The Show-Me Institute (SMI) is a Missouri-based think tank that describes itself as a nonpartisan "research and educational institute dedicated to improving the quality of life for all citizens of Missouri." However, it is led by wealthy conservatives and Republican campaign staffers. It was founded in 2005 by billionaire right-wing political donor Rex Sinquefield. You can access the Center for Media and Democracy's Reporter's Guide on Sinquefield and his agenda here.
- 1 Ties to the Koch Brothers
- 2 Ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council
- 3 Pushing the ALEC Agenda
- 4 Strong Supporter of Privatizing Public Education
- 5 Ties to the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity
- 6 Staff Ties to Ideological and Partisan Campaign Efforts
- 7 Funding
- 8 Core Financials
- 9 Personnel
- 10 Contact Information
- 11 Articles and Resources
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 Koch Brothers
Ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council
Former Show-Me Institute policy analyst Christine Harbin went on to become a research manager at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). (She then went on to become a federal policy analyst at Americans for Prosperity.) SPN, to which the Show-Me Institute belongs, is also an ALEC member.
Please see SPN Ties to ALEC for more.
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 ALECexposed.org, and check out breaking news on our PRWatch.org site.
Pushing the ALEC Agenda
Progress Missouri notes in its report, "What Missourians Need to Know About the Show-Me Institute," that the Show-Me Institute is not the non-partisan think tank it claims to be, but rather a "belief tank" pushing a right-wing agenda in line with the American Legislative Exchange Council and Americans for Prosperity. SMI's work complements the "issue campaigns" of its founder, Rex Sinquefield, in that its output "intentionally supports Sinquefield's larger goals of enacting regressive tax policy in Missouri and other states, privatizing public education and removing local control of local schools with statewide evaluation and hiring practices." SMI overlaps with ALEC and Americans for Prosperity in the following issues:
- Paycheck "protection" to make it difficult for employees to fund unions
- Privatizing public education through vouchers and charter schools
- Teacher tenure reform
- Healthcare reform (against the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expsansion)
- Opposition to minimum wage laws/raising the minimum wage
- Pension reform for public employees (calling for a shift from defined-benefit plans to defined-contribution plans)
Strong Supporter of Privatizing Public Education
In 2008, the Show-Me Institute released a "policy study" titled "The Fiscal Effects of a Tuition Tax Credit Program in Missouri." In contrast with traditional vouchers, where the state directly reimburses a private school for tuition costs, these "tuition tax credit" proposals—sometimes called neo-vouchers—offer tax credits to individuals and corporations who donate to a nonprofit "school tuition organization." The nonprofit then pays for a student's tuition.
The Missouri state constitution's strict separation of church and state requires that those seeking to privatize education do so via these neo-vouchers. Unlike the U.S. Constitution, the Missouri constitution bars the use of any public funds in support of religious institutions, including schools.
The appeal of neo-vouchers is that the funding for a religious school's tuition doesn't come directly from the state; it comes from the nonprofit "school tuition organization." Even though the nonprofits are funded by tax credits, proponents argue that neo-vouchers wouldn't violate the state constitution's ban on taxpayer funds for religious institutions.
Ties to the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity
The Show-Me 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. The Franklin Center funds reporters in over 40 states. Despite their non-partisan description, many of the websites funded by the Franklin Center have received criticism for their conservative bias. On its website, the Franklin Center claims it "provides 10 percent of all daily reporting from state capitals nationwide."
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). Mother Jones called DonorsTrust "the dark-money ATM of the conservative movement" in a February 2013 article. Franklin received DonorTrust's second-largest donation in 2011.
The Franklin Center was launched by the Chicago-based Sam Adams Alliance (SAM), a 501(c)(3) devoted to pushing free-market ideals. SAM gets funding from the State Policy Network, which is partially funded by The Claude R. Lambe Foundation. Charles Koch, one of the billionaire brothers who co-own Koch Industries, sits on the board of this foundation. SAM also receives funding from the Rodney Fund.
Staff Ties to Ideological and Partisan Campaign Efforts
The Progress Missouri report also mentions campaign finance records show SMI staffers work directly for Republican and ideological campaign efforts, and have ties to big business:
- Rick Edlund, SMI's Communication's Director, has worked as a paid consultant for Cole McNary's bid for Treasurer in 2012, Sarah Steelman's U.S. Senate campaign, and for the House Republican Campaign Committee in 2010. He also worked on former Senator Jim Talent's 2000 campaign.
- Patrick Tuohey, SMI's "Western Missouri Field Manager," also worked for Steelman's campaign, as press secretary, and was paid by Representative Jay Barnes' campaign in 2012. He is the owner of Market and Communications Research, Inc. (Marcom), whose clients include Mobil, Monsanto, Merck, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Eli Lilly
- Brenda Talent, SMI's Executive Director, is the the spouse of Jim Talent, the former Republican Senator and Congressman.
- Christine Harbin, former SMI policy analyst, went on to become a research manager at ALEC and a federal policy analyst at Americans for Prosperity
- Paul Smith, SMI Development Assistant, worked as field director for Ted Cruz's U.S. Senate campaign in Texas.
In addition, the Show-Me Institute's Chief Economist, Joseph Haslag, has been routinely paid to generate industry-friendly studies in his position as the Kenneth Lay Chair is Economics at the University of Missouri-Columbia, according to campaign finance records.
On its website the think tank states that "the Institute's board of directors funds the basic operations of the Show-Me Institute. In addition, we seek financial support from individuals, foundations, and corporations who share our vision for the state and want to improve the quality of the public debate. To preserve our independence, we accept no government funding, and we do not perform contract work." SMI receives close to a million a year from the Sinquefield Charitable Foundation, a group established by Rex Sinquefield, the founder of SMI, and his wife.
In addition, the non-profit has received a lot of its funding from national organizations, including:
- Cato Institute: $50,000 (2006)
- DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund: $76,000 (2010-2013)
- State Policy Network: $82,600 (2013-2014)
- Total Revenue: $1,733,597
- Total Expenses: $1,419,361
- Net Assets: $1,299,315
- Total Revenue: $1,768,351
- Total Expenses: $1,362,011
- Net Assets: $985,079
- Total Revenue: $1,572,668
- Total Expenses: $1,476,503
- Net Assets: $578,739
- Total Revenue: $1,458,096
- Total Expenses: $1,443,711
- Net Assets: $482,574
- Total Revenue: $1,434,730
- Total Expenses: $1,383,822
- Net Assets: $468,189
- Total Revenue: $1,695,988
- Total Expenses: $1,574,040
- Net Assets: $417,281
- Total Revenue: $1,931,999
- Total Expenses: $1,764,858
- Net Assets: $295,333
As of November 2016:
- Brenda Talent, CEO
- Sara Meyr Addison, Development Assistant
- Rick Edlund, Communications Consultant
- Jessica Gatewood, Director of Development
- Michael Highsmith, Policy Researcher
- Patrick Ishmael, Director of Government Accountability
- Michael Q. McShane, Director of Education Policy
- Graham Renz, Policy Researcher
- Scott Tanner, Executive Assistant
- Patrick Tuohey, Western Missouri Field Manager
- Andrew B. Wilson, Fellow and Senior Writer
- Emily Runge, Research Assistant
- Michael Austin, Policy Analyst
- Jennifer Bumb, Office Manager
- Kacie Galbraith, Research Assistant
- Elizabeth Lanier-Shipp, Director of Development
- Michael Rathbone, Policy Researcher
- Susan E. Sagarra, Editor
- James V. Shuls, Education Policy Analyst
- Josh Smith, Website and Data Manager
- Paul Smith, Development Assistant
- David Stokes, Policy Analyst
Fellows and Scholars
As of November 2016:
- Michael Podgursky, Director - Professor of Economics, University of Missouri-Columbia
- Howard Wall, Research Fellow - Director of the Institute for the Study of Economics and the Environment (ISEE) at Lindenwood University
- Joseph Haslag, Chief Economist - Kenneth Lay Chair in Economics, University of Missouri-Columbia
- Rik W. Hafer, Research Fellow - Professor of Economics and Finance, Southern Illinois University and the Director of the Center for Economics and the Environment at Lindenwood University
- Daniel Thorton, Research Fellow - Vice President and economic advisor at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis
- Beverly Gossage, Research Fellow
- Susan K. Feigenbaum, Research Fellow - Professor of Economics, University of Missouri-St. Louis
- David C. Rose, Research Fellow - Professor and Chair of Economics, University of Missouri-St. Louis
- James V. Shuls, Ph.D., Distinguished Fellow of Education Policy-Assistant professor of educational leadership and policy studies at the University of Missouri–St. Louis
- Michele Boldrin, Research Fellow - Professor and Chair of Economics, Washington University
- Andrew B. Wilson, Fellow and Senior Writer
- Bonnie Wilson, Research Fellow - Associate Professor of Economics at Saint Louis University
Board of Directors
As of May 2013:
- Crosby Kemper III, Chairman of the Board
- Rex Sinquefield, President
- Kevin Short, Vice Chairman of the Board
- W. Bevis Schock, Secretary
- Joseph Forshaw, Treasurer
- Stephen F. Brauer
- James G. Forsyth III
- Hon. Robert M. Heller
- Gregg Keller
- Louis Griesemer
- Michael Podgursky
- Gerald A. Reynolds
- Steve Trulaske
5297 Washington Place
Saint Louis, MO 63108
Phone: (314) 454-0647
Fax: (314) 454-0667
Articles and Resources
Related SourceWatch Articles
- State Policy Network:
- American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)
- Donors Capital Fund
- Koch Family Foundations
- Koch Industries
- Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity
- Heritage Foundation
- Think tanks
- Whitney Ball
- Adam Meyerson
- Bridgett Wagner
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.
- Wall Street Journal, The Spoils of the Republican State Conquest, December 9, 2016, archived by CMD here.
- DeSmog Blog, Stink Tanks: Historical Records Reveal State Policy Network Was Created by ALEC, December 9, 2013.
- The Guardian, State conservative groups plan US-wide assault on education, health and tax, December 5, 2013.
- Portland Press Herald, "Washington County residents have mixed reactions to plan to eliminate taxes," December 5, 2013.
- The Texas Observer, "The Money Behind the Fight to Undermine Medicaid," December 5, 2013.
- Media Matters, North Carolina Newspapers Largely Ignore Conservative Funding Of Sham Think Tanks, December 3, 2013.
- Shepherd Express, Masters of Manipulation: Right-wing Billionaires, Corporations and the Bradley Foundation Pay for Junk Studies that Prop up Their Agenda, November 27, 2013.
- "Moyers & Company," How a Shadowy Network of Corporate Front Groups Distorts the Marketplace of Ideas, November 19, 2013.
- MSNBC "Rachel Maddow Show," November 18, 2013.
- Free Speech TV "Ring of Fire," Facebook, Microsoft, AT&T and Others Supporting Right Wing Propaganda Machine, November 18, 2013.
- Topeka Capital-Journal, Trabert dismisses report tying KPI to Koch agenda, November 16, 2013.
- The New Yorker (Jane Mayer), Is IKEA the New Model for the Conservative Movement?, November 15, 2013.
- Salon, Ted Cruz and Koch brothers embroiled in shadowy Tea Party scheme, November 15, 2013.
- St. Louis Business Journal, Beyond Sinquefield: Who else is funding the Show-Me Institute?, November 15, 2013.
- The Guardian, Facebook and Microsoft help fund rightwing lobby network, report finds, November 14, 2013.
- Huffington Post, Meet The Little-Known Network Pushing Ideas For Kochs, ALEC, November 14, 2013.
- CBS St. Louis, Show-Me Institute’s Ties Questioned in New Report, November 14, 2013.
- Talking Points Memo, Florida Conservative Group Helping Muck Up Obamacare In Alaska, November 14, 2013.
- Mint Press News, Reports Reveal SPN’s Secret Corporate Agenda Through Use ‘Expert’ Testimony, November 14, 2013.
- Media Matters, Shadowy Right-Wing Group Generates Media Coverage For Conservative Policy From Coast To Coast, November 14, 2013.
- The Institute for Southern Studies, Are conservative think tanks breaking lobbying laws?, November 14, 2013.
- Nonprofit Quarterly, Corporate Money in Network of Right-Wing State Policy Think Tanks, November 14, 2013.
- The Progressive, Right-Wing Think Tanks Push Privatization in the States, November 13, 2013.
- Politico, Report: Think tanks tied to Kochs, November 13, 2013.
- Lawrence Journal-World, Reports released by progressive groups are critical of Kansas Policy Institute, November 13, 2013.
- Maine Insights, Report: Maine Heritage Policy Center’s funding connection to Koch Brothers, November 13, 2013.
- The Florida Current, Liberal groups bemoan lobbying by conservative think tanks, November 13, 2013.
- The Oregonian, Cascade Policy Institute benefits from secretive donor group but says it operates independently, November 13, 2013.
- 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.
- Arizona Working Families and CMD, A Reporter’s Guide to the Goldwater Institute: What Citizens, Policymakers, and Reporters Should Know, organizational report, updated November 13, 2013.
- Progress Florida and CMD, Lawmaking Under the Influence of Very Special Interests: Understand the role of Florida ‘think tanks’ in driving a Koch-fueled, ALEC-allied corporate agenda, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
- Maine's Majority Education Fund, Fooling Maine: How national conservative groups infiltrated Maine politics by founding and funding the Maine Heritage Policy Center, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
- Progress Michigan, Who's Running Michigan? The Far-Right Influence of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
- Alliance for a Better Minnesota, Who's in Charge: How Nationalized Corporate-Run Think Tanks Influence Minnesota Politics, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
- Progress Missouri, What Missourians Need to Know About the Show-Me Institute, organizational report, updated November 13, 2013.
- Granite State Progress, Bad Bartlett: The Josiah Bartlett Center and NH Watchdog Answer the Call of the Koch Brothers, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
- ProgressOhio, Smoke Screen: The Buckeye Institute, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
- Keystone Progress, Think tanks or corporate lobbyist propaganda mills?, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
- Progress Texas, TPPF + ALEC, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
- One Wisconsin Now, S is for Shill: Inside the Bradley Foundation's Attack on Public Education, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
- Muncie Voice, Pence and Right-Wing Are Taking Over Public Education, November 13, 2013.
- The Spokesman-Review, Shawn Vestal: Idaho Freedom Foundation pushes limits of word ‘charity’, November 2, 2013.
- AZ Central, When this ‘watchdog’ pitches, taxpayers strike out, October 12, 2013.
- IndyStar, Daniels says speech to partisan group was a mistake, October 10, 2013.
- Muncie Voice, Indiana Policy Review: Not an Independent News Source, October 2, 2013.
- The Spokesman-Review, Idaho Freedom Foundation's charitable status scrutinized, September 15, 2013.
- CounterSpin, Lee Fang on 'The Right Leans In', April 5, 2013.
- FireDogLake, State Policy Network, an umbrella coordinating ALEC, Heritage, Heartland and others, April 4, 2013.
- Thom Hartmann with Lee Fang on MSNBC, The conservative State Policy Network is sneaking into your state & will change America, March 29, 2013.
- Current TV "War Room", Lee Fang discussing the State Policy Network, March 28, 2013.
- The Nation, The Right Leans In, March 26, 2013.
- Democracy Now, Donors Trust: Little-Known Group Helps Wealthy Backers Fund Right-Wing Agenda in Secret, February 19, 2013.
- Paul Abowd, Center for Public Integrity, Donors use charity to push free-market policies in states, Consider the Source, February 14, 2013.
- John R. Mashey, Fake science, fakexperts, funny finances, free of tax 2, DeSmog Blog report, updated October 23, 2012, p. 74.
- Urban Milwaukee, Stealth Conservatives, October 11, 2012.
- Rome News-Tribune, ANALYSIS: Georgia leaders depend on the same well for ideas, October 2012.
- Andy Kroll, The Right-Wing Network Behind the War on Unions, Mother Jones, April 25, 2011.
- Guidestar, State Policy Network, IRS filings and other organizational information about SPN.
- Center for Policy Alternatives, ALEC and the Extreme Right-Wing Agenda, organizational brochure about ALEC and SPN.
- John J. Miller, Fifty Flowers Bloom: Conservative think tanks — mini–Heritage Foundations — at the state level, National Review, November 19, 2007.
- Bridge Project, State Policy Network, online resource listing grants to SPN and SPN's connections to other groups.
- People for the American Way, State Policy Network, RightWingWatch.org, organizational resource.
- Greenpeace, Koch Industries Climate Denial Front Group: State Policy Network (SPN), organizational resource.
- Naomi Schaefer Riley, Meet One of the Super-PAC Men, Wall Street Journal, October 26, 2012.
- Show Me Institute, About, organizational website, accessed March 2008.
- Progress Missouri, What Missourians Need to Know About the Show-Me Institute, organizational report, accessed May 2013.
- Naomi Schaefer Riley, Meet One of the Super-PAC Men, Wall Street Journal, October 26, 2012.
- Charles Koch Institute, Partner Organizations, Charles Koch Institute, 2016.
- Christine Harbin, LinkedIn, online career profile, accessed September 2012
- Christine Harbin, Show-Me Institute, Ms. Harbin Goes to Washington, organizational blog post, May 31, 2011
- American Legislative Exchange Council, 2011 Conference Sponsors, conference brochure on file with CMD, August 4, 2011
- Brendan Fischer and Lisa Graves, Show Me the Money: Meet the Multimillionaire Squeezing Missouri's Schools, PRWatch, April 29, 2014.
- Franklin Center, Franklin Affiliates in Your State, organizational website, accessed October 2012.
- The Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, Think tank Journalism: The Future of Investigative Journalism, organizational website, accessed August 19, 2011.
- Rebekah Metzler, "Watchdog" website puts a new spin on politics, The Portland Press Herald, October 2, 2010.
- Allison Kilkenny, The Koch Spider Web, Truthout, accessed August 19, 2011.
- Sara Jerving, Franklin Center: Right-Wing Funds State News Source, PRWatch.org, October 27, 2011.
- Paul Abowd, Center for Public Integrity, Donors use charity to push free-market policies in states, organizational report, February 14, 2013.
- Andy Kroll, Exposed: The Dark-Money ATM of the Conservative Movement, Mother Jones, February 5, 2013.
- Daniel Bice, Franklin Center boss wants apology from Democratic staffer, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, August 8, 2011.
- The Bradley Foundation. The Bradley Foundation. Organizational website. Accessed August 19, 2011.
- Sam Adams Alliance. Sam Adams Alliance Media Kit. Organizational PDF. Accessed August 19, 2011.
- Media Matters Action Network. Sam Adams Alliance. Conservative Transparency. Accessed August 19, 2011.
- Media Matters Action Network. State Policy Network. Conservative Transparency. Accessed August 19, 2011.
- Media Matters Action Network. Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation. Conservative Transparency. Accessed August 19, 2011.
- Cato Institute, 2006 Annual Report, pages 19-23.
- Show-Me Institute, [paper copy 2015 IRS Form 990], Show-Me Institute, August 4, 2016.
- Show-Me Institute, 2014 IRS Form 990, Show-Me Institute, November 16, 2015.
- Show-Me Institute, 2013 IRS Form 990, Show-Me Institute, November 10, 2014.
- Show-Me Institute, 2012 IRS Form 990, Show-Me Institute, August 7, 2013.
- Show-Me Institute, IRS form 990, 2011. GuideStar.
- Show-Me Institute, IRS form 990, 2010. GuideStar.
- Show-Me Institute, IRS form 990, 2009. GuideStar.
- Show-Me Institute, Our Team, organizational website, accessed November 2016.
- Show-Me Institute, Fellows and Scholars, organizational website, accessed November 2016.
- Show-Me Institute, "Board of Directors", organizational website, accessed May 2013