Idaho officials not ready to pull the plug on insurance plan

Think the feds threw cold water on the Otter administration’s plans to offer non-ACA compliant insurance plans?

The Idaho Department of Insurance disagrees.

Idaho officials are pushing back against interpretations of a letter questioning Idaho’s insurance plans, according to a joint statement released by Department of Insurance Director Dean Cameron, Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter and Lt. Gov. Brad Little. 

“Contrary to news media interpretations, the letter from CMS Administrator Verma was not a rejection of our approach to providing more affordable health insurance options for the people of Idaho. Her letter made it clear that Idaho’s efforts to pursue innovative alternatives hold great promise, and we believe that Idaho’s plan aligns with the State’s responsibility for ‘substantially enforcing’ Obamacare,” the statement said.

The letter from the feds, sent Thursday afternoon by Seema Verma, Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, isn’t a verdict, Cameron argues. Instead, the notice gives Idaho 30 days to respond to Verma’s concerns that the plans don’t fully meet Affordable Care Act requirements.

“We were anticipating a letter saying essentially what it says,” Cameron told Idaho Reports. “…All along, we said we’re pushing the boundary lines a little bit, and it’s appropriate for them to say ‘Your toes are across the line here.'”

The language Verma uses — “we have reason to believe that Idaho may not be substantially enforcing provisions of the PP ACA” — isn’t definitive, either, Cameron said.

Verma’s use of the phrase “substantially” meeting ACA requirements is also open to interpretation, he added, pointing to Idaho’s 260 insurance plans that fully meet ACA standards. Even the five plans that Blue Cross of Idaho introduced under the scheme are mostly compliant, he argued. (Those plans haven’t yet been approved by the Department of Insurance.)

Requests for comment from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services weren’t immediately returned.

Regardless of whether Otter and Cameron’s interpretation is right, they’re not going to end the conversation here. We’ll have more on this on Friday’s Idaho Reports.

Read full joint statement below.


“Contrary to news media interpretations, the letter from CMS Administrator Verma was not a rejection of our approach to providing more affordable health insurance options for the people of Idaho. Her letter made it clear that Idaho’s efforts to pursue innovative alternatives hold great promise, and we believe that Idaho’s plan aligns with the State’s responsibility for “substantially enforcing” Obamacare. In fact, we consider the letter an invitation from CMS to continue discussing the specifics of what can and cannot be included in state-based plans.  We will consider all possible options and then continue discussions with CMS and HHS on how best to achieve our shared goals of reducing the costs of coverage and stabilizing our health insurance market.”


The curious case of @SenDantheMan

By Melissa Davlin, Idaho Reports

Sen. Dan Foreman, R-Moscow, is usually a reserved man. He speaks calmly and emphatically, even about issues over which he feels strongly, like abortion. But he’s known for his outbursts.


A screen grab of the now-deleted @SenDantheMan Twitter profile.

The same could be said for @SenDantheMan, a Twitter account with the District 5 lawmaker’s name, photo and a link to his campaign site. Most of the tweets were mundane, the sort you’d expect to see from a Republican politician in his 60s: A comment about how there will be a way forward for health care post-Obamacare, a retweet of Idaho State Police congratulating an Eagle Scout, support for the Second Amendment. Like many Idaho lawmakers’ Twitter accounts, @SenDantheMan went mostly silent after the 2017 legislative session.

On Monday, the account became active again, shortly after a taped verbal altercation between Foreman and a group of University of Idaho students went public. Whoever running the account sent a tweet to University of Idaho student Kim Scheffelmaier to “go talk about killing babies with Maryanne Jordan.”


Scheffelmaier had been among the UI students who had traveled from Moscow to Boise for Planned Parenthood’s lobby day, and wrote on her account that she and other students had planned on a 9 am appointment with Foreman to discuss birth control and sex education.

Foreman later said the account wasn’t affiliated with him, and on Monday night, tweets from the account itself claimed it had been a parody the whole time.


If the world of social media weren’t confusing enough, that series of tweets from the now-defunct Twitter account prompted an ethics complaint from Sen. Maryanne Jordan, as well as a discussion about civility, truth, and what you should and shouldn’t believe online.

On Tuesday, Foreman told Idaho Reports that he’s never had a Twitter account, despite mentioning Twitter use in a past interview.

In that May 2017 interview with CrossPolitic, a Christian podcast based out of Moscow, Foreman says he’d watched for whether churches would support his legislation that would criminalize abortion.

“When I was bringing my anti-abortion legislation to the forefront down in Boise, there was a grand total of zero churches that stood up,” Foreman said in the interview. “I didn’t get a single phone call, a text, a tweet, an e-mail, a letter, nothing.” That was the only reference to Twitter in the hour-long episode, though two of the hosts later tagged the @SenDantheMan account while promoting the show or engaging with him and other former guests.


When asked about that interview, Foreman said he didn’t remember that part of the discussion.

“If I said Twitter, I misspoke because I wouldn’t even know how to get on Twitter,” Foreman told Idaho Reports on Tuesday. Foreman does have both personal and campaign Facebook pages, though he updates those rarely.

“When it comes to social media, you’re looking at a Neanderthal. I don’t do that stuff,” he said.

Foreman declined to say whether he’d yet spoken to Jordan to clear the air.

There’s no question that Foreman yelled at the University of Idaho students on Monday — that interaction was caught on at least two cell phone cameras. Attacking a fellow senator, however, would add another level of gravity to Foreman’s actions.

Beyond the questions of civility, the @SenDantheMan dust-up raises broader questions of accountability for online communications. If the account’s claim is true — that @SenDantheMan was fake the whole time — then it’s yet another example of untrustworthy social media accounts claiming to be one thing and perpetuating lies. It also caused a significant amount of grief for both Foreman and Jordan, as well as members of Senate leadership tasked with investigating the claim.

And whether or not the account was Foreman’s, @SenDantheMan lays out a roadmap for public officials with unverified accounts to make bombastic statements, then claim the account wasn’t theirs. Regret what you’ve written? Just delete it and say you had no connection to it.

There’s no proof one way or another, but everything posted on the account through Monday indicated it was connected with Foreman.


Before the account was deleted, posts dating back to Feb. 2017 line up with Foreman’s political ideology, and include language that’s identical or nearly identical to what Foreman has said in interviews and in writing, such as “Murder is murder” and “abortion kills a precious living being.”


Some phrases were verbatim from Foreman’s website.


In another post, the account interacts with Twitter user @iamaroadtrip, defending Foreman’s anti-abortion legislation.


Sen. Maryanne Jordan and Sen. Dan Foreman at the Feb. 20 Senate Health and Welfare meeting. Melissa Davlin/Idaho Reports. 

The dig at Maryanne Jordan was also specific. Both Jordan and Foreman serve on the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, and sit right next to each other. Whoever wrote that either had an intimate knowledge of the Idaho Legislature, or got lucky and picked a random Senate Democrat who happens to be on a committee with Foreman.

There were no tweets that indicated it was a parody — no over-the-top ideological statements, no poking fun at Foreman or anyone else, and nothing taking advantage of other times Foreman has been in the news for controversial actions, such as yelling at a constituent at the Latah County Fair in 2017.

Backing away from controversy on social media isn’t uncommon for politicians. Most use some variation of the excuses “I was hacked” or “A staffer made that post.” In some cases, the politician was telling the truth. (Looking at you, “Me likey Broke Girls.”) In other cases, they weren’t. 

And parody accounts aren’t rare, even in the relatively tiny #idpol and #idleg Twitterverse. But all of those known parodies are over-the-top and meant to make fun of their targets, affectionately or otherwise. Parodies, by their very nature, lampoon the subjects to make a political point. Along the same lines, they’re not meant to make audiences believe they’re actually real.

Nothing about @SenDantheMan was, well, funny. Nothing was ironic. Nothing posted before Monday would have been questioned as out of character for Foreman. Straight-up impersonations are more rare, but not unheard of. 

While there are ways to compel Twitter to reveal who is behind anonymous, fake or questionable accounts, the bar for that is high. The social media platform usually errs on the side of user privacy. Last year, Twitter refused to comply with a federal request to reveal the user behind an anonymous anti-Trump account. Police can investigate who is behind Twitter accounts, but that’s usually reserved for extreme cases, such as assault or threats.

Dr. Jaclyn Kettler, associate professor with the School of Public Service at Boise State University, told Idaho Reports she had never seen a parody account that didn’t act like a parody, and one that shriveled and disappeared right at the time it was getting the most attention. Imagine spending twelve months working on a painting, then ripping it up as soon as someone looked at it.

“You’d kind of imagine this would be the best time for attention,” Kettler said.

Regardless of who is behind @SenDantheMan, the incident doesn’t bode well for Idaho’s already fraught political discourse. At least when someone is yelling at you in the halls of the statehouse, you know who is doing it.


Seth Ogilvie contributed to this report. 


Ahlquist supporting PAC claim called into question




Updated 5:30 pm 2/23 with additional comments from Ahlquist’s campaign, St. Alphonsus and St. Luke’s.

PAC claims that Republican gubernatorial candidate Tommy Ahlquist founded an organization that supported victims of sexual assault and domestic violence were called into question this week.

According to campaign manager David Johnston on Thursday, Ahlquist founded the foundation’s board of the FACES of Hope, a community organization that supports victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. Johnston then clarified Friday that Ahlquist was president during the forming of the FACES Foundation.

“Tommy Ahlquist was responsible for starting the SART program at St. Alphonsus and St. Luke’s hospitals in Idaho,” Johnston said. “SART is a sexual assault response team that Ahlquist created, and that program organized the people and created a framework for the FACES Foundation to be formed.”

St. Alphonsus and St. Luke’s representatives were unable to confirm Ahlquist was involved in or created the SART program.

“It was FACES that created the SART program,” said Joshua Schlaich, media relations coordinator from St. Alphonsus.

St. Luke’s Public Relations Manager Anita Kissée, told Idaho Reports “Per Dr. King, he and Cyndee Cook were key in developing the SANE -sexual assault nurse examiner program.”

The Ahlquist campaign website currently claims Ahlquist was “inspired to help create FACES of Hope Victim’s Center.”


The multiple claims are hard to follow. There is the FACES claim, then there is the FACES Foundation claim, and the SART program claim. All three are similar, but not the same.

The FACES Foundation came into existence in June 2016, 10 years after FACES Family Justice Center was incorporated.

Here is the original filing with the Idaho Secretary of State in 2006:original-faces


Ten years after that, the documents for the FACES Foundation were filed, but they do not have Tommy Ahlquist’s name on them.


If Ahlquist was involved with the founding of the FACES Foundation, the people who filed the paperwork forgot to include his name, and they left him out of their history:

Screen Shot 2018-02-16 at 10.06.33 AM

The Ahlquist campaign website doesn’t currently claim that he founded FACES, but the Wikipedia entry for Ahlquist does hint at it:


Then there’s that video you saw at the top of the story, an advertisement paid for by the Idaho First PAC. That PAC’s largest contributor is John T Ahlquist Jr., Tommy Ahlquist father.


Ahlquist was the president of the FACES Family Justice Center for a few years, and he was a board member. Representatives from FACES declined to comment on Ahlquist’s current and past involvement with the organization. Ahlquist is no longer president or a member of the board, and the public records don’t point to him being a founder. The Idaho First PAC has not yet returned a request for comment.





The Idaho health care bill is on life support.

By Seth Ogilvie

On Tuesday, the Idaho House of Representatives placed house bill 464, Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s dual-waiver proposal, into a legislatively induced coma for two weeks.

House leaders feared if the vote were held on Tuesday, the bill would die on the floor.

Monday’s vote on Medicaid dental coverage appeared to trigger Tuesday’s emergency legislative procedure. That bill, which would restore non-emergency dental services to Medicaid, passed, but it was a violation of the so-called Bedke Rule, meaning more House Republicans voted against the bill than supported it.

That vote painted an ominous path for the dual waiver plan.

“There has got to be some support built for that issue at this point,” House Speaker Scott Bedke told Idaho Reports on Tuesday. “I think people want to take a look at it.”

Rep. Fred Wood, the floor sponsor of the bill and only doctor currently serving in the Idaho Legislature, believes the dual waiver plan still has a chance at life. “I think it is reasonably promising,” said Wood.

It will take a lot of work to pass the bill and even more to hurdle the Bedke rule. But Bedke is staying out of the fight. “I am not personally working to build support,” said Bedke, “but I know some might be.”

“Right now it’s close,” said Wood, “and it will be close.”


Now hiring. Atheists need not apply.

By Devon Downey, Idaho Reports


Atheists in Idaho law enforcement are forced to lie.

They are forced to lie before they even start their job, and they must do so while signing a code of ethics.

Idaho Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Division Administrator Victor McCraw would like to change that.

All POST officers must abide by and sign the ethics code, which states “I will constantly strive to achieve these objectives and ideals, dedicating myself before God to my chosen profession – law enforcement.” The phrase “before God” drew the objections of an applicant, who argued that it was ironic that they would have to lie while signing an ethics form.

McCraw consulted with a Deputy Attorney General and the POST Council about potential changes to the code of ethics that removed the religious language.

An unnamed Deputy Attorney General told McCraw that the language would be a constitutional issue. If challenged in a lawsuit, McCraw recounted, POST would lose. When reached for comment, the Attorney General’s office said they had no formal position on this issue.

The POST Council requested McCraw change the language. McCraw recommended “before God” be replaced by “with sincere and unfaltering commitment.” A divided POST Council agreed.

On January 15th, McCraw presented the rule change came to the House Judiciary and Rules committee.

Representative Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls, objected to the change, criticizing the removal of references to God and questioned whether other sections of the code could be removed based on objections.

Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, asked why objectors couldn’t use a different code. McCraw stated that it was something that the council considered, but that they wanted a universal code for all officers.

Rep. Christy Zito, R-Hammett, attempted to stop the rule change. “The founding documents of our country and state are based on the belief of a supreme being,” Zito told Idaho Reports.

“Removing God because of fear of litigation is not a sound reason,” said Zito. “I support providing an optional oath for those who do not believe in God. I also believe it is important to protect the strong belief in God of those in my district and our state.”

The committee did not accept the changes that removed “before God.” They allowed all other changes to pass. Rep. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, was the only one to disagree.

The “basis of the constitution is the separation of church and state. Government can’t impose who to pledge to,” said Wintrow. “It’s unconstitutional. [That’s] not me [saying that], it’s the AG saying it. God’s most important gift is choice.”

“It’s unconstitutional. [The pledge] is a religious test to gain employment”, explained Kathy Griesmyer, Policy Director of the ACLU of Idaho. Griesmyer cited Torcaso v. Watkins (1961) where the Supreme Court said, “[w]e repeat and again reaffirm that neither a State nor the Federal Government can constitutionally force a person ‘to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion.’”

Since the House did not approve the changes, the code of ethics still includes the “before God” pledge. McCraw noted that POST would be unable to make any changes until the end of the legislative session. When the session ends, they will temporarily change the pledge to add “or with sincere and unfaltering commitment”. Then the POST committee will have to decide what changes to present to the legislature in 2019.

The ACLU, POST, and at least one person in the attorney general’s office believe the current POST rules are unconstitutional. Now, it’s up to the 2019 Legislature to decide what happens next.



Talk is cheap, action could be priceless

By Seth Ogilvie, Idaho Public Television


Hours after members tasked with addressing possible amendments to harassment policies inside Idaho’s Statehouse, Majority Leader Chuck Winder stood at the front of the Senate, looked at his colleague Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill and said “Your voice sounds sexy today.” That comment was broadcast around the state.

Inside the Senate room, Winder’s remark got a few laughs in the chamber, various looks of astonishment from reporters and unknown reactions from citizens around the state.

Last year this comment may have never been repeated or discussed. That was before the #MeToo and Time’s Up movement. It was before reports erupted about Harvey Weinstein. It was even before a harassment settlement was announced with the state Controller’s office, as well as before allegations about Rep. Brandon Hixon, Rep. James Holtzclaw, Sen. Bob Nonini or lobbyist Colby Cameron.

But this year the Idaho Statehouse has multiple conversations about harassment running concurrently.

The Respectful Workplace Task Force personifies the first conversion members, made up of lawmakers, lobbyists, journalists and Statehouse staffers, are attempting to change the culture of the Idaho Statehouse and put a policy in place that combats harassment.

At the same time, Statehouse hallway talk has focused on self-preservation. There are quips about not being able to make jokes, hug, speak freely, or meet with women alone anymore for fear of being on the front page of the newspaper. This personifies the second conversation.

People looking for change and guidance without direction personifies the third.

In the first meeting of the Respectful Workplace Task Force, Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb _ a Democrat from Boise and co-chair of the panel focused on the need to have a solid policy in place by saying, “I took it for granted that that culture would follow me along.”

Sen. Carl Crabtree, R-Grangeville , in the same meeting drew attention to the second sentiment by arguing that  “At least a half a dozen people didn’t get it. People immediately said ‘this does not apply to me’.”

“It can put them in an incredibly difficult position,” said Sen. Lori Den Hartog, R-Meridian, talking about the awkward place leadership would be in hearing these complaints. She echoed the third conversation looking for change and guidance saying “they don’t have (human resource) experience themselves.”

No one in the Idaho Legislature is sure about the right course of action, but the Legislature does have resources they can use.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, investigated workplace harassment in 2015. The commission found that preventing workplace harassment must start at the top. Leadership “must communicate a sense of urgency about preventing workplace harassment. They must communicate this through words, policies, and procedures that create a culture in which harassment is not tolerated.”

Winder, a Republican from Boise, was making a joke when he commented on a sexy voice. Winder said Wednesday to Idaho Reports he takes harassment very seriously, but studies have shown harassment happens not because of bad actors but because of bad environments.

“Workplaces that tolerate harassment have more of it and workplaces that are less tolerant of harassment have less of it,” said Mindy Bergman, a psychology professor at Texas A&M University in the EEOC report. “This is a circular problem, because when harassment occurs and organizational leaders do not take it seriously, then the message is that harassment is tolerated, so then it becomes even more OK to harass-and when harassment is taken seriously and shut down, then the message is that harassment is not tolerated.”

Winder’s comment doesn’t excuse harassment. However, the comment does not reiterate to the Senate chamber and the state that telling someone they have a sexy voice is unacceptable in the workplace.

As of Wednesday, Idaho Reports knows of no complaints filed about Winders comment on Jan. 25th.

The unknown is how this could affect the next time a page, lobbyist, lawmaker, reporter or citizen hears they have a sexy (insert noun). The EEOC studied how many people file complaints after being harassed and found “anywhere from 87 percent to 94 percent of individuals did not file a formal complaint,” and that is just the individuals that know they could.

The Idaho Statehouse is even murkier.

“Often times these things can happen off campus,” said Rep. Paul Amador, R-Coeur d’Alene, drawing attention to the working environment of the Idaho Legislature. In the Statehouse, few people work for the people they interact with and seldom do bills get greenlighted at the statehouse instead they get passed over food and sometimes drinks.

Den Hartog, however, didn’t see that as a complication: “It’s not unique to address outside people. We’re not as special as we sometimes think we are.”

However, the Idaho Statehouse has some constitutional complications. Three branches of government all at some point in the same building and countless citizens expressing their constitutional rights to protest and occasionally be offensive. “We should not try to overreach and create a perfect environment while infringing on the public’s constitutional rights,” said Chad Houck with the secretary of state’s office.

Then there are the complications that victims encounter.

Harassment is not fully understood even by those victims. Sexual harassment has three general categories.

  1. Unwanted sexual attention. It is easy to understand it. It is exactly what it sounds like.
  2. Sexual coercion. It is basically a quid quo pro, if you want this promotion, give your boss this sexual favor. Or, if you want to keep your job, give your boss this sexual favor.
  3. The final category is not always at the top of mind when thinking about harassment. Gender harassment is sexual but not aimed at forcing sex. It is comments that undercut men, woman, gays, lesbians or transgendered people from their ability to do their job. Think of comments like “hussy” or a “male whore” or actions that make it hard for people to advance or do their job.

An EEOC deep dive into other peer-reviewed studies on harassment found that “anywhere from 25 percent to 85 percent of women report having experienced sexual harassment in the workplace.” That is a huge range. The major factor was that studies that asked people if they experienced “sexual harassment” in the workplace found one in four women said yes.

The number skyrocketed when studies asked people if they have experienced unwanted sexual attention, sexual coercion, or gender harassment

Lilia M. Cortina, Ph.D., Professor at the University of Michigan  pointed out that even amongst the people who acknowledged this harassment “fewer than 20-30 percent label the conduct as “sexual harassment” per se.” Cortina continued “rates are even lower among women who have only encountered gender harassment.”

“Will people get what they desire?” said Rep. Sally Toone, D-Gooding. “If we don’t have someone to listen to them in there it might get pushed under the carpet.”

“We’re lacking about specifics about the process,” said Toni Lawson, a lobbyist with the Idaho Hospital Association “There needs to be openness and follow up, and the process needs to be spelled out.”  

The knowledge of what is and isn’t “sexual harassment” is only one impediment to reporting the other is retaliation. A 2003 study found that three out of four employees who spoke up about harassment faced some form of workplace retaliation.

The process itself impacts if people report or not. Victims of harassment don’t report the behavior because they fear “disbelief of their claim; inaction on their claim; receipt of blame for causing the offending actions; social retaliation (including humiliation and ostracism)” according to the EEOC.

“We need an outside professional that has experience,” said Den Hartog.

Legislative leadership is always in a political situation by their very job, she added. They are not trained in how to deal with harassment complaints.

“It can put them in an incredibly difficult position, and they don’t have (human resources) experience themselves,” said Den Hartog

According to EEOC Commissioner Chai Feldblum, leadership is crucial, but it is not enough. Feldblum said, “for workers to believe their leaders are authentic – that they mean what they say — there must be accountability.”

However, accountability in the Idaho Statehouse will always come with a cost. Lobbyist Jack Lyman, with the Idaho Housing Alliance, summed up that cost succinctly: “Remember the people with green tags are funding this thing …who has the authority to say we don’t want you anymore?”

Therein lies the problem, it takes following through with the harsh repercussions to change the culture of the Idaho Statehouse.  

“If weak sanctions are imposed for bad behavior, employees learn that harassment is tolerated, regardless of the messages, money, time, and resources spent to the contrary,” the EEOC wrote. “Similarly, if high-ranking and/or highly-valued employees are not dealt with severely if they engage in harassment, that sends the wrong message loud and clear.”

In short? Without enforcement and without punishment of bad behavior, having the right words and right police will have little effect on implementing real change.

“Changing a culture takes a while,” said Buckner-Webb.


Note: Idaho Reports host Melissa Davlin represents the media on the Respectful Workplace Committee. She did not contribute to or edit this report. 


Everything might be on the record



The camera in House Assistant Majority Leader Brent Crane’s office. Photo by Seth Ogilvie, Idaho Reports


By Seth Ogilvie, Idaho Reports

There are fourteen cameras controlled by Idaho In Session at the capitol. There are multiple cameras controlled by Allied Barton Security — how many, they wouldn’t say. There is also a camera in the House Assistant Majority Leader’s office. That camera is controlled by Rep. Brent Crane.

The camera records Crane’s office and all the people who enter it. Crane placed the camera on a bookshelf, where it records on a loop, writing over the previous information as it records more. The information is available for only a short time unless it is downloaded and archived. The only person able to archive that video is Crane.

“Sometimes people’s emotions run high and nonverbal communication can be misinterpreted, or maybe I’m just getting up to get to the next meeting and someone takes that as aggression,” Crane said. “I can show them video and we can see what really happened.”

“I think there is a question to whether it’s even a reliable record of what transpires there, because he does maintain complete control,” said House Assistant Minority Leader  Ilana Rubel.

Crane does not always tell people who come into his office that the camera exists, though he did tell his fellow House Republicans about the office surveillance on Jan. 18, shortly after Idaho Reports inquired about the recordings. As of Jan. 22, House Democrats hadn’t officially been informed.

“You don’t have to inform people by state law,” Crane told Idaho Reports, referring to Idaho’s one-party consent law. “I don’t tell people because I don’t want them to feel uncomfortable.”

When asked if Idaho Reports could record its interview with him, Crane said no.

The camera is new this year. “With everything going on in this political climate, I need to protect myself,” Crane explained. “I made this decision because of this session’s tone, and the reports across the country and reports right here in Idaho.”

Those things going on across the country are powerful men being accused of sexual harassment and misconduct. “Some men have expressed concern about being falsely accused of sexual harassment when they’re making a joke,” said Jaclyn J. Kettler, assistant professor with Boise State University’s School of Public Service. “The recording of the legislator’s behavior is an effort to protect from sexual harassment charges.”

This is a concern shared by those putting together respectful workplace policies. “What happens for those people who might be falsely accused of a violation of a respectful workplace policy? How do you respect their privacy and don’t make it so public that they can’t ever recover their good name?” said Rep. Caroline Troy, co-chair of the working group tasked with tackling workplace policies, in a Wednesday interview with Idaho Reports. “If it’s a false accusation, those are equally weighty issues to be considering.”

“In the Time’s Up/Me Too movement, we’ve certainly seen careers shattered based on on an allegation,” Rubel said.  “I guess I can understand why someone would want documentation to resist that with, but you have to balance that with the human realities. It creates a lack of trust there, and that fear of what this is being used for, ‘Am I being set up?’ It would definitely be an obstacle to candid and open conversations.”

It’s hard to separate this camera from the #metoo movement. Crane has always been cautious when interacting with women. “I don’t go to lunch with women one-on-one out of respect to my wife and their spouses,” Crane said. “That’s a policy I’ve had for a long time.”

The Idaho Legislature is not Washington D.C. or Hollywood. There have been sexual harassment accusations here, but there has also been something Crane refers to as “gotcha politics.”

“I can get a sense with some of the people that come into my office that I might need to document this. Some of these people that might want to play gotcha politics. And I might feel that I need to have this info… I have a reputation to protect,” Crane said.

According to Crane, four people have been falsely accused of hostile behavior this year, as well as additional harassment allegations.  In one case, Crane said security footage disproved one claim, but he declined to discuss the specifics of those accusations.

Crane is attempting to give himself the same proof of innocence. “If someone makes an accusation against me, I can say ‘Here is the camera. Let’s look at the tape,’” Crane said.  

Others see it differently. “If they were false accusations, then I imagine the person could just make them about a different time or place than the legislator’s office,” said Jeffrey Lyons, an assistant professor at Boise State University’s School of Public Service.

However, some inside the statehouse seem to be interested in the idea. “I already had one colleague of mine ask me to get him one,” Crane said. “It speaks to the concerns people are having.”

“Individuals have the right to self-record,” said Kathy Griesmyer, public policy strategist for ACLU-Idaho. “Think ag-gag for example. The courts have held up that recorded materials are speech, and should therefore be protected. But, if the government were to be filming members of the public, we wouldn’t want government actors surreptitiously gathering video of individuals without them knowing.”

There are many lawmakers, lobbyists, reporters and citizens who meet with Crane in his office. “Generally I would want to know if I was being recorded if I was meeting with a lawmaker, especially if I’m sharing privileged information or discussing legislative strategy,” said Griesmyer. “I would also want to know how they plan to use the recorded materials as well.”

Crane said he has not yet felt the need to archive any video. Still, his ability to do so, and the knowledge of the camera’s existence, could affect the behavior of those visiting his office.

If this became more common, it might make negotiations over legislation more difficult, if legislators were worried that there was a record of everything they said somewhere,” Lyons said.

“You have to be able to have offline conversations with your colleagues as you’re brainstorming ideas.” said Rep. Luke Malek. “I wouldn’t want to be judged for every bad idea I’ve ever had.”

“I wouldn’t want to have a brainstorming session in Rep. Cranes office,” Rubel said “You would hate for those ideas to be used in an attack piece.”

Kettler shares those concerns that it could create unease and distrust in the workplace, but added the cameras could improve transparency. As for everyday citizens, Kettler said, “I suppose they might feel hesitant in visiting with their legislators if they know they’re being recorded.”

Clandestine recording are not new to Idaho politicians. In 2016, Rep. Ron Nate used a cell phone camera to capture video of conservations with fellow lawmakers without consent, and Bonneville County GOP official Doyle Beck surreptitiously recorded a 2016 conversation with then-GOP chairman Steve Yates.

Even Crane is still wrestling with how it should be handled. “Maybe I should inform people that they are being recorded, put a sign up on the office,”  Crane said, adding he doesn’t think it’s going away. “I would not be surprised if more people do this.”