The 1889 Institute is a project of the right-wing 501(c)3 TEL (Truth.Enterprise.Leadership) Foundation, based out of Oklahoma. Founded in 2014, the 1889 Institute develops and analyzes state public policy and is listed as an affiliate member of the State Policy Network (SPN).
According to its website, "TEL is an independent, non-profit corporation with 501(c)3 tax status. TEL is based in Oklahoma. It has three operating divisions: the 1889 Institute (state public policy), EdBooks (virtual textbook publishing), and the Edupreneur Academy (research and training on the operation of charter and private schools). TEL does not make grants. The TEL Foundation is funded by grants from large and medium-sized donors."
Charles Koch is the right-wing billionaire owner of Koch Industries. As one of the richest people in the world, he is a key funder of the right-wing infrastructure, including the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the State Policy Network (SPN). In SourceWatch, key articles on Charles Koch and his late brother David include: Koch Brothers, Americans for Prosperity, Stand Together Chamber of Commerce, Stand Together, Koch Family Foundations, Koch Universities, and I360.
State Policy Network
SPN is a web of right-wing “think tanks” and tax-exempt organizations in 50 states, Washington, D.C., Canada, and the United Kingdom. As of January 2021, SPN's membership totals 163. Today's SPN is the tip of the spear of far-right, nationally funded policy agenda in the states that undergirds extremists in the Republican Party. SPN Executive Director Tracie Sharp told the Wall Street Journal in 2017 that the revenue of the combined groups was some $80 million, but a 2019 analysis of SPN's main members IRS filings by the Center for Media and Democracy shows that the combined revenue is over $120 million. 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 Koch Brothers
The 1889 Institute received $214,000 from the Charles G. Koch Foundation in 2015 and $60,000 in 2014.
- Total Revenue: $113,598
- Total Expenses: $79,287
- Net Assets: $34,311
Board of Directors
According to its 2015 tax filing:
- Vance Fried, President
- Keith Smith
- Michael Martin
- Nancy Fried, Secretary
1889 Institute Staff
As of July 2017:
- Byron Schlomach, Director
- Vance H. Fried, Senior Fellow
- Baylee Butler, Research Associate
Employer Identification Number (EIN): 47-1391457
- State Policy Network, Directory, organizational website, accessed July 21, 2017.
- TEL Foundation, Organization, organizational website, accessed July 21, 2017.
- David Armiak, Revenue for State Policy Network and State Affiliates Tops $120 Million, ExposedbyCMD, November 13, 2019.
- Rebekah Wilce, 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.
- Jane Mayer, Is IKEA the New Model for the Conservative Movement?, The New Yorker, November 15, 2013.
- Ed Pilkington and Suzanne Goldenberg, State conservative groups plan US-wide assault on education, health and tax, The Guardian, December 5, 2013.
- Cato Institute, Vance Fried, organizational website, accessed July 21, 2017.
- 1889 Institute, 2015 IRS Form 990, Internal Revenue Service, February 16, 2016.
- 1889 Institute, Our Team, organizational website, accessed July 21, 2017.