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 1990.1About Center of the American Experiment,” Center of the American Experiment. Archived April 17, 2018. URL: 2Mitch Pearlstein,” Center for the American Experiment. Archived April 17, 2018. URL:

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.3Center of the American Experiment,” SourceWatch. Accessed October 20, 2017. URL 4Center for the American Experiment,” State Policy Network. Archived October 20, 2017. URL

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

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:6Climate Change 101,” Center of the American Experiment, November 5, 2016. Archived April 17, 2018. URL:

“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.7Center of the American Experiment,” Conservative Transparency. Retrieved April 17, 2018.

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

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
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

View key people by year below, or view the attached spreadsheet for a full list of the Center of the American Experiment’s key people (.xlsx) including sources.



CAE appears to behind the website, which urges citizens to contact their legislators to oppose renewable energy in Texas and California.8Demand Reliable Energy! Archived March 1, 2021. Archive URL:

“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.9Fact check: The causes for Texas’ blackout go well beyond wind turbines,” Reuters, February 19, 2021. Archived March 19, 2021. Archive URL

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.10CAFE-Coaliton-to-Trump-April-2020-9 (PDF)American Energy Alliance.

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.”11CAFE-Coaliton-to-Trump-April-2020-9 (PDF)American Energy Alliance.

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.”12Dana Drugmand. “Under Cover of Pandemic, Fossil Fuel Interests Unleash Lobbying Frenzy,” DeSmog, April 2, 2020. 13Coronavirus Stimulus Letter, Life:Powered, March 23, 2020. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

The letter, to which the Center of the American Experiment is a signatory, concludes:14Coronavirus Stimulus Letter, Life:Powered, March 23, 2020. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

“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.”15Coronavirus Stimulus Letter, Life:Powered, March 23, 2020. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

The full list of signatories is below:16Coronavirus Stimulus Letter, Life:Powered, March 23, 2020. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

Jason IsaacSenior Manager & Distinguished FellowLife:Powered/Texas Public Policy Foundation
Myron EbellDirector, Center for Energy and EnvironmentCompetitive Enterprise Institute
Bette GrandeCEORoughrider Policy Center
Ellen WeaverPresident & CEOPalmetto Promise Institute
Isaac OrrPolicy FellowCenter of the American Experiment
Bethany MarcumExecutive DirectorAlaska Policy Forum
David T. StevensonDirector, Center for Energy and EnvironmentCaesar Rodney Institute
Donald van der VaartSenior FellowJohn Locke Foundation
Jason HayesDirector of Environmental PolicyMackinac Center for Public Policy
John Droz, Jr.FounderAlliance for Wise Energy Decisions
George K. Rasley, Jr.Managing
Becky Norton DunlopFormer Secretary of Natural ResourcesCommonwealth of Virginia
James L. MartinFounder/Chairman60 Plus Association
Saulius “Saul” AnuzisPresident60 Plus Association
Ken BlackwellSenior FellowFamily Research Council
Eunie SmithPresidentEagle Forum
Jenny Beth MartinHonorary ChairmanTea Party Patriots Action
Jon CaldaraPresidentIndependence Institute
L. Brent Bozell, IIIFounder and PresidentMedia Research Center
Jason PyeVice President of Legislative AffairsFreedomWorks
Jameson TaylorVice President for PolicyMississippi Center for Public Policy
Carol Platt LiebauPresidentYankee Institute
Mike StenhouseCEORhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity
Daniel ErspamerCEOPelican Institute for Public Policy
Christian N. BraunlichPresidentThomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy
Todd MyersEnvironmental DirectorWashington 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.17Dear Senator Grassley, Senator Wyden, Representative Neal and Representative Brady:” May 9, 2019. Retrieved from The Daily Caller.

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.”18Christ White. “CONSERVATIVES WARN LAWMAKERS: TESLA’S TAX CREDITSOVERWHELMINGLY BENEFIT THE RICH,”The Daily Caller, May 9, 2019. Archived May 9, 2019. URL

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.19Christ White. “CONSERVATIVES WARN LAWMAKERS: TESLA’S TAX CREDITSOVERWHELMINGLY BENEFIT THE RICH,”The Daily Caller, May 9, 2019. Archived May 9, 2019. URL

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.20Minnesota’s Copper and Nickel Deposits are World Class,” Center of the American Experiment, March 12, 2018. Archived March 17, 2018. URL

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.”21Don Davis. “Is wind power living up to potential? Conservative groups says no, supporters disagree,” Brainerd Dispatch, October 10, 2017. Archived October 20, 2017. URL 22“Energy Policy in Minnesota: The High Cost of Failure” (PDF), October 19, 2017.

Minnesota is actually failing to achieve the object of its policy, which is to reduce greenhouse gases,” said Hayward.23Don Davis. “Is wind power living up to potential? Conservative groups says no, supporters disagree,” Brainerd Dispatch, October 10, 2017. Archived October 20, 2017. URL

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.24Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions: What Are the Real Economic Costs?Center of the American Experiment, March 6, 2008. URL:

“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.25Searching for Climate Change: A More Temperate Take on Global Warming,” Center of the American Experiment, June 4, 2007. Archived April 17, 2018. URL:

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.26Global Warming: Part I Divided Scienceand Unfounded Policy,” Center for the American Experiment, January 5, 1998. URL: 27Capital Research Center,” Conservative Transparency. Accessed October 18, 2015.

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”:28Global Warming: Part I Divided Scienceand Unfounded Policy,” Center for the American Experiment, January 5, 1998. URL:

Contact & Address

Address30About Center of the American Experiment,” Center of the American Experiment. Archived April 17, 2018. URL:
8421 Wayzata Boulevard, Suite 110
Golden Valley, MN 55426

(612) 338-3605

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