The Idaho Freedom Foundation’s roots can be traced to 1977, when Ralph Smeed and Maurice Clements started the Center for the Study of Market Alternatives (CSMA) in Caldwell. CSMA was years ahead of its time. National organizations existed to promote liberty, but there really were no state-based think tanks working to educate state and local public servants and citizens about free markets and the principles of liberty. In Idaho, CSMA filled the void. Many of Idaho’s political luminaries, including former U.S. Sen. Steve Symms, Northwest Liberty Academy Director Elizabeth Hodge and Foundation for Economic Education President Larry Reed point to Ralph, Maurice and CSMA as playing a pivotal role in their beliefs.
In 2008, Ralph Smeed and Maurice Clements reached out to Wayne Hoffman about starting a new state-focused, free-market think tank dedicated to Idaho issues. At that point, every state in the country had a free market think tank except for Idaho. Ralph and Maurice described their vision for the organization as one that would provide policymakers with free-market solutions and hold those same officials accountable for expanding government.
Coincidently, Idaho native Heather Lauer was also working on a plan to start a think tank in the Gem State. Heather had reached out to Norm Semanko, who connected Wayne and Heather. Together, Wayne and Heather put together the organizational blueprint and the funding to start what became the Idaho Freedom Foundation, which officially launched in January 2009.
The Freedom Foundation quickly developed a reputation as an accurate, independent source for liberty-minded policy innovation and as a tireless watchdog against government waste and marketplace intervention. Three months after its founding, IFF had provided the intellectual ammunition to stop a well-greased effort to raise taxes on cigarettes and alcohol. By August 2009, IFF had launched a government transparency website, and two months later it began producing original journalism, which eventually became IdahoReporter.com.
IFF’s work has been credited with saving taxpayers millions of dollars, eliminating failed government programs and holding politicians accountable like never before in the history of the state.
What we believe
What if Idaho were the single best state in the nation to live, raise a family, start a business, hold a job and go to school? What if Idaho’s taxes and regulations were so low that our state attracted employers and employees from throughout the country without special incentives and corporate welfare that hurt entrepreneurs? What if our state helped lead our country back toward prosperity, by embracing free market ideas and reducing reliance on a bankrupt federal government?
Answering those questions is at the center of what Idaho Freedom Foundation is about. The Idaho Freedom Foundation exists to advance conservative principles — limited government, free markets and self-reliance — made our country the envy of the world. Unfortunately, special interests have grown in influence in our state, encouraging city, county and state government officials to reject conservative principles. Instead, these special interests advance policies that have resulted in higher taxes, more regulation, and more dependency on Washington, D.C. We aim to turn that around through the advancement of principles that help promote a vibrant, prosperous and free life for all Idahoans.
Idaho Freedom Foundation gives a voice to the voiceless, the people who don’t have the means, the time or the wherewithal to take on the special interests, which include labor unions, the government bureaucracy or businesses that seek a handout. We hold lawmakers accountable when they say one thing and do another, when they promise conservative leadership but then vote to expand government, support special interests or make it harder for Idahoans to get ahead and stay ahead.
Imagine what would happen if Idaho were to have the lowest taxes, the best schools, the least regulatory burden and the least dependency on the federal government of any other state? Imagine what might happen if local people, who know and love Idaho the most, were in charge of our public lands. What if, instead of adding people to government welfare rolls and entitlement programs, Idaho’s charities, churches and communities pitched in to help lift people from poverty?
Our research, journalism, education and advocacy dovetail to help Idaho policymakers make better decisions, rooted in conservative principles, so that Idahoans will be better off.
Ralph Smeed Lifetime Achievement Award winners
2011: Maurice Clements
2012: Don Brandt
2013: Stan Hawkins
2014: Elizabeth Hodge
2015: Dan Symms
2016: Lenore Hardy Barrett
2017: Rachel Gilbert
Maurice Clements Legacy of Freedom Award winners
2017: Bryan Smith
IFF was originally going to be named The Gem State Institute.
IFF’s logo features the state raptor, the peregrine falcon. The letters “IFF” make up the raptor’s feathers.
An elongated bolo tie forms the line between the words “Idaho Freedom” and “Foundation.”