The Show-Me Institute (SMI) is often regarded as a Missouri-focused organization formed and funded to advance the extreme right-wing agenda of billionaire Rex Sinquefield. But a new report released by Progress Missouri and the Center for Media and Democracy shows the organization is actually part of a much larger web of “belief tanks” called the State Policy Network (SPN).
The Show‐Me Institute has also received significant funding from the Donors Capital Fund, which is also connected to the notorious Koch Brothers, and other out‐of‐state right‐wing organizations such as the Roe Foundation and the Cato Institute.
The report, What Missourians Need to Know About the Show-Me Institute, shows that, like other SPN franchises, many of the Show-Me Institute’s policy proposals and programs do not originate from Missouri or Sinquefield, but are borrowed from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), would benefit wealthy out-of-state backers, and are carbon copies of proposals distributed throughout the country as allegedly state-based solutions.
Following is an abridged version of the report. To read the full report, visit http://www.progressmissouri.org/smi.
Some of the key findings:
• Sinquefield’s Show-Me Institute serves as the Missouri face of the national, Koch-funded “State Policy Network” and the disgraced American Legislative Exchange Council, sometimes taking direction from ALEC on key issues. From its first year of operation, the Show-Me Institute has been a formal member of the State Policy Network (SPN), a national web of like-minded “think tanks” that promote disinformation and ALEC agendas in state Capitols. ALEC has presented policy “solutions” to the Show-Me Institute, which SMI has subsequently promoted as its own agenda. SMI’s advocacy mirrors that of other groups in the SPN web.
• The Show-Me Institute receives significant funding from Koch-connected organizations and other out-of-state groups. The Koch-funded Donors Capital Fund has provided at least $567,941 to SMI since its founding in 2005. SMI has also received funding from other out-of-state right-wing organizations such as the Roe Foundation, the State Policy Network, and the Cato Institute.
• The Show-Me Institute peddles policy changes that would benefit its wealthy backers. SMI has pushed for ALEC proposals that would benefit Sinquefield and wealthy out-of-state backers like the Kochs, including opposing minimum wage increases and backing “fair tax” measures.
• The Show-Me Institute’s “Chief Economist” received huge salaries from the organization on top of his “Ken Lay Chair” salary at the University of Missouri. Campaign finance records show he is also paid regularly to generate industry-friendly studies.
PRAISED BY IDEALOGUES
Co-founded in 2005 by Sinquefield, a billionaire GOP donor who has bankrolled numerous campaigns and ballot initiatives to advance his extreme political agenda, and wealthy conservative Crosby Kemper III, the Show-Me Institute SMI was immediately praised by like-minded ideologues, such as Ethelmae Humphreys, Dick Armey of FreedomWorks, disgraced former Speaker Rod Jetton and Tracie Sharp of the State Policy Network for providing an air of unbiased research to advance their right wing agenda.
The Show-Me Institute is organized as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri. Annual receipts for the organization exceeded $1.4M in 2010 and 2011, the most recent years for which 990 tax forms are available.
A FRANCHISE OF THE RIGHT WING
From its first year of operation, the Show-Me Institute has been a formal member of SPN.
In addition to its state think tank affiliates, many other national right-wing organizations are associate members of SPN, including ALEC, Americans for Prosperity, the Cato Institute, the Franklin Center, the Heritage Foundation, the Heartland Institute, and the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.
SPN has played a major role in supporting ALEC, serving as a sponsor of the 2013 and 2011 ALEC Annual Conferences and acting as a voting member of several task forces.
Since its founding, SPN has been funded by conservative organizations including the Koch-funded Donors Trust/Donors Capital Fund, the Bradley Foundation, the Roe Foundation, and the Kochs’ Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation.
The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) recently revealed that SPN has been funded by such corporations as Reynolds American, Altria (formerly Philip Morris), Microsoft, AT&T, Verizon, GlaxoSmithKline, Kraft Foods, Comcast, Time Warner, Facebook, the for-profit online education company K12 Inc., and the e-cigarette company NJOY.
SPN gave $87,951.49 to the Show-Me Institute in 2007, according to its 2007 990-tax form.
Show-Me’s advocacy on issues ranging from education privatization to attacks on benefits given to public workers is similar to the advocacy of think tanks in other states that are also part of the conservative State Policy Network.
For instance, in 2009, SPN “think tanks” in Florida, Texas, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Louisiana, Nebraska, and Colorado released nearly the same, word-for-word, report against the Affordable Care Act.
In Missouri, Show-Me titled the report The Prognosis for National Health Insurance: A Missouri Perspective.
A COG IN THE SINQUEFIELD MACHINE
Sinquefield is the president of the Show-Me Institute, and it complements his issue campaigns, his affiliated public affairs firm, Pelopidas, and affiliated advocacy organization, United for Missouri.
The Show-Me Institute also supports Sinquefield’s goals of enacting radical, regressive tax policy in Missouri and other states, privatizing public education and removing local control of local schools as well as statewide evaluation and hiring practices.
The Sinquefield Charitable Foundation has given $4,300,000 to Show-Me Institute from its founding in 2005 through 2011, according to the foundation’s public tax filings: $900,000 in 2011, $950,000 in 2010, $1,200,000 in 2009, $700,000 in 2007, and $550,000 in 2006.
FUNDED KOCH-CONNECTED ORGANIZATIONS
While its support from Sinquefield is well known, the Show-Me Institute has also received significant funding from entities associated with the billionaire Koch brothers, of Koch Industries, who use their billions to manipulate some in the public into voting for their right-wing agenda and push policies that strip protections for workers and human and environmental health. The Koch-funded Donors Capital Fund has provided at least $567,941 to SMI since 2005.
The Show-Me Institute also participates in the Charles G. Koch Summer Fellowship Program.
SMI research fellow and Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville Professor Rik Hafer received an $8,000 grant from the Charles Koch Foundation in October 2012 to fund curriculum changes in the SIUE School of Business.
AN INTEGRATED AGENDA
The Show-Me Institute has repeatedly hosted ALEC events, collaborated with ALEC on at least two reports, and cited ALEC research in is materials. For example, in February 2012, ALEC’s Jonathan Williams gave a presentation at the Show-Me Institute on pensions, taxes, and economic policy. Since then, Show-Me has pushed for the suggestions ALEC made in the presentation. The policy “solutions” include replacing pensions with defined-contribution plans and lowering corporate taxes.
Show-Me pushes for ALEC proposals that also benefit Sinquefield and other wealthy backers, including opposing minimum wage increases and backing consumption taxes or the so-called “fair tax.”
Pelopidas, the Sinquefield-backed for-profit lobbying and advocacy firm, was a major sponsor of a 2013 ALEC conference.
‘CHIEF ECONOMIST’ RECEIVED HUGE SALARIES
Joseph Haslag is the Show-Me Institute’s “Chief Economist,” and is also the Kenneth Lay Chair in Economics at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Haslag’s position at the University of Missouri was made possible by the University’s most notorious alumnus, Ken Lay, and was vacant for four years before Haslag took the position. In addition to his $160,000 annual University salary, Haslag has also received significant funds from the Show-Me Institute. Haslag was paid annual salaries of $120,000, $119,500 and $90,000 by SMI from 2008-2010. Public records show these Show-Me Institute salaries were paid on top of his annual University salaries of $135,000-$160,000.
Beyond his SMI and University income, Haslag has also been paid by numerous ballot committees to provide research that advances their issue campaigns. Campaign clients include the MO Petroleum Marketers + Convenience Store Association PAC and Missourians for Equal Credit Opportunity (Payday Lenders’) PAC.
Haslag has advocated against defined benefit retirement plans and against minimum wage increases.
The Show-Me Institute’s Communications Director, Rick Edlund, was a paid consultant for Cole McNary’s unsuccessful campaign for Treasurer in 2012 and Sarah Steelman’s failed U.S. Senate bid. He was also paid to consult for the House Republican Campaign Committee in 2010, and worked for former Senator Jim Talent’s 2000 campaign.
Talent’s wife, Brenda, is SMI’s Executive Director.
Patrick Tuohey, SMI’s “Western Missouri Field Manager,” was press secretary for Steelman’s U.S. Senate bid, previously served as Director of Communications for Frank Luntz’s polling firm, and manages (or managed) the Missourians for Responsible Government 501(c)(4) organization that has moved millions of dollars on behalf of the payday lending industry to protect the lenders’ triple digit interest rates.
Former Show-Me Institute policy analyst Christine Harbin went on to become a research manager at ALEC and a federal policy analyst at the Koch-founded and -funded Americans for Prosperity.