Opinion » Bill Cope

Meddle-Lunka

What community does VanderSloot speak for?

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Frank VanderSloot is spending a lot of money to get into your heads, neighbors. A week ago, another of his full-page ads showed up in The Idaho Statesman. VanderSloot's name doesn't actually appear in the ad, but the first words on the page are "Paid for by Melaleuca," that being his Idaho Falls-based company. Melaleuca makes products said to be good for your health then markets them in the Amway fashion. You know ... the pyramid fashion. One thing is clear about Melaleuca products: They are very good for the health of VanderSloot's bank account. He's one of the richest men in Idaho.

This most recent ad makes three that have appeared since January, all extolling the wondrous results we Idahoans will see if only we chug deeply from the Tom Luna education-reform keg. However, this latest is an obvious attempt to convince Idahoans to not participate in the citizens' effort to recall Luna and rescind his sneaky deeds. The reforms have been passed by our boot-licking Legislature and signed into law by Hopalong Otter, so what other purpose would it serve?

VanderSloot's ads are always titled "The Community Page," I suppose to imply that his intentions are to benefit our community. However, his ideal community evidently doesn't include the Idaho Education Association. There is, in fact, a palpable disdain for the IEA written into the ad, as nowhere in the text does it even name the most vocal and organized opposition to the Luna scheme. Instead, the text speaks only of "The Teachers Union" [sic], capitalized and formal, as though there really were an organization in Idaho with such a name, and that we will recoil instinctively from the horror of a common purpose.

The rest of the page is mostly a comparison between what we have in our schools now, and what we would have under Luna's flimflam. I assume if VanderSloot didn't write the ad, he approved what was written, and after reading the whole thing, we can only pray that this rich, rich man doesn't treat his employees at Melaleuca like he would have us treat our education professionals.

As you remember, it was in the heat of the debate over these reforms that VanderSloot sponsored the first two ads, and those ads got a relative pass compared to the controversy ignited by the ads from the Albertson Foundation. The imbalance of attention was because we learned that the same foundation poobahs who were pushing so hard for the reforms were also heavily invested financially in the outcome. The thinking was, I believe, that the Albertson Foundation was viewed (prior to this controversy) as a strictly charitable institution, not a clot of conniving lobbyists. And it was unseemly--to say the least--that individuals running that charity stood to profit with the enactment of something they were endorsing.

But no such revelations came out about VanderSloot and whether he might have ulterior motives for being so interested in the matter. But with his latest attack on the IEA and other citizens who dare involve themselves in state business by petitioning their leaders, I feel it's important we take a closer look at this man.

VanderSloot's political leanings are well-known. He's a conservative's conservative, in that he's wealthy enough to throw gobs of money into his own extremist interests and then buy his way out of any legal troubles he incurs. He seems particularly fond of collecting Idaho Supreme Court justices. During judicial races in 2000, 2006 and 2010, VanderSloot poured tens of thousands of dollars into the campaigns of his preferred candidates, mostly from within a maze of phony cover groups with names like "Citizens for Common Sense" and "Concerned Citizens for Family Values."

As often as not, VanderSloot was the only contributor to these bullshit "citizen's coalitions," and on at least two occasions he violated Idaho's sunshine laws by hiding his involvement behind those coalitions. However, paying the fine for such violations is no problem for VanderSloot and appears simply to be a cost of him doing business.

Like many conservatives VanderSloot often has a problem with the way the news gets reported or even that it is reported. In 2005 he went to war with the Idaho Falls Post Register over a series they ran exposing how a known serial pedophile was repeatedly allowed to return to a capacity in the local council of the Boy Scouts of America that allowed him contact with Boy Scouts. In his crusade against the newspaper, VanderSloot may well have been following the lead of his church brethren, as local LDS leaders were vociferously critical of the paper for pulling open the tent flaps ... as it were ... on an exceedingly Mormon operation.

Yet not even the LDS opposition to the exposure could match VanderSloot's in ferocity. In all, VanderSloot whipped out six full-page ads--all of them under that same cloying title, "The Community Page"--attacking the very publication that ran them. In one of those ads, he devoted several paragraphs to establishing that the lead reporter on the pedophile series is gay, as though being gay disqualified a reporter from investigating child abuse.

This is the man who's trying to get into your heads, fellow Idahoans. As for me, whatever his idea of "community" is, I want no part of it.

(Don't forget rejectthelunalaws.com and recalltomluna.org. That's where you go to sign the petitions VanderSloot doesn't want you to sign.)