Idaho Freedom Foundation official fined for breaking lobbyist registration law

The group’s vice president was fined $250 by the Idaho Secretary of State’s Office

By: - July 1, 2021 5:42 pm
The Senate in session at the Idaho Capitol on April 6, 2021.

The Senate in session at the Idaho Capitol on April 6, 2021. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

Dustin Hurst, vice president of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, has been fined $250 for lobbying on Idaho’s higher education budget without first registering as a lobbyist.

The Idaho Freedom Foundation is a Boise-based nonprofit organization that advocates for limited government. It created an organization in recent years called Idaho Freedom Action, with the same staff and offices.

Hurst is the registered agent for both organizations, according to Secretary of State records. (He also registered two new organizations in Idaho in January — the Respect America Foundation and Respect America Inc. — whose directors are from the California-based Foundation for Harmony and Prosperity.)

The Idaho Attorney General’s Office sent Hurst a letter on June 22 that outlines his violation. The letter says the matter was referred to the AG’s Office by the Idaho Secretary of State.

First, it said, Hurst did properly register as a lobbyist for the Idaho Freedom Foundation for the 2021 legislative session.

“Your lobbying for Idaho Freedom Action (IFA) is a concern,” said the letter, signed by Deputy Attorney General Robert A. Berry. “You first registered as a lobbyist for IFA on April 15, 2021. However, in your March report for IFA, you disclosed reportable expenditures of $14,316.69 in advertising in relation to SB1179.”

That Senate bill was held up in the 2021 legislative session, amid unproven claims that Idaho’s public schools were indoctrinating students by teaching “critical race theory” in their curriculum.

The Legislature finally passed the budget bill in early May, with budget cuts.

The IFF took credit for that, in a letter to its supporters.

“IFF’s research hit higher education in the purse,” said the letter, obtained by the Idaho Capital Sun. “In 2021, legislators stripped $2.5 million … from the higher education budget because of social justice spending.”

The IFF said that it had “inspired” legislators to demand universities “return to their core educational mission,” but that the universities didn’t comply. This year’s legislative session, IFF helped to “ensure they felt the consequences,” the letter said.

By spending $14,317 in advertising related to the higher-ed budget before he had registered as a lobbyist for Idaho Freedom Action, Hurst broke the law, the letter said.

The law says lobbyists must register with the Idaho Secretary of State before they start lobbying, or within 30 days of being hired, designated or contracted as a lobbyist, “whichever occurs first.”

Reached at his office by the Idaho Capital Sun, Hurst declined to comment.

Hurst Letter

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Audrey Dutton
Audrey Dutton

Audrey Dutton, senior investigative reporter, joined the Idaho Capital Sun after 10 years at the Idaho Statesman. Her favorite topics to cover include health care, business, consumer protection issues and white collar crime. Before coming home to Idaho, Dutton worked as a journalist in Minnesota, New York, Maryland and Washington, D.C. Dutton's work has earned dozens of state, regional and national awards for investigative reporting, health care and business reporting, data visualization and more.