Illinois Policy Institute

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The Illinois Policy Institute (IPI) is a conservative think tank with offices in Chicago and Springfield, Illinois, and a member of the State Policy Network. The IPI describes itself as a "leading independent research and education organization."[1] It claims that "the ultimate sign of success is when free market ideas are turned into law and change lives for the better."[1]

IPI has two related non-profit organizations: the Liberty Justice Center and the Government Accountability Alliance.[2]

News and Controversies

IPI President and COO Hired as Chief of Staff for IL Gov

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner fired his Chief of Staff Richard Goldberg and replaced him with IPI President and COO Kristina Rasmussen on July 10, 2017.[3]

Ties to the Bradley Foundation

Through 2016 the Illinois Policy Institute received $320,000 from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.

Bradley detailed the most recent grants in internal documents examined by the 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: $150,000 to support a Criminal Justice Center. As of this grant, IPI has received $170,000 from the Bradley Foundation. “IPI’s Criminal Justice Center provides an important opportunity to develop meaningful policy ideas and the most meaningful messaging ways to reach a market segment where the reform message resonates most. If successful, the Center’s efforts will lay a foundation to replicate elsewhere throughout the country.”

Bradley Files

In 2017, the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), publishers of SourceWatch, launched a series of articles on the Milwaukee-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, exposing the inner-workings of one of America's largest right-wing foundations. 56,000 previously undisclosed documents laid bare the Bradley Foundation's highly politicized agenda. CMD detailed Bradley's efforts to map and measure right wing infrastructure nationwide, including by dismantling and defunding unions to impact state elections; bankrolling discredited spin doctor Richard Berman and his many front groups; and more.

Find the series here at

Ties to the Koch Brothers

As of August 2016, IPI is listed as a "partner organization" in the Charles Koch Institute's Liberty@Work program.[4]

IPI has also received $789,206 from DonorsTrust and $807,750 from Donors Capital Fund between 2010 and 2014, groups with ties to the Kochs.

A report by the Center for Public Integrity exposes a number of DonorsTrust funders, many of which have ties to the Koch brothers. One of the most prominent funders is the Knowledge and Progress Fund, a Charles Koch-run organization and one of the group's largest known contributors, having donated at least $8 million since 2005. Other contributors known to have donated at least $1 million to DonorsTrust include the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation, Donald & Paula Smith Family Foundation, Searle Freedom Trust, Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, and the John M. Olin Foundation.[5]

Since its inception in 1999, DonorsTrust has been used by conservative foundations and individuals to discretely funnel nearly $400 million to like-minded think tanks and media outlets.[5] According to the organization's tax documents, in 2011 DonorsTrust contributed a total of $86 million to right-wing organizations. Many recipients had ties to the State Policy Network (SPN), a wide collection of conservative state-based think tanks and media organizations that focus on shaping public policy and opinion.

In 2013, the Center for Media and Democracy released a special report on SPN. Those who received DonorsTrust funding included media outlets such as the Franklin Center and the Lucy Burns Institute, as well as think tanks such as SPN itself, the Heartland Institute, Illinois Policy Institute, Independence Institute, Mackinac Center for Public Policy, South Carolina Policy Council, American Legislative Exchange Council, Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, and the Cascade Policy Institute.[6]

Koch Wiki

The Koch brothers -- David and Charles -- are the right-wing billionaire co-owners of Koch Industries. As two of the richest people in the world, they are key funders of the right-wing infrastructure, including the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the State Policy Network (SPN). In SourceWatch, key articles on the Kochs include: Koch Brothers, Koch Industries, Americans for Prosperity, American Encore, and Freedom Partners.

Ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council

IPI is a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). IPI was on the host committee for the 2013 ALEC Annual Conference,[7] and “Vice Chairman” level sponsor of the 2013 ALEC Annual Conference ($25,000).[8]

In 2011, Brian Costin, IPI Director of Outreach, and Ted Dabrowski, Vice President of Policy, represented IPI on ALEC's Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force. At the 2011 Annual Meeting, Costin introduced the "Local Government Transparency Act" model legislation, and Dabrowski introduced the "Pension Funding and Fairness Act" model legislation for adoption by the task force. The latter was adopted and proceeded to the ALEC Board of Directors for approval.[9] Executive Vice President Kristina Rasmussen represented IPI on the Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force as of April 2010, when she penned an article entitled "Pension Funding Reform: A Solution for Budget Deficits" for ALEC's newsletter, Inside ALEC.[10]

IPI is also a member of ALEC's Health and Human Services Task Force and Education Task Force. Senior Budget and Tax Policy Analyst, Amanda Griffin-Johnson, presented model legislation (the “State Employee Health Savings Account Act”) to the HHS task force at ALEC's 2011 annual meeting.[11] Collin Hitt, Director of Education Policy, is a private sector member of the Education Task Force representing IPI. He sponsored the “Local Government Transparency Act” at the ALEC 2011 States and Nation Policy Summit.[12]

Please see SPN Ties to ALEC for more.

About ALEC
ALEC is a corporate bill mill. It is not just a lobby or a front group; it is much more powerful than that. Through ALEC, corporations hand state legislators their wishlists to benefit their bottom line. Corporations fund almost all of ALEC's operations. They pay for a seat on ALEC task forces where corporate lobbyists and special interest reps vote with elected officials to approve “model” bills. Learn more at the Center for Media and Democracy's, and check out breaking news on our site.

State Policy Network

The Illinois Policy Institute is a member of the State Policy Network. SPN is a web of right-wing “think tanks” and tax-exempt organizations in 49 states, Puerto Rico, Washington, D.C., Canada, and the United Kingdom. As of July 2017, SPN's membership totals 153. It is an $83 million right-wing empire as of the 2011 funding documents from SPN itself and each of its state "think tank" members. 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.[13]

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.'"[14]

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.[15]

Ties to the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity

The Illinois Policy Institute has hosted writers from the ALEC-connected Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, which screens potential reporters on their “free market” views as part of the job application process.[16] The Franklin Center funds reporters in over 40 states.[17] Despite their non-partisan description, many of the websites funded by the Franklin Center have received criticism for their conservative bias.[18][19] On its website, the Franklin Center claims it "provides 10 percent of all daily reporting from state capitals nationwide."[20]

Franklin Center Funding

Franklin Center Director of Communications Michael Moroney told the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) in 2013 that the source of the Franklin Center's funding "is 100 percent anonymous." But 95 percent of its 2011 funding came from DonorsTrust, a spin-off of the Philanthropy Roundtable that functions as a large "donor-advised fund," cloaking the identity of donors to right-wing causes across the country (CPI did a review of Franklin's Internal Revenue Service records).[21] Mother Jones called DonorsTrust "the dark-money ATM of the conservative movement" in a February 2013 article.[22] Franklin received DonorTrust's second-largest donation in 2011.[21]

The Franklin Center also receives funding from the Wisconsin-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation,[23] a conservative grant-making organization.[24]

The Franklin Center was launched by the Chicago-based Sam Adams Alliance (SAM),[25] a 501(c)(3) devoted to pushing free-market ideals. SAM gets funding from the State Policy Network,[26] which is partially funded by The Claude R. Lambe Foundation.[27] Charles Koch, one of the billionaire brothers who co-own Koch Industries, sits on the board of this foundation.[28] SAM also receives funding from the Rodney Fund.

Local Right to Work and Lawsuits in Illinois

The village board of Lincolnshire, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, passed a local "Right to Work" ordinance in December 2015. On February 18, 2016, a federal lawsuit was filed by four unions challenging the legality of the ordinance. One of the unions also filed a lawsuit in Lake County alleging that the village board had violated open meetings laws when it passed the ordinance. In January 2016 the Liberty Justice Center, a law firm affiliated with the Illinois Policy Institute, "entered into an agreement with the village provide Lincolnshire with pro-bono legal representation in its defense of the ordinance," according to the Chicago Tribune.[29] Lawyers with the Liberty Justice Center confirmed to the Chicago Tribune in April 2016 that they would represent Lincolnshire in the two lawsuits related to the ordinance.[30] At that time, the lawsuits had not been resolved.


IPI does not list its funders publicly. Its website states: "Because the Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit charitable organization, our supporters’ names are kept private, although donors are free to share their reasons for supporting our efforts."[31]

IPI's known funders through financial disclosures include:

Core Financials


  • Total Revenue: $5,819,542
  • Total Expenses: $4,971,904
  • Net Assets: $1,311,586

Grants Distributed


  • Total Revenue: $3,535,075
  • Total Expenses: $3,856,029
  • Net Assets: $463,948

Grants Distributed

  • Liberty Justice Center (a related tax-exempt organization): $17,000


  • Total Revenue: $3,424,206
  • Total Expenses: $3,091,020
    • Reported Lobbying Expenditures: $25,777
  • Net Assets: $784,902

Grants Distributed

  • Liberty Justice Center (a related tax-exempt organization): $225,000
  • Donors Trust: $110,000


  • Total Revenue: $3,701,372
  • Total Expenses: $3,658,188
    • Reported Lobbying Expenditures: $18,616
  • Net Assets: $451,716

Grants Distributed

  • Liberty Justice Center (a related tax-exempt organization): $150,000
  • Think Freely Media: $365,000
  • Donors Trust: $5,000


  • Total Revenue: $2,875,519
  • Total Expenses: $2,643,618
    • Reported Lobbying Expenditures: $13,678
  • Net Assets: $408,532

Grants Distributed


  • Total Revenue: $1,791,057
  • Total Expenses: $1,732,183
  • Net Assets: $176,631


  • Total Revenue: $1,469,110
  • Total Expenses: $1,327,172
  • Net Assets: $117,757


As of September 2017:[39]


  • John Tillman, CEO
  • Amy Korte, Senior Editor
  • Austin Berg, Director of Content Strategy
  • Bradley Warren, Director of External Relations
  • Brendan Bakala, Marketing Associate
  • Chris Andriesen, Senior Project Manager
  • Chris Lentino, Manager of Chicago Outreach
  • Cinda Pensabene, Human Resources Manager
  • Eric Allie, Editorial Cartoonist
  • Eric Kohn, Marketing Manager
  • Jim Long, Director of Government Affairs
  • Jordan Sperando, Executive Assistant
  • Judi Willard, External Relations Coordinator
  • Mailee Smith, Staff Attorney
  • Mathew Quinn, Motion Graphic Artist
  • Melanie Krakauer, Manager of Media Relations
  • Michelle Mathia, Facilities Coordinator
  • Mindy Ruckman, Government Affairs Legislative Analyst
  • Nicholas Farrar, External Relations Associate
  • Pat Hughes, External Relations Advisor
  • Sherry Street, External Relations Officer
  • Zack Urevig, External Relations Manager
  • David Camic, Senior Fellow
  • Erik Randolph, Senior Fellow
  • F. Vincent Vernuccio, Senior Fellow
  • Mike Shedlock, Senior Fellow
  • Nicholas Horton
  • Emily Rose Mccallister, Vice President of External Relations
  • Hilary Gowns, Vice President of Communication
  • Matt Paprocki, Senior Vice President
  • Ted Dabrowski, Vice President of Policy and Spokesman

Board of Directors

  • John Tillman, CEO
  • Beth Christie
  • Craig Manske
  • Richard T. Weiss
  • Mark Miller
  • Ed Bachrach
  • Steve Brown

Former Staff

  • Kristina Rasmussen, President and COO
  • Michael Lucci, Vice President of Policy
  • Jacob Huebert, Senior Attorney
  • Diane Rickert, Vice President of Communications
  • Rebecca Kohn, Senior Manager of External Relations
  • Brian Costin, Director of Government Reform
  • Paul Kersey, Director of Labor Policy
  • Jonathan Ingram, Director of Health Policy and Pension Reform
  • Craig Lesner, Budget and Tax Research Director
  • Benjamin VanMetre, Senior Budget and Tax Policy Analyst
  • Josh Dwyer, Director of Education Reform
  • Jean Hutton, Operations Manager
  • Roxane Tyssen, External Relations Associate
  • Jen Dillman, Regional Director of External Relations, Central and Southern Illinois
  • Scott Reeder, Journalist in Residence
  • MaryAnn McCabe, External Relations Associate
  • Jane McEnaney, Policy Outreach Manager
  • Heather Wilhelm, Senior Fellow, Communications
  • J. Scott Moody, Senior Fellow for Budget and Tax Policy
  • Jerry Agar, Multimedia Fellow
  • Don Soifer, Senior Fellow, Education
  • Andrew Busch, Senior Fellow, Finance and Markets
  • Leonard Gilroy, Senior Fellow, Regulation and Privatization
  • Donna Arduin, Senior Fellow, Budget and Tax Policy
  • John Hill, Senior Fellow, Energy Policy
  • Jim Porterfield, Senior Fellow, Health Care Policy
  • Marc Levine, Senior Fellow, Pension and Investment Policy
  • John Stephen, JD, Senior Fellow, Health Care Policy
  • Jonathan Bean, Southern Illinois University
  • Rik Hafer, Southern Illinois University - Edwardsville
  • William J. Kresse, Saint Xavier University
  • Patrick Mullen, University of Illinois - Springfield
  • Robert Podlasek, Bradley University

Former Directors

Contact Details

EIN: 41-2057028

Chicago Office
Illinois Policy Institute
190 S. LaSalle Street, Suite 1630
Chicago, IL 60603
Phone: 312-346-5700
Fax: 312-346-5755

Springfield Office
Illinois Policy Institute
802 South 2nd Street
Springfield, IL 62704
Phone: 217-528-8800
Fax: 217-528-8808



  1. 1.0 1.1 "About Us", accessed November 2012
  2. 2.0 2.1 Illinois Policy Institute, 2013 Form 990, organizational tax filing.
  3. Fox Illinois News Team, Gov. Rauner names new chief of staff, Fox Illinois, July 10, 2017.
  4. Charles Koch Institute, Partner Organizations, Charles Koch Institute, 2016.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Paul Abowd, Donors use charity to push free-market policies in states, The Center for Public Integrity, February 14, 2013, accessed July 1, 2014.
  6. Donors Trust,, IRS form 990, 2011, accessed June 2014.
  7. Lisa Graves, More Corporations Drop Off ALEC’s Conference Brochure, PRWatch, August 15, 2013.
  8. Lisa Graves, ALECexposed: List of Corporations and Special Interests that Underwrote ALEC’s 40th Anniverary Meeting, PRWatch, August 15, 2013.
  9. American Legislative Exchange Council, "Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force Meeting," agenda and meeting materials, August 4, 2011, on file with CMD
  10. American Legislative Exchange Council Inside ALEC April 2010, organization newsletter, April 2010, p. 11
  11. American Legislative Exchange Council, Health and Human Services Task Force meeting agenda and materials, August 4, 2011, on file with CMD
  12. American Legislative Exchange Council, Education Task Force meeting agenda and materials, April 6, 2012, on file with CMD
  13. 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.
  14. Jane Mayer, Is IKEA the New Model for the Conservative Movement?, The New Yorker, November 15, 2013.
  15. Ed Pilkington and Suzanne Goldenberg, State conservative groups plan US-wide assault on education, health and tax, The Guardian, December 5, 2013.
  16. Franklin Center, Franklin Affiliates in Your State, organizational website, accessed October 2012.
  17. The Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, Think tank Journalism: The Future of Investigative Journalism, organizational website, accessed August 19, 2011.
  18. Rebekah Metzler, "Watchdog" website puts a new spin on politics, The Portland Press Herald, October 2, 2010.
  19. Allison Kilkenny, The Koch Spider Web, Truthout, accessed August 19, 2011.
  20. Sara Jerving, Franklin Center: Right-Wing Funds State News Source,, October 27, 2011.
  21. 21.0 21.1 Paul Abowd, Center for Public Integrity, Donors use charity to push free-market policies in states, organizational report, February 14, 2013.
  22. Andy Kroll, Exposed: The Dark-Money ATM of the Conservative Movement, Mother Jones, February 5, 2013.
  23. Daniel Bice, Franklin Center boss wants apology from Democratic staffer, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, August 8, 2011.
  24. The Bradley Foundation. The Bradley Foundation. Organizational website. Accessed August 19, 2011.
  25. Sam Adams Alliance. Sam Adams Alliance Media Kit. Organizational PDF. Accessed August 19, 2011.
  26. Media Matters Action Network. Sam Adams Alliance. Conservative Transparency. Accessed August 19, 2011.
  27. Media Matters Action Network. State Policy Network. Conservative Transparency. Accessed August 19, 2011.
  28. Media Matters Action Network. Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation. Conservative Transparency. Accessed August 19, 2011.
  29. Ronnie Wachter, "Lincolnshire faces state and federal lawsuits over right-to-work law," Chicago Tribune, February 23, 2016.
  30. Ronnie Wachter, "Conservative think tank confirms it will defend Lincolnshire in two lawsuits brought by unions," Chicago Tribune, April 19, 2016.
  31. Illinois Policy Institute, About Us: FAQs, organizational site, accessed September 6, 2011
  32. Cato Institute, 2006 Annual Report, pages 19-23.
  33. Illinois Policy Institute, [paper copy 2015 Form 990], Internal Revenue Service, November 14, 2016.
  34. Illinois Policy Institute, 2014 Form 990, Internal Revenue Service, November 2, 2015.
  35. Illinois Policy Institute, 2012 Form 990, organizational tax filing.
  36. Illinois Policy Institute, 2012 Form 990, organizational tax filing, November 15, 2012.
  37. Illinois Policy Institute, IRS form 990, 2010. GuideStar.
  38. Illinois Policy Institute, IRS form 990, 2009. GuideStar.
  39. Illinois Policy Institute, Our Team, Illinois Policy Institute, 2017.