It’s time to set the record straight about “Reclaim Idaho.”
Together with my friends Emily and Garrett Strizich, I co-founded Reclaim Idaho in the spring of 2017. Our organization has since expanded statewide to include over 2,000 volunteers. We are the grassroots group that filed the successful Medicaid Expansion initiative and organized the signature drive to put that initiative on the ballot.
Our organization has come under attack in an op-ed by Brent Regan, chairman of the Idaho Freedom Foundation (IFF). That’s the organization that led the unsuccessful opposition to Medicaid Expansion and then filed an ill-fated lawsuit to overturn the new law.
In his op-ed, Regan makes the outlandish claim that our organization was spawned by a California labor union. The truth is that Reclaim Idaho is a homegrown organization that was launched in North Idaho. We set out from my mom’s backyard in Sagle, where we spray-painted an old RV bright-green and dubbed it “the Medicaid Mobile.” We launched our organization and planned our signature-drive with the aid of zero established organizations.
Regan also falsely asserts that Reclaim Idaho is “sponsored” and funded by the Fairness Project, a national organization that advocates for raising the minimum wage and related issues. The truth is that Reclaim Idaho never received a penny from the Fairness Project. The vast majority of our organization’s funding comes from small donations from Idahoans. It is true the Fairness Project hired their own paid petitioners to collect signatures for Medicaid Expansion in Idaho. But Reclaim Idaho’s unpaid volunteers collected 96-percent of the signatures required to put Medicaid Expansion on the ballot.
Beyond the falsehoods and smears, there is a larger question raised here: Why is Brent Regan and the IFF lashing out against Reclaim Idaho?
Anyone who follows the IFF’s antics knows they work relentlessly to divide Idahoans and to pursue an agenda that has very little to do with Idaho. Back in February, IFF Executive Director Wayne Hoffman came out brazenly against the idea of public education, saying “I don’t think government should be in the education business.” This position directly contradicts the commitment to public schools enshrined in the Idaho Constitution, not to mention the broad, bipartisan support among Idahoans for well-funded schools.
Meanwhile, for the last six years, Regan’s IFF has worked around the clock to block Medicaid Expansion and prevent Idaho from taking back over $3 billion of our own federal tax dollars. When Idahoans took matters into their own hands and expanded Medicaid at the ballot, Regan sued to overturn the new law in court. This in spite of the fact that Medicaid Expansion was approved by 61-percent of Idahoans, including the majority of voters in his own Kootenai County.
In a harsh rebuke, the Idaho Supreme Court upheld Medicaid Expansion and Justice Greg Moeller characterized Regan’s case as unserious and driven by an ideological agenda.
Brent Regan is lashing out at Reclaim Idaho not just because he lost at the polls, but because we refuse to play by his rules. For years now, Regan’s IFF has thrived on the politics of division. It appears their goal is to divide our state along the same tribal lines that have divided our nation.
Last November, on Election Night, I recall looking across the crowded Sandpoint pub where we gathered to celebrate the success of our Medicaid Expansion campaign. Remarkably, the crowd was Democrat and Republican, young and old, and people from all walks of life. What irks Regan the most about Reclaim Idaho is that we are successfully bridging divides and bringing Idahoans together. He’d better get used to it, because we’re only just getting started.