Ohio Newspapers Fail The ALEC Disclosure Test

Ohio's major newspapers cited sham think tank Buckeye Institute 44 times in six months, promoting the opinions of its conservative allies including the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the Koch brothers, and big tobacco. Despite these connections being well-documented, every article failed to disclose Buckeye's ties to ALEC and its funding from the Koch brothers and dark money conservatives.

Ohio Newspapers Cited The Buckeye Institute More Than 40 Times Without Mentioning Its Ties To Right-Wing Groups

The Buckeye Institute Was Cited 44 Times By Ohio's Newspapers In 6 Months. According to a Nexis search, between June 13 and December 12, the Buckeye Institute was cited 44 times by major newspapers in Ohio. These appearances included op-eds and citations in the form of staff quotes in news pieces.

Not A Single Report Citing The Buckeye Institute Mentioned The Organization's Ties To ALEC, The Koch Brothers, Or Big Tobacco. Of the 44 articles to cite the Buckeye Institute between June 13 and December 12, not a single paper mentioned Buckeye's ties to the conservative legislation manufacturer ALEC, the organizations funded by billionaire conservative Koch brothers, or big tobacco.

ALEC Created The State Policy Network, Which Includes The Buckeye Institute

The Buckeye Institute Is Listed As A Member of The State Policy Network (SPN). The SPN website lists the Buckeye Institute as a member and provides links and contact information on their website. [SPN.org, accessed 12/13/13]

The State Policy Network Evolved From The Madison Group. According to the SPN website, the “State Policy Network originated in 1986 as the Madison Group, an informal confederation of the state think tanks and their supporters named after the Madison Hotel in Washington, DC, where they first met.” [SPN.org, accessed 12/13/13]

ALEC Created The Madison Group To Help Influence State Legislation. According to National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy documents obtained by the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library at the University of California, San Francisco, ALEC created the Madison Project to help “declare war on state legislatures”:

“We simply will not have power on the national level until we declare war on state legislatures,” declared Don E. Eberly, president of the commonwealth Foundation for Public Pilicy Alternatives, Harrisburg, PA, in an address before the Heritage Foundation.

Eberly's think tank is one of some 55 public policy institutes that have sprung up in 29 states in the aftermath of Ronald Reagan's “new federalism.” While the think tanks share a strong free market, anti-government philosophy, they represent a mix of Goldwater conservatism, libertarianism and New Right ideology.

State level think tanks provide the rational and local spin needed to win over sympathetic legislators to the conservative agenda.


The think tanks are loosely affiliated through the Madison Group, launched by the American Legislative Exchange Council or ALEC ... and housed in the Chicago-based Heartland Institute. Founded in 1986, the Madison Group acts as a communication link among its 79 members, which include not only state think tanks, but also conservative legal foundation and national groups like ALEC, Heritage Foundation and the National Rifle Association. [UCSF, accessed 12/13/13, emphasis added]

The Buckeye Institute Has Ties To ALEC, The Koch Brothers, And Big Tobacco

Top Officials At The Buckeye Institute Have Worked For Or Remain Employed By Members Of ALEC. According to the Center on Media and Democracy, five members of the Buckeye Institute leadership staff have worked for or are currently working for ALEC members:

[Progress Ohio, November 2013]

The Buckeye Institute Defended ALEC's Agenda Against Report Showing It Would Hurt Ohio. According to the Dayton Daily News, the Buckeye Institute said ALEC's conservative legislative agenda should have time to prove its worth, despite a report showing “No statistically significant impact on growth in jobs, [GDP], or on per capita median income”:

The latest salvo came last week, as a think-tank report found states that follow the conservative principles outlined in the influential American Legislative Exchange Council's annual ranking of the states for business-friendly practices actually have had worse economic outcomes in the last five years than those that don't.

The study, “Selling Snake Oil To The States” by the nonprofit Iowa Policy Project and Good Jobs First, said ALEC's policy prescriptions -- lowered income taxes, the elimination of estate taxes, the existence of anti-union “right-to-work” laws -- have no statistically significant impact on growth in jobs, gross domestic product or on per capita or median income.


Greg Lawson, policy analyst for the conservative Buckeye Institute think tank, said policies pushed by ALEC are starting to show results in Ohio.

“Quite frankly, Ohio only started making the changes ALEC recommended in recent years,” he said. “It's a little premature to be making some of these judgments until the policies are fully implemented. We're only now beginning to see the impact.” [Dayton Daily News, 12/2/12]

The Buckeye Institute's Research Mirrors ALEC's Agenda. A Progress Ohio analysis of reports by the Buckeye Institute and legislation promoted by ALEC shows a correlation between the two organizations' agendas on union issues, healthcare reform, public pensions, crime, and education issues. [Progress Ohio, November 2013]

Politico: As Part Of The State Policy Network, The Buckeye Institute Receives Funding From The Koch Brothers. As Politico reported, the SPN combined revenue in 2011 cleared $80 million dollars, and a large portion of that was donated by the Koch Brothers:

According to the report's analysis of IRS filings, the State Policy Network and its think tanks' combined revenue in 2011 topped $83 million, in large part with funding from conservative money groups like the Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund, which receive large donations from groups tied to the Koch brothers and other prominent conservatives. The State Policy Network's associate members also include a who's who of conservative organizations, including ALEC, David Koch's Americans for Prosperity Foundation, FreedomWorks, Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform, the Cato Institute and The Heritage Foundation. [Politico, 11/13/13]

The Guardian: SPN And ALEC Are Funded By The Searle Freedom Trust. The Guardian reported that SPN members -- which include the Buckeye Institute -- receive funding from tobacco giant Philip Morris and the billionaire Koch brothers who are notorious for supporting the conservative agenda:

The documents also cast light on the nexus of funding arrangements behind radical rightwing campaigns. The State Policy Network (SPN) has members in each of the 50 states and an annual warchest of $83m drawn from major corporate donors that include the energy tycoons the Koch brothers, the tobacco company Philip Morris, food giant Kraft and the multinational drugs company GlaxoSmithKline.

SPN gathered the grant proposals from the 34 states on 29 July. Ranging in size from requests of $25,000 to $65,000, the plans were submitted for funding to the Searle Freedom Trust, a private foundation that in 2011 donated almost $15m to largely rightwing causes.

The trust, founded in 1998, draws on the family fortune of the late Dan Searle of the GD Searle & Company empire - now part of Pfizer - which created NutraSweet. The trust is a major donor to such mainstays of the American right and the Tea Parties as Americans for Prosperity, the American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec), the Heartland Institute and the State Policy Network itself. [The Guardian, 12/5/13]

The Buckeye Institute Requested $40,000 From The Searle Freedom Trust To Support Cutting Tax Revenues. According to documents obtained by The Guardian, The Buckeye Institute requested $40,000 “to create an online tax reform simulation model, to educate citizens on the need for tax reform.” [Searle Tax And Budget Grant Proposals, 7/29/13, via The Guardian]

The Buckeye Institute Is Listed As A Beneficiary Of Altria, The Parent Company Of Philip Morris. According to Altria's 2012 giving records, the Buckeye Institute is listed under the “business directed giving,” though the amount Buckeye received in 2012 is not listed. [Altria.com, Accessed 12/13/13]


Media Matters searched Nexis transcripts of all U.S. newspapers between June 13 and December 12, to identify articles mentioning, op-eds placed by, or opinion pieces referencing The Buckeye Institute. *The Ohio newspapers analyzed included the Akron Beacon JournalThe Cincinnati EnquirerThe Columbus Dispatch, the Dayton Daily News, and The Cleveland Plain Dealer. To find relevant articles, the search term “Buckeye Institute” was used.  

*The post has been updated to include the list of Ohio newspapers analyzed in the study.