Freedom Foundation (Washington)

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Freedom Foundation
MottoBecause People Want To Be Free
FounderBob Williams
TypePublic policy think tank
Registration no.601292128
LeaderTom McCabe
Revenue: $2,170,285
Expenses: $2,211,611
(FYE December 2014)[1]
Formerly called
Evergreen Freedom Foundation

The Evergreen Freedom Foundation, under the Freedom Foundation trade name, is a state-based free market conservative think tank located in the state of Washington.[2][3] The Freedom Foundation has offices in the states of Washington, Oregon, and California.[4] The organization is registered with the United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization.[5]

Background and mission[edit]

The Freedom Foundation was founded in 1991 by Lynn Harsh and former Republican legislator and gubernatorial candidate Bob Williams.[6] The organization, a member of the State Policy Network, has a stated mission "to advance individual liberty, free enterprise, and limited, accountable government."[7] According to the organization, the governing principles of the organization are to "eliminate the desire for dependence on government that has permeated [American] culture," and to promote an understanding of the principles of liberty by "disseminat[ing] those truths and motivat[ing] the citizen to act upon them."[8]

Policy areas[edit]

The Freedom Foundation's efforts center on public policy research and advocacy in the areas of state budget and tax policies, labor, welfare, health care and education reform, and citizenship and governance issues.[8]

Public sector unions[edit]

The organization has filed numerous lawsuits and complaints against public-sector unions, including with respect to the ability of a union to speak to newly hired government employees and a union's failure to file all required political spending reports.[9] Policy analysts for the Freedom Foundation have also documented the impacts of minimum wage increases[10][11] and mandatory paid sick leave.[12]

In 2014, the Supreme Court ruled in the Harris v. Quinn case that the "First Amendment prohibits the collection of an agency fee from the plaintiffs in the case, home healthcare providers who do not wish to join or support a union."[13] In February 2017, having determined that the "Service Employee International Union and state governors weren't going to inform home health works about their ability to leave the union," Freedom Foundation launched the "Labor Reform Project", a grassroots and public relations effort to inform these workers of their rights.[14][15]

The Freedom Foundation contests the power of public sector unions to use mandatory dues to impact public policy, elections and culture. The Freedom Foundation was awarded $1.5 million over three years by the Bradley Foundation to "education union workers about their rights."[16] Their CEO wrote that, "Labor bosses are the single greatest threat to freedom and opportunity in America today. By taking money from hard-working, dues-paying Americans, they’re funding a broken political culture in states like Oregon and Washington." He added, "The Freedom Foundation has a proven plan for bankrupting and defeating government unions through education, litigation, legislation and community activation."[9]

In March 2015, the organization filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of four family child-care providers who objected to paying union fees to SEIU 925.[17] In December 2015, the organization encouraged government employees to quit their union membership by dressing as Santa Claus and standing in government buildings.[9]

Foundation litigation and Supreme Court ruling[edit]

In 2007, the foundation filed a complaint against the Washington Education Association (WEA), accusing the union of unlawfully spending worker fees on politics.[18] In response to that complaint, the state in turn sued the teachers union on the grounds that the WEA was unlawfully spending some workers' fees on politics. The matter was taken on appeal to the United States Supreme Court.[19] The Supreme Court unanimously decided in Davenport v. Washington Education Association that states can require public-employee labor unions to get consent from workers before using their fees for political activities.[18] The Washington State Legislature later modified the law in a way that blunted the court's decision.[18]

Lawsuits filed by Washington Attorney General[edit]

In May 2016, a judge dismissed a lawsuit filed against the Freedom Foundation by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson's office. The dismissed lawsuit had accused the Freedom Foundation of breaking state campaign-finance laws. Ferguson's office had also filed campaign-disclosure lawsuits against several unions in response to complaints from the Freedom Foundation. Two affiliates of the Service Employees International Union settled lawsuits by agreeing to pay civil penalties to the state over campaign-disclosure omissions.[20]

In October 2016, the office of Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced that it had filed a complaint alleging campaign finance violations by the Freedom Foundation regarding the organization's opposition to Initiative 1501, a statewide ballot measure. The complaint was initiated by the Service Employees International Union, which organized the campaign promoting the initiative.[21]

Other issue areas[edit]

Education policy has also been central to the work of the Freedom Foundation. In contesting the influence of public sector unions on education, the foundation has documented how teachers union contracts impact services, [22] objected to how union interests impact school calendars,[23][24] and spoken out against school employee strikes.[25]

In 2007, the foundation sponsored the "Take the Field with Glenn Beck" event at Seattle's Safeco Field. About 7,000 people attended.[26]


The foundation has received funding from the Sarah Scaife Foundation, the Donors Trust, the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation, the State Policy Network and the Bradley Foundation.[27]


  1. ^ "Charity Rating". Charity Navigator. Also see "Quickview data". GuideStar.
  2. ^ Johnson, Gene (17 March 2014). "Two-term justice to retire early from state Supreme Court". KOMO News. Retrieved 2 July 2015.
  3. ^ Tsong, Nicole (April 16, 2009). "Thousands in Puget Sound region protest government spending". Seattle Times. Retrieved 13 August 2015.
  4. ^ "About |". Retrieved 2017-03-14.
  5. ^ "Charity Navigator - IRS Data for Freedom Foundation". Charity Navigator. Retrieved 2017-03-13.
  6. ^ Smith, Erik (November 27, 2013). "Tom McCabe to Take Over Reins at Freedom Foundation". Washington State Wire. Retrieved 14 December 2016.
  7. ^ "About". Freedom Foundation. Retrieved 2 July 2015.
  8. ^ a b "Evergreen Freedom Foundation - GuideStar Profile". Retrieved 2017-03-13.
  9. ^ a b c Greenhouse, Stephen (10 March 2016). "The door-to-door union killers: rightwing foundation takes labor fight to the streets". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 December 2016.
  10. ^ Nelson, Maxford (26 January 2014). "Raising Minimum Wage a Burden, not a Benefit". Herald Net. Retrieved 5 February 2015.
  11. ^ Nelson, Maxford (15 April 2014). "Why "$15 Now" Has Nothing to Do With Inflation, Productivity, or a Living Wage". Seattle Met. Retrieved 8 August 2015.
  12. ^ Nelson, Maxford; Saltsman, Michael (January 24, 2014). "Paid sick leave a drag on business". Connecticut Post. Retrieved 5 February 2015.
  13. ^ "FindLaw's United States Supreme Court case and opinions". Findlaw. Retrieved 2017-03-13.
  14. ^ Baumann, Beth. "SEIU is Losing Members Because of One Conservative Organization". Townhall. Retrieved 2017-03-13.
  15. ^ "Grassroots Campaign Informs Workers of Their Rights - Opportunity Lives". Retrieved 2017-03-14.
  16. ^ Bice, Daniel (2017-05-17). "Expert: Bradley Foundation is walking fine line on politics". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved 2017-06-23.
  17. ^ Brunner, Jim (5 March 2015). "Labor law challenged: Freedom Foundation sues SEIU 925". Seattle Times. Retrieved 2 July 2015.
  18. ^ a b c Garber, Andrew (15 June 2007). "Court rules against unions in fee case". Seattle Times. Retrieved 2 July 2015.
  19. ^ Ralph Thomas (2007-01-09). "Union fight reaches high court". The Seattle Times. Seattle Times. Retrieved 2009-12-11.
  20. ^ Brunner, Jim (13 May 2016). "Judge tosses state AG's lawsuit accusing Freedom Foundation of breaking campaign laws". Seattle Times. Retrieved 2 June 2016.
  21. ^ "Freedom Foundation violating campaign-disclosure rules, state Attorney General's Office says". Seattle Times. 2016-10-28. Retrieved 2016-12-13.
  22. ^ "Grading The Teacher Union Contracts |". Retrieved 2017-05-15.
  23. ^ KING Investigators (2014-02-05), KING 5 Seattle: School's Out, retrieved 2017-05-15
  24. ^ "Op-ed: Shorter school year shortchanges students". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 2017-05-15.
  25. ^ "Striking teachers aren't just breaking the law; they're also breaking their word - Jami Lund from the Freedom Foundation joins us - The Ben Shapiro Show". Retrieved 2017-05-15.
  26. ^ "Beck Speaks to 7,000 at Seattle: 'The American people have not surrendered!'". Seattle Times. 2009-09-26. Retrieved 2011-04-05.
  27. ^ Eidelson, Josh (27 June 2018). "Koch Brothers-Linked Group Declares New War on Unions". Bloomberg. Retrieved 18 May 2019.

External links[edit]