Center of the American Experiment

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The Center of the American Experiment (CAE) is a right-wing, Minnesota-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit founded in 1989.[1][2]

CAE members engage in policy research, draft legislation, testify before legislative committees, contribute to local and national media, and undertake lobbying efforts.[1] Its goal is to craft and propose "creative solutions that emphasize free enterprise, limited government, personal responsibility and government accountability."[1]

CAE is a member of the State Policy Network (SPN), a group of right-wing think tanks and other politically-active nonprofits.

Koch Wiki

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.

News and Controversies

Former CAE VP Planned to Sue Minnesota Over Refugee Resettlement, Gave Bigoted Comments in Interview

In a 2019 interview, CAE's former vice president Kim Crockett said she eventually planned to take the State of Minnesota to court over its refugee resettlement program. About the influx of Somali refugees, Crockett said, "I think of America, the great assimilator, as a rubber band, but with this— we’re at the breaking point. These aren’t people coming from Norway, let’s put it that way. These people are very visible."[3]

Part of SPN Effort to Convince Union Members to Stop Paying Dues

Following the Supreme Court's 2018 Janus v. AFSCME ruling, the State Policy Network created a series of front groups to encourage teachers to opt out of union dues.[4] CAE participated, sponsoring the "Educated Teachers" website.[4][5]

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.[6] 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."[6]

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."[7]

CAE also released a report in support of a 2012 constitutional amendment that would have codified language very similar to ALEC's "Voter ID Act."[7]

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. . . .[8] 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."[9][7]

Ties to the Bradley Foundation

Through 2016, the Center of the American Experiment received $305,000 from the Lynde and Harry 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.”

Bradley Files

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.

Find the series here at ExposedbyCMD.org.

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.[10]

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.

Funding

The Center of the American Experiment is not required to disclose its funders but major foundation supporters can be found through their IRS filings. Here are some known contributors:

  • Adolph Coors Foundation: $70,000 (2012, 2014, 2017)
  • Alfred Erickson Foundation: $2,000 (2012, 2015)
  • Bader Family Foundation: $63,000 (2017-2018)
  • Bank of America Charitable Gift Foundation (2013)
  • Catholic Community Foundation of Minnesota: $6,000 (2018)
  • Colegato Foundation: $2,000 (2016-2018)
  • Community Foundation of Sarasota: $5,000 (2018)
  • Ken and Betty Dahlberg Foundation: $2,000 (2018-2019)
  • Donors Capital Fund: $2,000 (2016)
  • DonorsTrust: $110,121 (2018)
  • Fidelity Investments Charitable Gift Fund (2017-2019)
  • Goldman Sachs Philanthropy Fund: $28,460 (2017-2019)
  • Hamilton Rodddis Foundation: $5,000 (2018)
  • Head Family Foundation: $38,500 (2012-2019)
  • Hendry Family Foundation: $132,500 (2016-2017)
  • Jaquelin Hume Foundation: $30,000 (2011)
  • K Foundation: $51,050 (2017)
  • Leonette M and Fred T Lanners Foundation: $102,000 (2012-2018)
  • Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation: $305,000 (through 2016)
  • Jim and Diane McCarthy Foundation: $2,500 (2014-2016, 2018)
  • Minneapolis Foundation: $249,250 (2012-2019)
  • National Christian Charitable Foundation: $17,550 (2012-2017)
  • Prudential Foundation: $2,500 (2013-2014)
  • Razoo Foundation: $51,494 (2012-2014)
  • Roe Foundation: $225,000 (1998-2016)
  • Saint Paul Foundation: $70,000 (2013-2019)
  • San Antonio Area Foundation Group Return: $19,443 (2014)
  • Ronald and Janet Schutz Family Foundation: $11,250 (2014, 2016, 2018)
  • Schwab Charitable Fund (2015, 2018-2019)
  • Searle Freedom Trust: $100,000 (2018)
  • State Policy Network: $100,700 (2016, 2018)
  • U.S. Charitable Gift Trust: $6,500 (2014)
  • WEM 2000 Foundation: $50,000 (2012)

Contributions

Core Financials

2019[11]

  • Total Revenue: $4,126,955
  • Total Expenses: $3,209,358
  • Net Assets: $2,457,899

2018[12]

  • Total Revenue: $3,731,628
  • Total Expenses: $3,108,123
  • Net Assets: $1,540,302

2017[13]

  • Total Revenue: $2,347,714
  • Total Expenses: $1,247,617
  • Net Assets: $916,797

2016[14]

  • Total Revenue: $1,841,454
  • Total Expenses: $1,843,336
  • Net Assets: $816,700

2015[15]

  • Total Revenue: $1,196,118
  • Total Expenses: $1,087,451
  • Net Assets: $564,596

2014[16]

  • Total Revenue: $1,243,963
  • Total Expenses: $1,125,952
  • Net Assets: $455,929

2013[17]

  • Total Revenue: $1,114,215
  • Total Expenses: $926,287
  • Net Assets: $337,918

2012[18]

  • Total Revenue: $1,116,632
  • Total Expenses: $972,969
  • Net Assets: $149,990

2011[19]

  • Total Revenue: $799,736
  • Total Expenses: $770,575
  • Net Assets: $6,327

2010[20]:

  • Total Revenue: $711,473
  • Total Expenses: $651,873
  • Net Assets: -$22,834

2009[21]:

  • Total Revenue: $744,556
  • Total Expenses: $658,994
  • Net Assets: -$82,434

Personnel

As of 2021:[1]

Staff

  • John H. Hinderaker, President
  • Kathy Kersten, Senior Policy Fellow
  • Tom Steward, Government Accountability Reporter
  • John Phelan, Economist
  • Isaac Orr, Policy Fellow
  • Catrin Wigfall, Policy Fellow
  • Martha Njolomole, Economist
  • Charlie Nickoloff, Finance Director
  • Bill Walsh, Communications Director
  • Allison Payne, Communications Specialist
  • Katie Fulkerson, Communications Consultant
  • Kathryn Hinderaker, Event Coordinator
  • Peter Zeller, Director of Operations
  • Lydia Luciano, Donor Relations Coordinator
  • Kristen Fuzer Sheehan, Development Consultant
  • Micah Olson, Greater Minnesota Outreach Director
  • Mitch Rolling, Researcher
  • Tom Mason, Editor and Publisher, Thinking Minnesota
  • Mitch Pearlstein, Founder Emeritus

Former Staff

  • Robert Benson, Greater Minnesota Coordinator
  • Pari Cariaga, Donor Relations and Events Coordinator
  • Kim Crockett, Vice President, Senior Policy Fellow & General Counsel
  • Peter Nelson, Vice President & Senior Policy Fellow
  • Samantha Peterson, Assistant Development Directo
  • Dwight Tostenson, Chief Financial Officer

Board of Directors

As of 2021:[1]

Officers

  • 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

Directors

  • Edward C. Anderson, Forthright Solutions
  • Elam Baer, North Central Equity
  • Asim Baig, CATS Software, Inc.
  • Michael E. Barry, Twin City Fan Companies
  • Molly Corrigan Cronin
  • Mitchell Davis, Davis Family Dairies
  • Elizabeth Driscoll
  • Greg Frandsen, Fransen Companies
  • Michael Hayden
  • Lowell W. Hellervik, Omni Leadership
  • Carol Hockert, Lanners Foundation
  • Robin Norgaard Kelleher
  • Tom Kelly, Dorsey & Whitney
  • Keith Kostuch
  • Robert Kukuljan, Stoel Rives LLP
  • Richard G. Morgan, Lewis Brisbois
  • Kenneth W. Morris, The Apercu Group
  • Charles Nickoloff, Medical Equities Investments
  • Mitchell B. Pearlstein, Founder of Center of the American Experiment
  • Rick Penn, Hutchinson Technology
  • Ted Risdall, Risdall Marketing Group
  • Howard Root, ELUX Marine, Inc.
  • Thomas J. Rosen, Rosen's Diversified Inc.
  • RonaldSchutz, Robins Kaplan LLP
  • Chuck Spevacek, Meagher & Geer, P.L.L.P.
  • Daniel J. Spiegel, Law Offices of Daniel J. Spiegel
  • Ronald Youngdahl, Corporate 4
  • Ben Wilmoth, Heidrick & Struggles

Former Board Members

  • Tara J. Anderson, TJA Business Law
  • Brent Robbins, General Mills
  • Kim Crockett, J.D., Chief Operating Officer, Executive Vice President & General Counsel
  • Peter Dahl, Crown Bank
  • Mitchell Davis, Davisco Foods
  • Carolyn Ericsson, CSM Investments
  • John F. Gibbs, Comcast Corporation
  • Harrison T. Grodnick, Owner & Manager, Minneapolis Portfolio Management Group
  • Bill Guidera, 21st Century Fox
  • Martha M. Head, Ceann Company
  • John W. Hedberg, Hedberg Family Foundation
  • Jack Lanners, F.T.L. Corporation
  • Rick Leggott, Arbor Capital Management
  • Eduard Michel, M.D. (Co-Founder, Virtual Radiologic Corp.)
  • Andrew M. O'Brien, Trean Corporation & Benchmark Insurance Company
  • Kurt Schellhas, Center for Diagnostic Imaging
  • Bruce Taher, Taher, Inc.
  • Erik Torgerson, Northwest Equity Partners
  • Todd Vollmers, Thompson Hall

Contact Information

Center of the American Experiment
8441 Wayzata Boulevard, Suite 350
Golden Valley, MN 55426

Phone: (612) 338-3605
Fax: (612) 338-3621
Website: http://www.americanexperiment.org
Email: info@americanexperiment.org
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AmericanExperiment/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/mnthinktank

Articles and Resources

IRS 990 Filings

2019

2018

2017

2016

Related SourceWatch

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Center of the American Experiment, About, organizational website, accessed January 29, 2021.
  2. Guidestar, Center of the American Experiment, organizational website, accessed January 29, 2021.
  3. Astead W. Herndon, "‘These People Aren’t Coming From Norway’: Refugees in a Minnesota City Face a Backlash", New York Times, June 20, 2019, accessed January 29, 2021.
  4. 4.0 4.1 David Armiak, "State Policy Network Unleashes Wave of Front Groups to Attack Public Union Membership", Exposed by CMD, July 13, 2018, accessed January 29, 2021.
  5. Educated Teachers, Educated Teachers, organizational website, accessed January 29, 2021.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Ricardo Lopez, Conservative blogger, attorney takes helm of Center of the American Experiment, Star Tribune", January 17, 2016.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Alliance for a Better Minnesota, Who's in Charge: How Nationalized Corporate-Run Think Tanks Influence Minnesota Politics, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
  8. Federal Election Commission, Advanced Transaction Query By Individual Contributor, federal government agency campaign contributions search engine, accessed November 2013.
  9. Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board, Search, state governmental agency campaign contributions search engine, accessed November 2013.
  10. American Legislative Exchange Council 35 Day Mailing, Telecommunications and Information Technology Task Force, July 18, 2011
  11. Center of the American Experiment, [1], via ProPublica, January 19, 2021.
  12. Center of the American Experiment, [2], via ProPublica, January 19, 2021.
  13. Center of the American Experiment, 2016 IRS 990, via ProPublica, January 19, 2021.
  14. Center of the American Experiment, 2016 IRS 990, via ProPublica, Sept 2, 2018.
  15. Center of the American Experiment, [paper copy 2015 IRS 990], Center of the American Experiment, May 10, 2016.
  16. Center of the American Experiment, 2014 IRS 990, Center of the American Experiment, November 2, 2015.
  17. Center of the American Experiment, 2013 IRS 990, Center of the American Experiment, August 4, 2014.
  18. Center of the American Experiment, 2012 IRS 990, Center of the American Experiment, August 1, 2013.
  19. Center of the American Experiment, 2011 IRS 990, Center of the American Experiment, July 23, 2012.
  20. Center of the American Experiment, IRS form 990, 2010. GuideStar.
  21. Center of the American Experiment, IRS form 990, 2009. GuideStar.