The directors of a new policy center that will research topics related to the free market, individual liberty and limited government held an official launch party Wednesday morning on the steps of the Idaho Capitol alongside three Idaho legislators.
The Mountain States Policy Center calls itself a free market think tank and plans to issue research and analysis, policy papers and informational videos about issues related to tax policy, education, agriculture, health care and other economic issues.
Chris Cargill is the center’s president and CEO, after spending 12 years as the director of the eastern Washington region of the Washington Policy Center. Prior to that, he spent nearly 10 years in broadcast news in Spokane.
As part of its mission, Cargill said he wants the organization to have a relationship with the media. On its website, the center states it does not seek to rival or compete with the Idaho Freedom Foundation, a nonprofit organization that promotes conservative and libertarian ideas and has a stated policy of not talking to members of the media.
“The media helps communicate the message,” Cargill said at the event. “We really feel like we should be out there talking with the media, talking with citizens all across our great state and telling them about free market policies.”
Cargill said the nonprofit has already raised more than $600,000 from donors, and said tens of thousands of people have already engaged with the policy center’s content on social media. While the center will be headquartered in Coeur d’Alene, close to Cargill’s home just across the border in Washington, he said they will have a significant presence in Boise as well.
The board of directors for the Mountain States Policy Center includes Chairman Ken Dey, the director of government and public affairs at the J.R. Simplot Company, and Vice Chair Rebecca Funk, a consultant who recently managed Coeur d’Alene Sen. Mary Souza’s campaign for secretary of state in the Republican primary. John Otter, son of former Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, is the board treasurer.
Cargill said the policy center will primarily focus on Idaho but will take a regional perspective with occasional research on issues in Washington, Montana and Wyoming.
Republican Sens. Jim Rice and Patti Anne Lodge of Caldwell and Jim Patrick of Twin Falls were also at the event, and Rice said he’s glad to see a new organization that will serve as an independent voice for the free market and tax policy.
“We’ve got a lot of voices out there, and some of them are pretty interesting because they’re trying to grab attention,” Rice said. “We need people that are not politicians that are also explaining the whys and the hows of sound free market policy and why it works so well.”
Dey, who was also a business reporter for the Idaho Press and the Idaho Statesman for seven years and media manager for St. Luke’s Health System for six years, said the policy center will aim to continue and improve upon the policies that have made Idaho businesses successful.
“We have a great opportunity to have some adult debates about the policies and ideas and bring them forward, and ultimately do what’s best for Idaho,” Dey said.
The center will also hold a North Idaho launch party at 11 a.m. Thursday in Coeur d’Alene at Independence Point.
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