Foundation for Government Accountability
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:
- "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.
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 that has boosted the profits of providers of Medicaid services at the expense of expanded enrollment and patient care, according to critics. FGA’s activity on behalf of the privatization scheme has included presenting the plan to ALEC, [which] endorsed the program’s expansion. Hudson’s representation of firms that rely on government spending comes despite FGA’s and Bragdon’s advocacy for reductions in government spending."
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."
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.
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.
According to a FGA Press Release, 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.
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. Bragdon touted the state's controversial Medicaid reform plans and Florida’s welfare drug testing law during the event.
Please 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.
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. 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.
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.
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."
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."
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.
- Total Revenue: $212,194
- Total Expenses: $151,739
- Net Assets: $60,455
Board of Directors
As of November 2013:
- 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)
As of November 2013:
- 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.)
- 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
As of April 2013:
- Joyce Errecart, Senior Fellow for Tax Policy
- Joseph Burk, PhD, Fellow for Entrepreneurship
- Darcie Johnston, Development
- Megan Teague, Research Fellow
Foundation for Government Accountability
15275 Collier Blvd
Naples, FL 34119
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
- Brendan Fischer, Why Are the Franklin Center's "Wisconsin Reporter" and "Watchdog.org" Attacking the John Doe?, PRWatch.org, December 19, 2013.
- Rebekah Wilce, The State Policy Network's Cozy Relationship with Big Tobacco, PRWatch.org, December 16, 2013.
- Rebekah Wilce, Did ALEC Found SPN? 1991 Report Suggests So, Exposes SPN Agenda, PRWatch.org, December 12, 2013.
- Rebekah Wilce, Guardian Documents Expose State Policy Network Groups' Intent to Lobby, PRWatch.org, December 5, 2013.
- Rebekah Wilce, State Policy Network: The Stealth Network Dramatically Influencing State Law, PRWatch.org, December 5, 2013.
- Rebekah Wilce, Tracie Sharp: Bursar of Mystery Money and "IKEA Model" Materials to Stink Tanks, PRWatch.org, November 19, 2013.
- Center for Media and Democracy, Reports Expose Extreme Pressure Groups Masquerading as Think Tanks, press release, November 13, 2013.
- 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.
- DeSmog Blog, Stink Tanks: Historical Records Reveal State Policy Network Was Created by ALEC, December 9, 2013.
- The Guardian, State conservative groups plan US-wide assault on education, health and tax, December 5, 2013.
- Portland Press Herald, "Washington County residents have mixed reactions to plan to eliminate taxes," December 5, 2013.
- The Texas Observer, "The Money Behind the Fight to Undermine Medicaid," December 5, 2013.
- Media Matters, North Carolina Newspapers Largely Ignore Conservative Funding Of Sham Think Tanks, December 3, 2013.
- Shepherd Express, Masters of Manipulation: Right-wing Billionaires, Corporations and the Bradley Foundation Pay for Junk Studies that Prop up Their Agenda, November 27, 2013.
- "Moyers & Company," How a Shadowy Network of Corporate Front Groups Distorts the Marketplace of Ideas, November 19, 2013.
- MSNBC "Rachel Maddow Show," November 18, 2013.
- Free Speech TV "Ring of Fire," Facebook, Microsoft, AT&T and Others Supporting Right Wing Propaganda Machine, November 18, 2013.
- Topeka Capital-Journal, Trabert dismisses report tying KPI to Koch agenda, November 16, 2013.
- The New Yorker (Jane Mayer), Is IKEA the New Model for the Conservative Movement?, November 15, 2013.
- Salon, Ted Cruz and Koch brothers embroiled in shadowy Tea Party scheme, November 15, 2013.
- St. Louis Business Journal, Beyond Sinquefield: Who else is funding the Show-Me Institute?, November 15, 2013.
- The Guardian, Facebook and Microsoft help fund rightwing lobby network, report finds, November 14, 2013.
- Huffington Post, Meet The Little-Known Network Pushing Ideas For Kochs, ALEC, November 14, 2013.
- CBS St. Louis, Show-Me Institute’s Ties Questioned in New Report, November 14, 2013.
- Talking Points Memo, Florida Conservative Group Helping Muck Up Obamacare In Alaska, November 14, 2013.
- Mint Press News, Reports Reveal SPN’s Secret Corporate Agenda Through Use ‘Expert’ Testimony, November 14, 2013.
- Media Matters, Shadowy Right-Wing Group Generates Media Coverage For Conservative Policy From Coast To Coast, November 14, 2013.
- The Institute for Southern Studies, Are conservative think tanks breaking lobbying laws?, November 14, 2013.
- Nonprofit Quarterly, Corporate Money in Network of Right-Wing State Policy Think Tanks, November 14, 2013.
- The Progressive, Right-Wing Think Tanks Push Privatization in the States, November 13, 2013.
- Politico, Report: Think tanks tied to Kochs, November 13, 2013.
- Lawrence Journal-World, Reports released by progressive groups are critical of Kansas Policy Institute, November 13, 2013.
- Maine Insights, Report: Maine Heritage Policy Center’s funding connection to Koch Brothers, November 13, 2013.
- The Florida Current, Liberal groups bemoan lobbying by conservative think tanks, November 13, 2013.
- The Oregonian, Cascade Policy Institute benefits from secretive donor group but says it operates independently, November 13, 2013.
- Center for Media and Democracy, EXPOSED: The State Policy Network, The Powerful Right-Wing Network Helping to Hijack State Politics and Government, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
- Arizona Working Families and CMD, A Reporter’s Guide to the Goldwater Institute: What Citizens, Policymakers, and Reporters Should Know, organizational report, updated November 13, 2013.
- Progress Florida and CMD, Lawmaking Under the Influence of Very Special Interests: Understand the role of Florida ‘think tanks’ in driving a Koch-fueled, ALEC-allied corporate agenda, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
- Maine's Majority Education Fund, Fooling Maine: How national conservative groups infiltrated Maine politics by founding and funding the Maine Heritage Policy Center, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
- Progress Michigan, Who's Running Michigan? The Far-Right Influence of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
- Alliance for a Better Minnesota, Who's in Charge: How Nationalized Corporate-Run Think Tanks Influence Minnesota Politics, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
- Progress Missouri, What Missourians Need to Know About the Show-Me Institute, organizational report, updated November 13, 2013.
- Granite State Progress, Bad Bartlett: The Josiah Bartlett Center and NH Watchdog Answer the Call of the Koch Brothers, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
- ProgressOhio, Smoke Screen: The Buckeye Institute, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
- Keystone Progress, Think tanks or corporate lobbyist propaganda mills?, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
- Progress Texas, TPPF + ALEC, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
- One Wisconsin Now, S is for Shill: Inside the Bradley Foundation's Attack on Public Education, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
- Muncie Voice, Pence and Right-Wing Are Taking Over Public Education, November 13, 2013.
- The Spokesman-Review, Shawn Vestal: Idaho Freedom Foundation pushes limits of word ‘charity’, November 2, 2013.
- AZ Central, When this ‘watchdog’ pitches, taxpayers strike out, October 12, 2013.
- IndyStar, Daniels says speech to partisan group was a mistake, October 10, 2013.
- Muncie Voice, Indiana Policy Review: Not an Independent News Source, October 2, 2013.
- The Spokesman-Review, Idaho Freedom Foundation's charitable status scrutinized, September 15, 2013.
- CounterSpin, Lee Fang on 'The Right Leans In', April 5, 2013.
- FireDogLake, State Policy Network, an umbrella coordinating ALEC, Heritage, Heartland and others, April 4, 2013.
- Thom Hartmann with Lee Fang on MSNBC, The conservative State Policy Network is sneaking into your state & will change America, March 29, 2013.
- Current TV "War Room", Lee Fang discussing the State Policy Network, March 28, 2013.
- The Nation, The Right Leans In, March 26, 2013.
- Democracy Now, Donors Trust: Little-Known Group Helps Wealthy Backers Fund Right-Wing Agenda in Secret, February 19, 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.
- Urban Milwaukee, Stealth Conservatives, October 11, 2012.
- Rome News-Tribune, ANALYSIS: Georgia leaders depend on the same well for ideas, October 2012.
- 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.
- 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.
- Florida Legislature, 2013 REGISTRATIONS BY LOBBYIST NAME, state governmental website, accessed November 11, 2013, pp. 167-168.
- 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.
- John Dorschner, Can Florida’s Medicaid reform plan be the model for the nation?, Miami Herald, September 29, 2012.
- Chris Cinquemani, Foundation for Government Accountability, RELEASE – Think Tank Featured at ALEC Health and Human Services Task Force, organizational press release, December 5, 2011.
- Tarren Bragdon, Foundation for Government Accountability, ALEC Supports Florida’s Statewide Medicaid Reform, organizational publication, October 18 2011.
- Ashley Lopez, New 'free market' think tank sets its sights on 2012 legislative session Florida Independent, November 2, 2011.
- Ashley Lopez, Right-Wing Think Tank leaks salaries of public employees via new website, Washington Independent, January 9, 2012.
- 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.
- Foundation for Government Accountability, "Release: Think Tank Featured at ALEC Health and Human Services Task Force", organizational website, accessed December 2012.
- Ashley Lopez, New right-wing think tank touts Medicaid reform and welfare drug testing at ALEC event, Florida Independent, January 6, 2012.
- Foundation for Government Accountability, Staff, organizational website, accessed December 2012.
- 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.
- Franklin Center, Franklin Affiliates in Your State, organizational website, accessed October 2012.
- The Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, Think tank Journalism: The Future of Investigative Journalism, organizational website, accessed August 19, 2011.
- Rebekah Metzler, "Watchdog" website puts a new spin on politics, The Portland Press Herald, October 2, 2010.
- Allison Kilkenny, The Koch Spider Web, Truthout, accessed August 19, 2011.
- Sara Jerving, Franklin Center: Right-Wing Funds State News Source, PRWatch.org, October 27, 2011.
- Paul Abowd, Center for Public Integrity, Donors use charity to push free-market policies in states, organizational report, February 14, 2013.
- Andy Kroll, Exposed: The Dark-Money ATM of the Conservative Movement, Mother Jones, February 5, 2013.
- Daniel Bice, Franklin Center boss wants apology from Democratic staffer, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, August 8, 2011.
- The Bradley Foundation. The Bradley Foundation. Organizational website. Accessed August 19, 2011.
- Sam Adams Alliance. Sam Adams Alliance Media Kit. Organizational PDF. Accessed August 19, 2011.
- Media Matters Action Network. Sam Adams Alliance. Conservative Transparency. Accessed August 19, 2011.
- Media Matters Action Network. State Policy Network. Conservative Transparency. Accessed August 19, 2011.
- Media Matters Action Network. Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation. Conservative Transparency. Accessed August 19, 2011.
- Ben Wolford, Maine man: Young political upstart from New England starts Naples-based think tank, Naples Daily News, October 17 2011.
- 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.
- Andy Kroll, The Right-Wing Network Behind the War on Unions, Mother Jones, April 24, 2011.
- Foundation for Government Accountability, 2011 Form 990, annual organizational IRS filing, October 15, 2012.
- Foundation for Government Accountability, Leadership, organizational website, accessed November 2013.
- Foundation for Government Accountability, Staff, organizational website, accessed November 2013.
|This article is a stub. You can help by expanding it.|