Consumers' Research

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Consumers' Research was a magazine which called itself the "nation's oldest consumer periodical, founded in 1928." Since the 1930s, however, it has been closely aligned with conservative politics. It also has ties to the tobacco industry and has published a number of misleading reports by industry-funded apologists.

News and Controversies

Consumers' Research is a Major Funder of the State Financial Officers Foundation

Consumers' Research is a major funder of the State Financial Officers Foundation (SFOF), a group Republican treasurers, auditors, and staff from 16 states tasked with combatting “woke” policies, fake news, and China, the Center for Media and Democracy first exposed.[1]

Consumers' Research and SFOF have worked together to target BlackRock for divestment due to its new focus on environmental, social, and corporate governance concerns (ESG).[1]

Consumers' Research Targets BlackRock for Divestment Due to "Woke Principles

In February 2022, Consumers’ Research launched a new phase in its multi-million-dollar campaign “targeting BlackRock’s bad business practices and Larry Fink’s hypocritical woke principles.” The campaign will deploy a new website WhoIsLarryFink.com, television, radio, and digital ads, and mobile billboards in New York City, the Center for Media and Democracy reported.[1]

In December 2021, Consumers’ Research issued a “Consumer Warning” for BlackRock, highlighting ten states whose state pension funds are invested in the firm, including West Virginia.[1]

Consumers' Research Attacks Corporations Standing Up for Voting Rights

In July 2021, Consumers' Research launched a seven-figure ad campaign targeting Major League Baseball and Ticketmaster for what it called "playing woke politics" after the corporations took a stand in opposition to Georgia's 2021 voter suppression laws.[2]

Earlier in the year, Consumers' Research attacked Coke, Nike, and American Airlines in a similar ad campaign for supposedly putting "woke politics over consumer interests.”[3]

The New York Times analyzed Georgia's 2021 voter suppression bills and "identified 16 key provisions that will limit ballot access, potentially confuse voters and give more power to Republican lawmakers."[4]

True North Research Reveals that Bradley and Barre Seid Funded Consumer's Research to Support GOP AGs

In July 2021 True North Research published a report, "Who Is Consumers’ Research? The New Anti-"Woke” Advertiser Is a Dark Money Group Made from an Old Brand and Fueled by Secret Cash".

The True North report details the history Consumers' Research, which was incorporated by Stuart Chase and Frederick Schlink in 1929. Shlink, a crusading anti-Communist, later handed off Consumers' Research to M. Stanton Evans, another prolific rightwinger in 1982-83. Evans was featured at tobacco industry events used Consumer's Research to attack the science behind the health dangers associated with second-hand smoke. The group, which had built up tens of thousands of subscribers, saw its lists shrink to 14,000 under Evans, until eventually in 2002 they had less than $25K in revenue.

In 2013 Consumer's Research was reanimated with an infusion of $1.4M, $250K of which came from the Bradley Foundation and at least another $250K from Chicago industrialist Barre Seid, which was funneled anonymously through DonorsTrust. These secrets funds helped launch the Center for Energy Innovation and Independence (CEII), which among other things, would said then Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt and other Republican Attorneys General with amicus briefs. In 2013, CEII was incorporated in Oklahoma with the help of Pruitt and immediately filed a brief opposing Carbon regulations.

Consumers' Research also spent big on PR efforts, between 2013 and 2019, the group spent nearly $1M on PR, $600K of which went to Creative Response Concepts (CRC), a PR Firm led by Greg Mueller and closely affiliated with Leonard Leo.

Bradley Foundation Funds Climate Denial at Consumers' Research

The Bradley Foundation gave $250,000 to Consumers' Research's Center for Energy Innovation and Independence in 2013 to get the new group off the ground. According to a background document reviewed by the Center for Media and Democracy, the group “will closely monitor federal environmental regulations and potentially lay the foundation for multi-state litigation against them, similar to those actions in the Obamacare and Dodd-Frank lawsuits, of which aggressive (Scott) Pruitt was and is a part.” Scott Pruitt is the former AG of Oklahoma who resigned as the EPA Administrator under Trump.[5]

Ties to the Council for National Policy

Consumers' Research's Beau Brunson, Director of Policy and Regulatory Affairs, spoke on a panel at the Council for National Policy's February 2022 meeting. The panel titled, "The 21st: An American or Chinese Century?," also featured Economic War Room host Kevin Freeman, Pete Hoekstra, former ambassador to the Netherlands under Trump, and Steve Milloy, a FoxNews contributor and paid advocate for Phillip Morris, ExxonMobil, and other corporations.[6]

Council for National Policy

The Council for National Policy (CNP) is a secretive, Christian Right organization of funders and activists founded in 1981 by activist Morton Blackwell, commentator Paul Weyrich, direct-mail pioneer Richard Viguerie, right-wing activist Phyllis Schlafly and Left Behind author Tim LaHaye. Anne Nelson's book about CNP, Shadow Network: Media, Money, and the Secret Hub of the Radical Right, describes how the organization connects "the manpower and media of the Christian right with the finances of Western plutocrats and the strategy of right-wing Republican political operatives.”

CNP membership as of September 2020 is available here.

History

"Consumers' Research was a radical group before 1935, when the guy who ran things, F. J. Schlink, refused to recognize the rights of workers to unionize," says Inger Stole, a University of Illinois professor who has studied the consumers movement. "He had gone through some sort of transformation and became completely paranoid about communism. So two of the leaders, Arthur Kallet and Colston Warne, split off and formed Consumers Union in 1936. In the early days, they published the magazine, Consumer Reports (which remains to this day), but they also covered labor conditions, safety issues, things like that. Schlink became jealous because people started supporting Consumers Union; so he teamed up with his old foes in business and they cooked up allegations and accused them of being communists. This was another way that business interests fought their critics: they called them communists and attacked them personally. For thirteen years, Consumers' Research dragged Consumers Union through the mud, which eventually wore them out."[7]

Funding

Consumers' Research is not required to disclose its funders but major foundation supporters can be found through its IRS filings. Here are some known contributors:

Core Financials

2020:[8]

  • Total Revenue: $835,306
  • Total Expenses: $903,249
  • Net Assets: $273,715

2019:[9]

  • Total Revenue: $484,745
  • Total Expenses: $744,546
  • Net Assets: $341,658

2018:[10]

  • Total Revenue: $492,342
  • Total Expenses: $875,339
  • Net Assets: $601,459

2017:[11]

  • Total Revenue: $871,874
  • Total Expenses: $815,277
  • Net Assets: $1,163,171

2016:[12]

  • Total Revenue: $1,383,668.66
  • Total Expenses: $1,149,044.49
  • Net Assets: $1,074,635.36

2015:[13]

  • Total Revenue: $1,885,603
  • Total Expenses: $2,299,448
  • Net Assets: $55,251

Personnel

Staff

As of April 2022:[14]

  • Will Hild, Executive Director (former director of external affairs for the Philanthropy Roundtable)
  • Beau Brunson, Director of Policy and Regulatory Affairs
  • Christian Whittle, Associate Editor
  • Tom Miller, Senior Research Fellow

Former Staff

Board of Directors

As of December 2020:[8]

  • Russell Outhuse, President
  • Kyle Burgess, President
  • Will Hild, Executive Director

Contact Information

Consumers' Research
1801 F Street
Washington, DC 20006
Phone: (202) 898-0542
Website: https://consumersresearch.org
E-mail: info@consumersresearch.org
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ConsumersFirst
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ConsumersResearch/

Articles and Resources

IRS Form 990 Filings

2020

2019

2018

2017

2016

2015

Articles

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 David Armiak, https://www.exposedbycmd.org/2022/02/16/republican-group-of-state-financial-officers-takes-on-woke-capitalism/, ExposedbyCMD, February 16, 2022.
  2. Jacob Gardenswartz, Conservative group tries to 'shame' MLB for Georgia boycott with new ads, The American Independent, July 8, 2021.
  3. Will Feuer, Conservative group slams Nike, Coke, and American Airlines over ‘woke politics’, New York Post, May 19, 2021.
  4. New York Times, What Georgia’s Voting Law Really Does, The New York Times, June 25, 2021.
  5. David Armiak, Bradley Foundation Funds Web of Climate Change Deniers, ExposedbyCMD, July 12, 2018.
  6. David Armiak, Revealed: New Leaders of Council for National Policy Set Extremist Agenda, ExposedbyCMD, March 11, 2022.
  7. Carrie McLaren, "Selling Advertising: The Ad Industry's Battle Against the Consumer Movement of the 1930s: An Interview with Inger Stole", Staying Free, Issue 18, undated, accessed March 2008.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Consumers' Research, 2020 IRS Form 990, organizational tax filing, November 15, 2021.
  9. Consumers' Research, 2019 IRS Form 990, organizational tax filing, September 23, 2020.
  10. Consumers' Research, 2018 IRS Form 990, organizational tax filing, November 9, 2019.
  11. Consumers' Research, 2017 IRS Form 990, organizational tax filing, November 15, 2018.
  12. Consumers' Research, 2016 IRS Form 990, organizational tax filing, November 14, 2017.
  13. Consumers' Research, 2015 IRS Form 990, organizational tax filing, 2016.
  14. Consumers' Research, Staff, Consumers' Research, April 2022.