Forge Leadership Network
Forge Leadership Network (FLN) is an Ohio-based, right-wing recruiting and training operation. FLN describes its mission as "creating the next generation of conservative leaders in the public square."
FLN's major activities are the Forge Leadership Summit and the Forge Mentorship Academy. The 5-day Summit is held annually and seeks to train "young adults to think critically about limited government, Judeo-Christian ethics, religious liberty, and economic freedom. The Academy "is a year long program offering experiential learning in national and international politics, training in argumentation and current events, an individualized mentor match, and connections to top internships and jobs," according to FLN.
FLN is an associate member of the State Policy Network.
Ties to the State Policy Network
FLN is an associate member of the State Policy Network. FLN's Jeremiah Martin attended SPN's 2019 Annual Meeting. 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 August 2020, SPN's membership totals 162. 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.
Ties to Charles Koch
Charles Koch's Americans for Prosperity-Ohio is listed as a partner on FLN's homepage and FLN's Jeremiah Martin is the former state director for Koch's veteran front group: Concerned Veterans for America
Charles Koch is the right-wing billionaire owner of Koch Industries. As one of the richest people in the world, he is a key funder of the right-wing infrastructure, including the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the State Policy Network (SPN). In SourceWatch, key articles on Charles Koch and his late brother David include: Koch Brothers, Americans for Prosperity, Stand Together Chamber of Commerce, Stand Together, Koch Family Foundations, Koch Universities, and I360.
As of June 2020, FLN lists the following partners on its website:
- Ohio Christian University
- Alliance Defending Freedom
- Citizens for Community Values
- Heritage Foundation
- Family Research Council
- Heritage Action for America
- American Majority
- Americans for Prosperity-Ohio
- Buckeye Institute
- Conservative Partnership Institute
- State Policy Network
- Commonwealth Foundation
- Family Policy Alliance
FLN is not required to disclose its funders. Some, however, were found through a search of IRS filings, including:
- George Edward Durell Foundation: $15,000 (2017-2018)
- National Christian Charitable Foundation: $41,800 (2015-2018)
- Total Revenue: $162,485
- Total Expenses: $154,887
- Net Assets: $28,180
As of June 2020:
- Adam Josefczyk, president and co-founder
- Jennie Simunek, logistics and events director
- Jeremiah Martin, chief operating officer (former state director for Koch's Concerned Veterans for America)
Board of Advisors
- Jonathan Jakubowski, chairman of the board; executive committee chairman of the Wood County Republican Party
- Michael Hamilton, research fellow at the Heartland Institute
- John Hart, general counsel for Cedarville University
- Paul Isaacs, pastor, team chaplain, coach, campus ministry director, and mentor
- Heather Pfitzenmaier, senior talent program advisor at the State Policy Network and director of strategic engagement at the Network for Enlightened Women
- Justin Powell, founder and CEO of Huntington Outdoor, Blue Ash Media and Aurora Marketing Group
- Chip Went, senior fellow at the Sagamore Institute for Public Policy and the BBB National Center for Character Ethics
- Daniel Ziegler, executive director of the Republican Study Committee; former managing director of government relations for Heritage Action for America
Forge Leadership Network
707 Miamisburg-Centerville Rd.
Dayton, OH 45459
Phone: (800) 481-5024
Articles and Resources
IRS Form 990 Filings
- Forge Leadership Network, About Forge, Forge Leadership Network, June 2020.
- David Armiak, Koch Network Dominates SPN Annual Meeting Attendees, ExposedbyCMD, October 31, 2019.
- David Armiak, https://www.exposedbycmd.org/2019/11/13/revenue-state-policy-network-state-affiliates-tops-120-million/ 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.
- Forge Leadership Network, Homepage, Forge Leadership Network, June 2020.
- Forge Leadership Network, 2018 IRS Form 990, organizational tax filing, April 12, 2019.