Wyoming Liberty Group
Wyoming Liberty Group is a right-wing 501(c)3 "think tank" and affiliate member of the State Policy Network (SPN). According to its website, the Wyoming Liberty Group was founded in 2008 to "provide a venue for understanding public issues in light of constitutional principles and governmental accountability."
"For eight years, the Wyoming Liberty Group has influenced policy, probably more than any other activist group in the state. It stands out among a group of nonprofits and limited liability companies that play the game of politics, without revealing their donors — or what those donors’ intentions are. Its political spending is known as dark money, since there is no way to track how much it spends for and against candidates," reports Wyoming's largest print newspaper the Casper Star-Tribune.
- 1 State Policy Network
- 2 Ties to the Koch Brothers
- 3 Ties to the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity
- 4 Pillar of Law Institute Established to Fight Campaign Finance Laws
- 5 Personnel
- 6 Core Financials
- 7 Contact Information
- 8 Articles and Resources
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.
State Policy Network
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. 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 Wyoming Liberty Group received $22,500 from the State Policy Network in 2012.
Ties to the Koch Brothers
Wyoming Liberty Group policy analyst Anthony Vibbard is a Liberty@Work fellow through the Charles Koch Institute. Healthcare policy analyst Charles Katebi previously interned at FreedomWorks and the Reason Foundation.
Wyoming Liberty Group has received funding from DonorsTrust and Donors Capitol Fund, large "donor-advised funds" with ties to the Koch brothers that cloak the identity of donors to right-wing causes across the country:
- $145,000 from DonorsTrust in 2013
- $150,000 from Donors Capitol Fund in 2012
- $15,000 from DonorsTrust in 2011
- $230,000 from Donors Captiol fund in 2010
- $6,000 from DonorsTrust in 2010
Ties to the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity
The Wyoming Liberty Group 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.
Pillar of Law Institute Established to Fight Campaign Finance Laws
Wyoming Liberty Group founded the Pillar of Law Institute (POLI) in April, 2015 with the intent of loosening campaign finance regulation.
According to the POLI website, the organization's primary issues are predicated on the idea that money equates to speech:
- The Criminalization of Political Speech
- The IRS and Government Speech Scandals
- Decreased Privacy and its Destructive Consequences
- Loss of Clear, Fixed and Definite Limits on Government Regarding Free Speech
- Turning Transparency Away from Free People and Back to Government
- Protecting Donor Privacy and Security
The Institute has recently been challenging state laws that prohibit taking "ballot-selfies".
Staff as of November 17, 2016:
- Jonathan Downing, CEO
- Susan Gore, President and Founder
- Amy Edmonds
- Mandy Ludtke
- Boyd Wiggam
- Charlie Katebi
- Robert Nelson
- Lisa McLane
- Anthony Vibbard
Staff at Wyoming Liberty Group's Pillar of Law Institute (POLI)
- Benjamin Barr
- Steve Klein
- Susan Gore, founder
- Regina Meena
- Benjamin Barr
- Stephen Klein, staff attorney and research counsel
- Sven Larson
- Marueen Bader
- Keith Phucas, investigative reporter
Board of Directors
As of the organization's 2015 IRS form 990:
- Susan W. Gore
- Joel Otto
- Charles Curley
- Cale Case
- Roy Cohee
- Total Revenue: $1,247,417
- Total Expenses: $1,156,213
- Net Assets: $113,674
- Total Revenue: $760,185
- Total Expenses: $789,987
- Net Assets: $22,470
- Total Revenue: $649,261
- Total Expenses: $576,149
- Net Assets: $52,272
- Total Revenue: $610,271
- Total Expenses: $643,894
- Net Assets: ($20,840)
- Total Revenue: $1,043,750
- Total Expenses: $978,058
- Net Assets: $12,783
- Total Revenue: $1,253,526.00
- Total Expenses: $1,265,513.00
- Net Assets: ($52,909.00)
- Total Revenue: $1,733,133.00
- Total Expenses: $789,044.00
- Net Assets: ($40,922.00)
Employer Identification Number (EIN): 26-2828115
1902 Thomes Ave., Suite 20
Cheyenne, WY 82001
Phone: (307) 632-7020
Fax: (307) 632-7024
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
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