Idaho Democrats won’t criticize Jordan. Why? They need her supporters.

By Melissa Davlin, Idaho Reports

In a Democratic primary where candidates are almost identical on the issues, the conversation has turned to endorsements.

In case you’ve missed the social media bickering and debate jabs from the last few weeks, here’s a summary: Paulette Jordan has national support, touting endorsements from well-known progressives like Cher, Van Jones and Khizr Khan. Missing from that list: Any of the Democratic lawmakers she served with in the Legislature. Twelve of the 17 have endorsed AJ Balukoff, while the other five are staying neutral. Balukoff also has endorsements from Idaho Democratic heavy hitters past and present: former House minority leaders Wendy Jaquet and John Rusche, retired Rep. Shirley Ringo, and former U.S. Attorney Betty Richardson, among many others.

To her credit, Jordan and her team have turned her lack of legislative endorsements into a plus. They hosted a rally the Saturday before the primary called “Endorsed By The People,” taking advantage of the same anti-establishment fervor that gained both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump so much support in 2016. Meanwhile, Balukoff has kept his campaign positive, focusing on his support and not attacking hers.

Still, Democrats and independents have noticed. Sprinkled among the #ImWithPaulette and #BlueWave tweets are persistent questions from uneasy voters: Why doesn’t Jordan have any endorsements from her former colleagues?

And why aren’t those lawmakers being frank about why they don’t back Jordan?

There are a handful of documented frustrations surrounding Jordan’s time in the Legislature. She didn’t shepherd much of anything into law. (Compare that to Reps. Ilana Rubel and Melissa Wintrow, both of whom were voted into office in 2014, the same year as Jordan. They have been at the forefront of a multitude of high-profile, bipartisan issues, including mandatory minimums, changes to rape kit testing, and civil asset forfeiture reform.)

Jordan resigned in the middle of the 2018 legislative session, leaving District 5 without a representative — and Democrats down a vote on the critical House State Affairs Committee for more than a week while Gov. Butch Otter decided on a replacement.

There are other grumblings and rumors about about Jordan — note the high-level staffers leaving her campaign days before the primary. And a recent Balukoff endorsement from Rep. Sue Chew, who spent a good amount of time working for Paulette Jordan’s legislative campaign, raised eyebrows among Boise politicos.

But when reporters ask for comments on the record, Democrats demur, preferring instead to focus on why they support Balukoff.

Why? One theory: Even with all their frustrations with Jordan supporters, establishment Democrats don’t want to alienate this new, energetic base.

The last Democratic governor, Cecil Andrus, left office in January 1995. There are Paulette Jordan supporters who were born after that, who have never known an Idaho where Democrats were a force. Jordan herself wasn’t old enough to vote at the time. (To be clear, neither was this reporter.) Endorsements from former Democratic heavyweights mean a lot to establishment party members, but the 20- and 30-something progressives who are backing Jordan have made it clear they’re not impressed.  

There are short-term considerations, too. If Jordan wins the primary, Idaho Dems will have to rally behind her in an attempt to disrupt the long streak of Republican rule in Idaho. They know anything they say about Jordan now could be used against her in the general election. Democrats have no room for error in November if they hope to beat the GOP nominee. They can’t afford a #NeverPaulette or a #NeverAJ movement; They’ll need every vote they can get.

Even if that excitement can’t get Jordan or Balukoff into the governor’s office, increased turnout from progressives could help Dem candidates in close legislative districts, or even elect a Democratic state superintendent. Young voters are excited to vote for Paulette Jordan in the primary, sure, but can the party get them to show up for the Cindy Wilsons and the David Nelsons and the Mark Nyes in the general? Not if Democratic elders estrange them now.

Regardless of who wins the nomination for governor, the Jordan supporters are going to play a big role in the future of the Idaho Democratic Party — as long as the party figures out how to harness that energy and enthusiasm.

The fight isn’t so much about who will be the next governor. It’s about the identity of the party moving forward. And in that sense, Jordan may have already won.  

 

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A “two-tiered system”: Court considers undocumented workers’ eligibility for disability benefits

By Melissa Davlin

In 2010, Elfego Marquez was tasked with painting an area over a tall doorway. The problem: There were no ladders available at the job site. After consulting with his boss, he stacked two buckets on top of each other, then climbed up to get to work.

supremecourt2He fell, landing on a concrete floor and suffering injuries to his shoulder and wrist that required multiple surgeries. Marquez, unable to lift his right arm above his head, was told by his doctor he couldn’t return to work.

He received temporary disability benefits, and his medical bills were paid. But when he sought permanent disability benefits, his employer, Pierce Painting, and the State Insurance Fund resisted. Why? Marquez is undocumented.

Undocumented workers prop up parts of Idaho’s economy, mostly working in physically demanding — and often dangerous — jobs. In the past, the Idaho Industrial Commission, which regulates workers’ compensation in the state, has denied permanent disability benefits based on legal status.

But last year, the commission ruled Marquez could, in fact, pursue permanent disability, prompting an appeal from the State Insurance Fund and bringing the case before the Idaho Supreme Court. Whatever the court decides, it will affect how the state handles claims from undocumented workers in the future — and could affect whether undocumented employees seek help for their injuries in the first place.

 

Different benefits

When workers are injured, there are a number of benefits they can seek, depending on the severity of the injury and how much it impairs their work.

Marquez received some temporary benefits from Pierce Painting and the State Insurance Fund following his accident, and his medical bills were paid in full.

But the sticking point came when Marquez sought permanent disability benefits when his physician told him he could no longer paint.

Permanent physical disability benefits have a higher statutory threshold to meet. Other types of benefits assume the injured worker will eventually be able to return to work, either at the same job or in another field. Not so with permanent disability.

The fight over Marquez isn’t so much about how hurt he really is. Rather, the State Insurance Fund’s argument hinges on a legal technicality: In order to grant permanent disability, the Industrial Commission must consider whether the employee can reasonably get another job.

During Wednesday’s oral arguments, attorney Clinton Casey said because Marquez is undocumented and isn’t legally able to get a job in the United States in the first place, the statute automatically precludes him from seeking permanent disability.

The Industrial Commission agrees Marquez’s legal status is a factor — one that would seemingly play in Marquez’s favor. In its ruling, commissioners pointed to the limited work available to undocumented workers. Not only are there fewer jobs available, but those jobs are almost all physically demanding.

“Remember, the pre-injury labor market for such an individual is small, and probably consists of the meanest type of unskilled manual labor,” the decision says. “Therefore, if disability is measured by considering the actual pre-injury and post-injury labor markets for an illegal alien, it seems likely that higher disability awards will result than would be the case for a similarly situated documented laborer.”

That’s the case for Marquez, who has a college education and taught in Mexico for several years. But those credentials don’t transfer to Idaho, leaving him and other undocumented workers to pursue mostly manual labor jobs in the US.

Marquez couldn’t be reached for comment.

 

Shadow economies, legal fictions

In the past, the Industrial Commission has ruled against undocumented workers. Take a look at this key passage from its 2011 decision in Otero v Briggs Roofing Company:

“Before the accident, (Otero) had no access to the labor market. The same is true after the accident. In effect, the accident, while it did affect (his) physical capacities, has not affected his ability to engage in gainful activity in his relevant labor market. He did not possess that ability in the first place.”

In the 2017 decision on Marquez’s claim against Pierce Painting, the commission walked that back, saying it isn’t responsible for enforcing federal immigration law. (“Had it been enforced by those with the authority to do so,” commissioner Thomas Baskin wrote, “we would not now be struggling with how or whether to apply state workers’ compensation law to what common experience tells us is a shadow economy of some consequence.”)

Instead, the commission says it’s responsible only for state workers’ compensation. “We cannot, in good conscience, create a two-tiered system of compensation, when all workers are intended to be protected under the (law),” the decision says.

(Chairman Thomas E. Limbaugh dissented with his fellow commissioners, saying Marquez’s legal status “entirely eclipses” the injuries sustained on the job as a factor in his future employment.)

Attorney James Arnold, who represented Marquez in Wednesday’s oral arguments, pointed to the “legal fiction” that propped up the commission’s previous denials. Employers keep hiring undocumented workers, who keep coming to Idaho without documentation because of the way the country’s immigration system and guest worker programs are set up.

“That’s why they continue to be employed,” Arnold said. “And they’re going to continue to be employed, and to (ignore that) is a legal fiction.”

Arnold said he has represented other undocumented workers have been injured on the job. Many settle claims in mediation.

This decision, however, will give guidance to the Idaho Industrial Commission on how to handle future claims. By paying benefits to injured undocumented workers, “we’re not necessarily endorsing future unlawful activity,” Arnold argued. “We’re accepting a reality… that there are approximately 35,000 undocumented workers in this state.”

 

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Jordan political director resigns

Paulette Jordan’s field and political director Jennifer Martinez has resigned with a week to go until the primary.

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Jennifer Martinez. Idaho Reports

“There was some disagreements,” Martinez told Idaho Reports. “I no longer agreed with the direction, necessarily, of the campaign. I still wish them the best of luck.”

Martinez declined to give details on those disagreements. Jordan’s campaign didn’t return a request for comment.

Martinez, a former Democratic candidate for Congressional District 2, was a prominent figure in the Jordan campaign. She was active on social media, promoting her candidate and engaging with potential Democratic primary voters.

Martinez said she resigned Monday afternoon, but emphasized there were no hard feelings and praised the campaign volunteers. “There’s a lot of momentum there. I’m still supportive of a lot of … the staff. ”

I still wish them all of the best of luck with the campaign,” she said. 

 

 

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Gold standard advocate major Idaho Freedom Action donor

We’re getting more insight into who is paying for Idaho Freedom Action’s mailers. 

The group, which is the election arm of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, received $20,000 from Trusted Causes LLC, based out of Charlotte, North Carolina. There isn’t much information about Trusted Causes LLC online, though the organization shares an address with Ascension Marketing Group (the portfolio of which includes prepper site Survival-Goods.com and LibertyHeadlines.com), as well as The Sound Money Defense League, which advocates for “bringing gold and silver back as America’s Constitutional money.”

Both Ascension Marketing Group and The Sound Money Defense League are headed by Stefan Gleason, president of Money Metals Exchange. According to his LinkedIn profile, Gleason is based in the Boise area and is the former vice president of the National Right to Work Foundation. 

Gleason has contributed columns to IdahoFreedom.org.

Idaho Reports couldn’t reach Gleason for comment.

Other Idaho Freedom Action contributors include Robert and Cristina Rathbone of Boise, who gave $2,500; Casa Del Norte LP of Glenns Ferry (owned by rancher John McCallum), which gave $5,000; Coeur d’Alene Racing, which gave $3,500; and Lynn Beck of Idaho Falls, who gave $4667.95.

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In 2016, this PAC sought to elect Democrats. Now, it’s supporting a challenger to a Democratic incumbent.

By Melissa Davlin

 

 

 

On Friday evening, I received a text message from a number I didn’t recognize, encouraging me to vote for Randy Johnson. That text sent me diving down a rabbit hole that showed either another split among Idaho Democrats, or a growing party that’s fostering competition.

“Hi Melissa. This is Chris. Have you seen that Randy Johnson was endorsed by Conservation Voters for Idaho and Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii? I believe that he will provide powerful leadership in the Statehouse as a Rep for our District. Can I count on you to vote for Randy on May 15th?

–Paid for by Responsible Leadership for ID PAC”

I’m an unaffiliated voter in District 17, where incumbent Rep. John Gannon faces a primary challenge from first-time candidate Johnson.

Admittedly, I’ve paid more attention to state races than legislative primaries this year, and I didn’t know much about this political action committee. So I started Googling.

Responsible Leadership for ID PAC, headed by Jeremy Maxand of Boise, was formed in 2016. That year, the PAC received $96,000 from the Idaho Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee — $70,000 in July, and an additional $26,000 in October. While the PAC received other donations, a sizable amount of its money came from the IDLCC. 

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That cash was mostly spent in the general election to get Democrats elected to legislative seats statewide. (The effort didn’t go so well, as Republican newcomers took out key Democrats that cycle, including then-House Minority Leader John Rusche of Lewiston and Sen. Dan Schmidt of Moscow.)

Back to the IDLCC. Who donated to that? Democrats from across the state, and most of the Democratic lawmakers, including John Gannon.

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The same John Gannon that Responsible Leadership for Idaho is now trying to defeat by supporting Randy Johnson.

It’s important to note that there is currently no IDLCC money in the Responsible Leadership for Idaho PAC. On Friday evening, House Assistant Minority Leader Ilana Rubel said the IDLCC isn’t involved in the PAC’s endorsement process, and doesn’t get involved in primary races.

Still, it’s interesting that the PAC that worked so hard to get Democrats elected in the general election less than two years ago — and spend a lot of IDLCC money to do so — is now focusing on a primary race with an incumbent lawmaker. The only reported expenditure for the Responsible Leadership for Idaho PAC is a Facebook ad for Johnson. (More may come out in subsequent reports, including, I presume, the money it cost to send me and other voters that Friday night text message.)

House Minority Leader Mat Erpelding confirmed the IDLCC isn’t engaged in any political activity during the primary, adding that RLI PAC’s endorsement of Johnson won’t affect where the caucus puts its money in the general election, regardless of who wins the primary.

Gannon said he wasn’t involved in IDLCC decision-making in 2016, other than contributing money like most other Democratic caucus members.

“I don’t focus upon the downtown money,” he said in a message to Idaho Reports. “The Bench is where I focus and that includes my concerns regarding fighter jets at the airport which will result in hundreds of homes being unsuitable for residential use according to an Airport Study, a position that is different from downtown interests, as well as questions about the stadium. Another Bench priority is our schools and I am endorsed by the Idaho Education Association.”

In a message to Idaho Reports, Randy Johnson also focused on school issues and healthcare, as well as immigration.

“I’ve talked to hundreds of folks and have heard stories from DACA recipients, from parents who are afraid the deaf and hard of hearing program at Jefferson elementary could be cut and from countless people who are afraid of what healthcare insurance will cover,” Johnson said.

When asked for comment, Maxand of RLI PAC focused on what he thinks Johnson brings to the table.

“(H)e brings fresh energy and perspective to the Legislature,” Maxand wrote. “He’s a combat veteran, a neighborhood association president, he has two young boys in the public school system, and he knows the reality faced by undocumented members of our community.”

District 17 isn’t the only Democratic primary on the PAC’s radar. Maxand says Responsible Leadership for Idaho PAC will have independent expenditures on behalf of Rob Mason, who is running for the open House seat in District 16.

Another note: Most of the PAC’s money this primary season is coming from out of state, including $3,000 from John Stocks, head of the National Education Association in Washington DC, and $2,000 from Janet Swanberg of San Francisco. Neither could be reached for comment; Maxand said Stocks’ contribution came as an advance for the general election, but was reported during this cycle.

And how about those endorsements? Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii has endorsed just three candidates this primary cycle: Johnson, Paulette Jordan for Governor, and Mason in District 16. (That District 16 race for retiring Rep. Hy Kloc’s seat has five Democrats.) PPVNW’s page has no explanation as to why it’s endorsing any of these candidates over their opponents. The website for Conservation Voters for Idaho has no endorsements listed.

 

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But Gannon has his own progressive cred. In a mailer sent to District 17 voters, Gannon touts endorsements from Medicaid for Idaho leaders Sam Sandmire, Luke Mayville, and Tracy Mulcahy Olson.

In short, this is a race you want to keep an eye on — especially as competitive up-ticket Democratic primaries will drive voters to the polls.

 

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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.”

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

Source: CrossPolitic.com. 

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.

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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.”

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Some phrases were verbatim from Foreman’s website.

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

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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. 

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