Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions
Learn more about corporations VOTING to rewrite our laws.
Learn more about how the State Policy Network aids ALEC and spins disinformation in the states.
The Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions (BIPPS) is a right-wing pressure group that promotes itself as "an independent research and educational institution offering free-market solutions to Kentucky's most pressing problems." The institute was created and initially funded by Chris Derry, a businessman from Bowling Green, Kentucky. BIPPS is a member of the State Policy Network.
SPN is a web of right-wing “think tanks” in every state across the country. It is an $83 million right-wing empire as of the 2011 funding documents from SPN itself and each of its state "think tank" members. Although SPN's member organizations claim to be nonpartisan and independent, the Center for Media and Democracy's in-depth investigation, "EXPOSED: The State Policy Network -- The Powerful Right-Wing Network Helping to Hijack State Politics and Government," reveals that SPN and its member think tanks are major drivers of the right-wing, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)-backed corporate agenda in state houses nationwide, with deep ties to the Koch brothers and the national right-wing network of funders.
In response to CMD's report, SPN Executive Director Tracie Sharp told national and statehouse reporters that SPN affiliates are "fiercely independent." Later the same week, however, The New Yorker's Jane Mayer caught Sharp in a contradiction. In her article, "Is IKEA the New Model for the Conservative Movement?," the Pulitzer-nominated reporter revealed that, in a recent meeting behind closed doors with the heads of SPN affiliates around the country, Sharp "compared the organization’s model to that of the giant global chain IKEA." She reportedly said that SPN "would provide 'the raw materials,' along with the 'services' needed to assemble the products. Rather than acting like passive customers who buy finished products, she wanted each state group to show the enterprise and creativity needed to assemble the parts in their home states. 'Pick what you need,' she said, 'and customize it for what works best for you.'" Not only that, but Sharp "also acknowledged privately to the members that the organization's often anonymous donors frequently shape the agenda. 'The grants are driven by donor intent,' she told the gathered think-tank heads. She added that, often, 'the donors have a very specific idea of what they want to happen.'"
A set of coordinated fundraising proposals obtained and released by The Guardian in early December 2013 confirm many of these SPN members' intent to change state laws and policies, referring to "advancing model legislation" and "candidate briefings." These activities "arguably cross the line into lobbying," The Guardian notes.
Research and Agenda
Using its website, BIPPS promotes the founding ideas of liberty, free markets, limited government and secure property rights as the basis for the future of public policy in Kentucky.
In many cases the credentials or experiential background of BIPPS content contributors is unknown; and some policy documents have been created by individuals with no direct experience in the field they are critiquing. The site promotes business oriented, anti-labor positions; politically the Institute claims neutrality but the content contributors overwhelming express Republican or Libertarian political interests and issues.
BIPPS begins all of its research clearly stating its "warranty of scholarship excellence": "The Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions commits itself to delivering commentary and research on Kentucky issues with unquestionable quality and reliability. Thus we guarantee that the information we originate is true and accurate, and the sources from which we quote are accurately represented. We invite you to investigate our work and encourage you to report any material error, inaccuracy or misrepresentation you find. If you do, we will respond to your inquiry in writing. If we have made a mistake, we will prepare an errata sheet and attach it to all future distributions of the particular publication, which will be the complete and final resolution under this warranty." Any person or organization challenging the academic rigor of any of its publications can contact BIPPS at 270-782-2140.
The organization's website, as of November 2007, averages 1530 unique visitors monthly and focuses predominantly on a Kentucky based audience. The Institute acknowledges the Mackinac Center for Public Policy for assistance with the development of its website.
The largest print media outlet in the state, The Courier Journal (Louisville, Kentucky) has described BIPPS as generally having a "libertarian anti-government negativism" and downgrades the reliability of its analysis in comparison to the Kentucky Long-Term Policy Research Center. 
When asked to reveal the sources of funding, BIPPS reports, "We accept contributions from any individual, corporation or foundation on one condition: No one tells us what to say or write." It relies on the conditions of its 501(c)(3) IRS status as a non-profit corporation and the guarantee of anonymity to its donors as reasons for not revealing the sources of funding or its member lists. It does not solicit nor accept funding from any government entity. On its website BIPPS states that it is "supported through the generous contributions of our members. No government funds are accepted and no contract research is performed." In October 2007 The Courier Journal noted that "the group's spokesman wouldn't tell our reporters the sources of its income or size of its dues-paying membership."
BIPPS 2006 IRS return states that total revenue for the group that year was $356,827.  It also identifies BIPPS total income for earlier years as being $35,650 in 2003, $208,280 in 2004 and $277,865 in 2005.
Also in its 2006 IRS return, BIPPS president, Chris Derry, is listed as working 50 hours a week and was paid $59,999.  The report indicates that Derry's time is split 60/40% between fundraising and "management and general." BIPPS does not provide a complete staff list but its 2006 IRS return identifies $132,872 being spent on "salaries and wages of employees" in addition to that of Derry's. 
Ties to the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity
The Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions has hosted writers from the ALEC-connected Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, which screens potential reporters on their “free market” views as part of the job application process. The Franklin Center funds reporters in over 40 states. Despite their non-partisan description, many of the websites funded by the Franklin Center have received criticism for their conservative bias. On its website, the Franklin Center claims it "provides 10 percent of all daily reporting from state capitals nationwide."
Franklin Center Funding
Franklin Center Director of Communications Michael Moroney told the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) in 2013 that the source of the Franklin Center's funding "is 100 percent anonymous." But 95 percent of its 2011 funding came from DonorsTrust, a spin-off of the Philanthropy Roundtable that functions as a large "donor-advised fund," cloaking the identity of donors to right-wing causes across the country (CPI did a review of Franklin's Internal Revenue Service records). Mother Jones called DonorsTrust "the dark-money ATM of the conservative movement" in a February 2013 article. Franklin received DonorTrust's second-largest donation in 2011.
The Franklin Center was launched by the Chicago-based Sam Adams Alliance (SAM), a 501(c)(3) devoted to pushing free-market ideals. SAM gets funding from the State Policy Network, which is partially funded by The Claude R. Lambe Foundation. Charles Koch, one of the billionaire brothers who co-own Koch Industries, sits on the board of this foundation. SAM also receives funding from the Rodney Fund.
Ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council
The Bluegrass Institute sponsored model legislation that was supported by the ALEC Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force. According to a BIPPS press release from December 5, 2012, the model legislation, the so-called "Intrastate Coal and Use Act," will now go "to the ALEC board for final approval, following which it will officially be made available to states for adaptation to their individual needs."
SPN's predecessor, the Madison Group, was "launched by the American Legislative Exchange Council or ALEC . . . and housed in the Chicago-based Heartland Institute," according to a 1991 report by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) found in the University of California-San Francisco's Legacy Tobacco Documents.
The case is strengthened by an October 1987 ALEC directory also available via the Tobacco Documents that says, "The Madison Group is chaired by Mrs. Constance Heckman [now Constance Campanella, founder of the lobbying firm Stateside Associates], Executive Director of ALEC . . ." A speakers list also available in the Tobacco Documents says in Constance Campanella's biography, "She was a co-founder and first President of The Madison Group, the first network of free-market state think tanks."
SPN has been a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) for many years. In the mid-2000s, SPN secured funding for more of its member think tanks to join ALEC in order to help develop model legislation. By 2009, 22 SPN member think tanks were active ALEC members and participants in ALEC task forces, according to an SPN newsletter, and SPN was being rewarded for its services by ALEC. As of 2013, at least 35 SPN member think tanks have demonstrable ties to ALEC in addition to SPN's own ties, and all of SPN's member think tanks push ALEC's agenda in their respective states, according to a review by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD)
Please see SPN Ties to ALEC for more.
ALEC is a corporate bill mill. It is not just a lobby or a front group; it is much more powerful than that. Through ALEC, corporations hand state legislators their wishlists to benefit their bottom line. Corporations fund almost all of ALEC's operations. They pay for a seat on ALEC task forces where corporate lobbyists and special interest reps vote with elected officials to approve “model” bills. Learn more at the Center for Media and Democracy's ALECexposed.org, and check out breaking news on our PRWatch.org site.
- Kathy Gornik, Board Chair
- Chris J. Derry, Founder
- Warren Rogers, Vice Chair
- Matth. Toebben
- Dawn Cloyd
- Tim Yessin
- Jim Waters, President
- Kelly Smith, Vice President of Strategic Partners
- Logan Morford, Vice President of Transparency
- Dick Innes, Education Analyst
- Phil Impellizzeri, Policy Coordinator
- Dr. John Garen, Chair, Gatton Endowed Professor of Economics, University of Kentucky
- Dr. Cathy Carey, Professor of Economics, Western Kentucky University
- Dr. Stephan Gohmann, BB&T Professor of Free Enterprise, University of Louisville
- Dr. Eric D. Schansberg, Professor of Economics, Indiana University Southwest
- Dr. Brian Strow, BB&T Professor for the Study of Capitalism, Western Kentucky University
- Caleb O. Brown
- Total Revenue: $329,547
- Total Expenses: $466,950
- Net Assets: $77,751
- Total Revenue: $400,403
- Total Expenses: $374,062
- Net Assets: $212,718
- Total Revenue: $430,686
- Total Expenses: $422,875
- Net Assets: $196,526
BIPPS's first IRS return for 2003 listed Derry as the unpaid President and CEO and Morris L. Grubbs and Tommy Adams as directors.
Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions
400 E. Main Avenue, Suite 306
P.O. Box 51147
Bowling Green, KY 42102
Phone: (270) 782-2140
Fax: (305) 675-0220
Articles and Resources
Related SourceWatch Articles
- State Policy Network:
- American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)
- Donors Capital Fund
- Koch Family Foundations
- Koch Industries
- Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity
- Heritage Foundation
- Think tanks
- Whitney Ball
- Adam Meyerson
- Bridgett Wagner
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