The Fairness Center is a 501(c)3 nonprofit, the organization primarily pursues anti-union litigation, offering pro bono legal aid to what is describes as "those hurt by pubic employee union officials".
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 January 2021, 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 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. 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.
Fairness Center is a Member of the Goldwater Litigation Alliance
The Fairness Center is a member of the Goldwater Institute's litigation alliance, a project started in 2014. The Milwaukee-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation provided $350,000 in seed money for litigator Clint Bolick's “initiative to create a state litigation alliance” (Report: Goldwater Institute, 2016). The Bradley Price recipient Bolick was vice president for litigation at the Goldwater Institute at the time. Today Bolick is on the Arizona Supreme Court. The state litigation alliance, according to Bradley internal documents, “helps research and identify those states that have greatest potential for advancing state-constitutional law – then trains and, if asked, mentors attorneys who can either lead or staff existing or newly-created legal centers elsewhere, with an intensive ‘litigation boot camp’ for interested conscripts."
In all, Bradley has contributed $600,000 to the state litigation alliance because it “retains great potential to continue maximizing the benefit of Bradley’s much other recent strategic grantmaking to improve conservative infrastructures” (Goldwater Institute, Grant History Record, 11/10/14).
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.
Goldwater Litigation Alliance Members
Goldwater's "List: conservative public-interest litigation entities in the states", as of 2014:
- 1851 Center for Constitutional Law (Ohio)
- Beacon Center of Tennessee's legal center
- California Policy Institute's legal center
- Civitas Institute’s Center for Law and Freedom (North Carolina)
- Fairness Center (Pennsylvania)
- Freedom Foundation’s legal center (Oregon)
- Freedom Foundation’s legal center (Washington State)
- Goldwater Institute’s Center for Constitutional Litigation (Arizona)
- Idaho Freedom Foundation’s legal center
- Illinois Policy Institute’s Liberty Justice Center
- Libertas Institute’s legal center (Utah)
- Mackinac Center Legal Foundation (Michigan)
- Maine Heritage Policy Center’s Center for Regulatory Reform and Constitutional Government
- North Dakota Policy Council’s Center for Constitutional Law
- Nevada Policy Research Institute’s Center for Justice and Constitutional Litigation
- Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Center for the American Future
- Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty
- Wyoming Liberty Group’s legal center
- Institute for Justice state chapters:
- Total Revenue: $307,885
- Total Expenses: $368,996
- Net Assets: ($15,924)
- Total Revenue: $416,661
- Total Expenses: $368,996
- Net Assets: $41,104
Board of Directors
- Michael Carnuccio, founder of the Liberty Foundation of America and president of the E Foundation
- Joseph Lehman, president of the Mackinac Center
- David Osborne
- David Osborne, president and general counsel
- Nathan McGrath, vice president and litigation counsel
- Karin Sweigart, deputy general counsel and director of external relations
- Lidsey Wanner, paralegal and research associate
Employer Identification Number (EIN): 46-4482738
225 State Street, Suite 303
Harrisburg, PA 17101
630 Freedom Center Drive, Suite 109
King of Prussia, PA 19406
- State Policy Network, Directory, organizational website, accessed July 17, 2017.
- Fairness Center, Cases, organizational website, accessed July 17, 2017.
- David Armiak, Revenue for State Policy Network and State Affiliates Tops $120 Million, ExposedbyCMD, November 13, 2019.
- 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.
- David Armiak, Talent Market: The Libertarian Headhunting Firm Serving the Koch Network and the Bradley Foundation, Exposed by CMD, June 28, 2017.
- Bradley Foundation, [Goldwater Institute Grant Proposal], The Bradley Files, on file with CMD, November 10, 2014.
- Fairness Center, 2015 IRS Form 990, Internal Revenue Service, August 11, 2016.