Anti-Medicaid group faces challenges

Campaign finance reports are starting to trickle into the Idaho Secretary of State’s Office.

One of the first filed is the campaign finance disclosure for Work, Not Obamacare PAC. This is the group formed, in close affiliation with the Idaho Freedom Foundation, to fight the Medicaid expansion initiative.

The group is only showing $29,298.90 in total contributions. That is a fairly small sum for a statewide race and it may just reflect the group’s recent formation. The three largest contributors are Idaho Falls businessman Doyle Beck, Boise-area oil industry businessman Danielle Brockett, and Idaho Falls attorney and Idaho GOP vice chair Bryan Smith. Only 10 contributors are specified.

In contrast, proponents of the measure have benefited by substantial spending by The Fairness Project.  According to The Hill this Washington, D.C., group, backed by the Service Employees Union, has spent so far nearly $5 million on Medicaid expansion measures in Idaho, Nebraska and Utah. The group was formed in 2015 to shore up Obamacare in the states.  Their method has been Medicaid expansion.

Reports are that backers have a million plus to spend.  Their finance report this week will provide confirmation either way.

Opponents of Medicaid expansion have expressed concern over the discrepancy in funding. Wayne Hoffman of the Idaho Freedom Foundation has written: “Hospitals, doctors, labor unions, and business lobby organizations will collectively spend an easy seven figures to convince Idaho voters to expand Obamacare in Idaho, easily dwarfing the efforts of Medicaid expansion’s volunteers.”  That kind of wide-ranging coalition should have the resources to aggressively back the measure.  This week’s report will provide more insight.

Work, Not Obamacare PAC had only one significant expenditure and that was to OnMessage Inc. That is a significant D.C.-area political consulting firm. Its client list includes a wide array of conservative groups and Republican officials, include the Republican National Committee, the GOP House & Senate committees, the NRA, and more. According to the organization’s report, the expenditure is for television, radio, internet or telephone advertising.

All signs are that the initiative is currently ahead by a considerable margin.  I’ve heard recent polling from multiple sources that put the pro side at 60% support or more.

Can the opposition shift the tide? And, will opponents have the firepower to match adequately the initiative supporters?

Supporters have some signs out and have online ads deployed. I presume we’ll shortly see some broadcast advertising. Their messages are simple: 1) the gap population needs insurance coverage and 2) expansion will save money by substituting federal dollars for local health spending by Idaho taxpayers.

Opponents are trying to reframe the debate by arguing that 1) the ballot measure’s expansion has its roots in the (hated by some) Affordable Care Act and 2) that key beneficiaries will be the non-working poor.

Both positions have some basis.  Both will likely push their points through various media.

The opponents have several other strikes against them.  First, they have waited until the final month to carry their message to the Idaho electorate, competing will all other candidates on the ballot. Second, four weeks is not much time to persuade enough voters to matter.

The biggest difficulty for those seeking to sink Medicaid expansion is the organizational and financial lead of supporters. Opponents will not have the ability to make their case without being countered.

We’ll know more when supporters file their report.

Steve Taggart is an Idaho Falls attorney specializing in bankruptcy (www.MaynesTaggart.com).  He has an extensive background in politics and public policy. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..