Yesterday The Guardian published an in-depth investigation of the workings and funding of a network of far-right state think-tanks that make up the State Policy Network (SPN), State Conservative Groups Plan US-Wide Assault on Education, Health and Tax. “In partnership with the Texas Observer and the Portland Press Herald in Maine, the Guardian is publishing SPN’s summary of all the proposals to give readers and news outlets full and fair access to state-by-state conservative plans that could have significant impact throughout the US, and to allow the public to reach its own conclusions about whether these activities comply with the spirit of non-profit tax-exempt charities.”
The Guardian describes the State Policy Network as a sister organization to the American Legislative Exchange Council, ALEC. “SPN’s president, Tracie Sharp, told the Guardian that ‘as a pro-freedom network of thinktanks, we focus on issues like workplace freedom, education reform, and individual choice in healthcare: backbone issues of a free people and a free society.’”
Despite that the majority of the state affiliates of the State Policy Network are 501 (C) (3) organizations, according to The Guardian, the State Policy Network makes grants to its member think-tanks for projects “aimed at changing state laws and policies, or (that) refer to ‘advancing model legislation’ and ‘candidate briefings’, in ways that arguably cross the line into lobbying.”
The proposals submitted by specific state think-tanks for funding from the State Policy Network’s war chest include attacks on public employee pensions, campaigns to eliminate or reduce taxes, promotion of school vouchers, attacks on worker and union rights, and opposition to Medicaid.
The Guardian describes a proposal from the Massachusetts Beacon Hill Institute (BHI) that requested $38,825 to reduce regulation of greenhouse gases. “BHI appeared to have already arrived at its conclusions in advance, admitting from the outset that the aim of the research was to arm opponents of cap-and-trade with data for their arguments, and to weaken or destroy the initiative.”
“Watchdogs that monitor the work of SPN and other conservative networks in the US said that the centralised coordination of state-level campaigns showed a significant attempt to build local activism into a nationwide movement.”