Garden State Initiative
According to the organization's nascent website, "The Garden State Initiative is a nonpartisan research and educational organization dedicated to making New Jersey once again a place where families and businesses can thrive. We offer practical free-market solutions to the state and local challenges facing New Jersey, educate the public and policymakers, and work with partners throughout the state to build a sustainable, effective, freedom infrastructure for today and tomorrow."
GSI's President Regina M. Egea was former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's Chief of Staff from 2015-2016.
Ties to the State Policy Network
GSI is an affiliate member of SPN. It has also received funding from 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 January 2021, 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. 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.
- Total Revenue: $430,113
- Total Expenses: $198,610
- Net Assets: $231,503
The Garden State Initiative is not required to disclose its funders. Its major foundation funders, however, can be found through a search of the IRS filings. Here are some of the known funders:
- DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund: $78,300 (2017)
- JM Foundation: $60,000 (2017-2018)
- State Policy Network: $82,500 (2017)
As of June 2019:
- Regina M. Egea, President
- William J. Smith, Director of Communications & Media Relations
- Jeff Scully, Development Associate
Board of Directors
As of April 2018:
- Regina M. Egea, President
- Lawrence Mone, Tresurer/Secretary
- Tom Healy
Employer Identification Number (EIN): 81-4373354
Garden State Initiative
116 Village Blvd, Suite 200
Princeton, New Jersey 08540
Articles and Resources
IRS Form 990 Filings
- State Policy Network, Directory, Internal Revenue Service, accessed March 9, 2017.
- Garden State Initiative, About, organizational website, accessed March 9, 2017.
- David Armiak, Revenue for State Policy Network and State Affiliates Tops $120 Million, ExposedbyCMD, November 13, 2019.
- 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.
- Jane Mayer, Is IKEA the New Model for the Conservative Movement?, The New Yorker, November 15, 2013.
- Ed Pilkington and Suzanne Goldenberg, State conservative groups plan US-wide assault on education, health and tax, The Guardian, December 5, 2013.
- Garden State Initiative, 2017 IRS Form 990, organizational tax filing, April 18, 2018.
- Garden State Initiative People and Partners organizational website, accessed June 2019.