Leaked Document Exposes Fire Union

Conservatives have tremendous respect for first responders, law enforcement personnel, and military veterans. We believe that those who put their lives on the line deserve to be held in high honor. But have you ever wondered what they think of us?

Many organizations connected to first responders and law enforcement are involved in politics. The Fraternal Order of Police was heavily involved in promoting the fentanyl bill, for example, and I just reported on several groups using their veteran status to promote the ranked choice voting initiative.

On Tuesday, a document from the Professional Firefighters of Idaho was apparently leaked, showing that organization’s candid opinion about pending legislation, certain lawmakers, and various political organizations. Trying to find the document on the PFFI website brings up a login prompt, but a screenshot of the document is in the wild, and you can read the whole thing here:

Dated February 17, the document lists several pieces of legislation and indicates whether the PFFI supports or opposes each. Ironically, the PFFI says it is neutral on the one bill that actually deals with fire safety, H389. The rest of the bills deal mainly with unions, a subject which is apparently the top priority for the PFFI.

The organization opposes two bills sponsored by Sen. Chris Trakel which call for holidays dedicated to firefighters and peace officers. The author of the document says that Trakel is not a supporter and is only running the bills to pretend he cares about public safety.

Sen. Trakel reacted to the leaked document on Facebook, saying, “In regards to my bills, I was never approached. My two bills came from town hall meetings and constituents wanting these days.”

One of their biggest priorities seems to be S1259, a bill to require union certification by secret ballot rather than public cards. This bill is sponsored by Sen. Brian Lenney (the document misspells his name as “Lenny”) and was written to give members of public sector unions the opportunity to oppose union membership without fear of retribution. The document claims that the PFFI has been able to convince Sen. Kevin Cook, chairman of the Senate Commerce & Human Resources Committee, to hold the bill in his drawer.

This is where we get to the true impact of this document. The PFFI boasts that they not only have significant pull with Chairman Cook, but also with Rep. Julie Yamamoto and Sen. Dave Lent, the chairs of House and Senate Education, respectively.

Committee chairs unilaterally killing bills has been a vexing problem. Even on a solidly conservative committee like Senate Ed, Chairman Lent can still act as a roadblock to legislation that his handlers don’t want to see the light of day. Having committee chairs in your pocket is a good deal for PACs and lobbies, since it’s easier to lean on one person than eight or nine in a committee hearing or the dozens needed to kill a bill on the floor.

So who are the Professional Firefighters of Idaho, and why are they so worried about bills that increase employee independence with regards to unions?

The leaked document was signed “Shaun” which presumably refers to the chairman of the PFFI PAC Shaun Laughlin:

Laughlin ran for the Legislature in the last election, taking second in a four way race that was ultimately won by Rep. Tina Lambert:

Reading the document reveals that Laughlin has a serious axe to grind against conservatives. Notice how he did not even read Rep. Jacyn Gallagher’s bill but nevertheless told his fellow union members that it “probably sucks also”.

It makes you wonder how conservative the firefighter’s union really is. We all have this image of professional firefighters as salt of the earth working men who support traditional conservative values, but a look at this document and their political advocacy suggests otherwise.

Did you know that the largest single expenditure for the PFFI PAC on the new Sunshine website is $6,000 to the Idaho Democratic Party? That doesn’t seem very conservative.

On the same day that the document leaked, the PFFI hosted a dinner in which they named Rep. Ilana Rubel, the leader of the House Democrats, their legislator of the year:

I think it’s completely right for conservatives to continue to support the first responders who put their lives on the line to keep us safe. However, it is also fair to consider not putting them on such a pedestal that their political positions are beyond criticism. The firefighter’s union does not appear to use its influence to improve fire safety in Idaho, rather, like most organizations it is primarily concerned with its own power.

The union donates money to whichever political figure its leadership believes will maintain that power, and stands against any law that empowers employees to say no. The organization does not seem to care about conservative issues regarding the sanctity of life, low taxes and smaller government, or the Second Amendment. A will to power is the only guiding principle.

Perhaps the most egregious position in the leaked document is regarding House Bill 602, which would prohibit government money from being used for union activities. The PFFI says they “have a coalition to kill this with Idaho Education Association, PFFI, Idaho FOP, and Idaho AFL-CIO.” Do you see how any possible conservative principles are thrown out the window when it comes to protecting the power of the unions? No matter how conservative individual firefighters, teachers, or law enforcement officers are, their associations will band together against the taxpayer every time.

Ironically, Shaun Laughlin’s most recent tweet comes from more than a year ago in which he reposted the Idaho Democrats:

Public money might be for public schools, but Laughlin and the PFFI seem to think it’s for unions too.

Everyone has the right to an opinion, and everyone has the right to petition their government for redress. The PFFI has as much right to lobby legislators and support candidates as anyone else. The issue here is with transparency and consistency. Does it change your opinion of the firefighter’s union to know the true thoughts of its leadership? They certainly seemed to worry about that, otherwise this document would have been public in the first place.

This should raise a lot of questions in your mind, and it should also inspire members of the union to ask what their dues are really supporting.

It also should raise ethical concerns about committee chairs Cook, Yamamoto, and Lent. How much sway do unions, PACs, and lobbyists like PFFI have over these powerful legislators? What do those groups get in return for such loyal devotion?

The more that voters see behind the curtain, the more skeptical they become of Idaho’s establishment institutions. Those institutions work hard to keep that curtain firmly in place, but I will keep pulling it open.

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