Beacon Center of Tennessee
The Beacon Center of Tennessee (BCT, formerly the Tennessee Center for Policy Research) describes itself as "an independent, nonprofit and nonpartisan research and educational institute dedicated to providing concerned citizens, the media and public leaders with expert research and timely free market policy solutions to public policy issues in Tennessee." BCT is a member of the State Policy Network (SPN).
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 April 2023, SPN's membership totals 163. 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 2022 analysis of SPN's main members IRS filings by the Center for Media and Democracy shows that the combined revenue is over $152 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.
Charles Koch is the right-wing billionaire owner of Koch Industries. As one of the richest people in the world, he is a key funder of the right-wing infrastructure, including the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the State Policy Network (SPN). In SourceWatch, key articles on Charles Koch and his late brother David include: Koch Brothers, Americans for Prosperity, Stand Together Chamber of Commerce, Stand Together, Koch Family Foundations, Koch Universities, and I360.
- 1 Ties to the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity
- 2 Funding
- 3 Core Financials
- 4 Personnel
- 5 Contact Information
- 6 Articles and Resources
Ties to the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity
As the publisher of TennesseeWatchdog.org, The Beacon Center of Tennessee 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.
- Charles Koch Foundation: $56,000 (2016)
- DonorsTrust/Donors Capital Fund: $1,799,950 (2005-2015)
- The Roe Foundation: $115,000 (2007-2011)
- Searle Freedom Trust: $80,000 (2007)
- State Policy Network: $52,588 (2007)
- Jaquelin Hume Foundation: $33,750 (2008-2009)
- JM Foundation: $20,000 (2005)
- Castle Rock Foundation: $10,000 (2009)
- Total Revenue: $1,448,443
- Total Expenses: $989,162
- Net Assets: $1,088,538
- Total Revenue: $957,689
- Total Expenses: $775,285
- Net Assets: $629,257
- Total Revenue: $1,223,641
- Total Expenses: $1,079,678
- Net Assets: $446,853
- Total Revenue: $481,990
- Total Expenses: $458,311
- Net Assets: $302,890
- Total Revenue: $527,219.00
- Total Expenses: $536,835.00
- Net Assets: $279,211.00
- Total Revenue: $608,125.00
- Total Expenses: $360,582.00
- Net Assets: $283,244.00
- Total Revenue: $463,320.00
- Total Expenses: $583,135.00
- Net Assets: $35,701.00
As of November 2018:
- Justin Owen, President and CEO
- Braden H. Boucek, Director of Litigation
- Mark Cunningham, Director of Marketing and Communications
- Taylor Dawson, Outreach Coordinator
- Joe Kirkpatrick, Development Associate
- Suzanne Michel, Director of Operations
- Ron Shultis, Policy Coordinator
- Stephanie Whitt, Executive Vice President
- Hannah Cox, Outreach Coordinator
- Drew Johnson, President
- Kellie Garretson, Administrative Assistant
- Trent Seibert, Director of Government Accountability
- Nicole Williams, Vice President of Operations
- Douglas Kurdziel, Research Fellow
- Trapper Michael, Research Fellow
- Daniel Phillips, Research Fellow
- Troy Senik, Research Fellow
- Luci Stephens, Research Fellow
- Sam Cosby, Director of Development
- Lindsay M. Boyd, Director of Policy
- Donna Barrett, Senior Fellow
- Naomi Lopez Bauman, Senior Fellow
- Harold Black, Senior Fellow
- Jonathan Butcher, Senior Fellow
- Art Carden, Senior Fellow
- Dr. Jeff Cornwall, Senior Fellow
- Jason Edmonds, Carter and Moyers Research Fellow
- Patrick Gleason, Senior Fellow
- Richard Grant, Senior Fellow
- Lindsay Boyd Killen, Senior Fellow
- Michael LaFaive, Senior Fellow for Economic Development
- Jared Meyer, Senior Fellow for the New Economy
- Adam Peshek, Senior Fellow for Education Reform
- Dr. Dan Smith, Senior Fellow for Fiscal and Regulatory Policy
- Ben Stickle, Senior Fellow for Criminal Justice
- Paul Stumb, Distinguished Fellow
- Julie Warren, Senior Fellow for Criminal Justice
- Paul Stumb, Senior Fellow
- Dale Bails, PhD, Christian Brothers University
- Robert Berry, MD, PATMOS EmergiClinic
- J.C. Bowman, PhD, Florida State University
- J.R. Clark, PhD, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
- Larry M. Hall, PhD, Belmont University
- Martin D. Kennedy, PhD, Middle Tennessee State University
- Sally Kilgore, PhD, Modern Red Schoolhouse Institute
- Shaka L.A. Mitchell, JD, Institute for Justice
- John Stone, PhD, Education Consumers Clearinghouse
- Amy H. Sturgis, PhD, Belmont University
- Charles Van Eaton, PhD, Bryan College
- Marilyn Young, PhD, Belmont University
Board of Directors
- John Cerasuolo, Chairman
- Joe Scarlett, Vice-Chairman
- David Johnson, Member
- Brian Fitzpatrick, Member
- Ken Meyer, Members
- Pat Shepherd, Member
- Larry White, Member
Former board members
- Lee Beaman, Member
- Jim Ethier, Member
- Lauren Templeton, Member
Beacon Center of Tennessee
P.O. Box 198646
Nashville, TN 37219
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
Related PRWatch Articles
- Brendan Fischer, Why Are the Franklin Center's "Wisconsin Reporter" and "Watchdog.org" Attacking the John Doe?, PRWatch.org, December 19, 2013.
- Rebekah Wilce, The State Policy Network's Cozy Relationship with Big Tobacco, PRWatch.org, December 16, 2013.
- Rebekah Wilce, Did ALEC Found SPN? 1991 Report Suggests So, Exposes SPN Agenda, PRWatch.org, December 12, 2013.
- Rebekah Wilce, Guardian Documents Expose State Policy Network Groups' Intent to Lobby, PRWatch.org, December 5, 2013.
- Rebekah Wilce, State Policy Network: The Stealth Network Dramatically Influencing State Law, PRWatch.org, December 5, 2013.
- Rebekah Wilce, Tracie Sharp: Bursar of Mystery Money and "IKEA Model" Materials to Stink Tanks, PRWatch.org, November 19, 2013.
- Center for Media and Democracy, Reports Expose Extreme Pressure Groups Masquerading as Think Tanks, press release, November 13, 2013.
- Rebekah Wilce, A Reporters’ Guide to the "State Policy Network": the Right-Wing Think Tanks Spinning Disinformation and Pushing the ALEC Agenda in the States, PRWatch.org, April 4, 2013.
- Sara Jerving, ALEC and Heartland Aim to Crush Renewable Energy Standards in the States, PRWatch.org, November 27, 2012.
- Connor Gibson, Meet the Network Hiding the Koch Money: "Donors Trust" and "Donors Capital Fund", PRWatch.org, October 29, 2012.
- Brendan Fischer, Koch-Funded Mackinac Center Brings Wisconsin Act 10 Provisions to ALEC, PRWatch.org, May 2, 2012.
- Sara Jerving, Franklin Center: Right-Wing Funds State News Source, PRWatch.org, October 31, 2011.
- Wall Street Journal, The Spoils of the Republican State Conquest, December 9, 2016, archived by CMD here.
- DeSmog Blog, Stink Tanks: Historical Records Reveal State Policy Network Was Created by ALEC, December 9, 2013.
- The Guardian, State conservative groups plan US-wide assault on education, health and tax, December 5, 2013.
- Portland Press Herald, "Washington County residents have mixed reactions to plan to eliminate taxes," December 5, 2013.
- The Texas Observer, "The Money Behind the Fight to Undermine Medicaid," December 5, 2013.
- Media Matters, North Carolina Newspapers Largely Ignore Conservative Funding Of Sham Think Tanks, December 3, 2013.
- Shepherd Express, Masters of Manipulation: Right-wing Billionaires, Corporations and the Bradley Foundation Pay for Junk Studies that Prop up Their Agenda, November 27, 2013.
- "Moyers & Company," How a Shadowy Network of Corporate Front Groups Distorts the Marketplace of Ideas, November 19, 2013.
- MSNBC "Rachel Maddow Show," November 18, 2013.
- Free Speech TV "Ring of Fire," Facebook, Microsoft, AT&T and Others Supporting Right Wing Propaganda Machine, November 18, 2013.
- Topeka Capital-Journal, Trabert dismisses report tying KPI to Koch agenda, November 16, 2013.
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- Salon, Ted Cruz and Koch brothers embroiled in shadowy Tea Party scheme, November 15, 2013.
- St. Louis Business Journal, Beyond Sinquefield: Who else is funding the Show-Me Institute?, November 15, 2013.
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- The Institute for Southern Studies, Are conservative think tanks breaking lobbying laws?, November 14, 2013.
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- The Oregonian, Cascade Policy Institute benefits from secretive donor group but says it operates independently, November 13, 2013.
- Center for Media and Democracy, EXPOSED: The State Policy Network, The Powerful Right-Wing Network Helping to Hijack State Politics and Government, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
- Arizona Working Families and CMD, A Reporter’s Guide to the Goldwater Institute: What Citizens, Policymakers, and Reporters Should Know, organizational report, updated November 13, 2013.
- Progress Florida and CMD, Lawmaking Under the Influence of Very Special Interests: Understand the role of Florida ‘think tanks’ in driving a Koch-fueled, ALEC-allied corporate agenda, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
- Maine's Majority Education Fund, Fooling Maine: How national conservative groups infiltrated Maine politics by founding and funding the Maine Heritage Policy Center, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
- Progress Michigan, Who's Running Michigan? The Far-Right Influence of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
- Alliance for a Better Minnesota, Who's in Charge: How Nationalized Corporate-Run Think Tanks Influence Minnesota Politics, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
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- The Spokesman-Review, Shawn Vestal: Idaho Freedom Foundation pushes limits of word ‘charity’, November 2, 2013.
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