Once again, it’s time to clear up some confusion about “Reclaim Idaho” and what we’re all about.
Two years ago, some friends and I joined together in our hometown of Sandpoint to found Reclaim Idaho. We eventually grew into a statewide movement with thousands of volunteers. We filed the citizens’ initiative to expand Medicaid and organized a successful signature drive. Last November it received 61-percent approval.
Our organization recently came under attack in a complaint filed with Idaho’s Secretary of State by Brent Regan, Chairman of the Idaho Freedom Foundation (IFF). Regan made the false allegation that Reclaim Idaho received vast financial support from outside of Idaho while pretending to be a homegrown, grassroots organization.
Following a thorough review, the Secretary of State concluded Reclaim Idaho did nothing wrong – stating in a letter the investigation “did not identify any violations” and the case is now closed.
This comes as no surprise to anyone familiar with our organization. Reclaim Idaho is grassroots to the core – always has been, always will be. We began in North Idaho with a bright-green, 1977 camper (“the Medicaid Mobile”) and remain powered by thousands of small donations from ordinary citizens.
The entire affair raises larger questions: Why did Regan file a frivolous complaint against Reclaim Idaho? Why is the IFF trying to tarnish our reputation as a homegrown, grassroots movement? In other words, what are they afraid of?
Ironically, it is well documented the IFF is a “dark money” organization that refuses to disclose its funding. According to a 2019 report by the Idaho Statesman, it remains a secret where the IFF gets its money from.
In this respect, the IFF is not unique. These days, it’s typical for political organizations to raise mountains of money—much of it in secret—and spend it on lobbying, high-priced operatives, and big firms that hire people by the hour to collect signatures.
Reclaim Idaho has a different approach. Rather than hire an army of paid petitioners to collect the signatures for Medicaid Expansion, we traveled around Idaho and engaged with citizens willing to volunteer. We challenged them to form teams and become local leaders.
For a team of paid petitioners to collect as many signatures as our volunteers did, it would cost at least $1 million. Reclaim Idaho spent less than $50,000.
When it comes to politics, the conventional wisdom says money is everything. A century ago, Ohio Senator Mark Hanna famously said: “There are two things that are important in politics. The first is money and I can’t remember what the second one is.”
That may be true for the IFF. But for those of us who believe in grassroots politics, there’s something more valuable than money: Volunteers. When ordinary Idahoans volunteer their time to a worthy cause, they do things money can’t buy.
That’s why Brent Regan and the IFF are attacking Reclaim Idaho: Our volunteers are demonstrating that dark-money is not the only game in town.
Reclaim Idaho is proving that grassroots, volunteer-driven campaigns win.
Luke Mayville is the Co-Founder of Reclaim Idaho.