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Congressman Makes “Bunny Ears” at Opponent’s Staffer

Just before a City Club debate Wednesday between Rep. Bill Sali (R) and his opponent, businessman Walt Minnick (D) KTVB’s Ysabel Bilbao and crew were set up outside the downtown Grove Hotel.

Bilbao was taping an interview with John Foster, Minnick’s spokesman, when Sali and members of his staff shouted loudly and “heckled” the two.

According to Bilbao, Foster stopped the interview. “I am sorry I was a little bit distracted,” Foster said. “I think at some point you even have to question his maturity.”

Bilbao also reported that Foster said he saw Sali making faces at him and holding up “bunny ears.”

Upstairs before the debate – and just after the incident, it turned out – I asked Foster why he looked so, well, astonished. He told me what had happened, saying he was still “incredulous.”

More news about Bill Sali today, from the Huffington Post:

Three members of Idaho Rep. Bill Sali’s congressional staff are also now campaigning for his reelection, with at least two of them still drawing some kind of government salary.

An online Sali campaign roster, stamped “completely confidential,” lists Wayne Hoffman, Tina Jacobson and Jonathan Parker, respectively, as campaign media manager, North Idaho campaign director and campaign strategist.

Meanwhile, on the congressional salary database Legistorm, the same three individuals are shown to have pulled down federal salaries through the reporting period ending in June (the latest available).

It is not illegal for congressional staff members to “donate” their time to reelection campaigns. But House rules are clear that any campaign work should either be done on the staff member’s “own time” unless the staffer takes a leave of absence or reduces his or her work to half-time status.

“Employees who do campaign work while remaining on the House payroll should keep careful records of the time they spend on official activities and, separately, on campaign activities, and demonstrate that campaign work was not done on official time,” the rules say.

The web page with the campaign roster has been taken down, but I printed out a copy a few days ago (above) while it was still online. You can see it more clearly with this screen shot.

In a conversation with the Huffington Post, Hoffman dismissed the notion that anything was wrong. “It’s just part of my volunteer work,” he said, describing his campaign role. “It amounts to mere minutes a day, a few days a week. It’s hard to take a leave of absence for five minutes a day,” he explained. (It should be noted that this one conversation itself lasted more than five minutes.)

I’ve called Hoffman in Sali’s Congressional office in the past. Once, he said he’d call me back from somewhere else. Not three minutes later, he returned the call from the street outside Sali’s office. (I asked where he was, and he told me.)

In a statement released later, Foster said, “This is another example of Bill Sali not being up to the job of a U.S. Congressman,” Foster said. “He can’t be effective for Idaho with these kinds of antics and when his Congressional staff is working on his campaign instead of on the issues and services important to constituents.”

About Jill Kuraitis

Jill Kuraitis is an award-winning journalist who specializes in news of Idaho and the Rocky Mountain West. Her B.A. in theatre management is from UC Santa Barbara, and she went on to work in theatre, film, and politics before writing became a career. Kuraitis has two excellent grown children and lives in Boise with her husband of 30 years, abundant backyard wildlife, and two huge hairy dogs.

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One comment

  1. Geez. Nobody who knows me would say I’m a serious person, but ****ing with an opponent when they’re on camera is just unprofessional and discourteous.