National right-wing groups have ties to Colorado-based think tank
Colorado’s ironically named Independence Institute has been shown by a recent report to not to be as independent as the public image it projects.
A report released by the Center of Media and Democracy last month “documents the more than $83 million that right-wing billionaires and corporations are spending each year” to support 64 state organizations dedicated to increasing the power of corporations, and the 1 percent who control them, over state governments.
In an article for The Nation, Lee Fang described these state groups as “media-savvy organizations — which frequently employ former journalists to churn out position papers, news articles, investigations and social media content with a hard-right slant — (that) bolster the pro-corporate lobbying efforts of the American Legislative Exchange Council.”
The center launched a three-month investigation into the purpose, agendas and funding of these state front groups. It focused on the State Policy Network, a little-known coalition of state-based “think tanks,” such as Colorado’s Independence Institute.
Every state has at least one member group in the organization, according to the report.
Based upon a three-month investigation, the center’s report “uncloaks some of the major funders of these expanded advocacy and news spinning operations in the states and raises major concerns over whose agenda these groups are advancing in the states,” the report says.
Most of the funding for State Policy Network comes through the American Legislative Exchange Council, although some comes from other right-wing foundations and individuals.
ALEC is a so-called “bill mill,” an organization that develops business-friendly model legislation in collaboration with lawmakers who will introduce the bills in their state legislatures. ALEC-supported bills are often drafted by legislators working with corporate representatives.
In an earlier report, the Center of Media and Democracy detailed the close ties between ALEC and the billionaire brothers, David and Charles Koch, ALEC’s major financial supporters.
The State Policy Network is an ALEC member, and the two organizations are both beneficiaries of Koch brothers’ money. “Substantial funding for SPN operations has come from Koch Industries itself, and not only the Koch family foundations,” the report by the Center of Media and Democracy explains.
While ALEC operates nationally, State Policy Network member groups are the state-level messengers for ALEC-approved legislation.
According to its web page, “State Policy Network is the only group in the country dedicated solely to improving the practical effectiveness of independent, non-profit, market-oriented, state-focused think tanks. SPN’s programs enable these organizations to better educate local citizens, policy makers and opinion leaders about market-oriented alternatives to state and local policy challenges.”
Lisa Graves, director for the Center of Media and Democracy, charged that while claiming to be “neutral, non-partisan groups, (they) are in fact part of a national network to project the voices and interests of some of the most powerful corporations and families in the country.”
The Guardian recently reported that University of Oregon professor Gordon Lafer said his research on the State Policy Network “had uncovered attempts to expand the use of child labor, cut the minimum wage, reduce unemployment benefits, make it harder to sue employers for sex or race discrimination, or even to police wage theft where companies refused to pay workers overtime or any wages at all.”
The group’s agenda also includes defunding public education, stopping implementation of Obamacare, restrictions on collective bargaining, support for right-to-work laws and public-pension reform to change negotiated benefits to defined-contribution pension plans, the Center of Media and Democracy reported.
The Independence Institute is Colorado’s version of an ALEX-SPN funded “echo chamber,” designed to get the right-wing corporate message out through publications, “expert” testimony, public meeting, news releases, TV appearances and other ways of reaching large audiences.
Until Coloradans recognize they are being fed right-wing propaganda by ALEC and SPN, they will continue their acquiescence to corporate-friendly legislation that subordinates their individual rights and freedoms to the profits of international corporations.
If that is not the future we want, it is time to pull the plug on ALEC and the State Policy Network and take back our state and national governments.