State Policy Network (SPN): Aiding ALEC & Spinning Disinformation in the States

Source: Center for Media and Democracy, April 2013

In this new online resource, the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD, the publisher of the award-winning ALECexposed.org investigation) documents the more than $80 million that right-wing billionaires and corporations are spending each year to fuel Tracie Sharp’s State Policy Network (SPN) and its 59 state “think tank” members, along with the controversial Heartland Institute, an SPN ally like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) that tries to change both state and federal law. Read more in CMD’s special report on PRWatch.org.

CMD’s investigation uncloaks some of the major funders of these expanding operations in the states and raises major concerns over whose agenda these front groups are advancing in the states:
– Secretive Funds This investigation identifies hundreds of thousands of dollars, and perhaps much more than that, which Sharp distributes to these organizations but that is not disclosed to the IRS as passing through SPN’s books. See the SourceWatch article on SPN Funding for more.
– Even More Koch Money than Previously Known. This guide also flags that substantial funding has come from Koch Industries itself and not only the Koch family foundations. That is, hundreds of thousands of dollars, at least, has been spent by the privately held energy conglomerate controlled by two of the richest billionaires in the world, Charles and David Koch. See the SourceWatch article on SPN Funding for more.
– Trying to Change the Law, but Reporting Little or No Lobbying. Like ALEC, SPN and its affiliates seek to change state laws, but report little or no lobbying. That means that corporations and individuals (like Koch Industries and others) that fund their operations can get a tax write-off for funding SPN efforts. See the SourceWatch article on the SPN Agenda for more.
– SPN Funders Help Some Interests Get Multiple Votes on ALEC Bills. The relationship between SPN affiliates and ALEC is strong and is funded by some of the same donors. That means that some corporate interests like the Kochs get, in effect, multiple votes to change the law on ALEC task forces, where corporate lobbyists and special interest groups like SPN operations vote as equals with elected officials behind closed doors. See the SourceWatch article on SPN Ties to ALEC for more.
– SPN Funders Have Included Some of the Richest and Most Ideological Families in the Country. Fueling SPN-related efforts is a bevy of right-wing billionaires and foundations beyond the Koch brothers and including the Bradley Foundation, DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund (large donor-directed funds), the Olin Foundation, the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation (the Amway fortune), the Coors-related Castle Rock Foundation and the Adolph Coors Foundation, the McCamish Foundation, the JM Foundation, the Smith Richardson Foundation, and the Roe Foundation. See the SourceWatch article on SPN Funding for more.
– SPN’s Legislative Agenda Is Frequently Buttressed by Its Forays as “Press” and the Echoes of Its Allies in the Growing Right-Wing State “Press” Corps. As CMD was one of the first to document, SPN groups like the Goldwater Institute are hiring people to act as reporters, and the legislative agenda of SPN is increasingly echoed by the growing right-wing infrastructure of groups that pose as press. Some even get their stories or “reports” picked up as news and delivered to state newspapers as a “wire” service like the Associated Press, as with the Franklin Center’s Watchdog.org groups and the Ryun brothers-allied “American Majority” and “Media Trackers” operations. See the SourceWatch article on the SPN Agenda for more….