Alabama Policy Institute
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 Alabama Policy Institute (API) is a conservative think tank "dedicated to the preservation of free markets, limited government and strong families." It is a state think tank member of the State Policy Network (SPN) and API's president, Gary Palmer, is president of SPN's board of directors.
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.
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.
Ties to the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity
The Alabama Policy Institute 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.
According to API’s 2011 IRS Form 990, the group spent $17,344 to employ an "investigative journalist."
Ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council
The API also has ties to ALEC through its membership in the State Policy Network (SPN), which itself is an ALEC member. API's president, Gary Palmer, is a founding director of SPN. He has been on the SPN board of directors for six years, the final two as president.
SPN's predecessor, the Madison Group, was "launched by the American Legislative Exchange Council or ALEC . . . and housed in the Chicago-based Heartland Institute," according to a 1991 report by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) found in the University of California-San Francisco's Legacy Tobacco Documents.
The case is strengthened by an October 1987 ALEC directory also available via the Tobacco Documents that says, "The Madison Group is chaired by Mrs. Constance Heckman [now Constance Campanella, founder of the lobbying firm Stateside Associates], Executive Director of ALEC . . ." A speakers list also available in the Tobacco Documents says in Constance Campanella's biography, "She was a co-founder and first President of The Madison Group, the first network of free-market state think tanks."
SPN has been a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) for many years. In the mid-2000s, SPN secured funding for more of its member think tanks to join ALEC in order to help develop model legislation. By 2009, 22 SPN member think tanks were active ALEC members and participants in ALEC task forces, according to an SPN newsletter, and SPN was being rewarded for its services by ALEC. As of 2013, at least 35 SPN member think tanks have demonstrable ties to ALEC in addition to SPN's own ties, and all of SPN's member think tanks push ALEC's agenda in their respective states, according to a review by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD).
See SPN Ties to ALEC for more.
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.
Board of Directors
According to its website, API's Board consists of married couples. As of June 2013::
- Barganier, Dr. Paul and Karen
- Bradford, Tom and Mary Anne – Managing Chairman
- Brown, Greg and Dee
- Brown, Dr. Michael and Kay
- Carlisle, Todd and Karen
- Collier, Dr. John and Julie – Executive Committee Member
- Couch, Bob and Mary Ann
- Cross, Bo and Tammy
- Fleming, Rev. Aaron and Chris
- Grubb, Rob and Shawn
- Harrison, Don and Betty – Treasurer
- Hendry, Don and Janice – Executive Committee Member
- Hornsby, John and Virginia
- Jacks, Hugh and Jan
- Jett, Chuck and Kim
- Kennedy, Neil and Helen
- McInnis, Mac and Jackie
- McNair, Bill and Lana – Executive Committee Member
- Muir-Taylor, Alastair and Lisa Ann
- Newton, Dr. Allen and Brenda
- Nichols, Roy and Sue
- Norris, Ronnie and Nancy
- Palmer, Gary and Ann – API President
- Parker, John S. and May Moss – Chairman
- Parrish, Ralph and Lynn – Executive Committee Member
- Patton, Donny and Katherine
- Pittman, Randy and Daina
- Pursley, Dr. Mike and Dr. Holly
- Reid, Dr. Calvin and Yvonne
- Steakley, Rod and Linda – Vice Chairman
- Stephens, Charlie and Susan – Secretary
- Stimpson, Sandy and Jean – Executive Committee Member
- Terry, Jim and Darcy
- Walker, Bob and Beth
- Wesson, Mark and Missi – Executive Committee Member
- Williamson, Lex and Mary
As of June 2013::
- Gary Palmer, President
- Caleb Crosby, Vice President, Strategy and Advancement
- Richard Garrett, Senior Fellow
- Ray Hartwell, Senior Fellow
- John R. Hill, Ph.D., Senior Policy Analyst
- Andrew Kinnaird, Policy Analyst
- JoAnne Lindley, Director, Special Events and Donor Relations
- Elizabeth BeShears, Policy Analyst and Grant Coordinator
- Cameron Smith, Policy Director and General Counsel
- Carol Walden, Publication Manager
Former staff include:
- Michael Ciamarra, Vice President
- Total Revenue: $1,148,661
- Total Expenses: $1,219,046
- Net Assets: $509,497
- Total Revenue: $1,100,517.00
- Total Expenses: $1,110,437.00
- Net Assets: $576,881.00
- Total Revenue: $1,106,954.00
- Total Expenses: $1,112,979.00
- Net Assets: $586,801.00
Alabama Policy Institute 402 Office Park Drive Suite 300
Birmingham, AL 35223
Phone: (205) 870.9900
Fax: (205) 870.4407
Email: info AT alabamapolicy.org
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
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