Georgia Center for Opportunity

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Georgia Center for Opportunity (GCO) is a member of the State Policy Network, a web of right-wing state "think tanks.".[1] It describes itself as "an independent, non-partisan think tank dedicated to increasing opportunity and improving the quality of life for all Georgians."[2] It was founded in 1990 as the Georgia Family Education and Research Council,[3] but changed its name in March 2013.[4]

News and Controversies

GCO VP of Public Policy Praised Kemp Reopening, Criticized GOP's "Cult of Personality"

Buzz Brockway, GCO's Vice President of Public Policy, is quoted praising Georgia Governor Brian Kemp's decision to reopen Georgia in April 2020 despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. In a GCO statement, Brockway wrote: “We applaud Governor Kemp’s decisions during this time of crisis.”[5]

Brockway has criticized the cult of personality surrounding Donald Trump, cautioned against the GOP's embrace of "QAnon candidates", and condemned former Trump advisor Steve Bannon.[6] He accused both Democrats and Republicans of apocalyptic rhetoric ahead of the 2020 presidential election, saying "I don’t... believe America is finished if Biden wins. 2016 was not a ‘Flight 93’ election and neither is 2020... This is dangerous thinking in my opinion."[6]

Ties to the State Policy Network

GCO 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 August 2020, SPN's membership totals 162. 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.[7] 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.[8]

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.'"[9]

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.[10]

Ties to the Bradley Foundation

Through 2018, Georgia Center for Opportunity received $2,225,000 from Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.

Bradley detailed the most recent grants in internal documents examined by Center for Media and Democracy (CMD). Below is a description of the grant prepared by CMD. The quoted text was written by Bradley staff.

2015-2016 (Barder Fund): $1.5 million over 3 years to create a multi-pronged Healthy Families Initiative "to measurably increase the number of healthy relationships, strong marriages, and stable families in metro Atlanta."

In 2014, Bradley contacted several individuals regarding their opinion on state infrastructure investments. Randy Hicks, GCO's president and CEO, is among those named in internal documents examined by the CMD.[11]

Ties to the Kochs

In addition to receiving funding from Donors Capital Fund, DonorsTrust, and State Policy Network, all tied to the Kochs, GCO is a partner organization in the Charles Koch Institute's Liberty@Work program.[12]

Funding

Georgia Center for Opportunity does not disclose its donors, but some of its funding sources are known through other tax filings. GCO's known funders include:

Core Financials

2017[13]

  • Total Revenue: $2,228,462
  • Total Expenses: $2,094,224
  • Net Assets: $1,141,743

2016[14]

  • Total Revenue: $2,110,977
  • Total Expenses: $1,640,826
  • Net Assets: $1,007,505

2015[15]

  • Total Revenue: $1,697,836
  • Total Expenses: $1,285,690
  • Net Assets: $572,149

2014[16]

  • Total Revenue: $1,340,025
  • Total Expenses: $1,523,044
  • Net Assets: $100,208

2013[17]

  • Total Revenue: $1,309,821
  • Total Expenses: $1,467,105
  • Net Assets: $283,227

2012[18]

  • Total Revenue: $1,595,988
  • Total Expenses: $1,616,070
  • Net Assets: $440,511

2011[3]

  • Total Revenue: $1,446,049
  • Total Expenses: $1,070,559
  • Net Assets: $460,593

2010[19]

  • Total Revenue: $1,327,114
  • Total Expenses: $1,426,494
  • Net Assets: $85,103

2009[19]

  • Total Revenue: $1,427,766
  • Total Expenses: $1,520,988
  • Net Assets: $184,483

Personnel

Staff

As of August 2020:[20]

  • Randy Hicks, President and CEO
  • Jim Eckstein, Executive Vice President
  • Eric Cochling, Chief Program Officer and General Counsel


  • David Bass, Press Manager
  • Kristin Barker, Program Manager HWDG Columbus
  • Buzz Brockway, VP of Public Policy
  • Corey Burres, VP of Communications
  • Grace Fendrick, Donor Engagement Coordinator
  • Katherine Greene, Healthy Families Initiative Program Manager
  • Koppany Jordan, Development Associate
  • Jamie Lord, Director of Government Affairs
  • Joyce Mayberry, VP of Family
  • Kelly McGonigal, Director of Institutional Giving
  • Kimberly Sawatka, Communications Manager
  • Katelyn Tinney, Director of Operations
  • Kelsey Underwood, Agile Product Manager

Former Staff

  • Jonathan Butcher, Contributing Scholar
  • Jason Leming, Digital Strategy
  • Danielle LeSure, Director, Education Policy
  • Joseph Knippenberg, Contributing Scholar
  • Erik Randolph, Contributing Scholar
  • Dawn Steele, Director of Breakthrough Programs
  • Terry T. Tucker, COO and General Counsel
  • Josiah Vega, Development Associate
  • Eric Wearne, Contributing Scholar
  • Joyce Whitted, HFI Program Manager
  • Brad Wilcox, Senior Advisor, Healthy Families Initiative

Board of Directors

As of August 2020:[21]

  • Keith Schneider, Vice Chairman; President and CEO, GPS Trackit
  • Randy Hicks, GCO CEO & President; Elder, Perimeter Church; Board of Directors, Segue Ministries
  • Karin Douglas, Secretary; VP of Development, Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Power & Potential
  • Shaunti Feldhahn, Author and Speaker
  • Tony Kitchens, Reintegration Services Professional
  • Tim Bentsen, Director, Synovus Financial Corp.
  • Christina Coors Williams, Trustee, Adolph Coors Foundation

Former Board Members

  • Kevin Broyles
  • Vernadette Broyles
  • Bryan Crute
  • Jeff Feldhahn
  • Cami Fetz
  • John Fetz
  • Anthony Flynn
  • Chris Gabriel
  • Giulio Gianturco, Chairman
  • Rose Greene
  • Marilyn Hicks
  • Jason Jones
  • Becky Loechl
  • Kevin Loechl, Secretary
  • Charleen McBrayer
  • Mike McBrayer
  • Bill Rodgers, Chairman
  • Evelyn Rodgers
  • Allen Sells
  • Dani Swope
  • Rick Swope
  • Gerald Thames
  • Rhonda Thomas
  • Richard Thomas

Contact Information

Employer Identification Number (EIN): 58-1928520

Georgia Center for Opportunity
333 Research Court, Suite 210
Peachtree Corners, GA 30092

Phone:(770) 242-0001
Fax:(770) 242-0501
Website: https://georgiaopportunity.org/
Email: contact@georgiaopportunity.org
Facebook: @gaoopportunity
Twitter: @GAOopportunity

Articles and Resources

IRS Form 990 Filings

2017

2016

2015

2014

Related SourceWatch

References

  1. State Policy Network, Georgia Center for Opportunity, organizational website, accessed August 2016.
  2. Georgia Center for Opportunity, About, organizational website, accessed October 2013.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Georgia Family Education and Research Council, 2011 Form 990, organizational annual IRS filing, May 15, 2013.
  4. Georgia Center for Opportunity, Georgia Family Council has a new name!, Facebook organizational page, March 13, 2013, accessed October 2013.
  5. Isaac Stanley-Becker, "States that raced to reopen let businesses write their own rules, documents show", Washington Post, July 9, 2020, accessed August 27, 2020.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Jim Galloway, "Opinion: A Democrat eager to vote for Donald Trump, and the Republican who isn’t – but will", Atlanta Journal-Constitution, August 25, 2020, accessed August 27, 2020.
  7. David Armiak, https://www.exposedbycmd.org/2019/11/13/revenue-state-policy-network-state-affiliates-tops-120-million/ Revenue for State Policy Network and State Affiliates Tops $120 Million], ExposedbyCMD, November 13, 2019.
  8. 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.
  9. Jane Mayer, Is IKEA the New Model for the Conservative Movement?, The New Yorker, November 15, 2013.
  10. Ed Pilkington and Suzanne Goldenberg, State conservative groups plan US-wide assault on education, health and tax, The Guardian, December 5, 2013.
  11. Center for Media and Democracy, Bradley Foundation “State Infrastructure Interviewees”, Exposed by CMD, accessed August 29, 2020.
  12. Charles Koch Institute, Partner Organizations, Charles Koch Institute, 2016.
  13. Georgia Center for Opportunity, 2017 990 Form, Georgia Center for Opportunity, March 1, 2018.
  14. Georgia Center for Opportunity, 2016 990 Form, Georgia Center for Opportunity, April 7, 2018.
  15. Georgia Center for Opportunity, IRS 2015 990 Form, Georgia Center for Opportunity, May 13, 2016.
  16. Georgia Center for Opportunity, 2014 990 Form, Georgia Center for Opportunity, May 13, 2016.
  17. Georgia Center for Opportunity, 2013 990 Form, Georgia Center for Opportunity, May 15, 2015.
  18. Georgia Center for Opportunity, 2012 990 Form, Georgia Center for Opportunity, May 14, 2014.
  19. 19.0 19.1 Georgia Family Education and Research Council Inc., 2010 Form 990, organizational annual IRS filing, August 10, 2012.
  20. Georgia Center for Opportunity, Team, organizational website, accessed August 27, 2020.
  21. Georgia Center for Opportunity, Board of Directors, organizational website, accessed August 27, 2020.