Kempthorne Staff Exodus Still On 

Dept. of Interior swallows staffers

We're not sure which happened first: either Bryan Fitzgerald left his gig with the State of Idaho's Washington, D.C. office, or he was fired by acting Gov. Jim Risch. Either way, Fitzgerald has now gone to join Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne. Fitzgerald was apparently helping Kempthorne during his Senate confirmation last month.

"He was with the governor at every step of the way," said Jeff Storti, deputy communications staff for Risch and himself a Kempthorne vet.

Thus does Fitzgerald join another Kempthorne hand on the run from the dissolution of the House of Kempthorne. David Lehman, formerly one of Kempthorne's policy advisers in Boise, has a similar title in Washington now, as "senior adviser" to Kempthorne. Michael Bogert, a former regional Environmental Protection Agency official, has gone to rejoin his old boss in Washington, as counsel to the Interior Secretary's office.

And after all of BW's kibitzing (BW, News, "Who Wants to Go to Washington?" 05/03/2006), it turns out that Brian Whitlock has gone, well, nowhere. The former Kempthorne chief of staff is whiling away the hours at an office down in the Division of Financial Management where, according to Risch aide Brad Hoaglund, he's using up comp time performing "miscellaneous tasks."

Meanwhile, Risch is looking to save bucks spent on Fitzgerald's D.C. pay, which amounted to about $100,000 annually, according to Brad Foltman from the Idaho Division of Financial Management. Add to that a roughly $2,000-per-month lease on the Idaho office in D.C.'s "Hall of States" and you end up with some money in the bank. Risch will now spend it on two new in-state offices (in Couer d'Alene and Idaho Falls) that his Democratic opponent for lieutenant governor, Larry LaRocco, has referred to as glorified campaign headquarters. Risch said he's been to Couer d'Alene about once a week since taking the top job.

"I need an office when I'm up there," Risch said. "I'm always operating on a streetcorner when I'm up there."

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