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Issue #1619      November 20, 2013

Right-wing “think tanks” hijacking state govts

Special to peoplesworld.org

Twelve new reports released on November 14 reveal that the State Policy Network (SPN), an US$83 million web of right-wing “think tanks,” is moving to seize the legislative agendas in every state across the US.

Although SPN’s member organisations claim to be non-partisan and independent, an in-depth investigation reveals that SPN and its state affiliates are major drivers of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)-backed corporate agenda in state houses nationwide, with deep ties to the Koch brothers and the national right-wing network of funders.

The reports show how these groups masquerade as “think tanks,” and describe how some of them may be skirting tax laws while really orchestrating extensive lobbying and political operations to peddle their legislative agenda to state legislators, all the while reporting little or no lobbying activities.

“The ‘experts’ of State Policy Network groups get quoted on TV, in the papers, or in the legislature as if they were non-partisan, objective scholars on issues of public policy,” said Lisa Graves, executive director of the Centre for Media and Democracy (CMD). “But in reality, SPN is a front for corporate interests with an extreme national policy agenda tied to some of the most retrograde special interests in the country, including the billionaire Koch brothers, the Waltons, the Bradley Foundation, the Roe Foundation, and the Coors family.”

Denise Cardinal, executive director of Progress Now added, “The bottom line is these organisations of the rich, by the rich and for the rich are representing themselves as groups that are looking out for the best interests of everyday, working class Americans and it’s just a blatant lie. What we’re doing is trying to bring some transparency to the damaging work they’re doing on a daily basis. From policies that promote polluting the air and water to the destruction of our public education system and a tax system that benefits their rich donors, what these organisations are doing is shameful and it’s time that someone brought this to light.”

The reports – a nationally-focused report written by CMD and eleven state-focused reports written by Progress Now member groups and CMD – can be viewed at www.stinktanks.org.

Key findings include:

  • While it has become an $83 million dollar right-wing empire, SPN and most of its affiliates do not post their major donors on their websites. The identities of the donors discovered reveal that SPN is largely funded by global corporations – such as Reynolds American, Altria, Microsoft, AT&T, Verizon, GlaxoSmithKline, Kraft Foods, Express Scripts, Comcast, Time Warner, and the Koch and tea party-connected DCI Group.
  • Corporations like Facebook and the for-profit online education company K12 Inc, as well as the e-cigarette company NJOY, also fund SPN, as demonstrated by its most recent annual meeting.
  • Although SPN’s affiliates are registered as educational non-profits, several appear to orchestrate extensive lobbying and political operations to peddle their legislative agenda to state legislators, despite the IRS’s regulations on non-profit political and lobbying activities.
  • SPN and its affiliates push an extreme right-wing agenda that aims to privatise 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 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 organisations like the Franklin Centre and David Koch’s Americans for Prosperity.

People’s World

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