and pro-Second Amendment just like our Governor. Unlike our Governor, I am against the disproportionate influence that corporate special interests have on our politics and governance and the inevitable expansion of government that corporate interests have affected, instead of listening to the voices of WE THE PEOPLE. Why not an independent signed outside partner’s audit of the (DHW)? Why not a formal review of the COVID policies implemented during the political pandemic—just like many other states have done? Why not audits as a condition for future payments to those organizations that receive over $100million of transfer payments? Why not an independent signed partner’s audit of the Bankrupt Idaho Information Exchange—Where did $96million go prior to that organization prior to bankruptcy? CHINK-CHINK. The sound of special interest campaign financing is early on in the political season barely audible. Wait till the primaries and then the general election when the change in the pockets of the “little guys” will not be heard.

It will take personal and political courage for our elected politicians to stand up to the “special interests” who not only fund their campaigns but who also court favor with the agencies who distribute transfer payments—to the corporations and non-profits. It is a vicious cycle of symbiosis and those leaders in our government who stand up to it will have my support—at all levels of government.

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3 replies on “Can We All Agree on at Least One Thing?”

The problem with our politics is the source of contributions. A corporation which is considered a person under the law can contribute to a politician in any district but cannot vote for that individual. One of our highly placed representatives has a reported war chest of over $100K, but during the 2020 primary received $35 K, but only $1,500 from the ones that could actually vote for them. The voter has little opportunity to have representation.

Years ago I was cold-called by a local incumbent Supervisor/Commissioner asking for my vote. During our conversation he said something to me that I will never forget. He told me that in his non-public life he had been a CPA. He still kept some clients. His reason was because he realized that his future in public life was dependent upon God and the voters. He loved being able to direct the County business and serve his community (emphasis on the servant attitude) and he was an effective Supervisor. He would serve until 1) God told him it was time to step down or 2) the voters removed him. He would do his best until then. THAT is the type of candidate I look for. One who does NOT want the gig for eternity and does not feel entitled to it, but one who will look inside and realize that her are others who can come after who can do just as good a job if not better.

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