End the grocery tax!
Did you know only 13 states have a grocery tax? Unfortunately, Idaho is one of them, and in fact, we have the third-highest grocery tax rate in the country. Each year, the state government takes hundreds of millions of dollars from hardworking Idahoans when they check out at the supermarket.

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Ignore the legacy media

What you read in most local daily newspapers or see on the daily news isn’t really journalism. It’s leftist propaganda. That’s why a year ago, I decided the Idaho Freedom Foundation would stop answering most questions from Idaho reporters and many national “news” outlets like the LA Times and the Washington Post. Talking to reporters only serves to validate their leftist interpretation of reality.

Coming to this point wasn’t easy, and it’s counter to everything I thought I knew about an industry I had been a part of for decades. From 1987 to 2005, I was a reporter, editor, and producer, writing about the day’s events and helping our audiences make sense of complex issues.

I left journalism at a point in which the demise of journalistic integrity was in play, just before the advent of “fake news.” I watched as news executives became more interested in racial quotas in stories than they were in actual journalism. These executives obsessed over staying relevant, which meant fewer stories about what the city council was doing and more about the latest reality television shows. 

My first jobs out of journalism was as a spokesman for a state government agency and later for a member of Congress. Talking to the press was an essential part of daily life. It was easy to see how journalists, under the strain of newsrooms depleted of staff, no longer had time to really dig into issues but still had to meet the arduous demands of editors and copy desks in order to fill the pages of the newspaper or time in a newscast. 

Deadlines replaced curiosity and depth. The good journalists largely left the profession for careers in marketing and public relations, leaving unskilled hacks who could write a sentence well enough but lacked curiosity or the ability to do real enterprising journalism. 

Oh but what I would give if that were the sum total of the problem with modern American journalism. The era of Trump and COVID-19 turned the few remaining “journalists” into activists. These writers feel it is their job to defend government institutions and programs. When a government sanctified “expert” says something is true, reporters defend the official narrative by dismissing or openly mocking contrarian opinions as “baseless” or “extremist,” words that, heretofore, would never survive a first round of editing. 

COVID-19 exposed the lack of true journalistic integrity in news coverage. There were damn few questions posed of the government officials who shutdown businesses, ordered people to stay home, demanded the use of masks, and endlessly promoted vaccines.  

On top of that, racial quotas in stories no longer satisfied the “woke” American newsroom. Social justice has also become central to the stories you read in the paper or see on TV. Reporters abide by the idea that America is a racist country. Nowhere is this more evident than at National Public Radio, where almost all coverage is about race and gender. More on that in a future article. Even the Associated Press style guide has been rewritten to reinforce wokeness in all stories, instructing journalists to honor a person’s desired pronouns and refrain from talking about pregnant “women,” lest doing so offend transgender men and non-binary people. 

I still get emails and phone calls everyday from reporters. Rarely do they ask questions. Instead, I get a distillation of a story they’ve already written asking for comment. If it is from a reporter or news outlet that we’ve never dealt with before, or one that has truly demonstrated an interest in hearing our side of the story, I’m happy to talk to them. 

But for the rest, meaning the bulk of reporters in my former profession, ignoring the legacy media is the right decision. I’d highly recommend other organizations and individuals in the public spotlight do the same.

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Conservatives came out on top in May 2022 primary elections

I gather from the phone calls and emails I’m getting that people don’t realize what a monumentally successful night conservatives had in Idaho’s primary election on Tuesday. This one was one for the record books, and it could help usher in a new chapter in Idaho’s political history. 

The Idaho Senate, commonly known for the last several years as “the place where conservative legislation goes to die,” will thankfully be a very different place in 2023. As many as a dozen conservative legislators will take their seats in the 35-member chamber following the results of the May Republican Primary. A couple more conservatives could be added depending on the outcome of the November general election. This is a significant development, given that this year, conservatives enjoyed the consistent support of only two members, both of whom are retiring in December. 

Having as many as a dozen rock solid conservatives in such a tiny chamber will mean that those conservatives will find themselves in position to quickly and effectively impact policy. Such an impact starts with the selection of Senate leadership. I suspect that Senate President Pro Tem Chuck Winder, who once called the Idaho Freedom Foundation the “greatest threat to democracy” and made it a habit of blocking House-passed conservative legislation, will find his days in command of the Senate are numbered. Decisions about his future — and that of the rest of Senate leadership — will be made in December. 

For now, it is clear that the Senate’s committees will swing to the right, not only because a number of Senate committee chairmen were defeated in Tuesday’s election, but also because now there’s enough conservative senators to create committees made up a majority bloc on the nine-member policy panels. 

With leftists like Sen. Carl Crabtree and Sen. Jim Woodward defeated and out of the way, does this mean instead of a Senate Education Committee that blocks parental rights legislation and protects union interests, we could have a panel that finally embraces robust education choice policies? Very possible.

It’s equally possible that legislation to prevent mask and vaccine mandates would pass now that Senate Health and Welfare Chairman Fred Martin will be gone. Martin’s defeat and the defeat of leftist senators like Jeff Agenbroad, Crabtree, and Woodward, the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee could lead lawmakers to finally restrain spending, starting with the bloated Medicaid budget. 

This shift in the political makeup of the Senate will nicely complement the dynamic of the Idaho House of Representatives, which remains very conservative despite the loss of some top-notch legislators. 

The media will of course fixate on Tuesday’s losses and claim victory. It’s easy to look at disappointing outcomes for conservatives running for Congress, governor, lieutenant governor, and secretary of state and conclude a long string of electoral successes for conservatives has come to an end. Coupled with the loss of such conservative luminaries as Ron Nate, Karey Hanks, Chad Christensen, and Greg Ferch, it’s easy to fabricate a story that the conservative movement reached its zenith in 2020. 

The bigger picture proves something else. The losses in the House are offset by the election of other conservative candidates, almost one-to-one, meaning the net conservative composition of the House will be little changed. And the Senate will go from having two solid conservative senators to a dozen or more. For statewide offices, conservatives lost the lieutenant governor, who effectively has no real power, and they’ve picked up an attorney general, who has a lot of power and influence. 

In short, the May 2022 primary elections will likely produce the most conservative governing this state has ever seen.

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Crabtree can’t hide his Big Government voting record

Sen. Carl Crabtree is now on record calling himself one of the most conservative members of the Idaho Senate and claiming that he follows the Idaho Freedom Foundation and our Freedom Index. While we appreciate the nod acknowledging that the Idaho Freedom Foundation represents conservative positions, we must point out that Senator Crabtree doesn’t have a consistently conservative voting record. He has moved left on policy bills over the course of his six legislative sessions, and he has always supported big spending.

Crabtree’s Freedom Index scores have shown a steady decline over the course of his six sessions. The Senate has lagged behind the House in Freedom Index Scores and has been on a downward trajectory. For his first four sessions, Crabree typically scored in the 80-90% range and for 2021 was 70.7% and last session was 60.6%. While his score is among the higher ones in the Senate, it certainly doesn’t reflect a conservartive voting record. For 2022, 19 House members scored 80% or higher, yet only two Senate members scored 80% or higher. The House has twice as many members as the Senate. 

More concerning is Crabtree’s Spending Index score, which has ranged from 0-21% over the last four years. His spending votes generally are very aligned with the Senate’s Democrats. This is especially important because Crabtree has served on the Joint Finance and Appropriation Committee since his first day in office.

When Crabtree started in the Legislature in 2017, Idaho’s all-funds budget appropriation was $7.9 billion for Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18). For FY23, the appropriations that Crabtree voted for total $12.9 billion. That’s a 63.3% increase in five years. 

Medicaid serves as one of the big drivers of spending growth. Crabtree voted for the FY18 appropriation of $2.285 billion and for the FY23 appropriation of $4.045 billion, a 77% increase in five years and a staggering compounded annual increase of 12.1%. He voted for every Medicaid budget increase each year.

In 2021, Crabtree voted for Senate Bill 1204, the bill that accepted federal American Rescue Plan Act money. It says, “ARPA funds are borrowed from our grandchildren. To the extent allowable under law, the state should make long-range investments with ARPA funds that will benefit our grandchildren.” 

Notwithstanding the language, Crabtree voted in the 2022 session to use ARPA funds for bonuses with SB1404 and for arts grants with SB1391. Borrowing money from our grandchildren to fund bonuses and arts projects hardly sounds like long-range investments. And it’s certainly not conservative. 

In his remarks to an Adams County Lincoln Day dinner crowd, Crabtree stated that he believes that government should be run like a business, “If you don’t get it done, you don’t get the money.” I guess that Crabtree must believe this largesse is getting something done, because he has voted to dramatically grow state government in his time in the Legislature.

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Take Back Idaho wants to take us back to a more leftist future

You may have heard recently that there’s a political action committee that has formed with the express purpose to “Take Back Idaho.” But what exactly are they taking it back from?

Allow me to tell you: They want to take Idaho back to a time when freedom wasn’t of importance to state lawmakers. They want to take you back to when special interests got their way with few questions asked.

The secret recipe for this con job is simple. Run as a Republican. Claim you’re conservative. Vote for some pro-life and pro-Second Amendment legislation, and criticize the most leftist national Democrat you can find. Vote for bigger and bigger government at the expense of families, churches, and charities. Collect campaign donations from leftist organizations, companies, and political action committees. Get re-elected. 

This has happened in Idaho for years without most constituents realizing they’d been had. To some degree, it’s still happening. But the jig is up, thanks to the research work done at the Idaho Freedom Foundation. 

Our work challenges the special interests and the political system that has developed to protect them. With the Idaho Freedom Index in particular, our research arms lawmakers and the public with a conservative viewpoint, one different from the leftist control freaks and their puppet lawmakers. 

That’s why it’s also not surprising to see former legislators and state elected officials, who themselves perpetuated the existence of the special interest cabal, rise up to be part of the effort to take the Legislature back to the good old days of corruption, misfeasance, and leftism.

We already know that former State Supreme Court Justice Jim Jones has outed himself as a lefty’s leftist over many angry columns in the newspaper. He’s the face of Take Back Idaho.  

He’s joined by his pal, former House Speaker Bruce Newcomb, a former Democrat who ran for state offices unsuccessfully until Jones convinced him in the 1980s to switch parties. Newcomb reportedly did so because he appreciated Republican interest in water rights issues that he didn’t get from the Democrats. It wasn’t because he awoke to conservatism one day, as his voting record in the Legislature would attest. 

Newcomb would go on to preside over his share of tax increases and government expansion, but he’s probably best known today for having sponsored, along with Sen. Bob Geddes, a bill repealing Idaho’s term limits law 20 years ago. Geddes is also a part of Take Back Idaho, and he arguably was somewhat conservative until he rose to be the Senate’s top Republican. It’s from that position that Geddes defended the practice of senators serving for an entire legislative session -- or more -- without ever having to set foot in the building, an unelected substitute casting votes instead. He defended the pension spike, which let state legislators boost their pensions by joining the state bureaucracy, which is where Geddes went after exiting the Senate. 

It so happens that Newcomb and Geddes were partly responsible for the Statehouse policy that required that all video recordings of House and Senate floor sessions be deleted five days after they were recorded, a policy that persisted until the IFF stopped it in 2013. 

Ben Ysursa is another Take Back Idaho poster child for the left’s Statehouse clique. As secretary of state, he fought against closing Idaho’s primaries to protect the constitutional right of free association, and was annoyed when the IFF, in its early days, opposed Ysura’s handling of election integrity. We exposed and forced an end to Ysursa’s program of handing out taxpayer money to political parties.  

There is no question Idaho’s Legislature, especially the House of Representatives, and state government in general, was more leftist when Jones, Newcomb, Geddes, and Ysursa were at the controls of state government. And this is the future that Take Back Idaho wants to take back Idaho to. 

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Idaho Freedom
Idaho Freedom Action (IFA) is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving freedom in the Gem State. Through direct action, IFA supports policies that strengthen free markets, individual liberty and state sovereignty and opposes those that would bring Idaho down a path of socialism. We believe that with the right ideas and leadership, Idaho can serve as the model for the restoration of American ideals.
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