Idaho Freedom Foundation

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The Idaho Freedom Foundation (IFF) is a conservative 501(c)(3) organization that is part of the right-wing State Policy Network and advocates for conservative state legislation in Idaho. It is based in Boise and calls itself a research institute that advocates for "free market solutions, private property rights, individual responsibility and transparent, limited government."[1]

Critics Scrutinize IFF's Charitable Status

In September 2013, the Idaho Spokesman-Review reported that experts on non-profit tax law like Lloyd Hitoshi Mayer, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame, believe IFF is "abusing its lucrative tax-free status" because it "likely is underreporting its lobbying under federal tax laws."[2]

IFF is organized as a 501(c)(3), so contributions to the group are tax-deductible. Contributions to 501(c)(4) lobbying groups are not. According to the Spokesman-Review, IFF's Executive Director Wayne Hoffman "maintains it's really not a lobbying group and that it does only a small amount of lobbying. He reported spending just $13,000 on lobbying in 2012, out of $447,108 in total expenses. In 2011, he reported just $10,290 spent on lobbying; in 2010 and 2009, he reported that the group spent zero to influence legislation." But in 2013, "IFF had three registered lobbyists, was a constant presence in the Capitol[,] and led the opposition to the governor's biggest legislative proposal of the session, the bill creating a state-based health insurance exchange. It rated 150 bills against its agenda, assigning positive or negative scores, and tracked lawmakers' votes. The group writes legislation, testifies to committees, sponsors lectures and tours for legislators, conducts polls, publishes reports and sends out emails, and its lawmaker scores have been prominently featured in campaign ads." The article sums up, "most of its work focuses on influencing public policy."[2]

On whether or not the organization is lobbying, the newspaper posted a dialogue between IFF Executive Director Wayne Hoffman and non-profit tax law expert Lloyd Hitoshi Mayer:

"'Lobbying is a very specific thing,' Hoffman said, adding that he believes as long as any of his group's communications stop short of saying 'vote yes' or 'vote no,' they haven't crossed the 'bright line' between education and lobbying.
"However, Mayer said, 'Mr. Hoffman is confusing federal election law with federal tax law. More specifically, he is confusing the rules relating to whether a communication is "express advocacy" for purposes of the federal election law with the rules relating to whether a communication is lobbying for the purposes of the federal tax laws. The federal tax laws defining lobbying are much broader … and reach essentially any communication that mentions specific legislation and reflects a view on that legislation, whether expressly or less directly.'
"Hoffman said in his view, even writing bills isn't lobbying. 'As I understand it, that is not lobbying because what you are doing is you are working on helping lawmakers divine good public policy, which is what we do anyway,' he said. 'It’s educational.'
"He has the same view of the town meetings, literature[,] and pre-election robocalls his group sponsored when Shoshone County had a measure on the ballot in May to form a new urban renewal agency, though he boasts that after IFF's efforts, the measure failed by a 3-1 margin. 'That was just an education effort,' he said.
"Mayer said the robocalls likely qualify as direct lobbying because they asserted that the measure would drive up taxes and take away people’s ability to vote on future projects. 'The lack of "vote against" or similar language does not control,' he said.
"He noted, 'A communication can be both educational and lobbying; the terms are not mutually exclusive.' A lobbying communication might also be 'informative,' he said."[2]

Despite IFF's three registered lobbyists in 2013, Hoffman told the Spokesman-Review that "the only thing he reports on his Form 990 as lobbying is his own time spent telling legislators to vote one way or another, or sending emails or writing letters with that message. 'It's time that I spend testifying in committee,' he said, and reflects 'very little' of his other employees' time."[2]

Ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council

The IFF has ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) through its Executive Director, Wayne Hoffman. In an article on the foundation's website entitled, "ALEC Helps Promote Good Public Policy," Hoffman states, "ALEC has been an invaluable resource and friend to me and the Idaho Freedom Foundation. Few people know how often I have asked ALEC’s staff for help battling big-government ideas, including the federal health care takeover and the imposition of confiscatory tax polices. And it has always responded. . . . I’m grateful for ALEC, and you should be, too."[3].

Furthermore, according to the groups' publication the Idaho Reporter, the IFF sponsored a trip to Boise for John Graham of the Pacific Research Institute and Christie Herrera, director of the ALEC Health and Human Services Task Force, to meet with Idaho lawmakers to discuss health care policy[4]. (For more on the Idaho Reporter and the Idaho Freedom Foundation, see their connections to the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity below).

Additionally, the IFF has ties to ALEC through its membership with the State Policy Network, which is an ALEC member and sponsor.[5][6][7][8][9][10] ALEC is also an Associate Member of the SPN.[11]

Please see SPN Ties to ALEC for more.

About ALEC
ALEC is a corporate bill mill. It is not just a lobby or a front group; it is much more powerful than that. Through ALEC, corporations hand state legislators their wishlists to benefit their bottom line. Corporations fund almost all of ALEC's operations. They pay for a seat on ALEC task forces where corporate lobbyists and special interest reps vote with elected officials to approve “model” bills. Learn more at the Center for Media and Democracy's ALECexposed.org, and check out breaking news on our PRWatch.org site.

Ties to the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity

The Idaho Freedom Foundation publishes IdahoReporter.com and The Idaho Freedom Foundation is listed as a Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity "Watchdog Bureau".[12] The Franklin Center funds reporters in over 40 states.[13] Despite their non-partisan description, many of the websites funded by the Franklin Center have received criticism for their conservative bias.[14][15] On its website, the Franklin Center claims it "provides 10 percent of all daily reporting from state capitals nationwide."[16]

Franklin Center Funding

Franklin Center Director of Communications Michael Moroney told the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) in 2013 that the source of the Franklin Center's funding "is 100 percent anonymous." But 95 percent of its 2011 funding came from DonorsTrust, a spin-off of the Philanthropy Roundtable that functions as a large "donor-advised fund," cloaking the identity of donors to right-wing causes across the country (CPI did a review of Franklin's Internal Revenue Service records).[17] Mother Jones called DonorsTrust "the dark-money ATM of the conservative movement" in a February 2013 article.[18] Franklin received DonorTrust's second-largest donation in 2011.[17]

The Franklin Center also receives funding from the Wisconsin-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation,[19] a conservative grant-making organization.[20]

The Franklin Center was launched by the Chicago-based Sam Adams Alliance (SAM),[21] a 501(c)(3) devoted to pushing free-market ideals. SAM gets funding from the State Policy Network,[22] which is partially funded by the Claude R. Lambe Foundation.[23] Charles Koch, one of the billionaire brothers who co-own Koch Industries, sits on the board of this foundation.[24] SAM also receives funding from the Rodney Fund.

Personnel

Staff

As of September 2013:[25]

  • Executive Director: Wayne Hoffman (former communications director for Congressman Bill Sali)
  • Director of Transparency and Government Accountability: Erik Makrush (identified as a lobbyist by the Idaho Spokesman-Review[2]
  • Policy Analyst: Parrish Miller
  • Communications Director: Mitch Coffman

According to the Idaho Spokesman-Review, "IFF has eight full-time employees plus a handful of interns and independent contractors,"[2] but with the exception of Hoffman, Makrush, Miller, and Coffman, these employees are not listed on the organization's website.

Staff writers at the Idaho Reporter include, as of September 2013:[26]

  • Austin Hill
  • Dustin Hurst, who is also a "National Reporter" for the Franklin Center's Watchdog.org site[27]

Board of Directors

As of September 2013:[25]

  • Board Chairman: Bob Rathbone
  • Board Vice Chairman: Brent Regan (Regan Designs)
  • Board Secretary: Heather Lauer (Owner, Villageous LLC)
  • Board Treasurer: Dan Symms (Partner, Symms Fruit Ranch)
  • Director: Loel Fenwick, MD (The Borning Corporation)

Core Financials

2011[28]

  • Total Revenue: $355,673
  • Total Expenses: $350,348
  • Net Assets: $294,580

2010[29]:

  • Total Revenue: $494,134
  • Total Expenses: $356,081
  • Net Assets: $289,255

2009[30]:

  • Total Revenue: $369,377
  • Total Expenses: $218,275
  • Net Assets: $151,202

Contact Information

PO Box 2801
Boise, ID 83701
Phone: (208) 258-2280
Fax: (208) 965-8111
wayne@idahofreedom.net

Articles and Resources

Related Sourcewatch Articles

External Resources

Related PRWatch Articles

References

  1. "About", organizational website, accessed September 2012
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Betsy Z. Russell, Idaho Freedom Foundation’s charitable status scrutinized, Idaho Spokesman-Review, September 15, 2013.
  3. "ALEC Helps Promote Good Public Policy", organizational website, accessed September 2012
  4. Dustin Hurst, Idaho Freedom Foundation, Health Policy Experts: There's No Difference Between State and Federal Exchanges, "Idaho Reporter", February 3, 2012
  5. American Legislative Exchange Council, Education Task Force Director, organizational document, July 1, 2011, document obtained and released by Common Cause.
  6. American Legislative Exchange Council, HHS Task Force Directory, organizational document, June 29, 2011, document obtained and released by Common Cause.
  7. American Legislative Exchange Council, Telecommunications & Information Technology, organizational task force membership directory, July 18, 2011, document obtained and released by Common Cause.
  8. American Legislative Exchange Council, 2011 Conference Sponsors, conference brochure on file with CMD, August 11, 2011
  9. American Legislative Exchange Council, "Sponsors", 2012 SNPS Agenda, organizational document, on file with CMD.
  10. American Legislative Exchange Council, Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force 2012 Spring Task Force Summit Tentative Agenda, organizational document, May 11, 2012, document obtained via open records request and released by the Center for Media and Democracy and Common Cause.
  11. "SPN Directory", organizational website, accessed September 2012
  12. Franklin Center, Watchdog.org, organizational document, May 2013, obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy June 2013.
  13. The Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, Think tank Journalism: The Future of Investigative Journalism, organizational website, accessed August 19, 2011.
  14. Rebekah Metzler, 'Watchdog' website puts a new spin on politics, The Portland Press Herald, October 2, 2010.
  15. Allison Kilkenny, The Koch Spider Web, Truthout, accessed August 19, 2011.
  16. Sara Jerving, Franklin Center: Right-Wing Funds State News Source, PRWatch.org, October 27, 2011.
  17. 17.0 17.1 Paul Abowd, Center for Public Integrity, Donors use charity to push free-market policies in states, organizational report, February 14, 2013.
  18. Andy Kroll, Exposed: The Dark-Money ATM of the Conservative Movement, Mother Jones, February 5, 2013.
  19. Daniel Bice, Franklin Center boss wants apology from Democratic staffer, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, August 8, 2011.
  20. Bradley Foundation, The Bradley Foundation, organizational website, accessed August 19, 2011.
  21. Sam Adams Alliance, Sam Adams Alliance Media Kit, organizational PDF, accessed August 19, 2011.
  22. Media Matters Action Network, Sam Adams Alliance, Conservative Transparency website, accessed August 19, 2011.
  23. Media Matters Action Network. State Policy Network, Conservative Transparency website, accessed August 19, 2011.
  24. Media Matters Action Network, Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation, Conservative Transparency website, accessed August 19, 2011.
  25. 25.0 25.1 Idaho Freedom Foundation, About, organizational website, accessed September 16, 2013.
  26. Idaho Freedom Foundation, Idaho Reporter, organizational publication, accessed September 16, 2013.
  27. Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, Staff, Watchdog.org, accessed September 20, 2013.
  28. Idaho Freedom Foundation, 2011 Form 990, organization's IRS filing, June 21, 2012.
  29. Idaho Freedom Foundation, IRS form 990, 2010. GuideStar.
  30. Idaho Freedom Foundation, IRS form 990, 2009. GuideStar.