Center of the American Experiment

Center of the American Experiment


The Center of the American Experiment is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that describes itself as “Minnesota’s leading public policy organization” that “crafts and proposes creative solutions that emphasize free enterprise, limited government, personal responsibility and government accountability.” Mitch Pearlstein founded the Center in 1990. [1], [2]

SourceWatch describes the Center for the American Experiment (CAE) as a “right-wing pressure group” that seeks to influence legislation in Minnesota. CAE is also a member of the State Policy Network, a network of conservative think tanks funded by the Koch brothers and fighting for limited government and regularly opposing climate change legislation in the US. [3][4]

CAE‘s president, John Hinderaker, who runs the conservative blog Power Line, was named the Center’s president in 2016. Some notable contributors at CAE include Steven Hayward, who also contributes at Power Line, as well as the Heartland Institute‘s Isaac Orr. [5]

Stance on Climate Change

November 5, 2016

Peter Zeller, Director of Operations at the Center of the American Experiment, wrote a blog post titled “Climate Change 101.” In a section entitled “Basic climate science,” he declared: [8]

“Simply put, substantial scientific evidence exists that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has exaggerated the amount of warming likely to occur, and that any warming that does occur is likely to be modest and cause no net harm to the environment or human well-being.

Warming, cooling, and change are natural features of climate.  Climate is always changing: Global temperatures are rising or falling, sea levels are rising or falling, and glaciers are retreating or advancing. […]”

Under a section titled “Is CO2 Causing Temperatures To Rise?”:

“It’s tough to separate out human activity from natural variability and other causes, but most scientists believe increased CO2 levels play a part in the gradual warming we have experienced.  CO2 is a trace gas (only .04% of the atmosphere) and has been steadily rising since 1940 thanks to increasing industrialization and the world’s use of coal, oil, and natural gas.

“But temperature changes since 1910 have not correlated with the rise of CO2, and historical data show CO2 levels lagging temperature changes, not leading them.  And some studies suggest solar activity correlates much better with global temperatures.”

Under the heading “Failed Computer Models”:

“Model simulations predict that increased CO2 should lead to higher temperatures, but nearly all the models have significantly overestimated observed temperatures.”


“The bottom line is that our climate is a very complex system, influenced by many little-understood mechanisms and dynamics involving the sun, clouds, oceans, etc.”

Zeller wrote about the supposed “Unreported Benefits of CO2”, saying:

CO2 is hardly a pollutant.  The opposite is true: It’s a raw material that makes life possible for both plants and animals. […]”

According to Zeller, “Mild Warming is Good for the World!” Citing Matthew Ridley, a noted climate change skeptic and zoologist with no background in climate science:

“British scientist Matt Ridley recently wrote about a fundamentally important point that very few have heard about: The consensus of expert opinion is that warming does more good than harm.  Imagine that!  Why have we not heard about this?”

Zeller concludes:

“For our part, American Experiment will continue making the case that economic growth and expanded prosperity are the surest path to lifting the world’s poor and protecting the environment.”


The following is based on information compiled from publicly available 990 forms  the Conservative Transparency’s database.  Note that not all individual funding values have been verified by DeSmog. [9]

View the attached spreadsheet for details on Center for the American Experiment’s funding by year (.xlsx).

Donor Total
The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation $380,000
The Roe Foundation $245,000
Minneapolis Foundation $238,650
Caridad Corporation $236,550
Fidelity Investments Charitable Gift Fund $235,350
Jaquelin Hume Foundation $185,000
Donors Capital Fund $182,000
Hendry Family Foundation $132,500
Leonette M & Fred T Lanners Foundation $114,500
DonorsTrust $110,121
JM Foundation $105,000
State Policy Network $100,700
Searle Freedom Trust $100,000
Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation $70,000
Marbob Group $70,000
The Bader Family Foundation $63,000
National Christian Charitable Foundation $59,650
Mightycause (formerly Razoo) Foundation $51,494
The K Foundation $51,050
Adolph Coors Foundation $50,000
WEM 2000 Foundation $50,000
Head Family Foundation $38,500
Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation $31,500
Hubbard Broadcasting Foundation $31,000
Chiaroscuro Foundation $30,000
Goldman Sachs Philanthropy Fund $28,460
Bodman Foundation $25,000
Walton Family Foundation $25,000
Americans for Lawful Unionism $20,000
San Antonio Area Foundation Group Return $19,443
The US Charitable Gift Trust $13,500
National Philanthropic Trust $11,750
Schwab Charitable Fund $11,300
Ronald and Janet Schutz Family Foundation $11,250
Catholic Community Foundation of Minnesota $6,000
Nicholson Family Foundation $4,600
Ken and Betty Dahlberg Foundation $3,000
Mick and Sandy Lee Family Foundation $2,500
Jim and Diane McCarthy Foundation $2,500
Prudential Foundation $2,500
Colegato Foundation $2,000
Alfred W Erickson Foundation $2,000
Daniel J Spiegel Family Foundation $1,200
R Keith Cullinan Family Foundation $1,000
Grand Total $3,154,568

Center of the American Experiment 990 Forms

American Experiment Foundation 990 Forms

A group with the same listed address as CAE and with the listed mission “to raise additional contributions and support the mission of the Center of the American Interest” was created in 2019:

Key People


Name 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 Description
Mitch Pearlstein Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Founder of Center of the American Experiment
Peter Zeller Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Director of Operations
Kim Crockett             Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Vice President
Kathy Kersten                     Y Y Y Senior Policy Fellow
Kristen Fuzer Sheehan                     Y Y Y Development Director
John H. Hinderaker                       Y Y President
Tom Mason                       Y Y Editor and Publisher
Tom Steward                       Y Y Communications Director and Investigative Reporter
Catrin Thorman                         Y Policy Fellow
John Phelan                         Y Economist
Pari Cariaga                         Y Donor Relations and Events Coordinator
Peter Nelson Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y   Vice President & Senior Policy Fellow
Dwight Tostenson           Y Y Y Y Y Y Y   Chief Financial Officer
Samantha Peterson                     Y Y   Assistant Development Director
Britt Drake   Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y         Director of Public Relations
Shanna Woodbury       Y Y Y Y Y Y         Development Director
Ariel Johnson             Y             Communications Associate
Devin Foley   Y Y                     Director of Development
Annette Meeks Y                         President and CEO
Britt Haughland Y                         Director of Public Programs
Chris Tiedman Y                         Director of Governent Affairs
Randy Wanke Y                         Director of Communications

Board of Directors

Name 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 Description
Mitch Pearlstein   Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Founder of Center of the American Experiment
Mark S. Larson Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Secretary. Attorney, Messerli & Kramer
Charles Spevacek   Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Meagher & Geer, P.L.L.P.
John F. Gibbs   Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Comcast
Kenneth W. Morris   Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y The Apercu Group
Lowell W. Hellervik   Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Omni Leadership
Ronald J. Schutz   Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Robins Kaplan LLP
Robin Norgaard Kelleher     Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Seaton, Peters & Revnew
Scott Rile     Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Treasurer. Principal, Bernstein Global Wealth Management
Thomas J. Rosen         Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Rosen’s Diversified, Inc.
Keith Kostuch           Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y  
Ronald E. Eibensteiner           Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Chairman. Wyncrest Capital, Inc.
Richard G. Morgan             Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Bowman & Brooke
Brent Robbins               Y Y Y Y Y Y General Mills
Michael Hayden               Y Y Y Y Y Y  
Rick Penn               Y Y Y Y Y Y  
Tara J. Anderson               Y Y Y Y Y Y TJA Business Law
Andrew M. O’Brien                 Y Y Y Y Y Trean Corporation & Benchmark Insurance Company
Michael E. Barry                 Y Y Y Y Y Twin City Fan Companies
Ted Risdall                 Y Y Y Y Y Risdall Marketing Group
Molly Corrigan Cronin               Y Y   Y Y Y  
Asim Baig                     Y Y Y CATS Software Inc.
Charles Nickoloff                     Y Y Y Medical Equities Investments
Elam Baer                     Y Y Y North Central Equity
Greg Frandsen                     Y Y Y Frandsen Comapnies
John H. Hinderaker                     Y Y Y President
Todd Vollmers                     Y Y Y Global Access Capital
Tom Kelly                     Y Y Y Dorsey & Whitney
Mitchell Davis           Y Y Y Y Y   Y Y Davis Family Diaries
Edward C. Anderson   Y Y Y Y   Y Y Y Y   Y Y Forthright Solutions
Elizabeth Driscoll                       Y Y  
Carol Hockert                     Y   Y Lanners Foundation
Rob Parish                         Y Sawmill Management
Bruce Taher             Y Y Y Y Y Y   Taher, Inc.
Carolyn Erickson             Y Y Y Y Y Y   CMS Investments
Bill Guidera               Y Y Y Y Y   21st Century Fox
Martha M. Head                 Y Y Y Y   Ceann Company
Peter Dahl                 Y Y Y Y   Crown Bank
Jack Lanners         Y Y Y Y Y Y   Y   F.T.L. Corporation
Kurt P. Schellhas               Y Y Y   Y   Center for Diagnostic Imaging
Erik Torgerson                 Y     Y   Norwest Equity Partners
Kim Crockett             Y Y Y Y Y     Vice President
Dwight Tostenson                     Y     Chief Financial Officer
Ed Anderson                     Y     Director
Lee Driscoll                     Y     Director
Peter Nelson                     Y     Vice President & Senior Policy Fellow
Rick Leggott           Y Y Y Y Y       Arbor Capital Management
Thomas O. Kelly, III             Y Y Y Y       Chairman and CEO
Scott F. Peterson               Y Y Y       Schwan Food Company
Scott M. Honour               Y Y Y       FirstCNG
Tom Mason               Y Y Y       Editor and Publisher
John Edson                 Y         Blanski Peter Kronlage & Zoch, PA
Sheila C. Kihne               Y 
Tim J. Walsh               Y           Ready Credit Corporation
Harrison T. Godnick     Y Y Y Y Y             Minneapolis Portfolio Management Group
John W. Hedberg           Y Y             Hedberg Family Foundation
Eduard Mitchel             Y             Virtual Radiologic Corp.
Thomas J. Stauber Y Y Y Y Y Y               Treasurer. Edwards Sales Corporation
Bryan S. Reichel     Y Y Y                 PureChoice, Inc.
Megan Doyl     Y Y Y                 Hope For The City
Bruce A. Thomson Y Y Y Y                   Ttreasurer. omsten, Inc.
John J. Lanners   Y Y Y                   F.T.L. Corporation
Mary Jo O’Brien   Y Y Y                    
Thomas F. Kordonowy   Y Y Y                    
A. M. “Sandy” Keith   Y Y                     Rochester Downtown Alliance
Randy Ahlm   Y Y                     Cretex Concrete Products
Richard W. Perkins   Y Y                     Perkins Capital Management Inc.
Scott W. Johnson   Y Y                     LHJ Family Foundation
Susan K. Gaither   Y Y                      
William H. Spell   Y Y                     Spell Capital Partners
R. Scott Wright     Y                     Mayo Clinic
Bill Schneider   Y                       Turck, Inc.
Harrison T. Grodnick   Y                       Minneapolis Portfolio Management Group
Scott Wright   Y                       Mayo Clinic
Annette Meeks Y                         President and CEO

Young Leadership Council

Name 2017 2018 Description
Anne Mason-Yoder Y Y Co-Chair
Ara Anderson   Y Chair
Ben Wilmoth Y Y Co-Chair
Emma Johnson Y Y Co-Chair
Ryan Miske Y Y Co-Chair
Tara J. Anderson Y   TJA Business Law

Board of Advisers

Name 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 Description
Abigail Thernstrom Y Y Y Y Y Manhattan Institute
Barbara Dafoe Whitehead Y Y Y Y Y The National Marriage Project
Chester E. Finn, Jr. Y Y Y Y Y Thomas B. Fordham Foundation
Christina Hoff Sommers Y Y Y Y Y American Enterprise Institute
David Blankenhorn Y Y Y Y Y Institute for American Values
Heather Mac Donald Y Y Y Y Y City Journal
Kenneth W. Starr Y Y Y Y Y Kirkland & Ellis
Linda Chavez Y Y Y Y Y Center for Equal Opportunity
Shelby Steele Y Y Y Y Y Hoover Institution
Steven Hayward Y Y Y Y Y American Enterprise Institute
Tim Penny Y Y Y Y Y Himle Horner
Tom Kelly       Y Y Dorsey & Whitney

Senior Fellows

Name 2013 2014 2015 2016 Description
Bill Glahn Y Y Y Y  
David Strom Y Y Y Y  
John C. “Chuck” Chalberg Y Y Y Y  
John R. LaPlante Y Y Y Y  
Kathy Kersten Y Y Y Y Senior Policy Fellow
Kent Kaiser Y Y Y Y  
King Banaian Y Y Y Y  
Laurence D. Cooper Y Y Y Y  
Margaret Martín Y Y Y Y  
Pete Hegseth Y Y Y Y  
Peter Bell Y Y Y Y  
Rhonda Nordin Y Y Y Y  
Tom Kelly Y Y Y Y Dorsey & Whitney
Andy Brehm   Y Y Y  
Ted Daley Y        



CAE appears to behind the website, which urges citizens to contact their legislators to oppose renewable energy in Texas and California. [22]

“Texas and California bought into wind and solar energy, but when they needed electricity the most, their residents were left in the dark,” the website read, repeating similar claims to what Reuters fact checkers described as “misleading.” Numerous other sources have also identified claims that wind turbines and solar energy were primarily to blame for power outages across Texas were false. [23]

The campaign also appears to have included billboards

April 6, 2020

Center of the American Experiment, represented by Isaac Orr, was signatory to an American Energy Alliance letter to President Donald Trump supporting the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule which would scrap federal fuel economy mandates under the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) program. [21]

Describing CAFE, the letter contends: “Those families and individuals who prefer or need trucks, SUVs, and crossovers pay more to subsidize those who buy smaller vehicles or electric vehicles under the existing mandate. This significant, needless, and unjust cost is a very real regressive tax on American families that has made our country worse off.” [21]

March 23, 2020

As reported at DeSmog, Life:Powered sent a letter to Congress critical of the COVID-19 stimulus package for including “tax incentives and spending for unreliable ‘green’ energy
programs.” [19], [20]

The letter, to which the Center of the American Experiment is a signatory, concludes: [20]

“This is no time for political games. Climate change is not an immediate threat to humanity. Climate-related deaths have declined 98.9% in the last century, and humanity is growing more and more resilient thanks to the availability of affordable, reliable energy. On behalf of all Americans, we urge you to oppose any stimulus proposals that carve out special treatment for or bail out any energy companies and focus instead on stopping COVID-19.” [20]

The full list of signatories is below: [20]

Name Title Organization
Jason Isaac Senior Manager & Distinguished Fellow Life:Powered/Texas Public Policy Foundation
Myron Ebell Director, Center for Energy and Environment Competitive Enterprise Institute
Bette Grande CEO Roughrider Policy Center
Ellen Weaver President & CEO Palmetto Promise Institute
Isaac Orr Policy Fellow Center of the American Experiment
Bethany Marcum Executive Director Alaska Policy Forum
David T. Stevenson Director, Center for Energy and Environment Caesar Rodney Institute
Donald van der Vaart Senior Fellow John Locke Foundation
Jason Hayes Director of Environmental Policy Mackinac Center for Public Policy
John Droz, Jr. Founder Alliance for Wise Energy Decisions
George K. Rasley, Jr. Managing Editor
Becky Norton Dunlop Former Secretary of Natural Resources Commonwealth of Virginia
James L. Martin Founder/Chairman 60 Plus Association
Saulius “Saul” Anuzis President 60 Plus Association
Ken Blackwell Senior Fellow Family Research Council
Eunie Smith President Eagle Forum
Jenny Beth Martin Honorary Chairman Tea Party Patriots Action
Jon Caldara President Independence Institute
L. Brent Bozell, III Founder and President Media Research Center
Jason Pye Vice President of Legislative Affairs FreedomWorks
Jameson Taylor Vice President for Policy Mississippi Center for Public Policy
Carol Platt Liebau President Yankee Institute
Mike Stenhouse CEO Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity
Daniel Erspamer CEO Pelican Institute for Public Policy
Christian N. Braunlich President Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy
Todd Myers Environmental Director Washington Policy Center

May 9, 2019

The Center of the American Experiment, represented by Isaac Orr, signed on to an open letter organized by the American Energy Alliance designed to fight against an electric vehicle tax credit. [17]

The American Energy Alliance has organized a coalition to proclaim in one unified voice that there should be no expansion of the misguided electric vehicle tax credit,” Thomas Pyle wrote in a statement, quoted at The Daily Caller. There is no question that the electric vehicle tax credit distorts the auto market to no gain.” [18]

According to Pyle and others who signed the letter, electric vehicle tax credits “overwhelmingly benefit the rich.” DeSmog’s Koch vs. Clean project has systematically debunked this, among other well-rehearsed talking points and misinformation put forward by industry about electric vehicles. [18]

The letter cites research by the Pacific Research Institute (PRI), a group that has received over $600,000 from ExxonMobil and millions from “dark money” groups DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund

March 12, 2018

Heartland Institute research fellow Isaac Orr wrote his first article at the Center of the American Experiment. Orr’s article promoted copper and nickel mining in Minnesota, suggesting pushing forward two mines—Twin Metals and PolyMet—that were waiting on approval. “These two mines would not only have significant employment impacts, they would also make the United States less dependent upon foreign sources of copper and nickel,” Orr wrote. [10]

October 10, 2017

Steven Hayward was co-author of a report written for the Center of the American Experiment critical of wind power in Minnesota. While the full report does not explicitly promote a fall back to coal-fired power plants, it claims that Minnesota has “little to show” for its investment in wind power, “except higher electricity bills.” [6][11]

Minnesota is actually failing to achieve the object of its policy, which is to reduce greenhouse gases,” said Hayward. [6]

March 6, 2008

The Center of the American Experiment hosted Margo Thorning on their forum to discuss “the real economic costs” of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  [12]

“Economist Margo Thorning discusses the likely consequences of Minnesota’s proposed Climate Mitigation Action Plan on employment, household income, and new investments in the state. She also talks about the likely economic and environmental effects of bills currently before Congress, including the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act. And Dr. Thorning will suggest cost-effective approaches to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Minnesota, across the United States, and around the planet,” the description reads.

Listen to the audio below:

June 4, 2007

CAE hosted climate change denier John R. Christy in a talk titled “Searching for Climate Change: A More Temperate Take on Global Warming.” Audio below. [13]

January 5, 1998

David Riggs wrote a three-part series on global warming at the CAE. Riggs was the executive director of Green Watch, a project run by the conservative think-tank the Capital Research Center. CRC has been funded by conservative foundations including Scaife, and large oil companies such as ExxonMobil. [15], [16]

In the first part of his series, Riggs claimed to cover “an overview of general scientific issues,” In Part II “the economic consequences of greenhouse gas emission-reduction policy will be addressed, with special emphasis placed on why Minnesotans should care about the Kyoto treaty” and Part III “will look at why a global climate treaty is emerging and what a reasonable course of action should be to potential global climate change”: [15]

Related Organizations

Contact & Address

Address [14]
8421 Wayzata Boulevard, Suite 110
Golden Valley, MN 55426

(612) 338-3605

Social Media


  1. About Center of the American Experiment,” Center of the American Experiment. Archived April 17, 2018. URL:

  2. Mitch Pearlstein,” Center for the American Experiment. Archived April 17, 2018. URL:

  3. Center of the American Experiment,” SourceWatch. Accessed October 20, 2017. URL

  4. Center for the American Experiment,” State Policy Network. Archived October 20, 2017. URL

  5. Ricardo Lopez. “Conservative blogger, attorney takes helm of Center of the American Experiment,” Star Tribune, January 17, 2016. Archived October 20, 2017.

  6. Don Davis. “Is wind power living up to potential? Conservative groups says no, supporters disagree,” Brainerd Dispatch, October 10, 2017. Archived October 20, 2017. URL

  7. Energy Policy in Minnesota: The High Cost of Failure” (PDF), October 19, 2017. 

  8. Climate Change 101,” Center of the American Experiment, November 5, 2016. Archived April 17, 2018. URL:

  9. Center of the American Experiment,” Conservative Transparency. Retrieved April 17, 2018.

  10. Minnesota’s Copper and Nickel Deposits are World Class,” Center of the American Experiment, March 12, 2018. Archived March 17, 2018. URL

  11. “Energy Policy in Minnesota: The High Cost of Failure” (PDF), October 19, 2017.

  12. Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions: What Are the Real Economic Costs?Center of the American Experiment, March 6, 2008. URL:

  13. Searching for Climate Change: A More Temperate Take on Global Warming,” Center of the American Experiment, June 4, 2007. Archived April 17, 2018. URL:

  14. About Center of the American Experiment,” Center of the American Experiment. Archived April 17, 2018. URL:

  15. Global Warming: Part I Divided Scienceand Unfounded Policy,” Center for the American Experiment, January 5, 1998. URL:

  16. Capital Research Center,” Conservative Transparency. Accessed October 18, 2015.

  17. Dear Senator Grassley, Senator Wyden, Representative Neal and Representative Brady:” May 9, 2019. Retrieved from The Daily Caller.


  19. Dana Drugmand. “Under Cover of Pandemic, Fossil Fuel Interests Unleash Lobbying Frenzy,” DeSmog, April 2, 2020.

  20. Coronavirus Stimulus Letter, Life:Powered, March 23, 2020. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

  21. CAFE-Coaliton-to-Trump-April-2020-9 (PDF)American Energy Alliance.

  22. Demand Reliable Energy! Archived March 1, 2021. Archive URL:

  23. Fact check: The causes for Texas’ blackout go well beyond wind turbines,” Reuters, February 19, 2021. Archived March 19, 2021. Archive URL

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