National Legal and Policy Center

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

This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's spotlight on front groups and corporate spin.

Learn more from the Center for Media and Democracy's research on climate change.

National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC) is a front group and industry funded right-wing political and policy lobbying organization. NLPC was founded in 1991 by Peter Flaherty and Ken Boehm, who previously worked for "Citizens for Reagan".[1]

NLPC is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt foundation and an "associate" member of the State Policy Network, a web of right-wing “think tanks” in every state across the country.[2]

State Policy Network

SPN is a web of right-wing “think tanks” and tax-exempt organizations in 49 states, Puerto Rico, Washington, D.C., and the United Kingdom. As of June 2017, SPN's membership totals 143. 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]

Overview

According to its website, NLPC "promotes ethics in public life through research, investigation, education and legal action."[6] Though they track and critique government bailouts of companies like AIG and Citigroup,[7] they are complicit with other forms of corporate corruption. Although NPLC targets the occasional republican, such as former Senator Ted Stevens and Rep. Don Young of Alaska,[1] it is issues they are silent on which are conspicuous. This includes the Iraq war, corporate crime, human rights abuses, executive compensation, animal welfare, environmental issues and government policies which favor and subsidize industry. NLPC targets labor unions, health care reform, environmentalism, animal rights, activists, liberal and reform oriented politicians.

Conservative Watch Dog

NLPC describes itself as a "conservative watch dog organization". Targets have included Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and Charles Rangel and other liberal politicians.[8] In February of 2009, NLPC focused on a rented Dominican villa which Rangel failed to disclose on his taxes, a sponsored trip to St. Martin and a "potentially illegal homestead" tax break.[9], According to Sen. Rangel:

This is helpful because there was no questions in anybody’s minds why I had been the target of so [many] allegations. I have not wanted to use the word conspiracy — I guess it’s because I am chairman of the Ways and Means Committee that this group would want to do this.

In 2006 NPLC fueled rumors concerning the personal finances of Rep. Alan Mollohan, a democrat from West Virginia. Subsequent to an FBI investigation, he was never charged with any wrong doing. However, stories that he had benefited financially from steering money to a non-profit group, prompted his resignation from the Ethics Committee.[1]

Watching Out for Corporate Profits

NLPC and McDonalds

In a May of 2006, NLPC attempted to discredit a Florida business man’s lawsuit against McDonalds' for hiring sex offenders. According to NLPC:

"Jody Gorran, who recently called for a boycott of McDonald's, is no stranger to liberal activism. In 2004, he brought about a lawsuit against the Atkins Diet, aided by an affiliate of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)."[10]

The previous year, in March of 2005; lawyers for Atkins Nutritionals, Inc. admitted in court that they were willing to "assume the diet was dangerous".[11] The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) has partnered with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) on some issues, including a campaign to reduce animal use in toxicity testing. See also animal testing, section 3 on product (toxicity) testing.

According to NLPC, "Gorran's beef with McDonald's is clearly part of radical anti-meat agenda".[10]

PETA has long campaigned against McDonald's lack of animal welfare standards, which violate even minimal government standards. After two years of frustrating discussions, PETA launched its international "McCruelty to go" campaign.[12]

"Federal standards require that 100 percent of cows be fully stunned before they are skinned, but (according to) a McDonald’s training video ...it’s acceptable if five cows in every 100 are conscious while skinned and dismembered."[13] See also McDonalds, section 9.

Much of NLPC's "documentation", comes from notable restaurant, alcohol, tobacco, and general industry front group, the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF). See also A Visit to the ActivistCash.Com Web Site.

Walmart’s Environmental Incentives vs Stock Holder Advocacy

Walmart's treatment of workers includes substandard wages and benefits as well as child labor and immigration violations and shady anti-union activities. From 2000 to 2005, the National Labor Relations Board found Wal-Mart guilty of 15 cases of illegal conduct.[14] See also Walmart, section 2. However, according to NPLC, their "environmental incentives" are the real problem and shareholders are the victims. In a public letter to WalMart CEO H. Lee Scott, NLPC president Peter Flaherty criticizes Walmart’s "failed environmental incentives" and "scientifically unproven global warming":[15]

These disappointing numbers raise serious concerns about your assertions to shareholders that Wal-Mart’s sustainability campaign is good for the company by improving its reputation and marketing more environmentally-friendly products. The sustainability campaign, now more than two years old, has clearly not achieved these objectives. Wal-Mart is still plagued by lackluster sales growth and disappointing stock performance. Yet, the company’s competitors continue to outperform it. Target Corp. and Costco Wholesale Corp. reported same-store sales gains of 4.1 and 9 percent respectively. Rather than reassess the merits of your ill-advised effort to reach out to environmental activists, you persist in pushing their agenda. On November 1, Wal-Mart announced it was partnering with the Climate Change Initiative to combat the scientifically unproven threat of man-made global warming. As a shareholder, it is disturbing enough that Wal-Mart is wasting $500 million annually to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to address a threat that many scientists say is non-existent.

Labor Unions and Gold-Plated Benefits

According to NLPC, it is not overcompensated and inept CEO's, but labor unions whose "demands were responsible for so much of the losses" by General Motors and Chrysler auto companies. House Speaker Newt Gingrich "lays out the case against unions" and its association with the democratic party. According to NLPC, "The United Auto Workers Union (UAW), like most unions, operates as an adjunct to the Democratic Party. During 2000-08, the union gave more than $23.6 million to the party and its candidates. That compares to the $193,540 it gave to the Republicans."

The obvious question being why there are any donations at all to a party which has dedicated so many resources to marginalizing and discrediting unions. The NLPC concedes that "UAW did make wage and benefit concessions." However, "those concessions have to be put in context". For example, a paid Easter Monday holiday and overtime pay for less than 40 hours a week. "Though the union traded away certain health benefits, its package is still more generous than what most households get." Considering that almost 47 million Americans lack any health care coverage[16] and millions more have partial and inadequate coverage, this is probably an accurate statement. According to NLPC the UAW will be unable to "resist the temptation to reshape the company in ways friendly to its interests" (as in the unthinkable idea of workers having some input into their companies.)

According Newt Gingrich, "Does anyone seriously believe that (President Obama) would accept an arrangement in which GM becomes profitable at the expense of the union and its gold-plated benefits?"[17]

Executive Compensation vs. Labor Wages and Benefits

According to figures from the United Auto Workers Union for 2007, CEOs of Chrysler Group, Ford and General Motors earned a combined total of $24.5 million in salaries, bonuses and other compensation in 2006. The next four highest paid executives received average salary and other compensation of $1.3 million at Ford and $1.4 million at General Motors. Substantial salaries do not even include stock holdings and options in their executive compensation packages.

In addition to regular hourly pay, the labor cost figures cited by the companies include over time, shift premiums, holidays, vacations, health care, pensions, education and training programs. They also figure in costs which employers are legally responsible for; such as Social Security, Medicare, state workers' compensation and unemployment insurance. Also often cited in the highest figures are benefits to retirees no longer on company payrolls.[18]

NLPC and Fox News

NLPC president Peter Flaherty is a frequent guest on Fox News.[19]

Funding

NLPC’s predominate sources of funding are the Scaife Foundations.[20]

The man behind the curtain

Richard Mellon Scaife is heir to the Mellon banking, oil and aluminum fortune. He is the premier financier for right wing political and policy organizations in the United States. The Mellon family owns Gulf Oil. See also Scaife Foundations.

Although Mr. Scaife is the owner of Pittsburgh's second largest newspaper, the Tribune-Review; he made his mark financing Republican politics and organizations. Ronald Reagan appointed many veterans of Scaife funded think tanks to his administration. According to Newt Gingrich, Scaife's money laid the basis for modern conservatism. Critics have referred to Scaife as "spoiled, vindictive and narrow minded." Former employee Pat Minarcin edited a magazine for Scaife in Pittsburgh, but resigned after he presented the magazine with a list of people he wanted to attack. Scaife operates in extreme secrecy from the 39th floor of his Pittsburgh office tower and does not grant interviews or allow cameras. According to a former White House counsel:[21]

I think it's the mystery, the man behind the scenes pulling the strings and that's the scene we all remember at the end of the Wizard of Oz.

Core Financials

2015[22]

  • Total Revenue: $1,237,123
  • Total Expenses: $1,339,931
  • Net Assets: $726,800

2014[23]

  • Total Revenue: $1,209,684
  • Total Expenses: $1,226,062
  • Net Assets: $899,525

2013[24]

  • Total Revenue: $1,233,097
  • Total Expenses: $1,208,058
  • Net Assets: $896,503

2012[25]

  • Total Revenue: $1,120,850
  • Total Expenses: $1,228,797
  • Net Assets: $815,747

2011[25]

  • Total Revenue: $1,236,839
  • Total Expenses: $1,242,020
  • Net Assets: $900,622

Personnel

Board of Directors

As of March 28, 2017:[6]

  • Ken Boehm, Chairman
  • Peter Flaherty, President
  • Kurt Christensen
  • Michael Falcone
  • David Wilkinson

Staff

  • Dr. Carl Horowitz, Director Organized Labor Accountability Project, editor of Union Corruption Update
  • Paul Chesser, Associate Fellow
  • Mark Modica, Associate Fellow
  • Fred N. Sauer, Associate Fellow

Contact

Employer Identification Number (EIN): 52-1750188

National Legal and Policy Center
107 Park Washington Court
Falls Church, Virginia 22046
Phone: (703).237.1970
Fax: (703).237.2090
Email: pflaherty@nlpc.org
Website: http://www.nlpc.org/
Twitter: @NLPC
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nationallegalpolicycenter/

Articles & sources

Sourcewatch articles

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Susan Crabtree Conservative Watch Dog Group Targeted Rangel, The Hill, February 2009.
  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.
  6. 6.0 6.1 National Legal and Policy Center, About, organizational website, accessed March 28, 2017.
  7. National Legal and Policy Center What’s Hot, organizational website, accessed March 2009.
  8. National Legal and Policy Center, NLPC Accomplishments, organizational website, accessed March 2009.
  9. National Legal and Policy Center, Charles Rangel and the Harlem Tax Revolt of '09, organizational website, March 2009.
  10. 10.0 10.1 PR Newswire, Watchdog Group NLPC Says Radical, Anti-Meat Groups Behind Florida Businessman's Calls for McDonald's Boycott, PR Newswire, May 2006.
  11. Jeanne S. McVey Lawyers for Diet Giant Concede in Court that Diet May Be Dangerous; Attorneys Attempt to Quash Release of Potentially Damaging Documents, Studies on Atkins Diet Safety, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, March 2005.
  12. PETA, I'm Hatin It, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, accessed March 2009.
  13. John Robbins, Old McDonald Had a Factory: Did Somebody Say McLibel?, Celsias.com, October 2007.
  14. Human Rights Watch, Wal-Mart Denies Workers Basic Rights: Weak Labor Laws Perpetuate Abuses, organizational website, April 2007.
  15. Peter Flaherty, NLPC Rips Wal-Mart CEO H. Lee Scott in Wake of Slumping Sales; Calls on Scott to Revoke Support for CO2 Emission Regulation, National Legal and Policy Center, accessed July 2009.
  16. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, The Number Of Uninsured Americans Is At An All-Time High, organizational website, August 2008.
  17. National Legal and Policy Center, Union Corruption Update: Gingrich Skewers UAW Role in Federal Auto Industry Bailout, organizational website, June 2009.
  18. United Auto Workers Union, Wages and Labor Costs, organizational website, accessed June 2009.
  19. Sports Business Daily, Over The O'Reilly Factor, Fox News, The Rainbow: NASCAR-Jackson Is Examined On Fox News, Sports Business Daily, June 30, 2003.
  20. Media Transparency, Financial supporters National Legal and Policy Center Profile, organizational website, accessed February 2009.
  21. Brooks Jackson, Who Is Richard Mellon Scaife?: He's very rich and very partisan, but is he behind an anti-Clinton conspiracy?, CNN, April 1998.
  22. National Legal and Policy Center, 2015 IRS Form 990, Internal Revenue Service, November 14, 2016.
  23. National Legal and Policy Center, 2014 IRS Form 990, Internal Revenue Service, October 24, 2015.
  24. National Legal and Policy Center, 2013 IRS Form 990, Internal Revenue Service, November 14, 2014.
  25. 25.0 25.1 National Legal and Policy Center, 2012 IRS Form 990, Internal Revenue Service, November 5, 2013.