Reclaim Idaho, the group behind the Medicaid expansion initiative on the November 2018 ballot, is nothing if not skilled in the art of deceptive propaganda. For well over a year, Reclaim Idaho has portrayed itself as a grassroots movement powered by the people of Idaho. A recent expose in the LA Times reveals that efforts like Reclaim Idaho are in fact the spawn of a progressive nonprofit that was itself the creation of a California labor union president specifically with the objective of hijacking the state’s initiative process to advance progressive policies and advance union control. They have been successful in 16 out of 17 initiative campaigns.
Reclaim Idaho’s Executive Director, Rebecca Schroeder, recently lobbied against common sense work requirements for some able-bodied Medicaid recipients. Schroeder also opposes a bill designed to give rural Idahoans more of a voice in the initiative process.
In her Press op-ed, Schroeder was essentially parroting the talking points of the California union that backs her employer, Reclaim Idaho, which relies heavily on the financial support of a group called The Fairness Project, which is the front organization for the Oakland, Calif.-based Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West union (SEIU-UHW for short). The Fairness Project is a dark money organization — meaning it doesn’t have to disclose the sources of its financing — and is the brainchild of SEIU-UHW labor union president Dave Regan (no relation).
Idaho Sunshine disclosures show the Fairness Project spent about $547,000 on paid signature-gatherers and other expenses to get Proposition 2 on the Idaho ballot. Interestingly, the firm it paid to gather signatures, FieldWorks LLC, has itself faced scrutiny for alleged voter registration irregularities. In 2016, its offices in Pennsylvania were raided and the state Attorney General launched an investigation into alleged signature fraud.
Reclaim Idaho’s sponsor, The Fairness Project, is primarily funded by the California SEIU-UHW union, which has come under heavy criticism even by other progressive labor activists for its operations. It has spent — and continues to spend — many, many millions of dollars exploiting various state’s initiative processes in a bid to gain power and influence nationwide. SEIU-UHW Executive Board Meeting Minutes details how “Dave (Regan) went on to describe ballot measures as a tool to exert union strength in bargaining.” “Dave thanked the UHW research team for their work on ballot initiatives and other power and leverage campaigns.”
Dave also bragged about getting a $500,000 check from Open Societies Foundation, whose founder is left-wing billionaire activist George Soros.
Schroeder herself has ties to this controversial union boss and the dark money organization he runs. On June 15, 2018, at the height of the campaign season and in the midst of her own unsuccessful bid for the state House, Schroeder went to San Jose, Calif., to participate in an SEIU-UHW meeting. Minutes from that meeting show:
“Chokri Bensaid introduced Rebecca Schroeder who is fighting to expand Medicaid in Idaho.” “Medicaid expansion will be on the Idaho ballot in November, and their polling is strong. The Fairness Project is (also) supporting the Idahoans for Healthcare, which is the campaign to win the ballot initiative in November.”
Two months later, the UHW union agreed to give the Fairness Project an additional $3 million.
It is beyond troubling that a group pretending to be solely powered by grassroots Idahoans, but is in fact backed by out-of-state dark money from a California union, is actively committed to exploiting our initiative process. This is not what initiatives were meant to be.
With these facts, it makes perfect sense that Reclaim Idaho, which claims to be grass roots, is so vehemently opposed to changes to the initiative process that would ensure all Idahoans would participate, not just those in urban centers.
The people of Idaho deserve transparency and the truth. Reclaim Idaho gives them neither, hiding behind a slick propaganda campaign and deceptive rhetoric. It’s time to demand accountability from the leaders of Reclaim Idaho.
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Brent Regan is chairman of the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee.