Bill of Rights Institute

Bill of Rights Institute (BRI)

Background

The Bill of Rights Institute is a non-profit educational organization describes itself as working “to engage, educate, and empower individuals with a passion for the freedom and opportunity that exist in a free society,” according to its website. The organization says it provides educational resources and programs for a “network of more than 50,000 educators and 70,000 students nationwide.” [1]

The BRI offers “professional development for middle and high school teachers including a week-long summer institute in the Washington, D.C. area and free day-long seminars and weekend colloquia at various locations throughout the country.” In an interview with rightwing research group Accuracy in Academia, BRI president Dr. David Bobb claimed his organization worked with “approximately one-quarter of the nation’s secondary school teachers in American history, civics, and social studies.” [2], [3]

In a “Frequently Asked Questions” section on its website, the BRI claims it “does not take partisan positions and neither opposes nor endorses any candidate for public office or any political platform.” It has been accused of promoting a “conservative slant on the Constitution,” however. [2], [4]

Critics have claimed that the group “cherry-picks the Constitution, history, and current events to hammer home its libertarian message that the owners of private property should be free to manage their wealth as they see fit.” [5]

It is also a member of the State Policy Network, a group of free market think tanks in the U.S with strong ties to the Kochs. [6]

The BRI was founded by oil billionaire Charles Koch in 1999 and is based in the same Arlington, Virginia, offices as Americans for Prosperity, a central Koch network advocacy group. [7]

The organization runs a number of student programs, including the summer “Constitutional Academy,” partly funded through scholarships from the Ford Motor Company Fund. [8]

As of 2010, the BRI had an annual operation budget of over $4 million. [9]

The right-wing recruitment agency Talent Market, also tied to the Kochs, has assisted in headhunting staff for the BRI. [5]

Stance on Climate Change

The search terms “climate change” and “global warming” return no results from the BRI‘s over 14,000 tweets.

The BRI has however published a few articles that do not attack climate change, including a positive report on the student “climate strike” movement. It also used the “International March for Science,” which took place in April 2017 in support of climate science, among other things, as a case study of civic engagement for comparison with the women’s suffrage movement. [10], [11]

Funding

According to its website, the BRI is funded by the Charles Koch Foundation, as well as 13 other charitable foundations. Since its founding by Charles Koch in 1999, it says it has received donations from “13,000 individuals, corporations, and foundations,” including the Fred and Mary Koch Foundation, and David Koch.[2], [5]

According to Conservative Transparency, the BRI has also received donations from Donors Trust, which has been called the “dark money ATM of the conservative movement.” Below is a summary of BRI funding, via data archived at the Conservative Transparency project combined with original research of publicly available 990 tax forms by DeSmog. [12], [13]

See the attached spreadsheet for additional information on Bill of Rights Institute funding by year (.xlsx).

Donor Total
Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation $7,505,415
Fred C. and Mary R. Koch Foundation $2,617,500
John Templeton Foundation $1,489,305
Stuart Family Foundation $975,000
DonorsTrust $677,020
Armstrong Foundation $380,000
Pierre F. and Enid Goodrich Foundation $355,000
F.M. Kirby Foundation $312,500
Allegheny Foundation $310,000
David H. Koch Charitable Foundation $300,000
Dunn’s Foundation for the Advancement of Right Thinking $225,000
The Shelby Cullom Davis Foundation $213,125
Jaquelin Hume Foundation $190,000
Earhart Foundation $190,000
Lillian S. Wells Foundation $182,000
William H. Donner Foundation $180,000
Knowledge and Progress Fund $150,000
Anschutz Foundation $135,000
Donors Capital Fund $115,500
Castle Rock Foundation $105,000
The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation $105,000
The Randolph Foundation $98,650
Vernon K Krieble Foundation $80,000
John William Pope Foundation $75,000
Holman Foundation $70,000
Albert and Ethel Herzstein Charitable Foundation $55,500
The Challenge Foundation $55,000
John M. Olin Foundation $50,000
Diana Davis Spencer Foundation $50,000
Charles Koch Institute $41,960
Dodge Jones Foundation $36,000
E L Craig Foundation $30,000
Philip M. McKenna Foundation $30,000
The Whitcomb Charitable Foundation $26,000
Adolph Coors Foundation $20,000
Woodhouse Family Foundation $16,500
JM Foundation $15,000
Aequus Institute $9,500
Chase Foundation of Virginia $5,830
The Roe Foundation $4,000
Leadership Institute $2,500
Chiavacci Family Foundation $2,000
The Howell Foundation $1,350
Grand Total $17,487,155

990 Forms

Key People

The BRI‘s president, Dr. David Bobb, previously taught American politics and public policy in the history and political science departments of Boston College, from which he gained a PhD in political science, and Hillsdale College. He is the author of a 2013 book called Humility: An Unlikely Biography of America’s Greatest Virtue. [14]

Professor Todd Zywicki, a BRI board member, is George Mason University Foundation Professor of Law at the Antonin Scalia School of Law in Arlington, Virginia. Zywicki is also a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and was the recipient of the Institute for Humane Studies 2009 Charles G. Koch Outstanding IHS Alum Award. He is a senior fellow at the F.A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, and has previously been a senior scholar at the Koch- and Exxon-funded Mercatus Center at George Mason University. [15]

Zywicki is also on the board of directors of the Institute for Humane Studies, alongside Charles Koch and is on the executive committee of the Federalist Society‘s Financial Institutions and E-Commerce Practice Group. He was previously chairman of the board of directors of the Competitive Enterprise Institute. [15]

Two other BRI directors have previously held positions in the Koch network: Mark Humphrey was senior vice president at Koch Industries and Ryan Stowers was director of higher education programs at the Charles Koch Foundation.  [5]

Actions

December 3, 2014

The Charlotte Observer reported that North Carolina’s Department of Public Instruction had made a decision to “highly recommend” that school districts use teaching material on the founding principles developed by the Bill of Rights Institute, which had a $100,000 contract with the state. [16]

Related Organizations

Contact & Address

According to its website: [7]

Bill of Rights Institute
1310 North Courthouse Road, Suite 620
Arlington, VA 22201
Phone: 703.894.1776

Social Media

Resources

  1. EDUCATING INDIVIDUALS about A FREE SOCIETY,” Bill of Rights Institute. Archived July 25, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/nAnSP

  2. Frequently Asked Questions,” Bill of Rights Institute. Archived July 25, 2019. Archive.fo URLhttps://archive.fo/lckM5

  3. Malcolm A. Kline. “Bill of Rights Makes Comeback,” Accuracy in Academia, October 17, 2017. Archived July 25, 2019. Archive.fo URLhttps://archive.fo/mntBp

  4. “Jane Mayer. “Covert Operations,” The New Yorker, August 30, 2010. Archived July 25, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/nZPhI

  5. Bill Bigelow. “The Koch Brothers Sneak Into School,” HuffPost, November 18, 2014. Archived July 25, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/br7Gi

  6. Bill of Rights Institute,” State Policy Network. Archived July 25, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/2k8bj

  7. Contact Us,” Bill of Rights Institute. Archived July 25, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/byP0P

  8. Sue Suchyta. “Constitutional Academy inspires student,Downriver Sunday Times, September 17, 2011. Archived July 25, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/b8a8A

  9. Organizational History,” Bill of Rights Institute, Archived March 17, 2010. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/kBW1L

  10. CLEVELAND STUDENTS SOUND OFF ON CLIMATE CHANGE,” Bill of Rights Institute. Archived July 25, 2019. Archive.fo URLhttps://archive.fo/oClNO

  11. CITIZENS CAN CHANGE THINGS, TOO,” Bill of Rights Institute. Archived July 25, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/uSjRY

  12. Bill of Rights Institute,” Conservative Transparency. Accessed July 25, 2019.

  13. Andy Kroll. “Exposed: The Dark-Money ATM of the Conservative Movement,” Mother Jones, February 5, 2013.

  14. David Bobb,” Bill of Rights Institute. Archived July 25, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/EE1ho 

  15. Todd J. Zywicki,” George Mason University Antonin Scalia Law School. Archived July 25, 2019. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/yxw0R

  16. Lynn Bonner. “NC education department used Koch-funded group for proposed history lessons,” The Charlotte Observer, December 3, 2014. Archived July 25, 2019. Archive.fo URL:https://archive.fo/4F1Cx

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