State Policy Network
|Predecessor||Madison Group (1986–1992)|
|Founder||Thomas A. Roe, Byron Lamm|
|Purpose||Promote public policy from a framework of limited government|
|Headquarters||1655 N. Fort Myer Dr., S-360
Arlington, Virginia 22209
The State Policy Network (SPN) is a nonprofit corporation which functions primarily as an umbrella organization for a consortium of conservative and libertarian think tanks which focus on state-level policy. Founded in 1992, it is headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, with member groups located in all fifty states.
The State Policy Network was founded in 1992 by Thomas A. Roe, a South Carolina businessman who was a member of the board of trustees of the Heritage Foundation. Roe told U.S. President Ronald Reagan that he thought each of the states needed something like the Heritage Foundation. Reagan's reply was "Do something about it," which led Roe to establish the South Carolina Policy Council. The South Carolina Policy Council adapted Heritage Foundation national policy recommendations, such as public education privatization and environmental deregulation, to the state legislation level. The State Policy Network was an outgrowth of the Madison Group, a collection of state-level think tanks in states including South Carolina, Colorado, Illinois, and Michigan that had been meeting periodically at the Madison Hotel in Washington, DC. Roe was chairman of the board of directors of the State Policy Network from its founding until his death in 2000. Gary Palmer, co-founder and president of the nonprofit conservative think tank the Alabama Policy Institute from 1989 until stepping down in 2014 to run successfully for US Congress, helped found the State Policy Network and served as its president.
Initially, the Network consisted of fewer than 20 member organizations. Lawrence W. Reed, the first president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a Michigan free market think tank, fostered new state-level regular member organizations through delivery of his think tank training course. By the mid 1990s, the Network had 37 think tanks in 30 states. By 2014, there were 65 member organizations, and at least one in each state.
In December, 2013, The Guardian, the British national daily newspaper, in collaboration with the Texas Observer in Austin and the Portland Press Herald in Maine, obtained, published and analyzed 40 grant proposals from SPN regular member organizations. The grants proposals sought funding through SPN from the Searle Freedom Trust. According to The Guardian, the proposals documented a co-ordinated strategy across 34 states, "a blueprint for the conservative agenda in 2014." The reports described the grants proposals as proposing campaigns designed to cut pay to state government employees, against worker and union rights, reduce public sector services in education, healthcare, and workers' compensation, promote school vouchers, thwart efforts to combat greenhouse gas emissions, eliminate income and sales taxes, and to study a proposed block grant reform to Medicare.
Policy initiatives supported by SPN members have included reductions in state health and welfare programs, state constitutional amendments to limit state government spending, expanded access to charter schools, and school vouchers. Another area of activism has been opposition to public-sector unions. Tracie Sharp, SPN's president, has said the organization focuses on issues such as "workplace freedom, education reform, and individual choice in healthcare."
The liberal magazine Mother Jones stated that in 2011 SPN and its member organizations were backing a "war on organized labor" by Republican state lawmakers. Legislative actions taken by the GOP included the introduction and enactment of bills reducing or eliminating collective bargaining for teachers and other government workers and reducing the authority of unions to collect dues from government employees. In Iowa, Governor Terry Branstad cited research by SPN's Public Interest Institute when asking to amend laws to limit collective bargaining by public employees.
SPN and its member groups have supported a variety of conservative legislation in the states.
In 1990, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy shared much of its "brain trust" with Republican governor John Engler's election campaign. After the election the Mackinac Center worked successfully with the Engler administration to effect policy changes in areas such as the promotion of charter schools and increasing competition in state contracting.
In 2006, three former presidents of SPN regular member organizations were in the United States House of Representatives: Mike Pence of Indiana, Jeff Flake of Arizona, and Tom Tancredo of Colorado and all were Republican. National Review described them as having "used SPN organizations as political springboards." The state level think tanks have served Republican elected officials by providing staff to Republican administrations, as a "government-in-waiting," according to Political Research Associates, a non-profit research group.[unreliable source?]
SPN files with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Its independently audited 2013 Form 990 shows $8.0 million in revenues and $8.4 million in expenditures, of which $1.3 million was used for grants and payments to other organizations. The network received a Charity Navigator score of 89 out of 100 possible points for "accountability and transparency" in its most recent (December 2012) evaluation.
Sharp said that SPN keeps its donors private, like most nonprofits. Mother Jones reported that SPN is largely funded by donations from foundations, including the Lovett and Ruth Peters Foundation, the Castle Rock Foundation, and the Bradley Foundation. Almost all of the grantmaking of the Roe Foundation of SPN founder Thomas Roe goes to SPN member organizations. A 2013 article by The Guardian said that SPN received funding from a network of conservative entities, including the Koch brothers. Other major corporate funders include tobacco company Philip Morris, grocery manufacturing and processing conglomerate Kraft Foods and British multinational pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline. SPN received $10 million from Donors Trust, a conservative donor advised fund, between 2008 and 2013. The approximately $2 million from Donors Trust accounted for about 40% of SPN’s 2011 annual revenue.
SPN provides grant funding to its member organizations for start-up costs and program operating expenses. SPN granted $60,000 in startup funds to the Foundation for Government Accountability, a free market think tank based in Naples, Florida, in the Foundation's first year, 2011. SPN also provides practical support to its members, who meet each year at SPN conferences. SPN member organizations also exchange ideas and provide training and other support for each other. A spokesperson for the liberal advocacy group People for the American Way said in 2008 that SPN trained its member organizations to run like business franchises. In response, SPN president Sharp denied that SPN was a franchise and said that member organizations were free to select their own staff and priorities.
SPN is a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an organization that drafts and shares state-level model legislation for conservative causes, and ALEC is an associate member of SPN. SPN is among the sponsors of ALEC. SPN encourages its members to join ALEC, and many SPN members are also members of ALEC. ALEC is "SPN's sister organisation," according to The Guardian.
SPN reports that is has over 100 regular and associate member organizations. Membership is by invitation only and is limited to 501(c)(3) organizations that are "dedicated to advancing market-oriented public policy solutions". State Policy Network comprises 59 affiliated think-tank organizations, including at least one in every state. Other institutions, such as the Cato Institute, Heritage Foundation, Americans for Prosperity Foundation, FreedomWorks, Americans for Tax Reform, and American Legislative Exchange Council are associate members. In 2011, SPN and its regular member organizations received combined total revenues of $83.2 million, according to a 2013 analysis of their federal tax filings by the liberal watchdog group, Center for Media and Democracy.
- Alabama: Alabama Policy Institute
- Alaska: Alaska Policy Forum
- Arizona: Goldwater Institute
- Arkansas: Advance Arkansas Institute, Arkansas Policy Foundation
- California: California Public Policy Center, Pacific Research Institute
- Colorado: Independence Institute
- Connecticut: Yankee Institute for Public Policy
- Delaware: Caesar Rodney Institute
- Florida: Foundation for Government Accountability, James Madison Institute
- Georgia: Georgia Center for Opportunity, Georgia Public Policy Foundation
- Hawaii: Grassroot Institute of Hawai'i
- Idaho: Idaho Freedom Foundation
- Illinois: Illinois Policy Institute
- Indiana: Indiana Policy Review Foundation
- Iowa: Public Interest Institute
- Kansas: Kansas Policy Institute
- Kentucky: Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions
- Louisiana: Pelican Institute for Public Policy
- Maine: Maine Heritage Policy Center
- Maryland: Calvert Institute for Policy Research, Maryland Public Policy Institute
- Massachusetts: Pioneer Institute
- Michigan: Mackinac Center for Public Policy
- Minnesota: Center of the American Experiment, Freedom Foundation of Minnesota
- Mississippi: Mississippi Center for Public Policy
- Missouri: Show-Me Institute
- Montana: Montana Policy Institute
- Nebraska: Platte Institute for Economic Research
- Nevada: Nevada Policy Research Institute
- New Hampshire: Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy
- New Mexico: Rio Grande Foundation
- New York: Empire Center for Public Policy
- North Carolina: John Locke Foundation, John William Pope Civitas Institute
- Ohio: Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Opportunity Ohio
- Oklahoma: Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs
- Oregon: Cascade Policy Institute
- Pennsylvania: Commonwealth Foundation
- Rhode Island: Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity
- South Carolina Palmetto Policy Forum, South Carolina Policy Council
- South Dakota: Great Plains Public Policy Institute
- Tennessee: Beacon Center of Tennessee
- Texas: Texas Conservative Coalition Research Institute, Texas Public Policy Foundation
- Utah: Libertas Institute, Sutherland Institute
- Vermont: Ethan Allen Institute
- Virginia: Thomas Jefferson Institute, Virginia Institute for Public Policy
- Washington: Freedom Foundation, Washington Policy Center
- West Virginia: Public Policy Foundation of West Virginia
- Wisconsin: MacIver Institute for Public Policy, Wisconsin Policy Research Institute
- Wyoming: Wyoming Liberty Group, Wyoming Policy Institute
- Organizational Profile – National Center for Charitable Statistics (Urban Institute)
- Matthew Medvetz, Thomas (2007). Think Tanks and Production of Policy-knowledge in America. University of California, Berkeley. p. 168. ISBN 978-0549529002.
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- "History". State Policy Network. Retrieved February 17, 2015.
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- "2013 Form 990 State Policy Network" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-02-17.
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- Jeff Woods, The Great Gadfly: How a baby-faced kid became the governor's No. 1 nemesis, Nashville Scene, September 11, 2008
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- "SPN & ALEC: A Model Relationship". State Policy Network. Retrieved February 16, 2015.
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- "SPN Membership Information". State Policy Network. Retrieved May 27, 2011.
- Wilce, Rebekah (November 13, 2013). "EXPOSED: The State Policy Network: The Powerful Right-Wing Network Helping to Hijack State Politics and Government" (PDF). Center for Media and Democracy.
- "Directory". State Policy Network. Retrieved February 8, 2015.