It’s that wonderful time of year right before elections where special interest groups will send legislators their surveys.
Under normal conditions, surveys are useful for national advocacy groups like the NRA to send surveys to legislators that allow them to publish a score and provide endorsements and or donations based on answers provided. Groups like this generally do not have details on individual legislators and only those who seek a high rating are likely to submit results. The opposite is true if the legislator wants to show a negative score to rally their base. For instance, a progressive legislator in a democratic led state may seek a negative NRA score to rally their base.
These groups are not setting up these questions to target specific legislators. They are usually honest surveys with results that are fair to all recipients.
There are multiple Idaho state-based groups whose surveys do not share the same intentions as national groups. They design surveys as purity tests that are useful in hammering anyone who does not align 100% with their ideology. Questions like, “Do you oppose all forms of red flag laws in Idaho?” and “Do you agree that ALL abortions should be prosecuted as murder?” are a trap.
The first question is misleading. You see, red flag laws are unconstitutional in Idaho, period. There are no loopholes to this language like some profit-seeking lobbyists would have people believe.
The second question on abortion is a trap. Idaho has a high concentration of Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints members which has policies that make abortion exceptions for rape, incest, and safety of the mother. If a legislator of this faith answers according to how their church reacts to abortion, then they would likely fail this purity test even though they are in fact pro-life.
Groups like the 2nd Amendment Alliance send out cards and surveys demanding a response that they commit to some form of loyalty to the group or a survey riddled with agenda-driven questions.
If a legislator does not respond to their card or survey, then when election time rolls around they publish wildly misleading posts on Facebook like this:
This is a perfect example of using shaming and deceptive Facebook posts to support a candidate that passed their purity test while attacking someone who is guilty of not submitting to their demands.
Like mafia thugs from movies who used to shake down small business owners for protection money, these demand letters (surveys and cards) are one of many intimidation tactics designed to get legislators to fear these special interest groups.*
No one likes having an unflattering image of themselves (albeit negatively photoshopped) splashed on Facebook pages with thousands of followers. That is the method of fear used by thugs like Greg Pruett who explained why he uses this tactic:
That’s right, it’s all about getting legislators to fear these special interest groups like they have a monopoly on the truth. Spoiler alert, they don’t.
Anyone who uses gaslighting, astroturfing, or any other fear-based manipulation tactics to get you to bend to their will does not deserve to have their “survey” returned.
Who in crazy trainville are these groups? The extremely dishonest I2AA (red flag fear mongers), Health Freedom Idaho (Anti-vax and Child Protective Services conspiracy propagandists), and other fringe groups. Who are they to tell legislators how to vote? They are asking for a decision from these elected officials when legislation has not been drafted nor introduced yet. Their dishonest voices create divisiveness, toxicity, and chaos at the state capitol.
Sure, anyone can speak up and share their opinions, regardless of how wrong or crazy they may be. However, calling a gun-owning Republican and 2nd Amendment supporting legislator a “Gun Grabber” just because they did not fill out a survey is an insult to everyone’s collective intelligence.
No Republican legislator has ever tried or said they want to grab Greg Pruett’s gun. Calling any of those legislators “gun grabber” just proves he is completely full of recycled vegetation. We were hoping that he would not be in Boise crying wolf as much this year as he appears to be Rep Matt Shae’s right-hand man in Washington. But, “‘ol have gun (and microphone), will travel”, is a busy guy.
So before legislators or candidates go about filling out these harmless-looking surveys, they should know that special interest groups like Pruett’s only want to use these documents to castigate you in the upcoming elections to back their far-right candidates. Legislators owe no third party activist group a “loyalty pledge “.
*This is not an accusation that Pruett or his affiliated special interest groups are doing anything unlawful. He may be a nasty piece of work, but he has not crossed that line as far as I know.
Jennifer Ellis is a rancher from Blackfoot, Idaho. She has worked for over 20 years with agriculture and community policy. She and her husband ranch and farm in Bingham and Caribou Counties.