Reason Foundation

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The Reason Foundation, a self-described "libertarian"[1] [think tank, is a right-wing 501(c)3 nonprofit and "associate" member of the State Policy Network (SPN).[2] Reason Foundation's projects include weekly newsletters[3], including themes such as the regulation and banning of e-cigarettes[4] and pension reform,[5] annual reports focused on highways[6] and privatization,[7] as well as Reason Magazine.[8] It is part of the Atlas Network.

News and Controversies

Reason Foundation 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 Reason Foundation.[9] Sen. Whitehouse (D-RI), 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."[9]

Reason.com

The Reason Foundation publishes Reason Magazine, a monthly print magazine with a libertarian point of view. Reason TV is another media project of the Reason Foundation.

Ties to the Koch Brothers

David Koch (since deceased) was a trustee of the Foundation.[10] Between 1985 and 2015, Reason received $857,000 from the Claude R. Lambe Foundation, $344,528 from the Charles G. Koch Foundation and $1,522,212 from the David H. Koch Foundation.

As of February 2020, Charles Koch Institute listed the Reason Foundation as a "participating organization" on its website.[11]

The Reason Foundation has shown support for private prisons as part of the Kochs' Criminal Justice Reform plan,[12] has partnered with "National School Choice Week",[13] produced "numerous reports saying foreclosures should not be stopped",[14] and has supported dismantling public sector unions.[15]

A 2020 Center for Media and Democracy investigation reported on billionaire money behind media operations favorable to right-wing ideology, including the Reason Foundation. The piece noted, "For decades, Charles Koch has been committed to radically changing American society into a libertarian paradise, free from taxes and regulations, in which the wealthiest oligarchs, like himself, can destroy the environment, exploit their workers, and reap astonishing profits... Koch's strategy has been a wild success, but it may not have been as effective without another avenue of influence: favorable media."[16]

A 2019 CMD article named Reason as a recipient of an increased Koch Foundation media funding push the previous year, noting "In recent years, Koch donation amounts have jumped around, but 2018's total is roughly $135,000 more than the previous year."[17]

Koch Wiki

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.

Ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council

Dr. Adrian Moore, Vice President of Public Policy of the Reason Foundation, is an Advisor to the American Legislative Exchange Council's Commerce, Insurance & Economic Development Task Force.[18] Reason Foundation representatives have also advised ALEC Task Forces on issues such as state budgets[19], and health reform.[20]

The Reason Foundation's Director of Government Affairs, Mike Flynn, was previously policy director for ALEC.[21]

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 ALECexposed.org, and check out breaking news on our PRWatch.org site.

Ties to the State Policy Network

Several CMD pieces have highlighted State Policy Network's ties to the Reason Foundation, including Reason's presence at SPN's 2019 annual meeting.[17][22] 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.[23] 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.[24]

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.'"[25]

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.[26]

Reason Foundation and Big Tobacco

Jacob Sullum is the senior editor of Reason,, a monthly magazine published by the Reason Foundation. Sullum's positions on tobacco issues have consistently been supportive of the tobacco industry. The anti-tobacco Advocacy Institute, in their November, 1994 Directory of Tobacco Industry Spokespersons, Front Groups and their Allies, says,

"The Reason Foundation received at least $10,000 from Philip Morris in 1993. He [Sullum] wrote an article for Forbes Media Critic which was later used in a week-long advertising series by Philip Morris; the report argued that the EPA findings on secondhand smoke were one-sided and represented the 'corruption of science by the political crusade against smoking.' He also wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal criticizing the EPA, claiming that the agency based its findings on ETS on 'several controversial assumptions;' this op-ed was later featured in an RJR advertisement. Both of these articles cited the work of Dr. Gary L Huber, a scientist funded by various tobacco companies, who had found the risks of ETS to be only minimal. The Media Critic article also cited the work of Alvan Feinstein, who received at least $700,000 from Brown & Williamson between 1985 and 1990."[27]

Reason Foundation and Criminal Justice Reform

A 2016 CMD investigation on the Koch Brothers and criminal justice reform found that the Reason Foundation, Charles Koch Foundation, and Project for Accountable Justice had co-hosted an event at Florida State University which featured Jerry Madden, who was ALEC's 2011 "legislator of the year".[12]

The exposé also found that Right on Crime, a criminal justice reform project tied to State Policy Network and the American Legislative Exchange Council, used studies and reports from the Reason Foundation to advocate for continued use of private prisons. Right to Crime highlighted a Reason report that found "private prisons offer cost savings of 10 to 15 percent compared to state-operated facilities."[12]

CMD also mentioned how in 2012, when "Florida Chamber of Commerce and Florida Taxwatch launched Right on Crime in Florida, the Chamber was described as 'a primary lobbying force behind the Senate’s failed push to privatize prisons'".[12] CMD noted that these groups promoted Reason's vision for criminal justice reform, wherein "government contracts with private sector prison operators or service vendors to provide a range of correctional services..."[12] The report also mentioned how the GEO Group Foundation began supporting Reason and Florida Taxwatch that same year.[12]

Funding

The Reason Foundation's funders include:[16][28]

Core Financials

2017[29]

  • Total Revenue: $12,099,789
  • Total Expenses: $12,690,715
  • Net Assets: $8,920,845

2016[30]

  • Total Revenue: $12,708,165
  • Total Expenses: $5,305,629
  • Net Assets: $8,855,312

2015[31]

  • Total Revenue: $11,485,028
  • Total Expenses: $10,553,564
  • Net Assets: $8,206,713

2014[32]

  • Total Revenue: $10,473,482
  • Total Expenses: $9,760,275
  • Net Assets: $7,121,580

2013[33]

  • Total Revenue: $11,101,761
  • Total Expenses: $10,013,738
  • Net Assets: $6,448,773

2012[34]

  • Total Revenue: $9,066,823
  • Total Expenses: $8,952,656
  • Net Assets: $5,172,320

2011[34]

  • Total Revenue: $9,106,846
  • Total Expenses: $8,748,862
  • Net Assets: $4,878,000

Personnel

Trustees

As of September 10, 2019[10]

Trustees Emeriti

  • Frank Bond, The Foundation
  • Richard J. Dennis, C&D Commodities, Inc.
  • William A. Dunn, Chairman Emeritus, DUNN Capital Management
  • Vernon L. Smith University
  • Harry E. Teasley, Jr., Chairman Emeritus
  • Walter E. Williams, George Mason University

Officers

As of September 10, 2019[37]

  • Stephen Modzelewski, Chairman of the Board
  • Robert W. Poole, Jr., Founder
  • David Nott, President
  • Jon Graff, Secretary and Treasurer
  • Mike Alissi, Vice President, Operations
  • Leonard Gilroy, Vice President, Government Reform
  • Adrian Moore, Vice President, Policy
  • Katherine Mangu-Ward, Vice President, Journalism

Staff

Full staff directory available on the Reason Foundation website here.

Experts

As of September 10, 2019:[10]

  • Andrew Abbott, Quantitative Analyst
  • Christian Barnard, Policy Analyst
  • Guy Bentley, Director of Consumer Freedom
  • Peter Boghossian, Visiting Fellow
  • Truong Bui, Policy Analyst
  • Zachary Christensen, Policy Analyst
  • Shikha Dalmia, Senior Analyst
  • Corey A. DeAngelis, Director of School Choice
  • Baruch Feigenbaum, Assistant Director, Transportation Policy
  • Ryan Frost, Policy Analyst
  • Aaron Garth Smith, Director of Education Reform
  • Steven Gassenberger, Policy Analyst
  • Leonard Gilroy, Vice President, Government Reform
  • Matt Harrison, Senior Fellow
  • Marc Joffe, Senior Policy Analyst
  • Geoffrey Lawrence, Senior Policy Fellow
  • Teri Moore, Policy Analyst, Editor
  • Adrian Moore, Vice President of Policy
  • Julian Morris, Senior Fellow
  • Vittorio Nastasi, Policy Analyst
  • Anil Niraula, Policy Analyst
  • Alix Ollivier, Policy Analyst
  • Robert Poole, Director of Transportation Policy
  • Spence Purnell, Policy Analyst
  • Anthony Randazzo, Senior Fellow
  • J.J. Rich, Policy Analyst
  • Evgenia Sidorova, Policy Analyst
  • Austill Stuart, Policy Analyst
  • Raheem Williams, Policy Analyst

Contact Information

Employer Identification Number (EIN): 95-3298239

Reason Foundation
5737 Mesmer Avenue
Los Angeles, California 90230
Phone: (310) 391-2245
Email: feedback@reason.org
Website: http://www.reason.org
Website (magazine): http://www.reason.com
Facebook (magazine): @Reason.Magazine
Twitter: @reason

Reason Foundation
1747 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20009
Phone: (202) 986-0916

Articles and resources

IRS Form 990 Filings

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

Related SourceWatch

External Resources

References

  1. Reason Foundation, Frequently Asked Questions About Reason: Is Reason libertarian?, organizational website, accessed August 2007.
  2. State Policy Network, Directory, organizational website, accessed June 12, 2017.
  3. Reason Foundation, Subscribe to Reason’s Email Newsletters, organizational website, accessed September 10, 2019.
  4. Reason Foundation, Harm Reduction Newsletters, organizational website, accessed September 10, 2019.
  5. Reason Foundation, Pension Reform Newsletters, organizational website, accessed September 10, 2019.
  6. Reason Foundation, Annual Highway Report, organizational website, accessed September 10, 2019.
  7. Reason Foundation, Annual Privatization Reports, organizational website, accessed September 10, 2019.
  8. Reason Foundation, August/September 2011, Reason Magazine, archived by the WayBack Machine on October 16, 2011.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Sheldon Whitehouse, "Senators Call Out Web of Denial Blocking Action On Climate Change," Office of Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, July 15, 2016.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Reason Foundation, Trustees and Officers, organizational website, accessed September 10, 2019.
  11. Charles Koch Institute, Partner Organizations, organizational website, accessed February 3, 2020.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 12.5 Ralph Wilson, "Koch Criminal Justice Reform Trojan Horse: Special Report on Reentry and Following the Money", Center for Media and Democracy, June 16, 2016, accessed December 3, 2019.
  13. PRWatch Editors, "'National School Choice Week' Fueled by Major Right-Wing Funders and Corporate Lobby Groups", Center for Media and Democracy, January 27, 2016, accessed December 3, 2019.
  14. PRWatch Editors, "Robert Greenwald on the Koch Brothers?", Center for Media and Democracy, March 31, 2011, accessed December 3, 2019.
  15. Anne Landman, "Kochs Behind Wisconsin Union-Busting Effort", Center for Media and Democracy, February 21, 2011, accessed December 3, 2019.
  16. 16.0 16.1 Alex Kotch, "Right-Wing Megadonors Are Financing Media Operations to Promote Their Ideologies", Center for Media and Democracy, January 27, 2020, accessed February 3, 2020.
  17. 17.0 17.1 PRWatch Editors, "Koch Foundations Increased Media Investments in 2018", Center for Media and Democracy, November 16, 2019, accessed February 25, 2020.
  18. American Legislative Exchange Council Inside ALEC May 2011, organizational newsletter, May 2011, p. 17
  19. American Legislative Exchange Council, Tax & Fiscal Policy Task Force archives, organizational website, accessed July 10, 2011.
  20. American Legislative Exchange Council, HHS Task Force archives, organizational website, accessed July 10, 2011.
  21. Reason Foundation, Mike Flynn bio, organizational website, accessed July 10, 2011.
  22. David Armiak, "Koch Network Dominates SPN Annual Meeting Attendees", Center for Media and Democracy, October 31, 2019, accessed December 3, 2019.
  23. David Armiak, https://www.exposedbycmd.org/2019/11/13/revenue-state-policy-network-state-affiliates-tops-120-million/ Revenue for State Policy Network and State Affiliates Tops $120 Million], ExposedbyCMD, November 13, 2019.
  24. 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.
  25. Jane Mayer, Is IKEA the New Model for the Conservative Movement?, The New Yorker, November 15, 2013.
  26. Ed Pilkington and Suzanne Goldenberg, State conservative groups plan US-wide assault on education, health and tax, The Guardian, December 5, 2013.
  27. Extra, September/October 1994, p.18; Wall Street Journal,3- 24-94, p.A23.at Bates Page --4660]
  28. Conservative Transparency, Reason Foundation, search="Dunn", database website, accessed February 25, 2020.
  29. Reason Foundation, 2017 IRS Form 990, Internal Revenue Service, February 10, 2017, accessed December 3, 2019.
  30. Reason Foundation, 2016 IRS Form 990, Internal Revenue Service, February 10, 2016.
  31. Reason Foundation, 2015 IRS Form 990, Internal Revenue Service, February 10, 2016.
  32. Reason Foundation, 2014 IRS Form 990, Internal Revenue Service, February 10, 2016.
  33. Reason Foundation, 2013 IRS Form 990, Internal Revenue Service, February 10, 2015.
  34. 34.0 34.1 Reason Foundation, 2012 IRS Form 990, Internal Revenue Service, February 6, 2014.
  35. Reason, FAQ, organizational website, accessed February 3, 2020.
  36. Patricia Sullivan, "George L. Ohrstrom Jr. Dies; Virginia Financier, Sportsman", Washington Post, October 8, 2005, accessed February 3, 2020.
  37. Reason Foundation, Experts Index, organization website, accessed September 10, 2019.