Illinois Policy Institute

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The Illinois Policy, formerly the Illinois Policy Institute (IPI), is a conservative think tank with offices in Chicago and Springfield, Illinois, and a member of the State Policy Network. The IPI describes itself as a "leading independent research and education organization."[1] It claims that "the ultimate sign of success is when free-market ideas are turned into law and change lives for the better."[1]

IPI has two related non-profit organizations: the Liberty Justice Center and the Government Accountability Alliance.[2]

News and Controversies

Listed as a Defender and Beneficiary of the Tobacco Industry

A 2019 investigation published by The Guardian alleges that "more than 100 free-market think tanks have argued against tobacco control policies or accepted donations from the tobacco industry," IPI was one of those groups who has done both. IPI has "argued repeatedly against cigarette taxes in 2017 and 2018" and "called cigarette taxes “regressive" for the poor, a position the World Bank has repeatedly debunked." IPI has accepted funding from Altria, Marlboro's manufacturer's parent company every year from 2011 to 2017.[3]

Anti Union Efforts Following Janus

IPI is a part of "a massive effort to convince union members to stop paying dues" by the State Policy Network.[4] The Mackinac Center, Commonwealth Foundation, Yankee Institute for Public Policy, Center of the American Experiment, National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, Nevada Policy Research Institute, Freedom Foundation, Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, Education Action Group and IPI all have launched online projects to instruct union members how to stop paying dues.[4] is IPI's contribution to this effort. According to IPI, the site is meant as an educational resource to help people "understand their options" because "unions have tried to make “opting out” of membership a tricky process."[5] The site purports to be a resource to answer questions such as "What does the Janus v. AFSCME decision mean?" and "When can I end my union dues or fees?" It also promotes Association of American Educators -- a group which AAE considers itself, "well-positioned to help further weaken the unions and their political goals."[6] -- as an alternative to unions.

IPI also operates websites giving instructions for employees to leave their specific unions, all of which are copies of the site, but with a header tailored to individual union's name and links to instructions on the top right-hand side of the page.

  • targets the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union members.
  • targets Unit Five Education Association union members.
  • targets Illinois Education Association union members.
  • targets Chicago Teachers Union members.

Nick Surgey of Documented Investigations uncovered literature which IPI is disseminating to further this cause.


Mark Janus Hired as Senior Fellow

IPI "helped bankroll" Janus v. AFSCME Council 31. Mark Janus replaced Bruce Rauner as the plaintiff in the anti-union case once a judge said the Illinois Governor had no legal standing. Less than a month after the decision came down on June 27, 2018, Janus quit his job as a public school teacher and announced that he would be a "senior fellow" at IPI. Janus earned $71,000 as a public school teacher, IPI did not disclose the former school teacher's salary but did say he would function as a spokesperson for their causes. "Their staff is working to turn around the state of Illinois," Janus said in a statement announcing his new job, "I am grateful for the opportunity to spend the remainder of my career doing something I believe in.”[7]

The move was likened by some to that of Janus's plaintiff predecessor, Rebecca Friedrichs of Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, who took a position at the State Policy Network after her case was finished.[8][9]

Union members at Janus's former place of employment announced on Twitter that they had a party in honor of Janus's retirement, "Mark #Janus is retiring from the State of Illinois today, so we threw a retirement party in his building! Unfortunately[,] it's for members only, so he isn't able to attend :( #unionstrong #afscme"[10]

IPI CEO Gaining in Wealth in Ethically Questionable Ways

While the IPI "attacked political insiders for profiting off the system, Current IPI CEO John Tillman was able to increase his own bottom line, parlaying a small-government message into growing paychecks for himself and other top staff members" according to a joint investigation from ProPublica and The Chicago Sun-Times. "Through an often-dizzying series of transactions Tillman and his associates have moved millions of dollars around five interconnected nonprofits they run -- while steering money to for-profit ventures they have a stake in and growing their paychecks." The investigation remarked that Tillman's "transactions raise ethical questions and could violate the federal tax code for nonprofits." [11]

This incident lead to many critiques. A former financial supporter of IPI and current Republican Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner vowed to cut ties with the organization. "I’m very troubled, very troubled by what I’ve learned. And I certainly would not give them any more money," said Rauner.[12] The Chicago Sun-Times editorial board wrote, "the arrangements smell, and we urge state Sen. Chris Nybo, a Republican, to follow through on his threat to push for investigations by the FBI and the IRS ... we have to wonder why the Illinois Policy Institute and the others nonprofits still qualify for tax-exempt status. Intentional or not, this looks like tax-dodging"[13] U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski called upon the Internal Revenue Service to investigate IPI. [14]

Funding of Project Six

Project Six is a project of former Chicago City Council Inspector General Faisal Khan, launched in 2016 as an "anti-corruption," "independent and nonpartisan" group, but "almost all" of the start-up money for Project Six came from IPI. [15] CMD's David Armirak reported "according to a 2016 IRS filing, IPI gave Project Six $623,789 for sharing “the same principles as Illinois Policy Institute.” This is over 98% of the $634,341 that Project Six raised in 2016." [16]

In addition to funding from IPI, Project Six founder Khan "hired Illinois Policy Institute staffer Nate Hamilton as Project Six’s director of marketing and communications. Three of the organization’s initial board members also had connections to the institute." [15]

Connection to "pro-Rauner propaganda"

In 2017, Gateway Journalism Review published an investigation by a class at the School of Journalism at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. "When people in Carbondale, DuPage, Chicago, Kankakee, Rock Island, Will County and other Illinois communities pick up the local newspaper or click on a website, they are promised traditional journalistic values ... What readers get is a strong pro-Republican, pro-Rauner, anti-Michael Madigan slant manufactured by the interlocking group of media organizations revolving around the free-market, anti-tax, anti-union Illinois Policy Institute (IPI)." [17]

IPI President and COO Hired as Chief of Staff for IL Gov

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner fired his Chief of Staff Richard Goldberg and replaced him with IPI President and COO Kristina Rasmussen on July 10, 2017.[18]

Ties to the Bradley Foundation

Through 2016 the Illinois Policy Institute received $320,000 from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.

Bradley detailed the most recent grants in internal documents examined by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD). Below is a description of the grant prepared by CMD. The quoted text was written by Bradley staff.

2015: $150,000 to support a Criminal Justice Center. As of this grant, IPI has received $170,000 from the Bradley Foundation. “IPI’s Criminal Justice Center provides an important opportunity to develop meaningful policy ideas and the most meaningful messaging ways to reach a market segment where the reform message resonates most. If successful, the Center’s efforts will lay a foundation to replicate elsewhere throughout the country.”

Bradley Files

In 2017, the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), publishers of SourceWatch, launched a series of articles on the Milwaukee-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, exposing the inner-workings of one of America's largest right-wing foundations. 56,000 previously undisclosed documents laid bare the Bradley Foundation's highly politicized agenda. CMD detailed Bradley's efforts to map and measure right wing infrastructure nationwide, including by dismantling and defunding unions to impact state elections; bankrolling discredited spin doctor Richard Berman and his many front groups; and more.

Find the series here at

Ties to the Koch Brothers

As of August 2016, IPI is listed as a "partner organization" in the Charles Koch Institute's Liberty@Work program.[19]

IPI has also received $789,206 from DonorsTrust and $807,750 from Donors Capital Fund between 2010 and 2014, groups with ties to the Kochs.

A report by the Center for Public Integrity exposes a number of DonorsTrust funders, many of which have ties to the Koch brothers. One of the most prominent funders is the Knowledge and Progress Fund, a Charles Koch-run organization and one of the group's largest known contributors, having donated at least $8 million since 2005. Other contributors known to have donated at least $1 million to DonorsTrust include the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation, Donald & Paula Smith Family Foundation, Searle Freedom Trust, Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, and the John M. Olin Foundation.[20]

Since its inception in 1999, DonorsTrust has been used by conservative foundations and individuals to discretely funnel nearly $400 million to like-minded think tanks and media outlets.[20] According to the organization's tax documents, in 2011 DonorsTrust contributed a total of $86 million to right-wing organizations. Many recipients had ties to the State Policy Network (SPN), a wide collection of conservative state-based think tanks and media organizations that focus on shaping public policy and opinion.

In 2013, the Center for Media and Democracy released a special report on SPN. Those who received DonorsTrust funding included media outlets such as the Franklin Center and the Lucy Burns Institute, as well as think tanks such as SPN itself, the Heartland Institute, Illinois Policy Institute, Independence Institute, Mackinac Center for Public Policy, South Carolina Policy Council, American Legislative Exchange Council, Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, and the Cascade Policy Institute.[21]

Koch Wiki

The Koch brothers -- David and Charles -- are the right-wing billionaire co-owners of Koch Industries. As two of the richest people in the world, they are key funders of the right-wing infrastructure, including the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the State Policy Network (SPN). In SourceWatch, key articles on the Kochs include: Koch Brothers, Koch Industries, Americans for Prosperity, American Encore, and Freedom Partners.

Ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council

IPI is a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). IPI was on the host committee for the 2013 ALEC Annual Conference,[22] and “Vice Chairman” level sponsor of the 2013 ALEC Annual Conference ($25,000).[23]

In 2011, Brian Costin, IPI Director of Outreach, and Ted Dabrowski, Vice President of Policy, represented IPI on ALEC's Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force. At the 2011 Annual Meeting, Costin introduced the "Local Government Transparency Act" model legislation, and Dabrowski introduced the "Pension Funding and Fairness Act" model legislation for adoption by the task force. The latter was adopted and proceeded to the ALEC Board of Directors for approval.[24] Executive Vice President Kristina Rasmussen represented IPI on the Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force as of April 2010, when she penned an article entitled "Pension Funding Reform: A Solution for Budget Deficits" for ALEC's newsletter, Inside ALEC.[25]

IPI is also a member of ALEC's Health and Human Services Task Force and Education Task Force. Senior Budget and Tax Policy Analyst, Amanda Griffin-Johnson, presented model legislation (the “State Employee Health Savings Account Act”) to the HHS task force at ALEC's 2011 annual meeting.[26] Collin Hitt, Director of Education Policy, is a private sector member of the Education Task Force representing IPI. He sponsored the “Local Government Transparency Act” at the ALEC 2011 States and Nation Policy Summit.[27]

About ALEC
ALEC is a corporate bill mill. It is not just a lobby or a front group; it is much more powerful than that. Through ALEC, corporations hand state legislators their wishlists to benefit their bottom line. Corporations fund almost all of ALEC's operations. They pay for a seat on ALEC task forces where corporate lobbyists and special interest reps vote with elected officials to approve “model” bills. Learn more at the Center for Media and Democracy's, and check out breaking news on our site.

State Policy Network

The Illinois Policy Institute is a member of the State Policy Network. SPN has made the following contributions to the Illinois Policy Institute:[28]

  • In 2016, $150,700 for "General Operating and Travel Scholarship"
  • In 2015, $126,300 for "General Operating, labor education, regulation research, labor research"
  • In 2014, $38,300 for "Debate series, general operating"
  • In 2013, $45,000 for "Debate series"
  • In 2012, $167,000 for "General operating, federalism projects, Rupe debate series, tax & budget research, and We the People project"

SPN is a web of right-wing “think tanks” and tax-exempt organizations in 50 states, Washington, D.C., Canada, and the United Kingdom. As of October 2019, SPN's membership totals 162. Today's SPN is the tip of the spear of far-right, nationally funded policy agenda in the states that undergirds extremists in the Republican Party. SPN Executive Director Tracie Sharp told the Wall Street Journal in 2017 that the revenue of the combined groups was some $80 million, but a 2019 analysis of SPN's main members IRS filings by the Center for Media and Democracy shows that the combined revenue is over $120 million.[29] Although SPN's member organizations claim to be nonpartisan and independent, the Center for Media and Democracy's in-depth investigation, "EXPOSED: The State Policy Network -- The Powerful Right-Wing Network Helping to Hijack State Politics and Government," reveals that SPN and its member think tanks are major drivers of the right-wing, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)-backed corporate agenda in state houses nationwide, with deep ties to the Koch brothers and the national right-wing network of funders.[30]

In response to CMD's report, SPN Executive Director Tracie Sharp told national and statehouse reporters that SPN affiliates are "fiercely independent." Later the same week, however, The New Yorker's Jane Mayer caught Sharp in a contradiction. In her article, "Is IKEA the New Model for the Conservative Movement?," the Pulitzer-nominated reporter revealed that, in a recent meeting behind closed doors with the heads of SPN affiliates around the country, Sharp "compared the organization’s model to that of the giant global chain IKEA." She reportedly said that SPN "would provide 'the raw materials,' along with the 'services' needed to assemble the products. Rather than acting like passive customers who buy finished products, she wanted each state group to show the enterprise and creativity needed to assemble the parts in their home states. 'Pick what you need,' she said, 'and customize it for what works best for you.'" Not only that, but Sharp "also acknowledged privately to the members that the organization's often anonymous donors frequently shape the agenda. 'The grants are driven by donor intent,' she told the gathered think-tank heads. She added that, often, 'the donors have a very specific idea of what they want to happen.'"[31]

A set of coordinated fundraising proposals obtained and released by The Guardian in early December 2013 confirm many of these SPN members' intent to change state laws and policies, referring to "advancing model legislation" and "candidate briefings." These activities "arguably cross the line into lobbying," The Guardian notes.[32]

Ties to the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity

In 2018, IPI transferred ownership of The Illinois News Network to the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity. [33] The Illinois Policy Institute has hosted writers from the ALEC-connected Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, which screens potential reporters on their “free market” views as part of the job application process.[34] The Franklin Center funds reporters in over 40 states.[35] Despite their non-partisan description, many of the websites funded by the Franklin Center have received criticism for their conservative bias.[36][37] On its website, the Franklin Center claims it "provides 10 percent of all daily reporting from state capitals nationwide."[38]

Franklin Center Funding

Franklin Center Director of Communications Michael Moroney told the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) in 2013 that the source of the Franklin Center's funding "is 100 percent anonymous." But 95 percent of its 2011 funding came from DonorsTrust, a spin-off of the Philanthropy Roundtable that functions as a large "donor-advised fund," cloaking the identity of donors to right-wing causes across the country (CPI did a review of Franklin's Internal Revenue Service records).[39] Mother Jones called DonorsTrust "the dark-money ATM of the conservative movement" in a February 2013 article.[40] Franklin received DonorTrust's second-largest donation in 2011.[39]

The Franklin Center also receives funding from the Wisconsin-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation,[41] a conservative grant-making organization.[42]

The Franklin Center was launched by the Chicago-based Sam Adams Alliance (SAM),[43] a 501(c)(3) devoted to pushing free-market ideals. SAM gets funding from the State Policy Network,[44] which is partially funded by The Claude R. Lambe Foundation.[45] Charles Koch, one of the billionaire brothers who co-own Koch Industries, sits on the board of this foundation.[46] SAM also receives funding from the Rodney Fund.

Local Right to Work and Lawsuits in Illinois

The village board of Lincolnshire, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, passed a local "Right to Work" ordinance in December 2015. On February 18, 2016, a federal lawsuit was filed by four unions challenging the legality of the ordinance. One of the unions also filed a lawsuit in Lake County alleging that the village board had violated open meetings laws when it passed the ordinance. In January 2016 the Liberty Justice Center, a law firm affiliated with the Illinois Policy Institute, "entered into an agreement with the village provide Lincolnshire with pro-bono legal representation in its defense of the ordinance," according to the Chicago Tribune.[47] Lawyers with the Liberty Justice Center confirmed to the Chicago Tribune in April 2016 that they would represent Lincolnshire in the two lawsuits related to the ordinance.[48] At that time, the lawsuits had not been resolved.


IPI does not list its funders publicly. Its website states: "Because the Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit charitable organization, our supporters’ names are kept private, although donors are free to share their reasons for supporting our efforts."[49]

A 2019 investigation from The Guardian revealed that Altria has contributed funds IPI every year from 2011-2017.[3]

IPI's known funders through financial disclosures include:

Core Financials


  • Total Revenue: $8,560,352
  • Total Expenses: $8,692,900
  • Net Assets: $808,841

Grants Distributed


  • Total Revenue: $6,592,870
  • Total Expenses: $6,963,067
  • Net Assets: $941,389

Grants Distributed


  • Total Revenue: $5,819,542
  • Total Expenses: $4,971,904
  • Net Assets: $1,311,586

Grants Distributed


  • Total Revenue: $3,535,075
  • Total Expenses: $3,856,029
  • Net Assets: $463,948

Grants Distributed


  • Total Revenue: $3,424,206
  • Total Expenses: $3,091,020
    • Reported Lobbying Expenditures: $25,777
  • Net Assets: $784,902

Grants Distributed


  • Total Revenue: $3,701,372
  • Total Expenses: $3,658,188
    • Reported Lobbying Expenditures: $18,616
  • Net Assets: $451,716

Grants Distributed


  • Total Revenue: $2,875,519
  • Total Expenses: $2,643,618
    • Reported Lobbying Expenditures: $13,678
  • Net Assets: $408,532

Grants Distributed


  • Total Revenue: $1,791,057
  • Total Expenses: $1,732,183
  • Net Assets: $176,631


  • Total Revenue: $1,469,110
  • Total Expenses: $1,327,172
  • Net Assets: $117,757



Staff as of June 2019 [59]

  • John Tillman, CEO
  • Matt Paprocki, IPI President and chairman of the Illinois Policy PAC[60]
  • Adam Schuster, Director Of Budget And Tax Research
  • Amy Korte, Director Of Research
  • Andy Gowdy, External Relations Officer
  • Ari Shroyer, Government Affairs Coordinator
  • Austin Berg, Director Of Content Strategy
  • Ben Paoletti, Government Affairs Intern
  • Bill Reveille, Policy Analyst
  • Brad Weisenstein, Editor
  • Bradley Warren, Director Of External Relations
  • Bryce Hill, Research Analyst
  • Cinda Pensabene, Human Resources Manager
  • Eric Allie, Editorial Cartoonist
  • Eric Kohn, Marketing Manager
  • Jean Hutton, Director of Operations
  • Jim Long, Director Of Government Affairs
  • Joe Barnas, Marketing Intern
  • Joe Tabor, Policy Analyst
  • Jordan Schneider, Executive Assistant
  • Louis Stone, Chief Financial Officer
  • Mailee Smith, Staff Attorney
  • Mathew Quinn, Motion Graphic Artist
  • Melanie Krakauer, Media Relations Manager
  • Michelle Mathia, Facilities Coordinator
  • Mindy Ruckman, Government Affairs Legislative Analyst
  • Natalie Bezek, Director Of Investor Relations
  • Nicholas Farrar, External Relations Associate
  • Orphe Divounguy, Chief Economist
  • Rachel Wittel, Communications Associate
  • Remo Wakeford, Video Production Specialist
  • Robert Isham, External Relations Officer
  • Sherry Street, External Relations Officer
  • Vincent Caruso, Writer
  • Zack Urevig, Director of Development Operations
  • David Camic, Senior Fellow
  • Erik Randolph, Senior Fellow
  • F. Vincent Vernuccio, Senior Fellow
  • Mark Janus, Senior Fellow
  • Mike Shedlock, Senior Fellow
  • Nicholas Horton, Senior Research Fellow
  • Emily Rose Mccallister, Vice President of External Relations
  • Hilary Gowns, Vice President of Communication

Board of Directors

As of June 2019:[59]

  • Art Margulis, Board Member
  • Craig S. Mankse, Board Member
  • Dick Weiss, Board Member
  • Ed Bachrach, Board Member
  • Mark Miller, Board Member
  • Steve Brown, Board Member
  • John Tillman, CEO

Former Staff

  • Chris Lentino, Director Of Outreach
  • Jordan Sperando, Executive Assistant
  • Kayla Weems, Media Relations Manager
  • Ted Dabrowski, Vice President of Policy and Spokesman
  • Kristina Rasmussen, President and COO
  • Michael Lucci, Vice President of Policy
  • Jacob Huebert, Senior Attorney
  • Diane Rickert, Vice President of Communications
  • Rebecca Kohn, Senior Manager of External Relations
  • Brian Costin, Director of Government Reform
  • Paul Kersey, Director of Labor Policy
  • Jonathan Ingram, Director of Health Policy and Pension Reform
  • Craig Lesner, Budget and Tax Research Director
  • Benjamin VanMetre, Senior Budget and Tax Policy Analyst
  • Josh Dwyer, Director of Education Reform
  • Jean Hutton, Operations Manager
  • Roxane Tyssen, External Relations Associate
  • Jen Dillman, Regional Director of External Relations, Central and Southern Illinois
  • Scott Reeder, Journalist in Residence
  • MaryAnn McCabe, External Relations Associate
  • Jane McEnaney, Policy Outreach Manager
  • Heather Wilhelm, Senior Fellow, Communications
  • J. Scott Moody, Senior Fellow for Budget and Tax Policy
  • Jerry Agar, Multimedia Fellow
  • Don Soifer, Senior Fellow, Education
  • Andrew Busch, Senior Fellow, Finance and Markets
  • Leonard Gilroy, Senior Fellow, Regulation and Privatization
  • Donna Arduin, Senior Fellow, Budget and Tax Policy
  • John Hill, Senior Fellow, Energy Policy
  • Jim Porterfield, Senior Fellow, Health Care Policy
  • Marc Levine, Senior Fellow, Pension and Investment Policy
  • John Stephen, JD, Senior Fellow, Health Care Policy
  • Jonathan Bean, Southern Illinois University
  • Rik Hafer, Southern Illinois University - Edwardsville
  • William J. Kresse, Saint Xavier University
  • Patrick Mullen, University of Illinois - Springfield
  • Robert Podlasek, Bradley University
  • Brendan Bakala, Marketing Associate
  • Judi Willard, External Relations Coordinator
  • Pat Hughes, External Relations Advisor

Former Directors

Contact Details

EIN: 41-2057028

Chicago Office
Illinois Policy Institute
190 S. LaSalle Street, Suite 1500
Chicago, IL 60603
Phone: 312-346-5700
Fax: 312-212-5277

Springfield Office
Illinois Policy Institute
802 South 2nd Street
Springfield, IL 62704
Phone: 217-528-8800
Fax: 312-212-5277


Articles and Resources

IRS Form 990 Filings







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