Corruption at the Heart of the Idaho Freedom Foundation

Whenever the Idaho Freedom Foundation and its allied politicians are attacked for representing special interests, they have two basic defenses. First, the Idaho Freedom Foundation argues that conservatives are not a “special interest” and that the Idaho Freedom Foundation simply represents conservatives. Second, the Idaho Freedom Foundation appeals to authority by claiming that its Freedom Index closely matches the legislation scores given by the American Conservative Union, which the Idaho Freedom Foundation says is one of the oldest and most prestigious conservative organizations in the country.

The best way to respond to these faulty arguments is to point out how both the Idaho Freedom Foundation and the American Conservative Union are infested by and have become corrupted by special interests. Perhaps these organizations started out with pure motives years or decades ago, but if so, that is no longer the case.

The American Conservative Union organizes CPAC every year, the Conservative Political Action Conference. CPAC is a powerful way to connect special interests with lawmakers and other influential people who consider themselves conservative. Empowering special interests is CPAC’s whole purpose! Lawmakers in attendance also generate some good press and find donors and partners who can now spend unlimited amounts of money (under the Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court) in “independent” political campaign expenditures. At CPAC, the special interests gather to influence and lobby the lawmakers and to sell their so-called “conservative” services to others in attendance. Everyone wins at CPAC except the American people.

There are dozens of special interests who pay $12,000 to $125,000+ to sponsor CPAC and thereby influence lawmakers. A list of these special interest sponsors is on the CPAC website, including Forthright Strategy, whose personnel have been accused of using “scam PACS” to fundraise for conservative causes while retaining much of the money it receives from the donors. In other words, Forthright Strategy is possibly a money-sucking vampire whose choice of prey is conservatives. Not what you should be looking for in a sponsor!

Perhaps the worst special interest of all at CPAC in 2020 was top sponsor Liberty Healthshare. Liberty Healthshare is an alternative to health insurance. As explained on its website, “Our role is to enable self-pay patients to help fellow Americans through voluntary financial gifts. This program is not an insurance company nor is it offered through an insurance company. This program does not guarantee or promise that your medical bills will be paid or assigned to others for payment.”

With Liberty Healthshare, their members pay anywhere from $249 to $529 per month to join a “healthcare cost sharing program.” This arrangement would be an illegal Ponzi scheme, except that Liberty Healthshare specifically states that it does not “promise that your medical bills will be paid.” In other words, Liberty Healthshare takes its members’ money every month without incurring any obligation to actually pay anyone’s medical bills because it specifically states in its disclaimer that it doesn’t have to. Liberty Healthshare must think there’s a sucker born every minute! And the American Conservative Union is willing to support this scheme by taking sponsorship money from Liberty Healthshare.

The Liberty Healthshare scheme was able grow exponentially during the first few years of the Obamacare health insurance mandate starting in 2014 because healthcare cost sharing programs were legally allowed alternatives to health insurance. Of critical importance, pre-existing conditions are excluded or limited under the Liberty Healthshare scheme for up to 3 years. So, as long as Liberty Healthshare could keep accelerating its numbers of healthy members or members whose pre-existing conditions were excluded or limited during the first 3 years of enrollment, the scheme could remain financially viable.

But once the health insurance mandate was removed in 2019, that created an incentive for healthy Liberty Healthshare members to stop paying their monthly fees. And in 2019 those members who signed up for Liberty Healthshare through 2016 would now start to be eligible for more payments for their pre-existing conditions.

To be clear, the Liberty Healthshare scheme is apparently perfectly legal. But it shouldn’t be. It’s like selling fruit labeled “Poisoned Apples” at the grocery store and when someone dies saying, “But we told you it was poisoned!” No ethical organization should accept Liberty Healthshare as a sponsor. There are heaps of recent reviews posted online from Liberty Healthshare members whose medical bills are not being paid and who are being hounded by collection agencies. Liberty Healthshare’s tax return for 2018 shows a decline in member fees received compared to 2017. The bubble has burst, and the jig is up. Caveat emptor!

Now to return to the Idaho Freedom Foundation. One of the special interests it blatantly represents is Money Metals Exchange LLC., together with its president, Stefan Gleason, and other related organizations that share personnel and/or office addresses, such as The Sound Money Defense League and True Causes LLC.

In 2018, the Idaho Freedom Foundation supported an Idaho income tax break on gold bullion, House Bill 449, which could have provided a sizable benefit to Money Metals Exchange LLC and its clients. The floor sponsor for this special interest boondoggle was Idaho House Majority Leader Mike Moyle. Luckily, the Idaho Senate killed HB 449 in 2018. In 2020, Representative Tammy Nichols sponsored HB 602, which once again sought to provide an Idaho income tax break on gold bullion benefiting special interest Money Metals Exchange LLC.

Money Metals Exchange LLC donated the maximum of $1,000 during the 2020 primary season to 10 different Idaho Freedom Foundation supported candidates, including HB 602 sponsor Tammy Nichols (R-Middleton). Stefan Gleason, president of Money Metals Exchange LLC, has so far personally donated the maximum of $1,000 during the 2020 primary season to those same Idaho Freedom Foundation supported candidates plus five more, including Heather Scott. Related company Trusted Causes LLC donated $19,708 during the 2020 primary season to Idaho Freedom Action for advertising support of Idaho Freedom Foundation candidates.

That’s over $43,000 in combined donations in 5 months, January – May 2020! With such a huge stack of political donations, Money Metals Exchange LLC and its president, Stefan Gleason, are attempting to re-write Idaho’s tax code. What Money Metals Exchange LLC has already successfully been able to re-write, however, is the Idaho Republican Party platform, which has a substantial section devoted to demanding a gold- or silver-backed currency and the abolishment of the Federal Reserve. There are many Idaho Republicans who are actively trying to reverse this corrupt takeover of the Idaho Republican Party platform by Money Metals Exchange, and only time will tell if these Republicans can succeed.

So the next time Idaho Freedom Foundation and their allied politicians try to claim that they have not been corrupted by any special interests, you will know better. Tell them you know about the American Conservative Union’s unseemly association with Liberty Healthshare and the Idaho Freedom Foundation’s alliance with Money Metals Exchange LLC.