My Email Communication with Dan Popkey

I’ve recently been contacted by Dan Popkey from the Idaho Statesman asking me a series of questions about my background. He wanted to know all kinds of personal information like my date of birth, my high school, where I’ve lived, etc. He said he needed it to “do his job” and that he was going to be writing an article that would include my race. So, I gave it to him.

Interestingly enough, he came back with a series of additional questions. Rather than give you an overview, I decided to just publish the entire email response for you completely unedited so you can see exactly what I said (in context) and so you can see the kinds of hilarious questions that I was asked. So here you go:

Dan Popkey: First, I regret you aren't able to talk on the phone. It's a much better way to get the sense of a candidate, particularly a first-timer.

Diego Rodriguez: Yes, I understand the frustration, but if you would've called me about 30 days ago, we could've made it happen. I'm just slammed right now. Booked from morning until night. I am doing most of my campaign stuff late at night when I've got extra time. I'm pulling 80-100 hour weeks right now. I'm not complaining, but that's just the way it is.

I know you're busy too, so we just have to accommodate our mutual schedules. Maybe in July, you can come over and have dinner with our family and you can get to know us since we're probably going to be interacting a fair amount in the coming years (whether I win or I lose). And even though we are going to disagree on almost everything when it comes to public policy, that doesn't mean that we can't be friends (or at least friendly) and have fun.

I'm a pretty easy-going guy and I love to have fun and be a jokester. Though when it comes to important issues, you'll be hard-pressed to find anybody as serious as I am. But, we can still get along. Even Ronaldus Magnus (that's what I call Ronald Reagan) got along with Tip Oneill, right?

So even though you're an Obama-voting journalist for a leftist newspaper, and I'm a Gun-Toting, Bible-quoting, Reagan Conservative, we can still be buddies. ;-)

Dan Popkey: But anticipating my deadline, here are a few more email questions. I'll be writing this tomorrow. Below are six subjects with questions. 1. Please describe the genesis of your decision to run.

Well, its all part of my ultimate plan for total and complete world domination. I figured the best place to start was in Idaho. ;-)

Seriously though, the major impetus for my decision to run was the voting record of my Senator, Fred Martin (who I voted for). His vote for the state healthcare exchange galvanized my decision. Of course, I first tried to find or get another candidate to run, but when no one could be found, I stepped up myself.

Dan Popkey: Have you attended any legislative hearings? If so, please specify. Floor sessions? Ditto.

No. Well, I did spend a few minutes in the gallery in the Senate waiting to talk to Fred and take him to lunch. Admittedly, it was so boring and dull that I even questioned whether or not I should run because I doubt I could stand being in those sessions all day.

Dan Popkey: I know you've spoken with Sen. Fulcher, but will you say who else in GOP circles you consulted with? Have you consulted with Wayne Hoffman at Idaho Freedom Foundation, for example? Any other names you'd be willing to mention?

I do know Wayne and I believe in the work they do at the IFF. Though I didn't consult with GOP officers regarding my run for office. I guess there are a few guys in the GOP who knew about it in advance and that I spoke with, but I certainly didn't "consult" with any of them. First and foremost, I prayed about it. I asked God to give me direction and I discussed it with my friends and family.

I also have a close family friend who we call "Grandpa Jay" (though he's not really my grandpa) who I did seek counsel from.

Dan Popkey: Did you ever run for office in California?


Dan Popkey: 2. In your Idaho Freedom Foundation questionnaire you call for elimination of the corporate and personal income tax, property tax and "etc." and say the sales tax is the "only real tax that I support in the first place." You also have said you oppose sales tax on groceries. For a revenue-neutral replacement of income and property taxes and the exemption of groceries, the sales tax rate would rise to 25 percent. Please make the case for how you'd convince voters to support that?

I love you, Dan. You ask some of the most hilarious questions. I don't know if you do it on purpose or if its just your nature—since I don't know you that well. But I can tell we're going to have fun together over the years (whether I win or lose). Your question here, like many questions I've seen you ask (Senator Fulcher and others) are always loaded with false premises that ultimately build straw man arguments. Its your modus operandi and I get a kick out of it.

I guess I should let you know, Bro, that I'm not going to fall for that. If you keep it up with me, I'll have to start calling you Straw-Man Dan for all the straw men that you construct with your questions.

So here's the answer—of course I'm not going to convince or ask voters to raise the sales tax rate to 25 percent. How ridiculous. But its an excellent straw-man and one that's easy to tear down—so kudos for asking.

The false premise in your question is that we should have a "revenue-neutral replacement of income and property taxes." Why? You already know I'm a right-winger, right? That means that I don't believe in our current tax policy. Its TOO HIGH. We should be lowering it. We should be reducing government spending so I don't believe in a revenue-neutral replacement.

And of course, any move towards shrinking government, reducing spending, and lowering taxes must happen gradually. We have to wean ourselves off of the beast. I wish it could be done overnight, but it can't. Giant monsters move and die slowly. And there is no bigger monster than government. So I will always advocate moving in the direction of lower taxes and smaller government. And for me, those aren't just platitudes—that's the real deal.

Dan Popkey: Also, you say you support a "move toward a stable sales tax." Sales taxes, as you know, are volatile, moving up and down with the economy, while property taxes are quite stable. How would you design a sales tax to be stable? Charge a higher rate when times get tough? I'm having a hard time tracking that idea.

First of all property taxes are immoral. Period. They are a tax on capital and they are an affront to liberty in general. Ultimately, property tax is a claim by the state to own all land and is essentially the representation of the state deifying itself. Only God holds the title deed to this Earth, and at best we are just stewards.

Its not difficult for people to understand this. Imagine you had a bank account with $1000 in it and the state taxed it every year. How long before you had nothing? And why should we allow that? You already paid taxes on the money you had before you made that bank deposit. Its your capital and a tax on capital is immoral. Personal property is no different. Its capital and its immoral for the state to tax any private capital.

The point with sales tax is simple—a robust economy driven by free market forces will always be moving and the government will ultimately have to learn to live off of its receipts instead of spending what it desires to have. However, a strong economy will produce more than enough tax revenue through sales tax on strong economic activity in the private sector when it only spends money on the legitimate functions of government (like protecting the people and executing justice).

Dan Popkey: 3. You told IFF you support the "same" spending on public and higher education. Does that mean you would keep spending at current levels indefinitely, or would you raise spending to cover enrollment increases and/or inflation?

Gotta love the M.O. Obviously, as one Senator I can't do anything but vote and influence. I couldn't make these decisions even if I was the President, but the answer to the question, "How would I vote?" is simple—I would not keep spending at current levels indefinitely. In fact, I would always support reducing those levels. Education isn't even a legitimate role of government anyway. Where is it in the U.S. Constitution? Where did our founders promote that the role of government is to educate the public? Its not part of our history and it doesn't work.

Really its a shame what we've done to our teachers and students. I love teachers—especially Mrs. Kuiper, my first grade teacher. She was wonderful and beautiful and I think she was created by God's own hands. She taught me to read and write and gave me a love of learning at an early age. She's my #1. Many Americans have stories about their teachers just like that. But what have we done? We've destroyed the teacher's ability to teach. We've removed the incentive they have to create philomaths and long-time learners. We crush their hopes, destroy their dreams, force them to operate in counter-intuitive means that don't produce results, and then we don't compensate them according to their own abilities. Its a shame.

A private sector approach (or at least private sector model) to education would remove the top-heavy bureaucracies we see in schools, reward teachers for doing their jobs, return children's hearts towards the love of learning, magnify respect and admiration for all educators, recognize education as a privilege and not a right, and reduce the burden of debt and taxation that we have on the public right now.

I am the biggest advocate for education you'll ever find—I just don't advocate government controlled education because it always manipulates and plunders. It hurts teachers, parents, and mostly students.

And don't even get me started on college...

Dan Popkey: 4. You also say private and home schools are cheaper and that each school and/or district should be freed to do whatever they want and eliminate the "unnecessary burdens of regulations and standards." Please specify some of the most important regulations and standards you would repeal?

How much time do you have? The short answer is this—every single one.

Dan, I spent around 8 years working as a consultant to the education industry—consulting directly with teachers and principals when I worked at Premier/FranklinCovey selling planners and student development training. I then went to work for Schoolwires which was a software company that provided enterprise class Content Management Systems to School Districts so I consulted mostly with District Superintendents and administrators. I've heard and seen the good, the bad, and the ugly in public education. And I'm also convinced that our administrators have the intellectual wherewithal to fix our educational problems but they are simply not allowed to do so. Its like hiring a bunch of policemen but telling them that they can't arrest people who break the law, they can't buy gas for their patrol cars, and they're not allowed to stop criminals if they're Mexican. And then we blame the police for having high crime and demand the people pay more in taxes so we can fix the crime problem. That's what we do to our educators. It's pure insanity.

Here's a few examples:

1. The law stipulates that schools must spend all of their money each year or the next year they get less funding. So if a school has a $10m budget and they only spend $9m then they don't get to save the extra $1m. Instead, the following year their funding is cut by $1m and they only get $9m instead of $10m. This system forces schools to waste dollars and doesn't allow them to save or operate with business sense or savvy. There is not one single solitary business on planet earth that could survive with this model, but our schools are all forced to do it.

2. Funding is categorical. This means we give schools money to spend in one category, like technology, but they're not allowed to spend it on another category, like teachers. So we end up with schools who can buy laptops for every student in their school, but they can't afford to give teachers a pay raise or even hire one new teacher.

3. Hiring and firing rules. There's not a business on the planet that could have success if they couldn't hire and fire based on merit. However, as much as I love teachers in general, there's some really bad ones out there. And schools don't have the flexibility to fire the ones that are bad. They are loaded with regulations and rules and bureaucracies (and threats of litigation) that would destroy businesses in the private sector—but are standard operating procedure in education.

Seriously, I could go on and on and on. But there's no time or room. Here's the bottom line—the superintendents, administrators, and teachers have the answer(s). We need to give them the freedom to do what they want. Period.

Dan Popkey: 5. You said you would support tax credits for nonpublic school options, but you also say you want them given "so that Idahoans never have this tax taken from them in the first place." Could you please elaborate on how that would work? Tax credits are claimed on income tax returns at the time of filing, offsetting withholding of taxes or quarterly payments already collected by the state. Do you support a voucher system, where parents would get money directly from the state to spend on private and/or home schools as they see fit?

No, I think that's a bad idea. I am never in favor of anybody getting money from the state. Especially private individuals. However, the concept of vouchers which allows parents to have a choice over where their kids go to school is a great idea and I support that. I just don't support the description of vouchers in the way you described—where parents would get money directly from the state to spend on education. In short—school choice is good. State distribution of funds to individuals is bad.

Dan Popkey: Do you support tax credits and/or vouchers for religious schools, something that would require amending the Idaho Constitution?

Absolutely not. That's a terrible idea. If people want to send their kids to private school or homeschool, that's fine but they should pay for it themselves and should not get a dime from the state for it.

Dan Popkey: 6. In your introductory mailer (late last year?) to voters, you said you had "one smoking hot wife!" Is that reflective of the manner of speaking that you'd use the Senate? And does it reflect your view of the value of women — that physical appearance is the most noteworthy identifier?

Dan I tell you—I love ya man. Your questions are awesome. Since I don't know you, I can't tell if this is a tongue-in-cheek question or if you are actually serious. I have to assume that you're serious due to the nature of your job. But, your question is so ridiculous that I feel like you're just messing with me—like you're one of my buddies and you're just rippin' me for fun. Maybe that's the case. I don't know. Are you a jokester kind of guy (like I am) or are you always serious? I guess I'll find out over time. But for sake of argument, assuming (with the understanding that this could potentially be a question asked in jest) that you're serious, here's my answer:

Yeah Bro, like I'm totally gonna hit the Senate floor and be all, "Dude, lets get this party started and pass us some bomb legislation round here!"

Come on, Dan. I was born at night, not last night. I've been around the teacup far enough to know where the handle is, Brother. And while it is true that I am more of a loose and free spirit than most—and I love to have fun—I also know when to be serious. I am a professional speaker and business consultant. But I'm also a regular guy who has fun. So yes, I will probably be more colorful than most on the Senate floor, but I'll never be disrespectful. Watch my speech at Idaho Patriots day to get a feel for what I'm like in a professional environment:

As far as your question, "does it reflect your view of the value of women — that physical appearance is the most noteworthy identifier?" I again can't help but smile and think of all the fun we're going to have together in the coming years. You crack me up, Bro. I love your M.O. Hey Diego, I heard you tell someone that you love steaks—does that mean that you love to see poor animals suffer and face death just so you can have the temporary satisfaction of eating their flesh for one meal? Hey Diego, I see that you have 5 children—does that mean that you think that women are property and only useful to be baby factories and should be duty-bound to be barefoot and pregnant while they do your bidding? Hey Diego, I saw that you drive a sports car, does that mean that you think that sedans are only for old white men with no style or class?

In the words of the classic movie, Sandlot, "You're killing me, Smalls!"

So here's the deal, Dan—my wife and I have been happily married for 17 years. I treat her like a queen and take care of her every need and desire. I love my wife as a person—and I've dedicated my life to serving her and giving myself for her like Jesus Christ gave himself for the church—in obedience to the scriptures. Yes, we have fun. Yes, we're playful. And yes I love everything about her. It just so happens that on top of her beautiful person is a beautiful appearance and, yes, I like that too. What's wrong with that? So my wife is hot. So what? I like it. And she likes the fact that I like it.

As a man with 3 beautiful daughters and one smoking hot wife, and a Biblical worldview about women, I would never disrespect any woman. In fact, I would always offer my life in sacrifice to women who we should exalt and put on pedestals and protect with every fiber of our being as men. That's the Biblical worldview.

Dan Popkey: Also, I noted you dropped "smoking" from your Statesman questionnaire and just called your wife "hot." Why the change?

Dan, you are the gift that just keeps giving. I love it.

I just say what I say. Sometimes its the same and verbatim, sometimes its not. I might call her hot, or smoking hot, or drop-dead gorgeous, or my "baby, baby, baby," or bombshell, or whatever. All that matters is that I love her, that she knows that I love her, and that she likes how I treat her. Nobody else's opinion is of any concern in our relationship—and that's why we've been happily married for 17 years.

Dan Popkey: Thank you.

Thank you, Dan. Have a great day and lets catch up after this election is over. I'll be available after July 7th (I'll be traveling most of June). Perhaps you can find an evening that works for you and we can have dinner at our house. My daughter makes an excellent Chicken Parmesan, though we can accommodate whatever meal preference you may have. But I must give you fair warning, I like to tell lots of corny jokes. ;-)

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