Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions

From SourceWatch
Jump to: navigation, search

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."[1] 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).

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.[2]

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.'"[3]

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.[4]

Research and Agenda

BIPPS describes its own agenda as "promoting free‐market capitalism, smaller government, and the defense of personal liberties." Its positions follow the right-wing agenda of the State Policy Network (SPN), including privatization of education, restricting workers' rights, and blocking healthcare reform.[5]

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 pro-corporate, anti-labor positions. BIPPS claims to be non-partisan, but the content contributors overwhelming express Republican or Libertarian political interests and issues.

The organization's website averages 1530 unique visitors monthly and focuses predominantly on a Kentucky-based audience as of November 2007.[6] The Institute acknowledged the Mackinac Center for Public Policy's assistance with the development of its website in earlier versions.[7]

The Courier Journal in Louisville -- the largest print media outlet in 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.[8]"

Founder Says BIPPS Is "Like a Franchise" of Other State Groups

According to The New York Times, BIPPS was founded by Christopher Derry, "a sales executive with no public-policy background" who attended a "conservative think tank school" run by Lawrence Reed at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy in 2003. The Times reports that after the Mackinac program, Derry returned to Kentucky "with access to everything from off-the-shelf speeches and papers to management software.... 'This is like a franchise,' Mr. Derry said. 'I saw that I could recreate what the other state groups are doing.'"[9]

Involvement in Push for Local "Right to Work" in Kentucky

The Bluegrass Institute is part of a coalition that has been pushing for local "right to work" ordinances in Kentucky starting in 2014. The New York Times reported in December 2014 that a "carefully devised plan" was being rolled out in Kentucky, with several counties passing right to work ordinances within a matter of weeks. In addition to the Bluegrass Institute, the coalition included ALEC, the Heritage Foundation, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and a new group, Protect My Check, which promised "to pay for the legal battles of any local government that tries [to pass right-to-work laws]."[10]

ALEC has promoted a "Right to Work Act" since at least 1995,[11] and ALEC's local offshoot, the American City County Exchange, promotes a local version of right-to-work.[12]

The Bluegrass Institute has a role in supporting the right-to-work campaign in media. For example, NPR talked to Bluegrass Institute president Jim Waters, reporting that Waters "says the state is losing business" due to not having "right-to-work." He said, "We're not saying that a right-to-work law is going to fix all of our economic problems in Kentucky, but what we're saying is that it's an important tool in the state's economic toolbox."[13]

For more information, see Right to Work and American City County Exchange.

Support for School Privatization Agenda

BIPPS supports school voucher programs, charter schools, and other so-called "school choice" initiatives.[14] In 2005, BIPPS started an organization called the Kentucky Alliance for School Choice, which ran a petition drive "aimed at getting legislation passed that would allow for a less strict school districting system," according to the Bowling Green Daily News.[15]

Funding

BIPPS is a 501(c)3 non-profit group. It employed four people in 2013.[16] It reported receiving $31,000 in government grant funding and $241,382 in revenues from other contributions in 2013.[16]

BIPPS stated on its website in 2007, however, that it is "supported through the generous contributions of our members. No government funds are accepted and no contract research is performed.[17] 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."[8]

Based on data from other organizations' tax filings, BIPPS funders include the following:[18]

In its 2006 IRS return, BIPPS president, Chris Derry, was listed as working 50 hours a week and was paid $59,999.[20] The report indicated that Derry's time was split 60/40 percent between fundraising and "management and general." The return identified $132,872 being spent on "salaries and wages of employees" in addition to that of Derry's.[21]

In its 2006 annual report, the libertarian Cato Institute states that it contributed $50,000 to the Bluegrass Institute.[22]

Core Financials

2013[16]

  • Total Revenue: $272,382
  • Total Expenses: $280,587
  • Net Assets: $-18,746

2012[23]

  • Total Revenue: $316,105
  • Total Expenses: $392,291
  • Net Assets: $-10,541

2011[24]

  • Total Revenue: $329,547
  • Total Expenses: $466,950
  • Net Assets: $77,751

2010[25]

  • Total Revenue: $400,403
  • Total Expenses: $374,062
  • Net Assets: $212,718

2009[26]

  • 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.[27]

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.[28] The Franklin Center funds reporters in over 40 states.[29] Despite their non-partisan description, many of the websites funded by the Franklin Center have received criticism for their conservative bias.[30][31] On its website, the Franklin Center claims it "provides 10 percent of all daily reporting from state capitals nationwide."[32]

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).[33] Mother Jones called DonorsTrust "the dark-money ATM of the conservative movement" in a February 2013 article.[34] Franklin received DonorTrust's second-largest donation in 2011.[33]

The Franklin Center also receives funding from the Wisconsin-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation,[35] a conservative grant-making organization.[36]

The Franklin Center was launched by the Chicago-based Sam Adams Alliance (SAM),[37] a 501(c)(3) devoted to pushing free-market ideals. SAM gets funding from the State Policy Network,[38] which is partially funded by The Claude R. Lambe Foundation.[39] Charles Koch, one of the billionaire brothers who co-own Koch Industries, sits on the board of this foundation.[40] SAM also receives funding from the Rodney Fund.

Ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council

Beginning in 2014, BIPPS was part of a coalition pushing for local "right to work" legislation that included ALEC and its local offshoot, ACCE. See Involvement in Push for Local "Right to Work" in Kentucky below for more.

BIPPS has also 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," continued "to the ALEC board for final approval, following which it will officially be made available to states for adaptation to their individual needs."[41]

The Madison Group, the predecessor of SPN -- of which BIPPS is a member -- 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.[42][43]

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 . . ."[44] 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."[45]

SPN has been a member of 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.[46] 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.

About ALEC
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.

Personnel

Board Members

As of March 2015:[47]

  • Tim Yessin, Board Chair, V.P. and Wealth Management Adviser, Fifth Third Private Bank
  • Tom Dupree, Jr., Owner, Dupree Financial Group. Dupree also hosts a radio show on Lexington’s NewsRadio 630 WLAP-AM
  • Steven J. Megerle, Attorney
  • Aaron Ammerman, Financial Advisor, UBS Financial Services Inc.

Staff

As of March 2015:[48]

  • Jim Waters, President. Waters was appointed interim president in 2012 after eight years working in a communications role.[49]
  • Kelly Smith, Vice President of Strategic Partners. According to her official bio, Smith completed a "Think Tank MBA" program at the Atlas Economic Research Foundation (another SPN member group) in 2011.
  • Dick Innes, Education Analyst

Policy Scholars

As of March 2015:[48]

  • John Garen, Chair. Gatton Endowed Professor of Economics, University of Kentucky. Gatten also has an affiliation with the Mercatus Center.[50]
  • Stephan Gohmann, BB&T Professor of Free Enterprise at the University of Louisville, a chair endowed by the bank BB&T. As of 2015 he leads a "free enterprise center" funded in part by the Charles G. Koch Foundation.[51]
  • Gary Houchens, Associate Professor, Department of Educational Administration, Leadership and Research, Western Kentucky University.
  • Eric D. Schansberg, Professor of Economics, Indiana University Southeast. Schansberg has also been affiliated with the Acton Institute[52] and the Independent Institute.[53]
  • Brian Strow, Policy Scholar. BB&T Professor for the Study of Capitalism, Western Kentucky University, a chair endowed by the bank BB&T. Strow also heads the BB&T Center for the Study of Capitalism at WKU.[54]

Researchers

  • Caleb O. Brown

Contact Details

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
Website: http://www.bipps.org

Articles and Resources

Related SourceWatch Articles

Related PRWatch Articles

External Links

References

  1. State Policy Network, 2006 Success & Endeavors of State-Based Think Tanks, organizational website, December 5, 2006.
  2. Rebekah Wilce, Center for Media and Democracy, EXPOSED: The State Policy Network -- The Powerful Right-Wing Network Helping to Hijack State Politics and Government, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
  3. Jane Mayer, Is IKEA the New Model for the Conservative Movement?, The New Yorker, November 15, 2013.
  4. Ed Pilkington and Suzanne Goldenberg, State conservative groups plan US-wide assault on education, health and tax, The Guardian, December 5, 2013.
  5. Freedom Forward," organizational website, accessed March 25, 2015.
  6. SiteAnalytics, BIPPS.org, accessed November 2007.
  7. Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Bluegrass Institute, organizational website, archived by the WayBack Machine December 6, 2003.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Just look at the facts," The Courier Journal editorial, October 27, 2007.
  9. Jason DeParle, "Right-of-Center Guru Goes Wide With the Gospel of Small Government," The New York Times, November 27, 2006.
  10. Shaila Dewan, "Foes of Unions Try Their Luck in County Laws," The New York Times, December 18, 2014.
  11. Center for Media and Democracy, "Right to Work Act Exposed," ALEC Exposed project, accessed February 12, 2015.
  12. American Legislative Exchange Council, "Local Right to Work Ordinance," organizational document, January 9, 2015.
  13. Lisa Autry, "Kentucky Right-To-Work Battle Shifts To Counties," NPR, March 18, 2015.
  14. Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, "Lead Education Reform," organizational website, accessed March 25, 2015.
  15. Courtney Craig, "School-choice group starts petition," Bowling Green Daily News, June 18, 2005.
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, 2013 Form 990, organizational annual IRS filing, October 2, 2014.
  17. Bluegrass Institute, "About Us: Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions," Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, accessed November 2007.
  18. American Bridge 21st Century Foundation, "Bluegrass Institute]," funding profile, Conservative Transparency database, accessed March 25, 2015.
  19. State Policy Network, "SPN Members Win Fisher Awards," press release, June 1, 2008.
  20. Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Form 990 2006, BIPPS, June 2007, page 17.
  21. Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Form 990 2006, BIPPS, June 2007, page 2.
  22. Cato Institute, 2006 Annual Report, pages 19-23.
  23. Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, 2012 Form 990, organizational annual IRS filing, August 15, 2013.
  24. Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, 2011 Form 990, organizational annual IRS filing, August 15, 2012.
  25. Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, [http://pdfs.citizenaudit.org/2011_10_EO/11-3691843_990_201012.pdf 2010 Form 990, organizational annual IRS filing, May 3, 2011.
  26. Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, 2009 Form 990, organizational annual IRS filing, September 15, 2010.
  27. Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, 2003 Form 990, organizational annual IRS filing, May 7, 2004, p. 4.
  28. Franklin Center, Franklin Affiliates in Your State, organizational website, accessed October 2012.
  29. The Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, Think tank Journalism: The Future of Investigative Journalism, organizational website, accessed August 19, 2011.
  30. Rebekah Metzler, "Watchdog" website puts a new spin on politics, The Portland Press Herald, October 2, 2010.
  31. Allison Kilkenny, The Koch Spider Web, Truthout, accessed August 19, 2011.
  32. Sara Jerving, Franklin Center: Right-Wing Funds State News Source, PRWatch.org, October 27, 2011.
  33. 33.0 33.1 Paul Abowd, Center for Public Integrity, Donors use charity to push free-market policies in states, organizational report, February 14, 2013.
  34. Andy Kroll, Exposed: The Dark-Money ATM of the Conservative Movement, Mother Jones, February 5, 2013.
  35. Daniel Bice, Franklin Center boss wants apology from Democratic staffer, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, August 8, 2011.
  36. The Bradley Foundation. The Bradley Foundation. Organizational website. Accessed August 19, 2011.
  37. Sam Adams Alliance. Sam Adams Alliance Media Kit. Organizational PDF. Accessed August 19, 2011.
  38. Media Matters Action Network. Sam Adams Alliance. Conservative Transparency. Accessed August 19, 2011.
  39. Media Matters Action Network. State Policy Network. Conservative Transparency. Accessed August 19, 2011.
  40. Media Matters Action Network. Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation. Conservative Transparency. Accessed August 19, 2011.
  41. Bluegrass Institute, "BIPPS-supported ALEC model bill seeks to protect Kentucky coal from EPA overreach," organizational "news alert," accessed December 2012.
  42. National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, Special Report: Burgeoning Conservative Think Tanks, organizational report, Spring 1991, p. 2.
  43. Rebekah Wilce, Did ALEC Found SPN? 1991 Report Suggests So, Exposes SPN Agenda, PRWatch, December 12, 2013.
  44. American Legislative Exchange Council, ALEC Personnel Directory, The State Factor, October 1987, p. 3.
  45. Speakers List, document available in the University of California-San Francisco's Legacy Tobacco Documents, accessed December 2013.
  46. State Policy Network, SPN & Alec: A Model Relationship, SPN News, organizational newsletter, July/August 2009, p. 4.
  47. Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, "Board Members," organizational website, accessed March 23, 2015.
  48. 48.0 48.1 Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, "[www.bipps.org/staff Staff]," organizational website, accessed March 23, 2015.
  49. Katie Kirby, "Jim Waters named Bluegrass Institute interim president," BeechTree News, November 2, 2012.
  50. Mercatus Center, "John Garen, organizational website, March 23, 2015.
  51. James McNair, "University of Louisville Releases Details on Major Gift From Papa John’s CEO, Koch Foundation," Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting, March 10, 2015.
  52. Acton Institute, "D. Eric Schansberg], organizational website, accessed March 23, 2015.
  53. Independent Institute, "D. Eric Schansberg], organizational website, accessed March 23, 2015.
  54. BB&T Center for the Study of Capitalism, "About," organizational website, accessed March 23, 2015.