Freedom Foundation of Minnesota
The Freedom Foundation of Minnesota (FFM) is a rightwing, Minneapolis-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit founded in 2007. Freedom Foundation of Minnesota describes itself as "an independent, non-profit educational and research organization that actively advocates the principles of individual freedom, personal responsibility, economic freedom, and limited government." Annette Meeks, former Deputy Chief of Staff for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, founded FFM in 2006 and served as CEO as of 2021.
FFM is a member of the State Policy Network (SPN), a group of rightwing think tanks and other politically-active nonprofits.
- 1 News and Controversies
- 2 Ties to the State Policy Network
- 3 Core Financials
- 4 Funding
- 5 Personnel
- 6 Contact Information
- 7 Articles and resources
News and Controversies
Ties to the Franklin News Foundation
Freedom Foundation of Minnesota founded Minnesota Watchdog. FFM was formerly listed as one of Franklin News Foundation's Statehouse News Bureaus and a former host for the organization's investigative reporters.
Co-Sponsored 2009 International Conference for Climate Change Skeptics
In 2009, FFM was one of many rightwing nonprofit co-sponsors of the Heartland Institute/International Conference on Climate Change (2009), which was funded by over $47 million from energy companies and rightwing foundations.
Ties to the State Policy Network
FFM is a member of the 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.
- Total Revenue: $250,911
- Total Expenses: $265,079
- Net Assets: $25,138
- Total Revenue: $362,987
- Total Expenses: $364,627
- Net Assets: $39,306
- Total Revenue: $319,165
- Total Expenses: $271,844
- Net Assets: $40,946
- Total Revenue: $350,628
- Total Expenses: $358,769
- Net Assets: -$6,375
- Total Revenue: $349,335
- Total Expenses: $373,622
- Net Assets: $1,766
- Total Revenue: $332,836
- Total Expenses: $348,951
- Net Assets: $26,053
- Total Revenue: $406,234
- Total Expenses: $368,220
- Net Assets: $42,168
- Total Revenue: $280,704
- Total Expenses: $468,104
- Net Assets: $5,932
- Total Revenue: $549,963
- Total Expenses: $335,375
- Net Assets: $193,332
The Freedom Foundation of Minnesota is not required to disclose its funders but major foundation supporters can be found through their IRS filings. Here are some known contributors:
- American Petroleum Institute: $10,000 (2012)
- Norman and Ann Hoffman Foundation: $10,000 (2017-2018)
- Charles G. Koch Foundation: $47,000 (2017)
- Donors Capital Fund: $410,950 (2011-2016)
- DonorsTrust: $3,500 (2017)
- Minnesota Action Network: $18,690 (2014)
- Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America: $45,000 (2012, 2016, 2018)
- Roe Foundation: $175,000 (2008-2016, 2018)
- Ronald and Janet Schutz Family Foundation: $20,000 (2015-2018)
- State Policy Network: $39,500 (2012-2013)
As of 2021, Annette Meeks is the only staff member listed on the organization's website.
- Annette Meeks, CEO
- Jonathan Blake, Vice President
- Tom Steward, Investigative Director
Board of Directors
As of November 2018:
- Dirk Bak, Chairman of the Board
- Jack Meeks, Vice Chairman
- Annette Meeks, CEO, Secretary, Treasurer
- Brian Sullivan
- Chris Georgacas
- Steve Knuth
- Kristin Ostrander
- Tony Trimble
- Vin Weber
Freedom Foundation of Minnesota
Medical Arts Building
825 Nicollet Mall, Suite 815
Minneapolis, MN 55402
Web contact form: https://freedomfoundationofminnesota.com/contact/
Articles and resources
- American Petroleum Institute
- Charles G. Koch Foundation
- Contributions of the State Policy Network
- Donors Capital Fund
- DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund Grant Recipients
- Franklin News Foundation
- Heartland Institute/International Conference on Climate Change (2009)
- Newt Gingrich
- Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America
- Roe Foundation
- SPN Members
- State Policy Network
IRS Form 990 Filings
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.
- Guidestar, "The Freedom Foundation of Minnesota", organizational website, accessed February 1, 2021.
- Heartland Institute, "International Conference on Climate Change: Global Warming: Was It Ever Really a Crisis?", March 8-10, 2009, page 32.
- Alliance for a Better Minnesota, Who's in Charge: How Nationalized Corporate-Run Think Tanks Influence Minnesota Politics, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
- Freedom Foundation of Minnesota, About - Staff, organizational website, accessed February 1, 2021.
- Statehouse News Bureaus, SourceWatch, accessed February 1, 2021
- DeSmog, "Heartland Institute's 2009 Climate Conference in New York: funding history of the sponsors", organizational website, accessed February 1, 2021.
- 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.
- Freedom Foundation of Minnesota, 2018 IRS Form 990, organizational tax filing, November 8, 2019, accessed February 1, 2021.
- Freedom Foundation of Minnesota, IRS Form 2017 990, Freedom Foundation of Minnesota, October 16, 2018.
- Freedom Foundation of Minnesota, IRS Form 2016 990, Freedom Foundation of Minnesota, October 9, 2017.
- Freedom Foundation of Minnesota, IRS Form 2015 990, Freedom Foundation of Minnesota, August 9, 2016.
- Freedom Foundation of Minnesota, IRS Form 2014 990, Freedom Foundation of Minnesota, August 6, 2015.
- Freedom Foundation of Minnesota, IRS Form 2013 990, Freedom Foundation of Minnesota, August 15, 2014.
- Freedom Foundation of Minnesota, IRS Form 2012 990, Freedom Foundation of Minnesota, November 15, 2013.
- Freedom Foundation of Minnesota, IRS form 990, 2010. GuideStar.
- Freedom Foundation of Minnesota, IRS form 990, 2009. GuideStar.