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Foundation for Government Accountability

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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 Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA) is a right-wing advocacy group based in Naples, Florida. It is run by former Maine legislator Tarren Bragdon. It is affiliated with the State Policy Network (SPN), a web of state pressure groups that denote themselves as "think tanks" and drive a right-wing agenda in statehouses nationwide.

The FGA describes its own agenda as developing free market public policies that “achieve limited, constitutional government and a robust economy that will be an engine for job creation across [Florida].” The FGA “believes personal liberty and private enterprise are key to our economic future,” the website states.

Bragdon launched the website FloridaOpenGov.org as part of the Foundation for Government Accountability.

"Nonpartisan Think Tank" or Right-Wing Lobbying Machine?

A 2013 report by Progress Florida and the Center for Media and Democracy notes:[1]

"FGA frequently brags about its influence in state politics and clearly has well-established ties with state legislators. In 2012, for example, FGA bragged that it had 'engaged early on' House and Senate sponsors of HB 1003, a proposal to create a new exemption from tangible personal property (TPP) taxes for businesses with less than $50,000 in business equipment, to successfully influence the legislation. According to FGA’s own post on its website, the organization had 'regular discussions and meetings' with the sponsors of the bill and the Governor’s office. However, FGA did not have a registered lobbyist in Florida in 2012. While a 501(c)(3) non-profit can engage in a limited amount of lobbying, it appears that FGA's outreach to Florida legislators about changing Florida's laws is not so limited. However, its federal tax filings for 2012 have not yet been made publicly available."

In April 2013, FGA registered a lobbyist at the Florida statehouse, its government relations director Chris Hudson. While FGA's website does not disclose this, Hudson is also Florida Public Affairs Director for Strategic Advocacy, a public affairs consulting firm based in Maine and registered as a foreign corporation in Florida. Hudson registered as a lobbyist to represent FGA April 16, 2013, but at around the same time in March and April 2013 he also registered to lobby on behalf of Apalachee Center, Inc., Capitol Insight, LifeStream Behavioral Center, MediSKY LLC, and Mental Health Care, Inc., and in November 2013 he also registered to lobby on behalf of Florida Onsite Wastewater Association.[2]

LifeStream, Apalachee, and Mental Health Care, Inc. are all Medicaid providers in Florida. According to Progress Florida's 2013 report, "Meanwhile, FGA has actively pushed for the expansion of a Florida Medicaid privatization pilot program[3] that has boosted the profits of providers of Medicaid services at the expense of expanded enrollment and patient care, according to critics.[4] FGA’s activity on behalf of the privatization scheme has included presenting the plan to ALEC,[5] [which] endorsed the program’s expansion.[6] Hudson’s representation of firms that rely on government spending comes despite FGA’s and Bragdon’s advocacy for reductions in government spending."[1]

Florida Welfare Drug Testing Controversy

A study funded and written by the organization contributed to Florida Governor Rick Scott's defense of his controversial welfare drug-testing law, requiring benefit recipients to take a drug test as a qualification for benefits. The law came under fire from the ACLU and other groups, and a Bush-appointed federal judge threw out the Foundation's study as evidence, claiming it was "not competent expert opinion" and that "even a cursory review of certain assumptions in the pamphlet undermines its conclusions."[7]

FGA’s FloridaOpenGov.org

In January 2012 FGA Chief Executive Officer, Tarren Bragdon, created and launched the website FloridaOpenGov.org. The website is an online database of the salaries of Florida’s public employees and is almost an exact replica of a project by Bragdon at his last place of employment, the Maine Heritage Policy Center.[8]

The website is a compilation of “about 35 million public records detailing nearly $1.4 trillion in spending and payroll by state, county, municipality and school,” according to the FGA.[9]

According to a FGA Press Release,[9] data include:

  • County government payroll (FY 1997-2011)
  • Local K-12 public education payroll (FY 1997-2011)
  • State government payroll (1995-2010)
  • Local government spending (FY 1993-2010)
  • State vendor payments (FY 2005-2011)

Florida State Representatives Matt Hudson (R-Naples), Rachel Burgin (R-Tampa Bay), Joseph Abruzzo (D-Wellington), and City of Longwood Mayor Joe Durso endorsed the website.[8]

Ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council

The FGA has close ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). In 2011, CEO Tarren Bragdon presented to ALEC's Health and Human Safety Task Force at the 2011 States and Nation Policy Summit in Scottsdale, Arizona.[10] Bragdon touted the state's controversial Medicaid reform plans and Florida’s welfare drug testing law during the event.[11]

The former director of ALEC's Health and Human Services Task Force, Christie Herrera, went on to become FGA's vice president of policy.[12].

FGA is also on ALEC's Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force. At the 2012 States and Nation Policy Summit, FGA staff member, Joyce Errecart, presented "Tangible Personal Property Business Taxes."[13]

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 Foundation for Government Accountability 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.[14] The Franklin Center funds reporters in over 40 states.[15] Despite their non-partisan description, many of the websites funded by the Franklin Center have received criticism for their conservative bias.[16][17] On its website, the Franklin Center claims it "provides 10 percent of all daily reporting from state capitals nationwide."[18]

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).[19] Mother Jones called DonorsTrust "the dark-money ATM of the conservative movement" in a February 2013 article.[20] Franklin received DonorTrust's second-largest donation in 2011.[19]

The Franklin Center also receives funding from the Wisconsin-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation,[21] a conservative grant-making organization.[22]

The Franklin Center was launched by the Chicago-based Sam Adams Alliance (SAM),[23] a 501(c)(3) devoted to pushing free-market ideals. SAM gets funding from the State Policy Network,[24] which is partially funded by The Claude R. Lambe Foundation.[25] Charles Koch, one of the billionaire brothers who co-own Koch Industries, sits on the board of this foundation.[26] SAM also receives funding from the Rodney Fund.

Connections to other Right-wing Think Tanks and Groups

Maine Heritage Policy Center

The Foundation's CEO and Director, Tarren Bragdon, is the former head of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, a Koch-funded and affiliated right-wing think tank described as very influential within the Maine GOP establishment.[27]

The Lewiston-Auburn Sun Journal of Maine, in a profile of Bragdon, noted that his Maine group faced "allegations that its increased involvement in this year's gubernatorial election pushes, if not violates, the political lobbying limits allowed by its tax-exempt status."[28]

Cato Institute

Robert Levy of the Cato Institute is on FGA's board. He has long been active with the Cato Institute, which was founded in 1977 by Charles Koch.[7]

State Policy Network

The Foundation is a state affiliate of the State Policy Network, a web of state pressure groups that denote themselves as "think tanks" and drive a right-wing agenda in statehouses nationwide. Mother Jones writes of the State Policy Network: "Its mission is simple: to back a constellation of state-level think tanks loosely modeled after Heritage that promote free-market principles and rail against unions, regulation, and tax increases. By blasting out policy recommendations and shaping lawmakers’ positions through briefings and private meetings, these think tanks cultivate cozy relationships with GOP politicians. And there’s a long tradition of revolving door relationships between SPN staffers and state governments. While they bill themselves as independent think tanks, SPN’s members frequently gather to swap ideas."[29]

Funding

The FGA is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization and does not disclose the source of its funding. Bragdon has previously said that ”initial donors who were interested in having [him] here” in Florida were responsible for his move to the state.[8]

Core Finances

2011:[30]

  • Total Revenue: $212,194
  • Total Expenses: $151,739
  • Net Assets: $60,455

Personnel

Board of Directors

As of November 2013:[31]

  • Tarren Bragdon, President and CEO
  • Roberty Levy (Chairman of the Board, Cato Institute)
  • William A. Dunn (DUNN Capital Management)
  • Andrea Forrest Brock (Zoneup, Inc.; married to Republican former Vermont State Senator and gubernatorial candidate Randy Brock)

Staff

As of November 2013:[32]

  • Tarren Bragdon, Chief Executive Officer
  • Chris Cinquemani, Chief Communications Officer
  • Jonathan Bechtle, Chief Operating Officer (former CEO of the Freedom Foundation in Washington State)
  • Christie Herrera, Senior Fellow
  • Chris Hudson, Government Relations (although not disclosed on FGA's website, Hudson is also Florida Public Affairs Director for Strategic Advocacy, a public affairs consulting firm based out of Maine and registered as a foreign corporation in Florida -- Hudson registered as a lobbyist to represent FGA April 16, 2013, as well as LifeStream Behavioral Center, Mental Health Care, Inc., and Apalachee Center, Inc. -- all of which are Medicaid providers in Florida -- in March and April of 2013.)[2]
  • Chad Goote, Director of Development
  • Jonathan Ingram, Director of Research
  • Josh Archambault, Senior Fellow
  • Zachary Crockett, Operations Coordinator
  • Joyce Errecart, Senior Fellow for Tax Policy

Former Staff

As of April 2013:

  • Joyce Errecart, Senior Fellow for Tax Policy
  • Joseph Burk, PhD, Fellow for Entrepreneurship
  • Darcie Johnston, Development
  • Megan Teague, Research Fellow

Contact

Foundation for Government Accountability
Suite 201-279
15275 Collier Blvd
Naples, FL 34119
PHONE: 239.244.8808
FAX: 239.217.4397
E-MAIL: info@floridafga.org

Articles and Resources

Related SourceWatch Articles

Related PRWatch Articles

External Resources

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Progress Florida and Center for Media and Democracy, The James Madison Institute and the Foundation for Government Accountability: Lawmaking under the Influence of Very Special Interests, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Florida Legislature, 2013 REGISTRATIONS BY LOBBYIST NAME, state governmental website, accessed November 11, 2013, pp. 167-168.
  3. Chris Cinquemani, Foundation for Government Accountability, ADVISORY: Congressional Committee to Hear Testimony from FGA President Tarren Bragdon on Pro-Patient, Pro-Taxpayer Medicaid Reform, organizational press advisory, July 8, 2013.
  4. John Dorschner, Can Florida’s Medicaid reform plan be the model for the nation?, Miami Herald, September 29, 2012.
  5. Chris Cinquemani, Foundation for Government Accountability, RELEASE – Think Tank Featured at ALEC Health and Human Services Task Force, organizational press release, December 5, 2011.
  6. Tarren Bragdon, Foundation for Government Accountability, ALEC Supports Florida’s Statewide Medicaid Reform, organizational publication, October 18 2011.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Ashley Lopez, New 'free market' think tank sets its sights on 2012 legislative session Florida Independent, November 2, 2011.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Ashley Lopez, Right-Wing Think Tank leaks salaries of public employees via new website, Washington Independent, January 9, 2012.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Chris Cinquemani, Foundation for Government Accountability, Release: Nearly $1.4 Trillion in Government Spending Data Now Just a Few Clicks Away, organizational press release, January 9, 2012.
  10. Foundation for Government Accountability, "Release: Think Tank Featured at ALEC Health and Human Services Task Force", organizational website, accessed December 2012.
  11. Ashley Lopez, New right-wing think tank touts Medicaid reform and welfare drug testing at ALEC event, Florida Independent, January 6, 2012.
  12. Foundation for Government Accountability, Staff, organizational website, accessed December 2012.
  13. American Legislative Exchange Council, Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force meeting agenda and materials, organizational document, November 29, 2012, obtained and released by the Center for Media and Democracy and Common Cause.
  14. Franklin Center, Franklin Affiliates in Your State, organizational website, accessed October 2012.
  15. The Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, Think tank Journalism: The Future of Investigative Journalism, organizational website, accessed August 19, 2011.
  16. Rebekah Metzler, "Watchdog" website puts a new spin on politics, The Portland Press Herald, October 2, 2010.
  17. Allison Kilkenny, The Koch Spider Web, Truthout, accessed August 19, 2011.
  18. Sara Jerving, Franklin Center: Right-Wing Funds State News Source, PRWatch.org, October 27, 2011.
  19. 19.0 19.1 Paul Abowd, Center for Public Integrity, Donors use charity to push free-market policies in states, organizational report, February 14, 2013.
  20. Andy Kroll, Exposed: The Dark-Money ATM of the Conservative Movement, Mother Jones, February 5, 2013.
  21. Daniel Bice, Franklin Center boss wants apology from Democratic staffer, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, August 8, 2011.
  22. The Bradley Foundation. The Bradley Foundation. Organizational website. Accessed August 19, 2011.
  23. Sam Adams Alliance. Sam Adams Alliance Media Kit. Organizational PDF. Accessed August 19, 2011.
  24. Media Matters Action Network. Sam Adams Alliance. Conservative Transparency. Accessed August 19, 2011.
  25. Media Matters Action Network. State Policy Network. Conservative Transparency. Accessed August 19, 2011.
  26. Media Matters Action Network. Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation. Conservative Transparency. Accessed August 19, 2011.
  27. Ben Wolford, Maine man: Young political upstart from New England starts Naples-based think tank, Naples Daily News, October 17 2011.
  28. Steve Mistler, Playing to win: Conservative think tank Maine Heritage Policy Center rankles left with activism, anonymous donors, Lewiston-Auburn Sun Journal, September 7, 2010.
  29. Andy Kroll, The Right-Wing Network Behind the War on Unions, Mother Jones, April 24, 2011.
  30. Foundation for Government Accountability, 2011 Form 990, annual organizational IRS filing, October 15, 2012.
  31. Foundation for Government Accountability, Leadership, organizational website, accessed November 2013.
  32. Foundation for Government Accountability, Staff, organizational website, accessed November 2013.
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