John Locke Foundation

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The John Locke Foundation (JLF) is a right-wing pressure group based in North Carolina. Created in 1990, it describes itself as "an independent, nonprofit think tank that would work 'for truth, for freedom, and for the future of North Carolina.'"[1] It is an affiliate member of the State Policy Network (SPN).[2]

JLF publishes the monthly Carolina Journal a right-wing nonprofit news site.

News and Controversies

JLF Called Out for Blocking Action on Climate Change

In July of 2016, nineteen U.S. Senators delivered a series of speeches denouncing climate change denial from 32 organizations with links to fossil-fuel interests, including the John Locke Foundation.[3] Sen. Whitehouse (RI-D), who led the effort to expose "the web of denial" said in his remarks on the floor that the purpose was to,

"shine a little light on the web of climate denial and spotlight the bad actors in the web, who are polluting our American discourse with phony climate denial. This web of denial, formed over decades, has been built and provisioned by the deep-pocketed Koch brothers, by ExxonMobil, by Peabody coal, and by other fossil fuel interests. It is a grim shadow over our democracy in that it includes an electioneering effort that spends hundreds of millions of dollars in a single election cycle and threatens any Republican who steps up to address the global threat of climate change. . . . [I]t is long past time we shed some light on the perpetrators of this web of denial and expose their filthy grip on our political process. It is a disgrace, and our grandchildren will look back at this as a dirty time in America’s political history because of their work.”[3]
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 Bradley Foundation

The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation provided $1.5 million over three years (2015-2017) to the Civitas Institute and the John Locke Foundation (JFL) in North Carolina. Both are affiliated with the State Policy Network and both are almost entirely underwritten by Art Pope, Bradley’s new board chairman and a long-time Koch ally. [4]

Bradley wants the groups to “create a comprehensive communications infrastructure around four primary elements: radio, online content aggregation, mobile applications, and an AP-style news service for local newspapers” (The Barder Fund, 8/18/15). [4]

Bradley also encourages its “think tanks” to engage in opposition research. It is funding a “Mapping the Left” website at Civitas to track the connections between progressive organizations in North Carolina. There is also a Mapping the Left app:

“The Mapping the Left (MTL) project combines data, research and news articles to show the magnitude of the radical Left’s infrastructure in North Carolina. For decades, the liberal/progressive movement has mostly been invisible to the general public. Hiding from the ‘liberal’ label, the well-organized progressive movement has built a network of groups that work together to push an extreme, liberal/progressive agenda that the media has failed to report upon.”

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

Connections to Art Pope

The John Locke Foundation receives around 80 percent of its funding from Art Pope, who controls the institute's agenda from its board of directors. It received over $2.5 million from the Pope family foundation in fiscal years 2010-2011.[5] From its founding in the early 1990s until 2006, "the organization was not taken seriously," according to one North Carolina political figure, but when Pope gained control of his family's fortune in 2006 he began to invest significantly in the organization as he aimed to gain a voice in North Carolina conservative policy circles.[6]

A New Yorker exposé explains that Pope invests not only in the Foundation, but in state-level political elections and other non-profit institutions designed to make his takeover of the North Carolina GOP complete. Marc Farinella, an adviser to North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue, commented that "The Republican agenda in North Carolina is really Art Pope’s agenda. He sets it, he funds it, and he directs the efforts to achieve it. The candidates are just fronting for him. There are so many people in North Carolina beholden to Art Pope—it undermines the democratic process.”[6]

Ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council

The John Locke Foundation has ties to several of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) "task forces." Staff members Daren Bakst, Director of Legal and Regulatory Studies, and Fergus Hodgson, Director of Fiscal Policy Studies, sit on the Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force and the Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force, respectively.[7][8] Mr. Bakst gave a presentation to the Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force at ALEC's 2010 annual meeting: “The Limits of EPA Regulatory Power."[9]

John Coletti, Director of Health and Fiscal Policy Studies, represents John Locke on the Health and Human Services Task Force.[10] Coletti has sponsored model legislation (the "Patients First Medicaid Reform Act") and has made presentations to the task force.[11][12]

Director of Regulatory Studies, Jon Sanders, was a member of the now defunct Public Safety and Elections Task Force[13] and Director of Education Studies, Terry Stoops, is a member of the Education Task Force.[14]

An August 2013 ALEC board document obtained by The Guardian lists the John Locke Foundation as having been part of the Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force and the Education Task Force, but as having terminated its membership on May 11, 2013, although it "would like to join again if can fit in budget."[15]

Please see SPN Ties to ALEC for more.

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.

Ties to the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity

The John Locke Foundation was listed as a Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity "Watchdog Bureau".[16] The Franklin Center funds reporters in over 40 states.[17] Despite their non-partisan description, many of the websites funded by the Franklin Center have received criticism for their conservative bias.[18][19] On its website, the Franklin Center claims it "provides 10 percent of all daily reporting from state capitals nationwide."[20]

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).[21] Mother Jones called DonorsTrust "the dark-money ATM of the conservative movement" in a February 2013 article.[22] Franklin received DonorTrust's second-largest donation in 2011.[21]

The Franklin Center also receives funding from the Wisconsin-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation,[23] a conservative grant-making organization.[24]

The Franklin Center was launched by the Chicago-based Sam Adams Alliance (SAM),[25] a 501(c)(3) devoted to pushing free-market ideals. SAM gets funding from the State Policy Network,[26] which is partially funded by the Claude R. Lambe Foundation.[27] Charles Koch, one of the billionaire brothers who co-own Koch Industries, sits on the board of this foundation.[28] SAM also receives funding from the Rodney Fund.

The John Locke Foundation and Global Warming

In July 2007, the John Locke Foundation released a report authored by Joel Schwartz (a climate change skeptic then at the American Enterprise Institute), titled, "A North Carolina Citizen's Guide to Global Warming." [29] In the report, Schwartz claims that [Al] "Gore's brand of over-the-top climate hysteria has nothing to do with reality"; and that "Most of the greenhouse effect is natural and is due to water vapor naturally in the atmosphere, as well as natural levels of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, and a few other greenhouse gases." [30]

In a 2010 investigation by the Institute for Southern Studies, the John Locke Foundation was found to be one of the most outspoken climate skeptics in North Carolina, working in concert with other groups funded by the Koch Brothers and Art Pope to creation the illusion of disagreement about the fundamentals of climate science. Examples cited by the Institute include:[31]

  • In 2005, shortly after legislation addressing climate change was first introduced at the General Assembly, the foundation released a public policy statement titled "Global Warming Policy: NC Should Do Nothing," which claimed that climate science remains "unsettled."
  • That same year, the Locke Foundation distributed to all members of the state legislature the Michael Crichton novel "State of Fear," a work of fiction that promoted the views of Dr. Fred Singer, a prominent climate skeptic. Singer has held positions with the Cato Institute, which was co-founded in 1977 by Charles Koch and funded by the Kochs, and with other Koch-financed groups including the American Council on Science and Health, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Frontiers of Freedom, Heritage Foundation, Institute for Humane Studies, and the National Center for Policy Analysis.
  • In 2007, as North Carolina began working on ways to reduce the state's greenhouse gas emissions, it turned for technical assistance to the Center for Climate Strategies, a nonprofit group of scientists, engineers, business strategists and policy experts that has worked with governments in the U.S., Mexico and Canada on tackling climate change issues. In response, the Locke Foundation launched a series of attacks on the Center, charging that it was founded by an "environmental advocacy group known to take alarmist positions on global warming" -- when in fact it was founded by the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, a business-friendly group whose directors have included representatives of Reliant Energy, Dow, and the Academy of Natural Sciences. Locke has also teamed up with the Heartland Institute -- a climate-skeptic group that's been financed by the Kochs -- to hold a conference call during which Locke's research director accused the Center of peddling false assumptions like the idea that "carbon dioxide emission reduction is the solution to global warming."
  • Also in 2007, the Locke Foundation released a policy report titled "A North Carolina Citizen's Guide to Global Warming," assuring readers that the "alarming view" of global warming does not represent the scientific consensus. It went on to assert that "[m]ost of the greenhouse effect is natural and is due to water vapor naturally in the atmosphere, as well as natural levels of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, and a few other greenhouse gases." The report was written by Joel Schwartz, who at the time was a visiting scholar at the Koch-funded American Enterprise Institute.
  • In addition, Locke has questioned mainstream climate science through a series in the Carolina Journal, the foundation's monthly newspaper, and opinion pieces published by its staff in other outlets, like the 2006 American Spectator article in which Locke editor Paul Chesser accused Christian climate activists of "Biblical illiteracy" and warned that "God has some serious global warming of His own planned." It's also spread its message of doubt through speaking engagements by climate science skeptic Pat Michaels, a climatologist who left the University of Virginia under a cloud of controversy over his industry funding and contrarian views to become a fellow at the Koch-founded and funded Cato Institute, as well as through its Carolina Journal radio show, which has discussed topics like "the biases that help convince global warming alarmists that their cause deserves so much attention."

In 2007, North Carolina passed Senate Bill 3 to adopt a minimum requirement for the use of renewable energy sources by investor-owned electric utilities. The bill requires that 12.5 percent of all electricity sold in the state by 2020 must come from renewable sources or improved efficiency. The John Locke Foundation would like to do away with it altogether, according to the group's 2010 climate agenda.[31]

John Locke Foundation Fought Renewable Energy

In December 2011, Facing South reported that representatives of the American Legislative Exchange Council, American Tradition Institute and the John Locke Foundation were holding forums in the North Carolina coastal communities of Wilmington and Morehead City titled, "The Truth About Wind Power on the Coasts of North Carolina". N. C. Senate Bill 3, a law that passed in 2007, made the state the first in the Southeast to adopt a minimum requirement for the use of renewable energy sources by investor-owned electric utilities: 12.5 percent by 2025. The groups dismissed the law as an energy tax on the poor. The John Locke Foundation is calling for repealing it entirely, as well as abandoning all state efforts to address global warming.[32]

John Locke Foundation Ties to the Tobacco Industry

JLF has received funding from Phillip Morris (PM), and the former president of the JLF sat on the National Advisory Board of a front-group set up by Phillip Morris called the "National Smokers Alliance."

A February 2, 2000 letter from RJR Tobacco Company's Executive VP, External Relations, Tommy Payne to the JDL reads, in part, "Please find enclosed a check in the amount of five thousand dollars ($5,000.00) made payable to the John Locke Foundation." [33]

A June 30, 1994 Philip Morris document lists Marc Rotterman, the former president of the John Locke Foundation, as a Member of the National Board of Advisors for the National Smokers Alliance, a front-group set up by Phillip Morris. [34][35]

An August, 1994 article written by JLF President, John Hood, in Consumer Research argues for "free-choice" for tobacco users and the loosening of restrictions on tobacco use. [36]

JDL received $5,000 in funding from PM for "public policy" work in 1998 according to the company's 1998 public policy contributions records. [37]

According to the November, 2000 edition of "Issues Watch" the JLF received funding from RJ Reynolds in 1996 for "works to improve public policy debate in North Carolina." [38]


Between 2010 and 2015 FAS received $306,500 from DonorsTrust, which is affiliated with Donors Capital Fund. The twin Donors organizations are advertised as a way for very wealthy people and corporations to remain hidden when "funding sensitive or controversial issues," creating a lack of accountability.[39] (See DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund Grant Recipients for more).

On its website JLF states that it is a 501(c)(3) "non-profit, nonpartisan think tank supported entirely from voluntary contributions. JLF does not and would not accept government funds. It has received support from nearly 1,500 individuals, businesses, and foundations." [40] JLF does not disclose its corporate or foundation funders.

Media Transparency state that JLF has received $334,000 in grants between 1985-2003.[41] While JLF does not disclose who its corporate funders are, some of its funding has come from the tobacco industry.


Board of Directors

  • William T. Graham, Former Superior Court Judge
  • Ted Hicks, Private Wealth Advisor
  • John Hood, President, Pope Foundation
  • Christine Mele, Co-Owner of Advance Sound Company
  • Brad Muller, Vice President of Marketing, Charlotte Pipe & Foundry
  • Paul Slobodian, Founder of Pivot Consulting, LLC
  • David M. Stover, At Large Board Member of the Pope Foundation
  • J. M. Bryan Taylor, President of KPB Corporation
  • Edwin M. Thomas, Financial Advisor, Northwestern Mutual

Former Board of Directors

  • Herb B. Berkowitz
  • Bruce M. Babcock
  • Charlie Carter
  • Dr. James S. Fulghum III, M.D.
  • Charles F. Fuller
  • Robert L. Luddy
  • Dr. Assad Meymandi, M.D.
  • Baker A. Mitchell, Jr.
  • Carl Mumpower
  • Thomas H. Roberg
  • David M. Stover
  • J. M. Bryan Taylor
  • Andy Wells

Staff, Fellows and Scholars

President and CEO

  • Kory Swanson President and CEO

Investor Relations

  • Cindy Kirkley. Manager of Investor Relations


  • Lexi Arthur, Director of Government Affairs & Outreach
  • Becki Gray, Senior Vice President, John Locke Foundation

Research Division

  • Dr. Terry Stoops, Director of Research and Education Studies
  • Donald R. van der Vaart, Senior Fellow
  • Garland Tucker, Senior Fellow
  • Dr. Roy Cordato, Vice President for Research and Resident Scholar
  • Jon Guze, Director of Legal Studies
  • Joseph Coletti, senior fellow
  • Jon Sanders, Director of Regulatory Studies
  • Jordan Roberts, Director of Regulatory Studies

Communications and Marketing

  • Donna Martinez, VP of Communications and Marketing

Carolina Journal

  • Don Carrington, Executive Editor, Carolina Journal
  • Rick Henderson, Editor-in-chief
  • Mitch Kokai, Senior Political Analyst
  • Lindsay Marchello, Associate Editor
  • Kari Travis, Associate Editor, Carolina Journal
  • John Trump, Managing Editor, Carolina Journal
  • Dan Way, Associate Editor, Carolina Journal

Finanace and Operations

  • Bill Gilbert, Vice President of Operations
  • Page Cox, Director of Financial Operations
  • Betsy Wilson, Accounting and Outreach


  • Greg de Deugd, Design Director
  • Jona McDuffie, Graphic Designer

Former staff:

  • Jon Pritchett, Senior Vice President Donor Relations
  • Katherine Restrepo, Director of Healthcare Policy
  • Julie Tisdale, City and County Policy Analyst

Core Financials


  • Total Revenue: $3,621,482
  • Total Expenses: $3,396,192
  • Net Assets: $1,072,970


  • Total Revenue: $3,959,669
  • Total Expenses: $3,425,195
  • Net Assets: $859,843


  • Total Revenue: $3,370,975
  • Total Expenses: $3,700,408
  • Net Assets: $317,954


  • Total Revenue: $3,335,424
  • Total Expenses: $3,335,981
  • Net Assets: $640,906


  • Total Revenue: $3,425,041
  • Total Expenses: $3,383,535
  • Net Assets: $643,530


  • Total Revenue: $3,446,927
  • Total Expenses: $3,401,906
  • Net Assets: $600,823


  • Total Revenue: $3,898,632
  • Total Expenses: $3,644,714
  • Net Assets: $555,648


  • Total Revenue: $3,898,632
  • Total Expenses: $3,644,714
  • Net Assets: $555,648


  • Total Revenue: $3,624,086
  • Total Expenses: $3,549,208
  • Net Assets: $301,730

Contact Information

Employer Identification Number (EIN): 56-1656943

John Locke Foundation
200 West Morgan St, Suite 200
Raleigh, North Carolina 27601
Phone: (919).828.3876
Twitter: @JohnLockeNC

Articles and Resources

Related SourceWatch Articles

Related PRWatch Articles

External Resources


  1. John Locke Foundation, "About the John Locke Foundation", accessed November 2007.
  2. State Policy Network, John Locke Foundation, SPN website, Accessed August 23, 2017.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Sheldon Whitehouse, "Senators Call Out Web of Denial Blocking Action On Climate Change," Office of Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, July 15, 2016.
  4. 4.0 4.1 David Armiak, Bradley Foundations Funds Right Wing Media Machine, Center for Media and Democracy website, May 31, 2017.
  5. John William Pope Foundation, Grants, organizational website, accessed February 2013.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Jane Mayer, "State For Sale," The New Yorker, October 10, 2011.
  7. "About JLF Research: Daren Bakst", organizational website, accessed November 2012
  8. "About JLF Research: Fergus Hodgson", organizational website, accessed November 2012
  9. American Legislative Exchange Council, Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force meeting agenda and materials, July 1, 2010, on file with CMD
  10. American Legislative Exchange Council, Health and Human Services Task Force meeting agenda and materials, June 30, 2011, on file with CMD
  11. American Legislative Exchange Council, Health and Human Services Task Force meeting agenda and materials, July 1, 2011, on file with CMD
  12. American Legislative Exchange Council, Health and Human Services Task Force meeting agenda and materials, March 31, 2011, on file with CMD
  13. American Legislative Exchange Council, Public Safety and Elections Task Force meeting agenda and materials, June 30, 2011, on file with CMD
  14. American Legislative Exchange Council, Education Task Force meeting agenda and materials, July 1, 2011, on file with CMD
  15. ALEC 40th Annual Meeting, ALEC 40th Annual Meeting: Board Meeting, ALEC website, August 6, 2013.
  16. Franklin Center,, organizational document, May 2013, obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy June 2013.
  17. The Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, Think tank Journalism: The Future of Investigative Journalism, organizational website, accessed August 19, 2011.
  18. Rebekah Metzler, 'Watchdog' website puts a new spin on politics, The Portland Press Herald, October 2, 2010.
  19. Allison Kilkenny, The Koch Spider Web, Truthout, accessed August 19, 2011.
  20. Sara Jerving, Franklin Center: Right-Wing Funds State News Source,, October 27, 2011.
  21. 21.0 21.1 Paul Abowd, Center for Public Integrity, Donors use charity to push free-market policies in states, organizational report, February 14, 2013.
  22. Andy Kroll, Exposed: The Dark-Money ATM of the Conservative Movement, Mother Jones, February 5, 2013.
  23. Daniel Bice, Franklin Center boss wants apology from Democratic staffer, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, August 8, 2011.
  24. Bradley Foundation, The Bradley Foundation, organizational website, accessed August 19, 2011.
  25. Sam Adams Alliance, Sam Adams Alliance Media Kit, organizational PDF, accessed August 19, 2011.
  26. Media Matters Action Network, Sam Adams Alliance, Conservative Transparency website, accessed August 19, 2011.
  27. Media Matters Action Network. State Policy Network, Conservative Transparency website, accessed August 19, 2011.
  28. Media Matters Action Network, Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation, Conservative Transparency website, accessed August 19, 2011.
  29. "Policy Reports: A North Carolina Citizen's Guide to Global Warming," John Locke Foundation website, July 25, 2007.
  30. Joel Schwartz, "Policy Reports: A North Carolina Citizen's Guide to Global Warming (pdf)," John Locke Foundation, July 2007.
  31. 31.0 31.1 Sue Sturgis, "A Pope of climate denial" Facing South, October 26, 2010.
  32. Sue Sturgis, "Climate-science deniers join forces against NC renewable-energy program" Facing South, December 9, 2011.
  33. T.J. Payne, Letter, Bates Number 522493786, February 2, 2000.
  34. Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights, "National Smokers' Alliance Exposed", undated, accessed November 2007.
  35. "NSA National Board of Advisors", Bates Number 2047870829, June 30, 1994.
  36. J. Hood, "Anti-Smoking War Could Deny Consumers Choice", Consumer Research, John Locke Foundation, Bates Number 2503017203, June 1994.
  37. Philip Morris, "980000 Public policy Contributors", Bates Number 2065243965, December 17, 1998.
  38. Issues Watch, Tobacco industry sponsorship in the United States", Bates Number 2078871332, November 1, 2000.
  39. DonorsTrust, Frequently Asked Questions, Organizational website, Accessed August 3, 2017.
  40. John Locke Foundation, "Donate", accessed November 2007.
  41. "John Locke Foundation", Media Transparency, accessed August 28, 2017.
  42. John Locke Foundation, 2016 IRS Form 990, organizational tax filing, December 12, 2017.
  43. John Locke Foundation, [paper copy 2015 IRS Form 990], organizational tax filing, December 12, 2016.
  44. John Locke Foundation, 2014 IRS Form 990, organizational tax filing, December 15, 2015, p. 1.
  45. John Locke Foundation, 2013 IRS Form 990, organizational tax filing, November 14, 2014, p. 1.
  46. John Locke Foundation, 2012 IRS Form 990, organizational tax filing, November 13, 2013, p. 1.
  47. John Locke Foundation, 2011 Form 990, organizational annual IRS filing, November 13, 2012.
  48. John Locke Foundation, 2010 Form 990.
  49. John Locke Foundation, 2009 Form 990.
  50. John Locke Foundation, 2008 Form 990.