State Policy Network
At the suggestion of President Ronald Reagan, a group of state-based “think tanks” began in 1986 with the intent of creating “mini-Heritage Foundations” in every state. This group became the State Policy Network (SPN) in 1992 with 12 member think tanks. Today there are 65 SPN think tanks with at least one in every state; and
Among these groups are the Buckeye Institute in Ohio, the Cascade Policy Institute in Oregon, the Commonwealth Foundation in Pennsylvania, the James Madison Institute in Florida, and the Mackinac Center in Michigan. In addition there are more than 100 associate member groups, nationwide groups with similar goals including Accuracy in Media, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the Goldwater Institute, the Heartland Institute and the National Right to Work Foundation. There are substantial numbers of allied groups, including state branches of Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Works; and
Although the public has learned about ALEC and its so-called model legislation, they know little about SPN. SPN and its think tanks had a combined revenue of more than $83 million in 2011, dwarfing ALEC’s $7 million budget. A significant portion of SPN’s funding comes from Donors Capital Fund (DCF) and Donors Trust. These funds hide the identities of their donors. SPN also receives contributions from major corporations including Microsoft, AT&T, Philip Morris, Kraft Foods and Verizon; and
Most SPN affiliates are 501(c)(3) charitable organizations and tax exempt. Donations to these groups are tax deductible. Internal Revenue Service regulations restrict the amount of lobbying a nonprofit may do and maintain its tax exempt status. There are questions about how much lobbying SPN groups are doing. SPN groups work closely with ALEC on ALEC model legislation; and
SPN think tanks coordinate research across state lines, producing remarkably similar reports, while claiming to be independent. They promote a right-wing agenda that includes outsourcing public services, privatizing public assets, blocking health care reform, restricting workers’ rights and changing tax laws to benefit top earners; and
In conjunction with the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, SPN has moved into local news coverage at the same time that more and more newspapers are closing state capitol bureaus. There are state news websites and wire services in more than 40 states and SPN think tanks host “investigative reporters” and/or publish Franklin-related materials; and
Several SPN members have created "litigation centers." The Goldwater Institute in Arizona was the first to open such a center. State groups in Minnesota and Nevada also have centers, as does an SPN associate member in North Carolina. Goldwater recently prevailed in a suit it filed against the city of Phoenix claiming union release time violated the state constitution’s gift clause. Union release time is now severely restricted for city union officials.
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED:
That AFSCME and its affiliates will monitor the work of SPN and its affiliates and educate our members to expose their reports as deeply flawed and biased. We will follow the money and funding of SPN and its affiliates, exposing the individuals, groups and corporations that are promoting the SPN agenda; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED:
That AFSCME supports efforts to closely examine the tax exempt status of these groups and have their status revoked if they have violated requirements.
INTERNATIONAL EXECUTIVE BOARD