Institute for Reforming Government
Institute for Reforming Government (IRG) is a right-wing, Wisconsin-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit founded in 2018. Its president, CJ Szafir, is the former Vice President of the Bradley-funded Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty.
IRG states its mission as "to simplify government at every level by offering policy solutions to thought leaders in American government in the areas of tax reform, government inefficiency, and burdensome regulations."
- 1 Ties to the State Policy Network
- 2 Ties to the Bradley Foundation
- 3 Funding
- 4 Core Financials
- 5 Personnel
- 6 Contact Information
- 7 Articles and Resources
- 8 References
Ties to the State Policy Network
IRG 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 April 2023, 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 2022 analysis of SPN's main members IRS filings by the Center for Media and Democracy shows that the combined revenue is over $152 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.
Ties to the Bradley Foundation
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.
The Institute for Reforming Government is not required to disclose its funders but major foundation supporters can be found through their IRS filings. Here are some known contributors:
- Bradley Foundation: $310,000 (2020-2021)
- Bradley Impact Fund: $144,000 (2018-2021)
- National Center for Housing Management: $25,000 (2019)
- Waukesha County Community Foundation: $65,000 (2019-2020)
- Total Revenue: $998,366
- Total Expenses: $347,166
- Net Assets: $765,606
- Total Revenue: $272,000
- Total Expenses: $346,883
- Net Assets: $114,406
- Total Revenue: $300,250
- Total Expenses: $110,961
- Net Assets: $189,289
As of September 2022:
- CJ Szafir, President; former Vice President, Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty
- Chris Reader, Executive Vice President
- Madison Hartmann, Director of External Affairs
- Alex Ignatowski, Director of State Budget and Government Reform
- Quinton Klabon, Senior Research Director
- Ed Eberle, Director of Environmental Policy and Project Manager
- Elizabeth Evenson, Senior Policy and Operations Advisor
- Benjamin Garbedian, Hamilton Roddis Student Fellow
- Laura Gralton, Fundraiser
Policy and Law Fellows
- Michael Brickman, Senior Fellow in Education
- Patrick Hughes, Fellow in Corrections and Public Safety
- John Gray, Policy Fellow
- Daniel Kelly, Senior Fellow in Constitutional Governance; former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice
- Gov. Scott Walker, Former National Honorary Chairman
Board of Directors
- Rob McDonald, Chairman
- Bill Johnson, Treasurer
- Ivan Gamboa
- Alison Prange
- Nicole Schneider
- Jim Villa
Institute for Reforming Goverment
701 E Washinton Ave, Suite 201
Madison, WI 53703
Articles and Resources
- Bradley Impact Fund
- Daniel Kelly
- Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation
- Scott Walker
- SPN Members
- State Policy Network
- Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty
IRS Form 990 Filings
- Guidestar, Institute for Reforming Government, organizational website, accessed February 3, 2021.
- Institute for Reforming Government, Home, organizational website, accessed February 3, 2021.
- David Armiak, State Policy Network and Affiliates Raises $152 Million Annually to Push Right-Wing Policies, ExposedbyCMD, September 30, 2022.
- 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.
- Institute for Reforming Government, 2020 IRS Form 990, Institute for Reforming Government, November 15 2021.
- Institute for Reforming Government, 2019 IRS Form 990, Institute for Reforming Government, 2020.
- Institute for Reforming Government, , 2018 IRS Form 990, May 6, 2019, accessed February 3, 2021.
- Michaela Paukner, "Former Justice Dan Kelly joins Institute for Reforming Government", Wisconsin Law Journal, October 22, 2020, accessed February 3, 2021.