BOISE - Former Idaho Congressman Bill Sali persuaded an Idaho House committee Wednesday to introduce a bill to fund his new nonprofit organization, the “American Heritage Foundation,” through a new specialty license plate that would bear the motto “In God We Trust.”
The foundation, which Sali and his wife Terry formed on Jan. 25, will work to educate the public about “foundational principles and history of the United States,” the bill says. Sali said it’ll do things like give away copies of the Constitution.
Under the bill, the additional fees for the plate of $35 initially and then $25 per year would go to the Idaho foundation, except for $13 from each that would go to the state highway account. That means the group would get $22 from every plate sold, and $12 from each renewal.
Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, moved to introduce Sali’s bill, and Rep. Linden Bateman, R-Idaho Falls, spoke out in favor of it. “As you know, some of our federal courts have been trying to eliminate the reference to God in our Pledge of Allegiance,” he said.
Rep. Phylis King, D-Boise, said she had no problem with the special plate. “The problem I have is with this ‘American Heritage Foundation.’” She asked Sali, “So it’s your foundation? You’re the CEO? Do you have a board of directors?”
Sali responded, “It’s an Idaho nonprofit corporation. It’s one that my wife and I started. … My wife and I are on the board with another person, and there’s a lot of shaping that will take place to make all of this work.” The other person is his nephew, Travis Pascoe of Nampa.
Sali said, “I didn’t want to recreate the wheel, but after looking, I wasn’t able to find another entity that’s providing materials at free or reduced charge to help educate the public. So the control part does come from the board, just as with any nonprofit corporation. It would be my wife and I, the board, and whoever else comes on board.”
King said those materials are available many places, including the Idaho Secretary of State’s office; the committee then voted to introduce the bill, with King casting the only no vote.
Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, said after the vote that while she supported introducing the bill, she wants more information about the organization when it comes up for a full committee hearing, the next step.
Sali, who served 16 years in the Idaho Legislature before being elected to a single term in Congress in 2006, said his new group has applied for 501c3 nonprofit status from the IRS, but hasn’t yet received it. “Nobody’s getting paid anything, it’s all donation, Terry and I are footing the bill for all this stuff right now,” Sali told The Spokesman-Review. “It’s a pretty big undertaking. We’re on track to really ramp this up.”
According to corporate filing records at the Idaho Secretary of State’s office, Sali’s American Heritage Foundation was just formed on Jan. 25, 2012. The corporation is listed as a “general nonprofit,” its address of record is a post office box in Kuna, and its registered agent is Terry Sali. Its Articles of Incorporation state that the assets of the corporation can’t be distributed to its directors, but it can “pay reasonable compensation for services rendered.”
Sali said the couple formed another group last year, “Preserving America’s Legacy Foundation Inc.,” and then changed it to the current name in January. State records show Preserving America’s Legacy Foundation Inc. was incorporated as an Idaho nonprofit on Nov. 29, 2011, with a Kuna address and Terry Sali as its registered agent.
Sali said 11 states now have specialty license plates bearing the national motto. “If people don’t understand that our national motto is ‘In God We Trust,’ we have a long ways to go,” Sali told lawmakers.
In at least three of those states, Indiana, South Carolina and Kentucky, the “In God We Trust” plates don’t benefit any cause - they cost the same as regular license plates, and residents can just choose them as their plate design. Just since 2011, more than 50,000 have been sold in Kentucky.
In Arkansas, the “In God We Trust” specialty license plates support the senior citizens’ home-delivered meal program provided by Arkansas Senior Citizen Centers. In Florida, they raise money for the “In God We Trust Foundation Inc.,” which supports injured first responders or active members of the military and their families, and provides scholarships to children of first responders “who have lost their lives during their jobs protecting Florida’s citizens.”
Idaho’s 30 specialty license plates raise $1.6 million a year for various groups, from the state Fish and Game Department’s wildlife programs to the Appaloosa Horse Club and the Valley Corvette Club.
The same committee that introduced Sali’s bill on Wednesday also killed a measure from Sen. Jim Hammond, R-Coeur d’Alene, to limit future specialty license plates; Hammond’s bill had earlier passed the Senate on a 31-2 vote.