Atlas Network

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The Atlas Network (formerly known as the Atlas Economic Research Foundation) was founded in 1981 by Antony Fisher. A "Johnny Appleseed" of antiregulation groups, it is closely affiliated with the U.K.-based Institute of Economic Affairs, the University of Buckingham (which has ties to the Global Warming Policy Foundation) and an international analogue, the International Policy Network (formerly known as Atlas Economic Research Foundation (UK)). Atlas Network is an "associate" member of the State Policy Network, a web of right-wing “think tanks” in every state across the country.[1]

Koch Wiki

The Koch brothers -- David and Charles -- are the right-wing billionaire co-owners of Koch Industries. As two of the richest people in the world, they are key funders of the right-wing infrastructure, including the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the State Policy Network (SPN). In SourceWatch, key articles on the Kochs include: Koch Brothers, Koch Industries, Americans for Prosperity, American Encore, and Freedom Partners.

Mission - "Johnny Appleseed" of antiregulation groups

For over two decades, a Virginia-based organization has been quietly working as the Johnny Appleseed of antiregulation groups. With a modest $4 million dollar budget in 2003 and a staff of eight, Atlas Economic Research Foundation is on a mission to populate the world with new "free market" voices. In its 2003 review of activities, quaintly titled its "Investor Report," Atlas announced it worked with "70 new think-tank entrepreneurs from 37 foreign countries and several states of the U.S.," including Lithuania, Greece, Mongolia, Ghana, the Philippines, Brazil and Argentina.

The mission of Atlas, according to John Blundell (president from 1987 to 1990), "is to litter the world with free-market think-tanks."

Named after the Greek god condemned to bear the heavens on his shoulders, Atlas identifies, screens and offers initial support to individuals and groups who want to create local think tanks. "Our ideal 'intellectual entrepreneur,'" says Atlas, is "someone who communicates effectively with businessmen, academicians and the general public." By facilitating the establishment of local think tanks, Atlas increases both the reach and local credibility of their "free market" message, thereby having "the most cost-effective impact."

Since its formation in 1981, Atlas has funneled over $20 million in grants to think tanks that have passed its screening process. Atlas aims, it says, to "increase that amount tenfold in the next decade." In 2003, a little over $2 million of Atlas's 2003 budget was passed on to other think tanks. While the large conservative foundations take the approach of making large sustained and often untied grants, Atlas believes less is more, providing new think tanks with only small grants of $5,000 or less. Atlas weans their fledgling projects off this modest annual funding within five years, making exception only for specific innovative projects.

Atlas' think tanks, Chaufen continued, have "remarkable successes" even though they were often faced with "unsympathetic local traditions and ideas. Still, these think tanks have become one of the first places opinion leaders and policy makers go when they are looking for market-based solutions to difficult social, economic or environmental problems".

Climate Change Denial

Atlas has cosponsored Heartland Institute events dedicated to the proposition that climate change is not a crisis and has supported organizations such as the John Locke Foundation which has attacked efforts by state elected officials working on climate solutions with the Center for Climate Strategies.[2]


Some of the other organisations that Atlas has supported include:

Closely affiliated organisations include:

They have a database called the Global Partner Directory with basic information about 457 partners in 95 countries around the world.

Atlas Funds Think Tanks

Many of the think tanks Atlas funds are outside of the US so the recipients are unknown. This is due to the the IRS tax code which does not require the disclosure of international grantees.


According to its 2014 990 form, the Atlas Network distributed $4,354,783 in grants.[3]

Below is a breakdown of the regions that received grants for "economic education":

  • $297,769 to Sub-Saharan Africa
  • $240,963 to East Asia and the Pacific
  • $81,647 to North America
  • $1,491,967 to Europe
  • $984,001 to South America
  • $130,677 to the Middle East
  • $42,958 to Central America
  • $616,736 to South Asia

The following domestic organizations received grants from the Atlas Network in 2014:

  • $20,000 to The Foundation for Government Accountability
  • $5,800 to American Principles in Action
  • $10,000 to State Policy Network
  • $146,054 to Students for Liberty
  • $40,700 to Taliesin Nexus
  • $25,000 to American Slovenian Education Foundation
  • $50,000 to Foundation for Democracy in Russia
  • $11,000 to Illinois Policy Institute
  • $8,000 to Interamerican Institute for Democracy
  • $20,000 to National Review Institute
  • $6,000 to Saint Vincent College
  • $10,000 to Association of Private Enterprise Education Inc
  • $15,000 to Liberty Foundation of America


The 2009 Atlas Form 990 shows under $650k in grants (to organizations, governments and individuals) in the U.S., and over $2m outside the U.S.

Outside the U.S., it listed "economic education" expenditures of:[4]

  • $125k to Sub-Saharan Africa
  • $392k to East Asia and the Pacific
  • $39k to North America
  • $1 million to Europe
  • $427k to South America
  • $54k to the Middle East

Inside the U.S., Atlas listed mostly grants of roughly $10,000, including one to the Sam Adams Alliance ($10,200); though some grants were larger, e.g. the George Mason University Foundation got $50,000.

PR tips

While Atlas calculates that its "family" comprises approximately one-third of the world's 470 "market oriented" think tanks, it worries that "many young think tanks lack know-how regarding reaching the media and communicating a message effectively." To help build skills, Atlas recruited Vince Breglio, co-founder and senior executive with the market research and public relations company Wirthlin Worldwide.

At its mid-August conference in Salt Lake City, Breglio gave PR tips in a two-hour workshop titled "communicating the message of liberty." A veteran of the 1980 and 1984 Reagan Presidential campaigns, Breglio is no stranger to helping sell unpopular ideas. Internal tobacco industry documents reveal he advised both R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris on public opposition to smoking.

According to an Atlas report on the conference, Breglio told participants in the two-hour workshop that building a larger supporter base depends on "persuading by reason, motivating by emotion".[5]

"Breglio showed the workshop a methodical approach to identifying the "emotional drivers" that motivate individuals on a given issue, and then developing a communications strategy that links a product or idea to the needs of an audience," the conference report stated. Download pdf copy of presentation - 450k file


The Atlas Network receives much of its funding from libertarian and right-wing organizations and individuals. The following all gave at least $25,000 in 2014:[5]

Contributions, 2005-2009

2005-2009 donations to Atlas ranged from almost $4m in 2005 to almost 6.5m in 2008.[4] In 2006, one individual gave Atlas $743,000, according to the group's 2007 Form 990; the next highest donation was $500,000.

Atlas has gained financial support the British mutual fund businessman, John Templeton. The Templeton foundation - in conjunction with Atlas - has established the Templeton Freedom Prizes for Excellence in Promoting Liberty. The prizes, $10,000 for the winner and $5,000 for the runner up are for "market-oriented poverty programs; for ethics and values; for social entrepreneurship and for student outreach". Under the awards it is planned that $1.25 million will be distributed between now and 2007.

The Charles G. Koch Foundation and the Claude R. Lambe Foundation both support the Atlas Economic Research Foundation.[6]$113,800 received from Koch foundations 2005–2008

Total Koch foundation grants 1997–2008: $122,300 [7]

Contributions Before 2005

The foundation's funding comes from corporate and institutional sources. During 2002, $193,500 of the organisation's funding came from the Earhart Foundation, $100,000 from the Sarah Scaife Foundation, and $50,000 from the Carthage Foundation. The Earhart Foundation has given more than $1m since 1995. [6]

Known corporate donors include ExxonMobil, which according to the Greenpeace website, has contributed over $500,000 since 1998. Exxon itself discloses contributions of $65,000 in 1998 (then Exxon) [7] and $50,000 during 2002. [8]

Ironically, Atlas requires its protégé think tanks to be "independent." "That is, independent of corporations, independent of governments, independent of political parties and even independent of universities," Atlas President Alejandro A. Chaufen said in an April 1999 interview.

In a May 1998 fundraising pitch to tobacco giant Phillip Morris, Chaufen explained that keeping its think tanks off the dole of political parties, universities, government agencies and lobbies "helps keep their ideas and recommendations untainted by real or perceived political or organizational ties" and "helps protect them and us against potential scandal. Think tanks tied to politicians and parties can easily become instruments of corruption. Indeed, in several instances, public officials have enriched themselves and their allies through the 'think tanks' they control," Chaufen wrote.[9]

In 1995 alone Philip Morris contributed $475,000 to Atlas according to an internal budget document released as part of the settlement of the legal action brought by several U.S. states' attorneys general. In 1997, despite a tight budget, PM staff recommended Atlas receive $150,000 because of the organization's ability, through its events and public advocacy work, to "positively impact the regulatory environment, particularly in Latin America." The think tanks fostered by Atlas, PM staff wrote approvingly, results in "an improved operating environment for all PM businesses."

Core Financials


  • Total Revenue: $9,482,857
  • Total Expenses: $10,277,040
  • Net Assets: $5,987,470



As of May 2016:

  • Brad Lips, Chief Executive Officer
  • Alejandro Chafuen, President
  • Tom G. Palmer, Executive Vice President for International Programs
  • Daniel Anthony, Vice President of Marketing and Communications
  • Matt Warner, Vice President of Programs and Institute Relations

Former Staff:

  • Leonard Liggio, Executive Vice President - Academics
  • Colleen Dyble, Associate Director of Institute Relations
  • Jo Kwong, Director of Institute Relations
  • Chris Martin, Associate Director of Programs
  • Elena Ziebarth, Associate Director of Public Affairs
  • Joyce Schroeder, Office Manager
  • Priscilla Tacujan, Assistant to the Executive Vice President

Board of Directors

As of May 2016:

  • Luis Henrique Ball, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of GrupoCiencia and Allegheny Medical Systems
  • Scott Barbee, Owner and President of Aegis Financial Corporation
  • Timothy Browne, Private Investor and Independent Consultant
  • Alejandro Chafuen, President at the Atlas Network
  • Debbi Gibbs, Owner of Just Managing
  • Peter Goettler, former Managing Director at Barclays Capital
  • Dan Grossman, Chairman of the Board for Atlas Network
  • Nikolaos (Nikos) Monoyios, Private Investor and Co-Owner of Eagle Valley Ranch
  • Gerry Ohrstrom, Private Investor and former Chairman of the Ohrstrom Foundation
  • George Pearson, former Director of Public Affairs of Koch Industries and Investor
  • Andrea Millen Rich, President of Center for Independent Thought
  • René Scull, former Vice President of Philip Morris
  • Kathryn Washburn, Board Member at the Niskanen Center
  • Linda Whetstone, Chairman of Network for a Free Society
  • Curtin Winsor, Jr., former U.S. Ambassador to Costa Rica
  • William Sumner, Board Member Emeritus

Former members include:

Contact Information

Atlas Network
1201 L Street NW
Washington, DC 20005
Phone: 202-449-8449
Fax: 202-280-1259


Atlas Network Publications

Articles and Resources

Related SourceWatch Articles

External Articles


  1. State Policy Network, Directory, State Policy Network, 2016.
  2. "[1]"
  3. Atlas Network, [ 2014 990), Atlas Network, 2014.
  4. 4.0 4.1 [2]
  5. Atlas Network, Year in Review 2014 Report, Atlas Network, 2014.
  6. "Page 13 [3]"
  7. "[4]"
  8. Atlas Network, 2014 Year In Review Report, Atlas Network, 2014.
  9. Atlas Network, People, Atlas Network, 2016.

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