Did Otter really never lobby Legislature while he was in Congress?

Gov. Butch Otter’s statement Wednesday that he never used his clout as a member of Congress to jawbone state legislators has raised an eyebrow or two among foes trying to kill his state-run health insurance exchange.

The example cited is then-Congressman Otter’s remarks on March 29, 2005, when he urged lawmakers to take extra care with then-Gov. Dirk Kempthorne’s plan to borrow $1.6 billion for highway construction, with a financing instrument known as GARVEE.

“When you start amortizing infrastructure that you’re building today with money that you’re borrowing in the future, you have to make sure that revenue stream is there, ” Otter said that day.

The context of Otter’s statement appears to be different than the flap caused by Congressman Raul Labrador’s private lobbying of two freshmen last week.

Otter was at the Statehouse building support for his 2006 run for governor, having photos snapped with legislators and giving lunchtime remarks to Republican allies in the House GOP Caucus room.

His statement came in response to a question from then-Rep. Shirley McKaugue, R-Meridian. Otter explained that he’d heard from several state lawmakers about long-term prospects of the federal Highway Trust Fund, the source of payments for Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicle bonds.

Lawmakers took Otter’s statement to heart, scaling back GARVEE to just under $1 billion. Once elected, Otter became a champion of the scaled-back effort, successfully pressing lawmakers to authorize the highway bonds, the bulk of which helped  improve I-84 in the Treasure Valley.

Dan Popkey came to Idaho in 1984 to work as a police reporter. Since 1987, he has covered politics and has reported on 25 sessions of the Legislature. Dan has a bachelor's in political science from Santa Clara University and a master's in journalism from Columbia University. He was a Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association and a Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan. A former page in the U.S. House of Representatives, he graduated Capitol Page High School in 1976. In 2007, he led the Statesman’s coverage of the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news. In 2003, he won the Ted M. Natt First Amendment award from the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association for coverage of University Place, the University of Idaho’s troubled real estate development in Boise. Dan helped start the community reading project "Big Read." He has two children in college and lives on the Boise Bench with an old gray cat.

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