Tax Education Foundation
The Tax Education Foundation (TEF) is a 501(c)(3) organization based in Iowa which "conducts pro-taxpayer education and research." Its stated mission is "to drive the debate in our state with free-market policy solutions."
TEF's stated tax code goals include "lower income tax rates, strengthen tax credit accountability and transparency, reduce local government tax burden". Business goals include: "reduce burdensome job licensing requirements, repeal unnecessary regulations, engage the private sector for workforce development solutions". Educational goals include: "prepare responsible leaders, citizens, and workers; increase budget transparency, establish school finance benchmarks".
News and Controversies
TEF Funded By Large Charitable Endowments, Not Grassroots Supporters
According to a local news source, TEF's associated group, the Iowans for Tax Relief "claims thousands of grassroots supporters but in reality[,] the vast majority of its funds come from revenue– all untaxed– generated by multi-million dollar charitable endowments and private trusts established by the organization's founder, David M. Stanley ... His endowment funds and trusts continue to pour millions of dollars into the operation of Iowans for Tax Relief (ITR) and four other charitable organizations espousing a similar mantra of limited government and anti-tax messages, and funding like-minded conservative politicians for state and federal office ... The endowments underwrite more than a dozen management and staff positions in organizations pumping out a steady stream of propaganda on tax and government spending issues." TEF was one of those four groups. 
Ties to the State Policy Network
TEF is an affiliate member of the 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.
According to a local news report, much of the Tax Education Foundation funding comes from an endowment from David M. Stanley, founder of Iowans for Tax Relief.
TEF's gross receipts from 2017-2019 did not exceed $50,000 per year and it filed 990-N forms with the IRS during this time period Due to these filings, exact recent financials are unknown.
- Total Revenue: $7,362
- Total Expenses: $4,003
- Net Assets: $97,995
- Total Revenue: $2,465
- Total Expenses: $4,309
- Net Assets: $94,635
As of August 2020:
- Robert H. Solt, President
- Richard Phillips, VP/Secretary
- Walt Rogers, Deputy Director
- John Hendrickson, Policy Director
- Barry Lafever, Multimedia Specialist
- David M. Stanely, Chairman
- Dean Klecker, Honorary Chair
- Peter E. Voorhees, Finance Chair
- David G. Dickey, Director
- Kimberly Lehman, Director
- Dr. Donald P. Racheter, Director
- Christopher S. Ingstad, President
Related SourceWatch Articles
- TEF Our Story, organizational website, accessed August 2020.
- Iowans for Tax Relief contact organizational website, accessed June 2018
- SPN  organizational website, accessed June 2018
- Tax Education Foundation contact organizational website, accessed June 2018
- Bettendorf Anti-tax group avoids taxes faced by Iowa taxpayers; charitable endowments provide [the majority of funding for Iowans for Tax Relief operations] Bettendorf, accessed June 2018.
- 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.
- IRS, "Tax Exempt Organization Search: Tax Education Foundation", governmental website, accessed August 24, 2020.
- Tax Education Foundation, 2016 IRS Form 990, organizational tax filing, accessed August 25, 2020.
- Tax Education Foundation Form 990, Bettendorf.com accessed June 2018
- TEF Iowa, Staff, organizational website, accessed August 24, 2020.