Seven Idaho lawmakers ask AG to investigate robocalls opposing Otter’s health exchange

Rep. Wendy Horman, R-Idaho Falls, and six other lawmakers have asked for an inquiry into possible violations of the Idaho Telephone Solicitation Act by opponents Gov. Butch Otter’s health insurance exchange bill. Attorney General Lawrence Wasden’s office is reviewing the request.

Horman said she received about 120 computer generated calls on her unlisted cell phone and office phone that failed to include legally required disclosures, including the identity of the initiator of the call and contact  information for the caller. The calls were made Saturday and Tuesday, Horman said.

Tea Party Boise President Chad Inman told me Tuesday the calls were made on behalf of Gem State Tea Party, an umbrella group uniting 13 Idaho Tea Party groups. The calls urged citizens to call their lawmakers and oppose Otter’s House Bill 248, which passed the House Wednesday. By pressing “1″ on their phones, recipients could be transferred directly to their lawmakers.

Courts may impose a civil penalty of up to $5,000 per violation for violations. Brett DeLange, who heads Wasden’s Consumer Protection Division, said Friday that his office will follow up.

“We’ll have to see what the attorney general says,” Inman said Friday afternoon. “I would think any legislator would want the opinion of their constituents. If they don’t want to hear from their constituents why would they run in the first place?”

Horman said she drafted the letter before Inman’s comments were published Wednesday. She also said she hopes to work with Secretary of State Ben Ysursa and House Speaker Scott Bedke on possible amendment to Idaho’ Sunshine Law requiring disclosure of such lobbying. Ysursa and Bedke have both expressed concerns about gaps in the law.

 
The other signatories to Horman’s letter are Republican Reps. Brandon Hixon of Caldwell, Luke Malek of Coeur d’Alene, Steve Miller of Fairfield, Kelley Packer of McCammon and Julie VanOrden of Pingree, and Democrat Caroline Meline of Pocatello.

Read the Horman letter here.

 

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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