Garden State Initiative

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The Garden State Initiative (GSI) is a right-wing "think tank" and affiliate member of the State Policy Network (SPN) founded in 2017.[1]

According to the organization's nascent website, "The Garden State Initiative is a nonpartisan research and educational organization dedicated to making New Jersey once again a place where families and businesses can thrive. We offer practical free-market solutions to the state and local challenges facing New Jersey, educate the public and policymakers, and work with partners throughout the state to build a sustainable, effective, freedom infrastructure for today and tomorrow."[2]

GSI's President Regina M. Egea was former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's Chief of Staff from 2015-2016.

News and Controversies

GSI President Involved in Christie's "Bridegate" and Deleted Texts During Scandal

Regina Egea, the President of Garden State Initiative, served as Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's Chief of Staff. She was involved in Christie's "Bridegate" scandal, where the former governor colluded with staff members to create a multi-day traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge as political retribution against a Fort Lee mayor who had not supported his reelection bid.[3]

As described by a 2018 opinion piece, "You might remember Egea as the head of Christie’s team overseeing the Port Authority when the George Washington Bridge was purposefully ensnarled in traffic jams. You might also know her as the other party in the infamous 'deleted texts' with Christie, at the exact same time top Port Authority officials were testifying before the legislature that Bridgegate’s 'traffic study' was a complete fabrication. Egea eventually told legislators she texted Christie her thoughts on this testimony, but later erased those messages. It’s no surprise the person chosen to lead New Jersey’s SPN chapter enjoys such deep experience misleading and hiding important information from the public."[4]

Ties to the State Policy Network

Garden State Initiative is an affiliate member of the State Policy Network (SPN). SPN contributed $130,500 to GSI between 2017-2018.

GSI board member Lawrence J. Mone served as president of SPN Member Manhattan Institute from 1995-2019.[5]

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.[6] 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.[7]

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.'"[8]

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.[9]

Funding

Garden State Initiative is not required to disclose its funders but major foundation supporters can be found through their IRS filings. Here are some known contributors:

Core Financials

2019[10]

  • Total Revenue: $329,660
  • Total Expenses: $330,899
  • Net Assets: $132,565

2018[11]

  • Total Revenue: $414,604
  • Total Expenses: $512,303
  • Net Assets: $133,804

2017[12]

  • Total Revenue: $430,113
  • Total Expenses: $198,610
  • Net Assets: $231,503

Personnel

Staff

As of April 2021:[13]

  • Regina M. Egea, President
  • John F. Coelho, Senior Global Health Advisor
  • William J. Smith, Director of Communications & Media Relations
  • James Boyle, Director of Development

Former Staff

  • Jeff Scully, Development Associate

Board of Directors

As of April 2021:[5]

  • Robert J. (Bob) Hugin, Chair of the Board
  • Samuel A. Cole
  • Thomas J. Healey
  • Lawrence J. Mone, Former President, Manhattan Institute
  • Dipal Patel

Former Board Members

  • Regina M. Egea, President

Contact Information

Garden State Initiative
116 Village Blvd, Suite 200
Princeton, New Jersey 08540

Employer Identification Number (EIN): 81-4373354 Website: http://gardenstateinitiative.org/
Phone: (908).400.9688
Email: contact@gardenstateinitiative.org
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GardenStateInitiative/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/GSI_NewJersey

Articles and Resources

IRS Form 990 Filings

2019

2018

2017

Related SourceWatch

References

  1. State Policy Network, Directory, Internal Revenue Service, accessed March 9, 2017.
  2. Garden State Initiative, About, organizational website, accessed March 9, 2017.
  3. Mark Mueller, "Fort Lee mayor blasts 'venomous acts' in wake of Bridgegate verdict", NJ Advance Media, November 4, 2016, accessed April 12, 2021.
  4. Joshua Henne, "Garden State Initiative right-wing wolf in sheep's clothing: Henne", App, May 2, 2018, accessed April 12, 2021.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Garden State Initiative, Our Board, organizational website, accessed April 12, 2021.
  6. David Armiak, Revenue for State Policy Network and State Affiliates Tops $120 Million, ExposedbyCMD, November 13, 2019.
  7. 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.
  8. Jane Mayer, Is IKEA the New Model for the Conservative Movement?, The New Yorker, November 15, 2013.
  9. Ed Pilkington and Suzanne Goldenberg, State conservative groups plan US-wide assault on education, health and tax, The Guardian, December 5, 2013.
  10. Garden State Initiative, 2019 IRS Form 990, organizational tax filing, June 6, 2020.
  11. Garden State Initiative, 2018 IRS Form 990, organizational tax filing, July 22, 2019.
  12. Garden State Initiative, 2017 IRS Form 990, organizational tax filing, April 18, 2018.
  13. Garden State Initiative People and Partners organizational website, accessed April 12 2021.