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: $1,683,889
- Total Expenses: $1,387,285
- Net Assets: $1,587,120
- 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 September 2018:
- Brenda Talent, CEO
- Sara Meyr Addison, Development Assistant
- Abgail Hoyt, Education Policy Research Assistant
- Patrick Ishmael, Director of Government Accountability
- Philip Oehlerking, Research Assistant
- Susan Pendergrass, Director of Research and Education Policy
- Graham Renz, Policy Researcher
- Emily Stahly, Analyst
- Scott Tanner, Executive Assistant
- Elias Tsapelas, Analyst
- Patrick Tuohey, Western Missouri Field Manager
- Kelvey Vander Hart, Development Assistant
- Andrew B. Wilson, Fellow and Senior Writer
- Scott Tuttle, Intern
- Mike Ferguson, Director of Communications
- Frank Catanzaro, Social Media Coordinator
- Mike Ederer, Editor
- Greg Kenkel, Graphic Designers
- Zach Lawhorn, Multimedia Manager
- Bennett Lewis, Outreach
- 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
- Rick Edlund, Communications Consultant
- Jessica Gatewood, Director of Development
- Michael Highsmith, Policy Researcher
- Michael Q. McShane, Director of Education Policy
- Emily Runge, Research Assistant
- Michael Austin, Policy Analyst
Fellows and Scholars
As of November 2018:
- 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
- Michael Q. McShane, Senior Fellow of Education Policy
- Bonnie Wilson, Research Fellow - Associate Professor of Economics at Saint Louis University
Board of Directors
As of September 2018:
- Crosby Kemper III, Chairman of the Board
- Rex Sinquefield, President
- Louis Griesemer, Vice Chairman
- Kevin Short, Vice Chairman of the Board
- W. Bevis Schock, Secretary
- Joseph Forshaw, Treasurer
- Stephen F. Brauer
- Jennifer Bukowsky
- James G. Forsyth III
- Megan Holekamp
- Hon. Robert M. Heller
- Gregg Keller
- Michael Podgursky
- Gerald A. Reynolds
- Kevin Short
- Louis Griesemer
- 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
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