Idaho House ethics investigation into Rep. Priscilla Giddings’ behavior is warranted

An Idaho House ethics commission hearing into the actions of Rep. Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird, is warranted and comes as welcome news.

Giddings will face an ethics hearing on Aug. 2 over her conduct when a 19-year-old legislative intern alleged that another Republican lawmaker sexually assaulted her.

Giddings shared a website post that identified the woman who accused former Republican Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger of sexual assault.

Sharing the identity of the woman not only interfered with the von Ehlinger investigation, but also violated a standard of decorum protecting the identity of an accuser in a sexual assault case. It traumatized the young woman all over again and created a chilling effect for future accusers, sending a message that they won’t be listened to or respected.

In addition, Giddings’ behavior during the committee hearings, during which she could be heard scoffing at testimony and laughing audibly at those testifying, demonstrated behavior unbecoming of a state legislator.

The Ethics and House Policy Committee received two complaints against Giddings alleging “conduct unbecoming” a House member. Complaints can be filed only by members of the House, and they are made public only when the committee unanimously finds probable cause.

The House ethics committee redeemed itself and regained some semblance of dignity this year in its members’ words and actions in finding cause to recommend expulsion of Von Ehlinger for his conduct. The panel’s members — Reps. Brent Crane and Wendy Horman, and chairman Rep. Sage Dixon, all Republicans, and Democratic Reps. John Gannon and John McCrostie — came to the right conclusion and saved, in part, what had become an ugly and divisive legislative session.

Unanimously calling for an ethics hearing in this case demonstrates they continue to act in a reasonable, bipartisan manner.

Rep. Priscilla Giddings faces House ethics hearing, complaints of ‘conduct unbecoming’

Of course, Giddings, who is running for lieutenant governor, is crying foul, issuing a statement that the ethics investigation is “dirty politics” and blaming House Speaker Scott Bedke, an Oakley Republican who is also running for lieutenant governor.

This is not political. It has nothing to do with her politics and everything to do with her actions and her behavior.

If anything can be considered political, it was Giddings’ blind defense of von Ehlinger in the face of overwhelming evidence of reprehensible behavior.

In an incredible show of hubris and lack of awareness, Giddings said in her statement that she’s “a recognized women’s advocate” and takes “a back seat to no one in standing up for the rights of victims.”

If that’s the case, we don’t know why, then, Giddings failed to stand up for the rights of the woman in the von Ehlinger case.

Giddings’ actions are worth looking into, even if the committee finds deplorable behavior but not necessarily actions warranting expulsion from office. The ethics panel also has at its disposal the ability to recommend censure or a reprimand.

It’s also important to send a message to other legislators that conduct that is detrimental to the integrity of the House as a legislative body must be taken seriously.

Giddings will have her day before the committee, and she will have her chance to defend her actions.

We all look forward to hearing her attempt at that.

Statesman editorials are the unsigned opinion expressing the consensus of the Idaho Statesman’s editorial board. Board members are opinion editor Scott McIntosh, editor Chadd Cripe and newsroom editors Dana Oland and Jim Keyser and community members J.J. Saldaña and Christy Perry.

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