Idaho tea party candidate Collett skewered for having 10 children on Medicaid (update)

(UPDATE: I’ve written a complete story, including an interview with Greg Collett, that appeared in Friday’s Statesman. It’s considerably more complex that the original post Thursday morning. Please take a look.)

Original post:

Greg Collett, a two-time GOP legislative candidate in Canyon County, is defending enrolling his 10 children in taxpayer-funded Medicaid while he declines to buy his own insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Eight of the children were adopted, seven from foster care. The two youngest were born to Collett and his wife, Kelly.

Collett got 25 percent of the vote in the 2010 Republican Senate primary against then-Sen. John McGee and 34 percent in 2012 against Rep. Gayle Batt, R-Wilder.

He is featured in an Oct. 4 NBC News story, “Health care holdouts: Uninsured but resisting,” telling the network, “I don’t think that the government should be involved in health care or health insurance.”

Collett, 41, told NBC’s Maggie Fox he would rather pay the fine for not complying with the insurance mandate in the new law — $95 the first year — than sign up, but may ultimately buy insurance if it “makes financial sense.”

A self-employed software developer, Collett acknowledged that having his children get health coverage under the program for low-income people would draw criticism.

“There are a lot of people out there that’ll cry foul,” Collett told NBC.


That proved true. On Wednesday the gossipy website Gawker ran a story titled, “Tea Party Republican defends being on Medicaid While Opposing Medicaid.”

As of Thursday morning, almost 1,000 comments had been posted, mostly lambasting Collett as a hypocrite.

A graduate of the University of Idaho and son of a U.S. Forest Service employee, Collett opposes a wide array of government services and mandates, including public schools, national forests, national parks, public transit, libraries, marriage licenses, the Uniform Commercial Code and the direct election of U.S. senators.

In a 2,900-word answer to critics on his campaign web page, Collett explains his anti-government thinking, quoting from Scripture and and “Doctrine and Covenants” of the LDS Church.

He writes, in part:

“Let me set the record straight. Yes, I participate in government programs of which I adamantly oppose. Many of them, actually. Am I a hypocrite for participating in programs that I oppose? If it was that simple, and if participation demonstrated support, then of course. But, my reason for participation in government programs often is not directly related to that issue in and of itself, and it certainly does not demonstrate support. For instance, I participate in government programs in order to stay out of the courts, or jail, so that I can take care of my family; other things I do to avoid fines or for other financial reasons; and some are simply because it is the only practical choice. With each situation, I have to evaluate the consequences of participating or not participating.

“By way of example, here are a few government programs and policies that I oppose because they do not conform to the proper role of government, yet I participate in them: I am against marriage licenses, but I still got one to get married; I am against the foster care program, but I became a foster parent; I am against property taxes, but I own property and pay the tax; I am against federal ownership of land by the Forest Service and BLM, but I use the land for hiking, backpacking, camping, and fishing; I am against national parks, but I visit them; I am against driver’s licenses, vehicle registration, license plates, and mandated liability insurance, but I comply with all of them to drive; I am against public funding of transportation systems, but I still use them; I am against building permits, fees, and inspections, but I get them as needed; I am against public libraries, but my family uses them; I am against public schools, but I occasionally use their facilities; I am against occupational licensing, but I use the services of individuals and companies that comply with those requirements; I am against USDA inspections, but I still use products that carry their label; I am against the Uniform Commercial Code and designated legal business entities such as corporations, but I use the services of such entities and have set up several of them for myself; I am against the current structure of our judicial system and courts, but I still use them; I am against the 17th Amendment, but I still cast my vote for Senators; and the list could go on and on.”

Dan Popkey came to Idaho in 1984 to work as a police reporter. Since 1987, he has covered politics and has reported on 25 sessions of the Legislature. Dan has a bachelor's in political science from Santa Clara University and a master's in journalism from Columbia University. He was a Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association and a Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan. A former page in the U.S. House of Representatives, he graduated Capitol Page High School in 1976. In 2007, he led the Statesman’s coverage of the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news. In 2003, he won the Ted M. Natt First Amendment award from the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association for coverage of University Place, the University of Idaho’s troubled real estate development in Boise. Dan helped start the community reading project "Big Read." He has two children in college and lives on the Boise Bench with an old gray cat.

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