Texas Public Policy Foundation Has Connections to Koch-Powered Organizations
The Watchful Avenger’s report on the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) is chock-full of delicious tidbits, but we are especially interested in Tim Dunn’s presence on the Board of Directors, and his involvement in other organizations fueled with Koch funds.
Dunn is the Vice Chairman of Empower Texans (aka Texans for Fiscal Responsibility), along with Lee Dunn and Luke Dunn. The president of Empower Texans is Michael Quinn Sullivan, former Media Research Center public relations guy.
Tim Dunn’s bio on Empower Texans website:
Tim Dunn is the chairman of the board of directors of Empower Texans and Texans for Fiscal Responsibility.
He graduated from Texas Tech University in 1978 with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering. Upon graduation Dunn worked at Exxon Production Research Company (1978-1980). He then went on to First City Bancorp (1980-1987) and served as Vice President, Engineer, and Manager of Oil & Gas Portfolios. He then became a founding general partner of Parker & Parsley Development (1987-1995), now known as Pioneer Natural Resources. He held multiple positions including Director, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer. Dunn worked as a consultant for Arthur Anderson Business Consulting in 1996 and founded EnerQuest Resources, LLC that same year.
Currently, Dunn is chairman of EnerQuest Oil & Gas, Ltd., chairman & CEO of CrownQuest Operating, LLC, manager of Hexagon Interim Partnership, and a partner of Texas Land & Royalty.
Tim Dunn’s Other Affiliations Point Straight Back to Charles Koch
In 2008, Eric Odom1 created the American Liberty Alliance, a 501(c)(4) organization, which Ali Akbar chaired at one time. On October 16, 2009, the American Liberty Alliance amended its name to the John Hancock Committee for the States. On January 8, 2010, the John Hancock Committee for the States amended its name to The Valley Forge Alliance. At least, that’s what the documents say. Actually, it appears that the John Hancock Committee for the States started up a 501(c)(3) organization on January 11, 2010 with a different identification number, and the 501(c)(4) organization known as the Valley Forge Alliance became dormant. No tax returns have been filed for that EIN since the 2009 return.
The Valley Forge Alliance filed one IRS form 990EZ for the calendar year ending December 31, 2009. Officers in 2009:
The John Hancock Committee for the States (JHC) filed its initial return in 2010, and added a new board member:
Eric O’Keefe is a high-level Koch operative who serves on boards of organizations where Charles Koch pours money, or where Koch has a particular interest in fostering its cause, whatever it is. The best way to understand O’Keefe’s relationship labyrinth is simply to view it:
In 2010, the Sam Adams Alliance gave the John Hancock Committee $615,975.00 (PDF). Other major funding arrived via Charles Koch’s donor-advised funds, Donors’ Capital and Donors’ Trust. Another related organization, American Majority, was used to incubate JHC until it had been approved for non-profit status.
American Majority provided cash donations of $376,397 and payroll assistance of $298,867.
The payroll assistance is particularly curious, given that no officer received payroll in 2010. Who exactly did they put on the payroll? In 2011, there were expenses of $121,181 for payroll expenses, but no officers or directors receiving paychecks. Who then, were they paying?
American Majority’s directors in 2010 were Nathaniel (Ned) Ryun, Drew Ryun, Peter Samuelson, and John Eddy.
Draw the lines:
- Tim Dunn: Chairman of John Hancock Committee for the States, Vice Chair for the Texas Public Policy Foundation, Director of the Valley Forge Alliance, and Empower Texans.
- Eric O’Keefe: Director of Sam Adams Alliance, John Hancock Committee for the States, Institute for Humane Studies, oversaw incubation and launch of American Majority
- Drew and Ned Ryun: Twin brothers who serve on the boards of American Majority and John Hancock Committee for the States. Sons of former Kansas Congressman Jim Ryun.
What does the John Hancock Committee for the States DO?
No one knows. Independent researcher Rachel Tabachnik has some information about American Majority, but only barely mentions the JHC:
The focus of this national Tea Party group is radical free marketers and culture warriors – anti-union, anti-regulatory, anti-environmental, anti-feminist, anti-reproductive rights, and the list goes on. But it’s not about Israel.
In early October American Majority opened a storefront office on Forward Avenue in the largest Jewish neighborhood in Pittsburgh. This is one of several campaign offices opened in swing states including Pennsylvania, Florida, and Ohio.
The American Majority Inc.’s purpose, as listed on its IRS 990 tax forms is to “create a national training institute dedicated to identifying, training, and mentoring political leaders.” It is affiliated with the Valley Forge Alliance in Aledo, Texas, also formerly called the John Hancock Committee for the States and the American Liberty Alliance, and the Sam Adams Alliance. The organizations have worked closely with Glenn Beck’s 912 organizations to build Tea Party networks.
Sourcewatch reports that American Majority is also the overseer and funder of various Media Tracker groups around the country.
According to Politico, American Majority sponsors Media Trackers, an investigative non-profit that launched in January 2011 in Wisconsin, which “has gotten considerable in-state pick-up on quick-hit videos and pieces aimed at what it says are errors, hypocrisy or offensive behavior by labor unions and their Democratic allies.” According to Mother Jones, Ryun formed Media Trackers as a “nimble attack blog . . . that could quickly capitalize on the latest missteps by big-government politicians or the “liberal” media — essentially hard-hitting, opposition-research-style shops that prize scoops, speed, and scandal over policy briefs and press conferences.”
It appears the JHC also sponsored drinks after an activist summit in 2010, too. One might assume the JHC’s focus is Texas, given the Tim Dunn and Texas Public Policy Foundation connections, but there is no online evidence of any actual activity in Texas or elsewhere under that name.
Perhaps clues are in their tax disclosures. JHC’s 2011 990 tax return indicates some changes in management and activity:
- Mark Meckler, disgraced Tea Party Patriot co-founder, is now President of JHC, and has been added to the Board of Directors.
- Drew Ryun is no longer a director of JHC.
- Mark Rollins, managing director of Hillwood Energy has been added as a fourth director.
There’s also some indication of activity. JHC spent $1.5 million on “communications” in 2011, and gave out cash grants of $206,000 to other organizations, who were:
- Texas Public Policy Foundation: $124,000
- 1851 Center for Constitutional Law: $7,000
- Tea Party Patriots: $50,000
- James Madison Institute: $25,000
Other than the grants to various organizations, it’s unclear what “communications” the JHC paid for. There is no website. There is only this Facebook page, which links to a non-existent website.
Perhaps their consulting payments will have more clues about what they do. Most of the JHC expenditures were to consultants.
- Aduston Consulting, Washington DC: $155,610 Aduston Consulting is a lobbying firm in Washington, DC. Their website is completely blank. Federal lobbying reports reveal the principal is Karl Gallant, and he had only one lobbying client in 2011: Americans for Limited Government, though Gallant has lobbied on behalf of conservative radio network Salem Communications, Microsoft, UPS, Reynolds American and others in past years.
- Business Laboratory, LLC, The Woodlands, TX: $226,084 A data-driven marketing firm, which appears to have been hired for some sort of analysis of how to target voters.
- Craft – Digital Media, Washington, DC: $123,197 This is an interesting affiliation, given that Craft – DC worked as a subcontractor to Gerson Global to run some sort of media tracking effort for the government of Morocco. Gerson Global inked a $2.5 million contract with Morocco to promote the government and their goals in 2011. But what public relations contract was Craft-DC fulfilling for the JHC, given their lack of presence anywhere?
- Ground Game Strategies, Inc. Mauldin, SC: $297,707: This firm, headed by Dan Tripp, is a PR and lobby shop in South Carolina which appears to provide services to Americans for Prosperity, among others. They boast of “building grassroots movements”, which really means creating astroturf and stirring people up enough to get them on board.
- Market Street Consultants, LLC: $146,825: Christopher Jaarda is the principal of this firm now, but before he went out on his own he was a staffer for Senator John Ensign, Representative Mary Bono Mack, and the Senate Republican Policy Committee.
Taken as a whole, we can conclude that the JHC hired consultants to lobby and mount PR campaigns. Possibly there was also some media tracking in there as well.
This is not what non-profits, particularly 501(c)(3) non-profits, are supposed to be doing. Lobbying and public relations with absolutely no evidence of what or on whose behalf they were lobbying for is definitely far outside the purview of the intended purpose for a nonprofit organization.
What exactly did the The John Hancock Committee for the States do with the $3 million dollars in fully tax-deductible contributions it received in 2010 and 2011?
What relationship does this organization have with Americans for Prosperity, if any?
What services did those five consultants render in 2011, and for whom?
Is the JHC simply a money laundering operation for right wing political muckraking?
What aims do the Kochs have for Texas?
Were any of the PR expenditures used to pay people like Ali Akbar and others to muckrake on their behalf?
What does Empower Texans have to do with it?
There will be updates with answers to these questions.