Our mission is to make Idaho into a Laboratory of Liberty by exposing, defeating, and replacing the state's socialist public policies.
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 figures in politics and public policy and an expert on an array of issues facing local, state and federal governments. Hoffman has spent three decades writing about and analyzing the laws and regulations that impact individuals, families and businesses. Wayne writes a weekly column, found in newspapers and on websites throughout Idaho, 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 Watchdog.org.
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 and developed the policies for several successful political campaigns. For two years, he ran the communications operations for a member of Congress. Wayne has two children and lives in Boise.
Fred Birnbaum joined the Idaho Freedom Foundation 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.
Most recently he served as director of business and financial analysis for Packaging Corporation of America (formerly Boise Inc.) and has lived in Boise since 2000. 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).
Brian Almon is a Christian, husband, father, and descendant of American pioneers. He has served as Communications Director at the Idaho Freedom Foundation since 2023. Prior to coming to the IFF, Brian found an IT consulting firm in Eagle, Idaho.
As a freelance writer, Brian has been published in the National Pulse, the UK Mallard magazine, and many more outlets, as well as his own platform at Gem State Substack. He writes from a perspective of liberty and historical context, working to inform and educate citizens about this moment in history.
Brian came to Idaho in 2018 determined to fight to keep the last free state in America. He lives with his wife and children in Eagle.
Branden Durst is a fourth generation Idahoan with pioneering roots that run deep throughout the Gem State. Branden's appreciation for the vital importance of education and civic engagement was instilled in him early while being raised in a family of educators. Rather than follow in the family footsteps and become an educator, Branden instead wanted to apply his talents in the area of education policy.
After living in Wisconsin for many years, Alli returned to her hometown of Boise to be closer to her family.
She graduated from Milwaukee Area Technical College with an Associate’s Degree in accounting then spent seven years running her own small business, pursuing her passion as a Certified Labor and Postpartum Doula, assisting women and couples through their transition into parenthood.
Alli brings 20-plus years of administrative and accounting experience to her new role as the office manager at IFF. She understands the challenges small-business owners face and has a desire to support the staff and clients of IFF in their mission to make the Gem State an even better place to live, work, and start a business.
Alli has two amazing daughters and two wonderful grandchildren. Her hobbies include drawing, writing, cooking, and spending time outdoors swimming, kayaking, and riding her bicycle.
Niklas is a Research Assistant at the Idaho Freedom Foundation. As a recent graduate from the University of Idaho with a B.A. in Political Science and a minor in pre-health professions studies, he brings experience in data management, statistical analysis, and policy research. Before working for the Idaho Freedom Foundation full time, he served as a policy research intern for the organization over the summer of 2021. He also brings skills from prior internships at the University of Idaho and the United States Senate where his research focused on healthcare, education, and economics policy. His work has been featured by outlets like the Lars Larson Program, and the University of Idaho Undergraduate Research Symposium.
In his free time, you can find Niklas escaping to the beautiful scenery that graces the landscape of the Gem State by hiking, mountain biking, or trap shooting.
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