The Idaho Freedom Foundation has usurped the word “freedom.” It labels legislators who fail to adhere to its rigid, libertarian ideology as being anti-freedom, RINOs or worse: Democrats. Many voters are misled by IFF’s glib explanations of how it measures freedom. Embracing a philosophy that celebrates freedom is seemingly easy. What could be wrong with that? Sadly, a lot.
The IFF consists of extremist ideologues bullying legislators into conforming to its ideology. That isn’t freedom.
The IFF insists that its Freedom Index is an unbiased measure of each legislator’s commitment to freedom. Actually, it measures adherence to the IFF agenda. The IFF is against funding education, infrastructure, preschool, parks or almost anything that costs money. No nuance, no compromise. Except for legal fees. IFF has sued Idaho six times and lost five. The lawsuits were expensive for taxpayers to pay to defend. The IFF even sued to overturn a lawfully passed citizen’s initiative, calling it “mob rule.” I don’t remember being asked if I valued frivolous lawsuits more than supporting health care, do you? How is that freedom?
The IFF’s board has shown a willingness to manipulate its data to benefit its members. Rep. Bryan Zollinger (IFF darling) and Bryan Smith (board member) work at the same law firm that argues Medical Recovery Services cases, and this year’s Idaho Patient Act likely negatively impacts their profits. IFF manipulated the bill’s Freedom Index score in an unsuccessful effort to kill the legislation.
Who else benefits from Freedom Index scoring is unknown because IFF keeps its donors secret. The IFF claims to champion transparency but it doesn’t practice it.
Wayne Hoffman, founder and president, signs IFF’s tax returns and denies significant lobbying even though lobbying appears to be IFF’s primary purpose.
IFF employs three registered lobbyists who write bills, attend committee meetings and mingle with legislators. Five additional employees engage in 501c3-defined “grassroots” lobbying–using social media and online newsfeeds to encourage citizens to take actions that influence legislators. Yet Hoffman reports zero “grassroots” lobbying and minimal lobbying overall.
A recent IRS complaint charges the IFF with excessive lobbying and encouraging illegal behavior in violation of its 501©(3) tax status. These charges should be upheld. One glance at its Facebook page shows that the IFF has incited folks to break the law in the name of freedom, how it uses the Freedom Index to support candidates and the extent of its lobbying.
The IFF is more than a political organization that cheats on its taxes and spurs citizens to break the law. It is an extremist ideology that has infiltrated our local politics. Several Republican lawmakers have written editorials comparing the IFF to McCarthyism. They ought to know, they’re living it.
I am a Democrat, so you might ask why I’m concerned about a Republican primary. Because it involves the future of Idaho. Voters, please vote carefully and be aware that the Freedom Index measures compliance to an ideology, not freedom.
Freedom beats in all our hearts, and we don’t need an ideological organization to redefine it for us.