THE STATE POLICY NETWORK
What Is The State Policy Network?
The State Policy Network (SPN) is a web of so-called “think tanks” that push a right-wing agenda in every state across the country. Although many of SPN’s member organizations claim to be nonpartisan and independent, an in-depth investigation by non-profit, non-partisan investigative reporting groups the Center for Media and Democracy and Progress Now reveals that SPN and its affiliates are major drivers of the right-wing, ALEC-backed agenda in state houses nationwide, with deep ties to the Koch brothers and the national right-wing network of funders, all while reporting little or no lobbying activities.
What Is SPN’s Agenda?
SPN largely pushes a right-wing, corporate-backed agenda aimed at attacking the middle class. SPN and its affiliates push for privatizing public schools, blocking expanded access to health care, lowering taxes for corporations and the very wealthy, undermining workers’ rights and unions, and a polluter’s agenda that attacks environmental protections. Some SPN “think tanks” have even advocated for voter suppression laws that make it harder for Americans to vote and opposed common-sense gun safety bills.
Who Funds SPN?
SPN has become an $83 million right-wing empire. SPN and its affiliates are not required to disclose their donors, and almost none of the groups publish a list of funders. Tax documents and other available records reveal that SPN is funded by large corporations, right-wing foundations, and wealthy conservative ideologues. Some of the most notable corporate funders of SPN and its web of “think tanks” include Big Tobacco companies (like Reynolds), Big Oil corporations (like the Koch family fortune), AT&T, Kraft Foods, Verizon, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Facebook, and Microsoft. SPN and its “think tanks” are also largely funded by right-wing special interest groups and individuals, including the Koch brothers, the DeVos family, the Coors family (of Coors Brewing Company), the Walton Family Foundation (of Walmart), Richard Mellon Scaife, Art Pope, the Roe Foundation, and the Bradley Foundation.
How Does SPN’s Agenda Benefit Its Donors?
Funding to SPN in some ways resembles a client-based relationship. SPN groups promote legal changes that benefit their right-wing funders and partners. SPN think tanks often advocate for lowering corporate taxes, restricting workers’ rights, repealing minimum and living wage laws, and opposing government regulations on businesses – all of which could benefit their right-wing and corporate backers.
How Is SPN Related to ALEC?
SPN and many of its affiliates are members of the controversial American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), where corporate lobbyists and special interest group representatives vote as equals with state lawmakers behind closed doors on “model” legislation that in many cases ends up benefiting the corporations’ bottom line. SPN has played a major role in supporting ALEC, serving as a “chairman” level sponsor of the 2013 and 2011 ALEC Annual Conferences and acting as a voting member of several task forces. SPN affiliates push parts of ALEC’s agenda in their respective states, and ALEC is also an associate member of SPN. SPN and its affiliates have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to ALEC.
How Does SPN Push Its Agenda?
While SPN members call themselves “think tanks,” they rarely act as such. SPN groups often engage in extensive lobbying activities, even though nonprofits are limited in the amount of lobbying activity they may participate in by the IRS. SPN “think tanks” release “research” and policy reports, and there are numerous instances of SPN think tanks being accused of skewing facts and using faulty research to reach their policy goals. Many SPN think tanks also collaborate with the right-wing Franklin Center to launch agenda-driven “news” outlets, hawking right-wing talking points from behind a mask of journalism.