November 13, 2023

Winder Removes Zuiderveld as Vice Chair, Threatens Her and Herndon With Ethics Complaints
The tinpot dictator thinks they work for him

By: Brian Almon

Brian Almon

According to a press release this morning from the Idaho Freedom Caucus, Senate President Pro Tempore Chuck Winder has removed Sen. Glenneda Zuiderveld from her position as vice chair of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee. Winder also threatened Zuiderveld and Sen. Scott Herndon with ethics complaints in response to their newsletters exposing how the Legislature and especially the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee (JFAC) work.

Read the full statement here:

Winder called Zuiderverld’s comments “degrading” and “disrespectful”. Click here to read her Substack for yourself.

Winder called Herndon’s comments “degrading” and “disparaging”. Click here to read his newsletter for yourself.

All Zuiderveld and Herndon did was peel back the curtain that has long hidden the work of old guard legislators like Chuck Winder. Herndon showed how the sausage is made in JFAC, while Zuiderveld explained how powerful donors and lobbyists pull the strings.

This is an attack not only on Senators Zuiderveld and Herndon, but the entire Idaho Freedom Caucus. Every member of that group has pledged to serve the people of Idaho rather than the governor, legislative leadership, or special interests. Chuck Winder apparently sees this as a threat to his power and influence. If you read his Sunshine report, you will see pages and pages of PACs, corporations, and other special interests donating tens of thousands of dollars. Why? They’re buying access to the most powerful man in the Senate. They’re ensuring that he listens to their needs and desires, and, to put it bluntly, that he does what they want him to do.

Governor Little’s Idaho Launch Grant is the perfect example of this cronyism at work. Big corporations dumped tens of thousands of dollars not only on Little, Winder, and other powerful figures, but into their PACs as well. Little used every ounce of his political capital in the 2023 session to push this bill, which gives high school graduates $8,000 each to pay for workforce training in industries selected by the governor’s handpicked council. It passed the House by a single vote, and only passed with unanimous support from the Democrats.

It’s this sort of cronyism that Chuck Winder seems to think is standard operating procedure for the Idaho Legislature, yet the internal cronyism is even more insidious. Both Glenneda Zuiderveld and Scott Herndon truthfully explained how the process works: state agencies spend your tax dollars creating slick presentations for JFAC in which they ask for even more of your tax dollars. Despite Winder claiming that JFAC members engage in “countless hours of reviewing, analyzing, and thoughtfully considering” each proposal, they usually give the agencies most of what they ask for. Once JFAC has approved a budget it is almost always rubber stamped by the Legislature.

One notable exception this year was when the House rejected JFAC’s budget for Medicaid. Since the Legislature is required to pass budgets for all state agencies, the Medicaid bill went back to JFAC for revision. They stripped $150 million based on projections of Medicaid enrollees coming off the program which was still only a drop in the bucket for the largest single budget in the state. In the end, the Legislature still passed a $4.5 billion Medicaid budget, handing your money over to the Department of Health and Welfare (IDHW).

I bring this up because earlier this year it was Glenneda Zuiderveld who blew the whistle on IDHW defying the will of the Legislature with regards to the distribution of a federal grant for children’s nonprofits. Zuiderveld’s courageous work led to an audit that exposed even more malfeasance by IDHW under director Dave Jeppeson. Attorney General Raúl Labrador subpoenaed records from IDHW, which responded by suing the AG’s office, enlisting former representative Greg Chaney, another member of the Idaho swamp, to represent the agency.

Isn’t it interesting that Winder would choose to go after the one senator who stood up to IDHW? Isn’t it more interesting that Winder would remove Zuiderveld from her position as vice chair of Senate Health and Welfare, the committee which should have direct oversight of IDHW? What might powerful political figures not do with billions of dollars at stake?

Additionally, Winder’s letter to Herndon accuses him of not taking his JFAC duties seriously. Anyone who watched the Legislature last year can see how false and farcical this charge is. Few members of JFAC were as diligent in attempting to save taxpayer money as Scott Herndon, but this is obviously not important to Chuck Winder. Like so many other establishment figures, he apparently believes that spending your money is the Legislature’s job, while trying to save your money is neglecting it.

It will be interesting to see how local press spins this story. Will it be “tyrannical Senate leader crushes anyone who dissents” or “heroic servant of the people stands up to extremism”? You and I both know the answer. Yet local media sang a different tune just a few years ago when then House Speaker Lawrence Denney stripped chairmanships from representatives who voted against him. They even had a name for him: Boss Denney.

Winder’s claims that Zuiderveld and Herndon slandered and degraded their fellow senators falls flat when you remember how Sen. Mark Guthrie attacked Sen. Brian Lenney earlier this year. Not only did he issue a press release attacking Lenney as a “California transplant”, he circulated a copy of it on the Senate floor. Chuck Winder didn’t seem to have a problem with that. It is absolutely clear that this is not a defense of the sanctity of the Senate so much as a factional attack on anyone daring to challenge leadership and their special interest friends.

Chuck Winder himself is no stranger to disrespectful rhetoric. When Rep. Gayann DeMordaunt’s H666, which would prevent schools and libraries from distributing inappropriate material to children, passed the House, Winder went to the left wing press to mock her and everyone else who supported it. He called the idea of keeping obscene materials from children “craziness” and boasted about assigning it to Sen. Patti Anne Lodge’s State Affairs Committee to ensure that it would never see the light of day.

Earlier this year, Winder admitted that he might not be considered a Republican under the Idaho GOP’s conservative platform. This came in the middle of a committee hearing where he used his question time to demean and lambaste Maria Nate of the Idaho Freedom Caucus and Kiira Turnbow of the state party:

Also this year, US Army veteran Ryan Spoon testified at an informational hearing on S1145, a bill to defend Idaho’s National Guard from being deployed to foreign wars. Winder, a Navy veteran, used his question time to ask Spoon to recite the West Point motto. He was clearly hoping for a “gotcha” moment to embarrass and discredit a man who has been a thorn in his side in District 20, but Spoon rose to the occasion:

Voters in District 20 seem to be growing weary of Winder. Last year he was challenged by Rosa Martinez, who campaigned on opposing the Covid-19 lockdowns and mandates. Winder won by only 639 votes out of 8,155 cast. In a primary election that saw several powerful committee chairs go down in defeat, Winder only survived by the skin of his teeth.

One might think this experience would have put the fear of God in him, and that his recent health issues could be a sign that it’s time to settle down and retire. Instead, it looks like Winder is aiming for the Dianne Feinstein path of holding on to power as tightly as he can until he drops dead on the Senate floor. No matter how they present themselves, or how many Bible studies they attend, people this enamored with power are dangerous to the American Republic.

It’s time for Chuck Winder to go. He has clearly demonstrated that he is loyal to special interests rather than the people of Idaho, he acts as if fellow senators work for him, rather than their voters, he shows partiality with the way in which he metes out punishment and favors, and he is a hypocrite with the way in which he shows disrespect for anyone not under his control. Rather than besmirching Glenneda Zuiderveld and Scott Herndon, his letters only disgrace himself.

I urge Zuiderveld, Herndon, and the entire Idaho Freedom Caucus to press onward. Keep telling the truth and bringing transparency to the political process. Stand firm on conservative principles and keep working for the citizens of Idaho against the special interests.

I call on Senator Winder to resign, both as President Pro Tempore and as the representative of District 20 in the Idaho State Senate.

Note: A descendant of American pioneers, Brian writes about the importance of culture and about current events in the context of history.  His work can be found on Substack, here.

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