Empower Texans Foundation

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Empower Texans Foundation is a 501(c)(3) private foundation located in Austin, Texas. According to their 2011 Form 990, their mission is to, "engage the public on legislative and policy issues, encouraging the sound stewardship of the taxpayers' resources." The foundation was established in late 2009, and involves the staff members traveling across Texas to "address audiences of varying sizes...providing education regarding fiscal policy at the state level and providing citizens with information about fiscal policy in Texas." [1] The foundation exclusively receives their funding from DonorsTrust, a right-wing grant-giving body in which donors can distribute funds through DonorsTrust to various right-wing organizations without revealing their identity.

The foundation explains the purpose behind their foundation on their web site: [2]

"The greatest threat to our state’s economic growth and competitiveness is the weight of government on the economy. If government and taxes are allowed to grow without restraint, the economy will contract, thereby limiting opportunities for all Texans. We seek policy outcomes that provide increasing levels of economic liberty and opportunity for all Texans by controlling the size of government. Government power and reach must be strictly limited, with elected officials held accountable by active and informed citizens."

The foundation generally supports political causes and candidates that work to lower tax rates, and privatize education through school choice programs, and works alongside right-wing, State Policy Network and Koch brothers affiliated groups like Texas Public Policy Foundation, Philanthropy Roundtable, and Americans for Prosperity.

The Texas Observer described founder Tim Dunn, and their political causes: [3]

"Tim Dunn is out to purify the Republican Party, and he’s bankrolling the tea party group Empower Texans to do it. Fronted by provocative activist Michael Quinn Sullivan, the group pushes for extremely limited government and has tried to defeat any Republican who strays from its orthodoxy."

In 2011, the foundation reported $250,882 in revenue, $247,565 in expenses, and $15,601 in assets. [4]

Connections to DonorsTrust, State Policy Network, Americans for Prosperity

While Empower Texans Foundation does not give contributions or grants to DonorsTrust, the foundation has received $222,000 in funding from DonorsTrust in 2011, and $148,000 in 2010. [5]

Tim Dunn, chairman of the foundation, also serves as Vice Chairman of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, and helped create the Center for Effective Criminal Justice at that foundation. The Texas Public Policy Foundation is a member of the State Policy Network, a right-wing network of over 50 state-based think tanks and associate members working to influence public opinion and policy. Dunn explained his beliefs behind creating the Center: [6]

"Currently, the primary focus is too often defending the power of the government; often the government is even considered the victim of a crime. But crimes happen to people. And if a citizen is injured, government's primary responsibility is to seek restoration of these injuries. In the course of this, relationships can also be restored. I believe this is the approach to criminal justice we must take in order to perpetuate a free society based on voluntary interaction and cooperation, or said another way, free markets. Government as its own client is a threat to personal liberty and an affront to community. Calling our prison system a system of "corrections" is severely misleading at best. Our prisons only do one thing effectively: incapacitate. And they should be applied accordingly."

Foundation President, Michael Q. Sullivan, also served as the director of media and government relations for Texas Public Policy Foundation from 2001 to 2003, and was then promoted to a vice president position in 2003. He left the organization in 2006 to serve on the Empower Texans Foundation board. [7]

In addition to Sullivan, Jeff Sandefer, a foundation director, serves on the board of directors for both the Texas Public Policy Foundation and Philanthropy Roundtable, another right-wing organization that helps facilitate contributions and grants to conservative think tanks and other similar foundations. [8]

In February of 2013, Empower Texans Foundation joined Americans for Prosperity, a right-wing, Koch brothers-led organization, for a rally in favor of school choice at the Texas state capital. Other organizations involved in the rally included Alliance for School Choice, a State Policy Network member, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, and the Waco Tea Party. [9]

Related Organizations and Projects

On both their website and Forms 990, the foundation lists two related organizations: Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, a 501(c)(4) non-profit corporation and direct advocacy entity, in addition to the Empower Texans PAC. [10] The organizations share office space, resources, and staff members, according to their Form 990.

Texas Budget Compact

Texans for Fiscal Responsibility has an on-going project entitled, "Texas Budget Compact" to:

"Support a constitutional limit of spending to the growth of population and inflation, cut unnecessary and duplicative government programs and agencies, oppose any new taxes or tax increases and make the small business tax exemption permanent, preserve a strong Rainy Day Fund, and practice truth in budgeting." [11]

Protect the Classroom

Created by the Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, the "Protect the Classroom" project seeks to protect in-classroom spending while cutting back salaries costs of administrators and associated "non-classroom related" fees. The project's website explains its purpose: [12]

"Texas classrooms are under assault… from school administrators. Facing wise and necessary budget cuts, administrators are threatening to fire teachers, claiming the legislature is making them do it – when administrative bloat is the real problem. In fact, there is plenty of money flowing into Texas schools… it’s just that too much is spent outside the classroom. Teachers are being told their jobs will be lost if the legislature makes cuts in education. Never mind that school administrators make many times more what classroom teachers do. Likewise, there are many positions outside the classroom that should be cut first. Currently, there is a 1:1 ratio between teachers and non-teachers on the education payroll."

The project is related to the Red Apple Project, created and sponsored by the Koch brothers organization, Americans for Prosperity.

Taxpayer Pledge

The foundation also has a "TAXPAYER PROTECTION PLEDGE" for state legislators to sign stating they are opposed "to any and all efforts to increase taxes." [13] Signers of the pledge include 33 members of the Texas Legislature, 34 U.S. Senators, 172 U.S. House Representatives, and Texas Governor Rick Perry. [14] The pledge stems from a project of the group Americans for Tax Reform, a member of the State Policy Network.

Empower Texans PAC

The foundation formed a PAC to "to promote men and women who will fight for taxpayer protections, a free economy and sound public policy." [15] The website adds the PAC supports candidates supported by its parent-organization, Texans for Fiscal Responsibility.

The 10 largest contributors to the PAC include: [16]

  • Tim Dunn gave $404,000.
  • James and Cecilia Leiniger, Texas advocates of school choice, gave $200,000.
  • Bob Perry, a prominent GOP fundraiser, gave $95,000.
  • Jeff Sandefer gave $86,000.
  • Ken Legler Campaign, Texas State Representative of HD-144 and ALEC member, gave $81,494
  • Empower Texans gave $33,812.
  • Harold Cox gave $15,000.
  • Stefani Carter Campaign, Texas State Representative of HD-102 and ALEC member, gave $6,500.
  • Tom Craddick Campaign Fund, Texas State Representative of HD-82 and ALEC member, gave $3,000.
  • Tom Korth gave $2,398.

Midland Classical Academy

Dunn also founded the Midland Classical Academy for grades K-12 in Midland, Texas. Grades 7-12 focus on a reading list of Western philosophers such as Socrates, Aristotle, and Homer, but also include the Bible and the New Testament as reading for every grade level. The Academy included their mission statement on their website: [17]

"Midland Classical Academy exists to provide an excellent academic foundation from a Biblical worldview. Midland Classical Academy is committed to recovering classical education and the Christian worldview in order to revitalize the impact of the Holy Scriptures on human history through such godly and educated disciples of Jesus Christ as God may raise up by this means.

Education at Midland Classical Academy is intended to be inherently different in philosophy and content. Midland Classical Academy strives to operate as an extension of the family under the conviction that education is the primary responsibility of parents and the immediate family rather than that of the State."

Key Personnel

Board of Directors

As of 2011, the Board of Directors includes: [18]

  • Tim Dunn, Chairman
  • Luke Dunn, director
  • Lee Dunn, director
  • Michael Q. Sullivan, President and director
  • Jeff Sandefer, director
  • Joel Trammell, director


Other staff members include: [19]

  • Andrew Kerr, Executive Director
  • Dustin Matocha, Policy Manager
  • Nathan Ofe, Development Manager
  • Tony McDonald, General Counsel
  • Morgan Williamson, Communications Coordinator
  • Ross Kecseg, Metroplex Office
  • Gregory Harrison, Field Representative
  • Vincent Kalkofen, Outreach Manager
  • Rick Peralez, Accounting


Address and Telephone Number

Empower Texans Foundation
P.O. Box 200248
Austin, TX 78720
(512) 236-0201 [20]

Related Websites

Articles and References

External References

  1. 2011 Form 990 organizational IRS tax filing, August 15, 2012.
  2. Empower Texans: About Us
  3. Mann, Dave Who Really Runs Texas? October 2, 2012
  4. 2011 Form 990 organizational IRS tax filing, August 15, 2012.
  5. Bridge Project Empower Texans Foundation: Funders
  6. Tim Dunn Criminal Justice Reform 2009
  7. Sullivan, Michael and Rollins, Brooke Sullivan Promoted Vice President July 16, 2003
  8. Philanthropy Roundtable: Who We Are
  9. Sadowski, Connie School choice advocates reaffirm position; education industry rallies for no choice more money February 25, 2013
  10. Empower Texans: About Us
  11. Texas Budget Compact
  12. Protect the Classroom
  13. Taxpayer Pledge
  14. Gov. Rick Perry signs Taxpayer Protection Pledge October 1, 2009.
  15. Empower Texans PAC
  16. Empower Texans PAC: Most Recent Filings
  17. Midland Classical Academy MCA Knights: About
  18. 2011 Form 990 organizational IRS tax filing, August 15, 2012.
  19. Empower Texans: Meet the Team
  20. 2011 Form 990 organizational IRS tax filing, August 15, 2012.

Form 990s

  • Empower Texans Foundation, 2011 Form 990, organizational IRS tax filing, August 15, 2012.
  • Empower Texans Foundation, 2010 Form 990, organizational IRS tax filing, August 16, 2011.