BOISE — The newest member of Idaho’s congressional delegation, GOP 1st District Rep. Russ Fulcher, has been in office just 10 months.
When I was in Washington, D.C., in September on my long-planned reporting trip there, I attempted to schedule an interview with Fulcher about how things are going in his new position, representing Idaho in the nation’s Capitol. Oddly, while I had sit-down interviews with the other members of Idaho’s delegation, and also was able to land interviews with such notables as Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. Tim Kaine and Sen. Mitt Romney while I was there, I was unable to talk with Fulcher, the Idaho freshman representative.
“I do want to make sure I have a chance to sit down with Rep. Fulcher during this visit,” I wrote to Fulcher’s communications director, Alexah Rogge, in an email a week before I arrived. “I’d like to talk with him about his initial impressions of Washington and serving in the House, what the experience has been like for him so far, and what he’s working on. Please let me know what will work with his schedule.”
I got no response. So when I arrived on Capitol Hill a week later at 8 a.m. on a Monday, fresh off a red-eye to Baltimore, I went straight to Fulcher’s office. Just one aide was there, and he kindly gave me a tour of the office; I agreed to return later. After that, I finally got an email back from Rogge, scolding me for showing up before official office hours, but offering a time slot on that Thursday, my final day in D.C. We scheduled the interview, and Rogge asked me what topics I’d like to cover. I promptly sent those.
“Those topics look fine. Any deviation from the set topic list will end the interview,” she wrote back, “so if you’d like to discuss any additional topics, please run them by me first. Also, we will be recording audio of the interview.” I responded, “OK.”
Less than an hour before the interview time, I received this message from Rogge: “I apologize for the short notice, but we are going to have to cancel today’s interview with Rep. Fulcher. With an already-packed schedule today, votes were later than expected, so we are having to push and cancel a few items on the schedule. Enjoy your time in DC and have a safe flight back to Idaho.”
I was stunned. I asked if we could reschedule by phone for the next week. I got no response. Every time I’ve contacted Rogge since, I’ve gotten no response.
I covered Fulcher when he was the GOP caucus chairman for the Idaho Senate, and worked with him just fine. He gave me his cellphone number, as he did for all the Statehouse reporters who were closely following the news of the caucus.
In preparation for the interview with Fulcher that never happened, I spoke with the other members of Idaho’s delegation about their newest colleague. Here are some of their comments about him:
“We really like having Russ as part of the delegation,” said Sen. Jim Risch. “He hit the ground running. He’s really a humble person. He’s been well-accepted, well-liked.”
Sen. Mike Crapo said, “I first met him when he was running for governor in the primary against Butch Otter. I was impressed with him then. I thought he used the right demeanor and was thoughtful in his approach. He is very capable, and he’s one of those people who is a quick study.”
Second District Rep. Mike Simpson said, “It’s been a real pleasure over the last nine months to have Russ here. He’s good to work with — he knows what he doesn’t know.”
Fulcher serves on the House Committee on Natural Resources, and the House Committee on Education and Labor.
So why is he so unwilling to talk to the lead political reporter at the newspaper that’s based in the biggest population center in his own district, Idaho’s 1st CD? He hasn’t told me, so I don’t know for sure. But I have noticed that Fulcher hasn’t granted me an interview since I wrote the Jan. 15, 2019 story about his divorce, prior to which I’d never experienced any problems working with him.
I was surprised to learn in January that Fulcher and his wife of 32 years had quietly divorced during the congressional campaign, and the news had never come out. Kara Fulcher filed for divorce on Aug. 8, 2018, during the height of the campaign, citing his “acts of adultery” among the grounds, according to the divorce filing, which is public record and was not sealed. The divorce was finalized Sept. 17.
As soon as I got the documents, I interviewed Fulcher, wrote the story and it ran in the Idaho Press. Other news outlets quickly picked it up. I have had numerous other Idaho reporters tell me they wished they’d gotten the story during the campaign. That’s the kind of news that shouldn’t be suppressed during something as major as a congressional campaign, and I do feel that I personally dropped the ball by not having found out about it and reported on it earlier.
In January, when I interviewed him about the divorce, Fulcher told me, “It’s personal, and it’s painful.” He said he and his ex-wife had agreed not to talk publicly about it, “for both of our sakes, because it’s personal.”
But now he’s a congressman, and I’m not asking him about his divorce. I’m asking him about how he’s representing our state in the nation’s capital. I have contacted his office asking for comment periodically on various matters of current news since January; each time, I get no response. My readers are his constituents. Ten months in, isn’t it about time he started responding?