Friday, April 5, 2024

How Billionaire Megadonors Use Think Tanks

Here is more from CNN:

When Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft jumped into the state’s gubernatorial race last year, the Republican vowed to tackle a slew of culture war issues, promising to fight the “woke politics” of “left-wing” banks and touting how he used his position to enact a regulation targeting those financial firms.

Ashcroft also said candidates shouldn’t focus on issues that let the one percent “force their beliefs on 99 percent of the population.”

While Ashcroft positioned himself as a champion for working class voters, emails obtained by CNN and the progressive watchdog group Documented show that he was steered toward adopting his “anti-woke” investment regulation by a little-known, right-wing think tank with deep ties to conservative billionaires. The communications show that officials with the Foundation for Government Accountability suggested regulatory language to Ashcroft and even wrote an op-ed article that Ashcroft published in a national conservative magazine under his own name. 

The emails not only reveal FGA’s influence over Ashcroft, they offer a snapshot of the group’s growing influence across the country, particularly in red states. And that influence can carry a high cost for workers and taxpayers. 

The group’s communications with Ashcroft...give a rare glimpse into how billionaire megadonors use think tanks like FGA to advance their causes out of public view. Federal tax laws allow such donors to channel millions of dollars anonymously, through nonprofit foundations, to activist organizations that lobby for and work behind the scenes to enact legislation that reflects partisan political goals. 


CNN notes that even though FGA's tax exempt status requires it not to engage in "substantial" lobbying, the group has closely coordinated with a variety of state officials and legislators to advance their causes. 

The Heritage Foundation is one of the many allies of FGA, and it is one of the 100+ coalition partners on Heritage's Project 2025.

FGA, based in Naples, Florida, was founded in 2011 by Tarren Bragdon, a former Maine legislator and past CEO of the free-market think tank Maine Heritage Policy Center.

Major FGA donors include the Sarah Scaife Foundation, the Searle Freedom Trust, Donors Trust, the Ed Uihlein Family Foundation, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, and The 85 Fund, a nonprofit connected to conservative legal activist Leonard Leo.