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Investing in Ideology

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This week Citydesk features three short parables that are strangely related to one another.

First off, after 22 years, the Idaho Women's Network closed its doors, blaming a lack of access to funding for progressive causes in the State of Idaho.

"Quite frankly, I think we're seen as a lost cause to national funders," former IWN Public Policy Director Taryn Magrini said.

We spoke to Magrini on her last day on the job, and she said that two large foundations had recently pulled their grants in favor of states where they were making more progress. IWN lobbied on behalf of women, families, gays and lesbians, and other progressive causes, winning some victories including getting more women into elected office and onto the bench, fighting anti-gay ballot measures in 1994 and 1996, and most recently helping declare April 28 Equal Pay Day.

Gail Heylmun, executive director at the Fund for Idaho, a local foundation that has supported IWN, confirmed that progressive foundations have pulled money from Idaho as it solidified as a red state during the last decade and especially as the recession took a bite out of their funding capacity.

At the same time, a recent Associated Press story out of Boise documented the surge of mysterious conservative foundations that appear to be pouring money into the states, even funding journalistic ventures like idahoreporter.com.

This conservative funding surge was evident on Tax Day, when tea partiers took to the streets across Idaho in their second annual Tax Day marches. Tea Party Boise march organizer Russ Smerz declared the event an anti-Obama/anti-big government rally.

"I think if there was a focal point, it was anti-socialism, and really tying Obama into that as well," Smerz said.

And though he did not have a choice in the matter, Idaho Democratic Rep. Walt Minnick was drawn into the party as well with an April 15 endorsement from a national tea party group called the Tea Party Express. Minnick was their only Democratic endorsement.

Minnick accepted the endorsement, appearing on CNN to describe the tea partiers as "just ordinary folks that think the government ought to balance its budget."

He also said the word "independent" six times during the four minute, 45-second interview.

And on April 16, the day after Tax Day, about 30 labor activists gathered on the Capitol steps to demand that candidates for office in Idaho clarify how they will address the state budget crisis to stave off further cuts in state services--and state jobs.

"We need to start voting in candidates that support public services," Idaho Association of Government Employees/SEIU organizer Daniel Wolf told BW's Josh Gross.

The speeches were drowned out by the sounds of a lawn mower cutting the grass at a public park across the street.