State Policy Network
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The State Policy Network (SPN) has franchised, funded, and fostered a growing number of “mini Heritage Foundations” at the state level since the early 1990s. It describes itself as a network and service organization for the "state-based free market think tank movement," and its stated mission is "to provide strategic assistance to independent research organizations devoted to discovering and developing market-oriented solutions to state and local public policy issues." It was founded in November 1991 and incorporated in March of 1992.
The founding chairman of the board and a major funder was Thomas A. Roe (1927-2000), and the founding executive director was Byron S. Lamm. In the mid-1980s, Roe allegedly told fellow wealthy conservative donor and Heritage Foundation trustee Robert Krieble, "You capture the Soviet Union -- I'm going to capture the states."
Fueled by robust funding from right-wing funders including the Koch brothers, the Bradley Foundation, the anonymous wealthy donors to the donor-advised funds of DonorsTrust, and others, SPN has grown rapidly in recent years. There were 12 original think tanks when SPN was founded. In 2012, there were 59 SPN member think tanks in all 50 states. Please see SPN Members for more, including links to articles about each of them.
SPN Ties to ALEC
SPN has been a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) for many years. According to the National Education Association (NEA), "ALEC utilizes the services of the State Policy Network as a clearinghouse to craft model legislation on conservative issues and to provide expert testimony in state capitols once bills are introduced." In addition, it notes, "ALEC and Heritage also serve as a media platform for these state-based think tanks to gain national press attention for research and the legislation and initiatives they introduce."
Executive Director Tracie Sharp and staff member Stephen L. Bowen are members of ALEC's Education Task Force; and Sharp and staff members Joe Coletti and Kathleen O'Hearn are members of ALEC's Health and Human Services Task Force. Randolph J. May, President of Maryland's Free State Foundation, also represents SPN on the Communications and Technology Task Force. In addition, SPN was a "Chairman" level sponsor of the 2011 ALEC Annual Conference, which bore a required sponsorship level of $50,000 in 2010; as well as a sponsor of ALEC's 2012 States & Nation Policy Meeting in Washington, DC. ALEC is also an Associate Member of SPN. The Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force meeting at the ALEC 2012 Spring Task Force Summit in Charlotte, North Carolina, began with "State Policy Network Updates," suggesting that SPN is also a member of that task force.
All Of SPN's 59 member state think tanks in 2012, at least 34 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. SPN think tanks have introduced, echoed, pushed, and reinforced ALEC policies to hamstring labor, privatize education, disenfranchise minorities, students, and the elderly, and rollback environmental initiatives in the states.
Please see SPN Ties to ALEC for more.
The State Policy Network has received funding from the Claude R. Lambe Foundation (a Koch Family Foundation), DonorsTrust, the Olin Foundation, the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation, the Bradley Foundation, the Castle Rock Foundation (Coors affiliated), the Adolph Coors Foundation, the McCamish Foundation, the JM Foundation, the Smith Richardson Foundation, and the Roe Foundation, among others.
While, in 2007, the approximately $40 million in combined revenues of the 52 member think tanks in 45 states that were then members was less than the Heritage Foundation's budget that year of $50 million, SPN president Tracie Sharp announced in late 2007 a plan to expand think-tank revenues by $50 million by 2012. In 2010, combined revenues of SPN itself and its 59 member state think tanks was $76.5 million, according to a review of the groups' IRS forms 990 by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD).
Please see SPN Funding for more.
SPN's purpose, according to its by-laws, is to "assist in organizing, developing and raising funds for institutes throughout the United States whose purpose is the promotion of authoritative ideas and research studies on state and local public policy issues in the public interest." SPN's founding executive director, Lamm, is quoted in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette as calling what think tanks in the network do "constructive troublemaking."
Some of SPN's documented activities include "franchise" help -- setting up state think tanks and exchanging information; political candidate "training"; influencing state laws; litigating through associated litigation centers; creating PR plans; and hosting news sites criticized for conservative bias.
Please see SPN Agenda for more.
Founders, History, and Staff
According to the National Review and SPN's website, SPN was founded at the suggestion of President Ronald Reagan. In a conversation with Thomas Roe (a member of his "kitchen cabinet") in the 1980s, Reagan allegedly suggested Roe create "something like a Heritage Foundation in each of the states." So in 1986, Roe founded the South Carolina Policy Council. Similar groups -- state-based think tanks -- formed in Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, and elsewhere at around the same time. Representatives of those groups met at the Madison Hotel in Washington, D.C. and started to call themselves the "Madison Group." SPN was formally created as an "umbrella organization" to provide "advisory services" -- bankrolled by Roe and other conservative funders -- in 1992.
SPN's founding executive director, Byron S. Lamm, was also extremely influential in the development of the organization, as well as co-founding SPN member state think tank the Indiana Policy Review Foundation. Current executive director (as of 2012) Tracie Sharp has also been quite influential. During her tenure, SPN has continued to grow at a rapid rate, expanding from 43 member state think tanks in 2002 to 59 member state think tanks in 2012. Sharp also co-founded member state think tank the Cascade Policy Institute.
From 1992 to 1998, SPN operated in a relatively limited organizational capacity. Then, according to SPN, "SPN's Board of Directors realized the need for a stronger organization that would provide additional services. After extensive discussions, the existing Board took a bold and historic step in September 1998, dissolving itself and appointing a transitional Board to fulfill the broader role envisioned for the organization."
Please see SPN Founders, History, and Staff for more.
Board of Directors
As of April 2013:
- Carl Helstrom, Chairman (The JM Foundation), board member since at least 1997
- Tracie Sharp, President (former executive director and co-founder, Cascade Policy Institute), board member since at least 1997
- Stanford D. Swim, Secretary (The GFC Foundation), board member since 2007
- Thomas Willcox (The Roe Foundation), Treasurer, board member since 2007, son-in-law of Tom and Shirley Roe
- Theodore D. Abram (American Institute for Full Employment), board member since 1998
- Whitney Ball (Donors Trust), board member since 2005
- John Jackson (Adolph Coors Foundation and Castle Rock Foundation)
- Barbara Wells Kenney (Freedom Foundation), board member since 2005
- Adam Meyerson (Philanthropy Roundtable), board member since 2007
- Bridgett Wagner (The Heritage Foundation), board member since 2005
As of April 2013:
- Tracie Sharp, President and CEO
- Jennifer Butler, Executive Vice President since 2006
- Lynn Harsh, Vice President of Strategy
- Daniel J. Erspamer, Vice President for Strategic Partnerships
- Teresa Brown, Director of Strategic Operations
- Becky Helland, Leadership Development Initiative Operations & Tactical Officer
- Meredith Turney, Director of Strategic Communications
- Nicole Williams, Senior Communications Advisor - President, Spark Freedom
- Alexis Baker, Manager of Donor Relations
- Rebecca Bruchhauser, Director of Donor Relations
- Rebecca Feldman, Manager of Foundation Relations
- Rebecca Gaetz, Donor Relations Manager
- Jerry Krause, Manager of Donor Relations
- Brad Gruber, Operations Director
- Rachel Kopec, Coalitions Coordinator
- Kathleen O'Hearn, Director of Coalitions
State Policy Network
1655 N. Fort Myer Dr., Suite 360
Arlington, VA 22209
Phone: (703) 243-1655
Fax: (703) 740-0314
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
- 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.
External Articles and Resources
- Center for Media and Democracy and Arizona Working Families, A Reporter’s Guide to the Goldwater Institute: What Citizens, Policymakers, and Reporters Should Know, organizational report, March 14, 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.
- 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.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 John J. Miller, Fifty Flowers Bloom, National Review, November 19, 2007, archived on the author's personal website, accessed September 2012.
- ↑ State Policy Network, SPN News May 2006, SPN News, organizational newsletter, May 8, 2006.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 State Policy Network, SPN News, organizational newsletter, Fall 2002.
- ↑ State Policy Network, Unified Registration Statement (URS) for Charitable Organizations (v. 3.02), official organizational filing, 2006, obtained from the New York State Office of the Attorney General on October 1, 2012.
- ↑ State Policy Network, SPN News, organizational newsletter, August 2005.
- ↑ Thomas A. Roe, interview with Lee Edwards, April 13, 1996, Naples, FL. Cited in Lee Edwards, The Power of Ideas: The Heritage Foundation at 25 Years, Ottawa, Illinois: Jameson Books, 1997, p. 91.
- ↑ National Education Association, The Real Story Behind 'Paycheck Protection': The Hidden Link Between Anti-Worker and Anti-Public Education Initiatives: An Anatomy of the Far Right, Chapter 4: "The State-Based Assault: The State Policy Network," organizational report, 1998.
- ↑ American Legislative Exchange Council, Education Task Force Director, organizational document, July 1, 2011, document obtained and released by Common Cause.
- ↑ American Legislative Exchange Council, HHS Task Force Directory, organizational document, June 29, 2011, document obtained and released by Common Cause.
- ↑ American Legislative Exchange Council, Telecommunications & Information Technology, organizational task force membership directory, July 18, 2011, document obtained and released by Common Cause.
- ↑ American Legislative Exchange Council, 2011 Conference Sponsors, conference brochure on file with CMD, August 11, 2011
- ↑ American Legislative Exchange Council, "Sponsors", 2012 SNPS Agenda, organizational document, on file with CMD.
- ↑ State Policy Network, Directory, organizational website, accessed August 11, 2011.
- ↑ American Legislative Exchange Council, Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force 2012 Spring Task Force Summit Tentative Agenda, organizational document, May 11, 2012, document obtained via open records request and released by the Center for Media and Democracy and Common Cause.
- ↑ Center for Media and Democracy, Koch Family Foundations, SourceWatch.org, accessed December 2012.
- ↑ John R. Mashey, Fake science, fakexperts, funny finances, free of tax 2, DeSmog Blog report, updated October 23, 2012, p. 74.
- ↑ Paul Abowd, Center for Public Integrity, Donors use charity to push free-market policies in states, Consider the Source, February 14, 2013.
- ↑ People for the American Way, State Policy Network, "Right Wing Watch" think tank profile, accessed August 18, 2011.
- ↑ Center for Media and Democracy, SPN Funding, SourceWatch.org wiki, updated April 2013.
- ↑ State Policy Network, By-Laws of State Policy Network, official organizational filing, obtained from the New York State Office of the Attorney General on October 1, 2012.
- ↑ Shareese Harold, "State Home to Think Tank with Conservative Bent" (sub. req'd.), Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, July 24, 1995.
- ↑ 22.0 22.1 22.2 State Policy Network, Background, organizational website, accessed September 2012.
- ↑ 23.0 23.1 State Policy Network, Staff, organizational website, accessed April 2013.
- ↑ 24.0 24.1 State Policy Network, Form 990, organizational IRS filing, 1997, available from Guidestar.org, accessed September 2012.
- ↑ 25.0 25.1 25.2 State Policy Network, Form 990, organizational IRS filing, 2007, available via Guidestar.org, accessed September 2012
- ↑ John J. Miller, Safeguarding a Conservative Donor’s Intent: The Roe Foundation at 39, Foundation Watch, Capital Research Center publication, May 2007, accessed September 2012.
- ↑ State Policy Network, Form 990, organizational IRS filing, 1998, available from Guidestar.org, accessed September 2012.
- ↑ 28.0 28.1 28.2 State Policy Network, Form 990, organizational IRS filing, 2005, available via Guidestar.org, accessed September 2012
- ↑ State Policy Network, John Jackson, organizational board member bio, accessed September 2012
- ↑ State Policy Network, Form 990, organizational IRS filing, 2006, available via Guidestar.org, accessed September 2012