James Madison Institute
James Madison Institute (JMI) is a right-wing advocacy group that calls itself a "think tank" and describes its mission as "to keep the citizens of Florida informed about their government and to shape our state's future through the advancement of practical free-market ideas on public policy issues." It was founded in 1987 and is a member of the State Policy Network (SPN), a web of state pressure groups that denote themselves as "think tanks" and drive a right-wing agenda in statehouses nationwide. An August 2013 board document of the related group the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) alleges that JMI is a "former SPN member," but the SPN website still lists JMI as a full member as of August 2016, and a July 2013 JMI fundraising proposal to Searle Freedom Trust was included in a packet of SPN proposals in August 2013.
- 1 Ties to the Koch Brothers
- 2 Ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council
- 3 Ties to the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity
- 4 News and Controversies
- 5 Funding
- 6 Core Financials
- 7 Personnel
- 8 Contact Information
- 9 Articles and Resources
- 10 References
SPN is a web of right-wing “think tanks” and tax-exempt organizations in 50 states, Washington, D.C., Canada, and the United Kingdom. As of October 2019, SPN's membership totals 162. Today's SPN is the tip of the spear of far-right, nationally funded policy agenda in the states that undergirds extremists in the Republican Party. SPN Executive Director Tracie Sharp told the Wall Street Journal in 2017 that the revenue of the combined groups was some $80 million, but a 2019 analysis of SPN's main members IRS filings by the Center for Media and Democracy shows that the combined revenue is over $120 million. Although SPN's member organizations claim to be nonpartisan and independent, the Center for Media and Democracy's in-depth investigation, "EXPOSED: The State Policy Network -- The Powerful Right-Wing Network Helping to Hijack State Politics and Government," 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.
In response to CMD's report, SPN Executive Director Tracie Sharp told national and statehouse reporters that SPN affiliates are "fiercely independent." Later the same week, however, The New Yorker's Jane Mayer caught Sharp in a contradiction. In her article, "Is IKEA the New Model for the Conservative Movement?," the Pulitzer-nominated reporter revealed that, in a recent meeting behind closed doors with the heads of SPN affiliates around the country, Sharp "compared the organization’s model to that of the giant global chain IKEA." She reportedly said that SPN "would provide 'the raw materials,' along with the 'services' needed to assemble the products. Rather than acting like passive customers who buy finished products, she wanted each state group to show the enterprise and creativity needed to assemble the parts in their home states. 'Pick what you need,' she said, 'and customize it for what works best for you.'" Not only that, but Sharp "also acknowledged privately to the members that the organization's often anonymous donors frequently shape the agenda. 'The grants are driven by donor intent,' she told the gathered think-tank heads. She added that, often, 'the donors have a very specific idea of what they want to happen.'"
A set of coordinated fundraising proposals obtained and released by The Guardian in early December 2013 confirm many of these SPN members' intent to change state laws and policies, referring to "advancing model legislation" and "candidate briefings." These activities "arguably cross the line into lobbying," The Guardian notes.
The Koch brothers -- David and Charles -- are the right-wing billionaire co-owners of Koch Industries. As two of the richest people in the world, they are key funders of the right-wing infrastructure, including the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the State Policy Network (SPN). In SourceWatch, key articles on the Kochs include: Koch Brothers, Koch Industries, Americans for Prosperity, American Encore, and Freedom Partners.
Ties to the Koch Brothers
JMI has deep ties to the Koch brothers. The organization received $1,340,242 from DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund between 2005 and 2014. JMI also received $286,384 between 2007 and 2014 from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation.
Ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council
JMI has ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). It was listed as a member of ALEC's Education Task Force and Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force until it terminated its membership on February 13, 2013 because "SPN did not renew [JMI's] membership," according to an August 2013 ALEC board document obtained by The Guardian. It has also had ties through a member of its Research Advisory Council, James M. Taylor, also of the Heartland Institute. Mr. Taylor is involved with the ALEC Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force as a frequent guest speaker.
Please see SPN Ties to ALEC for more.
ALEC is a corporate bill mill. It is not just a lobby or a front group; it is much more powerful than that. Through ALEC, corporations hand state legislators their wishlists to benefit their bottom line. Corporations fund almost all of ALEC's operations. They pay for a seat on ALEC task forces where corporate lobbyists and special interest reps vote with elected officials to approve “model” bills. Learn more at the Center for Media and Democracy's ALECexposed.org, and check out breaking news on our PRWatch.org site.
Ties to the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity
The James Madison Institute has hosted writers from the ALEC-connected Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, which screens potential reporters on their “free market” views as part of the job application process. The Franklin Center funds reporters in over 40 states. Despite their non-partisan description, many of the websites funded by the Franklin Center have received criticism for their conservative bias. On its website, the Franklin Center claims it "provides 10 percent of all daily reporting from state capitals nationwide."
Franklin Center Funding
Franklin Center Director of Communications Michael Moroney told the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) in 2013 that the source of the Franklin Center's funding "is 100 percent anonymous." But 95 percent of its 2011 funding came from DonorsTrust, a spin-off of the Philanthropy Roundtable that functions as a large "donor-advised fund," cloaking the identity of donors to right-wing causes across the country (CPI did a review of Franklin's Internal Revenue Service records). Mother Jones called DonorsTrust "the dark-money ATM of the conservative movement" in a February 2013 article. Franklin received DonorTrust's second-largest donation in 2011.
The Franklin Center was launched by the Chicago-based Sam Adams Alliance (SAM), a 501(c)(3) devoted to pushing free-market ideals. SAM gets funding from the State Policy Network, which is partially funded by The Claude R. Lambe Foundation. Charles Koch, one of the billionaire brothers who co-own Koch Industries, sits on the board of this foundation. SAM also receives funding from the Rodney Fund.
News and Controversies
Leaked Audio Shows JMI, Florida Utilities Deceived Public on Amendment 1
Leaked audio offers new evidence that Florida utilities and their allies have sought to deceive the public into believing that the utility-funded Amendment 1 ballot initiative was pro-solar, when in reality its goal was to undercut attempts to allow third-party sales of rooftop solar. Audio obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) and the Energy and Policy Institute captures James Madison Institute's Sal Nuzzo boasting that JMI and other Amendment 1 backers successfully misled the public into believing it was pro-solar. Speaking to other State Policy Network member organizations, Nuzzo, JMI's vice president of policy and director of the center said:
The point I would make, maybe the takeaway, is as you guys look at policy in your state or constitutional ballot initiatives in your state, remember this: solar polls very well. To the degree that we can use a little bit of political jiu-jitsu and take what they’re kind of pinning us on and use it to our benefit either in policy, in legislation or in constitutional referendums if that’s the direction you want to take, use the language of promoting solar, and kind of, kind of put in these protections for consumers that choose not to install rooftop."
Nuzzo, speaking at the "Energy/Environment Leadership Summit," on October 2, 2016 in Nashville, TN, later acknowledges that a competing, legitimately pro-solar ballot amendment which aimed to remove Florida’s ban on third-party sales of solar power enjoyed popular support, including from the political right.
In response to the threat to their monopoly control of electric sales, utilities set up their own group in 2015, called "Consumers for Smart Solar." Nuzzo described how the utilities, via Consumers for Smart Solar, responded to the threat to their monopoly by asking JMI to publish a study attacking the amendment, which it did in December of 2015. The Coalition for Solar Choice ballot initiative did not qualify for the 2016 ballot, thanks in part to deceptive ballot collection tactics employed by the utility-backed Consumers for Smart Solar group. Nuzzo went on to describe how Consumers for Smart Solar ensured that its ballot initiative would appear to be favorable for solar power, and how it was designed expressly to submarine the pro-solar effort from the Coalition for Solar Choice.
- Listen to the audio leaked by CMD and the Energy and Policy Institute here.
- Read the full article on ExposedbyCMD: Leaked Audio Shows How Florida Utilities Sought to Deceive Public into Believing Amendment 1 is Pro-Solar
- Read the article on the Miami Herald: Insider reveals deceptive strategy behind Florida’s solar amendment
JMI Called Out for Blocking Action on Climate Change
In July of 2016, nineteen U.S. Senators delivered a series of speeches denouncing climate change denial from 32 organizations with links to fossil-fuel interests, including the James Madison Institute. Sen. Whitehouse (RI-D), who led the effort to expose "the web of denial" said in his remarks on the floor that the purpose was to,
- "shine a little light on the web of climate denial and spotlight the bad actors in the web, who are polluting our American discourse with phony climate denial. This web of denial, formed over decades, has been built and provisioned by the deep-pocketed Koch brothers, by ExxonMobil, by Peabody coal, and by other fossil fuel interests. It is a grim shadow over our democracy in that it includes an electioneering effort that spends hundreds of millions of dollars in a single election cycle and threatens any Republican who steps up to address the global threat of climate change. . . . [I]t is long past time we shed some light on the perpetrators of this web of denial and expose their filthy grip on our political process. It is a disgrace, and our grandchildren will look back at this as a dirty time in America’s political history because of their work.”
Questionable Campaign Contribution
JMI contributed $591 to the Republican Party of Florida in June 2006, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics. The IRS prohibits 501(C)(3) nonprofits from engaging in any political activity and explicitly states that campaign contributions are a prohibited campaign activity. It is not clear if this contribution was a reimbursement of some kind or what the legal rationale was for this money flowing from a charity to a political party.
The James Madison Institute has received more than $1 million from organizations funded by the Koch brothers and has consistently advocated for policies that protect the Kochs' bottom line rather than the best interests of Floridians, according to a November 2013 report by Progress Florida and the Center for Media and Democracy.
The Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation contributed $286,384 to JMI between 2007 and 2014. However, as the report notes, "the Kochs are known to fund special interest groups in ways other than through the charities in their name. For example, it has been discovered that Koch Industries funds some of the SPN groups directly, and because that corporation is not publicly traded, its donations are not publicly reported. Similarly, it has been documented that the Koch brothers fund special interests through personal checks and trust account transfers (not from their charities) to other groups that are not required to publicly report their donations."
JMI received $1,340,242 from DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund between 2005 and 2014, "two funds that have been closely tied to the Kochs but which obscure the percentage of their grants coming from Koch money. In 2011, contributions from the Donors groups made up 10 percent of JMI's grants," according to the report.(See here for a complete list of DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund grant recipients.)
- Total Revenue: $1,590,520
- Total Expenses: $2,052,409
- Net Assets: $859,210
- Total Revenue: $1,913,472
- Total Expenses: $1,681,516
- Net Assets: $1,509,644
- Total Revenue: $1,250,415
- Total Expenses: $1,655,681
- Net Assets: $1,277,688
- Total Revenue: $1,694,754
- Total Expenses: $1,770,365
- Net Assets: $1,682,954
- Total Revenue: $1,966,419
- Total Expenses: $1,297,246
- Net Assets: $1,758,565
- Total Revenue: $1,785,368
- Total Expenses: $1,107,183
- Net Assets: $1,089,392
- Total Revenue: $909,458
- Total Expenses: $874,987
- Net Assets: $411,208
As of October 2018:
- J. Robert McClure, III, President and CEO
- Rebecca Liner, Executive Vice President
- Sal Nuzzo, Vice President of Policy and Director of the Center for Economic Prosperity
- William Mattox, Director of the J. Stanley Marshall Center for Educational Options
- Jill Mattox, Foundation Grants Manager
- Jessica Brewton, Director of Events and Logistics
- Logan Padgett, Director of Communication and Public Affair
- Tanja Clendinen, Database Manager
- J. Stanley Marshall, Founding Chairman
- Robert F. Sanchez, Director of Policy
- Francisco Gonzalez, Vice President of Advancement
- Valerie Wickboldt, Vice President of Communications
- Daniel Peterson, Director of the Center for Property Rights
- Alyssa Gill, Director of Events and Logistics
- Dana Edwards, Director of Creative & Digital Strategy
- Don Orrico, Southwest Florida Development Director
- Samantha Blair, Executive Assistant to the President
- Scott Sholl, Florida Verve Editor
Board of Directors
As of October 2018:
- Allan G. Bense, Chairman (Former Florida House Speaker)
- Glen Blauch, Treasurer (President and CEO of Blauch and Associates)
- J.F. Bryan IV (former President of Independent Insurance Group)
- Robert H. Gidel Sr., Vice Chairman (Managing Member of Liberty Capital Advisors)
- Timothy M. Cerio (General Counsel to Florida Governor Rick Scott)
- L. Charles Hilton Jr., Chairman Emeritus (Chairman of the Board, Hilton, Inc.)
- John F. Kirtley (Co-founder, FCP Investors)
- Frank Kruppenbacher (Partner with the law firm of Morgan and Morgan)
- J. Robert McClure III, Ex-Officio (President and CEO of JMI)
- Liza Shultz (Chief Services Officer of CNL Financial Group)
- Jeffrey V. Swain, Chairman (Owner, Performance Video)
- Joe S. York, (President of AT&T Florida)
- Stan Connally (President and CEO, Gulf Power)
- Charles E. Cobb (Former US Ambassador to Iceland)
- J. Stanley Marshall, Vice-Chairman (Founding Chairman of JMI)
- Rebecca Walter Dunn
- George W. Gibbs III (Chairman and CEO, Atlantic Marine Holding Company)
- Fred Leonhardt
- John Hrabusa (Senior VP, Human Resources, Publix Super Markets)
- Thomas K. Sittema (Chief Executive Officer of CNL Financial Group)
Research Advisory Council
As of August 2016:
- Dr. Michael Bond, Senior Lecturer, Department of Finance, University of Arizona
- Dr. Jack Chambless, Professor of Economics, Valencia College
- Dr. Marshall DeRosa, Professor of Political Science, Florida Atlantic University
- Dr. Thomas DiBacco, Professor Emeritus of History, American University
- Dr. Dino Falaschetti, Director of Operations, Mercatus Center at George Mason University
- Elizabeth Price Foley, Professor of Law, Florida International University College of Law
- Dr. James Gwartney, Professor of Economics, Florida State University
- Dr. Bradley K. Hobbs, Professor of Free Enterprise, Florida Gulf Coast University
- Dr. Randall Holcombe, Professor of Economics, Florida State University
- Robert Poole, Director of Transportation Policy, Searle Freedom Trust Transportation Fellow, Reason Foundation
- Dr. Barry Poulson, Professor of Economics, University of Colorado
- Dr. Linda Raeder, Professor of Politics, Palm Beach Atlantic University
- Dr. Derek Yonai J.D., Professor of Economics and Free Enterprise, Florida Southern College
- Peter Schweizer, Author and Speaker
- Dr. Sam Staley, Managing Director, DeVoe L. Moore Center at The Florida State University
- James M. Taylor, J.D., Senior Fellow of Environmental Policy, Heartland Institute
- Dr. J. Antonio Villamil, Founder and Principal of The Washington Economics Group, Inc.
Former Research Advisors
- Dr. Susan Aud, Research Associate, Milton and Rose Friedman Foundation
- J.B. Ruhl, J.D., Professor of Law, Florida State University College of Law
James Madison Institute
100 North Duval Street
Tallahassee, FL 32301
Phone: (850) 386-3131
Toll-free (866) 340-3131
Fax: (850) 386-1807
Articles and Resources
Related SourceWatch Articles
- State Policy Network:
- American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)
- Donors Capital Fund
- Koch Family Foundations
- Koch Industries
- Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity
- Heritage Foundation
- Think tanks
- Whitney Ball
- Adam Meyerson
- Bridgett Wagner
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