Enter Butch Otter – A 12 Year Payback to his Faithful
Before we start this history of Butch Otter it is necessary that you understand who IACI is as they have been the most influential force in Idaho’s political arena for decades giving them a say in every important policy decision made by our legislators.
A Primer on IACI: The Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry: it was formed in 1974 as a business lobby whose members are the elite of Idaho’s business world and has become the most influential political lobbyists group in our state. This organization has been playing a key role in deciding who will be elected to political office in Idaho through their political PAC which helps finance the campaigns of chosen politicians. They support these candidates as they know once elected they will do their bidding to effect legislative bills. They are ruthless lobbyists who will do whatever is necessary to get what they want without any concern for how it affects the citizens of Idaho. We believe over the last 20 years they have become a cancer of political corruption. They care only about moving their agenda forward regardless of how it affects the citizens of our state.
Here are just a few examples of measures they have supported:
Idaho’s Healthcare Exchange, causing tens of thousands to lose their health insurance. Medicaid Expansion which they said would be free but now will cost hundreds of millions. Vaccination mandates for health care workers at the three primary health care facilities.
Cowboy Butch Otter Takes the Reins
Butch Otter, was born in Caldwell Idaho, he came from a family of modest means and lived in many rural areas of the Midwest and West. He attended some 15 different schools. As a youngster, and was endowed with the nickname “Clem” after Clem Kididdlehopper from the Red Skelton show. His nickname was later changed to “Butch” by the nuns at what is now Bishop Kelly H.S. because of the many schoolyard fights he got into. No question that Butch was a scrapper which is why he captured the hearts of Idahoans and survived so long in the political arena.
Otter graduated from high school at age 20 and was married to Gay Simplot the only daughter of J.R. Simplot, politically one of the most powerful men in Idaho. The Simplot’s were extremely influential in IACI by virtue of their enormous wealth and huge agricultural clout. Butch went on to study at St. Martin’s College, Boise Jr. College and in 1967 earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the College of Idaho.
Upon graduation, he was employed by the Simplot companies for 30 years, working his way from the bottom up to the presidency of the corporation. Although one can only surmise that the ‘family connections through marriage were of considerable help in his climb to the top. His employment at Simplot ended after an amicable divorce from Gay Simplot in 1992, followed a year later with his arrest and conviction for a DWI.
Otter enters Idaho’s Political Arena
With Simplot’s influence, it was fairly easy for Otter to launch his career in politics. He got his feet wet by winning a seat in Idaho’s House of Representatives for Canyon County where he served from 1972 thru 1976. In 1978 he ran for governor and came in third in the primary with a field of 6 republicans. After his lost bid to be governor Otter stayed active in politics serving as Chairman of the Canyon County Republican Party. In 1986 Butch ran for Lt. Governor, won, and was re-elected three more times to become the longest serving Lt. Governor in Idaho’s history for a total of 14 years.
While Lt. Governor, the Senate was evenly split 21 to 21 between republicans and democrats and it was Otter who was the tie breaking vote. This kept the senate under Republican control and by proxy the influence of IACI and its members. Our current state senate may consist of a majority of republicans but most of these have acquiesced to becoming cronies of the IACI cabal and they vote as the lobbyists tell them to vote.
In 2001 Otter ran for Helen Chenoweth’s seat Idaho’s representative for the 1st congressional district and served in that position until 2007. As a congressman he was known as a Conservative except for his vote against the Patriot Act which showed his Libertarian side. We believe it was this one vote as a congressman for which he received national recognition and news coverage. This paved the way for his election as Idaho’s governor in 2006 as he won the primary handily with 70% of the vote.
Marriage and Otters Left Turn
Prior to his election as governor, he married his longtime companion, the former Miss. Idaho U.S.A, Lori Easley. Idaho, being a very conservative state, it was assumed to be easier for Otter to run as a married man than as a divorced bachelor. Most people did not immediately see the effect that his new bride had on him. But it was soon realized that he was making a sharp turn to the left under this former school teacher’s influence. Also noticed was Lori’s influence as an educator during his first term as Butch recommended an increase in Idaho’s educational funding by $1.36 billion dollars!
Otter was a supporter of offshore drilling while supporting tax incentives for alternative fuel’s stating that the U.S. should set a goal of 25% renewable energy by 2025. These items gave us a clue as to how Otter would govern our state and if you don’t think he was influenced by his old employer Simplot and the IACI cabal you need to take a more serious second look at the legislation he supported.
Follow the Money
Education is the second largest expenditure in Idaho’s budget and you can bet that everyone wants to get a piece of the action by obtaining contracts with our school system’s purchases. Just look at the largest school district in West Ada Idaho which has a budget of over $400 million of your taxpayer dollars. How much waste do you think is included in that huge budget? How much opportunity do you think there is for overcharging for the services that do business with our schools? We will never know unless someone holds these school boards and politicians accountable with a forensic accounting of the monies spent.
Otter had 12 years to feed the faithful members of IACI and you can bet they loved every minute of it. Does anyone remember Prop’s 1, 2, and 3? While Props 1 and 2 were connected with senate bill 1108 and 1110 they dealt with teacher’s compensation, union representation, annual evaluations for teachers and administrators and Bonuses for student academic growth. All of which were measured by statewide standardized tests. This was much like the Federal “No Child Left Behind” Law, which unfairly links teacher pay to standardized testing. These laws were pushed through the legislature in 2011 by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna with the help of Otter and IACI’s legislative lobbyists. This one-size-fits-all plan put Idaho’s students and teachers last.
It was Prop. 3 that really killed this triple threat to Idaho’s education system when 65% of the people voted against providing every student and teacher with a computer and a requirement that students must take two semester-long online classes to graduate. It most assuredly gave taxpayers the impetus to wonder who was going to get this huge contract to provide all these computers and how much they would cost Idaho’s taxpayers. Does Hewlett Packard come to anyone’s mind? Do you remember the State purchase of the rundown Hewlett Packard Campus for $110 million and $39 million for renovations? Don’t forget the $1 million in taxes that Hewlett paid were shifted to the private sector homes and businesses.
It is our opinion that Tom Luna has done nothing for Idaho’s school system or its students except to enrich himself on the backs of Idaho’s taxpayers. From Prop’s 1, 2, and 3 to implementing Common Core into our school curriculum Luna bears much of the responsibility of changing Idaho’s education system. He is just one more cog in the wheel of the IACI machine that sucks the life out of our state. I wonder how many Idahoans are aware that Luna is Chairman of Idaho’s Republican Party or should I say the rhino establishment party, keeping the elitists firmly in charge of our state.
Mismanagement or Scandals
In our opinion education is just one of the ways that politicians have been “paying back” lobbyists for years. Here are just a few examples of how our education tax dollars have been squandered. In 2014 a judge sharply criticized the state Department of Administration for continuing to try to salvage the 2009 contract for a Wi-Fi system, after carving Syringa Networks out of the deal and giving the contract to Century link & Education Networks (both Otter and Luna supporters). These two entities would provide broadband to 219 high schools across the state. A huge amount of the money for the system was coming from the Federal government somewhere in the neighborhood of $75 million under the E-rate agreement. This funding was halted in 2013 during the dispute costing taxpayers tens of millions in lost funds and eventually in legal costs.
Unfortunately there were more scandals to follow. In 2015 it was revealed in a report by The Idaho Legislature’s Office of Performance Evaluations a devastating finding that the state mismanaged and ultimately wasted $61 million on the rollout of a Pearson management system called Schoolnet ! Once again it was Tom Luna who pushed this system to be purchased by our schools. Sadly, that’s not the end of the story ……. it was the J.A and Kathryn Albertson foundation that donated $21 million for the roll out of this system! Folks this is not chump change!! Just these two scandals cost taxpayers over $100 million dollars because of political cronyism.
It was during Otter’s second term that we found out who Butch really was and how manipulative he could be. In 2015 an organization called the Tax Accountability Committee brought attention to a land swap initiated by Idaho’s Land Board of which governor Otter was a prominent and influential member. They say it cost the education endowment fund $1.3 million due to faulty appraisals. The Boise Guardian broke the story. According to the TAC, the Idaho Department of Lands traded 14 acres of endowment lakefront property in McCall, appraised at $6.1 million, for a building and 3.14 acres in Idaho Falls. The Bonneville assessor appraised the property in Idaho Falls at just $2.2 million. The real hook in this transaction was when the owner of the McCall property turned around and sold it to the University of Idaho for 6.1 million and made a tidy profit of $3.9 million!! This was the straw that broke the camels back as this was not the Land Boards first foray into questionable real estate exchanges. The Land Board had been trading land for businesses put the state in the uncomfortable position of competing with other Idaho businesses although with a distinct advantage, of not having to pay taxes on properties they owned. The state should never have been put into this position of competing with other commercial businesses and reducing the tax base of the county’s where the businesses were located.
This was not the end of Otter’s escapades into cronyism. In 2013 it was reported that Corrections Corporation of America falsified records on the amount of time employees were on the job by 4,800 hours. In 2014 KPMG accountings audit showed that Idaho had been over billed for 26,000 hours. It is interesting to note that Otter received $20,000 in campaign contributions since 2003 from employees of Corrections Corporation of America. Otter ordered the State Police to investigate the over-billing and overtime and CCA agreed to pay the State back one million and the investigation was turned over to the FBI. Idaho took back the running of the prisons after their departure but we will never really know how many millions this fiasco cost Idaho’s taxpayers. Just one more cover up by Butch and the gang.
In 2014 Otter supported and was instrumental in ramming through the legislature the Idaho Healthcare Exchange causing tens of thousands of Idahoans to lose their health insurance policies as they were cancelled by the insurers. The amount of money spent by the medical establishment and lobbyists like IACI in campaign contributions to make sure this legislation passed was out of sight. It reached over a quarter of a million dollars not including any political PAC money contributed by IACI and various medical associations. The two major non-profit hospitals wanted this passed and their influence was very powerful as it meant more dollars for their expansion.
While these were some of the more egregious scandals, it was in 2016 that Otter crossed the line by endorsing John Kasich for president. This caused a huge rift within Idaho’s Republican Party. In January of 2019 the state Republican central committee passed a resolution condemning and censuring Butch for endorsing an independent candidate over a candidate nominated in the previous May primary. While Butch Otter may be gone, his legacy and that of IACI’s, live on in Otter’s protégé, Governor Brad Doolittle who is carrying on in typical Otters fashion. Next Week Do Little Takes the reins.