McGeachin didn’t lose records suit due to ‘bad lawyering.’ It was her bad judgment

·3 min read
Art Macomber and Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin speak at a press conference at Ammon Elementary School on Oct. 14, 2021.

This is a person who wants to be governor?

Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin had a memorable few weeks.

Last week, she called the media to a press conference — a press conference where questions weren’t allowed, convened at Ammon Elementary School without notifying school officials. There, she said she would correct the record with regard to her loss in a recent lawsuit with the Idaho Press Club over her attempt to shield public records related to her indoctrination task force from public view.

In that loss, a judge had found that she had acted “deliberately and in bad faith” and imposed a civil fine. Even after she was ordered to release unredacted records, McGeachin failed to comply until she was faced with a contempt complaint that could have sent her to jail.

At the Ammon press conference, she claimed that she had been tricked into breaking the law by bad advice from the office of Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden. She waved a printed email in front of the television cameras, claiming it was proof of her claims.

Art Macomber, a Republican who is running for attorney general, said he was acting as McGeachin’s pro bono attorney and chalked the whole incident up to “bad lawyering.”

A few days later, we have the email.

The deputy attorney general advising her said the AG’s office had concluded that a recent bill that allows lawmakers to redact the names of people who contact them did not apply to McGeachin’s task force.

She was advised to release the records requested by a reporter immediately, and told that if she attempted to use an exemption meant for constituents contacting lawmakers, she very likely would lose in court. That’s exactly what happened, more than a month later.

(The ancient Greeks told of Cassandra, a priestess of Apollo doomed to give prophecies that were always true but never believed. Wasden must have a very particular understanding of her fate.)

But instead of listening to sound advice from the AG’s office, McGeachin found someone to tell her what she wanted to hear. That lawyer, Colton Boyles, developed legal theories for withholding the records so cockamamie that the judge warned that he could be sanctioned for violating the rules barring frivolous arguments in court.

It’s no big shock to learn that McGeachin’s smoking gun is neither smoking nor a gun.

What is striking is how brazen her lying at that press conference was. It isn’t an innocent lie because it was meant to deflect blame for her breaking the law onto another elected official. But neither was it the lie of a master politician who knows how to control the public narrative — because it was revealed as a lie almost immediately.

It was like coming home to find marker all over your walls, your 5-year-old daughter holding a marker, her face and hands covered with the same color, and then hearing her say: “My brother did it.” (And then you find out her brother told her not to do it.)

It’s hard to get mad. Try as you might to put on your serious face, you can’t stop laughing at the sheer ineptitude of the attempt at deception.

But you should get mad.

This is a woman who has attempted to strong-arm public health policy. This is a woman who has asked for information on how to activate and ship out the National Guard to the border with Mexico. These are not powers you want a child to wield. And she’s seeking a lot more power.

And her record has made clear how she would wield that power: without transparency or accountability — without enough respect for the people to even bother making her lies believable. She has never missed a chance to abuse the little power she has now.

Whether she gets more power is up to you.

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