Monday, November 18, 2013

KP report on PA Think Tanks gets national love, ignored by PA media

Last week Keystone Progress(KP)  released an exposé on the relationship of PA’s think tanks to its corporate and billionaire funders, and how they are part of a well-funded propaganda network.

 “The Commonwealth Foundation and the Allegheny Institute: Think tanks or corporate lobbyist propaganda mills?” ( received little attention by mainstream media in Pennsylvania.  However, the KP report and the corresponding national report received widespread coverage in national media.  The report was picked up by Politico, Huffington Post, Salon, The New Yorker, The Guardian, and dozens of other publications.

“This is an important report that exposes how corporations and powerful billionaires are determining our political future in Pennsylvania,” said Michael Morrill, executive director of Keystone Progress. “It is unfortunate that too many of Pennsylvania’s media corporations choose to protect this arrangement by not reporting on these relationships.”

The Keystone Progress and the Center for Media and Democracy report exposes how two nominally independent tanks—the Commonwealth Foundation and the Allegheny Institute—are taking their cues from right wing funders, the Republican Party and the agenda established by the American Legislative Exchange Council.

The report exposes the relationship of far-right State Policy Network (SPN) to both groups.  SPN is a web of conservative state-based think tanks across the United States. In addition to its state think tank affiliates, many other national right-wing organizations are associate members of SPN, including the controversial American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the Cato Institute, the Franklin Center, the Heritage Foundation, the Heartland Institute, and the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.

SPN and many of its affiliates are some of the most active members and largest sponsors of 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 organizations like the Franklin Center and David Koch’s Americans for Prosperity.

The report shows how these organizations take advantage of tax laws to push an extreme right-wing agenda that aims to privatize education, block healthcare reform, restrict workers’ rights, roll back environmental protections, and create a tax system that benefits primarily those at the very top level of income. (See the full report here:

The Keystone Progress report is one of twelve new reports released today exposing the State Policy Network (SPN), an $83 million web of right-wing “think tanks” in every state across the country. Although SPN’s member organizations claim to be nonpartisan and independent, an in-depth investigation reveals that SPN and its member think tanks are major drivers of the right-wing, 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 reveal some members abusing tax laws and masquerading as “think tanks” while really orchestrating extensive lobbying and political operations to peddle their legislative agenda to state legislators, all while reporting little or no lobbying activities.

Some of the highlights of the report:

 While nominally nonpartisan, nonprofit organizations established to do research, both organizations appear to be taking their cues from right wing funders, the Republican Party and the agenda established by the American Legislative Exchange Council.

·         Both organizations rely heavily on right-wing billionaires for the bulk of their funding.

·         Both organizations are registered with the IRS as 501(c)(3) non-profit charitable organizations, but both advocate openly for legislative changes, acting more like 501(c)(4) advocacy groups.

·         Despite their legislative advocacy, neither organization has registered as a lobbying organization with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and no staff, board members or other agents have filed any lobbying expense reports with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

"The bottom line is these organizations 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,” said a statement from the Center for Media and Democracy.  “What we're doing is trying 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 organizations are doing is shameful and it's time that someone brought this to light."

The full report is available here:

To view similar reports from other states, go to

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