Free to Choose Network
Learn more about how the State Policy Network aids ALEC and spins disinformation in the states.
The Free to Choose Network emerged from Milton Friedman's 1980 PBS series Free to Choose and pushes its right-wing mission through documentaries, blog posts and other means of digital media. The organization also operates izzit.org, a website that provides educational resources on free market ideas.
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.
Providing Right-Wing Educational Resources with izzit.org
izzit.org provides teachers and parents with free educational videos aimed at younger audiences, many of the videos promote free market ideas. The website also features articles, information regarding educational standards and teacher's guides complete with worksheets, quizzes and lesson plans. According to its website:
izzit.org is dedicated to teaching the next generation about the ideas, institutions, and benefits of a free society. At the same time, we seek to foster the critical thinking skills necessary for young people to become independent-minded, fully engaged citizens. To prepare students for successful self-government, we help them understand the foundational ideas of our republic, such as individual liberty, personal responsibility, and equality before the law. We ask students to think about the role of government and the importance of voluntary associations in promoting human flourishing. Students gain a greater appreciation for how a free society with a strong rule of law enables a diverse people to coexist, cooperate, and prosper.
Free to Choose Media
According to the organization's website:
Free To Choose Media is the film production arm of Free To Choose Network, with a rich tradition of award-winning national broadcast production. FTCM seeks to stimulate thought on vital topics, including economics, energy, taxes, law enforcement, U.S. Constitution and human rights offering diverse voices, powerful stories and a fresh perspective on a range of important global and national issues. Rather than dictating lessons, FTCM tells stories with inquisition and entertainment. Our production teams travel the world to explore hot topics, such as the economic roots of the Arab Spring and the inspiring stories of entrepreneurs raising themselves and their communities out of poverty, as well as revealing how innovation and new technologies may be the answer to the world’s growing energy needs. Some of the locations our production teams have filmed in include the United States, New Zealand, Sweden, Asia, India, Scotland, Paris, London, and New York.
Free to Choose has also received substantial funding from DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund, "two funds that have been closely tied to the Kochs but which obscure the percentage of their grants coming from Koch money." Combined DonorsTrust and Donors Capitol have contributed $2,494,368 to the organization between 2010 and 2014. (See the full list of DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund grants here.)
The Charles G. Koch Foundation contributed $10,058 to Free to Choose in 2009.
For more information regarding Free to Choose Network funding, see DeSmogBlog's organizational profile here.
- Total Revenue: $4,919,766
- Total Expenses: $4,689,677
- Net Assets: $2,039,509
- Total Revenue: $3,776,116
- Total Expenses: $4,587,314
- Net Assets: $1,809,420
- Total Revenue: $5,531,974
- Total Expenses: $3,918,885
- Net Assets: $2,620,618
- Total Revenue: $4,130,286
- Total Expenses: $4,245,410
- Net Assets: $1,007,529
- Total Revenue: $3,794,843
- Total Expenses:3,547,748
- Net Assets: $1,122,653
Board of Directors
As of March 14, 2017:
- Robert J. Chitester, Chairman, President and CEO
- David Jorgensen, Vice Chairman
- Wayne Olson, Executive Director, Foundation for Economic Education
- Chris J. Rufer
- Andy Walters
- James J. Bochnowski
- Maryjo Cohen
- Ronald H. Muhlenkamp
- Elizabeth Rose
- Brian Singer
- Preston Cody
- Michael L.S. Keiser
- John Reese
- Neena Shenoy
- Bob Chitester, Chairman, President and CEO
- Tara L. Schupp, VP Production and COO
- Cindee L. Behrendt, VP Administration
- Tom Skinner, Senior Executive Producer
- Carmine Camillo, Development Director
- Susan Gable, Director of Education Curriculum
- Bruce Ames, Professor Emeritus, UC Berkeley, distinguished biochemist, inventor of the Ames test
- David Asman, Host of Forbes on FOX and former editorial features editor for the Wall Street Journal
- Peter Boettke, Economist, author, professor and director of Mercatus Center’s Hayek program
- Don Boudreaux, Professor of Economics at George Mason University, and author of Hypocrites & Half-Wits: A Daily Dose of Sanity from Café Hayek
- Brian Caplan, Economist, writer and influential public choice theorist
- David Friedman, Economist, physicist, legal scholar, and son of Milton & Rose Friedman
- John Fund, Author, journalist and senior editor of the American Spectator
- Jim Gwartney, Professor of Economics & Policy Sciences at Florida State University, and adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute
- Daniel Klein, Economist, professor and chief editor of Econ Journal Watch
- John Mackey, Founder and CEO of Whole Foods Market and creator of the Conscious Capitalism Institute
- Jacob Mchangama, Lawyer, director of Freedom Rights Project and legal affairs at CEPOS
- Leo Melamed, Chairman Emeritus of the CME Group, Inc. and founder of the International Monetary Market (IMM)
- Bob Metcalf, Professor, UT Austin, formulator of Metcalfe’s Law, co-inventor of ethernet, founder of 3Com
- Kevin Murphy, Fellow, Hoover Institution at Stanford University and Econometric Society, and professor of Economics at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business
- Sofia Nerbrand, Political analyst, journalist, founding CEO and editor-in-chief of Neo magazine
- Johan Norberg, Internationally-published author, senior fellow at the Cato Institute and European Centre for International Political Economy, TV host/commentator
- Tom Palmer, Executive VP, International Programs, Atlas Foundation, writer, senior fellow at the Cato Institute
- Larry Reed, President of the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), and founder and past president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy
- Russ Roberts, Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution; Host of EconTalk, Author
- George Shultz, Former US Secretary of State, Secretary of the Treasury, Director of the Office of Management & Budget, Secretary of Labor. President of Bechtel Corporation, Dean of University of Chicago School of Business
- Walter Williams, Economist, author, syndicated columnist and professor
Employer Identification Number (EIN): 52-1455677
Free to Choose Network
2002 Filmore Avenue
Erie, Pennsylvania 16506
- State Policy Network, Directory, organizational website, accessed March 14, 2017.
- Free to Choose Network, Our Beginnings, organizational website, archive via WebCite October 10, 2015.
- 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.
- Free to Choose Network, Projects, organizational website, accessed March 14, 2017.
- Free to Choose Network, About, izzit.org, accessed March 14, 2017.
- Free to Choose Network, Free to Choose Media, Free to Choose Media], organizational website, accessed March 14, 2017.
- 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.
- Free to Choose Network, 2015 IRS Form 990, Internal Revenue Service, accessed March 14, 2017.
- Free to Choose Network, 2014 IRS Form 990, Internal Revenue Service, January 28, 2016.
- Free to Choose Network, 2013 IRS Form 990, Internal Revenue Service, December 18, 2014.
- Free to Choose Network, 2012 IRS Form 990, Internal Revenue Service, September 18, 2013.
- Free to Choose Network, Board of Directors, organizational website, accessed March 14, 2017.