Printed on: March 20, 2014

We're the marks

The theater of the absurd that is Idaho politics reached a whole new level last week. It had nothing to do with ag-gag, Add the Words or former senators hiding in closets. Nor did it involve school budgets, gun-toting lawmakers or the governor's movie career.

Our story stars embattled State Treasurer Ron Crane -- and involves the very real possibility taxpayers are about to give him a raise.

You might remember Crane. He's the guy who, according to a legislative auditor, made questionable investment decisions that cost taxpayers $10.2 million and potentially another $17 million.

Still not ringing a bell? Crane is the fellow who caught flak for using stretch limos to squire legislators, aides and their spouses around the Big Apple.

Crane. Ron. The man who attracted unwanted attention from auditors because he was billing taxpayers for his commute from Nampa to the Capitol, then funneled $10,000 from his office budget to a conference hosted by a nonprofit owned by -- wait for it -- Ron Crane.

One group, however, isn't troubled by Crane's foibles: Idaho Republicans.

Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter did not escape a challenge in the May GOP primary. Neither did Lt. Gov. Brad Little, Attorney General Lawerence Wasden or Controller Brandon Woolf. Only Crane among the statewide elected officials will cruise untested into November.

That news almost certainly made for a good night in the Crane household. Then, things got better. Crane -- and the other statewide elected officials -- will likely receive raises.

These aren't private sector raises, the kind where your boss buys you a cup of coffee and says keep up the good work. Nor are these the 1 percent pittance raises legislators tossed at state employees. Idaho's statewide officials are looking at a 13.1 percent hike spread over four years. That will mean $20,000 more for the governor and similar increases for everybody else, including Crane, assuming he can overcome a Democratic challenge in the fall.

No primary. Six-figure salary. Pension boosted by the PERSI Perk because he is a former legislator. Obviously, we need to find another description for Crane. Embattled no longer cuts it. Ecstatic is more like it.

And now we arrive at that point where we ask how they get away with it. Here's the answer, and it isn't pretty: Idaho's voters have been on autopilot for years. In our theater of the absurd, taxpayers play the role of marks, stumbling in fat, dumb and happy with pockets full and exiting a little slimmer but no smarter and no less happy with pockets turned inside out.

So, enjoy the spoils of your victory, Mr. Treasurer. Take a selfie during your next limo ride around Manhattan and post it on your website. Give all us little people back here a small glimpse into your charmed life.

Corey Taule