The conservative policy group Idaho Freedom Foundation used a press conference Thursday to counter claims that it bullies lawmakers and to denounce the east Idaho legislator who made the accusation.
At the same time, the foundation used its scuffle with Rep. Kelley Packer, R-McCammon, in an emailed solicitation for donations to “help us fight back.”
“I’m taking a stand against a person who has lied about us, what my organization does, and what it believes,” IFF President Wayne Hoffman said at Thursday’s conference. “I’m taking a stand against legislators who choose to bully and harass my organization and my employees.”
Packer, in a podcast interview posted last week, criticized the non-profit foundation’s methods to press their agenda with a combination of advocacy, lobbying and reporting, and for blurring the lines on permitted activities for non-profits. She said the group was not “an honest, conservative voice.”
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Hoffman said Packer had “slandered my organization.” The press conference, he said, was the culmination of frustration after years of similar accusations.
“We will not allow any elected official to harass and spread lies about the Idaho Freedom Foundation, the people who work for it, and the conservative values IFF represents,” Hoffman said.
He defended the organization’s practice of ranking bills and how legislators vote on them. The group’s “Freedom Index,” he said, “debunks their (legislators’) own narrative of how conservative they are. They campaign as conservative and they don’t want their constituents to know the truth that their records betray them as liberals.”
The group began automated “robocalls” Thursday in Packer’s district with a recorded announcement from Hoffman criticizing her.
Asked if IFF was using publicity around the event to raise money, Hoffman said the press conference was “an opportunity to defend my organization. I’d much rather be doing other things.”
Packer, responding, said she didn’t know of another group that scores bills and lawmakers’ votes and distributes the scores publicly.
“What fact-based scoring system do they have in place that allows them to determine whether any legislator is conservative or not?” Packer said. “Their scoring system is an arbitrary system, based on their beliefs and without taking into account all of the context surrounding any given situation/bill, that they then publicize as facts about each legislator. If that’s not dishonest, it’s at least disingenuous.”
Packer added that the press conference and robocall effort “only further prove my claims.”