“Non-Partisan” Think Tank Issues Pork Report

An outfit called the Idaho Freedom Foundation is gaining traction billing itself as a “think tank” and offering the public a variety of “reports” and op-ed pieces.

While they call themselves non-partisan, it is fair to say there probably aren’t too many liberal Democrats within the ranks. Wayne Hoffman, an able journalist and former press guy for former Congressman Bill Sali, the Idaho Agriculture Dept., and Statesman reporter heads the tank. It appears to be well funded and one of the recent results of their efforts is a document detailing government waste they call the PORK REPORT. It is a lengthy pdf file with footnotes and sources detailed.

We haven’t seen anything that is glaringly inaccurate in their material, but some of it seems aimed at pisssing off the politicos more than improving society. Mainstream media has not jumped into the IFF think tank yet, but as they become more well known, it will be hard to avoid.

DISCLAIMER–The Boise GUARDIAN is not affiliated with the Freedom Foundation. We know some of the players, but do not necessarily share their political philosophy. We DO share their desire for transparent government and protecting the rights of citizens under the state and federal constitutions.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. It seems to me that if we could break the teacher, firemen, and police unions, we could save a ton of money.

  2. The Boise Picayune
    Jan 8, 2010, 7:19 pm

    “…Break the Unions…”

    The most successful airline in the entire history of aviation (has never had a losing Quarter. Not even after 9/11) is also the most heavily unionized airline in the entire world.

    We may – MAY – save a dime or two; but will be left with what kind of professionals?

    Unions YES!

  3. Rod in SE Boise
    Jan 8, 2010, 8:36 pm

    If you read Wayne Hoffman’s op-ed’s in the Mistakesman, you know very well where he is coming from, politically.

    Pork is embedded in the system. Until we have term limits and publically financed election campaigns, average citizens are screwed, and corporations make off with the loot.

  4. erico49, please pull up the IFF Pork Report and start around page 62 for the Urban Renewal abuses if you want to home in on some ways to save property tax dollars.

    Urban Renewal agencies are bleeding cities dry where they exist. They siphon off and shift property taxes away from schools, police, fire, roads and other tax supported stuff. Urban Renewal agencies answer to nobody and can pretty much do as they please with your property tax dollars.

  5. I didn’t get the impression this was “Partisan” as much as it was anti-government spending. It is obvious that 22 phone calls, coupled with three full days of meetings would save this state $150,000,000.00 What a bunch of crap that we spend money on!!!!

  6. Larry Fortensky
    Jan 8, 2010, 9:36 pm

    A self-invented think tank with a self-anointed leader and a partisan agenda. Any publication it produces lacks the credibility and objectivity of peer-reviewed research.

  7. Erico49, It’s funny out of all the waste, department heads getting 25% increases in their six figure pay, and nonsense grants to trash, it’s the police fire and teachers you want to break? I’m a fireman and I’m not getting rich. I give honest work for a wage I can raise a family. No more or less.

  8. For all of the transparency that Wayne pushes for in government, IFF sure is lax when it comes to its own transparency; as in vetting their own compensation as REQUIRED under federal tax law.

    IFF is obligated, under federal tax law to make available to the PUBLIC a Schedule 990 form stating the total donations AND most importantly, COMPENSATION. To date, IFF has not done this.

    Apparently trasparency, for Wayne Hoffman, is through one way glass.

  9. I guess we can turn this into a personal assault on Hoffman, or unions, or whatever. Maybe it would be wiser to concentrate on the 70 some odd pages of government waste that has been outlined. This seems to be a fairly good start on what needs to be cut this year, and in some cases permanantly from the state budget!

  10. Rod in SE Boise
    Jan 9, 2010, 12:48 pm

    What is “government waste” is in the eye of the beholder. Most Idahoans seem to think that even having a government is a waste.

    And we each think differently regarding city government, county government, state government, and federal government.

  11. Well said cyclops, we don’t live in a political vacuum. Of course various think tanks, PAC’s, non-profits, etc will each have their own political leanings whether they admit it or not. A better discussion is what kind of ideas or information are they producing? Even if you want the goverment to keep expanding you certainly wouldn’t want waste right? Folks like Mr. Fortensky are simply academic fascists. Rather than analyzing data or using proof they simply dismiss the author before a word is read. Open minded indeed.

  12. costaprettypenny
    Jan 9, 2010, 8:20 pm

    Hoffman has a flair in writing his opinion editorials. Yes, we all know he has an agenda. Think tank, hardly! Yes, there are some stupid things that go on in public agencies. Yes, it is not only in State Government but at the city and county level as well. Could many of the stupid things have been prevented, Yes. Did any number of astute public employees want to address any one of the apparent abuses of the purse, probably. Did they want to keep their job, defiantly. Are there some items of Wayne’s article that are halve truths, probably. Is there another side to most of his examples, you darn right there is! Again, think tank ……………not even in your wildest dream Wayne! What you need to champion is “term limits.”

  13. It reminds me of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, another state specific think tank that was ignored until its studies got too widely known to be ignored.

  14. untamedshrew
    Jan 10, 2010, 11:02 am

    Actually Werner, most of those who question Wayne Hoffman’s “think tank” ideas have not dismissed the author w/o reading him. We’ve read plenty of his self-serving drivel in the Idaho Statesman and elsewhere. He deserves to be dismissed.

    “Think tank!” LMAO.

  15. Yossarian_22
    Jan 10, 2010, 1:09 pm

    I decided to read the whole report and here are my thoughts-

    Let’s begin with art funding. The art’s have always been a target of the Right. They hate any type of art form that differs with their view of the world. Art comes in all forms. Satirical art contains many facets that can ruffle feathers. I guarantee you that if the government funded ONLY art that didn’t offend the culture warriors, there would be no argument from the Right. It’s not about “waste”, it’s about content. The bottom line here is that they want Bill Moyers , Frontline, POV, Independent Lens OFF THE AIR, and this is where they begin.

    State employee benefits- This is obvious anti-government mantra. I’m sure that IFF doesn’t have any qualms about Too Big to Fail Bank CEOs taking bonuses after trashing the financial system…at least I never hear about it. First, yes some officials get more than the governor. But, some of these positions are much more difficult jobs than the govs seat too. I too could be happier with some of these incomes being lowered, but alot of this “spotlighting” is disingenuous. Health care benefits are very important and I for one (who cannot afford a decent HC plan) will not begrudge anyone who has one. At INL, they provide HC plans to many former employees while they are starting their own businesses (with your Fed dollars). I never heard a word about that from conservatives. Furthermore, state employees SPEND their money here, at our businesses. We can have debates about WHAT their jobs entail, but we need stable incomes in both the public and private sectors.

    No-show legs- They got elected and fell victim to horrible diseases. Wow…so maybe we should stop paying soldiers who get arms and legs blown off because they don’t show up on the battlefield anymore.

    Mentally ill- Who here is actually mentally deficient, the hospital clients or IFF? I’d say that when IFF staff become trained in the science of mental diseases and afflictions, they can comment on prescriptions and solutions. I would claim though, that fast food outlets wouldn’t be my first choice of places to dine. Actually, the monies spent are pretty low for movies and amusement parks.

    Free movie nights in Meridian are for Meridian residents to tackle, and they should.

    Bike-lockers- IFF is entering territory where they don’t know what they are talking about here. Providing decent facilities for bicyclists will encourage riders to use their bikes for commutes with in turn improves air quality and lowers traffic congestion. Not everyone downtown lets commuters bring their bikes inside, so a safe place is needed for a bike and gear. A simple tubular bike rack is fine for many users, but some bikes are expensive and irreplaceable. I take it that IFF staff don’t bike commute?

    Idaho Potato- can’t believe they got upset over this one…oh well.

    Govt programs

    Medicaid- always a fav target of the right. Gets into classic private vs public debate. Bill Crystal, RW editor for the Weekly Standard told Jon Stewart (on his show) that he felt the Veterans Admin HC system was just great, but that he would deny it to common citizens. So…it wasn’t a TECHNICAL argument, but a MORAL one as to wether anyone should receive government health care! Just read the Lewin Group’s (private – independent) report about state-wide single payer for Maryland
    This should settle the debate, but there is too much profit at stake. IFF is just carrying water for the private insurance industry here, or has someone has already said out loud….DUUUHH!

    Cow research facility- I actually agree on this one. Cancel it (Disclosure-I’m not a meat eater). However, IFF will not score any points here with IACI. People in Big Business circles DEMAND that these services exists. It’s also called State-Assisted-Capitalism (SAC). Long term projects just don’t get done in the private sector. They take too long for private money to wait. See this report- IS WAR NECESSARY FOR ECONOMIC GROWTH?
    There would be no internet, computers, aviation, Genome projects, etc without government spending and organization…period. Big Biz knows this very well. Sorry IFF, this one will get skipped.

    Consolidation of duties- always a good idea, if it works well.

    Charity for good works (e g Council on Econ Ed)- charitable donations are DOWN recently. I know that the DoD will never live on charity.

    Simplot House- should never have been built in the first place.

    Election dollar match- Simple, eliminate ALL private donation systems and publicly fund all elections with blind, fixed amounts, with free TV time for REAL debates and ALL candidates. No more Bi-Party monopolies. Run-off voting to eliminate spoiling.

    Laundry service- in the long run, it is smarter. Trees are not “free” either IFF.

    Aramak vs Shird- probably a cozy sweetheart deal here. A legit gripe here.

    Road Wizard- I wish more people would get interested in road/traffic issues. I don’t see a problem with this. It just doesn’t get used enough. If there wasn’t any forum for this topic, traffic offenders would complain about there being no info resources. I guess IFF staff are PERFECT drivers. Maybe it could be done cheaper, but it does need to be facilitated.

    Govs associations- May or may not be worthwhile. Important issues that get scarce attention may need forums to hammer out differences. The US delegates may never have the time to deal with them.

    Flying- I agree! Time to ground these guys. Trains and buses are cleaner and would get these guys to mingle with us commoners more. At least they could take a van. I’m sure that the IFF staff uses ACHD Commuteride vans every day, right guys?

    Furniture- YUP! They should do like I do and go to the Bench Commish, Criagslist or ZIdaho for USED items. There’s nothing wrong with used….seriously.

    Food and refreshments- Brownbag it! Go local or grow it yourself. That’s what I do.

    P-Cards- I personally sell items to Govt agencies by employees who have ALWAYS been prudent with these cards. They have never been taxed by mistake. There are items that these guys need or want that they feel that they cannot ask for, so I see the problem in reverse sometimes. However, I’m sure there are places where there is a big problem. Case-by-case argument here.

    Streetcar- IFF, along with many BG readers hate the streetcar. It’s all about funding. I believe that the bus system should get the vast improvements FIRST before we build a trolley, but there will be no money for that until the state leg gives in on local option taxation. This trolley is about a FIRST step in demonstrating that people will ride a trolley. They will. They ride them everywhere else. It’s the only alternative that CAN be funded that does not require the leg to say yes to. The leg hates anything other than cars. Streetcars are not the best answer to having a better alternative, but it’s the ONLY option the city can go with, that will revitalize downtown and eventually the rest of the city.

    Urban renewal- Always an opportunity for mischief, I’m certain. But that doesn’t mean that every project is a bad move. Land-use planning in this nation is the biggest joke in history. Sprawl has created serious problems that are tied to foreign policy via oil dependence (see Howard Kunstler stuff). Suburbia is toast and we have no plan for dealing with PeakOil.

    Auditorium District- This is another one where I say is corporate welfare or SAC, and IFF is again siding against Big Biz. They demand these facilities for their needs that they don’t want to use their own money for. Notice how IFF frames the whole thing as a govt waste program. The Right is split on this stuff, but people don’t know it.

    Education incomes- Yeah…Admin is usually top heavy. But, they go after teachers without any expertise on what ALL teachers face in the classroom everyday. SIDENOTE- I thought that the observation about “It is strange that each school district comes up with its own health benefits package, rather than pooling resources statewide.” WOW! Isn’t that the makings of a statewide SINGLE-PAYER program, aka risk-pooling? Absolutely amazing.

  16. Rod in SE Boise
    Jan 10, 2010, 1:10 pm

    Hoffman thinks the state retirement system is too generous to employees. He must be channeling Ebeneezer Scrooge.

    Full disclosure: I have never worked for the state of Idaho.

  17. Yossarian, it only took three sentences for your “flag” to unfurl and declare your prejudices! Why should taxpayers support art in any form? I appreciate different art forms and I PAY to see them in museums. I also enjoy Bill Moyers, as well as NPR. I also find some (very little) enjoyment with O’reilly, Miller and some from the right. Why would we support any of them? The support they deserve is solely what they can generate in advertising dollars. We can’t afford to subsidize any of them!
    I read the entire report as well, and I found the costs of the “bike lockers” a complete waste of money. The entire point is that at current rates, it will take over 20 YEARS to recoup the investment. This just reeks of elitism and your position that it promotes bike commuting is simply hollow.
    Your position on the streetcar is equally hollow! There is no aspect of this waste of taxpayer money that makes sense. To state that it is the first step for mass transit shows an ignorance of the citizens in Boise. They will continue to drive until it is so expensive to bring a car downtown that it makes no sense. When that happens, they will simply no longer come downtown. You need to mix a “titch” of common sense into your positions.
    Why are there numerous agencies and commissions that would just as easily function under the unbrella of Health and Welfare? Do we have an essential need for the commission for the blind? Is it of great importance that we have a commission for weed abatement, cow health( and I eat lots of meat, After all, those “pointy” teeth in the corner of your mouth? They are there for a reason!) Potatoe Commissions, Water boards, and the list goes on Ad Nauseum! This whole equation is very easy to solve. We CAN”T AFFORD to fund all this crap!

    PS Angry woman- it must really suck to have such a prejudiced, close minded view of the world such as yours!

  18. untamedshrew
    Jan 10, 2010, 8:54 pm

    Actually, Cyclops, it’s quite helpful and nice to realize that the government is made up of civil servants, who are people just like us, generally doing the best they can. I actually have an optimistic view of our world, and our future, and don’t think that the big bad government is the source of most of our ills. If so, then we need look no further than ourselves for the solution.

    Look at the language of your last post – ugly, vitrolic, name-calling. How is it that your bitterness contributes to the improvement of society? How does it make any sense?

  19. Stop Spending
    Jan 10, 2010, 10:53 pm

    It is time for all govenment agencies to quit spending. It made me mad to see in the local rag today that they mention ONCE to cut spending and 5 times to INCREASE TAXES!

    The rest of us have taken paycuts, benfit cuts, and why do we think that government should not do the same?

    I am sick and tired of government taking my money and giving it to someone else. It is time to stop spending and stop taxing!

  20. The Statesman’s editorial board and others seem to like beating up on Hoffman for some reason. But, despite this he keeps producing yeoman’s work in the area of accountability. The Bible says that you can judge a man by his fruit. The ad hominem attacks are unnecessary. I suppose the Guardian would like to go back to complaining about being the only one who cares about government accountability?
    The political matrix is all very confusing. Let’s simplify and produce a feng-shui government. Simplify, simplify, simplify, and cut the pork.

    EDITOR NOTE–Alva, why the mean tone toward the GUARDIAN? We have linked to IFFA and offered the forum. Our disclaimer acknowledges we share some of the IFF goals. We certainly are not alone in seeking to defend the constitution and the right of citizens to vote on long term debt.

  21. Cyclops et al: do you want a zero tax society? I’m just asking because that is how you are coming across to me.

    As for Hoffman, I have a hard time listening to someone who carried water for Bill “legislators don’t need critical thinking skills” Sali.

  22. I didn’t make the edit time…..

    In 2002, Sali angered colleagues when he said in a deposition that he was still “better than most” legislators despite his claim that he suffered from “brain fade” and impaired memory as a result of a car wreck.

    “How shall I say this?” Sali said. “Much of the time in the Legislature, critical-thinking skills are not necessarily needed.”

  23. Wow! Angry woman. Did Santa bring you a new thesaurus for Christmas?
    Yes, I will own all those descriptions you have bestowed upon me. I don’t believe that big government is the source of our ills. WE are the source through the unbelievable level of apathy we have as a society.More importantly, as big government is not the source of our ills, it is also not the solution! It is not the government worker I have a problem with. It is the policy makers that seem to thrive on bloated, ineffective budgets that do nothing but waste money. It is with the bureaucracy that insures the inability to “glean” poor workers from the system. It is with the leadership that feels our tax money is their personal play thing to fund any little pet project they deem worthwhile. My biggest frustration is with people such as yourself who blindly accept some of these idiotic bureaucratic policies in place. You obviously have a modicum of intelligence, exhibited by your writing abilities. How can you justify supporting programs and policies that are so completely out of tune with the citizens desires? The time has come to get real with government. A mayor does not need three assistants and a press “kid” to converse with the city! Road departments, School districts, County commishioners,police departments, fire departments, and such don’t need ex-media types to speak for them. We didn’t vote for all those “talking heads”. The people we DID vote into office should have the “stones” to report to us directly.If an administration doesn’t have the ability to speak to the citizens and keep them informed of the current status of the government, while relaying to the citizenry their vision for the future effectively, it would seem we elected the wrong damn people!
    As our President says, “Change is coming! Change is needed! Change is here!

  24. Actually Eric, I am a flat tax guy! Very simple. No deductions, no credits, no special rates, no exemptions. As far as Hoffman is concerned,there is no question that Sali is most assuredly a jerk and living proof that if you espouse the “party line” you can get anywhere in politics. But I can also be a jerk.(just ask my wife) Does that mean that everyone who has worked with, or for me, is also a jerk? It seems to me rather childish to disregard the message because you happen to not like the messenger. Are the points Hoffman makes valid? If so, they need to be addressed.
    I firmly believe that government should be kept to a minimum. Funding for schools, prisons, roads are necessary. Not carte blanch funding though. What I am vehemently against are school districts that perform duplicitous functions, roads that are built only to be torn up the day after they are completed. All the boards and commissions that taxpayers are forced to fund while they serve no meaningful function! If government would inject just a little “common sense” into the process, I would be a happy camper.

  25. Eric T: … do you want a zero tax society?

    As a matter of fact, that’s a valid viewpoint, even if it’s unattainable. Practically every citizen sees the need for certain government functions.

    Another viewpoint, that seems popular these days: “Government should take care of every citizen’s every need. After all, we’re entitled!”

    I appreciate groups like the Freedom Foundation, for at least starting the conversation (shouting match?).

    Pretty much every government expenditure, from soldiers without legs to bike lockers to cow research, has a consituency that believes in it. And if money were no object (at the FEDERAL level, for example), all of those expenditures could continue forever and ever.

    Unfortunately times are tough at the state, county, and local levels. Budgets must be balanced, and cuts are inevitable – even to cherished programs like Mahogany-for-Bureaucrats and catered legislative luncheons. NOTHING is off the table, except perhaps for Butch’s highways.

    Remember that guy, about 50 years ago, who said “Ask not what your country can do for you”? What a quaint and old-fashioned notion, huh? (Must’ve been a right-wing crackpot, that guy!)

  26. I’d like to see Hoffman’s like minded friends in agriculture refuse to take farm and ranch subsidies. Why doesn’t he suggest they set an example for us?

  27. Eric T – all I want to be taxed for is police, fire, sewer, garbage and roads. All else is just building government kingdoms.

  28. AMEN KIM!

  29. Any city parks where Kim and Ben live?

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