The Alchemist – Turning Mean Tweets Into Millions

Like the old tale of alchemists who attempted to use magic to turn lead into gold, this is the story of how one man tried to turn hundreds of thousands of dollars of donations to far-right candidates and organizations into millions in the form of revenue to his gold storage business. And he would have gotten away with it if it weren’t for an astute governor looking out for taxpayers in Idaho.

Stefan Gleason, a prominent gold baron from North Carolina, has been wielding significant influence in Idaho’s legislative halls through hefty financial contributions aimed at steering far-right legislative agendas. Over the years, Gleason, the CEO of Money Metals Exchange, has strategically donated over $300,000 to bolster the campaigns of far-right Idaho politicians, patriot PACs, and the Idaho Freedom Foundation. 

Gleason’s influence revolves around a controversial piece of legislation that, if passed, would have allowed the Idaho state treasurer to invest substantial portions of the state’s treasury into physical gold and silver—assets that would be stored in facilities directly benefiting Gleason’s business interests. The proposed Senate Bill 1314, was designed to allow state investments in precious metals, which would be securely stored within Idaho. 

What assurances did Gleason receive to inspire his confidence to invest in building a $26 million state-of-the-art storage facility that would likely serve as the primary repository for these assets? If this bill went through, this facility would qualify to receive state-purchased gold, potentially netting Gleason’s new vault significant revenue in storage, transportation, and administrative fees. 

His donations to the far right have helped fuel the Idaho Freedom Foundation, which employs divisive figures to push its agenda. Among them are conflict entrepreneurs like Dave Reilly, known for his white supremacy and anti-semitismBrian AlmonDustin Hurst, and their small network of trolls who use mean tweets to bully legislators into doing what their biggest network donors want.

Idaho State Freedom Caucus director Maria Nate benefits from Gleason’s generous donations and adds to the steaming pile of nasty social media posts and culture war policies aimed at forced compliance with their group’s goals.

The Idaho Freedom Foundation uses a spending index and Freedom Index to score bills and directs the Freedom Caucus members to vote exactly as they are told. The justification for negative scores often revolves around fiscal impact, as any bill that allocates taxpayer dollars and is brought by a non-Freedom caucus member (better known as their enemies) is given a negative score to drive their rating into the negative “F” range.

Fred Birnbaum, a resident of Utah and Legislative Affairs Director for the Idaho Freedom Foundation, helped Sen. Hart and Rep. Ehardt (both beneficiaries of Gleason’s generous donations) craft a fiscal note for the bill claiming, “This will have no direct impact on the General Fund as it grants permission for the Treasurer to invest state idle [sic] moneys in precious metals. There may be some increase to the general fund as investments may lead to larger returns and serve as a stronger hedge against inflation.”

Investing in secured physical gold and silver is not cheap. There are costs associated with storage, transportation, insurance, brokerage, and transaction fees. Money Metals claims it generates nearly a billion dollars in revenue as theirs is a profitable business. If 7.5% of the state’s idle funds are invested in Gleason’s ambitious new $26 million facility, it could earn his company millions of dollars every year. The cost of investing in physical gold versus low-cost index funds is significantly higher.

Sen. Hart, Rep. Ehardt, and IFF Legislative Affairs Director Birnbaum’s carefully worded fiscal note omit critical details about the true costs of investing in physical gold storage, and if they were honest about the financial impact, they would have had to score this bill a -9, on their Freedom Index. Not only does it cost the taxpayers more, it lacks transparency in the process of who the investments are placed with, and it overlooks the self-serving nature of this legislation. We found nothing that directs Request for Proposal nor the responsibility of the Treasurer to notify local taxing districts of the expenses they may incur pending this investment.

You have to hand it to Gleason, his influence reached far and wide, and they covered all their bases. Dorothy Moon, a long-time member of the John Birch Society and current Idaho GOP chairwoman, is demanding that legislative candidates sign a pledge to the party platform, one that includes a tenet that instructs true conservatives to invest their money in physical gold. Gleason’s money flowed freely towards Bryan Smith, who now serves as the Idaho GOP National Committeeman and represents the state party with the national GOP. 

Smith, along with his fellow board members Doyle Beck and Brent Regan, use the party platform and IFF scoring system as part of their endorsement criteria for the county central committees they help run, providing Gleason with support at the local level.

The Idaho Freedom Foundation uses Parrish Miller (who’s well known for his social media posts about killing law enforcement officers), Ron Nate, and Fred Birnbaum to draft policy and lobby for bills run by Gleason-backed candidates. The IFF pushes media and mailers and has the affiliated Idaho Freedom Action and Idaho Freedom PAC to be the stick to Birnbaum’s carrot in the legislative arena. Providing fuel for this operation helps ensure their donor’s interests are well represented.

Other recipients of Gleason and his affiliated companies’ donations over the past few years included Idaho AG Raul Labrador, Mike Moyle, Heather Scott, Tammy Nichols, Brian Lenney, Dorothy Moon, Ron Nate, Chad Christensen, and just about every IFF-aligned legislative candidate. 

The Idaho Freedom Foundation PAC, Idaho Freedom Action, Think Liberty Idaho PAC, Stop Idaho RINOs PAC, and Citizens Alliance PAC receive money from a few wealthy donors and engineer targeted hits on anyone who dares run against what might appear to be a bought and paid for Money Metals candidate.

Thank God, Idaho Governor Brad Little saw through Gleason and the Idaho Freedom Foundation’s pile of manure and vetoed this self-serving bill.

Will Sen. Phil Hart’s loyalty to the IFF and his benevolent bankroller force him to do some soul-searching and demand that the Idaho Senate vote to override Governor Little’s veto? I think we all know the answer to this question, as the IFF hive mind is very predictable.

The real question is, will those who did not receive money from Gleason’s money machine fall in line and help Money Metals have another outstanding year in hopes they get invited to what could be an epic corporate Christmas party?

Perhaps Gleason’s ideology outweighed his financial senses. As a regular donor to far-right groups like Club for Growth (which helped fund both of Bryan Smith’s failed congressional races) and extreme congressional members like Lauren Boebert and Matt Gaetz, Gleason’s bias for fringe politicians may have blinded him to the idea he might have been donating to the wrong people all along. 

For a few hundred thousand given to those who deployed mean tweets and nasty campaigns, he may walk away with nothing instead of a shiny new vault filled with billions in gold bars. 

Perhaps that money would have been better spent educating voters on responsible candidates with common sense and helping bring together people with differing opinions instead of fueling divisiveness under a false banner of freedom. 

Voters don’t like being gaslit, and when they learn about what really transpired, they may choose to show up and vote out everyone who sold them out to the Alchemist from North Carolina.

Disclaimer: The following is intended to convey an opinion on newsworthy events of public concern regarding public figures and/or public officials in the exercise of their official duties. No implications or inferences—beyond those explicitly stated in the preceding—are intended to be conveyed or endorsed by the Author. Wherever available, hyperlinks have been provided to allow readers to directly access any underlying assertions of fact upon which this opinion is based.

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