Last year, from March 29 through the end of December, Idaho Freedom Foundation President Wayne Hoffman delivered more "Hoff Time" from outside of Idaho than inside Idaho.
You can debate whether the first words out of Wayne Hoffman's Aug. 24, 2022, livestream were a screw-up or an outright lie. But you can't debate that what he said was false.
"Hey, welcome everybody to another Hoff Time Report," Hoffman said. "I'm live, in, uh, North Idaho ..."
He's the president of the Idaho Freedom Foundation. Being in Idaho is a part of his brand. But later in the video, Hoffman spins the camera around, revealing a distinctive red barn that can not, in fact, be found anywhere in North Idaho. Because it's in Deer Park.
In Spokane County.
In Washington state.
As the pandemic dramatically boosted the ability to work from home, it radically reinvented the ability of employees and bosses alike to work from — and live — practically anywhere. But Idaho is a state where location is seen as essential to their identity. People brag about being "fifth-generation" Idahoans. It's a place where Californians who moved to Idaho six years ago insult Californians who moved to Idaho six weeks ago.
While Hoffman often does work from Idaho, records show that, last March, he dropped over $800,000 buying what the real estate listing described as a "gorgeous 4 bedroom 2 bathroom home located on 10 acres with stunning views of Mt. Spokane."
Hoffman's Idaho Freedom Foundation — a once-libertarian-ish think tank that's taken a sharp turn toward culture warring — is so influential in Idaho politics, it’s hard to think of anything close to a parallel in Washington state. Idaho legislators sometimes talk about their colleagues pulling up the Foundation’s “Freedom Index” scores before deciding to vote on legislation.
If he's putting down new roots in Washington state, rather than in Idaho, that's a big deal.
While the most up-to-date Idaho voter registration had Hoffman renting a house on Bannock Street in Boise, when we called the property management company, they said Hoffman had moved out in July, and hadn't provided a forwarding address.
This isn't a Bernie-Sanders-owns-multiple-homes situation. The only fixed address Hoffman owns is in Washington state.
Records show that Hoffman — “one of Idaho's most respected, influential public policy voices,” according to the Hoff Time Report intro — didn't vote in the 2022 general election.
After all, Idaho generally requires that you have a place of permanent residence in the state to vote.
So what happened? How did Hoffman end up with a house in Washington state, not Idaho? Was he suddenly drawn to the state’s support of trans rights and critical race theory? Was he impressed by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee's leadership during the pandemic, and his support for vaccine and mask mandates? I reached out to Hoffman, and — considering the foundation's stated policy of refusing to respond to media inquiries — didn't expect to get a response. But to Hoffman's credit, shortly after reaching out, my phone was ringing.
It was Hoffman.
Live, from Eastern Washington.
I'M THINKIN' RVs
Hoffman is pissed off by the notion of this article.
"You're trying to find a way to make it sound as if I've moved to Washington, which I haven't," Hoffman says. On the contrary, Hoffman insists, repeatedly, with exasperation, he’s still living in Idaho.
His account for how he ended up with 10 acres in neighboring Washington, involves the convergence of two get-away-from-it-all dreams.
First, there's the nomadic dream — of roaming throughout the state in a motorhome or an RV.
"I wanted to try it," Hoffman says. "Because right now, when I travel to places in Idaho, I'm basically there for a day. What if I could be there for a week, and a month, and come and go a bit more regularly?"
So in October 2021, the year the RV industry blasted past their annual record for sales, he sold his house on Cochees Avenue in Boise for a little over $500,000 and started renting instead.
Second, there's the agrarian dream. Think of Green Acres (the TV show, not the Spokane County city.) During the pandemic, the cities — even Idaho cities like Boise — seemed to be going to hell, while country life seemed more ideal than ever. "We started looking at the way things are in the world: COVID, and mask mandates, and vaccine mandates and people committing random acts of violence on the streets of cities," Hoffman says.
Hoffman had grown up on a farm. He wanted to let his adult daughter, granddaughter, and maybe his son, get that same kind of experience — raising chickens and cows, and growing what they wanted to grow.
"I wanted to find some land, preferably with a house on it, and then give them that place to live," Hoffman says. “I figured, well, I'll continue my RV lifestyle and then, when I'm not on the road, I could always go back to the farm.” In fact, that’s a pretty elegant paraphrase of Idaho state’s legal definition of “residency” for voting purposes: the place you plan to return to when you're not on the road.
The problem? He couldn't find affordable rural land in Idaho. The Boise and Coeur d'Alene areas were way too expensive. Because he wanted his daughter to be able to live there, he didn't want to pick a spot way, way, away from a commerce center.
"I finally happened upon this piece of land in Eastern Washington, and the price was pretty good," he says. "I love the farm. The only thing I don't love about it is that it's in Eastern Washington."
Other than the lack of income tax, which doesn't even affect him, he says, Washington's "politics are terrible."
But rural Spokane County happened to be a lot less expensive than rural North Idaho.
When I ran that past Republican Spokane County Commissioner Al French, a developer himself, he was mystified. He'd heard of plenty of people relocating their house from Washington to Idaho, but not the other way around.
"You've got water rights issues. Property taxes are higher in Washington than Idaho," French says. "I'm at a loss. I don’t know what the attraction would be for Washington over Idaho."
But others say that makes perfect sense.
Spokane Home Builders Association spokeswoman Jennifer Thomas says she's heard from local developers saying the cost of some lots in North Idaho is in some cases twice as high as in Washington. Conservative Spokane City Councilman Michael Cathcart speculates Washington state's Growth Management Act may have played a part.
While Cathcart has long argued that artificially constraining the amount of land available for suburban development has driven up housing and rental prices inside cities — by that same token it's likely resulted in an oversupply of rural land in the state.
But Idaho doesn't have the same restrictions. In fact, the Idaho Freedom Foundation campaigned against proposals for such urban growth restrictions in Boise, concerned it would drive up housing costs.
Realtor Eva Carper suggests the Idaho business climate — with a low minimum wage and fewer regulations — caused more businesses to flock to Idaho instead of Washington. More businesses means there are more employees locating there, and more demand for housing.
And Joel White, the Spokane Home Builders' executive officer, offers another piece of the theory: As the pandemic sparked an exodus of people from other states, North Idaho already had a Promised Land reputation.
"They were trying to get away from some of the issues in their community," White says. "They were trying to get away from government restrictions. They bought up land quickly."
In fact, for years the Idaho Freedom Foundation had run Google Ads reading, “Tired of never-ending taxes and regulation? Discover the free life in Idaho.”
Ultimately, that's the irony: It might have been because Hoffman was so successful at pushing the Idaho Freedom Foundation's agenda — at opposing anti-sprawl regulation, at promoting the state as a conservative wonderland — that he ended up investing in enemy territory instead.
Idaho Freedom Foundation president Hoffman's heart is in Idaho — but his house is in Spokane County
Redfin video tour
The Deer Park patio (shown in a video tour on Redfin's website) where Hoffman recorded a number of his Hoff Time reports.
Hoffman isn't a Washington resident, he insists. He says he doesn't have a Washington driver's license. He registered two cars in his name in Washington state — both for his daughter, he says — but also registered two in Idaho.
Though he's the owner and taxpayer of the house in Deer Park, he refers to that house in our interview as his "daughter's house." Still, for half a year, he acknowledges, he had the Idaho Freedom Foundation send his mail to that house in Washington state.
"Because I didn't want to rent a f—-ing Post Office box. I didn't need to," Hoffman says. He could just live in his RV, he figured, grabbing a hotel room when it was too cold, and his daughter could let him know if mail arrived.
He does spend a fair amount of time in Boise and a fair amount of time in his RV.
"I left Deer Park in early November , and then was on the road in the RV, and then at meetings in Boise, and I stayed in hotel rooms," Hoffman says. "I didn't get back to Deer Park until right before Christmas."
But that doesn't mean he was in Idaho that whole time either. At least part of that time he was on a vacation to the East Coast, according to Hoffman's social media accounts.
And thanks to photos and video tours of the property Hoffman bought that are available on Redfin, the Inlander was able to identify a slew of features from Hoffman's videos that show that they were recorded on his property in Spokane County. A specific row of wood shelves on a second-story balcony. A hanging ceiling light in the living room. The vinyl siding pattern and the distinctive outdoor lamp of the home's patio.
In total, there were more Hoff Time reports recorded at his Deer Park property than any other location since March 29, 2022. That includes videos recorded in March, April, May, June, August, November and January — and there weren't any Hoff Time reports filmed in September, October and December. Hoffman scoffs at using that as a metric for how often he's in Washington state — the videos aren't recorded on a regular schedule, so it's like "shooting a dartboard," he says.
He says this, to be clear, while at his property in Deer Park.
"I'm staying here to watch the animals... A couple of dogs. We've got some chickens and ducks," Hoffman says. "I say, 'we' because those end up being my responsibility when I'm here." But until he was called out on his property purchase last week on Twitter, he repeatedly suggested his Spokane County videos were broadcast from Idaho.
Beyond his false "live from North Idaho" statement, Hoffman has, on more than one occasion said, "it's happening here in Idaho" while broadcasting from Washington state. Hoffman denies lying.
"I'm 51 years old," Hoffman says. "I'll misspeak from time to time for cryin' out loud. That's not a scandal."
But Hoffman was trying to obscure where his house was, as he did in the episode where he says he's "coming to you from a hidden, undisclosed location near Coeur d'Alene."
"What I have tried to say is that I'm in the North Idaho area or the Coeur d'Alene area," Hoffman says. "And the reason I say that is because I didn't want anybody f—-ing with my daughter."
Idaho is not exactly up the street. It's about an hour drive from his Deer Park property to Post Falls — and 45 minutes to Blanchard. But the deception may have been part of the point. "I've had people who have doxxed me and found out where my family was and either threatened them or threatened me," Hoffman says. "I didn't want that. I wanted to be as vague as possible."
Harassment of public figures and their families can indeed be a big deal. Pick up the Inlander for an in-depth cover story this week on that issue.
Even when address information is public, exposing it can feel like a threat: In 2020, a political action group in Idaho briefly uploaded public records revealing the names, home addresses and party affiliations of more than 280,000 Idaho absentee voters.
That group, as you might have guessed, was Hoffman's Idaho Freedom Foundation. The Foundation took the list down the next day after widespread criticism.
HAZY SHADE OF RENTER
Today, Hoffman says that he does have an Idaho address. He's "renting a room from somebody," he claims.
I ask If I'd be able to call that particular somebody he's renting from to fact-check his claim, and he says "no, we're not going to do that."
He does, however, send me a screenshot, so long as I promise never to reveal the address.
"You use this, I'll cut you!" Hoffman says.
But it's not a lease agreement. It's a PayPal receipt under his name, associated with a Meridian address, that Hoffman claims is for utilities. The apartment complex it's associated with does not allow subletting. Unlike Hoffman's property in Deer Park, it doesn't have an RV hookup. And eventually, if Hoffman wants to vote, that property, too, will become public record.
I pose a question: What if it turned out it was Gov. Brad Little instead — what if he was the one who bought a property in Washington state, sent all his mail there, and couldn't vote in the general election because he didn't have a permanent Idaho residence? How would the Freedom Foundation cover it?
Hoffman scoffs that if the Inlander were writing this story about Idaho Gov. Brad Little, it would be about how wonderful it is that he bought an RV and he's been traveling around different parts of the state meeting his constituents.
"Oh, here's a quote from Brad Little: 'Wow, sure is nice to get out and spend a week at a time in a community like Ketchum,'" Hoffman says. "For Wayne Hoffman, it's going to be 'Hoffman, Idaho Freedom Foundation President, moves to Washington. No longer an Idaho resident.' And I've given you a lot of reasons that it's simply not true."
When pressed, however, Hoffman acknowledges the Little hypothetical would be newsworthy for him to cover — if only for the constitutional factors. But he says the issues are different for elected officials.
"I'm prepared for your hit piece to come out any day now. I'm bending over and pulling my pants down, I'm ready to take it," Hoffman says. "Get ready for me to write the response: 'Daniel Walters, a liberal so-and-so, works for a leftist newspaper,' 'blah, blah, blah' You know the drill."