The Freedom Foundation, formerly known as the Evergreen Freedom Foundation, is a libertarian think tank based in Olympia, Washington, whose mission is "to advance individual liberty, free enterprise, and limited, accountable government,' according to its website." Freedom Foundation is a member of the State Policy Network (SPN). It bill's itself as a "think tank," but it is well-known for advancing aggressive techniques to dismantle unions. It is funded in part by the Charles Koch Foundation.
- 1 News and Controversies
- 1.1 Post-Janus Billboards, Mailers, and Canvassing to Undermine Unions
- 1.2 Aggressively Campaigned to Undermine Unions in California
- 1.3 Aggressively Campaigned to Undermine Unions in Washington and Oregon
- 1.4 Freedom Foundation Materials Reveal Electoral Nature of Attack on Unions
- 1.5 Freedom Foundation Given Award for Its Attacks on Unions
- 1.6 Accused of Violating Washington Campaign Finance Laws
- 1.7 Anti-LGBT Positions
- 1.8 Regressive Stance on Climate Change
- 1.9 Fighting Policies to Help Working Families
- 1.10 Anti-Choice Stance
- 2 Ties to the Bradley Foundation
- 3 Ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council
- 4 Ties to the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity
- 5 History
- 6 Funding
- 7 Core Financials
- 8 Personnel
- 9 Contact Information
- 10 Articles and Resources
News and Controversies
Post-Janus Billboards, Mailers, and Canvassing to Undermine Unions
The Freedom Foundation boasts on its website that it is reaching thousands "every day" via mailers, e-mails, and door-to-door canvassing in order to break "through to those still trapped within the unions’ cone of deceit." The Freedom Foundation claims that they "pioneered another approach" by placing billboards in Salem, Oregon. One of the billboards the group highlights reads "Public employees save thousands by opting out of union dues" (Emphasis taken from source). The billboard then directs viewers to Optouttoday.com which encourages workers to stop paying union dues. The efforts of the Freedom Foundation, both via billboards and other methods are a part of the coordinated legislative and legal strategy to dismantle unions being advanced in a systematic manner by an interlocking group of right-wing funders and state-based groups.
Aggressively Campaigned to Undermine Unions in California
In 2017, according to the Orange County Register, the Freedom Foundation took their anti-union attacks to California, targeting United Domestic Workers (UDW). Serving California’s large aging and disabled population who would otherwise have to be placed in nursing homes and institutions, UDW represents 97,000 caregivers out of the state’s total 460,000. Almost all of California’s domestic workers make a $10.50 per hour minimum wage through the state’s In-Home Supportive Services program, begun under then-governor Ronald Reagan, which allows them to care for the elderly and disabled at homes rather than in institutional settings. UDW has fought to protect this program from budget cuts and ensure that domestic caregivers are paid enough hours to look after those in need, often a 24-hour job.
Freedom Foundation launched a media blitz on UDW trying to convince its members to opt out of paying union dues. The group started in Orange County, a location they feel is strategic because “O.C. has a base of people sympathetic to our cause. People here dislike public sector unions,” according to California Director Sam Han. The media campaign came only after the Freedom Foundation was denied in its request for names and addresses because caregivers are exempt from the California Public Records Act. Attack ads featured messages such as “the union hasn’t helped us, and we’re better off without them. Learn more today at OptOutToday.com” delivered by a mother next to a wheelchair-bound son.
The Freedom Foundations representatives in California have not hidden the fact that their attacks on UDW are driven by politics. Executive Vice-President Brian Minnich stated that unions like UDW are “a huge political operation in California.” Describing their methods, Minnich said “we do a frankly political operation. We ruffle feathers…. We’re not your grandmother’s think tank.” Despite statements like these, Minnich responded to an IRS complaint filed by 19 labor groups seeking to revoke the Freedom Foundation’s tax exempt status for engaging in partisan political activities as “an intimidation tactic.”
Aggressively Campaigned to Undermine Unions in Washington and Oregon
A March 2016 Article from The Guardian reports how the Freedom Foundation has sponsored efforts to undermine unions in Washington and Oregon. The Freedom Foundation, according to the article, organized a campaign of activists to visit over 10,000 homes of workers from the child and home care professions in order to inform them of their ability to opt-out of union dues pursuant the two-year-old USSC ruling.” Additionally, the Freedom Foundation "has made public records requests to numerous counties to obtain the names and addresses of home-care and childcare aides..." and "does podcasts that rail against unions and sponsors a website, optouttoday.com, telling public-sector workers they can quit their unions."
A fundraising letter from August 2015 stated that "The Freedom Foundation has a proven plan for bankrupting and defeating government unions through education, litigation, legislation and community activation ... we won’t be satisfied with anything short of total victory against the government union thugs.” In a January 2016 speech to Americans for Prosperity, Oregon Director Anne Marie Gurney stated that "Our No 1 stated focus is to defund the political left." Despite these statements, Freedom Foundation's CEO as of August 2016 Tom McCabe has stated that his goal is simply "to provide freedom to union members and to give them a choice about whether or not they want to belong to a union."
In December 2015 a group of labor unions wrote a letter to the IRS requesting that the Freedom Foundation be stripped of its 501(c)(3) status, arguing that "The Freedom Foundation is operated for the private benefit of the Republican Party and other conservative and libertarian groups..."
Freedom Foundation Materials Reveal Electoral Nature of Attack on Unions
The Freedom Foundation's goal of destroying unions as a means of making electoral gains was made explicit in its fundraising letters and brochures. One 2014 letter obtained by the Guardian reads, “The Freedom Foundation has a proven plan for bankrupting and defeating government unions through education, litigation, legislation and community activation.” 
A Freedom Foundation-produced brochure obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy, titled “Undue Influence: Public Unions’ Cycle of Power, Electioneering,” shows multiple charts and graphs on union spending in campaigns and elections. The graph “Democrats’ Dependence on Union Funds” lists 31 Washington state Democratic legislators and their union campaign contributions. The accompanying text argues that “the problem associated with union electioneering” could be solved by weakening unions and eliminating fair share fees. 
Freedom Foundation Given Award for Its Attacks on Unions
In public, State Policy Network “think tanks” claim to be “independent,” “non-partisan,” “charitable organizations.” Behind closed doors, its all politics. SPN’s secret campaign to get rid of public sector unions was exposed by the Center for Media and Democracy and the Guardian in 2017 as part of a political effort to deal a “mortal blow” to the “American left” and the Democratic Party.
“A network of conservative think tanks with outposts in all 50 states has embarked on a ‘breakthrough’ campaign designed to strike a ‘mortal blow’ against the American left. The aim is to ‘defund and defang’ unions representing government employees as the first step towards ensuring the permanent collapse of progressive politics,” writes the Guardian‘s Ed Pilkington. 
The Freedom Foundation was given an award for its anti-union campaigning by the State Policy Network at their August 2017 meeting. A photo of the presentation (see side bar) indicates the award was for "Best Issue Campaign, Union Opt Out Campaign, Washington Freedom Foundation."
The type of “opt-out” campaign was listed as one of four ways to dismantle unions in the secret State Policy Network union busting tool kit obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy and revealed in the Guardian. You can access the toolkit here.
Accused of Violating Washington Campaign Finance Laws
In October 2015 Washington's Attorney General filed a lawsuit against the Freedom Foundation, accusing them of breaking state campaign finance laws. The Seattle Times reported that Washington AG had accused the foundation of failing "to properly disclose independent expenditures in support of anti-union ballot measures in the towns of Sequim, Chelan and Shelton." In a victory for the Freedom Foundation the judge rejected the Attorney General's lawsuit.
The Freedom Foundation is closely aligned with the Alliance Defending Freedom, an religious right organization listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Employees and staff members of the Freedom Foundation have received financial support in the form of fellowships from the Alliance Defending Freedom.
Another financial backer of the Freedom Foundation is the Murdock Charitable Trust. This donor was recently exposed for their funding to several groups promoting “gay conversion therapy,” including the Family Policy Institute of Washington, the American College of Pediatricians, as well as the Alliance Defending Freedom.
Regressive Stance on Climate Change
Various chapters of the Freedom Foundation have pushed back against policy attempting to prevent climate change. In Washington, the Freedom Foundation filed a lawsuit against the state to invalidate an executive order from Governor Christine Gregoire. The executive order sought to implement provisions of a climate change bill that had failed in the state legislature. The Evergreen Freedom Foundation’s lawsuit claimed the governor overstepped her legal authority. Another Freedom Foundation chapter in Minnesota has attacked local environmental groups, claiming “the climate change debate has been hopelessly politicized by organizations like Environment Minnesota that distort science in order to advance a narrow political agenda.”
Fighting Policies to Help Working Families
Across the country, the Freedom Foundation has taken action against a variety of policies which would improve the lives of the working families, including increases in minimum wage, paid sick days and education funding. In Washington, the Freedom Foundation released a report "Promises Made, Promises Broken: The Failure of Washington's Minimum Wage Law." The report argued that previous increases in the minimum wage have done nothing to decrease poverty and urged, “state and local voters and policymakers should seriously consider the potential consequences before enacting further, unprecedented increases in the minimum wage."
In opposition to laws mandating paid sick leave, the Freedom Foundation issued a separate report condemning the policy. Their paper stated, "overall, mandatory paid sick leave laws consistently have moderate negative consequences for affected businesses…At the same time, such laws do not produce the benefits promised by supporters. Government sick leave mandates even fail to prevent employees from coming to work sick, ostensibly the most basic goal of such requirements.”
The Freedom Foundation has long been an opponent of Planned Parenthood. Oregon Coordinator Anne Marie Gurney stated about Planned Parenthood on Facebook, “For all those who say ‘they do mammograms and they do medical care.’ No they don't. If you actually find one of the little clinics that do any of those services, it is an anomaly. They refer out for those services. Seriously, they are a baby killing, body part brokering, government money consuming machine.”
Ties to the Bradley Foundation
Bradley detailed the most recent grants in internal documents examined by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD). Below is a description of the grant prepared by CMD. The quoted text was written by Bradley staff.
2015-2016 (Barder Fund): $1.5 million over 3 years to expand its Union Transparency and Reform Project and to open an office in Portland. Freedom Foundation is “encouraged to work with” SPN members the Washington Policy Center and Cascade Policy Center.
2014: $100,000 to support the Union Transparency and Reform Project. CEO Tom McCabe wanted to expand Freedom Foundation’s capacity to “expose how the Big Labor agenda hurts state taxpayers…at both state and municipal levels.” Specifically, it wanted to “aggressively educate the public and policymakers about the effects of state level proposals” to:
- End the exemption from the Open Public Meetings Act for state employee collective bargaining sessions;
- Curb the practice of overcharging employees who opt out of a union and pay only a representation fee;
- Extend the time window for workers to decertify an unwanted union;
- Require the state to compile and maintain an online library of collective bargaining agreements; and
- Force public sector unions to make basic financial information accessible to the public, just as private sector unions have to do.
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.
Bradley Funds Washington's Freedom Foundation "Think Tank" to Dismantle Unions
It is funding the Freedom Foundation in Washington State to "defund Big Labor" because "Washington State's liberal labor laws have long allowed it to be a net exporter of union dollars to other parts of the country"  as reported by the Center for Media and Democracy in 2017. 
Bradley documents obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy show that the foundation recommended a $1.5 million grant to the Freedom Foundation, an SPN member, for union-busting activities in Washington and Oregon. (California and New York were considered for further expansion.) The group had received $840,000 from Bradley previously the documents indicate.
Bradley lauds the charitable “think tank” for finding a new way of attacking and undermine unions. After a lengthy court battle, in September 2016 the Freedom Foundation obtained a list of some 30,000 SEIU union members in the state of Washington. The group then launched a Harris vs. Quinn “opt-out campaign for health care workers, based on the 2014 U.S. Supreme Court case ruling that a narrow group of public workers could opt out of paying union dues.
Bradley describes what happened next: "As of this writing the Freedom Foundation has hired 30 canvassers who have knocked on 1,400 doors and spoken to 762 SEIU member health care service providers. One hundred forty-one opted out of the SEIU. It also filmed, produced, and is now airing another in a series of television advertisements featuring a government-union member bullied by his or her union"
Bradley wants to expand these hard-core union-busting techniques to further states. In Oregon, the Freedom Foundation is using Bradley money to "educate union workers themselves about their rights—which, if and when exercised, would defund Big Labor" 
In 2016, Bradley was looking at giving New York's Empire Center for Policy Research a litigation center and further funding to "reduce the influence" of unions by targeting day care center workers paying dues to American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the United Federation of Teachers and getting them to opt out of the union or withhold dues. Empire Center has "the stomach for implementing the overall strategies and confrontational tactics of the Freedom Foundation in pursuing Bradley's programmatic employee rights goals."
And the purpose of all this union busting is clear. In a recent opinion piece in The Hill, the Freedom Foundation's Jeff Rhodes attributes Trump's 2016 election to the destruction of unions in key states and calls upon Congress to implement union-busting legislation nationwide..
Bradley hailed the work of the Freedom Foundation as a "national model" and touted the skills of its "pugilistic" leader Tom McCabe. "Under McCabe, the Freedom Foundation has expanded its own activities to include almost all of the weapons in the arsenal of any good conservative state infrastructure—whether done by several separate entities or, as in this case, by one."
McCabe is one of many Bradley grantees to leave his work as a political operative to turn a tax-exempt charitable organization into a weapon of the right. McCabe worked in the Reagan administration as a young man, then went on to head up the Building Industry Association of Washington, turning the trade association into a GOP juggernaut whose "brass knuckled" tactics resulted in a $242,000 fine in 2008 for failing to properly disclose all its spending.
McCabe denies his goal is to defund the left or unions, but one of his staffers gave a speech to the Koch's Americans for Prosperity group, declaring: "Our No 1 stated focus is to defund the political left," and his organization fundraises off the same message. 
Ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council
Bob Williams, founder of the Evergreen Freedom Foundation and a Senior Fellow as of August 2016, was formerly the private sector chair of the Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). He is also on the ALEC Board of Scholars as of August 2016. In August 2011, he received ALEC's Private Sector Member of the Year Award.
Williams has been active in sponsoring model legislation and presenting it to the task force on behalf the Freedom Foundation. In 2010, Williams sponsored the "Defined Contribution Pension Reform Act" at the States and Nation Policy Summit. At the 2011 Spring Task Force Summit, Mr. Williams presented "Broken Budgets in the States" and the "Unfunded Pension Liabilities Accounting Act." His Freedom Foundation colleague, Amber Gunn, sponsored the "State Agency Lobbying Reform Act" at the same meeting. At the 2011 ALEC annual meeting, Williams presented on "State Budget Solutions."
Trent England, former Vice President of Policy and Adjunct Fellow at the Freedom Foundation as of August 2016, was on the ALEC Public Safety and Elections Task Force as of the August 2011 Annual Meeting (the task force was later disbanded in April 2012). He gave a presentation on the Electoral College at ALEC's 2010 States and Nation Policy Summit. Mr. England also participated in a debate (“Electoral College v National Popular Vote”) against Ray Haynes of the National Popular Vote at the 2011 Annual Meeting.
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.
Ties to the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity
The Freedom Foundation 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. The Franklin Center funds reporters in over 40 states. Despite their non-partisan description, many of the websites funded by the Franklin Center have received criticism for their conservative bias. On its website, the Franklin Center claims it "provides 10 percent of all daily reporting from state capitals nationwide."
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). Mother Jones called DonorsTrust "the dark-money ATM of the conservative movement" in a February 2013 article. Franklin received DonorTrust's second-largest donation in 2011.
The Franklin Center was launched by the Chicago-based Sam Adams Alliance (SAM), a 501(c)(3) devoted to pushing free-market ideals. SAM gets funding from the State Policy Network, which is partially funded by The Claude R. Lambe Foundation. Charles Koch, one of the billionaire brothers who co-own Koch Industries, sits on the board of this foundation. SAM also receives funding from the Rodney Fund.
The Evergreen Freedom Foundation was founded in 1991 as a private, non-profit public policy think tank in Washington State. Its efforts center around public policy research and alternatives in these core areas: state budget and tax policy, education, labor policy, property rights, legal policy, and citizenship and governance. The Evergreen Freedom Foundation is, according to the Seattle Times, a libertarian think tank, based in Olympia, Washington, founded by Bob Williams, a former state legislator and gubernatorial candidate.
During Dino Rossi's failed attempt to gain the Washington State governorship through a court challenge to the recount process, the Evergreen Freedom Foundation provided strong ideological support. It pushed a "Voter Integrity Project," which focused on requiring voter ID to prevent voter fraud, and started a "Grassroots Washington" group.
The Evergreen Freedom Foundation neither solicits nor accepts funds from the government, according to its promotional materials. All programs and activities are funded by private donations and grants. Its funding comes from individuals, corporations, and numerous private foundations.
The Freedom Foundation's funders have included:
- The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation has given $557,500 from 1998-2014.
- The Roe Foundation, founded by the late Thomas A. Roe, a prominent Heritage Foundation supporter and co-founder of the State Policy Network, has given $400,000 from 1998-2014.
- Donors Capital Fund has given $718,019 in grants from 2010-2014.
- DonorsTrust has given $71,150 in grants from 2010-2014.
- The Charles Koch Foundation gave $25,000 in 2017 for general operating support
- Total Revenue: $4,056,180
- Total Expenses: $4,123,043
- Net Assets: $1,552,536
- Total Revenue: $3,348,348
- Total Expenses: $2,809,323
- Net Assets: $1,539,702
- Total Revenue: $2,170,285
- Total Expenses: $2,211,611
- Net Assets: $1,021,760
- Total Revenue: $1,766,236
- Total Expenses: $2,263,750
- Net Assets: $1,061,786
- Total Revenue: $3,240,143
- Total Expenses: $2,236,573
- Net Assets: $1,519,676
- Total Revenue: $2,148,032
- Total Expenses: $2,908,106
- Net Assets: $502,865
- Total Revenue: $2,680,800
- Total Expenses: $2,676,198
- Net Assets: $1,262,939
- Total Revenue: $2,338,192
- Total Expenses: $2,686,930
- Net Assets: $1,249,633
As of September 2017:
- Tom McCabe, CEO
- Brian Minnich, Executive Vice President
Policy and Fellows
- Trent England, Adjunct Fellow (former Executive Vice President)
- Jami Lund, Senior Policy Analyst
- Maxford Nelsen, Director of Labor Policy
- Raimee Sluder, Labor Policy Analyst
- Ben Straka, Oregon Policy Analyst
- Bob Williams, Founder and Senior Fellow
- James Abernathy, Litigation Counsel
- David Dewhirst, Litigation Counsel
- Jim Johnson, Senior Legal Fellow
- Kirsten Nelsen, Paralegal
- Ray Nhan, Litigation Counsel
- Stephanie Olson, Litigation Counsel
Freedom in Action
- Anne Marie Gurney, Oregon Director
- Samuel Han, California Director
- Matthew Hayward, Washington Coordinator
- Aaron Withe, Oregon Outreach Coordinator
- David Bramblett, Creative Director
- Boaz Crawford, Multimedia Designer
- Jeff Rhodes, Managing Editor
- Mark Dalan, Vice President of Development
- Meggan Goudy, Advancement Associate
- Lara Hastings, Advancement Director (Eastern Washington)
- Megan Heryet, Advancement Director, Oregon
- Jennifer Kelly, Development Coordinator
- Billie Ortega-Ortiz, Administrative Assistant
- Gerrit Shilman, Director of Administration and Finance
- Billie Roberts, Administrative Assistant
- Vicki Kraft, Advancement Director (Southwest Washington)
- Scott Roberts, Vice President of Development
- Ron Valencia, Advancement Associate
- Judy Cook, Development Associate
- Karen Osborne, Litigation Counsel
- Greg Overstreet, Managing Attorney
- Lois Beard - Chief Operations Officer
- Ryan Bedford - Legal Research Assistant
- S. Alex Bohler - Policy Analyst
- Denise Brandt - Volunteer Coordinator / Office Assistant
- Bob Edelman - Director, Voter Integrity Project
- Irene Endicott - Puget Sound Dev. Associate
- Marie Giger - Office Manager
- Lynn Harsh - Senior Vice President
- Cheryl Hymes - Director, Health Care Reform Center
- Gail Kramer - Financial Assistant
- Kathy McDonald - Southwest Washington Development Associate
- Juliana McMahan - Member Services Director / Executive Administrator
- Jason Mercier - Senior Budget Analyst, Economic Policy Center
- Kristen Mercier - Policy Analyst/Grant Writer
- Michael Reitz - Director and Legal Analyst, Labor Policy Center
- Marsha Richards - Director, Education Reform Center
- Joel Sorrell - Multimedia Specialist
- Booker T. Stallworth - Communications Director
- Dan Steele - Multimedia Assistant
- Jonathan Bechtle, former CEO
- Duane Alton, former Trustee
- Mary Jo Kahler, former Trustee
- Roger Bowlin, former Trustee
- Dr. Mathew Manweller, former Trustee
- Harry Truitt, former Trustee
- Amber Gunn, former Economic Policy Fellow
- Diana Moore, former Senior Education Analyst
- Glen Morgan, former Property Rights Director
- David Roland, former Director of the Theodor L. Stiles Center for Liberty
Board of Directors
As of 2016:
- Steve Neighbors, Chair
- Richard Rokes, Vice Chair
- Lou Novak, Secretary
- Tim McMahon, Treasurer
- Tom S McCabe, CEO
- Hans Stoker, Trustee
- Bill Conner, Trustee
- Robert Jankelson, Trustee
- Barbara Kenney, Trustee
- Laurie Lyford, Trustee
- Alvin Starkenburg, Trustee
- Tracy Wilson, Trustee
- Dr. John Vasko, Trustee
- Elaine Chandler, Trustee
- Charlie Conner, Trustee
P.O. Box 552
Olympia, WA 98507
Articles and Resources
IRS Form 990 Filings
Related SourceWatch Articles
- State Policy Network:
- American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)
- Donors Capital Fund
- Koch Family Foundations
- Koch Industries
- Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity
- Heritage Foundation
- Think tanks
- Whitney Ball
- Adam Meyerson
- Bridgett Wagner
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