State conservative groups plan public sector assault

Hundreds of people gather on the grounds of the US Capitol to push for de-funding Obamacare, The Affordable Care Act, on Capitol Hill, September 10, 2013, in Washington, DC. UPI/Mike Theiler
Hundreds of people gather on the grounds of the US Capitol to push for de-funding Obamacare, The Affordable Care Act, on Capitol Hill, September 10, 2013, in Washington, DC. UPI/Mike Theiler | License Photo

ARLINGTON, Va., Dec. 6 (UPI) -- Conservative groups in 34 U.S. states plan coordinated assaults on taxes, healthcare, public sector pensions and the environment, organizing papers indicate.

They also plan a strategy to push for expanded access to school vouchers to encourage home schooling, the documents published by Britain's Guardian indicate.


The newspaper published the papers in conjunction with the Texas Observer in Austin and the Portland (Maine) Press Herald. The documents can be found at

The conservative strategy, organized and coordinated by the State Policy Network in Arlington, Va., includes proposals to cut public sector pensions, lower government-worker wages, eliminate income taxes, oppose Medicaid expansion and combat regional efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change, the documents outlining 40 funding proposals in 34 states show.

The State Policy Network is an alliance of "free-market think tanks" in all 50 states that develops and coordinates strategies "to limit government and advance market-friendly public policy at the state and local levels," its website says.

It has an $83 million budget drawn largely from individual and corporate donors and foundations, the Guardian said Friday.

Those donors include billionaire industrialist brothers Charles G. and David H. Koch, tobacco giant Philip Morris USA, grocery processing conglomerate Kraft Foods Group Inc., multinational pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline PLC and the Searle Freedom Trust, which supports "a more just, free and prosperous society."


Several grant bids cited in the July 29 documents propose "media campaigns" aimed at changing state laws and policies. Others refer to "advancing model legislation" and holding "candidate briefings."

The proposals include:

-- "Reforms" to public employee pension plans in Arizona, Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

-- Removal or reduction of taxes in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Maryland, Nebraska and New York.

-- An expanded school voucher system to promote private and home schooling in Florida.

-- Campaigns against public worker and union rights in Delaware and Nevada.

-- Opposition to Medicaid expansion in Georgia, North Carolina, Texas and Utah.

"[S]topping Medicaid expansion is just the first step," a Texas proposal investigated by the Texas Observer says.

The "missing piece to complete our message is an economic forecast" showing how block-granting the federal-state program for individuals and families with low incomes would "bring significant savings" to Texas, the proposal says, adding that information would then be used to attract media attention.

It is unclear how many of the 40 funding proposals were approved, the Guardian said.

"As a pro-freedom network of think tanks, we focus on issues like workplace freedom, education reform and individual choice in healthcare: backbone issues of a free people and a free society," SPN President Tracie Sharp told the Guardian.


Details of the coordinated approach come amid growing federal scrutiny of the political activities of tax-exempt charities.

The Obama administration 10 days ago announced a move to curb political activity by tax-exempt non-profit organizations that violate tax rules by engaging in direct political campaigning.

The new rules proposed by the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service clarify how the IRS defines political activity and cover political work including candidate briefings, the New York Times said.

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