Liberty Justice Center

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The Liberty Justice Center (LJC), is a rightwing "litigation center that fights to protect economic liberty, private property rights, free speech, and other fundamental rights in Illinois and beyond," according to its website. Founded in 2012,[1] "The Liberty Justice Center [is] a public interest law firm started by and in close relations with the Illinois Policy Institute."[2]. The two organizations share an office.[3][4] The Chairman of LJC is John Tillman.[5] The Liberty Justice Center is an associate member of the State Policy Network, a web of state pressure groups that denote themselves as "think tanks" and drive a right-wing agenda in statehouses nationwide.

News and Controversies

Represented Mark Janus in SCOTUS Case Janus v. AFSCME

Alongside the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, LJC "represent[s] Mark Janus" in Janus v. AFSCME, the Supreme Court Case argued before the Supreme Court on February 26, 2018. Mark Janus is a child support worker for the State of Illinois who does not want to pay the agency fees (also known as fair share fees) required to compensate the union representing Illinois state workers for the cost of his representation. This case is part and parcel of a 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.

A report from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) on those who side with the plaintiff in Janus v. Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 found "Janus, and the two fair share cases that preceded it, did not grow from an organic, grassroots challenge to union representation. Rather, the fair share cases are being financed by a small group of foundations with ties to the largest and most powerful corporate lobbies. These organizations and the policymakers they support have succeeded in advancing a policy agenda that weakens the bargaining power of workers. In Janus, these interests have focused their attack on public-sector workers—the workforce with the highest union density." [4]

LJC represented Mark Janus pro bono. EPI investigated who funds LJC and the associated IPI, "a review of LJC and IPI’s 990s provides a limited view of their financial profile, but it is clear that they survive off of the same core group of corporate-backed organizations that contribute to many political and legal fights against unions. Donors Trust, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Ed Uihlein Family Foundation, Dunn’s Foundation for the Advancement of Right Thinking, and the Charles Koch Institute have supported the Illinois Policy Institute and Liberty Justice Center." [4]

LJC is a part of the "a small group of people working for deep-pocketed corporate interests" which CMD's Mary Bottari outlined in her "Behind Janus: Documents Reveal Decade-Long Plot to Kill Public-Sector Unions" piece for In These Times. She writes, "those same people cheer “defunding” and “bankrupting” unions to deal a “mortal blow” to progressive politics in America." [6]

Amusement Tax Litigation

In 2015, LJC represented litigants arguing against the application of an "amusement tax" in Chicago being applied to online services, such as Netflix. According to the Wall Street Journal, LJC argued in the case that the tax was "a violation of the federal Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA); ... the United States Commerce Clause ... the uniformity clause of the Illinois Constitution; and an extraterritorial application of Defendants’ taxing power." [7] In May of 2018, the Circuit Court of Cook County ruled in favor of the city, disagreeing with LJC and their litigants. [8] Jefferey Schwab, senior attorney at the Liberty Justice Center, told Forbes, “we plan to appeal this decision because it has far broader implications than this single attempt to tax online entertainment" [7]

Ties to State Policy Network

LJC is an associate member of the 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.[9] 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.[10]

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.'"[11]

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.[12]

According to SPN, "the Liberty Justice Center [is] the litigation partner of the State Policy Network affiliate Illinois Policy Institute." [13]

Amicus briefs in the Janus case were filed by the following SPN associates and affiliates:

Ties to the Koch Brothers

As of 2018, LJC is a partner organization of the Charles Koch Institute internship program.[14]

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 Bradley Foundation

The Liberty Justice Center was a member of the Goldwater Institute's litigation alliance, a project started in 2014, but no longer appears to exist. The Milwaukee-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation provided $350,000 in seed money for litigator Clint Bolick's “initiative to create a state litigation alliance” (Report: Goldwater Institute, 2016). The Bradley Price recipient Bolick was vice president for litigation at the Goldwater Institute at the time. Today Bolick is on the Arizona Supreme Court. The state litigation alliance, according to Bradley internal documents, “helps research and identify those states that have the greatest potential for advancing state-constitutional law – then trains and, if asked, mentors attorneys who can either lead or staff existing or newly-created legal centers elsewhere, with an intensive ‘litigation boot camp’ for interested conscripts."

In all, Bradley has contributed $600,000 to the state litigation alliance because it “retains great potential to continue maximizing the benefit of Bradley’s much other recent strategic grantmaking to improve conservative infrastructures” (Goldwater Institute, Grant History Record, 11/10/14).[15]

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 ExposedbyCMD.org.

Cases

Liberty Justice Center lists the following cases on its website as of May 2019:[16]

  • LEITCH V. AFSCME
  • HANNAY V. KENT STATE
  • BENNETT V. AFSCME
  • SWEET V. CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF PSYCHIATRIC TECHNICIANS
  • O’CALLAGHAN V. REGENTS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA
  • OLIVER V. SEIU
  • ADAMS, ET AL V. TEAMSTERS
  • GROSSMAN V. HGEA
  • MANDEL V. SEIU
  • HENDRICKSON V. AFSCME
  • FEW V. UTLA
  • DAN PROFT V. KWAME RAOUL
  • COOKE V. ILLINOIS STATE BOARD OF ELECTIONS
  • VUGO V. CITY OF CHICAGO
  • MENDEZ V. CITY OF CHICAGO
  • HARLAN V. SCHOLZ
  • DEFENDING LOCAL RIGHT-TO-WORK LAWS
  • LABELL V. CITY OF CHICAGO
  • Janus vs. AFSCME
  • LEIBUNDGUTH STORAGE & VAN SERVICE V. VILLAGE OF DOWNERS GROVE
  • ILLINOIS LIBERTY PAC V. RAOUL

Funding

LJC is not required to disclose its funders. Its major foundation funders, however, can be found through a search of the IRS filings. Here are the know funders of LJC:

Core Financials

2020[17]

  • Total Revenue: $2,306,293
  • Total Expenses: $2,177,259
  • Net Assets: $1,058,128

2019[18]

  • Total Revenue: $2,255,795
  • Total Expenses: $2,261,727
  • Net Assets: $929,094

Grants Distributed

2018[19]

  • Total Revenue: $2,245,284
  • Total Expenses: $1,414,073
  • Net Assets: $935,026

Grants Distributed

2017[20]

  • Total Revenue: $692,322
  • Total Expenses: $559,903
  • Net Assets: $151,208

2016[5]

  • Total Revenue: $494,000
  • Total Expenses: $477,968
  • Net Assets: $18,789

2015[21]

  • Total Revenue: $349,250
  • Total Expenses: $367,321
  • Net Assets: $2,757

2014[22]

  • Total Revenue: $343,000
  • Total Expenses: $341,718
  • Net Assets: $20,662

2013[23]

  • Total Revenue: $225,035
  • Total Expenses: $211,011
  • Net Assets: $19,380

2012[1]

  • Total Revenue: $150,000
  • Total Expenses: $144,645
  • Net Assets: $5,355

Personnel

As of April 2022:[24]

Staff

  • Jacob Huebert, President
  • Diana Rickert, Vice President
  • Brian Kelsey, Managing Attorney
  • Daniel Suhr, Managing Attorney
  • Buck Dougherty, Senior Attorney
  • Jeffrey M. Schwab, Senior Attorney
  • Jeffrey Jennings, Staff Attorney
  • James McQuaid, Staff Attorney
  • Reilly Stephens, Staff Attorney
  • Morgan Bowles, Director of Legal Operations
  • Kristen Williamson, Communications and Outreach Director
  • Mark Janus, Senior Fellow

Former Staff

  • Patrick Hughes, President.
  • Laurel Abraham, Director of Development
  • Laurel Buckley, director of Development

Board of Directors

As of December 2020:[17]

  • Sara Albrecht, Chairman
  • John Tillman, Secretary and Treasurer
  • Pat Hughes, Director
  • Diana Rickert, Director
  • Mark Santacros, Director

Former Directors

  • Stephanie Linares, Director

Contact Information

Liberty Justice Center
190 S. LaSalle Street
Suite 1500, Chicago, IL 60603
Media Contact Office Phone: (7730-809-4403
Website: libertyjusticecenter.org
Twitter: https://twitter.com/LJCenter
Facebook: facebook.com/libertyjusticecenter

Articles and Resources

IRS Form 990 Filings

2020

2019

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

Audits

2020

Tax-Exempt Application

1023

Articles

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Nonprofit Explorer, 2012 IRS Form 990, ProPublica, accessed June 2018.
  2. Diana Rickert and Nathaniel Hamilton LIBERTY JUSTICE CENTER TO ANNOUNCE NEW LITIGATION TODAY AT 2:30 P.M. PRESS CONFERENCE Press Release of IPI, March 21, 2015
  3. Kari Lydersen Conservative law practice takes on labor in two suits Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, July 8, 2015
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Celine McNicholas, Zane Mokhiber, and Marni von Wilpert Janus and fair share fees The Economic Policy Institute, February 21, 2018
  5. 5.0 5.1 Nonprofit Explorer, 2016 990, ProPublica, accessed June 2018.
  6. Mary Bottari Behind Janus: Documents Reveal Decade-Long Plot to Kill Public-Sector Unions In These Times, Feb 22. 2018
  7. 7.0 7.1 Kelly Phillips Erb Chicago's 'Cloud Tax' On Streaming Services Like Netflix Survives Legal Challenge Forbes, May 29, 2018
  8. Judge Carl Anthony Walker [1] Court Document, May 24, 2018.
  9. David Armiak, Revenue for State Policy Network and State Affiliates Tops $120 Million, ExposedbyCMD, November 13, 2019.
  10. 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.
  11. Jane Mayer, Is IKEA the New Model for the Conservative Movement?, The New Yorker, November 15, 2013.
  12. Ed Pilkington and Suzanne Goldenberg, State conservative groups plan US-wide assault on education, health and tax, The Guardian, December 5, 2013.
  13. CARRIE CONKO Supreme Court Will Hear Janus v. AFSCME State Policy Network, undated, accessed June 2018
  14. Charles Koch Institute, Partner Organizations, Charles Koch Institute, 2018.
  15. Bradley Foundation, [Goldwater Institute Grant Proposal], The Bradley Files, on file with CMD, November 10, 2014.
  16. Liberty Justice Center, Cases, Liberty Justice Center, May 2019.
  17. 17.0 17.1 Nonprofit Explorer, 2020 990, Liberty Justice Center, August 25, 2021.
  18. Nonprofit Explorer, 2019 990, Liberty Justice Center, November 13, 2020.
  19. Nonprofit Explorer, 2018 990, Liberty Justice Center, October 10, 2019.
  20. Nonprofit Explorer, 2017 990, Liberty Justice Center, November 15, 2018.
  21. Nonprofit Explorer, 2015 IRS Form 990, ProPublica, accessed June 2018.
  22. Nonprofit Explorer, 2014 IRS Form 990, ProPublica, accessed June 2018.
  23. Nonprofit Explorer, 2013 IRS Form 990, ProPublica, accessed June 2018.
  24. Liberty Justice Center about accessed April 27, 2022.