BOISE — Rep. Priscilla Giddings says an ethics investigation she’s facing is “dirty politics,” but her opponent in the race for lieutenant governor, House Speaker Scott Bedke, said Wednesday the probe is legitimate and the complaint signed by a bipartisan group of 24 lawmakers was dated before Giddings announced she was running.
The House Ethics and Policy Committee received two formal complaints earlier this year that center on Giddings publicizing the name of a 19-year-old intern who accused another state lawmaker of rape. That lawmaker, Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger, a Republican from Lewiston, was himself the subject of an ethics hearing earlier this year, at which Giddings testified.
One complaint against Giddings was filed by Republican Rep. Greg Chaney in April. A second complaint was filed in May and signed by dozens of lawmakers, including Bedke.
The second complaint also says that during the ethics hearing for von Ehlinger, Giddings misrepresented her actions identifying the alleged rape victim while under oath.
The committee on Tuesday found probable cause that Giddings engaged in “conduct unbecoming a representative, which is detrimental to the integrity of the House as a legislative body.” The committee is holding a public hearing in August.
Giddings on Tuesday, responding to news of the ethics investigation, on Facebook wrote: “Sadly, the kind of dirty politics Speaker Scott Bedke is now playing with his weaponized ‘ethics’ hearing is just par for the course.”
Bedke, in a statement, said Giddings is attempting to deflect and use the investigation to raise money for her run for lieutenant governor.
“I believe all elected officials should be held to a higher ethical standard — that was the intent of adding my name to the letter,” Bedke said. “I am looking forward to the fair and impartial deliberations of the Ethics committee on this issue.”
Bedke in his statement noted that the complaint signed by the lawmakers is dated May 3, before Giddings announced she was running for lieutenant governor on May 21.
Both lawmakers are Republicans. Giddings is on the far-right, while Bedke is more in the mainstream of Idaho Republicans.
Complaints aren’t made public unless the committee finds there is probable cause to hold a hearing.
Giddings faced criticism and complaints this year after sharing links to a far-right blog post that included the intern’s name, photo and details about her life with thousands of people in a newsletter and on social media.
The intern had reported to legislative leaders that von Ehlinger had raped her after they went out to dinner.
Von Ehlinger has denied any wrongdoing and said the sexual contact was consensual. The ethics committee found he engaged in “conduct unbecoming” a lawmaker, and he resigned before the full House could vote on whether to remove him from office.
The Ada County prosecutor’s office told The Associated Press last week that police were still investigating the allegation against von Ehlinger.
The AP generally doesn’t name people who report sexual assaults unless they agree to be publicly identified.
The complaint filed by the 24 lawmakers specifically cites Giddings testimony during the ethics hearing for von Ehlinger where she was directly asked if she publicized the name of the intern, referred to as Jane Doe during the hearing.
“Rep. Giddings appeared to misrepresent her actions to the Ethics and House Policy Committee while under oath,” the complaint states. “She was directly asked to confirm that she had posted a picture of Jane Doe. She responded, ‘That is not correct.’ When pressed further by a committee member who pulled up her Facebook post and could see the photo, she feigned ignorance as to whether she had posted the image. When asked if she is the administrator of her Facebook account, she would not answer the question.”