They are titans of GOP politics in Idaho. Un-elected puppet masters who prowl the Capitol leveraging their political strength and putting the needs of middle-class Idahoans behind a wide assortment of special interests.
The Idaho Association of Industry and Commerce (IACI) and the Idaho Freedom Foundation (IFF) have the ear of every GOP policymaker in the Capitol.
And they don’t get along.
IACI’s potty-mouthed president is Alex LaBeau. His organization caters to the political needs of Idaho’s biggest corporations and their CEOs.
IFF’s liberty loving leader is Wayne Hoffman. His foundation caters to the ideological needs of Idaho’s far-right and its rabid devotees.
Strangely, the two groups get along about as well as the Hatfields and McCoys. In a perfect world, their grudge could be settled with a winner-take-all chainsaw battle at the Taco Bell arena.
But this is far from a perfect world. That said, the two sides went face-to-face last week in a knock-down, drag-out GOP primary.
And now that all the results are in, let’s see who won.
Bryan Zollinger — Win IFF
In eastern Idaho, it was the battle between David Smith who was backed by IACI for $2,559, and Bryan Zollinger who was backed by the IFF for $1,254. In the end, Zollinger — a “liberty” candidate who takes the liberty of telling women what they can do with their bodies — won.
Perhaps one of the most respected, level-headed GOP members of the Idaho Legislature is Rep. Luke Malek. Yet those qualities make him a target for the let’s-burn-it-down wing of his party. Malek, bolstered with $6,073 from IACI, easily beat Redoubt News darling Art Macomber, even after the IFF spent $4,150 to defeat the incumbent.
Ronald Nate — Win IFF
Rep. Ron Nate is the highest scoring lawmaker on the IFF’s Freedom Index. He tied Confederate flag enthusiast Heather Scott with a 97.4. The only way to score higher is by leading an armed insurrection at a wildlife refuge. Nate cruised to victory even after IACI spent $4,043 to unseat him. IFF defended Nate with $1,894.
Kelley Packer — Win IACI
Rep. Kelley Packer picked a fight with the IFF in a podcast during the legislative session. She pretty much dropped the mic. No worries. IACI has her back. The state’s largest lobby firm pumped $8,921 into her primary campaign. The IFF tried to settle the score with $1,254 against her, but their effort was too little, too late. IACI and Packer won.
And the winner is…it depends on who you ask
Like everything in life except the fact that rape does not prevent pregnancies, there is no easy answer. Both IFF and IACI had wins and losses. One moment, the IFF would unleash a victorious rebel yell and the next moment IACI would cheer with a fist pump and hearty “cha-ching.” Ultimately, who won depended on who you asked:
IFF President Wayne Hoffman says his side won, claiming the upcoming Legislature will be more conservative, less cooperative and strongly 18th Century. He says claims to the contrary are delusions created by the “legacy media.”
Hoffman probably wasn’t including “Idahoans for Liberty” when he spoke of the “legacy media,” but regardless, the libertarian website summed up the primary election thusly: “2016 primary election results — some good, mostly bad.”
For its part, IACI hasn’t commented about the primary election results. Instead, it announced the completion of a water fountain at the association’s headquarters that is filled with the tears of the middle class.