Despite pleas from Democratic complainants, a special Senate Ethics Committee decided this morning to dismiss ethics charges against New Plymouth Republican Sen. Monty Pearce, who held a private lease with oil and gas explorers while shepherding oil and gas legislation through the Senate's Resources Committee and onto the Senate floor.
"This is not a political game," said Boise Sen. Les Bock. "This is dead-serious. I urge you to uphold the integrity of the legislative process."
But Pearce's defense attorney, Chuck Peterson, dismissed Bock's allegations.
"The complaining parties have no evidence that [Pearce] received anything different than anyone else who signed those leases with Snake River Oil," said Peterson. "His lease is exactly like the other 255 leases with Snake River Oil in Payette County."
Unfortunately Peterson, nor anyone else in the hearing room mentioned the fact that hundreds of other leases, negotiated through Bridge Resources with Payette County landowners, vary in their price-per-acre payout. In a Boise Weekly investigation, we found that parties negotiating with Idaho farmers and ranchers varied dramatically in their dealings with certain landowners.
The ethics committee is expected to recommend some tightening of language in the Senate's disclosure rules; for example, there was considerable debate involving conflict-of-interest disclosure in committee hearings, as well as the Senate floor.