The Idaho Freedom Foundation, a conservative think tank, analyzes more legislation than any organization in the state — hundreds of bills per year. IFF analysts have reviewed more than a thousand bills since we started the Idaho Freedom Index eight years ago.
We look at bills for what they do, not who sponsors the bill or what those sponsors’ intentions may be. Our unique system of analyzing legislation according to 12 liberty-based principles of limited government has been met with applause from people who appreciate conservative values and derision from people who want the government to step in and “solve” problems.
Frank VanderSloot said nothing publicly about the Idaho Freedom Index until our analysis of his bill, the so-called Idaho Patient Act, was unfavorable. Now he claims, without evidence, that IFF is a special interest group that uses its powers to coerce legislators into doing our bidding. He also claims the Freedom Index is skewed. His comments made in the May 5 Post Register are just not true.
Vandersloot’s Idaho Falls-based company, Melaleuca, is the special interest group in this story, not IFF. IFF lobbyists did not testify against the Idaho Patient Act and spent no money lobbying against it.
Melaleuca, on the other hand, spent $68,624 on lobbying just for the Idaho Patient Act. This includes money spent on advertising and buying meals for legislators. The expenditures made Melaleuca the biggest spender in courting legislative action during the 2020 session.
By contrast, the Idaho Freedom Foundation spent a mere $174 to lobby state lawmakers in 2020 — on all matters.
According to the Idaho Statesman, it took Melaleuca’s power play to pass what the newspaper described as “liberal” legislation.
What was wrong with Frank’s bill? As IFF explained to him many months ago, the bill imposes restrictions on free speech, even though our national and state constitutions prohibit the government from limiting this right.
Idaho’s constitution, in particular, goes further than the U.S. Constitution, noting, “Every person may freely speak, write and publish on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of that liberty.” How can we possibly view the Idaho Patient Act as being in alignment with the Idaho State Constitution and freedom of speech when it denies doctors the ability to report to a credit bureau that a patient owes her money?
In addition, the legislation had, and still has as law, many other flaws. Among them: it creates barriers to entry in the healthcare market, violates separation of powers, due process, impairs contracts, denies medical practitioners the right to petition the courts, and denies them equal protection under the law.
Simply put, it would have been impossible for Freedom Index analysts to view the Idaho Patient Act as conservative, pro-limited government, or constitutional. So we didn’t. Maybe that explains why every Democrat in the Legislature voted for the bill, while 21 conservative Republicans voted no.
During the 2020 legislative session, of the 271 policy bills IFF analyzed, 127 earned a positive review; 28, neutral; and 116, negative. This demonstrates that IFF is consistent in applying its analysis. IFF’s analyses resulted in neutral or positive positions on 57 percent of the bills we reviewed.
What’s going on here? Frank might be angry that IFF didn't bend to his will as so many others did this year. He’s decided to attack the Idaho Freedom Index because doing so helps the liberal Republicans and Democrats that supported his legislation.
Let’s close with one final set of facts. The respected American Conservative Union rates all 50 state legislatures. ACU compiles its ratings after legislative sessions end and thus have not completed the 2020 rating for Idaho. However, when we compare ACU’s earlier ratings to Freedom Index ratings, we find an 89% correlation for both groups' scores.
In sum, each organization represents the same special interests: limited government and liberty.
(AP photo/Keith Ridler)