The Republican majority – excepting its extreme, right wingnuts – of the Idaho Legislature is congratulating itself on censuring Rep. Priscilla Giddings (R, White Bird) and kicking her off of House Commerce and Human Resources Committee. That’s the Idaho House legislative committee in charge of, among other things, supervising state employees.
WC has written about Rep. Giddings before. But her “defense” of her conduct in the face of the Idaho House’s ethics investigation and consequent censure motion demonstrated such morally bankrupt conduct by Rep. Giddings and some of her fellow Republicans that WC feels forced to follow up on that earlier post.
Some background. A 19-year-old Idaho legislative intern accused then-Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger of rape. In fact, von Ehlinger resigned from the state legislature in the face of those charges and has since been criminally indicted. Trial is pending. When the legislative intern, who was promised confidentiality, testified before the Idaho House Ethics Committee about von Ehlinger’s sexual assault, Rep. Giddings followed her down the hall when she left, identifying her by name and accusing her of lying. It was just about as awful as you can imagine; WC knows someone who was present, trying to protect the intern. Ms. Giddings later posted on Facebook a link to a right-wing publication identifying the intern by name.
Rep. Brooke Green (D, Boise) filed an ethics complaint against Ms. Giddings. At least 24 other members of the Idaho House joined in that complaint. The Ethics Committee concluded Ms. Giddings misrepresented her actions to the Ethics Committee and did so while under oath. The Committee also found Giddings exhibited a pattern of dishonesty and disrespect to her colleagues in her testimony, both in August and during the previous ethics hearing against von Ehlinger.
Note that the Ethics Committee didn’t recommend discipline because Ms. Giddings revealed the identity of a victim of sexual assault. They didn’t recommend she be censured for harassing an intern who had been promised confidentiality, she stalked the intern as the intern tried to leave the Capitol Building.
No, she was punished – for a given definition of “punished” – because she accused the intern of lying – the defamation charge – and because she lied to the Ethics Committee.
The full Idaho House met this past Monday to consider the recommended discipline – censure and removal from a committee. Ms. Giddings, in defense of her actions, said
I would not have done anything differently. I think my intention is pure. I know that nothing I said here today … is going to change your mind.Rep. Priscilla Giddings, statement to Idaho House, reported by the Idaho Statesman
It’s fairly rare to hear a claim of “pure intentions” in the face of perjury. It’s pretty unusual to see someone who has doxed, harassed and stalked a nineteen year old who had been promised confidentiality afterwards saying they “would not have done anything differently.” It wrong, but hardly surprising, for such a perp to get off so lightly.
Because this is Idaho, nineteen Republican representatives voted not to censure Ms. Giddings. Some examples:
Rep. Heather Scott (R, Blanchard) accused the committee of “attacking” or “going after” Giddings. Of course, 25 legislators joined in the ethics complaint against Ms. Giddings, but Ms. Scott overlooked that detail.
Rep. Ron Nate (R, Rexburg) objected to House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley controlling the debate on Giddings’ ethics report, because he is an opponent of hers in the race for lieutenant governor. Mr. Nate didn’t explain how that was relevant. Mr. Nate also said, “It appears that this committee has been weaponized to go after political opponents.” A nice example of the Attacking the Messenger Fallacy, but not relevant to whether Ms. Giddings, you know, did the stuff she was accused of doing.
Rep. Barbara Ehardt (R, Idaho Falls) said she was concerned about the chilling effect it would have on state legislators. “I am concerned that what we will do here will have ramifications on our future abilities to communicate.” Yes, that’s right. It might discourage future perjury. That’s kinda the reason for punishment. You know, to deter future would-be wrongdoers.
After all that, the State House voted 49-19 to censure Ms. Giddings and remove her from her committee assignment. Somewhere between a gentle slap on the wrist and a single lash with a wet noodle. And the Republican majority is slapping itself on the back, proud of this very modest accomplishment.
WC invites readers again to consider their reaction if the victim had been their daughter, if Rep. Giddings had been chasing her down the capitol hallway. And then consider the “punishment.”