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OPINION: Freedom Foundation's bark is worse than its bite

by JIM JONES/Special to The Press
| May 23, 2022 1:00 AM

The outcome of the primary election had to be a serious blow to the Idaho Freedom Foundation. Many of the politicians who have danced to its tune in recent years went down to defeat, including Janice McGeachin, Priscilla Giddings, Dorothy Moon, Branden Durst, Ron Nate, Karey Hanks and Chad Christensen.

The Idaho Freedom Foundation has stoked and thrived upon divisive, confrontational politics in Idaho ever since the Republican Party closed its primary in 2012. Using a suspicious rating system, the organization has sought to establish a reputation as a kingmaker amongst Idaho legislative candidates–score high on the Idaho Freedom Foundation “Freedom Index” and win, score low and lose. The more extremist IFF legislation a candidate will support, the better the rating. Many legislators were afraid to vote on a bill until learning how IFF scored it.

This election had to be an eye opener for those legislators who believed that Idaho Freedom Foundation’s disapproval was the kiss of death. Several other organizations worked hard during this election cycle to show that candidates could think for themselves and overcome IFF’s scorn at the polls. The one I’m affiliated with, Take Back Idaho, endorsed a slate of candidates, including most of the statewide offices and 40 legislative positions.

Only one Idaho Freedom Foundation-supported candidate, Raul Labrador, won a statewide office. Its preferred candidates lost for Governor, Lt. Governor, Secretary of State and Superintendent of Public Instruction. IFF board member Bryan Smith lost his second bid for Congress.

The candidates endorsed by Take Back Idaho were just the opposite of those who would blindly follow IFF’s lead. They demonstrated a commitment to responsible, pragmatic representation, rather than inciting and profiting from hateful conflict. Of the 40 candidates TBI endorsed, 27 won and 13 lost. Some of the races were extremely close–Scott Syme, a stellar person, lost to Idaho Freedom Foundation friend Judy Boyle by just 6 votes.

Some of our losses were quite painful. Sen. Jim Woodward, a Navy veteran and excellent legislator, lost in a hate-filled, truth-deprived onslaught from his opponent.

The loss of Lawrence Wasden as Attorney General will be felt by the State for years.

It is likely that IFF’s opposition to Wasden played a part in the outcome, but a number of other dark-money groups targeted him. The Club for Growth spent almost $300,000 on a scurrilous ad campaign against Wasden, falsely claiming he was a RINO (Republican in name only). Wasden’s problem was that he took his oath of office seriously–to support the Idaho and U.S. Constitutions. When he was confronted with a situation where he could either serve his personal political interests by shading his legal opinions or honestly state the law as he was required by his oath to do, the rule of law always won. That takes true courage and dedication to his sacred duty. His detractors distorted his honest stands. In truth, Wasden was among the best AGs this State has had.

Take Back Idaho intends to take an active part in each and every future primary election until the malevolent grip of extremist groups like Idaho Freedom Foundation and Club for Growth is removed from our great State. Now that legislators and prospective candidates know that Idaho Freedom Foundation’s bark is much worse than its bite, that time may be closer than some think.

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Jim Jones is a Vietnam combat veteran who served eight years as Idaho Attorney General (1983-1991) and 12 years as a Justice on the Idaho Supreme Court (2005-2017). He is currently a regular contributor to The Hill online news. He blogs at JJCommonTater.

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