It’s a dangerous organization that has been quietly pushing Idaho officials toward a liberal agenda, and it needs to be stopped.
One may think that the organization is Planned Parenthood or the ACLU. Those organizations, certainly, are evil. But the liberal organization I’m talking about, the one at the heart of many liberal policies and the election of liberal politicians in our state is the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry (IACI). IACI is the most dangerous voice for advancing liberal policies in our state, and it must be stopped. IACI is not only trying to win support for Big Government solutions, it has been working to get rid of anyone who stands in its way, including a widow from Challis, Idaho.
There’s an explanation for all of this: The Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry started 40 years ago. For years, IACI was a well-regarded resource for legislators. IACI hired subject matter experts who could address tax policy, employment, health care, agriculture and other areas of interest to Idaho businesses. But in 2006, IACI hired Alex LaBeau to lead the organization. LaBeau had a very different view for what IACI should be doing. He didn’t want IACI to be a resource for information. Rather, he saw IACI as an organization that could work a political angle in order to achieve specific Big Government results.
The organization began to concentrate its efforts on the expansion of government and the election of legislators who would support that expansion. Starting soon after Obamacare passed into law, IACI began working to convince legislators to support government-run health care. IACI convinced Gov. Butch Otter to create a state health insurance exchange. This decision to support the insurance exchange came well before the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling on Obamacare. In fact, in 2011, LaBeau told Otter that it made sense for the state to grab as much federal money as it could to set up the insurance exchange.
“Your wise decision gives Idaho control of its own destiny,” LaBeau wrote. “By not requesting the grant money, Idaho would have lost its ability to work in the best interests of small business and individuals.” That’s entirely false, but the letter began a series of discussions that ultimately led Idaho to adopt a state insurance exchange in 2013. Today, Idaho is the only Republican-controlled state in the country to have a state insurance exchange, and IACI bears a large part of the responsibility for that.
No conservative organization in the country believes states should be creating insurance exchanges. The Idaho Freedom Foundation, Heritage Foundation and Cato Institute all worked to stop Idaho from adopting the exchange. But the Big Government voices at IACI got their way. They secured campaign donations to back candidates who would support the exchange, and it worked.
IACI wasn’t done there. Next, it started phase two of Obamacare implementation in Idaho: Medicaid expansion. IACI wants the state to accept the part of Obamacare that calls for government-paid health care services and coverage for people who are childless, able-bodies adults.
“For us, it’s a business-numbers issue,” LaBeau said to the media in the summer of 2013. “It’s pretty clear from the information and the numbers that Medicaid expansion would save industry a lot of money.”
While working to secure support for Medicaid expansion, IACI has also been working to implement corporate welfare programs in the state. In 2014, IACI lobbied lawmakers to support the Tax Reimbursement Incentive. The proposal offers politically-connected big businesses tax breaks that are not available to most of Idaho’s small employers. The Legislature passed the bill, and today, millions of dollars of tax revenue are being given away to companies that compete against Idaho’s home-grown businesses and entrepreneurs.
When conservative legislators stand in the way of its Big Government agenda, IACI uses every disgusting lie in the book in order to defeat its enemy. In 2014, Rep. Barrett, the widow we introduced to you to earlier, was running for re-election. IACI decided that a smear campaign was the best way to get rid of the then-79-year-old. IACI sent out postcards to Barrett’s district, just days before the election, telling voters that Barrett was “soft on wolves.” The statement, of course, is preposterous. Barrett had always fought to protect lives and property from the wolves introduced into the Idaho backcountry by the federal government. But Barrett’s mistake was voting against creating a new government panel to manage wolves in the state.
“We have created enough boards in this body to build an ark,” Barrett said of the proposal. That was an honest response to the proposal. But IACI used it to make the false claim against Barrett, and Barrett lost.
That wouldn’t the last time IACI’s leaders went after a state lawmaker and did it in a vial way. In January 2015, President LaBeau made headlines when an inflammatory email he wrote about Sen. Jeff Siddoway became public. Here’s how one newspaper was forced to transcribe LaBeau’s diatribe:
“(Crude play on Sen. Jeff Siddoway’s name using ‘suck’) can eat (reference to male genitalia) and hug a teacher. How (expletive beginning with ‘f’) stupid. Let me see-make me and my committee completely irrelevant for the foreseeable future. (Reference to religious figure). People have no (expletive beginning with ‘f’) vision or forethought. (Reference to feminine hygiene product). Regardless, we will drop some (excrement) on his lap-just to be (reference to male genitalia).”
The Idaho Press-Tribune lamented that LaBeau remained on the job after the Siddoway email came out. Said the newspaper, “Can you think of a single employer anywhere that would allow anyone to keep his or her job after sending such a nasty, disgusting note — even if it was just an internal memo from one employee to another? How, then, does someone in such a high-profile, sensitive position who writes something so vile keep his job?”
That’s a good question. We think it has a lot to do with the fact that IACI has a liberal roadmap for Idaho, and IACI president LaBeau has been instrumental in executing on that plan. The plan calls for the election of more liberal legislators, just as IACI orchestrated for Barrett and other conservative legislators, including New Plymouth Republican Sen. Monty Pearce, a loyal defender of free enterprise.
IACI’s plan is to make our state more like a lot of other liberal bastions, with a state-run economy and special favors for the well-connected and politically entrenched. We don’t want that to happen. We’re asking you to join with us to join our fight against IACI and its liberal agenda.
Help us hold our elect conservative legislators and defend them from IACI’s liberal onslaught.
 IACI’s website says it began in 1974 with a merger of two pro-business groups.
 LaBeau letter to Otter, Sept. 21, 2011.
 Idaho Freedom Foundation, “IACI veering toward the wrong side of Medicaid expansion,” http://idahofreedom.org/iaci-veering-toward-the-wrong-side-of-medicaid-expansion/
 Hoffman: IACI cried wolf, The Times-News, June 2, 2014.
 Wolf disaster bill passes House, Spokesman-Review, April 5, 2014.
 Idaho Press-Tribune, IACI president LaBeau should have been fired, April 29, 2015.