State Policy Network
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 August 2020, SPN's membership totals 162. 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 describes itself as a network and service organization for the "state-based free market think tank movement," and its stated mission is "to provide strategic assistance to independent research organizations devoted to discovering and developing market-oriented solutions to state and local public policy issues." It was founded in November 1991 and incorporated in March of 1992.
SPN groups operate as the policy, communications, and litigation arm of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), giving the cookie-cutter ALEC agenda a sheen of academic legitimacy and state-based support.
Many SPN groups are and often write ALEC "model bills."
In the states, SPN groups increasingly peddle cookie-cutter "studies" to back the cookie-cutter ALEC agenda, spinning that agenda as indigenous to the state and giving it the aura of academic legitimacy. Many SPN groups, such as the Mackinac Center in Michigan, have been accused of lobbying in their states, in violation of IRS rules for non-profit "charitable" organizations.
Some SPN groups, like the Goldwater Institute in Arizona, also contain litigation centers funded by national foundations to defend or pursue the SPN/ALEC agenda.
The Kochs' Americans for Prosperity provides the "grassroots" boots on the ground for this agenda.
Although many SPN groups claim to be independent and non-partisan, they promote a policy agenda -- including union-busting, attacks on the tort bar, and voter suppression -- that is highly-partisan and electoral in nature. SPN President Tracie Sharp told the Wall Street Journal that she had always felt Wisconsin and Michigan were only "thinly blue," and that the GOP has been put on better footing by the unions' slide. "When you chip away at one of the power sources that also does a lot of get-out-the-vote," she says, "I think that helps -- for sure."
- 1 Who Are SPN's Members?
- 2 Who Funds SPN?
- 3 Where Are SPN Groups Located?
- 4 When Was SPN Founded?
- 5 Who's in Charge?
- 6 SPN Political Activity
- 7 SPN Agenda
- 8 SPN Toolkits
- 9 Ties to the Bradley Foundation
- 10 SPN Ties to ALEC
- 11 SPN Funding
- 12 SPN Grants
- 13 SPN Ties to Tobacco
- 14 History
- 15 Core Financials
- 16 Personnel
- 17 Contact Details
- 18 Articles and Resources
- 19 References
Who Are SPN's Members?
SPN's membership includes state-based "think tanks," right-wing media institutions, advocacy groups, leadership training centers, and funding institutions like Donors Trust, an investment vehicle used by the Koch network of funders.
Although SPN's "think tanks" often claim to be non-partisan, independent, and representative of the interests of their state, the groups receive funding from national foundations to pursue a national agenda often not supported by voters in those states.
Who Funds SPN?
It is difficult to discern how much money is spent on SPN groups, as SPN and its affiliate groups are not required to disclose donors. 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.
Tax documents and other available records reveal that SPN is funded by the same large corporations, right-wing foundations, and wealthy conservative ideologues that fund ALEC. Some of the most notable corporate funders of SPN and its web of "think tanks" include Big Tobacco companies (like Reynolds), Big Oil corporations (like the Koch family fortune), AT&T, Kraft Foods, Verizon, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Facebook, and Microsoft.
SPN and its "think tanks" are also largely funded by right-wing special interest groups and individuals, including the Koch brothers, the DeVos family, the Coors family, the Walton Family Foundation, the Roe Foundation, the Bradley Foundation, and Searle Freedom Trust.
In response to a November 2013 report issued by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) -- "EXPOSED: The State Policy Network -- The Powerful Right-Wing Network Helping to Hijack State Politics and Government" -- 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. The funding proposals are from 40 SPN members to the Searle Freedom Trust, a private foundation that funds right-wing groups such as Americans for Prosperity, ALEC, Americans for Tax Reform, and more. It is the family foundation funded by the "NutraSweet" fortune of G.D. Searle & Company, which was purchased by Monsanto in 1985 and which is now part of Pfizer. The documents were submitted to Stephen Moore, Wall Street Journal editorial board member, founder of the Club for Growth, and ALEC "scholar," who was asked to review the proposals and "identify your top 20 and bottom 20 proposals."
|Documents Contained at the Anti-Environmental Archives|
Documents written by or referencing this person or organization are contained in the Anti-Environmental Archive, launched by Greenpeace on Earth Day, 2015. The archive contains 3,500 documents, some 27,000 pages, covering 350 organizations and individuals. The current archive includes mainly documents collected in the late 1980s through the early 2000s by The Clearinghouse on Environmental Advocacy and Research (CLEAR), an organization that tracked the rise of the so called "Wise Use" movement in the 1990s during the Clinton presidency. Access the index to the Anti-Environmental Archives here.
Where Are SPN Groups Located?
When Was SPN Founded?
SPN's predecessor, the Madison Group, was launched by ALEC in the 1980s, according to historical documents. SPN was reportedly founded at the suggestion of President Ronald Reagan, who, in a conversation with millionaire Thomas Roe, suggested Roe create "something like a Heritage Foundation in each of the states." In the mid-1980s, Roe allegedly told fellow wealthy conservative donor and Heritage Foundation trustee Robert Krieble, "You capture the Soviet Union -- I'm going to capture the states."
SPN as we know it today was formally created in 1992 as an "umbrella organization" to provide "advisory services" for its members. Learn more about SPN's founding in CMD's 2013 report, "EXPOSED: The State Policy Network -- The Powerful Right-Wing Network Helping to Hijack State Politics and Government."
Who's in Charge?
Tracie Sharp, president of SPN since January 2000, had previously served on its board of directors for 14 years. She was one of the founders and the executive director of Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon's SPN group, from 1991 to 1999. Sharp told the Wall Street Journal after Donald Trump's victory at the polls in 2016, "We feel like for such a time as this, we've built up this network. We need to really run. This is a state moment."
Sharp celebrated Trump wins in traditionally blue, labor-friendly states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Indian, claiming that anti-union law changes pushed by SPN members and ALEC politicians in those states flipped them from blue to red between 2008 and 2016.
SPN Political Activity
SPN and its affiliates push an extreme right-wing agenda that aims to privatize education, block healthcare reform, restrict workers' rights, roll back environmental protections, and create a tax system that benefits most those at the very top level of income.
SPN President Tracie Sharp was the recipient of the American Legislative Exchange Council's (ALEC's) 2009 "Private Sector Member of the Year Award." ALEC gave her the award because, according to an ALEC "scholar" and founder of SPN member think tank the Evergreen Freedom Foundation (now called simply the Freedom Foundation), "Not only have SPN members assisted legislators in drafting model legislation, they've been key in killing some proposals by 'rent-seeking' special interests." However, SPN's tax forms indicate that it does no lobbying.
Although SPN's affiliates -- like SPN -- are registered as educational nonprofits, several appear to orchestrate extensive lobbying and political operations to peddle their legislative agenda to state legislators, despite the IRS's regulations on nonprofit political and lobbying activities.
Please see SPN Political Activity for more, including examples of SPN members' lobbying and political campaign contributions.
SPN Manages People United for Privacy and People United for Privacy Foundation
The Center for Media and Democracy obtained 2018 tax filings for People United for Privacy and People United for Privacy Foundation showing that the two are now registered, independent non-profits. However, despite both filings saying that they "delegated management duties to State Policy Network (SPN), An unrelated organization, during the year ended December 31, 2018," Tony Woodlief continues to work for SPN as an executive vice president and PUP started as a project of SPN.
SPN Produces 'Messaging Guide' to Smear Teacher Strikes
The State Policy Network produced a "Messaging Guide: How to Talk About Teacher Strikes" as teacher strikes unfold to demand higher pay and more school funding in Oklahoma and Kentucky, following the statewide strike in West Virginia.
The guide opens with,
- "A message that focuses on teacher hours or summer vacations will sound tone-deaf when there are dozens of videos and social media posts going viral from teachers about their second jobs, teachers having to rely on food pantries, and classroom books that are falling apart, paper rationing, etc. This is an opportunity to sympathize with teachers, while still emphasizing that teacher strikes hurt kids. It is also not the right time to talk about school choice-that's off topic, and teachers at choice-schools are often paid less than district teachers."
SPN Network Works Hard to Annihilate Unions
Crushing unions is increasingly an SPN priority. Why does SPN want to destroy unions? An expose on the Bradley Foundation by the Center for Media and Democracy's (CMD's) Mary Bottari explains, "Because if you dismantle unions, you destroy a key funder of the Democratic Party and its 'army on the ground,' as Newt Gingrich once put it." (CMD is the publisher of SourceWatch.org.)
Many SPN groups focus on destroying unions -- most notably the Freedom Foundation in Washington State and the Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Michigan. As the [agenda] for SPN's 25th anniversary meeting in August 2017 shows, these two institutions provide training and leadership in this area for the entire SPN network.
According to CMD's Bottari:
- "The Wall Street Journal featured Bradley-funded State Policy Network leader Tracie Sharp in a post election 'Weekend Interview' called 'The Spoils of the Republican State Conquest.' Sharp told the paper that she had always felt that Wisconsin and Michigan were only 'thinly blue,' and that the GOP has been put on better footing by the destruction of the unions. 'When you chip away at one of the power sources that also does a lot of get-out-the-vote,' chirped Sharpe. 'I think that helps -- for sure.'
- "There's no doubt that with the decline in union membership here in Wisconsin, the political clout of the union bosses and their ability to automatically turn out members for Democrats has declined dramatically,' Brett Healy, president of the Bradley-funded MacIver Institute (SPN member group), told the Heritage Foundation's Daily Signal.
- "'Did the labor reforms enacted in Wisconsin and neighboring Michigan help Donald Trump win those states?' asked Matt Patterson, executive director of the Center for Worker Freedom at Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform (SPN member group). 'No question in my mind. Hard to fight when your bazooka's been replaced by a squirt gun.'"
People United for Privacy Project Fights to Hide Donors
SPN launched the People United for Privacy (PUP) project in 2016 to protect non-profit donors from public scrutiny and to support efforts at the state and federal level to prevent disclosure of donors to governments. The website for the project, unitedforprivacy.com, is set up like other front groups. The sponsors of the project and the organization behind the site, SPN, are not listed.
SPN's purpose, according to its by-laws, is to "assist in organizing, developing and raising funds for institutes throughout the United States whose purpose is the promotion of authoritative ideas and research studies on state and local public policy issues in the public interest." SPN's founding executive director, Lamm, is quoted in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette as calling what think tanks in the network do "constructive troublemaking."
Some of SPN's documented activities include "franchise" help -- setting up state think tanks and exchanging information; political candidate "training"; influencing state laws; litigating through associated litigation centers; creating PR plans; and hosting news sites criticized for conservative bias.
Please see SPN Agenda for more.
SPN creates "toolkits" for a number of its issue areas.
Medicaid Waiver Toolkit
Donor Privacy Toolkit
State and Local Zoning Toolkit
State Workplace Freedom Toolkit
Ties to the Bradley Foundation
Bradley Funnels Approximately $133 Million to SPN Members
Bradley Foundation grants to SPN members in its right-wing network of groups stretch back many years and amount to approximately $133 million, according to Bradley's own grant summary documents tallied by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD).
"The Bradley Foundation files note that SPN’s recent focus has been on “catalyzing further efforts to curb public-sector unions’ excesses” and “mobilizing nonprofits, donors and citizens to uphold the principles of donor privacy and freedom of speech” (SPN, Grant Proposal Record, July 2016)," a report from CMD details.
Bradley Grants to the State Policy Network
Bradley detailed the most recent grants in internal documents examined by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD). Below are the descriptions prepared by CMD. The quoted text was written by Bradley staff.
2016: $60,000 to support general operations. “Five years ago, SPN attempted to enhance its policy mobilization efforts. For example, it provided support to the Bradley supported MacIver Institute during Wisconsin’s attention getting public policy scuffles over employee rights in general and public employee collective bargaining in particular flying communications operatives and labor policy experts into Madison. SPN continues to try providing similar support to its other member organizations elsewhere. It has increased the resources available to its think tanks and amplified the impact of policy solutions they develop, including by building connections between its members and local grassroots policy activists.”
2015: $50,000 to support general operations.
2014: $35,000 in support of its state based strategy to advance free enterprise.
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.
SPN Ties to ALEC
SPN and many of its affiliates are some of the most active members and largest sponsors of the controversial ALEC, where special interest groups and state politicians vote behind closed doors on "model" legislation to change Americans' rights, through ALEC's task forces. SPN has close ties to, and works with, other national right-wing organizations like the Franklin Center and David Koch's Americans for Prosperity.
All of SPN's 64 member state think tanks have pushed parts of the ALEC agenda in their respective states, and at least 34 of them have additional direct ties to ALEC (beyond SPN's own ties as an ALEC funder). SPN think tanks have introduced, echoed, pushed, and reinforced ALEC policies to hamstring labor, privatize education, disenfranchise minorities, students, and the elderly, and rollback environmental initiatives in the states.
Please see the SourceWatch article on SPN Ties to ALEC for more.
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 ALECexposed.org, and check out breaking news on our ExposedbyCMD.org site.
While it has become an $120 million dollar right-wing empire, SPN and most of its affiliates do not post their major donors on their websites. A 2020 CMD review of hundreds IRS filings and foundation annual reviews, reveals 103 private foundations, trade groups, donor conduits, and other registered non-profit organizations that contributed a combined $41 million to SPN between 2014 and 2019, including:
- DonorsTrust: $21,505,352 (2014-2019)
- Donors Capital Fund: $12,426,260 (2014-2019)
- Searle Freedom Trust: $4,206,725 (2014-2018)
- Walton Family Foundation: $1,725,000 (2014-2019)
- Bradley Foundation: $1,570,000 (2014-2019)
- Sarah Scaife Foundation: $840,000 (2016-2018)
- Thomas W. Smith Foundation: $793,600 (2014-2018)
- Roe Foundation: $500,000 (2014-2018)
- JM Foundation: $475,000 (2014-2017)
- A P Kirby Foundation: $290,000 (2014-2018)
- Triad Foundation: $280,000 (2014-2018)
- Reams Foundation: $260,000 (2014-2018)
- Diana Davis Spencer Foundation: $258,000 (2014-2018)
- Adolph Coors Foundation: $240,000 (2015-2017)
- John William Pope Foundation: $235,000 (2014-2018)
- Barney Family Foundation: $230,000 (2014-2018)
- National Christian Charitable Foundation: $165,800 (2015-2018)
- Armstrong Family Foundation: $155,000 (2014-2018)
- Fidelity Investments Charitable Gift Fund: $139,880 (2017)
- Vanguard Charitable Endowment Program: 138,500 (2014-2017)
- Dunn Foundation: $115,000 (2016-2018)
- Ed Uihlein Family Foundation: $100,000 (2015-2018)
- TWS Foundation: $100,000 (2014-2015)
- Schwab Charitable Fund: $80,225 (2014-2017)
- National Philanthropic Trust: $80,000 (2016-2017)
- William H Donner Foundation: $78,000 (2014-2016)
- Dupage Community Foundation: $75,000 (2016-2018)
- Lowndes Foundation: $60,000 (2014-2016)
- NCTA: $60,000 (2014-2017)
- National Cable and Telecommunications Association: $60,000 (2014-2017)
- Chase Foundation of Virginia: $58,000 (2014-2018)
- Charles Koch Foundation: $54,978 (2014-2019)
- Mercer Family Foundation: $50,000 (2014)
- Foundation for Individual Liberty: $45,000 (2014-2018)
- Woodford Foundation for Limited Government: $45,000 (2014-2018)
- Bradley Impact Fund: $44,000 (2014-2018)
- Edison Electric Institute: $40,000 (2014-2018)
- Lovett and Ruth Peters Foundation: $40,000 (2015-2018)
- PG Beil Foundation $40,000 2014-2018
- Robert P Rotella Foundation $40,000 2014-2018
- Hughes Family Foundation $36,000 2014-2018
- American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers $31,000 2017-2018
- Loren A Jahn Private Charitable $30,000 2014-2015
- Morse Charitable Foundation $30,000 2015-2018
- William & Ann Atherton Foundation $30,000 2014-2018
- Wodecraft Foundation $25,000 2014-2015
- Richard Horvitz and Erica Hartman-Horvitz Foundation $23,000 2014-2018
- Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation 21,410 2017
- Greater Houston Community Foundation $19,500 2016-2018
- Robertson-Finley Foundation $19,500 2014-2018
- Charles Koch Institute $19,200 2015-2018
- John E and Sue M Jackson Charitable Trust $18,246 2015-2018
- Gogo Foundation $17,500 2016-2018
- Henderson Foundation $17,000 2014-2018
- James F Causley Jr Family Foundation $17,000 2014-2015
- Center for Growth and Opportunity $15,000 2018
- Coalition for the New Economy $15,000 2015
- GFC Foundation $15,000 2014-2016
- Jack Miller Family Foundation $15,000 2016-2018
- Maine Community Foundation $15,000 2014-2017
- Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America $15,000 2016
- Richard Seth Staley Educational Foundation $14,000 2014-2016
- Policy Circle: $13,000 (2017)
- Rodney Fund: $13,000 (2014-2018)
- Jewish Communal Fund: $10,250 (2015-2016)
- Atlas Network: $10,000 (2014)
- Education Freedom Alliance: $10,000 (2017)
- Greater Kansas City Community Foundation: $10,000 (2016)
- Minneapolis Foundation: $10,000 (2015-2016)
- Mywireless.org: $10,000 (2017)
- Seattle Foundation: $10,000 (2018)
- Susquehanna Foundation: $10,000 (2017)
- Bailey Family Foundation: $8,550 (2014-2018)
- Garvey Kansas Foundation: $8,400 (2014-2018)
- Dodge Jones Foundation: $7,500 (2014-2017)
- Government Accountability Alliance: $7,500 (2016)
- Mercatus Center: $7,500 (2017)
- Constructive Management Foundation: $7,000 (2016-2018)
- Kickapoo Springs Foundation: $7,000 (2014-2018)
- Jim Hicks Foundation: $5,500 (2016-2017)
- HTMF Foundation: $5,000 (2016-2017)
- Rising Phoenix Foundation: $5,000 (2015-2018)
- Eric Javits Family Foundation: $4,500 (2014-2018)
- MacDougal Family Foundation: $4,000 (2015-2018)
- New Hope Foundation: $4,000 (2016-2018)
- Black Family Foundation: $3,750 (2014)
- John P and Kathryn G Evans Foundation: $3,400 (2014-2017)
- Crawford Family Foundation: $3,250 (2014-2018)
- Edward and Wilhelmina Ackerman Foundation: $3,000 (2014-2018)
- Frank B and Virginia V Fehsenfeld Charitable Foundation: $3,000 (2015-2017)
- Frankel Family Charitable Trust: $3,000 (2017-2018)
- Bader Family Foundation: $2,000 (2018)
- Galkin Private Foundation]: $2,000 (2018)
- John J Creedon Foundation: $2,000 (2015-2017)
- Tepper Family Foundation: $2,000 (2017)
- Shepherds Hand: $2,000 (2018)
- Stone Barrett Foundation: $1,500 (2014-2015)
- Catherine V & Martin Hofmann Foundation: $1,350 (2014-2018)
- James E and Edith Margaret Brandon Foundation: $1,350 (2015-2017)
- C & N Foundation: $1,000 (2015-2016)
- Eidelman Family Foundation: $1,000 (2018)
- Farmer Family Foundation: $1,000 (2018)
- MCP Charitable Foundation: $1,000 (2018)
SPN and its main members have collectively brought in annual revenues of over $120 million in the most recent tax year reported, according to a 2019 analysis by the Center for Media and Democracy, a 45 percent increase since the last time CMD reported on SPN’s overall financials in 2013. Total expenditures of those groups were $115 million and net assets for the network added up to $93.5 million.
Please see SPN Funding for more on the history of SPN funding.
Each fiscal year, SPN distributes grants to fund research, debate series, various types of "education", and general operating costs to non-profits. The majority of these grantees are SPN members.
For an updated list of SPN contributions, please see Contributions of the State Policy Network.
SPN Ties to Tobacco
(See tobacco document archives)
1994 Jan 28
This Federal Excise Tax (FET) document lists Philip Morris's activities in collaboration with Policy Institutes
- Business Roundtable (see document for details)
- Heartland Institute
- Heritage Foundation
- Institute for Research on the Economics of Taxation
- Manhattan Institute]
- National Empowerment Television (Free Congress Foundation)
- National Journalism Center
- National Policy Forum
- Philanthropy Roundtable
- State Policy Network
- 'Holding a meeting to mobilize most of the nation's state-based free market policy groups in opposition to the Clinton plan and in support of a more palatable alternative. In conjunction sponsoring a meeting for concerned corporations and political operatives on how to best defeat the Clinton initiative.' 
1998 Feb/E Roy Marden of Philip Morris has created a "Third Party Message Development Contacts List" which has a range of think-tank operators, journalists, and academics who are willing to write pro-tobacco material without mentioning their tobacco connections [third-party = 'independent commentator']... or sometimes, to allow their names to be used as bylines on articles written by tobacco company staff. The list often carries comments on their usefulness. The notes relating to the SPN say:
- [Note: Roy Marden was the tobacco company's chief contact with the major think-tanks and millionaire family foundations.]
1999 Sep 23 This is a package of requests for donations sent to Roy Marden at Philip Morris by the larger lobbying think-tanks of the Republican right, They are all asking for money in 2000 in return for their support of the tobacco industry.
- American Spectator Foundation (they wanted $50,000)
- The Heartland Institute (prior year $30,000)
- 'Because Heartland does many things that benefit Philip Morris' bottom line, things that no other organization does, I hope you will consider boosting your general operating support this year to $30,000 and once again reserve a Gold Table for an additional $5,000.'
- 'Heartland works with ALEC and the State Policy Network to support conservative and freemarket think tanks around the country. Heartland does as much as either of these organizations to support the state-based think tank movement.'
- 'Heartland has devoted considerable attention to defending tobacco (and other industries) from what I view as being an unjust campaign of public demonization and legal harassment. We're an important voice defending smokers and their freedom to use a still-legal product.'
- The Heritage Foundation (prior year $50,000)
- Small Business Survival Committee (prior donation of $75,000)
- Tax Foundation (prior year $50,000)
According to the National Review and SPN's website, SPN was founded at the suggestion of President Ronald Reagan. In a conversation with Thomas Roe (a member of his "kitchen cabinet") in the 1980s, Reagan allegedly suggested Roe create "something like a Heritage Foundation in each of the states." So in 1986, Roe founded the South Carolina Policy Council. Similar groups -- state-based think tanks -- formed in Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, and elsewhere at around the same time. Representatives of those groups met at the Madison Hotel in Washington, D.C. and started to call themselves the "Madison Group." SPN was formally created as an "umbrella organization" to provide "advisory services" -- bankrolled by Roe and other conservative funders -- in 1992.
SPN's founding executive director, Byron S. Lamm, was also extremely influential in the development of the organization, as well as co-founding SPN member state think tank the Indiana Policy Review Foundation. Current executive director (as of 2012) Tracie Sharp has also been quite influential. During her tenure, SPN has continued to grow at a rapid rate, expanding from 43 member state think tanks in 2002 to 59 member state think tanks in 2012. Sharp also co-founded member state think tank the Cascade Policy Institute.
From 1992 to 1998, SPN operated in a relatively limited organizational capacity. Then, according to SPN, "SPN's Board of Directors realized the need for a stronger organization that would provide additional services. After extensive discussions, the existing Board took a bold and historic step in September 1998, dissolving itself and appointing a transitional Board to fulfill the broader role envisioned for the organization."
Please see SPN Founders, History, and Staff for more.
- Total Revenue: $24,770,462
- Total Expenses: $18,730,675
- Net Assets: $18,880,782
- Total Revenue: $14,787,030
- Total Expenses: $12,298,963
- Net Assets: $12,916,430
- Total Revenue: $16,950,337
- Total Expenses: $14,929,952
- Net Assets: $10,380,179
- Total Revenue: $16,815,406
- Total Expenses: $13,326,446
- Net Assets: $8,385,408
- Total Revenue: $13,270,262
- Total Expenses: $12,797,260
- Net Assets: $4,919,739
- Total Revenue: $10,345,444
- Total Expenses: $10,426,065
- Net Assets: $4,495,089
- Total Revenue: $9,301,527
- Total Expenses: $8,794,478
- Net Assets: $4,679,359
- Total Revenue: $8,055,213
- Total Expenses: $7,625,250
- Net Assets: $4,056,476
- Total Revenue: $7,543,244
- Total Expenses: $7,052,579
- Net Assets: $3,683,301
As of December 2021:
- Tracie Sharp, President and CEO
- Tony Woodlief, Executive Vice President and President of People United for Privacy
- Crystal Bouziden Baker, Senior Director of Development
- Victoria Wakefield Bartolomeo, Director of Advancement
- Kristiana Bolzman, Associate Director of Foundation Relations
- Teresa Brown, Vice President of Talent
- Julie Burden, Senior Director of Special Projects and Events
- Kimberly Chalek, Senior Director of Programs
- Michael Chartier, Senior Director of Policy Initiatives
- Carrie Conko, Senior Vice President for Communications
- Todd Davidson, Senior Director of Strategic Development (former fiscal policy analyst for SPN member the Kansas Policy Institute and founder of the SPN associate member the Bastiat Society of Wichita)
- Gabriella Diblasi, Director of Finance
- Elyssa Giordano, Senior Manager of Special Projects and Events
- Marisa Gonzalez, Office Manager
- Gabriel Green, Marketing Assistant
- Brad Gruber, Chief Operating Officer
- Lynn Harsh, Vice President of Strategy
- Chantal Lovell, Director of Policy Advancement
- Madeline Ludwig, Human Resources Coordinator
- Siobhan Lundt, Donor Outreach Manager
- Sarah C. Keenan, Director of Executive Leadership Development
- Cindy Kilduff, Senior Director of Institutional Giving
- Juliana McMahan, Executive Assistant
- Lisa Mccreary, Director of Events
- Amanda Meyer, Operations Manager
- Sharon Milhollin, Network Stewardship Manager
- Erin Norman, Senior Messaging Strategist
- Ladan Nowrasteh, Director of Development Communications
- Kathleen O'Hearn, Vice President of Policy Advancement
- Rebecca Painter, Vice President of Development
- Christina Pajak, Senior Development Officer
- Lauren Pemberton, Director of Engagement
- Rebecca Primis, Director of Product and Digital Strategy
- Madison Ray, Director of Strategic Engagement
- Jonathan Reich, Development Officer
- Anna Roberts, Development Partnerships Manager
- Ivan Rubio, IT Solutions Director
- Ayana Thomas, Program Associate
- Meredith Turney, Senior Director of Leadership Development & Strategic Communications
- Camille Walsh, Communications Manager
- Caroline Willcox, Leadership Giving Officer
- Emily Wismer, Government Affairs & Policy Specialist
- Chantal Lovell, Director of Policy Strategy
- Emily Ethridge, Development Associate
- Sam Cosby, Development Officer
- Kristina Mitten-Sanders, Senior Director of Leadership and Philanthropic Strategy
- Denise Stevenson, Office Manager
- Betsy Thraves, Executive Assistant
- Britt Paul, Development Officer
- Abigail Narbe, Program Assistant
- Max Huntley, Leadership Giving Officer
- Rosa Savimbi Sakaita, Development Associate
- Katherine Bathgate, Senior Policy Advisor
- Trevor Bragdon, Senior Policy Advisor
- Rebecca Bruchhauser, Director of Donor Relations
- Jennifer Butler, Senior Policy Advisor
- Starlee Coleman, Senior Policy Advisor
- Daniel J. Erspamer, Vice President for Strategic Partnerships
- Sarah Ferrara, Coalitions Manager
- Kim Fischer-Kinne, Events Manager
- Spencer Hughes, Associate Director of Advancement Services
- Bill Stinson, Operations Associate
- Russ Walker, Senior Policy Advisor
- Jerry Krause, Manager of Donor Relations
- Becky Helland, Leadership Development Initiative Operations & Tactical Officer
- Kurt T. Weber, Senior Advisor, Contractor with Total Consulting Strategies (advises start-up institutes, co-manages the SPN/Institute for Humane Studies Charles G. Koch Summer Fellow program; formerly worked with the Institute for Humane Studies, Atlas Economic Research Foundation, the SPN members Mackinac Center for Public Policy and Cascade Policy Institute, and the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty)
- Nicole Williams, Senior Communications Advisor - President, Spark Freedom
- Alexis Baker, Manager of Donor Relations
- Rebecca Feldman, Manager of Foundation Relations
- Rebecca Painter, Donor Relations Manager
- Rachel Kopec, Coalitions Coordinator
Board of Directors
As of December 2021:
- Carl Helstrom, Chairman (The Executive Director of JM Foundation) and Vice President for Programs at the Bradley Foundation. Board member since at least 1997
- Tracie Sharp, President (former executive director and co-founder, Cascade Policy Institute), board member since at least 1997
- Stanford D. Swim, Secretary (The GFC Foundation), board member since 2007
- Thomas Willcox, Treasurer (The Roe Foundation), Treasurer, board member since 2007, son-in-law of Tom and Shirley Roe
- Theodore D. Abram (American Institute for Full Employment), board member since 1998
- Lawson Bader, CEO at DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund
- John Hood, of the John William Pope Foundation
- Carrie Tynan, CEO at Adolph Coors Foundation
- Adam Meyerson (Philanthropy Roundtable), board member since 2007
- Bridgett Wagner (The Heritage Foundation), board member since 2005
- Elise Westhoff, president and CEO of the Philanthropy Roundtable
- Karen Wright, Ariel Corporation and Ariel Foundation
- Whitney Ball (Donors Trust),
- Barbara Wells Kenney (Freedom Foundation)
- John Jackson (Adolph Coors Foundation and Castle Rock Foundation)
State Policy Network
1655 N. Fort Myer Dr., Suite 360
Arlington, VA 22209
Phone: (703) 243-1655
Fax: (703) 740-0314
Articles and Resources
IRS Form 990 Filings
Related SourceWatch Articles
- State Policy Network:
- American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)
- Donors Capital Fund
- Koch Family Foundations
- Koch Industries
- Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity
- Heritage Foundation
- Think tanks
- Whitney Ball
- Adam Meyerson
- Bridgett Wagner
Related PRWatch Articles
- Brendan Fischer, Why Are the Franklin Center's "Wisconsin Reporter" and "Watchdog.org" Attacking the John Doe?, PRWatch.org, December 19, 2013.
- Rebekah Wilce, The State Policy Network's Cozy Relationship with Big Tobacco, PRWatch.org, December 16, 2013.
- Rebekah Wilce, Did ALEC Found SPN? 1991 Report Suggests So, Exposes SPN Agenda, PRWatch.org, December 12, 2013.
- Rebekah Wilce, Guardian Documents Expose State Policy Network Groups' Intent to Lobby, PRWatch.org, December 5, 2013.
- Rebekah Wilce, State Policy Network: The Stealth Network Dramatically Influencing State Law, PRWatch.org, December 5, 2013.
- Rebekah Wilce, Tracie Sharp: Bursar of Mystery Money and "IKEA Model" Materials to Stink Tanks, PRWatch.org, November 19, 2013.
- Center for Media and Democracy, Reports Expose Extreme Pressure Groups Masquerading as Think Tanks, press release, November 13, 2013.
- Rebekah Wilce, A Reporters’ Guide to the "State Policy Network": the Right-Wing Think Tanks Spinning Disinformation and Pushing the ALEC Agenda in the States, PRWatch.org, April 4, 2013.
- Sara Jerving, ALEC and Heartland Aim to Crush Renewable Energy Standards in the States, PRWatch.org, November 27, 2012.
- Connor Gibson, Meet the Network Hiding the Koch Money: "Donors Trust" and "Donors Capital Fund", PRWatch.org, October 29, 2012.
- Brendan Fischer, Koch-Funded Mackinac Center Brings Wisconsin Act 10 Provisions to ALEC, PRWatch.org, May 2, 2012.
- Sara Jerving, Franklin Center: Right-Wing Funds State News Source, PRWatch.org, October 31, 2011.
External Articles and Resources
- Wall Street Journal, The Spoils of the Republican State Conquest, December 9, 2016, archived by CMD here.
- DeSmog Blog, Stink Tanks: Historical Records Reveal State Policy Network Was Created by ALEC, December 9, 2013.
- The Guardian, State conservative groups plan US-wide assault on education, health and tax, December 5, 2013.
- Portland Press Herald, "Washington County residents have mixed reactions to plan to eliminate taxes," December 5, 2013.
- The Texas Observer, "The Money Behind the Fight to Undermine Medicaid," December 5, 2013.
- Media Matters, North Carolina Newspapers Largely Ignore Conservative Funding Of Sham Think Tanks, December 3, 2013.
- Shepherd Express, Masters of Manipulation: Right-wing Billionaires, Corporations and the Bradley Foundation Pay for Junk Studies that Prop up Their Agenda, November 27, 2013.
- "Moyers & Company," How a Shadowy Network of Corporate Front Groups Distorts the Marketplace of Ideas, November 19, 2013.
- MSNBC "Rachel Maddow Show," November 18, 2013.
- Free Speech TV "Ring of Fire," Facebook, Microsoft, AT&T and Others Supporting Right Wing Propaganda Machine, November 18, 2013.
- Topeka Capital-Journal, Trabert dismisses report tying KPI to Koch agenda, November 16, 2013.
- The New Yorker (Jane Mayer), Is IKEA the New Model for the Conservative Movement?, November 15, 2013.
- Salon, Ted Cruz and Koch brothers embroiled in shadowy Tea Party scheme, November 15, 2013.
- St. Louis Business Journal, Beyond Sinquefield: Who else is funding the Show-Me Institute?, November 15, 2013.
- The Guardian, Facebook and Microsoft help fund rightwing lobby network, report finds, November 14, 2013.
- Huffington Post, Meet The Little-Known Network Pushing Ideas For Kochs, ALEC, November 14, 2013.
- CBS St. Louis, Show-Me Institute’s Ties Questioned in New Report, November 14, 2013.
- Talking Points Memo, Florida Conservative Group Helping Muck Up Obamacare In Alaska, November 14, 2013.
- Mint Press News, Reports Reveal SPN’s Secret Corporate Agenda Through Use ‘Expert’ Testimony, November 14, 2013.
- Media Matters, Shadowy Right-Wing Group Generates Media Coverage For Conservative Policy From Coast To Coast, November 14, 2013.
- The Institute for Southern Studies, Are conservative think tanks breaking lobbying laws?, November 14, 2013.
- Nonprofit Quarterly, Corporate Money in Network of Right-Wing State Policy Think Tanks, November 14, 2013.
- The Progressive, Right-Wing Think Tanks Push Privatization in the States, November 13, 2013.
- Politico, Report: Think tanks tied to Kochs, November 13, 2013.
- Lawrence Journal-World, Reports released by progressive groups are critical of Kansas Policy Institute, November 13, 2013.
- Maine Insights, Report: Maine Heritage Policy Center’s funding connection to Koch Brothers, November 13, 2013.
- The Florida Current, Liberal groups bemoan lobbying by conservative think tanks, November 13, 2013.
- The Oregonian, Cascade Policy Institute benefits from secretive donor group but says it operates independently, November 13, 2013.
- 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.
- Arizona Working Families and CMD, A Reporter’s Guide to the Goldwater Institute: What Citizens, Policymakers, and Reporters Should Know, organizational report, updated November 13, 2013.
- Progress Florida and CMD, Lawmaking Under the Influence of Very Special Interests: Understand the role of Florida ‘think tanks’ in driving a Koch-fueled, ALEC-allied corporate agenda, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
- Maine's Majority Education Fund, Fooling Maine: How national conservative groups infiltrated Maine politics by founding and funding the Maine Heritage Policy Center, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
- Progress Michigan, Who's Running Michigan? The Far-Right Influence of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
- Alliance for a Better Minnesota, Who's in Charge: How Nationalized Corporate-Run Think Tanks Influence Minnesota Politics, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
- Progress Missouri, What Missourians Need to Know About the Show-Me Institute, organizational report, updated November 13, 2013.
- Granite State Progress, Bad Bartlett: The Josiah Bartlett Center and NH Watchdog Answer the Call of the Koch Brothers, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
- ProgressOhio, Smoke Screen: The Buckeye Institute, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
- Keystone Progress, Think tanks or corporate lobbyist propaganda mills?, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
- Progress Texas, TPPF + ALEC, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
- One Wisconsin Now, S is for Shill: Inside the Bradley Foundation's Attack on Public Education, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
- Muncie Voice, Pence and Right-Wing Are Taking Over Public Education, November 13, 2013.
- The Spokesman-Review, Shawn Vestal: Idaho Freedom Foundation pushes limits of word ‘charity’, November 2, 2013.
- AZ Central, When this ‘watchdog’ pitches, taxpayers strike out, October 12, 2013.
- IndyStar, Daniels says speech to partisan group was a mistake, October 10, 2013.
- Muncie Voice, Indiana Policy Review: Not an Independent News Source, October 2, 2013.
- The Spokesman-Review, Idaho Freedom Foundation's charitable status scrutinized, September 15, 2013.
- CounterSpin, Lee Fang on 'The Right Leans In', April 5, 2013.
- FireDogLake, State Policy Network, an umbrella coordinating ALEC, Heritage, Heartland and others, April 4, 2013.
- Thom Hartmann with Lee Fang on MSNBC, The conservative State Policy Network is sneaking into your state & will change America, March 29, 2013.
- Current TV "War Room", Lee Fang discussing the State Policy Network, March 28, 2013.
- The Nation, The Right Leans In, March 26, 2013.
- Democracy Now, Donors Trust: Little-Known Group Helps Wealthy Backers Fund Right-Wing Agenda in Secret, February 19, 2013.
- Paul Abowd, Center for Public Integrity, Donors use charity to push free-market policies in states, Consider the Source, February 14, 2013.
- John R. Mashey, Fake science, fakexperts, funny finances, free of tax 2, DeSmog Blog report, updated October 23, 2012, p. 74.
- Urban Milwaukee, Stealth Conservatives, October 11, 2012.
- Rome News-Tribune, ANALYSIS: Georgia leaders depend on the same well for ideas, October 2012.
- Andy Kroll, The Right-Wing Network Behind the War on Unions, Mother Jones, April 25, 2011.
- Guidestar, State Policy Network, IRS filings and other organizational information about SPN.
- Center for Policy Alternatives, ALEC and the Extreme Right-Wing Agenda, organizational brochure about ALEC and SPN.
- John J. Miller, Fifty Flowers Bloom: Conservative think tanks — mini–Heritage Foundations — at the state level, National Review, November 19, 2007.
- Bridge Project, State Policy Network, online resource listing grants to SPN and SPN's connections to other groups.
- People for the American Way, State Policy Network, RightWingWatch.org, organizational resource.
- Greenpeace, Koch Industries Climate Denial Front Group: State Policy Network (SPN), organizational resource.
- SPN Spin on WI John Doe, People United for Privacy, November 27, 2016.
- State Policy Network, SPN News May 2006, organizational newsletter, May 8, 2006.
- State Policy Network, SPN News Fall 2002, organizational newsletter, Fall 2002.
- State Policy Network, Unified Registration Statement (URS) for Charitable Organizations (v. 3.02), official organizational filing, 2006, obtained from the New York State Office of the Attorney General on October 1, 2012.
- Kyle Peterson, The Spoils of the Republican State Conquest, Wall Street Journal, December 9, 2016, archived by CMD here.
- 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.
- 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.
- State Policy Network, SPN News, organizational newsletter, August 2005.
- Thomas A. Roe, interview with Lee Edwards, April 13, 1996, Naples, FL. Cited in Lee Edwards, The Power of Ideas: The Heritage Foundation at 25 Years, Ottawa, Illinois: Jameson Books, 1997, p. 91.
- 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.
- State Policy Network, IRS Forms 2008-2012. See e.g. 2012 Form 990, annual organizational IRS filing, May 6, 2013.
- People United for Privacy, 2018 IRS Form 990, organizational tax filing, November 12, 2019.
- People United for Privacy Foundation, 2018 IRS Form 990, organizational tax filing, November 12, 2019.
- Ed Pilkington, Revealed: Secret rightwing strategy to discredit teacher strikes, The Guardian, April 12, 2018.
- Mary Bottari, Center for Media and Democracy, Bradley Foundation Bankrolls Attacks on Unions, PRWatch, May 8, 2017.
- State Policy Network, By-Laws of State Policy Network, official organizational filing, obtained from the New York State Office of the Attorney General on October 1, 2012.
- Shareese Harold, "State Home to Think Tank with Conservative Bent" (sub. req'd.), Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, July 24, 1995.
- Mary Bottari, Bradley Foundation Funnels Millions to State Policy Network Groups, ExposedbyCMD, September 5, 2017.
- David Armiak,Revenue for State Policy Network and State Affiliates Tops $120 Million, ExposedbyCMD, November 13, 2019.
- FET UPDATE 940128 BUSINESS AND INDUSTRY / RESEARCH AND PUBLIC POLICY ORGANIZATIONS, Philip Morris Records, Tobacco Document Archives, January 28, 1994.
- THIRD PARTY MESSAGE DEVELOPMENT CONTACT LIST, Philip Morris Records, Tobacco Document Archives, October 1998.
- PUBLIC POLICY REVIEW COMMITTEE MEETING Philip Morris Records, Tobacco Document Archives, September 23, 1999.
- Cite error: Invalid
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- State Policy Network, Background, organizational website, accessed September 2012.
- State Policy Network, 2021 Form 990, annual organizational IRS filing, July 22, 2022.
- State Policy Network, 2020 Form 990, annual organizational IRS filing, August 11, 2021.
- State Policy Network, 2019 Form 990, annual organizational IRS filing, September 23, 2020.
- State Policy Network, 2018 Form 990, annual organizational IRS filing, June 27, 2019.
- State Policy Network, 2017 Form 990, annual organizational IRS filing, October 17, 2018.
- State Policy Network, Form 990, annual organizational IRS filing, October 11, 2017.
- State Policy Network, 2015 Form 990, annual organizational IRS filing, September 8, 2016.
- State Policy Network, 2014 Form 990, annual organizational IRS filing, September 15, 2015.
- State Policy Network, 2013 Form 990, annual organizational IRS filing, May 12, 2014.
- State Policy Network, Staff, organizational website, accessed December 2021.
- Carl Helstrom Carl O. Helstrom professional profile, accessed OCt 2018
- State Policy Network, Form 990, organizational IRS filing, 1997, available from Guidestar.org, accessed September 2012.
- State Policy Network, Form 990, organizational IRS filing, 2007, available via Guidestar.org, accessed September 2012
- John J. Miller, Safeguarding a Conservative Donor's Intent: The Roe Foundation at 39, Foundation Watch, Capital Research Center publication, May 2007, accessed September 2012.
- State Policy Network, Form 990, organizational IRS filing, 1998, available from Guidestar.org, accessed September 2012.
- State Policy Network, Form 990, organizational IRS filing, 2005, available via Guidestar.org, accessed September 2012
- State Policy Network, John Jackson, organizational board member bio, accessed September 2012