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Wasden Brings Reason and Independence

Endorsement: Wasden Brings Reason, Independence

Times-News Editorial Board
Posted: May 16, 2014, 2:00 AM

Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden is unafraid of reprisals from his own party. He is reasoned and competent. Quite honestly, he's one of our favorite state officials.

That's why we wholeheartedly support Wasden's pursuit for a third term in the May 20 Republican primary.

There's a distinct philosophical divide between incumbent Wasden and challenger Chris Troupis. The Eagle attorney has gotten under the attorney general's skin. After sitting with Troupis for an hour or so, it's pretty clear that he's much more than most media portrayals of him. He's not just a fire-and-brimstone religious crusader. Troupis is a solid attorney with a legit legal background. He's an activist with a pitbull mentality.

Yet, we found the incumbent more reasonable, more grounded. Troupis believes the state should defend Idaho citizens in court battles with federal regulators. What's next, a free state defense for white collar criminals? That's madness.

Wasden is under assault by the GOP's right-flank because he has argued the state can't seize 34 million acres of federal lands through a lawsuit. Only an act of Congress can transfer title to Idaho, Wasden argues. He's also cited Idaho's Constitution when defending state ownership of rental properties, managed by the Board of Land Commissioners, on which the attorney general sits.

Anger over these two issues are at the core of the tea party insurgency resulting in a right-wing candidate for all five constitutional offices with Land Board seats.

Troupis disagrees with Wasden on both counts. He would lead Idaho head-long into a pricey, doomed lawsuit against the federal government. The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed federal ownership of western lands in 1890. That's 124 years of established legal precedent, reinforced by the deal Idaho — and other western states — made when it petitioned for statehood. Plus, state ownership would no doubt lead to land sales of big timber and mining tracts. We happen to like our hiking, hunting and fishing access, thank you very much.

But Troupis had some interesting ideas, too. He pointed to the inherent conflicts created by the Attorney General's Office simultaneously providing legal counsel for the various state agencies and the Legislature. Troupis said, if elected, he would lobby for in-house counsel for each agency and department. This concept is a wise one, and something the state should pursue. But under Troupis' plan, the freed-up lawyers would be tapped to fight the pointless battles we already mentioned.

That's not such a great idea. We fear Troupis would waste taxpayer's time and resources fighting losing statement battles.

When it comes down to it, we find Wasden one of Idaho's most candid and thoughtful elected officials. He's blunt, honest and much more politically savvy then he likes to let on.

Wasden does right by Idaho and he deserves another four years.

Idaho GOP Battle for the Party's "Heart and Soul'

Idaho AG: GOP is in battle for the party's 'heart and soul'

Incumbent explains why he opposes proposed federal lands takeover

Idaho AG:GOP is in battle for the party's 'heart', 'soul'

Idaho AG:GOP is in battle for the party's 'heart', 'soul'

Lawrence WasdenInsideWashington AG Bob Ferguson visits region— Page 1C

Posted: Thursday, April 3, 2014 12:00 am | Updated: 12:12 am, Thu Apr 3, 2014.

Idaho AG:GOP is in battle for the party's 'heart and soul'By JOEL MILLS of the TribuneThe Lewiston Tribune | 0 comments

The intra-party squabbling ahead of Idaho's closed May 20 primary election is really a contest between fantasy and reality, according to the state attorney general.

"It is a fight, really, for the heart and soul of the Republican Party," Lawrence Wasden said Wednesday. "Are you out there on that far edge, or are you rational? I certainly hope that the rational message comes forward."

Wasden is being challenged in the primary by Eagle attorney C.T. (Chris) Troupis for the right to run in the November general election. During a visit to Lewiston, Wasden said Troupis is part of a "pack" of fringe members of his party running primary campaigns. They include gubernatorial candidate and state Sen. Russ Fulcher, secretary of state candidate and state Rep. Lawerence Denney, superintendent of public instruction candidate John Eynon and controller candidate Todd Hatfield.

Troupis and like-minded candidates are using two issues as bludgeons in the campaign, Wasden said. The first is the state Land Board's practice of using state-owned lands to generate as much funding as possible for public schools. The second is his and other incumbents' refusal to attempt a takeover of federal land in Idaho.

Wasden said there are constitutional reasons to back his positions on both issues. As a member of the Land Board, he said he is constitutionally required to maximize the state's investments in public lands, adding that he does philosophically agree that government should not compete with the private sector.

On federal lands, Wasden said it is a fallacy to say that Idaho should "take back" federal land, because the federal government created the territories that contained Idaho, and eventually the state itself. Federal ownership of certain land is also enshrined in the state Constitution, and a memorial passed by the Legislature in 1947 essentially reinforced that ownership, he said.

The GOP challengers have criticized Wasden for not joining Western states like Utah, Arizona, Wyoming, Nevada and Montana in attempting to take over federal lands. But one by one, Wasden listed why those states will fail, or why they already have. Utah's new law demanding that the federal government hand over its land to the state is constitutionally unenforceable, and Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a similar law last year for that very reason, he said.

In Nevada, an interim committee exploring the issue is dragging its feet, and the Wyoming attorney general recently issued an opinion that Utah's law is on shaky ground. Wyoming's governor even used his line-item veto to defund the portion of the attorney general's budget that would have gone toward promoting a state takeover of federal land, Wasden said.

"So their claim that five Western states are pursuing this ... It's hogwash, just hogwash," he said.

Wasden also addressed gay marriage, saying he will not follow other state attorneys general who will no longer defend their state same-sex marriage bans or fight judicial orders to recognize the marriages.

"I disagree with my colleagues who choose not to defend their constitutions," he said. "I'm obligated to defend that."

He said it is up to the judicial branch of government to decide if gay marriage bans are constitutional, and state attorneys who just decide not to enforce a law are usurping that authority.

"Either we rule by the rule of law, or we rule by the rule of whim," he said.

Wasden declined to say how robustly he would fight lawsuits that are challenging Idaho's constitutional definition of marriage as between one man and one woman, but said his office does its best to win every case.

Primary's Bigger Picture

Courtesy Idaho Statesman

by Randy Stapilus under Idaho,Idaho column.



What’s it all about, this big Idaho primary pitched battle between two neatly-lined up sides, incumbents and challengers? The most striking, original and daring take on that, the quote of the season so far, comes from Attorney General Lawrence Wasden.

Unexpectedly independent-minded, willing to act against the preferences of much of the state’s Republican leadership, Wasden came on very differently after his first election from his previous role as a quiet, little-known, behind-the-scenes chief of staff in the office. But those differences mainly extended just to legal opinions, his expression of what the law was (as opposed to what some people would have preferred it to be). He certainly has been no kind of ideological flamethrower, and has been low-key in manner.

Last week he may not have been throwing flame but, speaking with the Lewiston Tribune, he was uncommonly blunt. In talking about this year’s primary contests, which includes his first primary contest since 2002, Wasden cast it in large-scale terms as “a fight, really, for the heart and soul of the Republican Party.” And the terms of the fight? Simply, “Are you out there on that far edge, or are you rational? I certainly hope that the rational message comes forward.”

He just called a large portion of his party’s base irrational, living in the world of fantasy rather than reality, and set the terms of the debate he proposes to have. Truly powerful stuff, and it has the potential to recast the terms of the debate, and the campaign.

That it is a stick of dynamite ready to explode is easy to see. One would expect that the cohorts on Wasden’s side of the divide – Governor C.L. “Butch Otter, Representative Mike Simpson, Lt. Governor Brad Little and others, including legislative candidates – would quickly be asked about the comment. That would mean they either would have to risk infuriating much of the base, or breaking with Wasden and splitting (and making unclear) their side’s messaging.

There’s an upside to their seizing on it, though: It would bring some clarity to characterizing the insurgency.

State Senator Russ Fulcher, running against Otter, has seized foremost on Otter’s support of a state-run health insurance exchange. Otter could point out that the opposition is simply unrealistic, that (as he has said, repeatedly) Idaho would be getting an exchange regardless, the only difference being how directly involved the state would be. He could even argue that sheer opposition to Obamacare has become beside the point; it’s the law of the land, like it or not. That’s reality.

Congressional candidate Bryan Smith has been describing (in his ads at least) Simpson as a “liberal.” Second-district voters have observed Simpson in Congress since 1998, and probably only a few would use the word to describe him; Simpson could use Wasden-like language in blasting back.

Retorts structured in these ways would have the advantage of cohering, working together, in coloring the opposition.

For the incumbent candidates, their messaging needs to do something like that. Simply defeating the insurgents, or most of them (a result that seems broadly expected), isn’t really good enough, because the insurgent voting base still would be seething, and that could have consequences down the road. The best way to defang it would be to de-legitimize it. Wasden may have seized on one potentially effective way to do that.

US Senator Mike Crapo




"I am supporting Lawrence Wasden for Attorney General. He has a proven record of upholding Idaho's constitution and will continue to fight for our water, our land and our children."


US Senator Mike Crapo

Beware Lawyers Serving Pie and not Brocolli

Beware lawyers who serve pie, not broccoli

Marty Trillhaase | Posted: Wednesday, May 7, 2014 12:00 am

Want to lose a lot of money?
Shop around for a lawyer who encourages you to file a lawsuit.
Who promises that you are on the side of the angels.
Who is all too willing to reassure you about your prospects.
Who will take your call any hour of the day to calm your nerves when you run across an unsettling piece of news.
Eventually, that unsettling piece of news is followed by another and then yet another until, ultimately, some judge or jury hands you a defeat.
And that friendly lawyer?
He submits his billable hours.
All of which brings us to the closing minutes of Thursday's televised debate between Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden and his GOP primary rival, Chris (formerly Christ) Troupis.


The lawyer who helped deliver a GOP primary closed to all but registered Republicans argued, "We must stand firm for our children, their freedom and our grandchildren's freedom and for our economic independence from Washington. Tonight we've talked about Obamacare, our property rights, Idaho lands, our Second Amendment rights and reclaiming our public lands. In every case, this attorney general has taken the wrong course."


That's a nod to the argument advanced by Troupis' political ally, former House Speaker Lawerence (Boss) Denney, R-Midvale, that Idaho and other Western states can force the federal government to relinquish its public lands simply by taking the case to court.
Popular as it may be in certain quadrants of the GOP voting base, it's a fool's errand.


"It's important to distinguish between rhetoric and reality," Wasden said. "You need to have an attorney general who will tell you what you need to know, rather than what you want to hear."
And the whole story, says Wasden, has some rather inconvenient facts. Such as:
Idaho was carved out of a federal territory. At statehood in 1890, it adopted a constitution stating the people of Idaho "do agree and declare that we forever disclaim all right and title" to the federal lands.
Such declarations are common throughout the Western states. Hence most of Wasden's colleagues agree with his view.


As far back as 1840 and continuing through 1976, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that it is up to Congress - not the courts - to dispose of public lands. In 1872, the court concluded: "That power is subject to no limitations. Congress has the absolute right to prescribe the times, the conditions and the mode of transferring this property, or any part of it, and to designate the persons to whom the transfer shall be made. No state legislation can interfere with this right or embarrass its exercise. ..."
In 1947, Idaho lawmakers actually petitioned Congress to leave things alone. They argued federal ownership would preserve watersheds, recreation, hunting and fishing and lower public lands grazing fees while preventing a "feudal ownership" of these lands once they passed into private hands. While it's not binding, it does show how political judgments can change.
None of this is to say Wasden is picking sides between those who believe acquisition of federal lands would accelerate Idaho's economy and others who see it as a financial quagmire, leading the state to sell off those holdings to the highest bidder.
But he's counseling that there is no quick and easy fix. If the Gem State is determined to acquire more control over the federal lands within its borders, it will go through the long, slow slog of the political process - working through Congress and/or through the local collaboratives that have provided more flexibility in areas such as the Clearwater Basin.


What Troupis and his allies say may sound polished and promising. What Wasden offers has an "eat your vegetables" tone about it.
But when it involves your money and your time, you're better off listening to the lawyer who is serving broccoli. - M.T.