Beacon Center of Tennessee

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The Beacon Center of Tennessee (BCT, formerly the Tennessee Center for Policy Research) describes itself as "an independent, nonprofit and nonpartisan research and educational institute dedicated to providing concerned citizens, the media and public leaders with expert research and timely free market policy solutions to public policy issues in Tennessee."[1] BCT is a member of the State Policy Network (SPN).

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 March 2019, SPN's membership totals 162. It is an $83 million right-wing empire as of the 2011 funding documents from SPN itself and each of its state "think tank" members. 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.[2]

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.'"[3]

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.[4]

Koch Wiki

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 Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity

As the publisher of, The Beacon Center of Tennessee 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.[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.


The BCT is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, but does not disclose the sources of funding on its website. Its major foundation funders include:[18][19][20]

Core Financials


  • Total Revenue: $1,448,443
  • Total Expenses: $989,162
  • Net Assets: $1,088,538


  • Total Revenue: $957,689
  • Total Expenses: $775,285
  • Net Assets: $629,257


  • Total Revenue: $1,223,641
  • Total Expenses: $1,079,678
  • Net Assets: $446,853


  • Total Revenue: $481,990
  • Total Expenses: $458,311
  • Net Assets: $302,890


  • Total Revenue: $527,219.00
  • Total Expenses: $536,835.00
  • Net Assets: $279,211.00


  • Total Revenue: $608,125.00
  • Total Expenses: $360,582.00
  • Net Assets: $283,244.00


  • Total Revenue: $463,320.00
  • Total Expenses: $583,135.00
  • Net Assets: $35,701.00


As of November 2018:[28]


  • Justin Owen, President and CEO
  • Braden H. Boucek, Director of Litigation
  • Mark Cunningham, Director of Marketing and Communications
  • Taylor Dawson, Outreach Coordinator
  • Joe Kirkpatrick, Development Associate
  • Suzanne Michel, Director of Operations
  • Ron Shultis, Policy Coordinator
  • Stephanie Whitt, Executive Vice President

Former Staff

  • Hannah Cox, Outreach Coordinator
  • Drew Johnson, President
  • Kellie Garretson, Administrative Assistant
  • Trent Seibert, Director of Government Accountability
  • Nicole Williams, Vice President of Operations
  • Douglas Kurdziel, Research Fellow
  • Trapper Michael, Research Fellow
  • Daniel Phillips, Research Fellow
  • Troy Senik, Research Fellow
  • Luci Stephens, Research Fellow
  • Sam Cosby, Director of Development
  • Lindsay M. Boyd, Director of Policy


  • Donna Barrett, Senior Fellow
  • Naomi Lopez Bauman, Senior Fellow
  • Harold Black, Senior Fellow
  • Jonathan Butcher, Senior Fellow
  • Art Carden, Senior Fellow
  • Dr. Jeff Cornwall, Senior Fellow
  • Jason Edmonds, Carter and Moyers Research Fellow
  • Patrick Gleason, Senior Fellow
  • Richard Grant, Senior Fellow
  • Lindsay Boyd Killen, Senior Fellow
  • Michael LaFaive, Senior Fellow for Economic Development
  • Jared Meyer, Senior Fellow for the New Economy
  • Adam Peshek, Senior Fellow for Education Reform
  • Dr. Dan Smith, Senior Fellow for Fiscal and Regulatory Policy
  • Ben Stickle, Senior Fellow for Criminal Justice
  • Paul Stumb, Distinguished Fellow
  • Julie Warren, Senior Fellow for Criminal Justice
  • Paul Stumb, Senior Fellow

Former Scholars

  • Dale Bails, PhD, Christian Brothers University
  • Robert Berry, MD, PATMOS EmergiClinic
  • J.C. Bowman, PhD, Florida State University
  • J.R. Clark, PhD, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
  • Larry M. Hall, PhD, Belmont University
  • Martin D. Kennedy, PhD, Middle Tennessee State University
  • Sally Kilgore, PhD, Modern Red Schoolhouse Institute
  • Shaka L.A. Mitchell, JD, Institute for Justice
  • John Stone, PhD, Education Consumers Clearinghouse
  • Amy H. Sturgis, PhD, Belmont University
  • Charles Van Eaton, PhD, Bryan College
  • Marilyn Young, PhD, Belmont University

Board of Directors

  • John Cerasuolo, Chairman
  • Joe Scarlett, Vice-Chairman
  • David Johnson, Member
  • Brian Fitzpatrick, Member
  • Ken Meyer, Members
  • Pat Shepherd, Member
  • Larry White, Member

Former board members

  • Lee Beaman, Member
  • Jim Ethier, Member
  • Lauren Templeton, Member

Contact Information

Beacon Center of Tennessee
P.O. Box 198646
Nashville, TN 37219
Phone: 615-383-6431

Articles and Resources

Related SourceWatch Articles

Related PRWatch Articles

External Resources


  1. Beacon Center of Tennessee, Internships, organizational website, accessed April 2013.
  2. 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.
  3. Jane Mayer, Is IKEA the New Model for the Conservative Movement?, The New Yorker, November 15, 2013.
  4. Ed Pilkington and Suzanne Goldenberg, State conservative groups plan US-wide assault on education, health and tax, The Guardian, December 5, 2013.
  5. Franklin Center, Franklin Affiliates in Your State, organizational website, accessed October 2012.
  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,, 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, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, August 8, 2011.
  13. The 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. Accessed August 19, 2011.
  16. Media Matters Action Network. State Policy Network. Conservative Transparency. Accessed August 19, 2011.
  17. Media Matters Action Network. Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation. Conservative Transparency. Accessed August 19, 2011.
  18. American Bridge 21st Century Foundation, Recipient: Tennessee Center for Policy Research, Bridge Project conservative transparency website, accessed December 2013.
  19. American Bridge 21st Century Foundation, Beacon Center of Tennessee, Bridge Project conservative transparency website, accessed December 2013.
  20. Beacon Center of Tennessee, 2010 Form 990, organizational annual IRS filing, November 15, 2011.
  21. Beacon Center of Tennessee, [paper copy 2015 Form 990], organizational annual IRS filing, May 11, 2016.
  22. Beacon Center of Tennessee, 2014 Form 990, organizational annual IRS filing, May 12, 2015.
  23. Beacon Center of Tennessee, 2013 Form 990, organizational annual IRS filing, April 30, 2014.
  24. Beacon Center of Tennessee, 2012 Form 990, organizational annual IRS filing, April 17, 2013.
  25. Beacon Center of Tennessee, IRS form 990, 2011. GuideStar.
  26. Beacon Center of Tennessee, IRS form 990, 2010. GuideStar.
  27. Beacon Center of Tennessee, IRS form 990, 2009. GuideStar.
  28. Beacon Center of Tennesee, Our People, organizational website, accessed November 2018.
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