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 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.
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.
Dustin Hurst serves as the Idaho Freedom Foundation's vice president. Before serving in this position, Dustin worked as IFF's communication director for more than five years.
Before joining the Idaho Freedom Foundation, Dustin worked as a social media coordinator and reporter for Watchdog.org, a national news publication. His work there was featured or recognized by Fox News, Human Events, Reason.com, TownHall.com, Public Sector Inc. HotAir and The Daily Caller, among others.
Dustin, a graduate of Boise State University, lives in Boise with his wife and three wonderful kids. His work at IFF has been featured by Reason, the Foundation for Economic Education, Fox News and other outlets.
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).
Kaitlyn Shepherd is a research assistant with the Idaho Freedom Foundation. She graduated from Evangel University in 2018 with a bachelor's degree in government and history and from Regent University School of Law in 2021 with a juris doctor. She served as staff editor and managing editor for the Regent University Law Review, and her research on education law and policy was published by the Law Review in December 2020.
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.
Bo’C Welker is a proud Idaho native with a rich background in fighting for the freedoms and liberties of others. From military service in the United States Marine Corps to policing in both Boston and Boise, Bo’C has always worked to broaden her skill set in order to support and serve those in the community around her. To achieve this, Bo’C earned her bachelor’s degree in arts, specifically criminology and criminal justice, at the University of Massachusetts Boston and her master’s degree in social work at Boise State University. Bo’C is looking forward to a bright new future with her fiancé as well as becoming a bonus mom to two amazing children, all while emphasizing honor, courage, and commitment in all that she does.
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.
Angela Fraser has roots in Idaho through several family lines dating back to the mid 1800s. Born in Idaho, she spent her early years chasing cows and watching her father become an engineer at the University of Idaho. Her family moved to Alaska in her elementary school years where she remained until her family’s move to Alberta, Canada.
She received her associate of science Degree from Brigham Young University–Idaho in 2008, married a Canadian, and spent the last several years in Canada with their 3 children. Doing lifestyle and hobby photography for 10 years, she has had her work featured by various organizations and groups on Instagram.
Returning to Idaho in 2019, she began creating political satire pieces. She has traveled to several countries, is learning Mandarin, enjoys taking her children camping and hiking, and always says yes to a free meal.
Matt Cookson is an Education Policy Intern at the Idaho Freedom Foundation. He graduated from Texas Christian University in 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in marketing and a minor in history. Prior to joining IFF, Matt worked several stints at The Heritage Foundation, including with their Young Leaders Program. He also interned at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation and recently completed the Founders’ Foreign Policy Fellowship with the Common Sense Society.
Outside of work, Matt enjoys reading, spending time at church, and studying foreign languages. He can speak Chinese, German, Spanish, and is currently learning Norwegian.
Dr. John M. Livingston serves as the medical policy adviser to the Idaho Freedom Foundation.
Livingston, a Boise resident, performed general and trauma surgery for more than 35 years, including 12 in the U.S. Navy and 25 Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise. He attended medical school at The Ohio State University and interned at Portsmouth Naval Hospital. He performed trauma surgery at Norfolk General Hospital and pediatric trauma surgery at the University of Florida. He also performed trauma surgery at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center and served as a staff surgeon at a naval hospital in Kelfavic, Iceland.
Gov. Butch Otter appointed Dr. Livingston to the Your Health Idaho oversight board in April 2013.
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