Learn more about how the State Policy Network aids ALEC and spins disinformation in the states.
Named after Republican politician John Ashbrook, the Ashbrook Center's mission "is to restore and strengthen the capacities of the American people for constitutional self-government. To fulfill this mission, Ashbrook offers educational programs for students, teachers, and citizens."
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 2020, 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.
As of January 6, 2017:
- Marvin J. Krinsky, Chair of the board
- Robert Alt, President and CEO of the Buckeye Institute
- William G. Batchelder, Former speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives
- Roger L. Beckett, Executive Director of the Ashbrook Center
- James Buchwald, Founder of Areil Corporation
- Elizabeth Bundy, Secretary and Treasurer of Bundy Baking Solutions
- David M. Bush, Former President and CEO of Adena Corporation
- Carlos Campo, President of Ashland University
- David J. Eichinger, First Vice-President of Merrill Lynch
- D. Rex Elsass, President of Strategy Group, Inc.
- Christopher Flannery, Professor of Political Science at Azusa Pacific University
- Jeffrey S. Gorman, President of the Gorman-Rupp Company
- Jennifer Guy, Former President of the Association of Community Cancer Centers
- Jay Hartz, Deputy Chief of Staff to the President of the Kentucky State Senate
- Steven F. Hayward, professor of Public Policy at Pepperdine University
- Charles R. Kesler, Editor of the Claremont Review of Books
- Robert D. Kessler, President of Kessler Sign Company
- William Kristol, Editor-at-Large of the Weekly Standard
- Richard Lowry, Editor of the National Review
- Bob McEwen, Executive Director of the Council for National Policy
- Mindy McLaughlin, Alumni Representative, Manager of Foreign Direct Investment at JobsOhio
- Samuel H. Miller, Co-chairman Emeritus of Forest City Enterprises, Inc.
- Dustin Ness, First Vice-President and Resident Direct at Merrill Lynch
- Joseph Robertson IV, Managing Director of Ross, Sinclaire & Associates LLC
- Paula Steiner, President of Compass Point Advisors
- Thomas B. Whatman
- State Policy Network, Directory, organizational website, accessed January 6, 2017.
- Ashbrook Center, Mission, organizational website, accessed January 6, 2017.
- 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.
- Ashbrook Center, Board, organizational website, accessed January 6, 2017.