Goldwater Institute

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The Goldwater Institute is a right-wing advocacy group based in Arizona. It has ties to the Koch brothers (see below for more) and is a member of the State Policy Network (SPN), a web of state pressure groups that denote themselves as "think tanks" and drive a right-wing agenda in statehouses nationwide. In 2013, the Goldwater Institute was listed as an affiliate of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, but as of September, 2016, there is no mention of Goldwater's status on the Franklin Center website.[1]

A 2013 report published by Arizona Working Families and the Center for Media and Democracy called the Goldwater Institute "a special interest group in Arizona that also influences law outside the Grand Canyon State."[2]


News and Controversies

Criticism of Education Privatization Efforts by Former Employee

In a March 2021 interview, Charles Siler, a former lobbyist at the Goldwater Institute and the Foundation for Government Accountability criticized the organizations' education privatization agenda.[3] The following quotations are taken from that interview:

1. Libertarian policies “aren’t helping people”

“I grew up truly believing the best way we could help the most people was to get the government out of their lives. But if you take a look at the actual impacts of libertarian policies when they're implemented, it becomes apparent, they aren't helping people, and in fact, they make people worse off. I couldn't continue to do the work I had done. Now I work to educate people about the problematic programs I had helped promote and how we can build something better.”[3]

2. Education privatization efforts are unpopular compared to public institutions, so organizations like the Goldwater Institute and FGA create false narratives

“[Lawmakers in favor of vouchers] aren’t doing it because their constituents are demanding these programs. Voters continually reject voucher programs, and in any state where a public response is permitted, the wave of public opposition to these programs dwarfs the AstroTurfed support for them.”[3]

“We knew that the public didn't support our efforts, but there's also a sincere belief that the public doesn't truly understand what is best for them, so we have to trick them into buying what we're selling. So much of our outreach was obfuscation.”[3]

“It goes back to the unpopularity of these voucher and privatization programs, not just with the public but also with many lawmakers. If possible, privatization advocates would completely dismantle public schools tomorrow, but they don’t have the political leverage to achieve that right now, so they have to engage in incrementalism. Just this year, we’ve seen pushes to pass expansive, universal voucher programs in some states, showing that privatizers will abandon elements of incrementalism when they think they have an opportunity.”[3]

“Public schools are also incredibly popular, and they don’t want the general public to view public institutions as effective or popular. It’s why they’ve driven a false narrative about “failing schools” for decades now, and it’s also why they continually attack Social Security, Medicare, public pensions, public transportation and more because they know it’s impossible to get people to share their vision for limited government when people have so many positive experiences with government programs."[3]

3. Education privatization is part of larger effort to weaken government and benefit the wealthy

“[The ideal of institutions that support education privatization] is a world with as minimal public infrastructure and investment as possible. They want the weakest and leanest government possible in order to protect the interests of a few wealthy individuals and families who want to protect their extraction of wealth from the rest of us. They see private wealth accumulation as a virtue signal because a person can only become wealthy by creating something of exceptional value for the public. In their world view, the more money someone has, the more moral life they've lived, and any attempt to take that money through taxation or other means is a moral issue.”[3]

“[Education privatization is] about diminishing collective power. Taking down public schools also means taking down teachers unions, PTOs, local school boards and all the other ways those of us who aren’t exceptionally wealthy come together to push for collective investment in our communities.”[3]

“Getting rid of public education spending would massively reduce the tax burden on wealthy individuals at the state level.”[3]

Pushing "Copycat Bills Nationwide"

A USA Today report -- "COPY, PASTE, LEGISLATE: You elected them to write new laws. They’re letting corporations do it instead." -- outlines Goldwater's role in pushing "copycat bills nationwide." The report states Goldwater "specialize in writing copycat bills." Examples mentioned include prohibiting "local jurisdictions from creating occupational licensing requirements, opposing home-sharing restrictions (at the side of AirB&B), supporting school vouchers, and pushing for the "Right to Try."[4]

According to the report, "Right to Try" was the product of a corporation approaching Goldwater to help them address a “national medical emergency." But, experts have said that Right to Try is “an effort to address a problem that did not actually exist.” The point of "Right to Try" ultimately seemed to USA Today to be "to score political points, draw attention to the organization behind the model, and raise funds off the effort" and to do something a corporation wanted.[4]

A former external relations manager for the Goldwater Institute, Charles Siler, told USA Today that model bills are a fast way to spread ideas because with little modification lawmakers can adapt it to their state. “It’s not inherently bad, one way or the other. It depends on the idea and the people pushing it. Definitely people use model legislation to push bad ideas around" Siler continued.[4]

Goldwater Writes 'Campus Free Speech' Model Bill

In February 2017, Goldwater released a model bill called "Campus Free Speech."[5]

The bill bans the establishment of "free-speech zones" on public university campuses, would instruct universities to remain neutral on public policy controversies, and require colleges to create disciplinary policies for students that "interfere with the free expression of others" on campus. A Goldwater report introducing the model bill states, "When protestors disrupt visiting speakers, or break in on meetings to take them over and list demands, administrators look the other way. Students have come to take it for granted they will face no discipline for such disruptions."[5]

The Goldwater model bill has served as an impetus for "Campus Free Speech" bills in at least 10 states across the U.S. as of May 2017.[6]

Critics of the bill argue that it is unnecessary as speech is already protected under the 1st Amendment and that the actual goal of the bill is to prevent protest and “drive away any kind of dissent.”[7]

Chief Lawyer for Goldwater Institute Named to Arizona Supreme Court

In January, 2016, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) appointed Clint Bolick, former vice president of litigation at the Goldwater Institute, to the Arizona Supreme Court.[8] Despite having never served as a judge, Ducey chose Bolick because, "Clint is nationally renowned and respected as a constitutional law scholar and as a champion of liberty."[8] Before joining Goldwater, Bolick founded another SPN member: the Institute for Justice.[8]

Bolick was an assistant at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission when U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was EEOC chairman. While working for the Landmark Legal Foundation, Bolick led the defense for the first Wisconsin school voucher program.[9]

Until Bolick began presenting himself as a defender of low-income African American schoolchildren, he had been most closely associated with attacks on affirmative action. He is the author of "The Affirmative Action Fraud: Can We Restore the American Civil Rights Vision?" published by the Cato Institute.[9]

Goldwater Institute Supported Resolution that Would Lower Arizona's Minimum Wage

The Goldwater Institute supported a 2012 effort to reduce the minimum wage for tipped workers, younger part-time and temporary workers.[10] They were joined in that support by the Arizona Restaurant Association, the Arizona Retailers Association and the powerhouse lobbying group National Federation of Independent Businesses.[10] Democratic lawmakers opposed the effort, arguing that students already have a difficult enough time paying for school. Rep. Debbie McCune Davis (D-Phoenix) said of the ballot proposal, “This particular ballot proposal, if passed, would make it harder for them to earn the money to stay in school."[10]

Lobbying and Influence

Pushing ALEC's Agenda in Arizona

According to a 2013 report by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) and Arizona Working Families, "Through ALEC, the Goldwater Institute sits behind closed doors with state legislators where lawmakers and private sector lobbyists and representatives have an equal vote on templates to change the law."[2] Goldwater has urged the adoption of key parts of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) agenda in the areas of education, health care, anti-worker and austerity policies, land use and pollution, and international trade. For more information on specific bills, see Ties to ALEC below, SPN Ties to ALEC and "A Reporter's Guide to the Goldwater Institute."

Goldwater's Lobbying Operations

The Goldwater Institute advances the ALEC agenda and other legislation through maintaining regular contact with Arizona legislators. As of 2013, Goldwater had two registered lobbyists in Arizona: its Executive Vice President Starlee Rhoades and Communications' Director Lucy Caldwell, as well as the Phoenix-based Gallagher & Kennedy Public Affairs firm, which has held an active lobbyist status to represent Goldwater in Arizona since at least January 2013. Nick Dranias is not registered as a lobbyist to represent Goldwater, but he does "advise" legislators. While some of these communications would strike a lay person as lobbying, Arizona law has loopholes for providing 'technical' advice about legislation, which is not considered lobbying.[2]

Goldwater "grades" Arizona legislators based on how they voted on certain bills. Included in this list for 2013 were bills that closely resemble ALEC model legislation, such as HB 2494, which is very similar to ALEC's "Charter Schools Act" and "Next Generation Charter Schools Act." Additionally, Goldwater's list of "good" bills includes a resolution supporting a balanced budget amendment (HCM 2005) and several bills supporting tuition/scholarship tax credits, both of which are part of the ALEC agenda.

Other positions Goldwater took in opposition to Arizona families included:[2]

  • Opposition to the state providing health insurance to a spouse of a deceased law enforcement officer (HB 2204)
  • Opposition to a ban on electric cigarettes for minors (SB 1209). (At least as late as 2012, Goldwater was receiving funding from Altria (formerly Philip Morris global tobacco)).
  • Opposition to a bill providing overtime pay for law enforcement officers (HB 2303)
  • Opposition to a bill giving tax credits to companies to hire veterans (HB 2484)
  • Opposition to a bill requiring CPR to be taught in public schools (SB 1337)

Ties to the State Policy Network

The Goldwater Institute is a member of the State Policy Network (SPN), a web of state pressure groups that denote themselves as "think tanks" and drive a right-wing agenda in statehouses nationwide. Between 2011 and 2017, SPN gave $145,800 to the Goldwater Institute. SPN is a web of right-wing “think tanks” and tax-exempt organizations in 48 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and the United Kingdom. As of June 2024, SPN's membership totals 167. 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 2022 analysis of SPN's main members IRS filings by the Center for Media and Democracy shows that the combined revenue is over $152 million.[11] 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.[12]

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.'"[13]

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.[14]

Director of Strategic Engagement

On February 19, 2019, the Goldwater Institute announced the hire of Director of Strategic Engagement Heather Curry on the SPN Blog. Curry's position is meant to help facilitate cooperation among SPN members. The blog post concluded with "State Policy Network think tanks who want to partner with or get assistance from the Institute on policy matters can reach out to Heather Curry ( Goldwater Institute is looking forward to continuing to partner with you to advance and defend freedom nationwide."[15]

Roe Award

SPN has awarded two Goldwater Institute employees with the Thomas Roe Award. The Roe Award, named after the founder of SPN, commends "those in the state public policy movement whose achievements have greatly advanced free-market philosophy."[16] In 2016, Arizona Supreme Court Justice Clint Bolick received the award. Bolick formerly worked as the Vice President of Litigation at the Goldwater Institute. [17]

Ten years earlier in 2006, then Goldwater Institute CEO Darcy Olsen received the Roe Award from SPN.[16]

Interns and the InterNet

SPN's Development Apprentice Program trains interns before distributing them across the country to member think-tanks. The Goldwater Institute was among the 2019 Development Apprentice Program host organizations.[18][19]

Launched in 2019, SPN's InterNet is a virtual speaker series targeted towards students. Two speakers during the 2020 program had connections to the Goldwater Institute: Christina Sandefur, the Executive Vice President of the Goldwater Institute, and Clint Bolick, the former Vice President of Litigation.[20]

Ties to the Bradley Foundation

Through 2016 the Goldwater Institute received $815,000 from the Lynde and Harry 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: $250,000 to support a state based litigation alliance (See more below). Goldwater started the alliance “at Bradley’s behest and with special, substantial support—to expand the capacity of state think tanks to include litigation within their institutional skill sets… Goldwater’s newly formed state litigation alliance retains great potential to continue maximizing the benefit of Bradley’s much other recent strategic grantmaking to improve conservative state infrastructure.”

2014: $350,000 in first time support for a state based litigation alliance tentatively named the Goldwater Litigation Alliance (GLA), “an effort begun in large part at Bradley’s behest to expand the capacity of state think tanks to include litigation within their institutional skill sets.” Goldwater’s Center for Constitutional Litigation (CCL) “has established itself as a leader in developing state based strategies to protect freedom against further governmental intrusion. Under the leadership and with the ‘light touch’ of Bradley Prize recipient Clint Bolick, it has offered advice to state think tanks that will have led to the creation of 12 similar centers, including the Bradley supported WILL… Many of them already send representatives to Bolick chaired meetings during the larger annual meetings of the Bradley supported Heritage Foundation’s Resource Bank and the also Bradley supported SPN.” As of 2014, Goldwater had six attorneys on staff including CCL. The grant proposal notes their work on 12 pending cases. The GLA will research and identify which states have the greatest potential to “advance state constitutional law.” Through GLA, CCL would train and mentor attorneys to lead or staff existing or newly created legal centers – “with an intensive ‘litigation boot camp’ for interested conscripts. GLA will provide intellectual leadership, as well, making a robust effort to teach others about key constitutional clauses, case law, and opportunities to make headway. On issues with which CCL has particular expertise, GLA will allow it to partner even more closely with groups that either lack a legal center or have a center lacking the requisite expertise.” CCL wanted to hire three additional attorneys to litigate out of state, one state litigation coordinator, and a paralegal all for GLA. Bradley notes that state constitutions contain greater constraints on governmental power, “they thus provide good avenues for the advancement of the Bradley brothers’ larger vision and their Foundation’s mission.”

Bradley Files

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.

Find the series here at

Ties to the Koch Brothers

Goldwater has received significant amounts of funding from sources with ties to the Koch brothers, including the Charles G. Koch Foundation and the Koch-linked DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund (see Out-of-State Donors below for more).

Goldwater is also involved with a number of organizations and networks with close Koch ties, including ALEC, the State Policy Network, and the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity.

Goldwater senior fellow Vernon L. Smith is affiliated with a number of Koch-funded think tanks, including the Cato Institute and the Mercatus Center.

Koch Wiki

Charles Koch is the right-wing billionaire owner of Koch Industries. As one of the richest people in the world, he is a key funder of the right-wing infrastructure, including the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the State Policy Network (SPN). In SourceWatch, key articles on Charles Koch and his late brother David include: Koch Brothers, Americans for Prosperity, Stand Together Chamber of Commerce, Stand Together, Koch Family Foundations, Koch Universities, and I360.

Ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council

The Goldwater Institute is a prominent and active member of ALEC, especially in the areas detailed below.

About ALEC
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, and check out breaking news on our site.

Worker and Consumer Rights

Byron Schlomach represents Goldwater on the Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force. He introduced the "Prohibition on Paid Union Activity (Release Time) by Public Employees Act" and the "Public Employee Paycheck Protection Act" at ALEC's 2012 Spring Task Force Summit in Charlotte.[21] Together with Dranias, Scholmach sponsored the “Insurance Compact Enabling Act” at the task force meeting during the 2010 States and Nation Policy Summit.[22]

Privatizing Schools and Undermining Public Schools and Teachers

According to a 2013 report, Goldwater Institute staff have been "the primary author of ALEC’s annual state-by-state education report card," which ranks states according to how well they follow ALEC's policy agenda, not for how well their students perform.[2]

Jonathan Butcher, the Goldwater Institute's Education Director, represents the organization as the private sector co-chair of ALEC's Education Task Force as of September 2016.[23] Butcher sponsored "model" legislation (the "District and School Freedom Act") at the 2012 ALEC Spring Task Force Summit. The model bill was adopted and sent to the board for approval.[24] Butcher also sponsored the "Resolution Opposing the Implementation of the Common Core State Standards Initiative" during the K–12 Education Reform Subcommittee Meeting of the task force during ALEC's 38th annual meeting.[25]

In 2010, Matt Ladner represented Goldwater on the Education Task Force. He sponsored the "A-Plus Literacy Act" during the education meeting of the 2010 States and Nation Policy Summit.[26] The bill was passed by the public and private sectors unanimously.[27]

Selling School Policies with Misleading Rhetoric

A report by People for the American Way Foundation found that advocates for ALEC-Goldwater Institute education policies sometimes used misleading rhetoric to promote proposals that disproportionately benefit wealthier families.[2] When Goldwater's Executive Director Darcy Olsen was "confronted with data showing that low-income families in Arizona were receiving little, if any, benefit from her state's law" on tuition tax credits, she "was surprisingly candid. 'Has it only helped [poor families] more than moderate and wealthy families?' asked Goldwater's Darcy Olsen. 'Probably not. If it was sold that way, it's only an angle.'"[28]

Federal Power and State Relations

Nick Dranias, the Goldwater Institute's Clarence J. and Katherine P. Duncan Chair for Constitutional Government and Director of the Joseph and Dorothy Donnelly Moller Center for Constitutional Government, partook in the International Relations Task Force meeting at the 2011 ALEC Annual Meeting (which includes the Federal Relations Working Group), discussing "his three step plan to restore state sovereignty." This consisted of three pieces of model legislation, which he introduced: the "Constitutional Defense Council Legislation," the "Model State Sovereignty Civil Rights Law" and the "Sovereign State Interstate Compact."[29]

Health, Pharmaceuticals, and Safety Net Programs

Opposition to Arizona Medicaid Expansion

The Goldwater Institute opposed the expansion of Arizona's Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act. The Medicaid expansion passed the Arizona legislature with bipartisan support and was signed into law by Republican Governor Jan Brewer in June 2013. In September, Goldwater filed a lawsuit against the state to block implementation of the law on the grounds that it was a tax increase, and therefore required a two-thirds majority.[2] The lawsuit was dismissed in February 2014.[30]

Involvement with ALEC HHS Task Force

Nick Dranias has also been active in ALEC's Health and Human Services Task Force. He sponsored a piece model legislation at ALEC's 2011 Spring Task Force Summit called the "Health Freedom Compact Act," whose purpose is to create a type of "treaty" among states to make a "legal argument that it is a federal crime for anyone, including federal officials, to interfere with a state’s health care freedom laws, such as a law modeled on ALEC’s Health Care Freedom Act."[31] He presented to the task force at the ALEC 2011 Annual Meeting as well.[32] Another Goldwater staff member, Dr. Byron Schlomach, Director of Goldwater's Center for Economic Prosperity, has also been active in the Health task force. In 2010, Dr. Schlomach gave a presentation entitled "The Evolution of Third-Party Payment in Health Care" at the 37th Annual Meeting.[33] Dr. Schlomach also sponsored the "Insurance Compact Enabling Act" at ALEC’s 2010 States and Nation Policy Summit.[34] This bill was referred both to the Health and Human Services Task Force and the Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force, of which Schlomach is also a member.[35]

Prior to coming to the Goldwater Institute, Dranias worked as an attorney for the Institute for Justice. ALEC, the Goldwater Institute, and the Institute for Justice are all members of the State Policy Network (SPN).[36][37][38]

Taxes and Budgets

The Goldwater Institute is also a member of ALEC's Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force. Steve Slivinski, Senior Economist, introduced model legislation, the "Subsidy Truce Compact," at the Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force Meeting at the 2011 ALEC Annual Meeting.[39] Byron Schlomach previously represented Goldwater on this task force. At the 2010 annual meeting, Sclomach sponsored two pieces of model legislation, "The Balanced Budget Certification Act" and "The Spending Evaluation Act."[40] At the 2010 States and Nation Policy Summit, Schlomach presented on "A Constitutional Amendment Requiring State Approval for Increases in Federal Debt."[41]

Environment and Energy

Nick Dranias has also represented the Goldwater Institute as a member of ALEC's Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force. He sponsored two pieces of model legislation at the 2010 annual meeting: "Decentralized Land Use Regulation for Rural Counties" and the "State Sovereignty through Local Coordination Act."[42] The latter would allow local government to force the state or federal government to align its regulation with local regulations, preventing the imposition of more restrictive regulations in areas such as environmental protection.[2]

Like ALEC, Goldwater has opposed efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. One of its senior fellows, Robert Balling, authored a 2010 article, "Some Like It Hot," in which he suggested that ecosystems could adapt to global warming.[2]

Please see SPN Ties to ALEC for more.

Ties to the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity

The Goldwater Institute 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.[43] The Franklin Center funds reporters in over 40 states.[44] Despite their non-partisan description, many of the websites funded by the Franklin Center have received criticism for their conservative bias.[45][46] On its website, the Franklin Center claims it "provides 10 percent of all daily reporting from state capitals nationwide."[47]

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).[48] Mother Jones called DonorsTrust "the dark-money ATM of the conservative movement" in a February 2013 article.[49] Franklin received DonorTrust's second-largest donation in 2011.[48]

The Franklin Center also receives funding from the Wisconsin-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation,[50] a conservative grant-making organization.[51]

The Franklin Center was launched by the Chicago-based Sam Adams Alliance (SAM),[52] a 501(c)(3) devoted to pushing free-market ideals. SAM gets funding from the State Policy Network,[53] which is partially funded by The Claude R. Lambe Foundation.[54] Charles Koch, one of the billionaire brothers who co-own Koch Industries, sits on the board of this foundation.[55] SAM also receives funding from the Rodney Fund.

Areas of Work

In 2016, the organization listed the following as its main issue areas:[56]

  • Constitutional Rights
  • Education
  • Free Enterprise
  • Healthcare
  • Unions



The Goldwater Institute is not required to disclose its funders. Funders can be found through a search of IRS filings. The Goldwater Institute has accepted donations from:

  • American Endowment Foundation: $27,598 (2016)
  • Americans for Tax Reform: $15,000 (2017)
  • Arizona Community Foundation: $381,000 (2017)
  • Arizona State University Foundation for a New American University: $20,000 (2015-2016)
  • Armstrong Foundation: $90,000
  • Atlas Economic Research Foundation: $35,750 (2016)
  • Bader Family Foundation: $3,000 (2018)
  • Bank of America Charitable Foundation: $7,250 (2014-2018)
  • Beth and Ravenel Curry Foundation: $25,000 (2017)
  • Bill Marian Cook Foundation: $525,000 (2013-2017)
  • Bradley Impact Fund: $6,000 (2015)
  • Brady Foundation: $15,000 (2017)
  • Brian and Joelle Kelly Family Foundation: $1,300 (2013-2016)
  • Edward A. & Catherine L. Lozick Foundation: $500 (2014)
  • Celebrity Family Fight Night Foundation: $5,000 (2017)
  • Challenge Foundation: $400,000 (2016-2017)
  • Charles Koch Foundation: $238,353 (2004-2020)
  • Chase Foundation of Virginia: $119,000 (2013-2019)
  • Chicago Freedom Trust: $10,000 (2010)
  • Crawford Family Foundation: $1,200 (2014-2017)
  • Creigh Family Foundation: $5,000 (2015)
  • Croul Family Foundation: $20,000 (2014-2016)
  • David Family Foundation: $5,000 (2017)
  • David J. Weiner Foundation: $500 (2010)
  • David Family Foundation: $5,000 (2017-2018)
  • Deborah J. and Peter A. Magowan Family Foundation: $500 (2014)
  • Donald & Paula Smith Family Foundation: $50,000 (2012)
  • DonorsTrust: $3,593,773 (2010-2021)
  • Edmunds Family Foundation: $9,000 (2011-2018)
  • Edward J. and Lanelle B. Robson Foundation: $10,000 (2013-2014)
  • Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation: $50,000 (2014)
  • Farris Family Foundation: $100 (2015)
  • Fidelity Investments Charitable Gift Fund: $119,720 (2016)
  • Fiel Foundation: $200 (2010)
  • Fleischer Foundation: $5,000 (2015)
  • The Foraker Foundation: $11,000 (2011)
  • Foundation for Individual Liberty: $5,000 (2018)
  • GAF Foundation: $1,000 (2009)
  • Gary and Christine Jones Foundation: $200 (2017)
  • Gary G. Gerlach and Karen A. Conner Charitable Foundation: $50 (2010)
  • Gleason Family Foundation: $100,000 (2016)
  • Greater Cincinnati Foundation: $105,000
  • Greater Kansas City Community Foundation: $20,500 (2016-2017)
  • Grogan Family Foundation: $250 (2014)
  • Haven Charitable Foundation: $15,500 (2010-2011)
  • Hawkins Family Foundation: $200 (2014)
  • Hayden Foundation: $500 (2013)
  • Healthcare Innovations Foundations: $5,150 (2013-2016)
  • Herbster Family Foundation: $4,000 (2013-2017)
  • Hickory Foundation: $75,000 (2014-2016)
  • Homebuilders Association of Central America: $25,000 (2010)
  • James Ludke Charitable Trust: $59,500 (2013-2018)
  • Jason Hartman Foundation: $100 (2015)
  • Jim Hicks Family Foundation: $32,000 (2014-2016)
  • Joe and Jan Larson Foundation: $50 (2009)
  • John Dawson Foundation: $300,000 (2011-2012)
  • JP Morgan Chase Foundation: $574 (2016-2017)
  • Kirr Foundation: $8,000
  • Kleinschmidt Family Foundation: $45,000 (2012-2018)
  • L and J Foundation: $300 (2016-2018)
  • Lewis Hertz Foundation: $2,300 (2015-2016)
  • Maggie and Earl Russel Foundation: $1,000 (2014)
  • Mercer Family Foundation: $1,750,000 (2011-2016)
  • Morgan Stanley Global Impact Funding Trust: $13,016 (2013)
  • Morse Family Foundation: $400 (2014-2017)
  • National Philanthropic TR: $264,032 (2015-2018)
  • National Christian Charitable Foundation: $146,250 (2014-2017)
  • Neal and Marlene Goldman Foundation: $30,000 (2016-2017)
  • Nehring Foundation: $28,000 (2013-2018)
  • PEW Charitable Trusts: $50,398 (2017)
  • REAMS Foundation: $640,000 (2011-2018)
  • Richard Stravitz Foundation: $5,000 (2017)
  • Robert and Marie Hansen Family Foundation: $115,000 (2013-2017)
  • Roe Foundation: $452,500 (1998-2019)
  • Schwab Charitable Fund: $483,834
  • Shelby Cullom Davis Foundation: $13,000 (1997-1998)
  • Short Family Foundation: $250 (2018)
  • Stand Together Fellowships: $1,161,500 (2016-2021)
  • State Policy Network: $312,800 (2011-2017)
  • Stephenson Family Foundation: $15,000 (2013-2016)
  • The Steven G. Mihaylo Foundation: $10,000 (2018)
  • Susquehanna Foundation: $20,000 (2017-2018)
  • The Joe and Jan Larson Foundation: $250 (2011)
  • The Kirr Foundation: $1,000 (2011)
  • Kleinschmidt Family Foundation: $2,281 (2011)
  • Thomas W. Smith Foundation: $50,000 (2016)
  • Timothy T. Day Foundation: $15,000 (2016-2018)
  • Toledo Community Foundation: $5,000 (2012)
  • Foundation for Individual Rights: $10,000 (2016)
  • The Vinck Family Foundation: $2,000 (2011-2016)
  • William S. and Ann Atherton Foundation: $2,000 (2015-2016)
  • Williams-Malone Foundation: $10,000 (2015-2016)
  • Wolzinger Family Foundation: $3,050 (2012-2017)
  • Woodford Foundation: $3,500
  • Zwick Foundation: $1,000 (2015)

Tobacco Industry Contributions

"The Goldwater Institute has accepted donations from Altria, owner of Philip Morris USA, every year between 2011 and 2017" according to an investigation by The Guardian. Goldwater has also taken many of the same positions as the tobacco industry on legislative issues.[57]

Arizona Taxpayers Fund Goldwater

According to a 2013 report by Arizona Working Families and the Center for Media and Democracy, even though "the Goldwater Institute has attacked government spending, the institute has taken in over a million in Arizona taxpayer dollars for its 'public interest' lawsuits, and amassed what it has described as 'excess cash.'"[2]

Employee Compensation

Goldwater's top executive compensation rises, while Arizona income falls. (Source: "A Reporter's Guide to the Goldwater Institute")

Despite attacking Arizona employees, claiming state workers are paid too much, the Goldwater Institute pays its top employees sizable salaries. From 2007 to 2012, Goldwater's employee compensation increased by ten times more than its revenues did, despite budget losses. The tax-exempt organization has given its top two executives raises in compensation of 185 percent since 2007, but the charity’s revenue did not increase by anywhere near that percentage in the same period, growing by only 18 percent in those five years.[2]

The compensation of Goldwater's executive director, Darcy Olsen, jumped from $180,000 in 2007 to $268,182 for 2011, while compensation of the Goldwater Institute’s director of litigation, Clint Bolick, jumped even higher in this five-year period, from $126,875 to $300,624. At the same time, the real median wages of Arizona households dropped from $54,116 to $46,709.[2]

The Goldwater Institute's compensation to top employees also includes large bonuses. In 2011, Olsen received $20,000 and Bolick received a bonus of $35,000. Goldwater gave its Director of Policy Development, Nick Dranias a $50,000 bonus in 2011, bringing his total compensation for that year to $176,228, more than three times the earnings of the average Arizona household.[2] In 2012, even without those bonuses, Goldwater's executives received generous compensation: at $130,426, Dranias' 2014 salary was "about two and three-quarter times the real median wage of Arizona households, which was $47,826 in 2012."[2]

Employee Compensation as of Latest Tax Filing[58]

  • Darcy Olsen, Former CEO: $200,496
  • Christina Sandefur, Executive VP: $137,236
  • William Templar, VP Foundations: $118,193
  • Roger Zetah, CFO: $96,564
  • Victor Riches, President/CEO: $229,185
  • Timothy Sandefur, Vice President of Litigation: $197,285
  • Jonathan Riches, Director of National Litigation: $125,523
  • Michael Brownfield, Director of Communications: $123,403
  • Naomi Lopez, Director of Healthcare Policy: $116,060

Employee Compensation listed in previous Tax Filing[59][60]

  • Clint Bolick, former VP of Litigation: $310,652
  • Nick Dranias, former Director of Policy Development & Constitutional Government: $203,284
  • Kurt Altman, former Senior Attorney: $169,163
  • Victor Riches, former Vice President for External Affairs: $189,499
  • Ann Tredway, VP of Development: $145,198
  • Trent Christensen, $142,469

Core Financials


  • Total Revenue: $6,159,216
  • Total Expenses: $4,031,671
  • Net Assets: $9,314,261


  • Total Revenue: $5,624,841
  • Total Expenses: $4,741,732
  • Net Assets: $7,093,976


  • Total Revenue: $5,219,461
  • Total Expenses: $4,375,504
  • Net Assets: $5,970,484


  • Total Revenue: $6,420,673
  • Total Expenses: $6,186,952
  • Net Assets: $5,232,339


  • Total Revenue: $6,400,250
  • Total Expenses: $5,504,511
  • Net Assets: $4,934,972


  • Total Revenue: $4,322,513
  • Total Expenses: $5,616,214
  • Net Assets: $3,956,749


  • Total Revenue: $5,049,260
  • Total Expenses: $5,338,305
  • Net Assets: $5,250,450


  • Total Revenue: $4,450,101
  • Total Expenses: $4,244,199
  • Net Assets: $5,529,105


  • Total Revenue: $3,830,266
  • Total Expenses: $3,463,958
  • Net Assets: $5,231,958


  • Total Revenue: $4,190,522
  • Total Expenses: $3,764,908
  • Net Assets: $4,795,651


  • Total Revenue: $3,299,424.00
  • Total Expenses: $3,506,634.00
  • Net Assets: $4,380,969.00


  • Total Revenue: $2,540,977.00
  • Total Expenses: $2,681,328.00
  • Net Assets: $4,557,541.00


According to a previous version of its website, the Goldwater Institute "was established in 1988 as an independent, nonpartisan research and educational organization dedicated to the study of public policy in Arizona. Through research papers, commentaries, policy briefings and events, Goldwater scholars advance public policies based on the principles championed by the late Senator Barry Goldwater during his years of public service -- limited government, economic freedom and individual responsibility. Consistent with a belief in limited government, the Goldwater Institute neither seeks nor accepts government funds and relies on voluntary contributions to fund its work."

"The Goldwater Institute is heir to the legacy of the late Barry Goldwater. Transcending party lines, the term 'Goldwater Conservative' came to be synonymous with the principles that made the United States a beacon of liberty -- individual rights, economic freedom, and a government of strictly limited powers.
"The Goldwater Institute board and staff share a belief in those principles, and work to develop solutions to public policy problems in accordance with them. Some call this philosophy conservative for its commitment to rule of law; others call it libertarian for its commitment to free markets and limited government; and, still others call it liberal for its commitment to individual rights. We believe our philosophy, regardless of the names by which it is known, builds a firm foundation for the free society to which we are dedicated."

Despite its affirmations of advancing Senator Goldwater's values of limited government, economic freedom, and individual responsibility, according to a 2013 report about the Institute, the late Senator himself disliked parts of what the Institute had grown to represent. Specifically, Senator Goldwater didn’t like seeing his namesake institute turn into a special-interest, big-business lobbying group. Unfortunately, he died of a stroke before he could implement a system of “checks and balances” within the institute to protect his name.[2]



As of December 2021:[70]:

  • Victor Riches, CEO and President
  • Christina Sandefur, Executive Vice President
  • Matt Beienburg, Director of Education Policy
  • Jenna Bentley, Director of Government Affairs
  • Mike Brownfield, Director of Communications
  • Jonathan Butcher, Senior Fellow
  • Heather Curry, Director of Strategic Engagement
  • Kelly Day, Director of Operations
  • Dr. Murray Feldstein, Visiting Fellow
  • Dr. Rafael Fonseca, Visiting Fellow
  • Carolyne Horton, Donor Relations and Events Administrator
  • Jacob Huebert, Senior Attorney
  • Austin Jack, Chief Development Officer
  • Naomi Lopez Bauman, Director of Healthcare Policy
  • Jim Manley, Senior Fellow
  • Ryan McDonald, Government Affairs Analyst
  • Jon Riches, Director of National Litigation & General Counsel
  • Jim Rounds, Senior Fellow
  • Timothy Sandefur, Vice President for Litigation
  • Kris Schlott, Paralegal
  • Joe Setyon, Digital Communications Associate
  • Conner Sick, Legislative Affairs Fellow
  • Stephen Silverman, Senior Attorney
  • Dr. Jeffrey Singer, Visiting Fellow
  • Shannon Stovall, Executive Development Assistant
  • Le Templar, Vice President for Foundation Relations
  • Jennifer Tiedemann, Deputy Director of Communications
  • Roger Zetah, Chief Financial Officer

Former Staff

  • Veronica Thorson, Staff Attorney
  • Matt Miller, Senior Attorney
  • Christopher Ramos, Digital Media Specialist
  • Kileen Lindgren, Legal Programs Coordinator
  • Mark Flatten, National Investigative Journalist
  • Anissa Borchardt, Development Assistant and Intern Coordinator
  • Trevor Bratton, Policy Analyst Fellow
  • Trent Christensen, Vice President of Donor Relations
  • Adi Dynar, Staff Attorney
  • Tom Romeo, Policy Analyst
  • Carrie Hull, Director of Planned Giving
  • Kelly Day, Legal Assistant
  • Ann Tredway, Group Vice President for Development
  • Tracy Wells, Reception & Office Administrator
  • Jack Hartpence, Donors Relations
  • Starlee Coleman, Vice President for Communications
  • Carrie Ann Donnell, Legal Programs Manager
  • Austin Anton, Donor Communications and Project Specialist
  • Michael Hunter, Vice President, State and Fiscal Affairs
  • Michael Kelley, Vice President for Branding
  • Jonathan Butcher, Education Director
  • Nichole Gurney, Donor Development Manager
  • Jared Blanchard, Staff Attorney
  • Linsey Goodwin, External Affairs Assistant
  • Maxwell Rehbein, Communications Associate
  • Darcy Olsen, President & CEO
  • Clint Bolick, Vice President for Litigation
  • Dan Alexander, Chief Operating Officer
  • Lucy Caldwell, Communications Director
  • Nick Dranias, Director of Policy Development & Constitutional Government
  • Justin Streiff, Director of Major Gifts
  • Kurt Altman, Senior Attorney
  • Stephen Slivinski, Senior Economist
  • Charles Siler, External Relations Manager
  • Blake Wilson, Digital Production Specialist
  • Travis Junion, Major Gifts Officer
  • Brandon Blum, Major Gifts Officer
  • Jason Lloyd, Member Services Assistant
  • Cheryl McCarty, Office Manager
  • Ashley Fitzwilliams, Paralegal
  • Andrea Woodmansee, Senior Editor
  • Barbara Small, Executive Assistant
  • Byron Schlomach, Director, Center for Economic Prosperity
  • Christina Corieri, Health Care Policy Analyst
  • Joshua Turner, Litigation Manager
  • Michael Pfeifer, Production Manager
  • Starlee Rhoades, Executive Vice President
  • Taylor Earl, Staff Attorney[71]
  • Jennifer Alvarez, Paralegal
  • Robert Kramer, Communications Associate
  • Christian Palmer, Investigative Reporter[72]
  • Martha Astor, Staff Attorney
  • Dominique Blair, Development Associate

Board of Directors

As of December 2021:[73]

Former Directors

Senior Fellows

As of September 2016, the Goldwater Institute no longer lists senior fellows on its website. These are the last known fellows as of 2014:

  • Alan Charles Kors, Professor of History, University of Pennsylvania
  • Benjamin Barr, Constitutional Policy Analyst
  • Bradley Smith, Professor of Law, Capital University
  • Carrie Lukas, Director of Policy, Independent Women's Forum
  • Dan Lips, Policy Advisor & Investigator, U.S. Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee
  • David Schmidtz, Professor of Philosophy & Economics, University of Arizona
  • Fred E. Foldvary, Professor of Economics, Santa Clara University
  • Fred Kelly Grant, Constitutional Law Expert
  • George Reisman, Professor Emeritus of Economics, Pepperdine University
  • Gordon Tullock, Professor of Law & Economics, George Mason University
  • Ilya Somin, Associate Professor of Law, George Mason University
  • James D. Gwartney, Economics Chair & Center Director, Florida State University
  • Jay P. Greene, Endowed Chair & Head of the Department of Education Reform, University of Arkansas
  • Jeffrey Parker, Professor of Law, George Mason University
  • John Shadegg, Former U.S. Representative, Arizona's 3rd Congressional District
  • Lee Ann Elliott, Former Commissioner, Federal Election Commission
  • Matthew Ladner, Director of Policy & Research, Foundation for Excellence in Education
  • Michael J. New, Assistant Professor, University of Alabama
  • Patrick Chovanec, Associate Professor of Economics, Tsinghua University (Beijing)
  • Randy Barnett, Professor of Law, Boston University
  • Robert Balling, Professor of Geography, Arizona State University
  • Robert G. Natelson, Retired Professor of Law, University of Montana
  • Stephen Moore, Editorial Page Writer, Wall Street Journal
  • Steve Pejovich, Professor Emeritus, Texas A&M University
  • Steven M. Greenhut, Investigative Journalism Director, Pacific Research Institute
  • Todd Zywicki, Professor of Law, George Mason University
  • Vernon L. Smith, Nobel Prize winner in Economics, 2002
  • Veronique de Rugy, Senior Research Fellow, Mercatus Center

Contact Details

Goldwater Institute
500 E. Coronado Road
Phoenix, AZ 85004
Phone: 602.462.5000
Fax: 602.256.7045

Articles and Resources

IRS Form 990 Filings








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