Otter: Let me be clear, I was not lobbying in 2006

Gov. Butch Otter told me this morning there’s been some confusion about whether he lobbied legislators to go slow on authorizing GARVEE debt for highway construction on a visit to the Idaho Capitol as a congressman in 2006.

On Thursday, I blogged about that moment under the headline, “Did Otter really never lobby Legislature while he was in Congress?”

The governor asked that I clarify that post, to make it clear that in his mind there is no question about the matter.

“I was invited,” he said, buttonholing me before his annual talk to the Idaho Press Club. “I had announced I was running for governor. I was asked the question and I answered it. Some people have said, ‘What? Were you lobbying?’ No, I wasn’t.”

My Thursday post drew a distinction between Otter’s 2006 answer to a question from then-Rep. Shirley McKague, R-Meridian, and Congressman Raul Labrador’s one-on-one lobbying of two freshman Republicans last week opposition to Otter’s push for a state-run health insurance exchange.

Young journalists are taught that question headlines are perilous. This case proves the point.

So, let me be clear: In 2006, Otter was offering his view as a member of Congress  running for governor, saying the Legislature should be mindful about the stability of the federal Highway Trust Fund. The Legislature wound up scaling back Gov. Dirk Kempthorne’s GARVEE plan from $1.6 billion to about $1 billion. Otter’s engagement in 2006 was considerably different than Labrador’s effort in 2013.



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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