Texas Public Policy Foundation

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

Learn more about corporations VOTING to rewrite our laws.

The Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) is a conservative think tank founded in 1989 by James R. Leininger. It is a member of the right-wing State Policy Network (SPN) and is based in Austin, Texas. It has ties to Texas Governor and former presidential candidate Rick Perry, Ted Cruz, and many other powerful politicians.[1]

According to the TPPF's website, its mission "is to promote and defend liberty, personal responsibility, and free enterprise in Texas and the nation by educating and affecting policymakers and the Texas public policy debate with academically sound research and outreach."[2]

But according to critics, TPPF's research and advocacy is influenced by donations from a relatively small group of major corporations. Craig McDonald, director of Texans for Public Justice, told the Texas Observer, “Most think tanks work for their funders and TPPF’s donors are a Who’s Who of Texas polluters, giant utilities and big insurance companies. TPPF is thinking the way its donors want it to think.”[1]

Funding

TPPF's "laissez-faire bent and championing of big-business agendas (tort reform, tax cuts, deregulation) [have] created wealthy allies," as noted by the Texas Observer.[3] The newspaper spoke with a former TPPF vice president, who described the organization's corporate fundraising strategy this way:

"Melinda Hasting -- who served as the foundation’s vice president from 1996 to 1998 but has since broken with the conservative movement -- says one fundraising tactic involved approaching corporations, wealthy businessmen, and corporate-funded foundations with a pitch. Hasting (formerly Melinda Wheatley) describes it: 'We think this is beneficial to your industry and would you consider providing us with a non-profit contribution. … Here’s the timeline for the completion of the research; the parameters of the research are this; we expect it will result in some savings or outsourcing.'"[3]

The TPPF's 2005 annual report states that the groups budget was $1,759,602 million, an almost 30% increase on its 2004 budget. Individual contributors accounted for just over half the contributions, unspecified corporations $259,000 or 15% with the remainder from unspecified foundations.[4]

Media Transparency lists TPPF as having received 26 grants totalling $491,749 (unadjusted for inflation) between 1998 and 2004 from a range of foundations including [1]:

TPPF has received $15,000 from ExxonMobil since 1998, $5,000 in 2001 [2] and $10,000 in 2004. [3]

According to a November 2013 report by Progress Texas and the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), over the past few years TPPF "has received at least $3,314,591 from the billionaire Koch brothers or the organizations they support." This includes $733,333 received from the Koch family foundations and from Koch Industries, and $2,581,258 from the Donors Trust & Donors Capital Fund.[5] TPPF also "received nearly $300,000 from the Searle Freedom Trust between 2007 to 2011."[5]

The Progress Texas and CMD report also notes that TPPF "claimed in 2008 that it spent nothing on lobbying," however, "it told the IRS that it spent $981,869 on lobbying between 2009 and 2010." While federal tax reports for 2012 are not yet available, "forms filed with the state of Texas indicate that between 2011 and 2013, TPPF has spent at least $100,000 on lobbying the Texas Legislature – largely on gifts, food, drinks, and transportation to Texas legislators and state offices."[5] In 2011, TPPF's tax records also indicate the organization "paid its executive corporate-level salaries that dwarf the rates paid for most other public interest groups in Austin..." (specifically, $1.391 million of the $5.7 million budget was used to pay executive salaries).[5]

Koch Money and Mystery Slush Funds: Funders of SPN Member Think Tanks

In 2012, a list of 2010 funders of TPPF that was disclosed to the IRS was inadvertently made public. The list of funders revealed is an important case study in how SPN's member think tanks are funded, and by whom. Koch Industries, for example, gave $159,834 directly to TPPF, in addition to $69,788.61 from the Claude R. Lambe Foundation, which is a Koch Family Foundation. SPN itself gave TPPF $49,306.90, but what's more, Tracie Sharp, SPN's executive director, was the contact person for an additional $495,000. These two grants, for $300,000 and $195,000, were listed as being received from the "State Think Tank Fund" and the "Government Transparency Fund," respectively -- two funds about which virtually nothing is known.[6]

Core Financials

2011[7]:

  • Total Revenue: $5,756,074.00
  • Total Expenses:$4,948,598.00
  • Net Assets: $4,235,880.00

2010[8]:

  • Total Revenue: $4,674,836.00
  • Total Expenses: $3,390,188.00
  • Net Assets: $3,428,404.00

2009[9]:

  • Total Revenue: $3,223,804.00
  • Total Expenses: $3,026,663.00
  • Net Assets: $2,143,756.00

Ties to the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity

The Texas Public Policy Foundation 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.[10] The Franklin Center funds reporters in over 40 states.[11] Despite their non-partisan description, many of the websites funded by the Franklin Center have received criticism for their conservative bias.[12][13] On its website, the Franklin Center claims it "provides 10 percent of all daily reporting from state capitals nationwide."[14]

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).[15] Mother Jones called DonorsTrust "the dark-money ATM of the conservative movement" in a February 2013 article.[16] Franklin received DonorTrust's second-largest donation in 2011.[15]

The Franklin Center also receives funding from the Wisconsin-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation,[17] a conservative grant-making organization.[18]

The Franklin Center was launched by the Chicago-based Sam Adams Alliance (SAM),[19] a 501(c)(3) devoted to pushing free-market ideals. SAM gets funding from the State Policy Network,[20] which is partially funded by The Claude R. Lambe Foundation.[21] Charles Koch, one of the billionaire brothers who co-own Koch Industries, sits on the board of this foundation.[22] SAM also receives funding from the Rodney Fund.

Ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council

The Texas Public Policy Foundation has been very active in the American Legislative Exchange Council. TPPF was a member of the now defunct Public Safety and Elections Task Force, and has been an ardent defender of ALEC activities.[23] In May 2012, Wendy Lee Gramm, the Foundation’s chairman of the board, and Brooke Rollins, its president and chief executive officer, published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, entitled “Why the Left Wants to Blacklist ALEC,” in defense of the organization.

TPPF is a member of several other ALEC task forces. Dr. Thomas Lindsay, Director of TPPF's Center for Higher Education, is vice chairman of the Higher Education Subcommittee of ALEC's Education Task Force as of November 2013.[24] Executive Director, Arlene Wohlgemuth, is a member of the Health and Human Services Task Force where she has sponsored model legislation (the "Health Professional Modernization Act" and the "Health Care Compact Act").[25] Mario Loyola, director of the Center for Tenth Amendment Studies is a member of the Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force where is also sponsored model legislation (the "Regional Air Quality Interstate Compact")[26]

Marc Levin, who is the director of the Center for Effective Justice for TPPF, is a member of the Civil Justice Task Force, where he is the private chair of the "Overcriminalization Subcommittee."[27] Previously, Levin was a member of the Public Safety and Elections Task Force where he sponsored several pieces of model legislation, including the “Resolution in Support of Victim Offender Mediation,” the “Criminal Intent Protection Act,” the “Treating Accused Persons Fairly Act,” the “Civil Liability Relief for Employers Hiring Ex-Offenders Act,” the “Resolution on the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act,” the “Provisional Licenses for Ex-Offenders Act,” the “Juvenile Offender Performance Incentive Funding Act,” and the “Resolution on Transparency and Accountability in Criminal Law.”[28][29][30]

Talmadge Heflin, director of TPPF's Center for Fiscal Policy, is a member of the Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force[31]

SPN, of which TPPF is a prominent member, 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.

Lobbying

According to Progress Texas and the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), "in the 2013 legislative session, TPPF advocated for at least 28 different laws that mirrored ALEC model bills..."[5] The following table --which compares ALEC's model legislation to the current agenda of TPPF --was taken directly from the organizational report created by Progress Texas and CMD in November 2013:[5]

Issues TPPF 2013-2014 Agenda ALEC Model Bills
Limiting Government Spending TPPF recommends state and local spending increases only by the sum of population growth plus inflation, the growth in gross state product or the growth personal income, whichever is less. TPPF [also] recommends requiring a supermajority vote in the state legislature to override Texas’s constitutional limits on government spending. ALEC’s “Tax and Expenditure Limitation Act” would amend the state constitution to set revenue and spending limits, by capping total expenditures by inflating the current year’s expenditures to account only for population growth and inflation.

ALEC’s “Super-Majority Act” would amend the state constitution to require all tax and “license fee” increases or impositions be approved by two-thirds of all member s of each house of the legislature, except when there is insufficient revenue to pay interest on the state’s debt.[5]

Opposing Health Care Reform TPPF calls for allowing Texans to buy health insurance across state lines, offered by insurance companies in other states. TPPF recommends eliminating all state-level insurance mandates. ALEC’s “Resolution Opposing Employer-Paid Health Care Mandates” opposes efforts by state legislatures to mandate that private employers purchase health insurance for workers.

ALEC’s “Freedom of Choice in Health Care Act” would prohibit the legislature from requiring individuals to purchase health insurance, even though states like Texas require drivers to purchase auto insurance under the state’s financial responsibility law.[5]

Attacking Environmental Protections and Pollution Regulation TPPF dedicated an entire section in its 2013-2014 agenda demonizing the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulations, including greenhouse gas limits, coal plant regulations, and air quality monitoring. ALEC’s “Resolution in Opposition to EPA’s Regulation of Greenhouse Gases from Mobile Sources” opposes a Supreme Court case allowing the EPA to regulate carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases as pollutants. The ALEC resolution uses straw man arguments and other rhetoric to dismiss climate change concerns. ALEC also published an entire pamphlet attacking environmental regulation called the EPA Train Wreck.34

ALEC’s “Intrastate Coal and Use Act” would prevent the EPA from overruling state permits for coal mining and dirty coal products if all the company’s coal operations are conducted within the borders of a single state (although air pollution crosses state lines).

ALEC’s “Resolution in Opposition of Carbon Dioxide Emission Standards” opposes environmental protections on carbon dioxide emissions.[5]

Denying Climate Change TPPF questions the science of climate change, and urges federal lawmakers to implement a “rigorous” review of scientific facts dealing with climate change, along with calling for the suspension of all state programs that regulate greenhouse gases and federal mandates to reduce carbon dioxide. ALEC’s “State Withdrawal from Regional Climate Initiatives” removes states from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative or the Western Climate Initiative, cap-and-trade programs to cut greenhouse gases and carbon-dioxide emissions. It uses language denying that climate changes exist and are manmade.[5]
Attacking Renewable Energy TPPF calls for the elimination of the Renewable Portfolio Standard. ALEC’s “Electricity Freedom Act” repeals renewable energy mandates and constitutes an attack on states with plans requiring companies to get a certain percentage of their electricity from renewable sources.[5]
Advocating for the 10th Amendment In the section entitled “10th Amendment” in TPPF’s 2013-2014 agenda, TPPF calls interstate compacts an “effective way” to regulate areas of mutual concern of two or more states. It further states that Texas should “examine the benefits” of using constitutional amendments aimed at limiting government spending, including calling for a constitutional convention. ALEC’s “Article V Repeal Amendment Resolution” calls for a constitutional convention in order propose an amendment permitting the repeal of any federal law by the vote of two-thirds of state legislatures.

ALEC’s “Resolution Reaffirming Tenth Amendment Rights” asserts that federal mandates violates the Tenth Amendment, but fails to acknowledge the many express powers granted to Congress, including powers over interstate commerce. ALEC’s “Resolution Calling for the Congress of the United States to Call a Constitutional Convention Pursuant to Article V of the United States” urges Congress to call a constitutional convention for the purpose of proposing a constitutional amendment that permits the repeal of any federal law or regulation by two-thirds of the state legislatures, which is dubbed the Madison Amendment (another ALEC model).[5]

Protecting Corporations in Asbestos Related Claims TPPF recommends that there should be a “measureable standard” for a plaintiff in an asbestos-related case to prove negligence and that the “causation standards” for asbestos-related claims should remain at the same level as all toxic exposure claims. ALEC has several “model” bills aimed at protecting corporations from liability for an injured American in an asbestos-related case, including the “Asbestos and Silica Claims Priorities Act,” the “Asbestos Claims Transparency Act,” and the “Successor Asbestos-Related Liability Fairness Act.”[5]
Deforming Public Pensions TPPF calls for new state workers to be moved into a risky defined-contribution pension plan. ALEC’s “Public Employees’ Portable Retirement Option (PRO) Act” is a move towards eliminating defined benefit pension plans for public employees, which better protects retirees.[5]
Pushing Parent Trigger TPPF calls for changes to in the Texas Education Code to make it easier to force a “parent trigger” scenario. ALEC’s “Parent Trigger Act” would allow a small group of parents to close public school for current and future students, and turn the school into a charter school or require the state to use taxpayer dollars for vouchers to subsidize private tuition.[5]
Pushing for Virtual Schools TPPF recommends expanding the funding for “virtual schools” in Texas to give “greater freedom” to private virtual education corporations. ALEC’s “Virtual Public Schools Act” requires virtual or online education company courses to be recognized as public schools and require that such companies receive the same per pupil funding as traditional schools that provide classrooms, sports training facilities, lunch, and transportation, resulting in windfall profits for online “schools.”[5]
Privatizing Public Education TPPF calls for Texas to “increase competition in the Texas education system” by implementing education scholarships, tax credits, and expanding charter schools and vouchers. ALEC’s “Family Education Tax Credit Program” creates a tax paying corporations and individuals that give money to be used as “scholarships” to pay tuition and fees at private schools, reducing tax revenue for public schools and other public services.

ALEC’s “Parent Choice Scholarship Program Act-Universal Eligibility” creates a voucher program to use taxpayer funds that would have been spent on public schools to subsidize private for-profit, religious, or other primary and secondary schools.

ALEC’s “Parental Choice Scholarship Accountability Act” enables taxpayer money to subsidize for-profit, religious, or other private schools.

ALEC’s “Charter Schools Act” would allow the state to grant charters to create and operate schools outside of traditional public schools, while also exempting these charter schools from state laws that apply to public schools.

ALEC’s “Resolution Supporting Private Scholarship Tax Credits” urges tax cuts for corporations and others to subsidize non-public corporate schools through funding "scholarships."[5]

Attacking Teachers TPPF calls for radical attacks on teachers in Texas, including lowering the barriers for teacher certification, eliminating the minimum salary a teacher must be paid based on experience, discouraging school districts from paying teachers with a master’s degree more money, and eliminating tenure rights. ALEC’s “Great Teachers and Leaders Act” changes seniority rules that reward education and experience of teachers and allows tenure to be revoked based on limited measures of success without regard to underlying conditions in the schools or environment.

ALEC’s “Alternative Certification Act” attempts to allow students to be taught by people who have no training in how to teach children and the different ways kids learn at various ages and based on different learning styles. This paves the way for for-profit schools to pay “teachers” less than educators who are actually trained in teaching.

ALEC’s “Career Ladder Opportunities Act” and “Teacher Quality and Recognition Demonstration Act” undermines post-secondary education and tenure rights of teachers, placing more emphasis on tests (regardless of the underlying conditions in the schools or the socio-economic environment of the school district) than other established measures.[5]

Personnel

Board of Directors

Senior Fellows

Staff

Contact Details

900 Congress Ave., Ste. 400
Austin, TX 78701
Phone 512.472.2700
Fax 512.472.2728
Email: info AT TexasPolicy.com
Web: http://www.texaspolicy.com

Articles and Resources

Related SourceWatch Articles

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External Resources

External articles

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Forrest Wilder, Revealed: The Corporations and Billionaires that Fund the Texas Public Policy Foundation, Texas Observer, August 24, 2012.
  2. Texas Public Policy Foundation. "About", organizational website, accessed December 2012.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Forrest Wilder and Abby Rapoport, The Brains Behind the Curtain, Texas Observer, November 30, 2011, archived by the Wayback Machine January 15, 2013.
  4. Texas Public Policy Foundation "2005 Annual Report"
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 5.11 5.12 5.13 5.14 5.15 5.16 5.17 Progress Texas and the Center for Media and Democracy, TPPF + ALEC, Organizational Report, November 13, 2013.
  6. Forrest Wilder, Revealed: The Corporations and Billionaires that Fund the Texas Public Policy Foundation, TPPF Donor List, Texas Observer, August 24, 2012.
  7. Texas Public Policy Foundation, IRS form 990, 2011. GuideStar.
  8. Texas Public Policy Foundation, IRS form 990, 2010. GuideStar.
  9. Texas Public Policy Foundation, IRS form 990, 2009. GuideStar.
  10. Franklin Center, Franklin Affiliates in Your State, organizational website, accessed October 2012.
  11. The Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, Think tank Journalism: The Future of Investigative Journalism, organizational website, accessed August 19, 2011.
  12. Rebekah Metzler, "Watchdog" website puts a new spin on politics, The Portland Press Herald, October 2, 2010.
  13. Allison Kilkenny, The Koch Spider Web, Truthout, accessed August 19, 2011.
  14. Sara Jerving, Franklin Center: Right-Wing Funds State News Source, PRWatch.org, October 27, 2011.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Paul Abowd, Center for Public Integrity, Donors use charity to push free-market policies in states, organizational report, February 14, 2013.
  16. Andy Kroll, Exposed: The Dark-Money ATM of the Conservative Movement, Mother Jones, February 5, 2013.
  17. Daniel Bice, Franklin Center boss wants apology from Democratic staffer, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, August 8, 2011.
  18. The Bradley Foundation. The Bradley Foundation. Organizational website. Accessed August 19, 2011.
  19. Sam Adams Alliance. Sam Adams Alliance Media Kit. Organizational PDF. Accessed August 19, 2011.
  20. Media Matters Action Network. Sam Adams Alliance. Conservative Transparency. Accessed August 19, 2011.
  21. Media Matters Action Network. State Policy Network. Conservative Transparency. Accessed August 19, 2011.
  22. Media Matters Action Network. Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation. Conservative Transparency. Accessed August 19, 2011.
  23. Texas Public Policy Foundation. Texas Public Policy Foundation Leaders Stand with the American Legislative Exchange Council, organizational website, accessed December 2012.
  24. Texas Public Policy Foundation, ALEC appoints Dr. Thomas Lindsay (TPPF) Vice Chairman of the Education Task Force Higher Education Subcommittee, organizational press release, October 25, 2013.
  25. American Legislative Exchange Council, Health and Human Services Task Force meeting agenda and materials, June 30, 2011, on file with CMD
  26. American Legislative Exchange Council, Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force meeting agenda and materials, March 31, 2011, on file with CMD
  27. American Legislative Exchange Council, Civil Justice Task Force meeting agenda and materials, October 27, 2011, on file with CMD
  28. American Legislative Exchange Council, Public Safety and Elections Task Force meeting agenda and materials, October 27, 2010, on file with CMD
  29. American Legislative Exchange Council, Public Safety and Elections Task Force meeting agenda and materials, March 31, 2011, on file with CMD
  30. American Legislative Exchange Council, Public Safety and Elections Task Force meeting agenda and materials, April 6, 2012, on file with CMD
  31. American Legislative Exchange Council, Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force meeting agenda and materials, June 30, 2011, on file with CMD