John William Pope Civitas Institute
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Learn more about how the State Policy Network aids ALEC and spins disinformation in the states.
The John William Pope Civitas Institute is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit right-wing pressure group based in North Carolina and launched in 2005 to "facilitate the implementation of conservative policy solutions." It calls itself a "think tank." It gets most of its funding from North Carolina businessman and politician Art Pope (John William Pope's son). A 2010 Facing South comparison of the tax records filed by the Civitas Institute and the John Williams Pope Foundation -- which Art Pope chairs -- reveals that Pope's backing has constituted more than 99 percent of all the grants, donations and gifts that Civitas has received between 2005 and 2009. Civitas Action is its 501(c)(4) sister organization, in which Pope is also a founding member. According to its website, Civitas' vision is "of a North Carolina whose citizens enjoy liberty and prosperity derived from limited government, personal responsibility and civic engagement. The Civitas Institute is a member of the State Policy Network (SPN).
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 American Legislative Exchange Council
The Civitas Institute has ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), both through SPN and directly. An August 2013 ALEC board document obtained by The Guardian lists the Civitas Institute as a former member of the Public Safety and Elections Task Force, which was shuttered in April 2012 after the death of Trayvon Martin, and lists it as intending "to change membership to Education," namely ALEC's Education Task Force.
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.
Campaigning for Climate Skeptics
In October 2010, Civitas Action spent $5,750 on mailers targeting North Carolina House Speaker Joe Hackney and Senate leader Marc Basnight, Democrats who have been supportive of efforts to address global warming. Hackney led the state's climate change commission for a time before appointing in his place Rep. Pricey Harrison (D), one of the legislature's strongest environmental advocates. Basnight has talked about his concern that global warming and associated sea rise could inundate the region and supports a move to clean energy sources. Frances De Luca, president of the Civitas Institute and the former state director of the North Carolina chapter of Americans for Prosperity, has said more mailers are planned.
Running against 15-term Hackney is Cathy Wright, a nursing instructor who's also worked as a lobbyist for medical groups. Her campaign manager did not respond to Facing South's request for information about her position on climate change. But Wright does say she's a member of the Conservative Womens Forum, which promotes a book calling global warming a "scam" and is critical of clean energy solutions from cap-and trade legislation to wind power to the promotion of compact-fluorescent light bulbs. Additionally, her campaign website links directly to both the John Locke Foundation and the Civitas Institute. Basnight's opponent is Hood Richardson, a retired minerals geologist and commissioner for Beaufort County, N.C. Richardson calls global warming a "problem that has since been debunked as based on faulty science." He also criticizes Basnight for helping create the state climate change commission, saying it will "severely harm businesses." He cites the John Locke Foundation for his assertions.
Ties to the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity
The John William Pope Civitas Institute is listed as a Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity "Watchdog Bureau". 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.
- Francis X. De Luca, President
- Brian Balfour, Director of Policy and Operations
- Dr. Robert Luebke, Senior Policy Analyst
- Jim Tynen, Director of communications
- Susan Myrick, Elections Analyst
- Alexander Guin, Director of Development
- Bill Gilbert, Director of Technology and Outreach
- Cameron Harwick, Web Development and Media
- Angela Height, Policy Analyst
- Rhett Forman, Outreach and Development Assistant
Civitas' near-total reliance on funding from Art Pope makes it a "private foundation" in the eyes of the IRS, a classification reserved for nonprofits that depend on a sole benefactor. Nationally, the majority of 501(c)(3) nonprofits are public charities; only six percent are private foundations. Pope also sits on the group's board of directors. The group's president, Francis De Luca, used to be director of the North Carolina branch of Americans for Prosperity, a large supporter of the Tea Party Patriots -- the Pope Foundation is the second-largest financial backer of foundations giving to the Americans for Prosperity Foundation.
Pope is also at the heart of Civitas Action, the Civitas Institute's 501(c)(4) sister group that is running attack ads against 2010 Democratic state legislators that support renewable energy. Pope is listed as a founding board member of Civitas Action. According to State Board of Elections records, 72 percent of the money Civitas Action has raised for the ads comes from Variety Wholesalers, the retail company Pope owns. The rest came from Americans for Prosperity, where Pope is a director and a leading donor.
Filing as a private foundation:
- Total Revenue: $1,583,410
- Total Expenses: $1,489,622
- Net Assets: $290,503
- Total Revenue: $1,384,584
- Total Expenses: $1,599,000
- Net Assets: $196,715
- Total Revenue: $1,384,584
- Total Expenses: $1,599,000
- Net Assets: $255,763
- Total Revenue: $1,066,592
- Total Expenses: $1,551,161
- Net Assets: $457,628
100 S. Harrington St.
Raleigh, NC 27603
Phone: (919) 834-2099
Articles and Resources
Related SourceWatch Articles
- Americans for Prosperity
- Art Pope
- John Locke Foundation
- Patients First
- 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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