The Leadership Institute

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

The Leadership Institute is a Virginia based training organisation for potential conservative political leaders.

According to the groups website The Leadership Institute is "the premier training ground for tomorrow's conservative leaders. Conservative leaders, organizations and activities rely on the Institute for the preparation they require for success."

"Since 1979 the Institute's unique seminars and workshops have enrolled more than 61,000 students and taught them how to win. Each year hundreds of Institute graduates obtain positions of influence in public policy because of their Leadership Institute training," its website states.[1]

The Leadership Institute is an "associate" member of the State Policy Network.[2] 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.[3]

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.'"[4]

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.[5]


  • The Leadership Institute was started in 1979 by Morton C. Blackwell as a "non-partisan" educational institute that has been preparing conservatives for success in politics, government and the news media.
  • They have trained more than 39,000 students.
  • They have a staff of 47
  • They have revenue of about $7 million.
  • They claim to have more than 1000 active groups [1]. However, it appears that most do not exist.
  • They list Fox News; MSNBC; CNN; CBS as examples of media placements available through the school.
  • Their latest event was the Ronald Reagan Tribute Collection on May 19, 2004. They have future events and workshops that focus on grassroots activism.
  • Another quote from their website: "The Institute is a non-partisan educational foundation".

Past Students


Contact information

1101 North Highland Street
Arlington, VA 22201
Phone: (703) 247-2000
Fax: (703) 247-2001

Articles and Resources


  1. "About Us", The Leadership Institute, accessed February 2008.
  2. State Policy Network, Directory, State Policy Network, 2016.
  3. 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.
  4. Jane Mayer, Is IKEA the New Model for the Conservative Movement?, The New Yorker, November 15, 2013.
  5. Ed Pilkington and Suzanne Goldenberg, State conservative groups plan US-wide assault on education, health and tax, The Guardian, December 5, 2013.

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