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Letter reveals ultimate goal of the Illinois Policy Institute’s national network

Thursday, Aug 31, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* The Guardian

Rightwing activists across the US have launched a nationwide campaign to undermine progressive politicians by depriving them of a major source of support and funding – public sector unions.

A network of conservative thinktanks with outposts in all 50 states has embarked on a “breakthrough” campaign designed to strike a “mortal blow” against the American left. The aim is to “defund and defang” unions representing government employees as the first step towards ensuring the permanent collapse of progressive politics. […]

The new assault is being spearheaded by the State Policy Network (SPN), an alliance of 66 state-based thinktanks, or “ideas factories” as it calls them, with a combined annual budget of $80m. As suggested by its slogan – “State solutions. National impact” – the group outlines an aim to construct a rightwing hegemony throughout the US, working from the bottom up.

To do that, it first has to sweep aside the public sector unions and their historic ties to Democratic and progressive politicians. In a 10-page fundraising letter, part of a set of documents obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy and published by the Guardian today for the first time, SPN sets out its mission in frank language that does not disguise its partisan ambitions. […]

The target of such union-bashing, she openly admits, is to “defund and defang one of our freedom movement’s most powerful opponents, the government unions”. The long-term objective is to “deal a major blow to the left’s ability to control government at the state and national levels. I’m talking about permanently depriving the left from access to millions of dollars in dues extracted from unwilling union members every election cycle” (emphasis in original).

SPN will be discussing its anti-union and anti-left agenda on Wednesday at its annual meeting in San Antonio, Texas. Its morning session will look at how “labor reform” can be pursued with renewed vigor under the Trump administration.

A few points.

1) The Illinois Policy Institute is part of the State Policy Network. The Heartland Institute and the Institute for Truth in Accounting are also part of the network.

2) The group’s fundraising letter includes several references to Gov. Rauner.

3) Here are photos of the front and back of what I’m told are a hotel key card used at the Texas conference

The front of that card is a depiction of the Institute’s John Tillman.

…Adding… I really figured some of y’all would catch on to it, but since nobody has I’ll do it for you. Do you not notice the similarity between the depiction of Tillman on that key card and the Lincoln Memorial in DC?


  1. - Trapped in the 'burbs - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 9:56 am:

    Rauner’s response will be along the lines of “I’m shocked to find gambling in Casablanca.”

  2. - PublicServant - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 9:56 am:

    I’m shocked at their nefarious intent /s

  3. - Anonymous - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 9:57 am:

    That key card is pretty funny. He gave a really interesting interview w/ Chicago Mag a couple weeks back.

  4. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 9:59 am:

    Boy, is Diana Rauner going to be upset, this is t good for… her “Brand”


  5. - Albany Park Patriot - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 10:02 am:

    We have to get these clowns out of this state. They don’t care one white about good government. I mean one “whit.” One whit.

  6. - Actual Red - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 10:03 am:

    I was shocked until I remembered that the Heartland Institute and Heartland Alliance are different organizations.

  7. - H-W - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 10:03 am:

    A.L.E.C. by another name.

  8. - Tillman - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 10:04 am:

    Clearly a low ego guy. Contrast his self-promotion, with the old guard who always new the principal comes first.

  9. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 10:05 am:

    As a Democrat, Fake Diana Rauner is upset and angered. As a “brand” that is obsessed with IPI and their incredible messaging and the leadership of John Tillman, phony Diana Rauner will find the Raunerite State Party and look to Tillman for guidance, as long as that “brand” is still phony enough to help Bruce.

    Seriously, you want to make a case that Diana Rauner is a Dem, given the monies to Raunerism, her obsession with IPI messaging and Tillman, her concern for her “brand”, and now this letter/manifesto all but calling for the destruction of all things considered hurtful, like Labor?

    … and Diana Rauner is going to tell me she’s a Dem?

  10. - TinyDancer(TKASue) - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 10:07 am:

    In 2012 CMD revealed the connection between ALEC and State Policy Institute. Interesting, how they came across the documents.

  11. - We'll See - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 10:08 am:

    Who’s the gray-beard/town crier on the back of the card??? lol

  12. - OneMan - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 10:09 am:

    Is that supposed to be you on the back Rich?

    If so that picture wouldn’t make a bad t-shirt

  13. - Keyrock - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 10:09 am:

    … and Diana Rauner is going to tell me she’s a Dem?

    She’s not going to tell you, OW. But she’ll tell a lot of voters who don’t read this blog.

    The question is what does she tell herself when she looks in the mirror? (If she can.)

  14. - illini - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 10:10 am:

    Rich - that looks an awful lot like you, second from the right. Just a coincidence?

  15. - mb I missed - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 10:11 am:

    Why are commenters here under the assumption that Diana was behind IPI hires? Not disputing just wondering if I missed something.

  16. - hisgirlfriday - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 10:13 am:

    SCOTUS will take care of abolishing public sector unions when it overrules Abood next term. Guess these guys just get money to spin/deflect any backlash.

    But it’s 100% correct that Republican opposition to unions is a campaign finance issue where Republicans have found a way to use power to tilt elections in their favor and get paid in donations by corporate America to do so.

    One of the big misses in post-2016 analysis of the Midwestern states that flipped from blue to red was all the anti-union developments that happened between 2008 and the present there. It’s not just about money but the loss of foot soldiers to canvass and phone bank and the demoralization among rank and file as unions exist now only to try their best to preserve existing conditions and have no strategy for forward advancement. 2016 was such a huge election for the future of unions in this country and it was galling that the word didn’t come up once in the general election.

    Admittedly a big problem of this is the Clintonism effect on Dem politics that prizes Wall Street cash on social issues above economic concerns of their base and this plays out in Dem politicians not even saying the word union unless they are marching in a labor day parade or standing in a union hall.

  17. - Norseman - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 10:13 am:

    Rich, am I mistaken that you were “honored” with a place on the key card?

    I appreciate the educational article on this propaganda network.

  18. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 10:13 am:

    ===But she’ll tell a lot of voters who don’t read this blog===

    Dems continually give Diana Rauner a pass, as she puts her name to millions to defeat legislative and statewide Democrats, then donates ZERO to the Dems in Illinois in similar races.

    Yet, it will be the “Diana Rauner Brand”, phony as it is to the harsh realities of the politics that will find her way into Ads… to either defeat one Dem or undercut the Denocratic Party.

    Had enough, Dems?

  19. - Real - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 10:15 am:

    This isn’t news to anyone that has done there own research.

  20. - Honeybear - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 10:15 am:

    You all believe me now? How long have I been talking about the coming Great Labor War. Oh the eye rolls I’ve endured.

    Here’s your proof people
    It’s why IPI was brought in to supervise the war and its wanton destruction because the original crew
    Could not or would not
    Pull the trigger

    All this suffering
    Defund and defang
    Public sector unions
    2 year budget impasse targets AFSCME
    School funding veto targets CTU,IFT
    Local revenue/consolidation pressures- AFSCME

    its always been about Labor
    But you have united us
    Solidarity forever

  21. - Gruntled University Employee - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 10:16 am:

    Sounds like an attempt at a national RTWFL is on the horizon.

  22. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 10:17 am:

    ===Why are commenters here under the assumption that Diana was behind IPI hires? Not disputing just wondering if I missed something===

    Sneedless to say, you did miss something.

    “The Google Key” is your friend.

  23. - Ron Burgundy - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 10:17 am:

    It does look like the site masthead above the red text.

  24. - real real - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 10:18 am:

    Agreed w/ Real. One issue I have tho in the Guardian piece and others is conflating all unions with public sector unions. Most of these groups could care less about private sector unions, for both ideological and political reasons.

  25. - Someone you should know - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 10:24 am:

    Who is supposed to be on the far Right? I didn’t understand that one….

    Almost looks like the Empire Carpet man :)

  26. - wordslinger - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 10:25 am:

    That’s some con to sweet-talk old sugar daddies out of their money for an objective that will be decided by the Supremes only.

    What’s their skill level outside of grifting?

    Are there any recent examples as to their competence at real-world, productive, management and governing?

  27. - Grandson of Man - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 10:26 am:

    That’s what it’s all about. All that stuff about employee freedom, job creation, Indiana and Wisconsin, etc., is straight from the bull’s backside.

    Private sector unionization is way down, and public sector unions are the strong ones the multimillionaires and billionaires want to take down.

    Here in Illinois, the people pushing this have done a very bad job in governance. Rauner has been a terrible steward of the state’s finances. The IPI blew it working for the state and taking six-figure salaries, doing perhaps the worst PR job we’ve ever seen. Arduin earned $30,000 per month for what?

  28. - Workin' - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 10:28 am:

    Sign me up for a bell-ringer t-shirt.

  29. - Texas Red - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 10:28 am:

    Janus V AFSCME will be the tipping point in the so called ” Great Labor War”. But hey it was a good run for the public unions, they have been a burden to state/local budgets since Abood v. Detroit Board of Education in 1977. Time to evolve folks.

  30. - faxxed - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 10:30 am:

    Thats Quinn, Speaker, Gov. Carhartt, Rahmbo, Cullerton(?), Blago, Rich and Ralph Martiere.
    Custom hotel key cards? I’ll bet the Champagne flows and cigars are plenty at these meetings where they try and reduce the wages and benefits of the middle class.

  31. - jimk849 - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 10:33 am:

    Do they have a secret handshake?

  32. - Someone you should know - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 10:37 am:

    They Must really hate Ralph Martiere :)

  33. - Dance Band on the Titanic - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 10:37 am:

    Is it really a positive thing for John Tillman to depict himself as Frank Underwood (D-SC)?

  34. - Anonymous - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 10:41 am:

    After seeing the agenda for that conference, I feel like I need to go scrub down. How sad that at this very moment we’re missing out on informative sessions such as this:

    From Underdog to Superman: How Illinois Policy Institute Built Community through Integrated Marketing Strategies

    Social media and digital marketing may seem like difficult tools to measure. But with the right strategy and analysis, it’s possible to determine whether your marketing techniques are meeting key strategic marketing objectives—and quickly course correct to stay on track. Illinois Policy Institute will share the evolution of its marketing strategy, its tactics for measuring success, lessons learned from misfires, and the latest tools for reaching the right audiences and building online communities.

    Speaker: Ryan Green and Eric Kohn, Illinois Policy Institute

  35. - Truthteller - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 10:42 am:

    -Agreed w/ Real. One issue I have tho in the Guardian piece and others is conflating all unions with public sector unions. Most of these groups could care less about private sector unions, for both ideological and political reasons.-

    Right-to-work laws are being pushed in states throughout the country as are bills to do away with prevailing rates and project labor agreements.
    Anyone who thinks they are only after the public sector, should ask the building trades what has happened to them in Wisconsin and Indiana

  36. - real real - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 10:48 am:

    ==Anyone who thinks they are only after the public sector, should ask the building trades what has happened to them in Wisconsin and Indiana==

    Don’t wanna get in the way of a good narrative, but IN union membership growth is 5x IL since they enacted RTW. That’s definitely not the case in every state, but ppl should dispense with the notion that RTW means an automatic drop in union membership. The free rider argument holds up better.

  37. - City Zen - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 10:49 am:

    ==2 year budget impasse targets AFSCME
    School funding veto targets CTU,IFT
    Local revenue/consolidation pressures- AFSCME==

    Ending the soda tax targets AFSCME, SEIU?

  38. - kitty - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 10:51 am:

    A disproportionate amount of Rauner’s efforts to date have directly or indirectly targeted public sector organized labor, implementation of RTWFL and elimination of prevailing wage laws. Members of building trade or private sector unions would be foolish to believe that Rauner, the IPI and the wealthy corporate capital investor class aren’t targeting their livelihoods long-term.

  39. - Anonymous - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 10:53 am:

    Lol Rich, chill out. It’s clearly a parody of the House of Cards ads.

  40. - All Knowing Oz - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 10:55 am:

    Why should my union dues go to organizations and political parties that I do not agree with???? Is there still a need for unions? Yes I believe so but get politics out of it.

  41. - Joe Bidenopolous - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 10:56 am:

    So did each state get their own custom key cards?

  42. - Swift - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 11:00 am:

    Will the conference have a session on drawing racist cartoons?

    I presume the caricatures on the card are a list of enemies, but is Rauner an enemy now? The letter is full of praise, but now he’s an enemy?

  43. - Chicago Cynic - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 11:06 am:

    Pretty sure everyone caught the obvious Lincoln Memorial/HOC reference. Didn’t think it needed to be pointed out.

  44. - Redbirds - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 11:10 am:

    The only thing missing is the blood on his hands.

  45. - West Side the Best Side - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 11:11 am:

    Wonder if Rauner will look at this cartoon and if so, as a white male, will he comment?

  46. - wordslinger - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 11:12 am:

    RR, auto assembly and parts plants in Indiana called back contracted unionized workers due to record-breaking vehicle sales in 2015 and 2016.

    Breaking records for new vehicle sales in the United States is kind of a big deal.

    Consumers “create jobs,” not dorm-room ideologues.

  47. - Anon221 - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 11:16 am:

    It may be a parody of the House of Cards Kevin Spacey version (personally I preferred the original BBC version and Tillman physically resembles that character more than Spacey), but it’s still the Lincoln Monument being “used”.

  48. - Swift - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 11:16 am:

    Rich, the Lincoln Memorial reference is obvious considering Tillman is another “great emancipator” freeing white families from the tyranny of public sector unions. Really, and I’m sure I’ll receive a lot of agreement here, chattel slavery pales in comparison to unions, and the politicians they control, taxing “job creators” (privileged Christian white folks), so the Tillman as Lincoln reference is quite clear to me. /s

  49. - Anon221 - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 11:17 am:

    Memorial not Monument… apologies

  50. - Anon221 - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 11:21 am:

    HOC was not the only series to use the Memorial.

    Try a Google with The Planet of the Apes (new film version).

  51. - real real - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 11:25 am:


    Sorry I stepped on your pure political agnosticism. Point is that “Right to Work destroys unions” is overly simplistic, as Indiana example clearly demonstrates. Here’s another:

    Director of member and political engagement @ Michigan Education Association said RTW caused his union to increase efforts to “explain to our members why membership is of value … We’re stronger because of it …”

    Just sayin’. Go argue with him if you’re bored.

  52. - wordslinger - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 11:27 am:

    So Tillman sees himself as Francis Underwood (FU). Proft named his old grift factory after the British original, Francis Urqhuart (FU).

    From an infinite pool of possible representations, both landed on a vision of themselves as evil, murderous, right-wing misanthropes.

    Some are just blessed with self-awareness.

  53. - cdog - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 11:27 am:

    Public unions and their destructive and insatiable appetites have participated in creating nearly insurmountable financial problems in Illinois.

    Even Rahm Emmanuel is asking unions to put a little skin in the game to help out the Second City.

    (Besides the partisan political expenditures of unions, I’m still astonishingly processing the fact that unions are now owners of the SunTimes, obviously using union dues to do this. I find this completely inappropriate and bizarre.)

    A little ying and yang won’t hurt; public unions need some competition.

  54. - NeverPoliticallyCorrect - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 11:31 am:

    Just seems that there is a strong conflict of interest in public unions being able to donate to pols who can give them raises. I think most of us in Illinois who aren’t in a union believe the state employee unions (including teachers) have been getting an unfair advantage.

  55. - wordslinger - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 11:34 am:

    RR, I cant decipher what “pure political agnosticism” means. Is it good with croutons and Thousand Island?

    I was just pointing out the fact that contracted UAW members got called back to IN plants back due to historic, record-breaking vehicle sales.

    Are you of the opinion that RTW laws were the reason for that? Please explain.

  56. - City Zen - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 11:37 am:

    ==I’m still astonishingly processing the fact that unions are now owners of the SunTimes, obviously using union dues to do this==

    It’s merely a hedge against all their pension money invested in greedy Wall Street and Big Banks. Decry from one end, collect from another.

  57. - 47th Ward - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 11:38 am:

    Can we now please stop referring to IPI as anything other than a political organization? It is not a “think tank” and it doesn’t produce journalism. It is a propaganda machine plain and simple.

  58. - igotgotgotgotnotime - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 11:44 am:

    -All Knowing Oz-
    You can relax. Your union dues don’t go to organizations and political parties and that you don’t agree with, or any that you do. I’ll let you google that, but it’s probably time to find a new windmill to tilt.

  59. - Honeybear - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 11:53 am:

    All knowing OZ, by Federal law none of your dues goes to political purposes. Your dues can only go for Union expenses like staff, negotiations legal etc. AFSCME has a political PAC that we can contribute separately from dues. It is not compulsory at all but we have a high rate of participation ( I believe over 80%)

    The separation of funds is very strictly monitored.
    Just remember
    Right to work doesn’t work for you when members
    Want to be in Union
    And are more than willing to pay full dues and contribute separately to our PACs
    Ironically if paying dues or not is free speech
    Then Janus v. AFSCME may unleash
    Union political power now constrained by labor law.
    In other words your tactic may backfire
    Especially since corporations
    Worship profit
    Only unions fight for workers
    Management sure doesn’t.

  60. - Grandson of Man - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 11:58 am:

    Let’s address more propaganda pushed by anti-union organizations and people, that RtW is better for unions because it forces them to sell themselves better to workers. RtW states overwhelmingly have lower unionization rates.

    Who believes that super-rich anti-union interests spend millions if not billions of dollars to bust unions in order to risk membership increases?

  61. - cdog - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 12:16 pm:

    From personal experience, AFSCME is a difficult organization to pin down regarding financials.

    It would be interesting to see the evidence of their practices with dues.

  62. - Chicago 20 - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 12:18 pm:

    The Illinois Policy Institute are what we thought they were.

    Now if the media would only stop giving them credibility….

  63. - walker - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 12:25 pm:

    If Tillman is Lincolnesque, and is frustrated with the current administration’s lack of progress on his agenda, then perhaps he should run for Governor next time. /s

  64. - Honeybear - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 12:39 pm:

    Cdog- “personal experience”? Whatever. Law is the law. I’d sooner trust unions than corporations who are stripmining public revenue through “economic development”schemes like EDGE and Enterprise Zones. Or even trusting Rauner who ferries away money to hire strike breakers or pay no bid consultants for IT contracts.
    I send 4$ a paycheck to AFSCME PEOPLE
    I’ll always side with workers
    Corporate lobby money and multinationals

  65. - blue dog dem - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 1:04 pm:

    Honey and others. Fear not the power of the pen. Govt laws can neither protect or destroy unions. It is only the power of the pocketbook. We the American consumer will dictate whether or not unions survive. Public sector unions.will not be destroyed because 30% of its members bail in one form or another.

    Look at union membership nationwide over the last two decades. The trend sucks even with go t protections.

  66. - Nick - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 1:39 pm:

    What federal law prohibits the use of union dues in politics ?

  67. - TinyDancer(FKASue) - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 2:10 pm:

    ==Just seems that there is a strong conflict of interest in public unions being able to donate to pols who can give them raises.==

    Did it ever occur to you that some pols are actually on the side of the middle class and therefore advocate in favor of raising middle class wages?
    The conflict of interest comes in when corporations give millions to pols who legislate in favor of big business and against the interest of their constituents.

  68. - RNUG - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 2:17 pm:

    As long time blog readers know, RNUG stands for retired non-union guy. They also know my family were part union laborers and part small business men and women. I never was a member of a union; always held management titled positions.

    -Blue Dog- makes a valid point. For unions to survive, consumers need to buy union products. With the global economy, a lot of manufacturing has moved offshore, which took away a lot of union (and US) jobs. The other major factor was automation, which isn’t going to change … except to expand.

    Collectively, all of us affect both American manufacturing and union membership with every purchase we make.

    If we decide to buy American, that helps. If we go even further, and make sure to buy union made products, that helps the unions. Even your choice of where you buy your groceries matters; some stores are union, others aren’t. Just deciding to use the self check-out affects jobs.

    I’m not a fanatic about it, but I do consider it as a factor on large purchases. My last set of tires was made in a union plant. My most recent new car was assembled in a union plant.

    This reinforces the point -Blue Dog- made. Unions depend on consumer choice. Some union members have been their own worst enemy, shopping strictly on price with no other consideration. I remember my dad always considered whether or not the products were union made or sold in a store that had union members.

    The point is unions somewhat control their own destiny. Unions need to do a better job educating their own members to support other union members. If they do that, they will survive. If they fail, unions will disappear for a time … until government protections are removed and businesses return to 19th century labor practices. Then a new or revived union movement will arise … but it may be called something different.

  69. - Honeybear - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 2:40 pm:

    Of course Murphies Law dictates that I couldn’t find my stewards handbook but I think it is Taft-Hartley act.

  70. - TinyDancer(FKASue) - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 2:43 pm:

    =Unions depend on consumer choice. =

    Other countries, like Germany, manage to protect their unionized workforce.

  71. - crazybleedingheart - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 2:47 pm:

    ==Wonder if Rauner will look at this cartoon and if so, as a white male, will he comment?==


  72. - blue dog dem - Thursday, Aug 31, 17 @ 3:39 pm:

    Tiny. German consumers love to support union made products. This really is the only reason unions thrive there.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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