Idaho Freedom Foundation
The Idaho Freedom Foundation (IFF) is a conservative 501(c)(3) organization that is a member 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 Former IFF Board Member Russ Fulcher to Run for Governor of Idaho in 2018
- 2 Critics Scrutinize IFF's Charitable Status
- 3 Idaho Freedom Index
- 4 Ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council
- 5 Ties to the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity
- 6 Ties to the Kochs
- 7 Funding
- 8 Core Financials
- 9 Personnel
- 10 Contact Information
- 11 Articles and Resources
- 12 References
Former IFF Board Member Russ Fulcher to Run for Governor of Idaho in 2018
Russ Fulcher resigned from the board of the Idaho Freedom Foundation on August 24, 2016 so that he can focus on his 2018 campaign for Governor of Idaho. Fulcher had served on IFF's Board since December of 2014.
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."
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."
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."
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."
Idaho Freedom Index
As part of its activities, IFF maintains the Idaho Freedom Index. IFF describes the Index as "an aggregation of the Idaho Freedom Foundation’s non-partisan analysis and rating of bills voted on by the Idaho Legislature during each legislative session." Despite describing the Idaho Freedom Index as "non-partisan", not a single democratic scored above a 0 on the index in 2016.
Richard Larsen, president of Larsen Financial, said that the Index, "is of marginal use in identifying fealty to conservative values and is being used as a bully tactic against select legislators whom the foundation has targeted as dispensable."
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.".
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. (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. ALEC is also an Associate Member of the SPN.
Please see SPN Ties to ALEC for more.
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 was listed as a Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity "Watchdog Bureau". The Franklin Center funds reporters in over 40 states. Despite their non-partisan description, many of the websites funded by the Franklin Center have received criticism for their conservative bias. On its website, the Franklin Center claims it "provides 10 percent of all daily reporting from state capitals nationwide."
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). Mother Jones called DonorsTrust "the dark-money ATM of the conservative movement" in a February 2013 article. Franklin received DonorTrust's second-largest donation in 2011.
The Franklin Center was launched by the Chicago-based Sam Adams Alliance (SAM), a 501(c)(3) devoted to pushing free-market ideals. SAM gets funding from the State Policy Network, which is partially funded by the Claude R. Lambe Foundation. Charles Koch, one of the billionaire brothers who co-own Koch Industries, sits on the board of this foundation. SAM also receives funding from the Rodney Fund.
Ties to the Kochs
In addition to receiving funding from the State Policy Network and the Donors Capital Fund, both with ties to the Kochs, the Idaho Freedom Foundation is a partner organization in the Charles Koch Institute's Liberty@Work program.
The Idaho Freedom Foundation does not disclose its donors, but some of its funding sources are known through other tax filings. IFF's known funders include:
- State Policy Network: $30,000 (2012)
- Donors Capital Fund: $572,500 (2010-2014)
- J.A. & Kathryn Albertson Foundation: $195,000 (2013)
- Total Revenue: $1,039,130
- Total Expenses: $663,117
- Net Assets: $797,943
- Total Revenue: $757,402
- Total Expenses: $731,027
- Net Assets: $421,930
- Total Revenue: $695,200
- Total Expenses: $688,748
- Net Assets: $395,555
- Total Revenue: $541,631
- Total Expenses: $447,108
- Net Assets: $389,103
- Total Revenue: $355,673
- Total Expenses: $350,348
- Net Assets: $294,580
- Total Revenue: $494,134
- Total Expenses: $356,081
- Net Assets: $289,255
- Total Revenue: $369,377
- Total Expenses: $218,275
- Net Assets: $151,202
As of September 2016:
- Wayne Hoffman, President
- Fred Birnbaum, Vice President
- Lindsay Russell Dexter, Senior Policy Director
- Dustin Hurst, Communication Director
- Matthew Keenan, Development
- Reina Rodriguez, Communication specialist
- Kurt Weber, Editor
- Dr. John M. Livingston, Special Adviser on Medical Policy
- Erik Makrush, Director of Transparency and Government Accountability (identified as a lobbyist by the Idaho Spokesman-Review
- Parrish Miller, Policy Analyst
- Mitch Coffman, Communications Director
- Austin Hill, Writer
Board of Directors
As of September 2016:
- Bob Rathbone
- Brent Regan
- Heather Lauer
- Dar Symms
- Loel Fenwick, MD
Idaho Freedom Foundation (Main)
2404 Bank Drive, Suite 314
Boise, Idaho 83705
Idaho Freedom Foundation (East)
414 Shoup Ave., Ste 116
Idaho Falls, Idaho 83402
Phone: 208-258-2280 ext. 214
Articles and Resources
Related Sourcewatch Articles
- Idaho Reporter
- State Policy Network:
- American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)
- Donors Capital Fund
- Koch Family Foundations
- Koch Industries
- Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity
- Heritage Foundation
- Think tanks
- Whitney Ball
- Adam Meyerson
- Bridgett Wagner
- Betsy Z. Russell, Idaho Freedom Foundation’s charitable status scrutinized, Idaho Spokesman-Review, September 15, 2013.
- DeSmog Blog, Stink Tanks: Historical Records Reveal State Policy Network Was Created by ALEC, December 9, 2013.
- The Guardian, State conservative groups plan US-wide assault on education, health and tax, December 5, 2013.
- Portland Press Herald, "Washington County residents have mixed reactions to plan to eliminate taxes," December 5, 2013.
- The Texas Observer, "The Money Behind the Fight to Undermine Medicaid," December 5, 2013.
- Media Matters, North Carolina Newspapers Largely Ignore Conservative Funding Of Sham Think Tanks, December 3, 2013.
- Shepherd Express, Masters of Manipulation: Right-wing Billionaires, Corporations and the Bradley Foundation Pay for Junk Studies that Prop up Their Agenda, November 27, 2013.
- "Moyers & Company," How a Shadowy Network of Corporate Front Groups Distorts the Marketplace of Ideas, November 19, 2013.
- MSNBC "Rachel Maddow Show," November 18, 2013.
- Free Speech TV "Ring of Fire," Facebook, Microsoft, AT&T and Others Supporting Right Wing Propaganda Machine, November 18, 2013.
- Topeka Capital-Journal, Trabert dismisses report tying KPI to Koch agenda, November 16, 2013.
- The New Yorker (Jane Mayer), Is IKEA the New Model for the Conservative Movement?, November 15, 2013.
- Salon, Ted Cruz and Koch brothers embroiled in shadowy Tea Party scheme, November 15, 2013.
- St. Louis Business Journal, Beyond Sinquefield: Who else is funding the Show-Me Institute?, November 15, 2013.
- The Guardian, Facebook and Microsoft help fund rightwing lobby network, report finds, November 14, 2013.
- Huffington Post, Meet The Little-Known Network Pushing Ideas For Kochs, ALEC, November 14, 2013.
- CBS St. Louis, Show-Me Institute’s Ties Questioned in New Report, November 14, 2013.
- Talking Points Memo, Florida Conservative Group Helping Muck Up Obamacare In Alaska, November 14, 2013.
- Mint Press News, Reports Reveal SPN’s Secret Corporate Agenda Through Use ‘Expert’ Testimony, November 14, 2013.
- Media Matters, Shadowy Right-Wing Group Generates Media Coverage For Conservative Policy From Coast To Coast, November 14, 2013.
- The Institute for Southern Studies, Are conservative think tanks breaking lobbying laws?, November 14, 2013.
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- Maine Insights, Report: Maine Heritage Policy Center’s funding connection to Koch Brothers, November 13, 2013.
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- The Oregonian, Cascade Policy Institute benefits from secretive donor group but says it operates independently, November 13, 2013.
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- Arizona Working Families and CMD, A Reporter’s Guide to the Goldwater Institute: What Citizens, Policymakers, and Reporters Should Know, organizational report, updated November 13, 2013.
- Progress Florida and CMD, Lawmaking Under the Influence of Very Special Interests: Understand the role of Florida ‘think tanks’ in driving a Koch-fueled, ALEC-allied corporate agenda, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
- Maine's Majority Education Fund, Fooling Maine: How national conservative groups infiltrated Maine politics by founding and funding the Maine Heritage Policy Center, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
- Progress Michigan, Who's Running Michigan? The Far-Right Influence of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
- Alliance for a Better Minnesota, Who's in Charge: How Nationalized Corporate-Run Think Tanks Influence Minnesota Politics, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
- Progress Missouri, What Missourians Need to Know About the Show-Me Institute, organizational report, updated November 13, 2013.
- Granite State Progress, Bad Bartlett: The Josiah Bartlett Center and NH Watchdog Answer the Call of the Koch Brothers, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
- ProgressOhio, Smoke Screen: The Buckeye Institute, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
- Keystone Progress, Think tanks or corporate lobbyist propaganda mills?, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
- Progress Texas, TPPF + ALEC, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
- One Wisconsin Now, S is for Shill: Inside the Bradley Foundation's Attack on Public Education, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
- Muncie Voice, Pence and Right-Wing Are Taking Over Public Education, November 13, 2013.
- The Spokesman-Review, Shawn Vestal: Idaho Freedom Foundation pushes limits of word ‘charity’, November 2, 2013.
- AZ Central, When this ‘watchdog’ pitches, taxpayers strike out, October 12, 2013.
- IndyStar, Daniels says speech to partisan group was a mistake, October 10, 2013.
- Muncie Voice, Indiana Policy Review: Not an Independent News Source, October 2, 2013.
- The Spokesman-Review, Idaho Freedom Foundation's charitable status scrutinized, September 15, 2013.
- CounterSpin, Lee Fang on 'The Right Leans In', April 5, 2013.
- FireDogLake, State Policy Network, an umbrella coordinating ALEC, Heritage, Heartland and others, April 4, 2013.
- Thom Hartmann with Lee Fang on MSNBC, The conservative State Policy Network is sneaking into your state & will change America, March 29, 2013.
- Current TV "War Room", Lee Fang discussing the State Policy Network, March 28, 2013.
- The Nation, The Right Leans In, March 26, 2013.
- Democracy Now, Donors Trust: Little-Known Group Helps Wealthy Backers Fund Right-Wing Agenda in Secret, February 19, 2013.
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- Rome News-Tribune, ANALYSIS: Georgia leaders depend on the same well for ideas, October 2012.
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- Guidestar, State Policy Network, IRS filings and other organizational information about SPN.
- Center for Policy Alternatives, ALEC and the Extreme Right-Wing Agenda, organizational brochure about ALEC and SPN.
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Related PRWatch Articles
- Brendan Fischer, Why Are the Franklin Center's "Wisconsin Reporter" and "Watchdog.org" Attacking the John Doe?, PRWatch.org, December 19, 2013.
- Rebekah Wilce, The State Policy Network's Cozy Relationship with Big Tobacco, PRWatch.org, December 16, 2013.
- Rebekah Wilce, Did ALEC Found SPN? 1991 Report Suggests So, Exposes SPN Agenda, PRWatch.org, December 12, 2013.
- Rebekah Wilce, Guardian Documents Expose State Policy Network Groups' Intent to Lobby, PRWatch.org, December 5, 2013.
- Rebekah Wilce, State Policy Network: The Stealth Network Dramatically Influencing State Law, PRWatch.org, December 5, 2013.
- Rebekah Wilce, Tracie Sharp: Bursar of Mystery Money and "IKEA Model" Materials to Stink Tanks, PRWatch.org, November 19, 2013.
- Center for Media and Democracy, Reports Expose Extreme Pressure Groups Masquerading as Think Tanks, press release, November 13, 2013.
- Rebekah Wilce, A Reporters’ Guide to the "State Policy Network": the Right-Wing Think Tanks Spinning Disinformation and Pushing the ALEC Agenda in the States, PRWatch.org, April 4, 2013.
- Sara Jerving, ALEC and Heartland Aim to Crush Renewable Energy Standards in the States, PRWatch.org, November 27, 2012.
- Connor Gibson, Meet the Network Hiding the Koch Money: "Donors Trust" and "Donors Capital Fund", PRWatch.org, October 29, 2012.
- Brendan Fischer, Koch-Funded Mackinac Center Brings Wisconsin Act 10 Provisions to ALEC, PRWatch.org, May 2, 2012.
- Sara Jerving, Franklin Center: Right-Wing Funds State News Source, PRWatch.org, October 31, 2011.
- "About", organizational website, accessed September 2012
- Betsy Z. Russell, Freedom Foundation says Fulcher resigned from its board before announcing gubernatorial bid, The Spokesman-Review, August 26, 2016.
- Betsy Z. Russell, Idaho Freedom Foundation’s charitable status scrutinized, Idaho Spokesman-Review, September 15, 2013.
- Idaho Freedom Foundation, Freedom Index, Idaho Freedom Foundation, 2016.
- Richard Larsen, Freedom Foundation ‘index’ just a bullying tactic, Idaho Statesman, May 15, 2016.
- "ALEC Helps Promote Good Public Policy", organizational website, accessed September 2012
- Dustin Hurst, Idaho Freedom Foundation, Health Policy Experts: There's No Difference Between State and Federal Exchanges, "Idaho Reporter", February 3, 2012
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- Idaho Freedom Foundation, 2015 Form 990, organization's IRS filing, 2016.
- Idaho Freedom Foundation, 2014 Form 990, organization's IRS filing, May 13, 2015.
- Idaho Freedom Foundation, 2013 Form 990, organization's IRS filing, August 14, 2014.
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