IFF's mission is to defeat Marxism and socialism by building a culture of liberty around America's founding principles so that Idahoans can prosper.
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 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 the conservative principles — limited government, free markets and self-reliance — that 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.
Wayne Hoffman has been at the helm of Idaho Freedom Foundation since the organization launched in January 2009.
Wayne is considered one of Idaho’s most influential public policy experts. He's well-versed on an array of issues facing all levels of government, having spent more than three decades writing about and analyzing the laws and regulations that impact individuals, families and businesses. Wayne writes regularly on freedom, cultural issues, the media, and is often invited to speak on complex issues including taxation, health care, criminal justice and education. His commentaries have also been published by national publications including the Wall Street Journal and the Federalist.
As a journalist, Wayne won many prestigious awards for investigative and political reporting. After leaving the news business in 2005, Wayne managed public affairs and communications for two Idaho agencies, wrote speeches for Idaho governors, congressmen, and state legislators, and developed policies for several successful candidates. For two years, he ran the communications operations for a member of Congress. Wayne has two grown children and one granddaughter. He lives in an RV, traveling and camping throughout the state.
Alli has enjoyed working with the Idaho Freedom Foundation since July 2018 when she started as the office manager. Later she went on to become the Operations & Development Manager and is excited to embark on her newest role as Vice President.
Alli is passionate about freedom and is dedicated to the IFF mission.
She has two amazing daughters and three wonderful grandchildren. Her hobbies include drawing, writing, cooking, and spending time outdoors swimming, kayaking, and riding her bicycle. She resides in Meridian with her shorkie dog, Max.
Fred Birnbaum joined the Idaho Freedom Foundation in 2014 as vice president and chief operating officer after working 25 years in the paper and packaging industry.
Fred now serves as the IFF's Legislative Affairs Director and guides the Foundation's policy efforts.
Before joining IFF, he served as director of business and financial analysis for Packaging Corporation of America, formerly Boise Inc. His experience in industry includes roles in finance, operations, project management, and factory management.
Fred served in the U.S. Army as a communication staff officer and platoon leader and worked briefly for US Senator John Glenn as a Military Affairs Fellow. Following his Army career, he received his master’s degree in business administration (MBA) from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and his bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
Anna is the Education Policy Director at Idaho Freedom Foundation. She is an alumni of the MA Fellowship at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. She lives in Boise, Idaho with her husband, Brock. Anna earned her M.A. in Economics from George Mason University (2020) and a B.A. in Philosophy, Religion, and Ancient Greek and Roman Studies as a Division 1 student athlete from Furman University (2017). Anna’s work has been published in the Wall Street Journal, RealClearPolicy, The Hill, The Detroit News, The Washington Examiner, and The Daily Caller among others.
Ron Nate is a husband, father, professor, Christian, and a warrior for liberty. He graduated from the University of Utah in 1991 with a B.S. in Economics, and from the University of Connecticut in 1998 with an M.A. and Ph.D. in Economics. After three years at Ohio University-Eastern, he joined the faculty at BYU-Idaho and is building on a 21-year career. Ron served in the Idaho House of Representatives for two terms from 2014-2018 and again in 2021-22, and now he joins the IFF team, starting June 2022.
He is married to Maria Nate and they have four awesome children: Maddie, Sam, Anna, and Eleanor. Ron enjoys traveling, backpacking, skiing, chocolate, goats, and watching his teams win (BYU, New England Patriots, Boston Red Sox).
As a Policy Analyst for the Idaho Freedom Foundation, Niklas Kleinworth is a strong advocate for public policy solutions that place America first, are fiscally efficient, limit government, and expand the free market. He provides legislative analyses and research on topics ranging from healthcare to fiscal policy and state budgeting. He is a graduate from the University of Idaho with a B.A. in Political Science and a minor in pre-health professions studies.
Niklas started at the Idaho Freedom Foundation as a policy research intern in the summer of 2021. He brings skills from prior internships at the University of Idaho and the United States Senate where his research focused on healthcare, education, and economic policy. His work has been featured by outlets like the Lars Larson Program and Bitcoin Magazine.
Niklas currently resides in Boise, Idaho with his loving wife, Emily. He most enjoys spending his free time with her while touring the Gem State, hiking, mountain biking, and trap shooting together.
Ryan Claassen is a liberty warrior and lifelong Idahoan. He is a proud 2023 Boise State University graduate with a B.S. in Political Science and an A.A. in Political Science from College of Western Idaho. Prior to joining IFF, Ryan advocated for liberty in Idaho on liberal college campuses and Treasure Valley neighborhoods as a student.
Ryan’s top political issues include expanding gun rights, education reform, and lowering taxes. In his spare time, Ryan enjoys spending time with his family and cheering on the Boise State Broncos at football and basketball games. You can find him tailgating outside Albertsons Stadium any day football is on The Blue.
2010: Ralph Smeed
2011: Maurice Clements
2012: Don Brandt
2013: Stan Hawkins
2014: Elizabeth Hodge
2015: Dan Symms
2016: Lenore Hardy Barrett
2017: Rachel Gilbert
2016: Kathleen Sims
2017: Bryan Smith