Beacon Center of Tennessee

The Beacon Center of Tennessee


The Beacon Center of Tennessee (BCT) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that describes itself as “providing expert empirical research and timely free market solutions to public policy issues in Tennessee.”1Our Story,” Beacon Center of Tennessee. Archived December 12, 2019. URL:

The Center was originally founded as the Tennessee Center for Policy Research (TCPR) in 2004 by Drew Johnson. Johnson left his position as president at the end of 2009.2Drew Johnson – President,” Tennessee Center for Policy Research. Archived August 14, 2007. Archive URL: 3Clint Brewer Now Top Dog At TCPR,” Nashville Post, August 8, 2011. Archived July 8, 2011. Archive URL:

Before founding TCPR, Johnson was a policy analyst at the National Taxpayers Union Foundation. He was a former senior fellow at the Koch-backed Institute for Humane Studies.4Drew Johnson – President,” Tennessee Center for Policy Research. Archived August 14, 2007. Archive URL:

The Center is a member of the Koch-funded State Policy Network, a group of state-level think tanks promoting conservative policy.5Beacon Center of Tennessee,” State Policy Network. Archived December 13, 2019. URL:

Stance on Climate Change

October 4, 2010

The Tennessee Center for Policy Research released a report titled “Cap & Trade: A Lame (Duck) Proposal” that suggested CO2 and climate change may not be correlated, referring to “tens of thousands of scientists” signing petitions as evidence (this likely refers to the debunked Oregon Petition).6“Cap & Trade: A Lame (Duck) Proposal” (PDF), Tennessee Center for Policy Research, October 4, 2010. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

The study further suggests that scientists are biased because they often do their research at universities, which receive government funding. Below is its introduction:

“Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a three atom molecule that humans produce with every exhale. Over the past decade, the belief has been propagated that excessive CO2 in the atmosphere leads to intense global warming that, if continued unabated, would cause glaciers to melt, rising the seas and engulfing coastal cities from San Francisco to New York. Despite tens of thousands of scientists signing petitions and stating their cases against the correlation between CO2 and rising temperatures, the link has been advocated by politicians and celebrities alike. Many of global warming’s supporters have no background in science and have convinced others of the CO2-global warming relationship without adequate proof. Even as people begin to realize that these ideas lack credibility, as evidenced by the change in terminology from ‘global warming’ to ‘climate change,’ politicians have continued to propose legislation to limit CO2 emissions.

Perhaps it is important to address how some have come to the idea that limiting CO2 will have a positive impact on the environment. To reach this conclusion, one much first accept that global temperatures are rising, that human activity is responsible for the rise, and that limiting carbon emissions will alleviate this global warming. Many feel that limiting carbon emissions is a function that can only be performed by government. However, one should examine what types of interests would benefit from carbon emission limitations. Environmental groups have a bias towards findings of environmental damage and often rely on university research to endorse their claims. Research universities are predominantly funded by government, and in order to continue receiving grant funds, have an incentive to produce research that supports ideas maintained by government officials, such as the connection between CO2 and global warming. Intervention follows as a way to expand the federal government’s control over a large swath of the economy.”


In 2009, Mother Jones magazine listed TCPR among the “Dirty Dozen of Climate Change Denial,” a list of the “12 loudest members of the chorus claiming that global warming is a joke and that CO2 emissions are actually good for you.”7No. 10: Tennessee Center for Policy Research (A.K.A. Carnival of Climate Change),” Mother Jones, December 5, 2009. Archived December 12, 2019. URL:

At the time, TCPR was running the website “Carnival of Climate Change,” which described itself as “a portal for bloggers who write on topics critical of current climate change alarmism and who question unsubstantiated discussions on global warming.”8No. 10: Tennessee Center for Policy Research (A.K.A. Carnival of Climate Change),” Mother Jones, December 5, 2009. Archived December 12, 2019. URL: 9Content Disclaimer,” Carnival of Climate Change. Archived June 30, 2010. URL:

The Carnival website promoted climate change denial blogs and groups such as Climate Audit, Greenie Watch, ICECAP, the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition, Watts Up With That, the World Climate Report, CO2 Science, the Science and Public Policy Institute, among others.10Content Disclaimer,” Carnival of Climate Change. Archived June 30, 2010. URL:

December 13, 2009

Drew Johnson, founder and president of the Center from 2004 to 2009, wrote the following in an article titled “Climate Change ‘Cures’ are Worse than the Illness” at the Tennessean:11Climate Change ‘Cures’ are Worse than the Illness,” The Tennessean. Republished by the Beacon Center of Tennessee. Archived December 12, 2019. URL:

“If the Earth’s temperature is changing in unnatural and unusual ways, and those climate oddities are, in part, a result of human activity, would taking radical steps that result in demolishing the economy of the developed world and the loss of millions of human lives in developing nations be worth reducing the Earth’s temperature a fraction of a degree? Most reasonable people would say no. Given the exaggerations of the problems and the dangers of the policy remedies, it is clear that government solutions to climate change are a medicine far worse than the illness.”


In a 2009 interview, Drew Johnson claimed TCPR had never taken any money from energy interests.12No. 10: Tennessee Center for Policy Research (A.K.A. Carnival of Climate Change),” Mother Jones, December 5, 2009. Archived December 12, 2019. URL:

According to data from the Conservative Transparency project, combined with review of original 990 forms by DeSmog, the Beacon Center has received more than $100,000 from the Charles Koch Foundation. The Koch family made their fortune from the oil refining business through Koch Industries and its many subsidiary companies.13Beacon Center of Tennessee,” Conservative Transparency. Accessed December 14, 2019.

Over $1.8 million of the Center’s funding came from Donors Capital Fund and its sister organization DonorsTrust—together described as the “dark money ATM of the conservative movement” due to their ability to obscure the original sources of donations.14Andy Kroll. “Exposed: The Dark-Money ATM of the Conservative Movement,” Mother Jones, February 5, 2013. Archived December 13, 2019. URL:

See the full data below, or download the full spreadsheet outlining the Beacon Center of Tennessee’s funding by year (.xslx):

Donor2005200720082009201020112012201320142015201620172018Grand Total
Donors Capital Fund$50,000$125,000$260,000$345,000$200,000$105,000$137,000$57,500$42,250$439,700$77,200  $1,838,650
Walton Family Foundation      $75,000$50,000$50,000 $50,000$100,000 $325,000
Friedman Foundation For Educational Choice      $140,000 $76,000$55,000   $271,000
The Roe Foundation $20,000$25,000$30,000$20,000 $20,000$20,000$25,000$25,000$25,000 $25,000$235,000
John Templeton Foundation         $193,280   $193,280
State Policy Network      $10,000 $80,000 $50,350  $140,350
Charles Koch Foundation          $57,500$50,000 $107,500
DonorsTrust $6,000  $32,500     $25,290$39,500 $103,290
Thomas W Smith Foundation        $25,000  $25,000$25,000$75,000
Atlas Economic Research Foundation           $40,000 $40,000
Jaquelin Hume Foundation  $15,000$18,750         $33,750
Adolph Coors Foundation        $25,000    $25,000
National Philanthropic Trust        $5,000$10,000$10,000  $25,000
Americans for Prosperity         $10,000   $10,000
Castle Rock Foundation   $10,000         $10,000
National Christian Charitable Foundation        $2,500    $2,500
Grand Total$50,000$151,000$300,000$403,750$252,500$105,000$382,000$127,500$330,750$732,980$295,340$254,500$50,000$3,435,320

990 Forms

Key People

Board of Directors

John Cerasuolo YYYYYYYYYYYYChairman of the Board of Directors
Larry White   YYYYYYYYYYMember of the Board of Directors
Joe Scarlett    YYYYYYYYYVice-Chairman of the Board of Directors
Pat Shepherd    YYYYYYYYYMember of the Board of Directors
Ken Meyer          YYYMember of the Board of Directors
Brian Fitzpatrick           YYMember of the Board of Directors 
Fred DeCosimo            YMember of the Board of Directors
Raul Lopez            YMember of the Board of Directors
Tina Benkiser            YMember of the Board of Directors
Lee Beaman    YYYYYYYY Member of the Board of Directors
David Johnson         YYY Member of the Board of Directors
Jim Ethier     YYYYY   Member of the Board of Directors
Lauren Templeton       YYY   Member of the Board of Directors
Carl Kirkland      Y      Chairman Emeritus, Kirklands 
Jason A. JohnsonYYYY         President
Martha FouceYYYY         Secretary
Shaka L.A. Mitchell  YY         Executive Vice President
Clint Brewer   Y         Interim Executive Director


Justin Owen YYYYYYYYYYYYPresident & CEO
Suzanne Michel  YYYYYYYYYYYDirector of Operations
Mark Cunningham       YYYYYYVice President of Communications and Outreach 
Braden H. Boucek        YYYYYVice President of Legal Affairs
Joe Kirkpatrick          YYYDevelopment Associate
Ron Shultis           YYDirector of Policy and Research
Stephanie Whitt           YYExecutive Vice President
Jamie McPherson            YVice President of Development
Meggan DeWitt            YStaff Attorney
Taylor Dawson            YDirector of Outreach and Digital Media
Sam Cosby     YYYYYYY Director of Development
Lindsay Boyd       YYYY  Director of Policy
Hannah Cox         YY  Outreach Coordinator
Trey Moore      Y      Director of Policy
Christopher Butler    YY       Director of Government Accountability
Ryan Turbeville    YY       Policy & Outreach Coordinator
Carter Meadors  YY         Director of Development
Clint Brewer   Y         Interim Executive Director
Drew JohnsonYYY          President
George Shifflett YY          Research Associate
Devon Klein  Y          Policy Research Associate
Lauren Biekman  Y          Policy Research Associate
Natalia Kowalski  Y          Government Accountability Analyst
Paige McKenzie  Y          Manager of Tennessee Votes
Reed Johnson  Y          Policy Research Associate
Shaka L.A. Mitchell  Y          Executive Vice President
Trent SeibertYY           Director of Government Accountability
Adam J. King Y           Policy Analyst
Melanie Bull Y           Research Associate
Michael Lumley Y           Research Associate
Wesley Rainer Y           Research Associate
Daniel PhillipsY            Research Fellow
Douglas KurdzielY            Research Fellow
Kellie GarretsonY            Administrative Assistant
Luci StephensY            Research Fellow
Nicole WilliamsY            Vice President of Operations
Trapper MichaelY            Research Fellow
Troy SenikY            Research Fellow


Richard Grant  YYYYYYYYYYYDistinguished Fellow
Art Carden    YYYYYYYYYDistinguished Fellow
Donna Barrett    YYYYYYYYYDistinguished Fellow
Harold Black    YYYYYYYYYDistinguished Fellow
Paul Stumb    YYYYYYYYYDistinguished Fellow
Jeff Cornwall     YYYYYYYYDistinguished Fellow
Jonathan Butcher       YYYYYYSenior Fellow for Education Reform
Patrick Gleason       YYYYYYSenior Fellow for Tax Policy
Naomi Lopez Bauman         YYYYSenior Fellow for Healthcare Reform
Adam Peshek          YYYSenior Fellow for Education Reform
Ben Stickle          YYYSenior Fellow for Criminal Justice
Julie Warren          YYYSenior Fellow for Criminal Justice
Michael LaFaive          YYYSenior Fellow for Economic Development
Dan Smith           YYSenior Fellow for Fiscal and Regulatory Policy 
Lindsay Boyd Killen           YYSenior Fellow
David L. Harbin            YSenior Legal Fellow
Joe Coletti            YSenior Fellow for Local Finance
Jason Edmonds         YYY Carter and Moyers Research Fellow
Jared Meyer          YY Senior Fellow for the New Economy
Scott Drenkard          YY Senior Fellow for Tax Policy
Ben Clark       YY    Carter-Moyers Research Fellow
Allyn Milojevich    YYY      Research Fellow
Amy H. SturgisYYYY         Belmont University
Charles Van EatonYYYY         Bryan College
Dale BailsYYYY         Christian Brothers University
J.R. ClarkYYYY         University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
John StoneYYYY         Education Consumers Clearinghouse
Marilyn YoungYYYY         Belmont University
Robert BerryYYYY         PATMOS EmergiClinic
Sally KilgoreYYYY         Modern Red Schoolhouse Institute
J.C. BowmanYYY          Florida State University
Martin D. KennedyYYY          Middle Tennessee State University
Shaka L.A. MitchellYY           Executive Vice President
Larry M. HallY            Belmont University


October 4, 2010

The Tennessee Center for Policy Research released a Policy Report describing cap and trade as a “Lame (Duck) Proposal.”15“Cap & Trade: A Lame (Duck) Proposal” (PDF), Tennessee Center for Policy Research, October 4, 2010. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

“Rather than harm the economy with extensive regulation, the government should support strong property rights for individuals and an efficient tort system so that those with violated property rights will have access to compensation,” the report suggested.16“Cap & Trade: A Lame (Duck) Proposal” (PDF), Tennessee Center for Policy Research, October 4, 2010. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

As noted above, the report also suggests scientists should not be trusted because they work at universities that have received government funding. Rather, it suggests the reader should listen to “ tens of thousands of scientists signing petitions.” While the document does not specify which petitions it refers to, it would likely be referring to the Oregon Petition, a document organized by the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, along with the Exxon-backed George C. Marshall Institute, to gather signatories without limiting them to those with backgrounds in climate science (or even people with real names).

Contact & Address

Beacon Center of Tennessee20Contact,” Beacon Center of Tennessee. Archived December 14, 2019. URL:
P.O. Box 198646, Nashville, TN 37219

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