Jesse Helms Center
Learn more about how the State Policy Network aids ALEC and spins disinformation in the states.
The Jesse Helms Center Foundation (JHC) is a right wing 501(c)(3) non-profit founded in 1988 and named after the powerful conservative Senator Jesse A. Helms (R-NC), famous for stoking racial intolerance in North Carolina in order to drive white conservatives to the polls. JHC is an associate member of the State Policy Network (SPN).
The Jesse Helms Center "exists to promote our nation’s founding principles that Senator Jesse Helms advanced throughout his career," and the organization's vision is to "become one of our nation's leading advocates of free enterprise and traditional American values. This is to be accomplished through education, public policy promotion and historical preservation," according to the group's website.
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 2022, SPN's membership totals 166. 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.
Jesse Helms Center Inspired by Senator Infamous for Racist, Homophobic Views
Helms was known to play the race card when it helped him politically. When he wasn't targeting African Americans, he went after immigrants, other ethnic minorities, gay and lesbian citizens, and trade unionists. In 2008, John Nichols, writing for The Nation, described a number of the race-baiting and intolerant actions Helms employed to advance his political career:
- While working on Willis Smith's Senatorial campaign in 1950, Helms helped create a political ad raising the alarm on Smith's opponent's advocacy of civil rights: "White people, wake up before it is too late. Do you want Negroes working beside you, your wife and your daughters, in your mills and factories? Frank Graham favors mingling of the races." The Raleigh News and Observer called the campaign " "the most overtly racist campaign since the turn of the century."
- He referred to the University of North Carolina as the "University of Negroes and Communists" and suggested that walls be erected around the UNC campus to prevent the campus from "infecting" the rest of North Carolina.
- "Crime rates and irresponsibility among Negroes are a fact of life which must be faced."
- He suggested that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was a communist dupe and refused, even decades after King's death, to honor the Nobel Peace Prize winner.
- He dismissed the civil rights movement as a cabal of communists and "moral degenerates."
- "The Negro cannot count forever on the kind of restraint that's thus far left him free to clog the streets, disrupt traffic, and interfere with other men's rights," Helms said of non-violent civil rights activists.
- While running against North Carolina Congressman Nick Galifianakis, a Greek American citizen, Helms campaigned on the slogan "Vote for Helms — He’s One of Us!"
- In 1990, after Helms fell behind in a Senatorial race against Harvey Gantt, his campaign began running television advertisements that showed a white man's hands crumpling up a rejection notice from a corporation that had refused to hire him because affirmative action policies had supposedly required that the job go to a "less qualified minority." After those words were uttered, an image of Gantt flashed on the screen.
- Helms filibustered and attempted to block the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
- Helms opposed an extension of the Voting Rights Act.
- After Carol Moseley-Braun of Illinois became the first African-American woman to sit in the Senate, Helms followed Moseley-Braun into an elevator, announcing to Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, "Watch me make her cry. I'm going to make her cry. I'm going to sing 'Dixie' until she cries." Then, emphasizing the lines about how "good" things were before the Civil War ended slavery, Helms sang "Dixie."
- Helms indicated that he was sympathetic to apartheid in South Africa.
Helms called the 1964 Civil Rights bill "the single most dangerous piece of legislation ever introduced in the Congress."
"I've never heard once in this chamber anybody say to the homosexuals 'Stop what you’re doing.' Do you realize that if they would stop what they're doing, there would not be one additional case of AIDS in the United States?" Helms said on the Senate floor in 1990, as shown in CSPAN video footage (at right).
In his 1990 Senatorial campaign, political advertisements by Helm's campaign accused Harvey Gantt of running a "secret campaign" in homosexual communities and of being committed to "mandatory gay rights laws," including "requiring local schools to hire gay teachers."
During Ruth Bader Ginsberg's Supreme Court confirmation hearings in the Senate, Helms was one of three Senators who voted against her confirmation, citing Ginsberg's support for the "homosexual agenda" as well as her stance on abortion.
Helms was staunchly opposed to President Bill Clinton and was particularly incensed by his decision to remove the ban on homosexual citizens serving in the military. On the anniversary of President Kennedy's assassination, he said, "Clinton better watch out if he comes down here (North Carolina). He'd better have his bodyguard."
- Total Revenue: $1,298,197
- Total Expenses: $1,517,419
- Net Assets: $9,302,928
- Total Revenue: $1,084,282
- Total Expenses: $1,416,835
- Net Assets: $9,952,103
- Total Revenue: $2,297,639
- Total Expenses: $1,785,340
- Net Assets: $10,139,563
The Jesse Helms Center's Board of Directors, as of October 11, 2016:
- James C. Broughton (Chairman)
- John Hendley (Vice Chairman)
- Marion Bagwell (Treasurer)
- Andrew Hartsfield (Secretary)
- Dr. Rhett Brown (President, Wingate University)
- Tom Boney, Jr.
- James D. Duncan
- The Honorable Robin Hayes
- Nancy Helms
- Chuck Howard
- Luther T. Moore
- Mike Stuart
- Mary Summa
- Brian Summers
- Robert Wilkie
- C.C. Dickson, Jr. (Emeritus)
- John Dodd, President
- Brian Rogers, Chief Operating Officer
- Rich Carney, Archives Director and Curator
- Wanda Goodwin, Chief Financial Officer
- Garrett Dahms, Assistant Programs Coordinator & Coordinator for the Free Enterprise Leadership Challenge
- Carolyn Phifer, Development Associate
- Ladonna Snodgrass, Rental Coordinator and Facilities Manager
Employer Identification Number (EIN): 56-1613516
Jesse Helms Center Foundation
P.O. box 247
Wingate, North Carolina 28174
- State Policy Network, Directory, organizational website, accessed October 11, 2016.
- Jesse Helms Center Foundation, About, organizational website, accessed October 11, 2016.
- David Armiak, 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.
- John Nichols, Jesse Helms, John McCain and the Mark of White Hands, The Nation, July 5, 2008.
- Mary C. Curtis, Jesse Helms is still stirring up controversy, Washington Post, December 6, 2012.
- AIDS Care Bill Senate Floor Debate, CSPAN, May 14, 1990, accessed June 15, 2017.
- Robin Toner, An Underdog Forces Helms Into a Surprisingly Tight Race, The New York Times, October 31, 1990.
- Associated Press, Ginsberg to Join the High Court, Washington Post, August 4, 1993.
- Jesse Helms, The Telegraph, July 6, 2008.
- Jesse Helms Center Foundation, 2015 IRS Form 990, Internal Revenue Service, May 10, 2016.
- Jesse Helms Center Foundation, 2014 IRS Form 990, Internal Revenue Service, May 7, 2015.
- Jesse Helms Center Foundation, 2013 IRS Form 990, Internal Revenue Service, May 6, 2014.
- Jesse Helms Center Foundation, Leadership, organizational website, accessed October 11, 2016.