Beacon Center of Tennessee
Learn more about how the State Policy Network aids ALEC and spins disinformation in the states.
The Beacon Center of Tennessee (BCT, formerly the Tennessee Center for Policy Research) describes itself as "an independent, nonprofit and nonpartisan research and educational institute dedicated to providing concerned citizens, the media and public leaders with expert research and timely free market policy solutions to public policy issues in Tennessee." BCT is a member of the State Policy Network (SPN).
SPN is a web of right-wing “think tanks” and tax-exempt organizations in 48 states across the country. As of January 2017, SPN's membership totals 134. 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.
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.'"
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.
- 1 Ties to the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity
- 2 Funding
- 3 Core Financials
- 4 Personnel
- 5 Contact Information
- 6 Articles and Resources
Ties to the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity
As the publisher of TennesseeWatchdog.org, The Beacon Center of Tennessee 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. The Franklin Center funds reporters in over 40 states. Despite their non-partisan description, many of the websites funded by the Franklin Center have received criticism for their conservative bias. On its website, the Franklin Center claims it "provides 10 percent of all daily reporting from state capitals nationwide."
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). Mother Jones called DonorsTrust "the dark-money ATM of the conservative movement" in a February 2013 article. Franklin received DonorTrust's second-largest donation in 2011.
The Franklin Center was launched by the Chicago-based Sam Adams Alliance (SAM), a 501(c)(3) devoted to pushing free-market ideals. SAM gets funding from the State Policy Network, which is partially funded by The Claude R. Lambe Foundation. Charles Koch, one of the billionaire brothers who co-own Koch Industries, sits on the board of this foundation. SAM also receives funding from the Rodney Fund.
￼￼* DonorsTrust/Donors Capital Fund: $1,360,250 (￼2005-2014)
￼* The Roe Foundation: $115,000 (2007-2011)
￼* Searle Freedom Trust: $80,000 (￼￼2007)
￼* State Policy Network: $52,588 (2007)
￼* Jaquelin Hume Foundation: $33,750 (2008-2009)
￼* JM Foundation: $20,000 (2005)
￼￼* Castle Rock Foundation: ￼￼$10,000 (2009)
- Total Revenue: $957,689
- Total Expenses: $775,285
- Net Assets: $629,257
- Total Revenue: $1,223,641
- Total Expenses: $1,079,678
- Net Assets: $446,853
- Total Revenue: $481,990
- Total Expenses: $458,311
- Net Assets: $302,890
- Total Revenue: $527,219.00
- Total Expenses: $536,835.00
- Net Assets: $279,211.00
- Total Revenue: $608,125.00
- Total Expenses: $360,582.00
- Net Assets: $283,244.00
- Total Revenue: $463,320.00
- Total Expenses: $583,135.00
- Net Assets: $35,701.00
As of August 2016:
- Justin Owen, President and CEO
- Suzanne Michel, Director of Operations
- Mark Cunningham, Director of Marketing and Communications
- Hannah Cox, Outreach Coordinator
- Sam Cosby, Director of Development
- Lindsay M. Boyd, Director of Policy
- Braden H. Boucek, Director of Litigation
- Drew Johnson, President
- Kellie Garretson, Administrative Assistant
- Trent Seibert, Director of Government Accountability
- Nicole Williams, Vice President of Operations
- Douglas Kurdziel, Research Fellow
- Trapper Michael, Research Fellow
- Daniel Phillips, Research Fellow
- Troy Senik, Research Fellow
- Luci Stephens, Research Fellow
- Donna Barrett, Senior Fellow
- Naomi Lopez Bauman, Senior Fellow
- Harold Black, Senior Fellow
- Jonathan Butcher, Senior Fellow
- Art Carden, Senior Fellow
- Dr. Jeff Cornwall, Senior Fellow
- Jason Edmonds, Carter and Moyers Research Fellow
- Patrick Gleason, Senior Fellow
- Richard Grant, Senior Fellow
- Paul Stumb, Senior Fellow
- Dale Bails, PhD, Christian Brothers University
- Robert Berry, MD, PATMOS EmergiClinic
- J.C. Bowman, PhD, Florida State University
- J.R. Clark, PhD, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
- Larry M. Hall, PhD, Belmont University
- Martin D. Kennedy, PhD, Middle Tennessee State University
- Sally Kilgore, PhD, Modern Red Schoolhouse Institute
- Shaka L.A. Mitchell, JD, Institute for Justice
- John Stone, PhD, Education Consumers Clearinghouse
- Amy H. Sturgis, PhD, Belmont University
- Charles Van Eaton, PhD, Bryan College
- Marilyn Young, PhD, Belmont University
Board of Directors
- John Cerasuolo, Chairman
- Joe Scarlett, Vice-Chairman
- Lee Beaman, Member
- Jim Ethier, Member
- David Johnson, Member
- Pat Shepherd, Member
- Lauren Templeton, Member
- Larry White, Member
Beacon Center of Tennessee
P.O. Box 198646
Nashville, TN 37219
Articles and Resources
Related SourceWatch Articles
- State Policy Network:
- American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)
- Donors Capital Fund
- Koch Family Foundations
- Koch Industries
- Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity
- Heritage Foundation
- Think tanks
- Whitney Ball
- Adam Meyerson
- Bridgett Wagner
Related PRWatch Articles
- Brendan Fischer, Why Are the Franklin Center's "Wisconsin Reporter" and "Watchdog.org" Attacking the John Doe?, PRWatch.org, December 19, 2013.
- Rebekah Wilce, The State Policy Network's Cozy Relationship with Big Tobacco, PRWatch.org, December 16, 2013.
- Rebekah Wilce, Did ALEC Found SPN? 1991 Report Suggests So, Exposes SPN Agenda, PRWatch.org, December 12, 2013.
- Rebekah Wilce, Guardian Documents Expose State Policy Network Groups' Intent to Lobby, PRWatch.org, December 5, 2013.
- Rebekah Wilce, State Policy Network: The Stealth Network Dramatically Influencing State Law, PRWatch.org, December 5, 2013.
- Rebekah Wilce, Tracie Sharp: Bursar of Mystery Money and "IKEA Model" Materials to Stink Tanks, PRWatch.org, November 19, 2013.
- Center for Media and Democracy, Reports Expose Extreme Pressure Groups Masquerading as Think Tanks, press release, November 13, 2013.
- Rebekah Wilce, A Reporters’ Guide to the "State Policy Network": the Right-Wing Think Tanks Spinning Disinformation and Pushing the ALEC Agenda in the States, PRWatch.org, April 4, 2013.
- Sara Jerving, ALEC and Heartland Aim to Crush Renewable Energy Standards in the States, PRWatch.org, November 27, 2012.
- Connor Gibson, Meet the Network Hiding the Koch Money: "Donors Trust" and "Donors Capital Fund", PRWatch.org, October 29, 2012.
- Brendan Fischer, Koch-Funded Mackinac Center Brings Wisconsin Act 10 Provisions to ALEC, PRWatch.org, May 2, 2012.
- Sara Jerving, Franklin Center: Right-Wing Funds State News Source, PRWatch.org, October 31, 2011.
- DeSmog Blog, Stink Tanks: Historical Records Reveal State Policy Network Was Created by ALEC, December 9, 2013.
- The Guardian, State conservative groups plan US-wide assault on education, health and tax, December 5, 2013.
- Portland Press Herald, "Washington County residents have mixed reactions to plan to eliminate taxes," December 5, 2013.
- The Texas Observer, "The Money Behind the Fight to Undermine Medicaid," December 5, 2013.
- Media Matters, North Carolina Newspapers Largely Ignore Conservative Funding Of Sham Think Tanks, December 3, 2013.
- Shepherd Express, Masters of Manipulation: Right-wing Billionaires, Corporations and the Bradley Foundation Pay for Junk Studies that Prop up Their Agenda, November 27, 2013.
- "Moyers & Company," How a Shadowy Network of Corporate Front Groups Distorts the Marketplace of Ideas, November 19, 2013.
- MSNBC "Rachel Maddow Show," November 18, 2013.
- Free Speech TV "Ring of Fire," Facebook, Microsoft, AT&T and Others Supporting Right Wing Propaganda Machine, November 18, 2013.
- Topeka Capital-Journal, Trabert dismisses report tying KPI to Koch agenda, November 16, 2013.
- The New Yorker (Jane Mayer), Is IKEA the New Model for the Conservative Movement?, November 15, 2013.
- Salon, Ted Cruz and Koch brothers embroiled in shadowy Tea Party scheme, November 15, 2013.
- St. Louis Business Journal, Beyond Sinquefield: Who else is funding the Show-Me Institute?, November 15, 2013.
- The Guardian, Facebook and Microsoft help fund rightwing lobby network, report finds, November 14, 2013.
- Huffington Post, Meet The Little-Known Network Pushing Ideas For Kochs, ALEC, November 14, 2013.
- CBS St. Louis, Show-Me Institute’s Ties Questioned in New Report, November 14, 2013.
- Talking Points Memo, Florida Conservative Group Helping Muck Up Obamacare In Alaska, November 14, 2013.
- Mint Press News, Reports Reveal SPN’s Secret Corporate Agenda Through Use ‘Expert’ Testimony, November 14, 2013.
- Media Matters, Shadowy Right-Wing Group Generates Media Coverage For Conservative Policy From Coast To Coast, November 14, 2013.
- The Institute for Southern Studies, Are conservative think tanks breaking lobbying laws?, November 14, 2013.
- Nonprofit Quarterly, Corporate Money in Network of Right-Wing State Policy Think Tanks, November 14, 2013.
- The Progressive, Right-Wing Think Tanks Push Privatization in the States, November 13, 2013.
- Politico, Report: Think tanks tied to Kochs, November 13, 2013.
- Lawrence Journal-World, Reports released by progressive groups are critical of Kansas Policy Institute, November 13, 2013.
- Maine Insights, Report: Maine Heritage Policy Center’s funding connection to Koch Brothers, November 13, 2013.
- The Florida Current, Liberal groups bemoan lobbying by conservative think tanks, November 13, 2013.
- The Oregonian, Cascade Policy Institute benefits from secretive donor group but says it operates independently, November 13, 2013.
- 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.
- Arizona Working Families and CMD, A Reporter’s Guide to the Goldwater Institute: What Citizens, Policymakers, and Reporters Should Know, organizational report, updated November 13, 2013.
- Progress Florida and CMD, Lawmaking Under the Influence of Very Special Interests: Understand the role of Florida ‘think tanks’ in driving a Koch-fueled, ALEC-allied corporate agenda, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
- Maine's Majority Education Fund, Fooling Maine: How national conservative groups infiltrated Maine politics by founding and funding the Maine Heritage Policy Center, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
- Progress Michigan, Who's Running Michigan? The Far-Right Influence of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
- Alliance for a Better Minnesota, Who's in Charge: How Nationalized Corporate-Run Think Tanks Influence Minnesota Politics, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
- Progress Missouri, What Missourians Need to Know About the Show-Me Institute, organizational report, updated November 13, 2013.
- Granite State Progress, Bad Bartlett: The Josiah Bartlett Center and NH Watchdog Answer the Call of the Koch Brothers, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
- ProgressOhio, Smoke Screen: The Buckeye Institute, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
- Keystone Progress, Think tanks or corporate lobbyist propaganda mills?, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
- Progress Texas, TPPF + ALEC, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
- One Wisconsin Now, S is for Shill: Inside the Bradley Foundation's Attack on Public Education, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
- Muncie Voice, Pence and Right-Wing Are Taking Over Public Education, November 13, 2013.
- The Spokesman-Review, Shawn Vestal: Idaho Freedom Foundation pushes limits of word ‘charity’, November 2, 2013.
- AZ Central, When this ‘watchdog’ pitches, taxpayers strike out, October 12, 2013.
- IndyStar, Daniels says speech to partisan group was a mistake, October 10, 2013.
- Muncie Voice, Indiana Policy Review: Not an Independent News Source, October 2, 2013.
- The Spokesman-Review, Idaho Freedom Foundation's charitable status scrutinized, September 15, 2013.
- CounterSpin, Lee Fang on 'The Right Leans In', April 5, 2013.
- FireDogLake, State Policy Network, an umbrella coordinating ALEC, Heritage, Heartland and others, April 4, 2013.
- Thom Hartmann with Lee Fang on MSNBC, The conservative State Policy Network is sneaking into your state & will change America, March 29, 2013.
- Current TV "War Room", Lee Fang discussing the State Policy Network, March 28, 2013.
- The Nation, The Right Leans In, March 26, 2013.
- Democracy Now, Donors Trust: Little-Known Group Helps Wealthy Backers Fund Right-Wing Agenda in Secret, February 19, 2013.
- Paul Abowd, Center for Public Integrity, Donors use charity to push free-market policies in states, Consider the Source, February 14, 2013.
- John R. Mashey, Fake science, fakexperts, funny finances, free of tax 2, DeSmog Blog report, updated October 23, 2012, p. 74.
- Urban Milwaukee, Stealth Conservatives, October 11, 2012.
- Rome News-Tribune, ANALYSIS: Georgia leaders depend on the same well for ideas, October 2012.
- Andy Kroll, The Right-Wing Network Behind the War on Unions, Mother Jones, April 25, 2011.
- Guidestar, State Policy Network, IRS filings and other organizational information about SPN.
- Center for Policy Alternatives, ALEC and the Extreme Right-Wing Agenda, organizational brochure about ALEC and SPN.
- John J. Miller, Fifty Flowers Bloom: Conservative think tanks — mini–Heritage Foundations — at the state level, National Review, November 19, 2007.
- Bridge Project, State Policy Network, online resource listing grants to SPN and SPN's connections to other groups.
- People for the American Way, State Policy Network, RightWingWatch.org, organizational resource.
- Greenpeace, Koch Industries Climate Denial Front Group: State Policy Network (SPN), organizational resource.
- "Wash. Post reported "think tank's" charge against Gore, omitted its anti-environmental background", Media Matters of America, March 1, 2007.
- "The Smearing of Al Gore," Tumeke Blogspot, March 1, 2007.
- mrs panstreppon, "Al Gore's Electricity Bills: Tennessee Center For Policy Research," TPM Cafe, February 28, 2007. Article and comments include significant research data on BCT.
- "Headline News' Stouffer called 'free market' group that attacked Gore an 'environmental group'," Media Matters for America, February 27, 2007.
- Carpetbagger, "Conservative smear machine targets Gore (again)," The Carpetbagger Report, February 27, 2007.
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- egalia, "Tennessee Center For Policy Research: Rightwing Smear Machine," Tennessee Guerilla Women Blogspot, February 27, 2007.
- Dave Johnson and James Boyce, "A Far Too Convenient $mear: Part One - Updated - Rush Update," Seeing the Forest, February 26, 2007; also posted at The Huffington Post.
- Report: "Al Gore’s Personal Energy Use Is His Own 'Inconvenient Truth'. Gore’s home uses more than 20 times the national average," BCT, February 26, 2007. Article link posted by State Policy Network. re Al Gore and An Inconvenient Truth
- John Rodgers, "Dept. of Revenue says conservative think tank 'not a legitimate group'," Nashville, TN's The City Paper Online, February 16, 2007.
- John Rodgers, "Dept. of Revenue says conservative think tank 'not a legitimate group'," Nashville, TN's The City Paper Online, February 16, 2007.
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- Beacon Center of Tennessee, Internships, organizational website, accessed April 2013.
- 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.
- Jane Mayer, Is IKEA the New Model for the Conservative Movement?, The New Yorker, November 15, 2013.
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- Beacon Center of Tennessee, 2010 Form 990, organizational annual IRS filing, November 15, 2011.
- Beacon Center of Tennessee, 2014 Form 990, organizational annual IRS filing, May 12, 2015.
- Beacon Center of Tennessee, 2013 Form 990, organizational annual IRS filing, April 30, 2014.
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- Beacon Center of Tennessee, IRS form 990, 2011. GuideStar.
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- Beacon Center of Tennesee, Our People, organizational website, accessed August 2016.
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