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MA - Who Is Behind The Pioneer Institute?

MA - Who Is Behind The Pioneer Institute?

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Published by: progressnow on Nov 07, 2013
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SPN In Your State: massachusetts

Who Is Behind The Pioneer Institute?

The State Policy Network (SPN) is an umbrella group of right-wing think tanks across the country. The Pioneer Institute is SPN’s cookie-cutter think tank in Massachusetts. While the institute claims to be focused on issues important to the people of Massachusetts, it actually pushes an agenda dictated by its national right-wing funders and partners. SPN also has two closely connected associate members in Massachusetts: the Beacon Hill Institute and the Tuerck Foundation for the Study of Economics, Law and the Humanities.


ALEC in the Bay State
The Pioneer Institute has close connections to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a controversial rightwing organization where state lawmakers and corporate lobbyists come together to vote on "model" legislation behind closed doors, with no public input, which is then introduced in state legislatures across the country. ALEC's agenda often mirrors the special interests of its corporate members. The Pioneer Institute is a member of ALEC's Education Task Force, where the institute writes, votes on, and/or advocates for model legislation to privative public schools, attack teachers' rights, and give tax credits to corporations that fund private schools. The State Policy Network, which the Pioneer Institute is an affiliate of, is also a long time member and sponsor of ALEC. Additionally, the man behind SPN's two associate members in Massachusetts - David Tuerck - has spoken at ALEC conferences in the past.

How the Pioneer Institute Fits Into the National Right-Wing Network
By the late 1980s, conservative activists had tried to start several right-wing think tanks in Massachusetts, but none had been successful. It was not until businessman and major Republican funder Lovett C. Peters offered $160,000 to start a new think tank, which became the Pioneer Institute. With Peters’ funding and the association with the national State Policy Network, the Pioneer Institute has become a powerful mainstay both in the Massachusetts’s conservative circles and the national right-wing network. The institute has been credited for laying the groundwork that led to the elections of recent Republican governors in the state, including Mitt Romney. Since its founding, founder Lovett Peters has won awards for his work with the Pioneer Institute from the State Policy Network and the Mackinac Center (Michigan’s SPN think tank). In addition to its membership in SPN and ALEC, the Pioneer Institute maintains close connections to other conservative groups. Over the years, the Pioneer Institute has worked with the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, and the Franklin Center. The funding sources behind the Pioneer Institute further reveal their right-wing connections. The institute has received $300,000 directly from the notorious Koch brothers, through the David H. Koch Charitable Foundation, in addition in the nearly half a million it has received from the Koch-funded Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund, known as the “dark money ATM of the conservative movement.” Other major funders include the Walton Family Foundation (of Walmart) and the Roe Foundation (of SPN founder Thomas Roe). The few known Pioneer donors are all based outside of Massachusetts: FUNDER BASED IN AMOUNT YEARS The Shelby Cullom Davis Foundation Maryland $641,000 1998-2007 Donors Trust/Donors Capital Fund Virginia $481,500 2007-2011 Jaquelin Hume Foundation California $359,500 1999-2011 Walton Family Foundation Arkansas $316,850 1998-2001 David H. Koch Charitable Foundation Kansas $300,000 1995-2001 The Roe Foundation South Carolina $83,000 1998-2011 Smith Richardson Foundation North Carolina $50,000 1996 JM Foundation New York $25,000 2011 John M. Olin Foundation New York $20,000 1992 Diana Davis Spencer Foundation Maryland $15,000 2008 Pierre F. and Enid Goodrich Foundation Indiana $10,000 2009 The Randolph Foundation New York $1,000 2009



SPN In Your State: massachusetts

"They've funded the expansion of charter schools at a time when class size funding is cut, full-day kindergarten is gone…The expansion of charter schools is primarily a Pioneer Institute proposal. That has very little to do with common sense, and much more to do with ideology."
! MA State Senator Marc R. Pacheco [The Boston Globe, 3/17/2003]

The Pioneer Institute’s Destructive Agenda for Massachusetts’s Middle Class
! ! ! Privative public schools through vouchers and charter schools Block access to affordable healthcare for Massachusetts’s families Restrict workers’ collective bargaining rights ! ! ! Lower the minimum wage Lower corporate taxes


Attacking Public Education in Massachusetts
The Pioneer Institute has a long history of attacking public schools in Massachusetts. Beginning with a 1992 report that advocated for privatizing Massachusetts’ public schools with vouchers and charter schools, which became a leading study cited by proponents of education privatization, the Pioneer Institute has become the leading voice for school privatization in the Bay State. Their attacks on public education have not come without controversy though. In 2003, the institute was the subject of controversy when three members of the Pioneer Institute’s staff/board sat on the Massachusetts Board of Education: Board member Charles Baker, Academic Advisor Abigail Thernstorm, and Chairman James Peyser. At the time, the board was getting ready to vote on 11 proposed charter schools, six of which had received training, support, and a $50,000 stipend (each) from the Pioneer Institute. Despite the clear conflict of interest, both Thernstorm and Peyser voted on the case (Baker missed the vote due to a scheduling conflict). The controversy was later brought up in a lawsuit against the state over the public financing of privately operated schools. Today, the Pioneer Institute continues to advocate against Massachusetts public schools and for more school privatization measures largely through their Center for School Reform. The center publishes research, sponsors events, contributes commentary to major state and national press outlets, and even testifies before the state legislature in favor of privatizing public schools. The Pioneer Institute is also a member of ALEC’s Education Task Force, which has produced a number of “model” bills aimed at privatizing schools through vouchers and charter schools.

Destroy pension benefits by switching public employees to a defined-contribution plan

The Pioneer Institute, accessed 9/12/2013

Close Connections to Mitt Romney
The Pioneer Institute is also known for its close connections to former Massachusetts governor and failed 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Over the years, at least ten Pioneer staffers or board members have worked for Romney during his time as governor and during his presidential campaigns, including: ! Pioneer Fellow Charles Chieppo, Romney’s Policy Director during his time as governor ! Pioneer board member Kerry Healey, Romney’s Lieutenant Governor ! Pioneer’s Research Director Steve Poftak, Romney’s head of Executive Office of Administration and Finance ! Pioneer’s former executive director Jim Peyser was on the Romney campaign’s education committee during the 2012 election


“The Pioneer Institute is an influential voice in state politics, more a part of the political scene on Beacon Hill than ever. Its members have been tapped for influential roles in Governor Mitt Romney's administration.”
[The Boston Globe, 3/17/2003]

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