Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Fed Up Think Tank in Austin: Rick Perry and the Texas Public Policy Foundation

If Rick Perry goes to Washington, it's likely that he will bring with him the conservative policies and principles of the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

Perry’s campaign book, Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America from Washington is copyrighted to this Austin policy institute. Founded in 1989, the foundation’s mission is to “promote and defend liberty, personal responsibility, and free enterprise in Texas and the nation by educating and affecting policymakers and the Texas public policy debate with academically sound research and outreach.”

The Texas Public Policy Foundation was founded by James R. Leininger on the model of the Heritage Foundation, the highly successful Washington, DC conservative think tank.

The foundation has worked closely with the state’s Republican leadership to set Texas policy and budget directions.  TPPF says:

For more than 22 years, the Texas Public Policy Foundation has stood as a voice of liberty, free enterprise, and personal responsibility in Texas. Our successful policy recommendations in Texas have made our state a model of applied conservative principles. Our success has put us in the unique and honorable position of leading other states to retain control over state issues and spending. Now considered one of the leading state-focused think tanks in the nation, the Foundation is being called on to provide model policy recommendations, oversee major national outreach efforts, teach our methods to likeminded groups throughout the nation, and defend liberty in a variety of policy areas.

In the book’s “Author’s Note” Perry writes that he has been “proud to partner with them to help ensure that Texas is a national leader in the cause of liberty and respect for limited government.”

Perry says the foundation “has helped make Texas stronger while defending the Constitution and demonstrating the harm caused by the excesses of Washington.” He then cites their role in fighting “Obamacare,” “rampant federal spending,” and the “perils of environmental policy” arising from the “hysteria of global warming.”

Perry’s bona fides as a social and fiscal conservative are underscored by his close association with this conservative policy institute.

Before joining the foundation as president and CEO eight years ago, Brooke L. Rollins worked in the governor’s office, first as Perry’s deputy general counsel and then as Policy Director. According to the profile on the foundation’s website, Rollins “managed the Governor’s Policy Division and all policy issues including education, transportation, natural resources, agriculture, criminal justice, economic development, health and human services, and insurance.”

The Texas Monthly (February 2011) named Rollins one of the state’s most powerful people – a member of the Texas “Power Company.” According to the magazine, “TPPF’s positions on issues can make the difference between life and death for major legislation.”

Another leading figure at TPPF is Wendy Lee Gramm, who is a senior scholar at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, which functions as a free-market think tank. Married to former U.S. Senator Phil Gramm, she serves as the chair of TPPF and is also on the board of directors of the Independent Women’s Forum, a right-wing women’s advocacy institute. Gramm has also been a member of numerous corporate boards, including Iowa Beef Processors, State Farm, and Enron Corporation, which contributed to the Mercatus Center before imploding.

TPPF’s own conservative politics are readily apparent in its donor list and in its position papers.

As well as founding TPPF, James Leininger also underwrote the foundation with his personal wealth during its formative years. Other conservative advocacy and policy groups founded by Leininger include the two right-wing judicial groups, Texans for Justice and Texas Justice Foundation. He also founded several political action committees that have been instrumental in advancing conservative leadership in Texas, including the Committee for Governmental Integrity, Texas for Governmental Integrity, and Texans for Judicial Integrity.

In addition to funding the organizations he created in Austin, Leininger has funded national social conservative organizations, including the American Family Association, Christian Pro-Life Foundation, Family Research Council, and Focus on the Family.

Foundations account for 38 percent of TPPF’s $4.5 million annual budget. Two foundations associated with Koch Industries (Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation and Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation) have been longtime supporters of TPPF, contributing $383,125 in 2005-2009 and nearly a half million dollars between 1997 and 2009.

TPPF’s policy interests cover a broad spectrum of conservative causes – from disputing climate change science, promoting private imprisonment, developing states’ rights initiatives, and limiting federal regulation of business.

It offers various policy agendas for state and national legislators and officials.  Its “Agenda for Prosperity” is described as “a roadmap of effective principles that will keep Texas on its path of extraordinary economic growth, and preserve the Lone Star State’s role as a beacon of liberty to the rest of the nation.”

As part of the 2012-13 budget process, TPPF teamed up with another Koch-funded advocacy groups, including Americans for Prosperity-Texas, to form Texans for a Conservative Budget. Other coalition members included Americans for Tax Reform, Liberty Institute, and Heartland Institute.

TPPF reports that this year it also “conducted the federalism portion of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s [ALEC] midwinter conference in Washington, D.C., bringing together more than 900 state legislators from across the country to present our Agenda for State Action and discuss a series of proposals on what the states can do to reverse federal overreach and restore Constitutional rights.”

Throughout his book Fed Up! Perry argues a states’ rights position for downsizing federal government. Perry says that all his author’s net proceeds will go to TPPF’s newly established Center for Tenth Amendment Studies.

According to Perry, the “unprecedented federal intrusion” into American life violates the Tenth Amendment’s provisions. According to Perry, the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution specifies that “all powers not specifically granted to the federal government are reserved to the states and to the people.” That’s an interpretation not shared by most constitutional scholars and manifestly conflicts with the “necessary and proper” clause of Article I of the U.S. Constitution.

The foundation is an avid and effective advocate of the privatization of prisons and other parts of the criminal justice system. In its Private Sector Public Safety Solutions policy brief, the foundation asserts that the “private sector can bring innovation and competition to the criminal justice system.” The paper echoes the highly contested argument that private prisons cost less than public ones, stating that “private prisons cost Texas taxpayers about 14 percent less to operate than their government-run counterparts.”

With respect to climate change science, the Texas Public Policy Foundation contends that the “scientific consensus has never been as broad as proclaimed.” In a policy paper on climate change, TPPF asserts that there are mounting questions about the scientific justification for binding CO2 limits and subsidies for alternative energy.”

It claims that “the U.S. government has dismissed mounting evidence of core errors in orthodox global warming science sponsored by the United Nations.” TPPF’s policy agenda recommendations include “urging federal policymakers to establish an independent, rigorous review” of UN climate science, “suspending state programs that require or incentivize” greenhouse gas reductions, and “avoiding state and federal mandates to reduce CO2” emissions. To combat what Governor Perry calls climate change hysteria, TPPF is promoting the development of “extending the new empirical climate science.”

In Fed Up! Governor Perry says that he knows of no other organization that is better positioned than Texas Public Policy Foundation to help “foster a national conversation” about “the proper role of government in our lives.”

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