For more than 20 years, the Freedom Foundation (formerly known as the Evergreen Freedom Foundation) worked extensively on conservative economic issues, including local property rights, the 2/3rds supermajority to close tax loopholes or raise new revenue, charter schools and fighting unions. Since Tom McCabe became CEO in 2013, the Freedom Foundation has refocused its 26 member staff and $2.5 million annual budget toward "defunding the union political machine." McCabe has turned the Freedom Foundation into an aggressive anti-worker organization, supporting anti-worker politicians and policies at the state and local level.
McCabe’s messy exit from the Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW) left the former political powerhouse in shambles. As a result of his time there, the BIAW has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and continues to fight litigation for illegally using member money for political activities. McCabe also became infamous for comparing environmentalists to Nazis and referring to former Gov. Christine Gregoire as a “power-hungry she-wolf” in the press. Despite this awful track record, McCabe negotiated a reported $1.25 million golden parachute for his departure. He has now brought his aggressive, law-bending, anti-worker style to the Freedom Foundation.
The Freedom Foundation receives hundreds of thousands of dollars each year from out-of-state conservative foundations and organizations, according to their IRS filings. Their major funders are connected to the Koch Brothers and support other far-right groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council.
Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund:
Donors Trust has been referred to by Mother Jones magazine as “The Dark-Money ATM of the conservative movement.” It was founded in 1999 "to ensure the intent of donors who are dedicated to the ideals of limited government, personal responsibility, and free enterprise." Donors Capital Fund is a partner fund open to “clients with accounts that carry balances of $1,000,000 or more.” The largest funders of these Virginia-based organizations are Charles Koch, Richard and Helen DeVos, The Searle Foundation, and other wealthy conservatives. Combined, these two organizations have contributed more than $340,000 to the Freedom Foundation since 2011.
The State Policy Network:
This is the hub for creating, funding, and supporting a network of state-based “free market” think tanks around the country. Fueled by large donations from the Koch Brothers and other wealthy conservatives, the State Policy Network and its affiliates are some of the primary drivers of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) agenda in statehouses around the country. The Virginia-based State Policy Network has contributed more than $165,000 to the Freedom Foundation since 2011, and Freedom Foundation found Bob Williams is a member of the Board of Advisors to the SPN.
The Searle Freedom Trust:
This Illinois-based conservative foundation funds the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity, the American Enterprise Institute, the ALEC, the prominent climate science denying Heartland Institute, State Policy Network, and many other right-wing groups. The Searle Freedom Trust has contributed at least $160,000 to the Freedom Foundation since 2012.
Jacquelin Hume Foundation:
The Hume Foundation was founded in 1962 as a conservative/libertarian grantor and shifted its focus to charter schools and education reform in 1998. Located in California, the foundation funds many other State Policy Network members, as well as ALEC and the Heritage Foundation. The Jaquelin Hume Foundation has contributed at least $137,000 to the Freedom Foundation since 2011.
ALEC is a shadowy far-right group where corporations pay for the opportunity to peddle conservative model legislation to state legislators. ALEC has been forced into the national spotlight for its alleged support of “kill at will” gun laws after the Treyvon Martin shooting in Florida, and later for its refusal to acknowledge climate change as a real, man-made, human health threat. More than 100 corporations and legislators have since dropped or renounced their affiliation with ALEC, including Amazon.com and the Gates Foundation.
The Freedom Foundation has been a prominent and active member of ALEC. One of ALEC’s most high profile publications is their “Toolkit” for state budget reforms. This 42-page document contains dozens of tips and policy suggestions for states to cut services, attack workers, and undermine the integrity of government. Freedom Foundation founder Bob Williams and Economic Policy Fellow Amber Gunn are two of the eight authors of the toolkit. In addition, the Freedom Foundation is credited as one of ALEC’s five “Publication Partners” and Williams is the Private Sector Chairman of ALEC’s “Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force.” Finally, the report cites the Freedom Foundation’s work in Washington as a model at least four times in the report.
The Freedom Foundation launched pairs of local anti-worker ballot measures in cities throughout Washington in 2014, including Chelan, Blaine, Sequim, and Shelton. In each city, the Freedom Foundation paid and recruited signature gatherers in support of two similar measures that would undermine workers’ rights and the ability of unions to negotiate better pay, benefits, and working conditions. The text of these initiatives is available as part of legal action in Shelton here.
In each of these four instances, members of the city council rejected both of these initiatives as illegal. Numerous city council people in the various cities commented on the lack of local support for the initiatives, including Commissioner Mike Olsen in Shelton, who said, “I find it kind of interesting that after listening to all that [testimony on right to work legislation], of all the people who spoke in favor of it, one person lived in the city of Shelton within city limits.” After being rejected by the local elected officials, The Freedom Foundation pursued legal action against the cities of Chelan, Shelton, and Sequim. In each case, local judges rejected their appeals and sided with the city councils.