The Buckeye Institute

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The Buckeye Institute (formerly The Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions) is a right-wing advocacy group based in Ohio. It is a member of the $120 million-a-year 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. According to its website, the organization seeks to "set the policy debate in Ohio by researching and promoting relevant and practical solutions to Ohio's most pressing public policy issues."[1] It was founded in 1984 as the Buckeye Center, in part by the Atlas Economic Research Foundation's former president, John Blundell (Atlas is a prominent SPN associate member).[2] It changed its name to Buckeye Institute in 1995.[3] Atlas award-winner Sam Staley later became BIPPS' president,[4] and Atlas President Alex Chafuen was on BIPPS' board.[3]

The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law started as a litigation center operated by the Buckeye Institute,[5] but spun off as its own 501(c)(3) non-profit in 2010.[6]

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 January 2020, 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 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.[7] 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.[8]

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.'"[9]

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.[10]

News and Controversies

Anti-Union Freedom Foundation and Buckeye Institute Share 11 Common Funders

"A CMD investigation found that the two groups, the Buckeye Institute and the Freedom Foundation, received more than $9 million from 11 common out-of-state funders between 2014-18."[11] Those funders are included in the funding sections below.

Buckeye Uses Coronavirus to Push Budget Cuts and Other Wish list Items

The Buckeye Institute is using the coronavirus to advocate for budget cuts and other wish list items rather than use $2.7 billion rainy day fund.[12] Buckeye is asking for a resumption of the work rule requirement for Medicaid recipients that was suspended by Gov. DeWine, a $125 million cut to education, and a $86 million cut to Ohio's H2Ohio water quality program that works to reduce lead exposure in children.

Buckeye Litigates to Bust Unions

Buckeye boasts that it is “the first organization in the country to file lawsuits calling on courts to end compelled exclusive representation following the Janus decision,” the Supreme Court’s controversial 2018 ruling that barred public sector unions from collecting “agency fees” from non-union members.[13]

"Just days after the Court’s Janus decision, Buckeye filed legal challenges in Ohio, Minnesota, and Maine to decades-old laws requiring a public employer to negotiate exclusively with a democratically elected union representative over working terms and conditions once the union has been certified for a bargaining unit.

Buckeye has struck out in all three cases in the lower courts. The Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal in its Minnesota case in April 2019, and Buckeye filed an appeal with the Supreme Court in the Maine case" in January 2020, Don Wiener and Arn Pearson wrote for ExposedbyCMD.[14]

Overstated Charter Schools' Graduation Rates in Report to State Legislators

In 2009, the Buckeye Institute issued a report entitled "The High Cost of High School Dropouts in Ohio," which presented charter schools as an attractive solution to the problem of high school dropout rates. The Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice reviewed the report and found that the graduation rates from charter schools presented in the report were " inconsistent with the data reported by the state of Ohio for the year chosen, resulting in a dramatic overstatement of the graduation rates at the charters."[15] The review also found that the Buckeye Institute's report was "a minor variant on six similar reports published by the Friedman Foundation over the past three years." The Friedman Foundation is an Indiana-based nonprofit devoted to the privatization of schools through the promotion of an educational voucher system.

Banned by Columbus Dispatch for Plagiarism

According to a November 2013 report by ProgressOhio and the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD):[16]

"In October 2003, the Columbus Dispatch 'banned' the Buckeye Institute and announced that it would no longer publish op-eds bearing the Institute or its scholars' names after it was discovered that Buckeye Director Joshua Hall [had] plagiarized part of a recently published opinion piece.
"In that case, a Dispatch reader discovered that Hall had copied five passages from an op-ed written by Geoffrey F. Segal of the Reason Public Policy Institute (which is also funded by the Koch family fortune and includes Koch reps on its board) published in The Baltimore Sun several months earlier. When confronted, Hall repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
"The Dispatch persisted and in a meeting with the paper, Buckeye Institute President Samuel R. Staley admitted that both Segal and Hall’s works were plagiarized. In fact, the research and text in question had originally been prepared by a public-relations firm in Alexandria, Virginia, which had forwarded the information to interested parties as part of a communications strategy."

Questions of Lobbying

In February 2011, former Buckeye Institute President Matt Mayer (now president of the newer SPN affiliate Opportunity Ohio) was caught in a contradiction regarding the organization's lobbying and advocacy activity. In a tweet to the blog Plunderbund, Mayer said, “Of course we weigh in on ideas (repeal), especially ones we propose-we don’t advocate for specific bills ('vote for x') or pols." But on the same day, in a blog post about a bill -- 2011 SB 5 -- on Buckeye's website, Mayer wrote, "We need to be calling, faxing, and emailing every Ohio Senator, every day, until this vote is passed. They need to be told with total certainty that this vote is a choice between the citizens of this state and the public sector employee unions. Get the numbers and emails out to your membership and tell them to make that choice clear.”[17]

Ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council

The Buckeye Institute often promotes the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), its policies, and its reports on its website. According to the ProgressOhio/CMD report:[16]

  • "In May 2013, the Buckeye Institute promoted the release of ALEC's 'Rich States, Poor States' report on its website.[18] That report has been the subject of devastating criticism for its methodology and the distorted way it tallies state's economic health.[19]
  • "The Buckeye Institute cited four ALEC model bills as 'promising policy approaches' in its November 2010 report Smart on Crime.[20]
  • "The Buckeye Institute cited ALEC's 2011 edition of 'Rich States, Poor States' in its May 2012 Policy Brief, 'Big Government Spending Not Requisite for Economic Growth.'[21] Such claims have been subject to numerous criticisms.[22]
  • "Buckeye Institute policy analyst Greg Lawson spoke favorably about ALEC's influence in Ohio, specifically in the Kasich administration. Lawson is quoted as saying: 'Quite frankly, Ohio only started making the changes ALEC recommended in recent years… It's a little premature to be making some of these judgments until the policies are fully implemented. We're only now beginning to see the impact.'"[23]

For more, see the report, "Smoke Screen: The Buckeye Institute," here.

SPN's predecessor, the Madison Group, was "launched by the American Legislative Exchange Council or ALEC . . . and housed in the Chicago-based Heartland Institute," according to a 1991 report by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) found in the University of California-San Francisco's Legacy Tobacco Documents.[24][25]

The case is strengthened by an October 1987 ALEC directory also available via the Tobacco Documents that says, "The Madison Group is chaired by Mrs. Constance Heckman [now Constance Campanella, founder of the lobbying firm Stateside Associates], Executive Director of ALEC . . ."[26] A speakers list also available in the Tobacco Documents says in Constance Campanella's biography, "She was a co-founder and first President of The Madison Group, the first network of free-market state think tanks."[27]

SPN has been a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) for many years. In the mid-2000s, SPN secured funding for more of its member think tanks to join ALEC in order to help develop model legislation. By 2009, 22 SPN member think tanks were active ALEC members and participants in ALEC task forces, according to an SPN newsletter, and SPN was being rewarded for its services by ALEC.[28] As of 2013, at least 35 SPN member think tanks have demonstrable ties to ALEC in addition to SPN's own ties, and all of SPN's member think tanks push ALEC's agenda in their respective states, according to a review by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD).

See SPN Ties to ALEC for more.

About ALEC
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, and check out breaking news on our site.

Ties to the Franklin Institute for Government and Public Integrity

BIPPS used to host 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.[29] The Franklin Center funds reporters in over 40 states.[30] Despite their non-partisan description, many of the websites funded by the Franklin Center have received criticism for their conservative bias.[31][32] On its website, the Franklin Center claims it "provides 10 percent of all daily reporting from state capitals nationwide."[33]

In 2010, BIPPS -- at the time a Franklin Center affiliate -- was denied credentials in the Ohio Legislative Correspondents Association. Association President Jim Siegel said, "They were denied because they were more of a conservative think tank than a professional news-gathering organization… [T]here were some questions about where their funding came from." Buckeye Institute President (as of 2012) Kevin Holtsberry confirmed the past financial support from the Franklin Center with the Center for Media and Democracy.[34]

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).[35] Mother Jones called DonorsTrust "the dark-money ATM of the conservative movement" in a February 2013 article.[36] Franklin received DonorTrust's second-largest donation in 2011.[35]

The Franklin Center also receives funding from the Wisconsin-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation,[37] a conservative grant-making organization.[38]

The Franklin Center was launched by the Chicago-based Sam Adams Alliance (SAM),[39] a 501(c)(3) devoted to pushing free-market ideals. SAM gets funding from the State Policy Network,[40] which is partially funded by The Claude R. Lambe Foundation.[41] Charles Koch, one of the billionaire brothers who co-own Koch Industries, sits on the board of this foundation.[42] SAM also receives funding from the Rodney Fund.


The Buckeye Institute is not required to disclose its funders. Its major contributors, however, can be found through a search of the IRS filings and other means.

Ties Between Buckeye and Big Tobacco

BIPPS received at least $60,000 in funding from Philip Morris and other tobacco corporations in the 1990s, according to documents in the Tobacco Library -- previously secret papers unveiled as a result of government lawsuits -- analyzed by Progress Now and CMD. According to the report, "The Buckeye Institute was considered an 'allied' organization, a resource to be used in building coalitions and advancing [the tobacco industry's] corporate interests."[16] In 2019, The Guardian reported "The Buckeye Institute accepted donations from Altria" the parent company of Philip Morris USA "at least seven times in the last 10 years."[44][45]

In exchange, the "Buckeye Institute has compiled a record of supporting the issues important to its Big Tobacco funders," the report notes, and details many instances of this support.[16]

Some examples of adopting the same positions as the tobacco include "suing the state of Ohio to block an indoor smoking ban" in 2009 and authoring "a policy brief arguing against raising state cigarette taxes" in 2016.[46]

The tobacco industry also funds BIPPS' parent group, SPN. See SPN Funding for more.

Core Financials


  • Total Revenue: $3,441,453
  • Total Expenses: $2,393,920
  • Net Assets: $3,096,545


  • Total Revenue: $2,906,559
  • Total Expenses: $1,769,575
  • Net Assets: $2,049,012


  • Total Revenue: $1,909,768
  • Total Expenses: $1,702,944
  • Net Assets: $912,028


  • Total Revenue: $1,663,628
  • Total Expenses: $1,135,692
  • Net Assets: $697,545


  • Total Revenue: $851,386
  • Total Expenses: $852,599
  • Net Assets: $169,609


  • Total Revenue: $689,067
  • Total Expenses: $570,609
  • Net Assets: $170,822


  • Total Revenue: $293,115
  • Total Expenses: $465,262
  • Net Assets: $52,364


  • Total Revenue: $491,340
  • Total Expenses: $623,952
  • Net Assets: $224,511


  • Total Revenue: $819,385
  • Total Expenses: $531,271
  • Net Assets: $357,122


  • Total Revenue: $878,745
  • Total Expenses: $655,685
  • Net Assets: $69,008


Board of Trustees

As of January 2020:[57]

  • Bradley A. Smith, Chair
  • Mark D. Jordan, Vice Chair
  • Andrew Smith, Treasurer
  • Ronald A. McMaster, Secretary
  • Daniel Brophy, Trustee
  • Robert Alt, President

Former Trustees

  • Deborah L. Owens (associate professor of marketing and international business in The University of Akron's College of Business Administration and co-author of Direct Marketing in Action), Trustee
  • Rea Hederman, Vice President
  • Rebekah Alt, Chief Extern
  • Dan Peters, Board
  • Jerry Jordan, Trustee


As of January 2020:[58]

  • Robert Alt, President & CEO
  • Rea Hederman Jr., Executive Director of the Economic Research Center and Vice President of Policy
  • Rebekah Alt, Chief Operating Officer
  • William G. Batchelder III, Edwin Meese III Distinguished Fellow
  • Ester Bardo, Manager of Foundation Relations
  • Josh Distel, Executive Assistant, and Office Manager
  • Lisa A. Gates, Vice President of Communications
  • Andrew J. Geisler, Visiting Legal Fellow
  • Andrew J. Kidd, Economist
  • Greg R. Lawson, Research Fellow
  • Joe Nichols, Director of External Relations
  • Erin Sutter, Director of Operations
  • James B Woodard, Economic Research Analyst
  • Andrew M. Grossman, Visiting Legal Fellow
  • John J. Park Jr., Visiting Legal Fellow
  • Nathaniel Stewart, Visiting Legal Fellow

Former Staff and Fellows

  • Daniel J. Dew, Legal Fellow
  • Tyler Shankel, Economic Policy Analyst
  • Patrick Foley, Office Manager
  • Steven Carozza, former Fellow
  • Greg Lashutka (former Mayor of Columbus), former Board Chair
  • Matt A. Meyer, former Board President
  • Danielle Beckett, former Major Gifts Officer
  • Dan Lusheck, former Administrative & Research Assistant
  • Josh Vaughan, former Fellow
  • Orphe Pierre Divounguy, Economist with Buckeye Institute's Economic Research Center
  • Greg R. Lawson, Statehouse Liaison and Policy Analyst
  • Jeff Reed, Director of Communications

Contact Information

The Buckeye Institute 88 East Broad St., Ste. 1120
Columbus, OH 43215-3506
Phone: (614) 224-4422
Fax: (614) 224-4644

Articles and Resources

Articles and Resources

IRS Form 990 Filings





Related SourceWatch Articles

Related PRWatch Articles

External Resources


  1. Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions, About Us, organizational website, accessed November 2012.
  2. Center for Freedom and Prosperity, Archive: At a Glance, organizational website, accessed November 2013.
  3. 3.0 3.1 National Education Association, State Policy Network Appendix: Members: Ohio, "The Real Story Behind 'Paycheck Protection': The Hidden Link Between Anti-Worker and Anti-Public Education Initiatives: An Anatomy of the Far Right," organizational report, 1998.
  4. Samuel Reisz Staley, Curriculum Vitae, Florida State University faculty document, May 6, 2013.
  5. Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions, 2009 Form 990, organizational annual IRS filing, September 16, 2010.
  6. 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, 2010 Form 990, organizational annual IRS filing, February 1, 2011.
  7. David Armiak, Revenue for State Policy Network and State Affiliates Tops $120 Million], ExposedbyCMD, November 13, 2019.
  8. Rebekah Wilce, 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.
  9. Jane Mayer, Is IKEA the New Model for the Conservative Movement?, The New Yorker, November 15, 2013.
  10. Ed Pilkington and Suzanne Goldenberg, State conservative groups plan US-wide assault on education, health and tax, The Guardian, December 5, 2013.
  11. David Armiak, Right-Wing Out-of-State Funders Bankroll Anti-Union Campaigns in Ohio, ExposedbyCMD, May 8, 2020.
  12. Don Wiener, Ohio’s Buckeye Institute Uses Coronavirus to Push Its Budget Cuts Wish List, ExposedbyCMD, April 30, 2020.
  13. Buckeye Institute, First High-Profile Case to End Forced Union Exclusive Representation Was Heard Today in Minnesota Federal District Court, Buckeye Institute, Sept 20, 2018.
  14. Don Wiener and Arn Pearson,, ExposedbyCMD, January 27, 2020.
  15. Sherman Dorn, Review of The High Cost of High School Dropouts in Ohio," Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice, March 4, 2009.
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 ProgressOhio and Center for Media and Democracy, Smoke Screen: The Buckeye Institute, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
  17. ProgressOhio, The Liar Wire: Matt Mayer At The Buckeye Institute, organizational blog, February 14, 2011.
  18. Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Ohio Makes Significant Jump In Rankings, but Still Needs Improvement in Annual Rich State, Poor States Report, organizational publication, May 24, 2013.
  19. Rebekah Wilce, ALEC's Economic Policies Do More Harm Than Good, New Report Shows, PRWatch, November 28, 2012.
  20. Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Smart on Crime: With Prison Costs on the Rise, Ohio Needs Better Policies for Protecting the Public, organizational report, November 2010.
  21. Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions, [ Big Government Spending Not Requisite for Economic Growth], organizational "policy brief," May 2012.
  22. Nick Surgey, "Business Climate" Rankings Bogus, Says New Report, PRWatch, May 2, 2013.
  23. Tom Beyerlein, Kasich budget likely to ignite robust debate; Sides divided sharply over state's tax policies (sub. req'd.), Dayton Daily News, December 13, 2012.
  24. National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, Special Report: Burgeoning Conservative Think Tanks, organizational report, Spring 1991, p. 2.
  25. Rebekah Wilce, Did ALEC Found SPN? 1991 Report Suggests So, Exposes SPN Agenda, PRWatch, December 12, 2013.
  26. American Legislative Exchange Council, ALEC Personnel Directory, The State Factor, October 1987, p. 3.
  27. Speakers List, document available in the University of California-San Francisco's Legacy Tobacco Documents, accessed December 2013.
  28. State Policy Network, SPN & Alec: A Model Relationship, SPN News, organizational newsletter, July/August 2009, p. 4.
  29. Franklin Center, Franklin Affiliates in Your State, organizational website, accessed October 2012.
  30. The Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, Think tank Journalism: The Future of Investigative Journalism, organizational website, accessed August 19, 2011.
  31. Rebekah Metzler, "Watchdog" website puts a new spin on politics, The Portland Press Herald, October 2, 2010.
  32. Allison Kilkenny, The Koch Spider Web, Truthout, accessed August 19, 2011.
  33. Sara Jerving, Franklin Center: Right-Wing Funds State News Source,, October 27, 2011.
  34. Sara Jerving, How a Right-Wing Group Is Infiltrating State News Coverage, PRWatch, July 12, 2012.
  35. 35.0 35.1 Paul Abowd, Center for Public Integrity, Donors use charity to push free-market policies in states, organizational report, February 14, 2013.
  36. Andy Kroll, Exposed: The Dark-Money ATM of the Conservative Movement, Mother Jones, February 5, 2013.
  37. Daniel Bice, Franklin Center boss wants apology from Democratic staffer, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, August 8, 2011.
  38. The Bradley Foundation. The Bradley Foundation. Organizational website. Accessed August 19, 2011.
  39. Sam Adams Alliance. Sam Adams Alliance Media Kit. Organizational PDF. Accessed August 19, 2011.
  40. Media Matters Action Network. Sam Adams Alliance. Conservative Transparency. Accessed August 19, 2011.
  41. Media Matters Action Network. State Policy Network. Conservative Transparency. Accessed August 19, 2011.
  42. Media Matters Action Network. Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation. Conservative Transparency. Accessed August 19, 2011.
  43. 43.00 43.01 43.02 43.03 43.04 43.05 43.06 43.07 43.08 43.09 43.10 43.11 American Bridge 21st Century Foundation, Recipient: Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Bridge Project conservative transparency website, accessed November 2013.
  44. Altria Family of Companies, 2012 Recipients of Charitable Contributions from Altria Family of Companies, corporate document, accessed November 2013.
  45. Altria Family of Companies, 2009 Recipients of Charitable Contributions from Altria Family of Companies, corporate document, accessed November 2013.
  46. Jessica Glenza, Sharon Kelly and Juweek Adolphe Free-market groups and the tobacco industry - full database the Guardian accessed Jan 23 2019
  47. Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions, IRS Form 990, 2018, organizational tax filing, September 26, 2019.
  48. Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions, IRS Form 990, 2017, organizational tax filing, Oct. 24, 2018.
  49. Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions, IRS Form 990, 2016, organizational tax filing, Oct. 18 2017.
  50. Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions, IRS Form 990, 2015, organizational tax filing, March 15, 2016.
  51. Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions, IRS Form 990, 2014, organizational tax filing, November 11, 2015.
  52. Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions, IRS Form 990, 2013, organizational tax filing, November 17, 2014.
  53. Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions, IRS Form 990, 2012, organizational tax filing, November 14, 2013.
  54. Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions, IRS Form 990, 2011, organizational tax filing, November 12, 2012.
  55. Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions, IRS Form 990, 2010, organizational tax filing, June 23, 2011.
  56. Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions, IRS Form 990, 2009, organizational tax filing, September 16, 2010.
  57. Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Board of Trustees, organizational website, accessed January 2020.
  58. Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions, About Us: Staff, organizational website, accessed January 2020.