Fact Checking the Freedom Foundation

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Idaho Freedom Foundation President Wayne Hoffman responded to allegations that his organization was a far-right “club” with a cult-like following in an interview with East Idaho News reporter Nate Eaton. Hoffman posted a Facebook live video later in response to articles leveled at his organization from the Idaho Statesman and the Post Register.

Let’s go through his answers and shed a little more sunlight on Hoffman’s claims.

Idaho Freedom Foundation does not endorse candidates.

Hoffman claims that the Freedom Foundation is a 501 (c)(3) tax-exempt charitable education organization. This is true. Donations to the organization are tax-exempt and do not have to be disclosed. This creates a dark money environment that enables the donors to use the organization as a tax shelter and the Freedom Foundation protects their anonymity.

Hoffman also claims that the Freedom Foundation does not endorse candidates. This is a half-truth. As a 501 (c)(3) organization, they can not openly endorse nor pay for advertising to support a candidate or they could lose their tax-exempt status. This does not stop them from setting up a political action committee (PAC) called Idaho Freedom Action which pays for ads for all the candidates they want to see elected.

Is anyone surprised to learn that the office address and suite number for the Idaho Freedom Foundation and Idaho Freedom Action’s address are identical?

Here is a link to view all the political ads Idaho Freedom Action is running on Facebook. 

The Idaho Freedom Foundation’s PAC, Idaho Freedom Action, is also paying for direct mail targeting voters who requested an absentee ballot in Idaho in competitive races where they have a loyal legislative candidate.

The Idaho Freedom Foundation also regularly posts negative Facebook posts attacking or shaming a legislator for not voting for bills the way they have demanded. Here is just one example of shaming a legislator for simply doing his job and calling them out:

So while technically the Idaho Freedom Foundation itself does not endorse candidates directly, they oppose candidates all the time and use their affiliated PAC to spend money on mailers and Facebook advertising that does support loyal candidates.

The Idaho Freedom Foundation did not post the arresting officer’s address.

Hoffman is correct in saying that the Freedom Foundation did not post the officer’s address. What they did do is post pictures of the officer pulled from his private Facebook photos and his name. Here is the post they deleted:

Hoffman said to Eaton in response to his question on whether or not they targeted the Meridian police officer, “Look, if you are upset with the way the government behaves, then you should let them know how you feel.”

Later that day, Ammon Bundy, professional insurrectionist, and other “liberty-minded” followers showed up at the officer’s private property. Sara Brady’s arresting officer, aware of the threat to him and his family, had multiple fellow Meridian police officers standing guard outside his home. This did not prevent Ammon Bundy from airing his “grievances” to the officers at the private residence.

This is eerily similar to another Ammon Bundy incident. A call-out was made just like the one regarding the arrest of Sara Brady. Only this time armed men and women came to Ammon Bundy’s family’s ranch to aid them in fighting off Federal Agents who had come to the property to take possession of cattle to cover the long-overdue grazing fees totaling around a million dollars.

Eric Parker (the current leader of the Real Idaho 3%ers and close ally of the Idaho Freedom Foundation) answered the call and was photographed aiming a rifle towards law enforcement officers. While he did not pull the trigger or cause harm to anyone, another couple who answered the same call-out left the ranch dissatisfied with the lack of violence against the government and went to North Las Vegas and executed two police officers. The Millers draped a Gadsen flag over their bodies before continuing their killing spree at a nearby Walmart.

Ammon Bundy, just like the Freedom Foundation, did not tell them to go do this, yet they were inspired by the same kind of rhetoric that drew an armed and angry crowd to confront law enforcement officers near his family’s ranch in Nevada.

So while Hoffman’s liberty-minded organization did not tell people to go to the officer’s home, they sure did escalate the rhetoric and then feigned innocence when people took dangerous actions towards one of Meridian’s finest.

Who made the Facebook post?

Hoffman was asked who made the Facebook post and then who took it down, a question he carefully dodged with the skill of a master spin doctor. Dustin Hurst, the Communications Director for the Idaho Freedom Foundation has publicly admitted to posting the images of the Meridian police officer and his name. Why Hoffman refused to answer the direct question with honesty is interesting. Was he protecting Hurst? The truth has been made public and Hoffman had no good reason to avoid answering the question directly.

Hoffman says they regret making the post or, do they regret getting caught? It’s one thing to say they are human and make mistakes, it another thing entirely when their organization regularly engages in confrontational politics and supports people like Ammon Bundy and Greg Pruett.

It’s starting to look like Hoffman’s regret is that their attempt to capitalize on the arrest backfired on them and they went into damage control mode. Wayne made reference to working in crisis control public relations. Having that background should be serving him well right now. 

Is the Idaho Freedom Foundation a right-wing extremist organization?

Hoffman asked, “who made that allegation?”

We did Wayne. He knows damn well it was us.

Hoffman says, “We are a free-market public policy research organization. We defend constitutional liberty. We defend the rights of people to go out and earn a living and worship in the manner they believe they should and educate their kids the way they want to. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. If we are extreme, then the constitution is extreme, the declaration of Independence is extreme, the notion that people have God-given rights is extreme.”

Ok. Let’s break this down…

We defend constitutional liberty… When the Freedom Foundation does not get the desired outcome of their public temper tantrum behavior, they file a lawsuit against the state. The Idaho Supreme Court justices have ruled against them every time as their cases have been proven to be unconstitutional. For an organization that spends a lot of time talking about the constitution, it appears that they do not fully understand it.

We defend the rights of people to go out and earn a living… Farmers want to work and have the right to fix their own tractors. If they defended the rights of these workers, then they would not have negatively scored the Right to Repair Act. The Freedom Foundation attacked businesses in Idaho like Chobani and Cliff Bar. Workers need employment and the Freedom Foundation continues to pick its winners and losers with carefully worded rhetoric.

We defend the way [parents] educate their kids… The Freedom Foundation puts out what they call their ‘Spending Index” and any legislator that votes for a public education budget gets a negative score. They regularly take a position that the public school system is an expansion of government and needs to be abolished. According to their logic,  Homeschooling, private schools, and charter school choice should be the only option for most parents.

However, Public school is the way most parents in Idaho choose to have their children gain their education.

Sorry, Wayne, picking which parents are winners and losers is not exactly a true free-market solution. 

If we are extreme, then the constitution is extreme, the declaration of Independence is extreme, the notion that people have God-given rights is extreme… Hoffman is no founding father. Board members Doyle Beck and his cohort, medical debt collection attorney Bryan Smith are most certainly no Thomas Jefferson or James Madison. You see, this group closely aligns with the John Birch Society, a group born out of McCarthyism, a dark time that surely had our founding fathers turning over in their graves. Take a look at any of Beck, Smith, or even Brent Regan’s op-eds and Facebook posts and you will see what many people might imagine real extremism to look like.

It looks like they may have somehow managed to give narcissism an even worse reputation.

Is there a Freedom Foundation Club of Legislators?

Hoffman claims he never heard of this until he saw the East Idaho News story about his organization. He says there is no “club”. To him, the only club he knows is the device people used as an anti-theft device in their cars. While the notion of a “club” is news to him, he is very aware of legislators that are sympathetic to his organization.

Hmmm…

How many of those legislators received support from the Freedom Foundation affiliated PAC, Idaho Freedom Action?

How many of them received donations, benefited from in-kind and independent expenditures from the Freedom Foundation board members, their wives, and their businesses?

Every one of the 90%+ club members received support from one of these people or groups in either their first competitive race or their most recent election.

It looks like joining the club is easy, all you have to do is swear allegiance to one of the board members or its affiliated groups, and just like that, you are up and running a campaign for a legislative seat. Zero experience necessary. 

The Freedom Foundation needs loyalist club members who don’t think for themselves and obey their marching orders in the form of the “Freedom Index”.

Hoffman says that legislators don’t vote based on what they say. 

We have proof showing otherwise.

What is the Freedom Index?

Hoffman was asked if he alone or his board of directors determine the scores for the Freedom Index. He said that the policy analysts do all of the scorings.

Policy analysts like Parrish Miller.

Let’s take a look at Miller’s positions on limited government, liberty, and thoughts on Law Enforcement.

If this is who scores the Freedom Index bills, we are all in big trouble. This level of absolutism demands loyalty and enforcement to ever stand a chance to work.

Hoffman claims that Miller was just an independent contractor and that he is a great guy who helps out from time to time. His personal social media posts according to Hoffman should be off-limits.

How convenient. When the Freedom Foundation and its affiliates went after our friends and their jobs that were unrelated to their personal politics, where was Wayne to say this was not ok? 

It seems rules don’t apply when you say you are defending “liberty”.

Hoffman claims the scoring of the Idaho Patient Act was not influenced by board member Bryan Smith. The bill might have a devastating impact on Smith’s medical debt collection business which spawned a whole series of articles on East Idaho News exposing tactics most people might view as egregious.

Like we said before, the Freedom Foundation operates on the idea that its followers are stupid. No intelligent individual would ever believe that that -9 score was anything but a thinly veiled threat to bully legislators into saving an Idaho Freedom Foundation board member’s business. Smith and his employee Zollinger both testified in the house committee hearing on the Idaho Patient Act. 

They argued that the medical bills squarely fell under property rights, what we saw as being interpreted as people’s suffering devolved to little more than contracts to be collected upon in the free market. The callous description of debtors as deadbeats, regardless of errors on either the doctor’s or bill collector’s part. The law allowed them to get paid and nothing was going to stop them, except the possibility of a new law. They argued that the proposed bill violated equal protection under the law, that the doctor’s constitutional right to hire the most vicious medical collection attornies were being violated regardless of the fact the same outcome could be achieved in small claims court.

Of course, the cost issue was all the sheriff’s department’s fault. Well, guess what? They had a bill for that too. The Freedom Foundation conveniently scored House Bill 460 a +4. Local big government should never do the job a Freedom Foundation board member’s business could do! Big government local law enforcement was standing in the way of a business charging slightly less and profiting from the service of garnishments.

The majority of good, decent lawmakers found their arguments lacking and instead made their decisions based on a fundamental knowledge that consumer debt is one thing, and medical debt another AND that a medical bill should never end up with thousands of more dollars owing to a lawyer than the doctor.

Sorry, Wayne. We call BS on your claim your board members do not benefit from the Freedom Index.

Hoffman’s description of how the Idaho Patient Act had a minor effect on a Legislator’s score is interesting. What he fails to mention is that most legislators are actually terrified of having too low a score. They have fallen for the false narrative that it is the true measure of conservatism and that any legislator who does not carry a high enough score is not a real Republican (They call everyone that is not loyal to them a RINO).

This was the setup. Legislators who voted against the Idaho Patient Act and feared a low score had little to no choice but to vote for nearly every bill the way the Freedom Foundation ranked them in order to make up their score.

Yellow Dot Bill? Forget helping first responders save car accident victims because selling inexpensive window stickers at the DMV is government expansion!

Are you a renter? You are out of luck. Twice the Index scored bills in favor of landlords because, in the eyes of the Freedom Foundation, private property is more valuable than people.

The 2020 legislative session was an unmitigated disaster. 

How many protests has Wayne been involved in?

Hoffman says he’s only been involved in two protests. We count four just this year alone.  The Freedom Foundation organized a dodgeball and drinks protest event, the Disobey Idaho rally at the capitol, the protest outside Meridian city hall to help their good friend Sara Brady, and Ammon Bundy’s Sunday service protest where it looks like they ran out of Kool-Aid and gave Wayne a hug instead before he got up and spoke in front of dozens of non-socially distanced relatives. 

Wayne is conveniently not disclosing all the public protest events where he brought out the Freedom Foundation port-a-podium to demand an end to Zombie legislators, an event complete with purple and green frosted donuts and a handful of loyal club members present. This event was set up to protest Medicaid expansion, an issue they felt was unconstitutional until the Idaho Supreme Court ruled that they were wrong. 

Will Wayne Hoffman and Dustin Hurst Resign?

Hoffman says he would rather do something else but someone needs to defend liberty so he will keep his six-figure job. Ok, Wayne, we love liberty, we fight for ours every day. We’ll be glad to take that burden so you can retire in peace. Idaho will be in good hands, carefully served by real conservatives.

Wayne Hoffman is offended by the idea that Legislators who are loyal to them are lining their own pockets.

Hoffman claims that the legislators who earn a top score with their index are not given expensive trips, fancy meals, or access to lobbyists and money.

Who paid for top scorer Chad Christensen’s trip to the Wall Builders event

How much money did IFF loyalists and their companies donate to the campaigns of Freedom Foundation legislators who joined their ranks? 

How much money did Freedom Foundation board members spend to get loyal club members elected and kept in office? 

Why did loyal former Bonneville County Sen. Tony Pott’s campaign finance report show he was living off his donations? 

These are the real questions Wayne Hoffman needs to answer.

The data shows that loyal club members get access to Idaho Freedom Action help during election season. They get donations from the board members. They get support from Freedom Foundation aligned affiliates like the Idaho Second Amendment Alliance, Health Freedom Idaho, and the Madison Liberty Institute. During each session legislators who are targeted for opposition are repeatedly hammered on Idaho Freedom Foundation’s website.

Many are warned to go along to get along, only to still get hammered come election time.

All advice to just vote the way the Freedom Foundation wants so they don’t hammer someone later is wrong.

If a legislator has been targeted for opposition by the far-right network, it does not matter how they vote, they will still likely be attacked by an organized mob of online far-right trolls.

Sorry Wayne Hoffman, while we recognize your skill at spinning half-truths, we do not accept your attempt to defend your dishonest organization, no matter how much money your secret donors pay you.