Lucy Burns Institute

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Learn more about how the State Policy Network aids ALEC and spins disinformation in the states.

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The Lucy Burns Institute is a Madison-based 501(c)3 nonprofit organization founded in 2006 and named after a significant leader of the women's suffrage movement. It is also an associate member of the State Policy Network (SPN).[1] The organization sponsors three websites: Ballotpedia, which tracks elections and ballot measures at the state level; WikiFOIA, which provides information on how to use Freedom of Information laws at the state and local level; and Judgepedia, which provides information on the nation's judges and court systems.

Through these online resources, LBI says it is dedicated to "openness in politics on both sides of the aisle"[2] and "empowering ordinary citizens with ways to both learn about local government, and share the information they learn with others."[3] Even though the organization is a major proponent of transparency in government operations and budgeting, it provides limited information about how the organization itself is funded.

For the Center for Media and Democracy's piece "The Lucy Burns Institute (Publishers of Ballotpedia, Judgepedia and WikiFOIA) and Her Right-Wing Bedfellows" click here.

Ties to the State Policy Network

LBI is an "associate" member of the State Policy Network (SPN), which connects and funds conservative state-based think tanks and receives partial funding from The Claude R. Lambe Foundation. SPN is an ALEC member and "Chairman" level sponsor of its 2011 Annual Meeting, and many of its affiliated think tanks are ALEC members as well.[4] LBI offers free wiki training seminars to SPN members[5] and LBI's President Leslie Graves and LBI have been featured at SPN events.[6]

Ties to the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity

LBI also collaborates with the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, a national journalism organization launched by SAM. The Franklin Center has a presence in over 40 states with state-house news bureaus and journalists hosted by other outlets and think tanks. It provides its coverage free as a wire-like service and boasts that it "already provides 10 percent of all daily reporting from state capitals nationwide." As previously reported by CMD, despite their non-partisan description, many of these websites have received criticism for their right-wing bias.[7] Ballotpedia has hosted a series of webinars on elections with the Franklin Center.[8][9] According to the Franklin Center's 2009 990 report, it gave $43,000 to LBI that year.[10]

Ties to the Sam Adams Alliance

The president of LBI, Leslie Graves, is married to Eric O'Keefe, the CEO of the Chicago-based Sam Adams Alliance (SAM). LBI took over Ballotpedia and Judgepedia from SAM in 2009[11] and continues to receive funding from SAM, as of their 2010 IRS filing.[12] SAM is a 501(c)3 public charity that says it is devoted to pushing "free-market principles."[13] Of its $3.9 million budget,[14] SAM also provides funding to groups such as the Tea Party Patriots Foundation, the First Freedom Foundation, and the Citizens in Charge Foundation. SAM gets funding from the State Policy Network (SPN) which is partially funded by The Claude R. Lambe Foundation, a project of Charles Koch who co-owns Koch Industries with his brother David.

LBI and the Sunshine Review

LBI and SAM have both provided funding to the Sunshine Review, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization "dedicated to state and local government transparency."[15] In 2010, it received over $560,000 from SAM.[16] LBI works in collaboration with the Sunshine Review on the WikiFOIA project and the Sunshine Review's logo is listed prominently on the homepage of LBI.[17] The organization was founded in July 2008 as a project of SAM, but separated from SAM in 2010. According to LBI's 990 forms, the institute has given the Sunshine Review $231,458 from 2008-2010. According to the group's most recently available 990 form, Graves is a chair of Sunshine Review.[18]

The Sunshine Review is listed as a partner organization of the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation for its associate program.[19] LBI has been listed in the past as a Koch partner organization.[20]

The Sunshine Review is an ALEC Private Sector Member. Michael Barnhart, the president of the organization, represents the Sunshine Review on ALEC's Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force. At the ALEC 2010 meeting in San Diego, Barnhart discussed proposed model legislation: "The Transparency and Government Accountability Act."[21] It was adopted by the Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force in August 2010, and approved by the ALEC Board of Directors in September 2010.[22] Similar versions of this bill have been introduced in states such as Virginia, New Mexico, Iowa, and Utah. The bill requires the development of a detailed website listing all revenue and expenditures of the state down to the level of each check. It also includes voting record information, open records information, information on lobbying and state contracts, and ethics information. While the idea seems unobjectionable, the detailed budgeting information has been criticized as a duplicative effort to showcase and make hay of perceived "wasteful spending."[23]

The Sunshine Review also gives states a "Transparency Report Card" grading them at the level of state, county, city, and school district. The organization has evaluated over 6,000 government websites.[24] The Sunshine Review has worked closely with the National Taxpayers Union,[25] another ALEC member dedicated to eliminating taxes and shrinking the size of government. NTU President Duane Parde is former Executive Director of ALEC.[26] The group has been involved in pushing this type of transparency legislation in states across the country, even before it was adopted by ALEC.[27]

The website for the Sunshine Review, which also sponsors WikiFoia, reads: "Sunshine Review is funded largely by grants and a number of private donations. Our organization believes there is a difference between government transparency and personal privacy and for this reason we do not disclose our donors."[28]

Funding

The Lucy Burns Institute has received $6,836,000 in grants from Donors Capital Fund from 2010-2014.[29] From 2012-2013, they received $125,000 in grants from DonorsTrust. From 2014-2015, the Lucy Burns Institute received $25,400 in contributions from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation. The Searle Freedom Trust has given $165,000 to the Lucy Burns Institute from 2010-2013.

Core Financials

2014[30]:

  • Total Revenue: $3,054,365
  • Total Expenses: $3,003,640
  • Net Assets: $1,380,737

2013[31]:

  • Total Revenue: $2,881,865
  • Total Expenses: $2,279,714
  • Net Assets: $1,332,742

2012[32]:

  • Total Revenue: $1,592,540
  • Total Expenses: $1,235,584
  • Net Assets: $730,591

2011[33]:

  • Total Revenue: $1,188,937
  • Total Expenses: $912,809
  • Net Assets: $378,900

2010[34]:

  • Total Revenue: $702,697
  • Total Expenses: $806,330
  • Net Assets: $102,772

2009[35]:

  • Total Revenue: $487,508
  • Total Expenses: $345,935
  • Net Assets: $206,405

Personnel

As of September 2016:[36]

  • Leslie Graves, Founder, President, & CEO
  • Colin O'Keefe, COO
  • Kristen Vonasek, Director of Communications
  • Geoff Pallay, Editor in Chief (former policy analyst at South Carolina Policy Council)
  • Amanda Qualls, Director of Human Resources
  • Dani Whitehead, Executive Assistant & Event Planner

Board of Directors

As of September 2016:[37]

Former Staff

  • Kelly O'Keefe, former Director of Development (and Eric O'Keefe's daughter)
  • Christopher Bedford, former staff writer (Senior Editor at The Daily Caller)[38]
  • Erick Erickson, former board member (former Chairman of the Board and Managing Editor of Redstate)

Contact Details

Lucy Burns Institute
8383 Greenway Blvd., #600
Middleton, WI 53562
Phone: (608) 255-0688
Fax: (855) 898-0446
Email: info@ballotpedia.org
Twitter: https://twitter.com/lburnsinstitute
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Lucy-Burns-Institute-408772635852030/

Articles and Resources

Related SourceWatch Articles

External Resources

References

  1. State Policy Network, Directory, organizational website, accessed September 5, 2016.
  2. Lucy Burns Institute, Home, organizational website, accessed November 2012.
  3. Lucy Burns Institute, FAQ, organizational website, accessed November 2012.
  4. Center for Media and Democracy, State Policy Network, Sourcewatch, accessed November 2012.
  5. State Policy Network, Do You Measure Up? organizational newsletter, March/April 2009.
  6. State Policy Network, 2007 State Policy Network 15th Annual Meeting Agenda, October 2007.
  7. Center for Media and Democracy, "Franklin Center: Right-Wing Funds State News Source," October 2011.
  8. Ballotpedia, "Today: post-election analysis webinar (presentations available)", November 2011.
  9. Ballotnews, Today: 2012 state executive election webinar featuring Scott Rasmussen, June 2012.
  10. IRS, Franklin Center IRS 990 forms, Guide Star, accessed November 2012.
  11. Lucy Burns Institute, "Lucy Burns Institute is the new sponsor of Ballotpedia and Judgepedia," organizational press release, June 2009.
  12. IRS, Sam Adams Alliance IRS 990 form, Guide Star, accessed November 2012.
  13. PR Newswire, "Sam Adams Alliance Launches New Website," Sam Adams Alliance press release, accessed November 2012.
  14. IRS, Sam Adams Alliance IRS Filing, Guide Star, accessed November 2012.
  15. Sunshine Review, About, organizational website, accessed November 2012.
  16. IRS, Sam Adams Alliance IRS 990 forms, Guide Star, accessed November 2012.
  17. Sunshine Review, About, organizational website, accessed November 2012.
  18. IRS, Sunshine Review IRS 990 forms, Guide Star, accessed November 2012.
  19. Charles Koch Institute, Partner Organization, organizational website, accessed November 2012.
  20. Daily Kos, Another ALEC trick at Federal Level EXPOSED, August 2011.
  21. Common Cause, Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force Documents, ALEC documents obtained by Common Cause, July 2010.
  22. Center for Media and Democracy, The Transparency and Government Accountability Act, ALEC Exposed, accessed November 2012.
  23. Center for Media and Democracy, "The Lucy Burns Institute (Publishers of Ballotpedia, Judgepedia and WikiFOIA) and Her Right-Wing Bedfellows," November 26, 2012.
  24. Sunshine Review, Core, organizational website, accessed November 2012.
  25. Sunshine Review, About, organizational website, accessed November 2012.
  26. Center for Media and Democracy, National Taxpayers Union, Sourcewatch, accessed November 2012.
  27. National Taxpayers Union, "An Open Letter to Iowa Legislators: Taxpayers Support Taxpayer Transparency Act/Taxation Disclosure Act (SF 102)," March 2009.
  28. Sunshine Review, Press Room, organizational website, accessed November 2012.
  29. Donors Capital Fund, IRS form 990, November 16, 2015.
  30. Lucy Burns Institute, 2014 Form 990, organizational tax filing, June 9, 2015.
  31. Lucy Burns Institute, 2013 Form 990, organizational tax filing, July 1, 2014.
  32. Lucy Burns Institute, 2012 Form 990, organizational tax filing, June 26,2013.
  33. Lucy Burns Institute, 2011 Form 990, organizational tax filing, June 28,2012.
  34. Lucy Burns Institute, 2010 Form 990, organizational tax filing, May 13, 2011.
  35. Lucy Burns Institute, 2009 Form 990, organizational tax filing, August 2, 2010.
  36. Lucy Burns Institute, Our Staff, organizational website, accessed September 1, 2016.
  37. Lucy Burns Institute, Board of Directors, organizational website, accessed September 1, 2016.
  38. The Daily Caller, About Us, organizational website, accessed September 5, 2016.