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Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity

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The Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity (RICFP) is a free-market think tank and member of the State Policy Network (SPN). The RICFP claims to be a "nonprofit, nonpartisan organization . . . dedicated to providing concerned citizens, the media, and public officials with empirical research data, while also advancing free-market solutions to public policy issues in the state."[1]

State Policy Network

SPN is a web of right-wing “think tanks” and tax-exempt organizations in 49 states, Puerto Rico, Washington, D.C., Canada, and the United Kingdom. As of July 2017, SPN's membership totals 153. 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]

Ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council

The RICFP has ties to ALEC through two of its adjunct scholars, Bob Williams and Jonathan Williams. Both head ALEC's Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force; Jonathan Williams is the task force director and Bob Williams is the private sector chair.[5][6] RICFP also has ties to ALEC through its membership in SPN, which has deep ties to ALEC. 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.

Ties to the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity

The Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity was listed as a Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity "Watchdog Bureau".[7] The Franklin Center funds reporters in over 40 states.[8] Despite their non-partisan description, many of the websites funded by the Franklin Center have received criticism for their conservative bias.[9][10] On its website, the Franklin Center claims it "provides 10 percent of all daily reporting from state capitals nationwide."[11]

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).[12] Mother Jones called DonorsTrust "the dark-money ATM of the conservative movement" in a February 2013 article.[13] Franklin received DonorTrust's second-largest donation in 2011.[12]

The Franklin Center also receives funding from the Wisconsin-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation,[14] a conservative grant-making organization.[15]

The Franklin Center was launched by the Chicago-based Sam Adams Alliance (SAM),[16] a 501(c)(3) devoted to pushing free-market ideals. SAM gets funding from the State Policy Network,[17] which is partially funded by the Claude R. Lambe Foundation.[18] Charles Koch, one of the billionaire brothers who co-own Koch Industries, sits on the board of this foundation.[19] SAM also receives funding from the Rodney Fund.

Funding

The Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity is not required to disclose its funders. Its major foundation funders, however, can be found through a search of the IRS filings. Here are some of the known funders of the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity:

Core Financials

2015[20]:

  • Total Revenue: $289,487
  • Total Expenses: $298,003
  • Net Assets: $282,512

2014[21]:

  • Total Revenue: $297,377
  • Total Expenses: $324,740
  • Net Assets: $291,028

2013[22]:

  • Total Revenue: $299,574
  • Total Expenses: $368,423
  • Net Assets: $263,665

2012[23]:

  • Total Revenue: $456,624
  • Total Expenses: unlisted
  • Net Assets: $332,514

2011[24]:

  • Total Revenue: $218,854.00
  • Total Expenses: $77,867.00
  • Net Assets: $140,987.00

Personnel

As of December 2016:[25]

Staff

  • Mike Stenhouse, CEO
  • Justin Katz, Research Director and Editor of The Ocean State Current
  • Lawrence Gilheeney, Advocacy Manager
  • Monique Chartier, Communications Manager

Former Staff

  • Akash Chougule, Outreach Coordinator
  • Kevin Mooney, Investigative Bureau Chief of The Ocean State Current

Adjunct Scholars

Economics

  • J. Scott Moody

Legal

  • Will Wray

Education

Healthcare

Special 2011 Pension Task Force

Board of Trustees

  • Mike Riley, Chairman
  • Dr. Phil Cote, Vice-Chairman
  • Capt. Jay Jacot, Treasurer
  • James Lynch, Secretary
  • Dr. Daniel Harrop
  • Thomas Mrva
  • Thomas Sweeney
  • Dr. Ellen Kenner
  • Richard MacAdams
  • Joseph Orlando
  • Mariacristina McKendall

Contact Information

Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity
PO Box 10069
Cranston, RI 02910
Website: www.rifreedom.org
E-mail: Info@RIFreedom.org
Twitter: https://twitter.com/RICenterFreedom
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RIFREEDOM/

Resources and Articles

Related SourceWatch Articles

Related PRWatch Articles

External Resources

References

  1. Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity, About Us, organizational website, accessed December 2012.
  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. American Legislative Exchange Council, "Tax and Fiscal Policy", organizational website, accessed January 2013.
  6. Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity, "About Us", organizational website, accessed January 2013.
  7. Franklin Center, Watchdog.org, organizational document, May 2013, obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy June 2013.
  8. The Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, Think tank Journalism: The Future of Investigative Journalism, organizational website, accessed August 19, 2011.
  9. Rebekah Metzler, 'Watchdog' website puts a new spin on politics, The Portland Press Herald, October 2, 2010.
  10. Allison Kilkenny, The Koch Spider Web, Truthout, accessed August 19, 2011.
  11. Sara Jerving, Franklin Center: Right-Wing Funds State News Source, PRWatch.org, October 27, 2011.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Paul Abowd, Center for Public Integrity, Donors use charity to push free-market policies in states, organizational report, February 14, 2013.
  13. Andy Kroll, Exposed: The Dark-Money ATM of the Conservative Movement, Mother Jones, February 5, 2013.
  14. Daniel Bice, Franklin Center boss wants apology from Democratic staffer, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, August 8, 2011.
  15. Bradley Foundation, The Bradley Foundation, organizational website, accessed August 19, 2011.
  16. Sam Adams Alliance, Sam Adams Alliance Media Kit, organizational PDF, accessed August 19, 2011.
  17. Media Matters Action Network, Sam Adams Alliance, Conservative Transparency website, accessed August 19, 2011.
  18. Media Matters Action Network. State Policy Network, Conservative Transparency website, accessed August 19, 2011.
  19. Media Matters Action Network, Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation, Conservative Transparency website, accessed August 19, 2011.
  20. Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity, 2015 IRS 990 Form, Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity, August 13, 2016.
  21. Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity, 2014 IRS 990 Form, Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity, August 15, 2015.
  22. Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity, 2013 IRS 990 Form, Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity, August 15, 2014.
  23. Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity, 2012 IRS 990 Form, Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity, August 14, 2013.
  24. Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity, IRS form 990, 2011. GuideStar.
  25. Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity, About Us, Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity, 2016.