Democrats Get Specific On Lawmaker’s Alleged Conflict Of Interest

The ethics investigation of Idaho Sen. Monty Pearce (R- New Plymouth) entered its third day Wednesday.  He's accused of not disclosing his oil and gas leases before voting on nearly two dozen bills dealing with that industry.  Democrats drilled down on one bill Tuesday that Pearce voted on.   

That legislation favors state control of oil and natural gas development.  Charles Peterson is Pearce’s lawyer.  He says many people could benefit from that bill.  “Is he a member of a class of folks that is so broad, that, in essence, he gains nothing in particular that other members of the class don’t gain," Peterson says.  "I think that candidly is the situation today.”

If so, that means Pearce would fall into an exception when it comes to conflict of interest rules.  That argument resonated with ethics panel member Sen. Jim Hammond (R-Coeur d’Alene).  “I am not seeing any evidence that this individual senator enjoyed any greater benefit than anybody else in that class.  I don’t see any reason why we need to pursue this further,” says Hammond.

Pearce has had oil and gas leases since the 1980s.  He also signed one in November with Snake River Oil and Gas.  And that means, according to Sen. Diane Bilyeu (D-Pocatello), the panel needs to hold another meeting.  “There are some questions that have not been answered at least to my satisfaction.”

Chairman Dean Mortimer (R-Idaho Falls) agreed. The ethics panel meets again Wednesday morning.

Copyright 2012 Boise State Public Radio.