Montana Policy Institute

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The Montana Policy Institute (MPI) is a right-wing, Montana-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit that has been tax exempt since 2006.[1]

According to the organization's website, MPI "envisions a Montana where:

  • Montanans are free to forge their own destiny and are able to earn a living, raise families, and afford a home.
  • Our college graduates are qualified for work in today’s economy and can find promising jobs within the state.
  • Businesses move here and stay here because of a thriving business climate that rewards hard work and innovation.
  • Parents have choice in what schools their children can attend rather than one-size fits all solutions dictated by bureaucrats and administrators.
  • Liberty, limited government, and personal responsibility are encouraged.
  • Montana citizens work together to advance public policies that respect individual freedom and expect individual responsibility."[2]

MPI is an affiliate member of the State Policy Network (SPN), a group of rightwing think tanks and other politically-active nonprofits.

News and Controversies

MPI Among Think Tanks Denying Anthropogenic Climate Change Targeted By Nine U.S. Senators in 2016

MPI, along with twenty-one other national and state-based think tanks including Americans for Tax Reform, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and the Heritage Foundation, was asked by nine U.S. Senators to reveal its donors on July 22, 2016.[3]

In a letter, the Senators accused the twenty-two groups of "'laundering' identities while denying climate change exists", writing, "Because your organizations do not regularly disclose where your donations come from, we cannot know for sure how deep and wide the web of denial truly is"[3]

Ties to the Franklin News Foundation

The Montana Policy Institute founded Montana Watchdog, an online state news website formerly funded by the Franklin News Foundation. The Franklin News Foundation's "Watchdog" organizations rebranded as "The Center Square" in 2019.[4] The Montana Policy Institute was listed as a Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity "Watchdog Bureau".[5] The Franklin Center funds reporters in over 40 states.[6] Despite their non-partisan description, many of the websites funded by the Franklin Center have received criticism for their conservative bias.[7][8] On its website, the Franklin Center claims it "provides 10 percent of all daily reporting from state capitals nationwide."[9]

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).[10] Mother Jones called DonorsTrust "the dark-money ATM of the conservative movement" in a February 2013 article.[11] Franklin received DonorTrust's second-largest donation in 2011.[10]

The Franklin Center also receives funding from the Wisconsin-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation,[12] a conservative grant-making organization.[13]

The Franklin Center was launched by the Chicago-based Sam Adams Alliance (SAM),[14] a 501(c)(3) devoted to pushing free-market ideals. SAM gets funding from the State Policy Network,[15] which is partially funded by the Claude R. Lambe Foundation.[16] Charles Koch, one of the billionaire brothers who co-own Koch Industries, sits on the board of this foundation.[17] SAM also receives funding from the Rodney Fund.

Ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council

The MPI has ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) through the SPN, which is an ALEC member. Additionally, MPI Senior Fellow, Rob Natelson,[18] has authored an ALEC handbook for state lawmakers entitled "Proposing Constitutional Amendments by a Convention of the States"[19]. Mr. Natelson was also invited to speak at an American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) meeting of the Federal Relations Working Group during its 2010 States and Nation Policy Summit[20].

Please see SPN Ties to ALEC for more.

About ALEC
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.

Funding

The Montana Policy Institute is not required to disclose its funders but major foundation supporters can be found through their IRS filings. Here are some known contributors:

Core Financials

The Montana Policy Institute filed 990-N cards in 2018 and 2019, indicating its total revenue was lower than $25,000 during those years.[1]

2016[21]

  • Total Revenue: $59,650
  • Total Expenses: $95,636
  • Net Assets: $48,794

2012[22]

  • Total Revenue: $473,128
  • Total Expenses: $506,110
  • Net Assets: $51,309

2011[23]

  • Total Revenue: $251,487
  • Total Expenses: $436,855
  • Net Assets: $84,291

2010[24]

  • Total Revenue: $593,452
  • Total Expenses: $428,425
  • Net Assets: $269,659

2009[24]

  • Total Revenue: $242,105
  • Total Expenses: $347,747
  • Net Assets: $104,632

Personnel

As of November 2016:[21]

Staff

  • Carl Graham, CEO and President
  • William Wilson, Treasurer

Board of Directors

  • Brent Mead, Executive Director
  • Sam Staley, Chairman
  • Neil Livingstone
  • David Keene
  • William Wilson
  • Harry Hyatt
  • Chris Helland

Contact Information

Montana Policy Institute
PO Box 952
Helena, MT 59624

EIN: 20-2591461
Website (last updated in 2016): www.montanapolicy.org

Articles and Resources

Related SourceWatch

IRS Form 990 Filings

2016

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Guidestar, Montana Policy Institute, organizational website, accessed February 15, 2021.
  2. Montana Policy Institute, Mission, organizational website, accessed February 15, 2021.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Kevin Mooney, "Senate Liberals, Targeting Climate Change ‘Deniers,’ Demand to Know Donors to 22 Think Tanks", Daily Signal, August 3, 2016, accessed February 15, 2021.
  4. Scott Zimmerman, "Franklin's Right-Wing Watchdog.org Rebrands as The Center Square", PR Watch, May 30, 2019, accessed February 15, 2021.
  5. Franklin Center, Watchdog.org, organizational document, May 2013, obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy June 2013.
  6. The Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, Think tank Journalism: The Future of Investigative Journalism, organizational website, accessed August 19, 2011.
  7. Rebekah Metzler, 'Watchdog' website puts a new spin on politics, The Portland Press Herald, October 2, 2010.
  8. Allison Kilkenny, The Koch Spider Web, Truthout, accessed August 19, 2011.
  9. Sara Jerving, Franklin Center: Right-Wing Funds State News Source, PRWatch.org, October 27, 2011.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Paul Abowd, Center for Public Integrity, Donors use charity to push free-market policies in states, organizational report, February 14, 2013.
  11. Andy Kroll, Exposed: The Dark-Money ATM of the Conservative Movement, Mother Jones, February 5, 2013.
  12. Daniel Bice, Franklin Center boss wants apology from Democratic staffer, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, August 8, 2011.
  13. Bradley Foundation, The Bradley Foundation, organizational website, accessed August 19, 2011.
  14. Sam Adams Alliance, Sam Adams Alliance Media Kit, organizational PDF, accessed August 19, 2011.
  15. Media Matters Action Network, Sam Adams Alliance, Conservative Transparency website, accessed August 19, 2011.
  16. Media Matters Action Network. State Policy Network, Conservative Transparency website, accessed August 19, 2011.
  17. Media Matters Action Network, Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation, Conservative Transparency website, accessed August 19, 2011.
  18. Montana Policy Institute,"March 15th Health Care Freedom Panel", organizational website, accessed September 2012
  19. American Legislative Exchange Council,"Article V Handbook"
  20. American Legislative Exchange Council,"Memorandum to Members of the International Task Force and Federal Relations Working Group", organizational mailing, October 28, 2010, obtained and released by Common Cause, April 2012
  21. 21.0 21.1 Montana Policy Institute, 2016 IRS 990, Montana Policy Institute, May 30, 2013.
  22. Montana Policy Institute, 2012 IRS 990, organizational tax filing, November 14, 2017.
  23. Montana Policy Institute, 2011 IRS 990, organizational tax filing, September 14, 2012.
  24. 24.0 24.1 Montana Policy Institute, 2010 IRS Form 990, organizational tax filing, August 12, 2011