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Center of the American Experiment
The Center of the American Experiment (CAE) is a right-wing pressure group based in Minnesota. It is a member of 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. On the homepage of its website, CAE lists its issue areas as: Minnesota economy, healthcare, families, governance, education and employee freedom.
- 1 CAE Names Conservative Blogger John Hinderaker President
- 2 Political Activity
- 3 Ties to the Bradley Foundation
- 4 Ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council
- 5 Ties to the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity
- 6 Core Financials
- 7 Personnel
- 8 Contact Information
- 9 Articles and Resources
The Koch brothers -- David and Charles -- are the right-wing billionaire co-owners of Koch Industries. As two of the richest people in the world, they are key funders of the right-wing infrastructure, including the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the State Policy Network (SPN). In SourceWatch, key articles on the Kochs include: Koch Brothers, Koch Industries, Americans for Prosperity, American Encore, and Freedom Partners.
CAE Names Conservative Blogger John Hinderaker President
In January of 2016, John Hinderaker was named the new President at the Center of the American Experiment. Before taking on this position, Hinderaker was a lawyer and a conservative blogger. His blog Power Line won Time Magazine's 2004 award for "Blog of the Year" for what the Star Tribune reported as debunking a "report that lead to the downfall of CBS news anchor Dan Rather."
Hinderaker was quoted as saying after the announcement that, "One of my real missions over the next couple of years is going to be to stimulate some candid debates and conversations all around the state about how we are doing and how we can do better (in Minnesota).” Minnesota consistently ranks highest among states in quality of life and healthcare.
Attempting to Influence Legislation in Minnesota
Minnesota Senator and candidate for Governor Dave Thompson proposed a constitutional amendment (SF 1705) to make Minnesota a "Right to Work" state. The amendment was strikingly similar to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) bill the "Right to Work Act," as a November 2013 report by Alliance for a Better Minnesota points out. The report continues, "Piggybacking on Thompson's ALEC-based efforts to pass Right to Work in Minnesota, CAE released a report in support of the measure. Not surprisingly, the SPN-written report was shown to be both duplicative to reports from other states and inaccurate."
Political Contributions of CAE Staff and Directors
According to the Alliance for a Better Minnesota report, "CAE staff and directors contributed at least $289,430 to federal candidates and committees between 1998 and 2012. Nearly all contributions were made to conservative or Republican organizations and candidates. . . . CAE staff and directors contributed at least $656,718 to candidates and committees at the state level from 1998–2012. As with the federal contributions, nearly all contributions were made to "conservative" organizations and candidates."
Ties to the Bradley Foundation
Bradley detailed the most recent grants in internal documents examined by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD). Below are the descriptions prepared by CMD. The quoted text was written by Bradley staff.
2016: $25,000 to support research and activities on the effects of family fragmentation. “Specifically, in part at Bradley’s and (Brookings Institution’s Ron) Haskin’s urging, CAE is looking into ways in which apprenticeships might make men more employable and thus more ‘marriageable.’ Also at Bradley’s urging, it is looking to create partnerships in the African American communities of Minnesota.”
2015: $25,000 to support research and activities on the effects of family fragmentation.
2014: $50,000 to support its research on the cultural role of marriage and fatherhood. Bradley awarded a grant to CAE president Mitch Pearlstein in 2013 for a project investigating how family fragmentation is contributing to a less cohesive nation and how policy can address the issue (Broken Bonds: What Family Fragmentation Means for America’s Future). “Pearlstein attributes the idea for the book and the methodology employed in its research and writing to his participation in the Bradley Working Group on the Family… Pearlstein in his follow on two part project will select 15 to 20 clergy, scholars, and lay leaders to engage in a two part exercise on whether churches and religious institutions are doing enough to reinforce marriage… Pearlstein will be pursuing questions such as: what, if anything their parishes, congregations and assemblies are doing to strengthen marriages in general and reduce nonmarital births in particular; what is standing in the way of them doing more; what do they think they and other religious institutions should be doing that they are not; and how can churches and other religious institutions provide more space and opportunities for ex offenders to spend more time with law abiding citizens away from corrupting influences that helped send them to prison in the first place… In the second part, Pearlstein will commission 10 to 12 clergy and scholars to contribute a complementary variety of essay to an anthology. In this Anthology, the select group of writers will address the question of what religious institutions and their leaders do to strengthen their voice of matters of personal well being and family stability.”
In 2017, the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), publishers of SourceWatch, launched a series of articles on the Milwaukee-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, exposing the inner-workings of one of America's largest right-wing foundations. 56,000 previously undisclosed documents laid bare the Bradley Foundation's highly politicized agenda. CMD detailed Bradley's efforts to map and measure right wing infrastructure nationwide, including by dismantling and defunding unions to impact state elections; bankrolling discredited spin doctor Richard Berman and his many front groups; and more.
Ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council
SPN is a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Additionally, CAE board member, John Gibbs, represents Comcast Corporation on the ALEC Telecommunications and Information Technology Task Force.
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 Center of the American Experiment 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.
- Total Revenue: $1,841,454
- Total Expenses: $1,843,336
- Net Assets: $816,700
- Total Revenue: $1,196,118
- Total Expenses: $1,087,451
- Net Assets: $564,596
- Total Revenue: $1,243,963
- Total Expenses: $1,125,952
- Net Assets: $455,929
- Total Revenue: $1,114,215
- Total Expenses: $926,287
- Net Assets: $337,918
- Total Revenue: $1,116,632
- Total Expenses: $972,969
- Net Assets: $149,990
- Total Revenue: $799,736
- Total Expenses: $770,575
- Net Assets: $6,327
- Total Revenue: $711,473
- Total Expenses: $651,873
- Net Assets: -$22,834
- Total Revenue: $744,556
- Total Expenses: $658,994
- Net Assets: -$82,434
As of Sept 2018:
- John H. Hinderaker, President
- Mitch Pearlstein, Founder & Senior Fellow
- Kim Crockett, Vice President, Senior Policy Fellow & General Counsel
- Peter Nelson, Vice President & Senior Policy Fellow
- Tom Steward, Communications Director and Investigative Reporter
- Kathy Kersten, Senior Fellow
- John Phelan, Economist
- Catrin Thorman, Policy Fellow
- Isaac Orr, Policy Fellow
- Robert Benson, Greater Minnesota Coordinator
- Tom Mason, Editor and Publisher, Thinking Minnesota
- Kristen Fuzer Sheehan, Development Director
- Peter Zeller, Director of Operations
- Pari Cariaga, Donor Relations and Events Coordinator
- Dwight Tostenson, Chief Financial Officer
- Samantha Peterson, Assistant Development Director
Board of Directors
- Ron Eibensteiner, Chairman; Venture Capitalist, Wyncrest Capital, Inc.
- John Hinderaker, President
- Mark S. Larson, Secretary; Attorney, Messerli & Kramer
- Scott Rile, Treasurer; Principal, Bernstein Global Wealth Management
- Edward C. Anderson, Forthright Solutions
- Tara J. Anderson, TJA Business Law
- Elam Baer, North Central Equity
- Asim Baig, CATS Software, Inc.
- Michael E. Barry, Twin City Fan Companies
- Molly Corrigan Cronin
- Peter Dahl, Crown Bank
- Mitchell Davis, Davis Family Dairies
- Elizabeth Driscoll
- Greg Frandsen, Fransen Companies
- John F. Gibbs, Comcast Corporation
- Bill Guidera, 21st Century Fox
- Michael Hayden
- Lowell W. Hellervik, Omni Leadership
- Robin Norgaard Kelleher, Seaton, Beck & Revnew
- Thomas O. Kelly, III, Dorsey & Whitney
- Keith Kostuch
- Richard G. Morgan, Bowman & Brooke
- Kenneth W. Morris, The Apercu Group
- Charles Nickoloff, Medical Equities Investments
- Andrew M. O'Brien, Trean Corporation & Benchmark Insurance Company
- Mitchell B. Pearlstein, Founder of Center of the American Experiment
- Rick Penn, Hutchinson Technology
- Ted Risdall, Risdall Marketing Group
- Brent Robbins, General Mills
- Thomas J. Rosen, Rosen's Diversified Inc.
- Ronald J. Schutz, Robins Kaplan LLP
- Charles E. Spevacek, Meagher & Geer, P.L.L.P.
- Todd Vollmers, Thompson Hall
Former Board Members
- Jack Lanners, F.T.L. Corporation
- Kurt Schellhas, Center for Diagnostic Imaging
- Bruce Taher, Taher, Inc.
- Erik Torgerson, Northwest Equity Partners
- Martha M. Head, Ceann Company
- Kim Crockett, J.D., Chief Operating Officer, Executive Vice President & General Counsel
- Mitchell Davis, Davisco Foods
- Carolyn Ericsson, CSM Investments
- Harrison T. Grodnick, Owner & Manager, Minneapolis Portfolio Management Group
- John W. Hedberg, Hedberg Family Foundation
- Rick Leggott, Arbor Capital Management
- Eduard Michel, M.D. (Co-Founder, Virtual Radiologic Corp.)
Center of the American Experiment
8441 Wayzata Boulevard, Suite 350
Golden Valley, MN 55426
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.
- Wall Street Journal, The Spoils of the Republican State Conquest, December 9, 2016, archived by CMD here.
- 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.
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- John J. Miller, Fifty Flowers Bloom: Conservative think tanks — mini–Heritage Foundations — at the state level, National Review, November 19, 2007.
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- Center of the American Experiment, About, Center of the American Experiment, 2018.