Independent Women’s Forum

Independent Women’s Forum (IWF)


The Independent Women’s Forum (IWF) is a 501(c)(3) think tank that has described itself as a “research and education institute.” While IWF has identified itself as non partisan and neutral group, both IWF and its 501(c)(4) “sister organization” the Independent Women’s Voice (IWV) have been identified as “anything but” according to research by the Center for Media and Democracy[1][2], [29]

For example, IWV president and board chair of IWF Heather Richardson Higgins boasted in a speech to conservative donors that “Being branded as neutral, but actually having people who know know that you’re actually conservative puts us in a unique position.” [29]

Our value here and what is needed in the Republican conservative arsenal is a group that can talk to those cohorts [women who are not Republican conservatives] that would not otherwise listen but can do it in a way that is taking a conservative message and packaging it in a way that will be acceptable,” she said. [29]

The group is often at odds with prominent women’s advocacy groups like the National Organization for Women. For example, when Congress considered legislation to address the gender wage gap between men and women, IWF opposed the legislation while denying that a gender-wage gap even exists. [4], [5], [6]

The Independent Women’s Forum has been a vocal opponent to President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, as well as the teaching of Global Warming in the public school system. IWF formed a supporting group called Balanced Education for Everyone with the goal of stopping the teaching of global warming in U.S. Schools, describing it as “junk science.” They were also behind an an initiative titled “Mothers for Educating with Sound Science” (MESS) which included radio appearances questioning mainstream science regarding climate change. [18], [27]

According to Ronnee Schreiber in his book Righting Feminism, IWF came out of Women for Judge Thomas, a coalition that formed to support George W. Bush’s Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas who had been accused of sexual harassment. After Thomas’s successful appointment, the group disbanded and reformed as WIN (Women’s Information Network) which in turn founded the Independent Women’s Forum in 1992. [7]

IWF lobbied against the 1994 “Violence Against Women Act,” claiming “wives instigate violence, including severe violence, against husbands more often than husbands do against wives.” [30]

The IWF has had ties to the Conservative movement, including managing director Carrie Lukas who used to work at the Cato Institute as a social security analyst and has been a senior fellow at the Goldwater Institute.  [8], [9]

Director emerita include Kynne Cheney of the American Enterprise Institute and Nancy Pfotenhauer who was the president and CEO of Americans for Prosperity, once the chief in-house lobbyist for Koch Industries, and served as a senior policy adviser to Senator John McCain’s presidential campaign. Another director emerita is Sally Pipes, President and CEO of the Pacific Research Institute.

In October, 2003, IWF announced its affiliation with Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE)  which later became the Americans for Prosperity Foundation. A 2003 press release explained the relationship: “while the two organizations will share leadership and senior staff and be co-located in IWF’s new suite of offices in Washington, D.C., each will be a separate organization with its own board of directors.” According to the IWF, as of July 2005, the “IWF and AFP have had no formal relationship.”  The past president of the Independent Women’s Forum, Nancy Pfotenahuer, also acted as the president of Americans for Prosperity, but that arrangement ended in July 2005. [10]


As of 2020, the IWF‘s website described it as “an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well-intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities.”

In 2012, its listed mission more explicitly listed its conservative agenda, stating its goal to expand “the conservative coalition, both by increasing the number of women who understand and value the benefits of limited government, personal liberty, and free markets, and by countering those who seek to ever-expand government in the name of protecting women.” [2]

As of 2015, its revised mission had removed the “conservative” label and stated its goal as to “improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty.” [3]

Koch Connections

Koch Industries lobbyist Nancy Pfotenhauer joined the Independent Women’s Forum in 2001. From 2003 to 2005, Pfotenhauer jointly run the Kochs’ Americans for Prosperity as president and IWF. According to public 990 tax forms, she was also listed as president of the Independent Women’s Voice in 2004, 2005, and 2006. [30]

As The Nation reported, over half the board members of IWF have either received funding from Koch groups or worked for one of them. [30]

IWF itself has received at least $844,115 in direct funding from Koch foundations.  [30]

A “Friend” of the Tobacco Industry

According to documents on file at the University of San Francisco’s Truth Tobacco Industry Documents archive, the Independent Women’s Forum has received support from the tobacco industry including Phillip Morris. The following is from a March 22, 1999 memo from IWF addressed to Kirk Blalock, manager of public affairs at Philip Morris, requesting funding for a “junk science project”: [48]

“Philip Morris has been a friend to IWF in the past for good reason. (Two years ago you gave us a $15,000 grant.) After all, who ‘ya gonna call when you need a sensible, intelligent woman’s voice? Your yearly support can keep us competitive in the marketplace of ideas. For this important junk science project, please help with a gift of $20,000 to underwite our work in in the press to counter the nonsense and stifle the litigation frenzy. You just might have a team member that can make the difference.”

Tobacco Funding

According to a Phillip Morris budget proposal, The Independent Women’s Forum, and its Independent Women’s Action Project received $5,000 apiece in 1999, with the same funding proposed for its 2000 budget. This number is confirmed in a PM 1999 public policy contributions document. [51], [52]

Comments Surrounding 2021 Capitol Insurrection

On Jan 6, 2021, the Independent Women’s Forum posted a statement from their President on Facebook that asserted that “millions of Americans have lost faith that our elections systems can be trusted” but that disavowed “violence and disrupting the peaceful transfer of power.”

Stance on Climate Change

July 17, 2018

Both Carrie L. Lukas and Heather R. Higgins signed on to a anti-carbon-tax plege. “We oppose any carbon tax. We oppose a carbon tax because it would lead to less income and fewer jobs for American families,” the letter reads, concluding: “We support the House Concurrent Resolution in opposition to a job-killing carbon tax and urge members to vote for this resolution.[57]

May 24, 2014

IWF senior fellow Vicki Alger claimed “a majority of scientists believe that global warming is largely nature-made.” [12]

May 11, 2011

IWF president Carrie L. Lukas stressed that non-consensus views on climate change should be taught in schools, mentioning concern about an “Inconvenient Youth” initiative by Al Gore: [43]

“Kids need to hear the other side of the story so that they can better target their energies, including their environmental passions. Teenagers should know that skeptics aren’t just an evil fringe in the pocket of the oil industry. Many legitimate questions remain about climate change, its causes, and potential solutions.

“Inconvenient Youth members should be aware that many scientists believe that the climate was warmer during medieval times than it is today. They should ask themselves, if this is true, doesn’t it suggest that the modern warming trend may be natural, not caused by man?

“There are also questions about the data used for global warming models. Much of the original temperature data used to justify claims of unprecedented warming has been destroyed or lost. Additionally, some scientists believe that changes in the environment surrounding weather stations may have contributed to perceived warming.”


“Here at IWF, we have been promoting a more robust discussion about the scientific evidence (and lack thereof) for awhile now. Last year we had the authors of this book Scared to Death, talk about how science is often misused in policy debates, with global warming being a leading example. […] Others should take a look at this book which provides an outline of what one expects from a ‘scare’ – more and more it looks like we are in the midst of one now and if Congress acts by passing this massive legislation, the public could pay dearly for the hysteria.” [11]


According to data archived at the Conservative Transparency Project, combined with original research of public 990 tax forms, the Independent Women’s Forum (IWF) has received funding from the following sources: [13]

View the attached spreadsheet for details on the Independent Women Forum’s funding by year (.xlsx) for more details.

The Randolph Foundation$4,122,350
Sarah Scaife Foundation$2,050,000
Donors Capital Fund$1,665,000
Brady Education Foundation$1,254,000
The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation$1,055,000
Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation$835,000
John M. Olin Foundation$776,000
Americans for Tax Reform$410,000
Castle Rock Foundation$400,000
The Carthage Foundation$400,000
Jaquelin Hume Foundation$375,000
William H. Donner Foundation$313,157
Searle Freedom Trust$300,000
Center to Protect Patient Rights$250,000
National Christian Charitable Foundation$222,000
Scaife Family Foundation$200,000
Adolph Coors Foundation$165,000
Independent Women’s Voice$161,568
Judicial Crisis Network$150,000
Diana Davis Spencer Foundation$143,000
Lovett & Ruth Peters Foundation$125,000
JM Foundation$120,000
The Shelby Cullom Davis Foundation$116,000
Holman Foundation$95,000
Exxon Mobil$65,000
John William Pope Foundation$50,000
Gilder Foundation$50,000
Buchnowski Family Foundation$47,500
Windway Foundation$41,500
Earhart Foundation$35,000
The Roe Foundation$35,000
Joyce and Donald Rumsfeld Foundation$31,500
Dodge Jones Foundation$27,500
Walton Family Foundation$25,000
Chase Foundation of Virginia$23,000
Albert and Ethel Herzstein Charitable Foundation$17,500
Armstrong Foundation$17,500
Hickory Foundation$17,500
William E. Simon Foundation$16,000
Bochnowski Family Foundation$10,000$10,000
The Helen Diller Family Foundation$10,000
Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation$9,115
National Association of Manufacturers$5,000
Smith Richardson Foundation$5,000
US Chamber of Commerce Foundation$2,500
Schwab Charitable Fund$1,500
Huizenga Foundation$200
Grand Total$21,761,994

Rush Limbaugh Funding

The Nation reported in 2014, reviewing previously undisclosed tax documents, that conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh had written a cheque for just over $273,000 in 2007. The Nation reported that it was impossible to determine how much Limbaugh had donated in more recent years because of donations being funnelled through DonorsTrust, an organization that has been described as the “Dark Money ATM of the conservative movement” given its ability to obscure the identity of its donors. [44]

In a March 2012 interview on MSNBC’s Up with Chris Hayes, former IWF CEO Michele Bernard commented that Limbaugh has paid “several hundred thousand dollars out of his own pocket” to fund IWF dinners in the past. [44]

“Since Limbaugh’s contribution, the IWF has loyally defended him on a range of issues after he’s made highly offensive remarks that few others supported,” The Nation noted, pointing to examples like Limbaugh’s 2007 reference to Iraq war veterans critical of the war as “phony soldiers.” [44]

Koch Funding

According to data collected by Greenpeace USA, the Independent Women’s Forum received $844,115 in combined donations from Koch-related foundations between 1998 and 2012: [33]

YearCharles Koch FoundationClaude R. Lambe Charitable FoundationGrand Total
1998 $20,000$20,000
2001 $10,000$10,000
2002 $15,000$15,000
2005 $25,000$25,000
2006 $15,000$15,000
2007 $250,000$250,000
2009 $150,000$150,000
2010 $350,000$350,000
2012$9,115 $9,115
Grand Total$9,115$835,000$844,115

990 Forms

Key People

Board of Directors

Heather R. HigginsYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYChairman
Yvonne S. Boice    YYYYYYYYYYY 
Tarren Bragdon             YY 
Giovanna Cugnasca      YYYYYYYYY 
Nan Hayworth        YYYYYYY 
Mike Leven             YY 
Adele Malpass         YYYYY  
Abby Moffat           YYYY 
Myles Pollin           YYYY 
Kellyanne Conway        YYYY    
Larry KudlowYYYYY      Y    
Elizabeth Biar         Y      
Lisa Gable         Y      
Mary ArnoldYYYYYYYYY       
Michaelon Wright      YY        
Carol T. CrawfordYYYYYY          
Joanne T. Medero    YY          
Mary Beth Jarvis    YY          
Jennifer Ashworth Dinh   YY           
Randy P. Kendrick YYYY           
Nancy M. PfotenhauerYYY             
R. Gaull SilbermanYYY             
Sally PipesY               

Directors Emeritae

Elizabeth LurieYYYYYY  Deceased
Kate O’BeirneYYYYYY  Deceased
Kimberly O. DennisYYYYYY   
Louise V. OliverYYYYYY   
Lynne V. CheneyYYYYYY   
Midge DecterYYYYYY   
Wendy Lee GrammYYYYYY   
Nancy M. Pfotenhauer YYYYY   
R. Gaull Silberman YYYYY  Deceased
Sally Pipes  YYYY   
Randy P. Kendrick   YYY   
Michaelon Wright    YYYY 
Kellyanne Conway     YYY 
Larry Kudlow     YYY 

Leadership Circle

Clark JudgeYYYYYY 
Kate PomeroyYYYYYY 
Susanna DokupilYYYYYY 
Windi GrimesYYYYYY 
Andrea Bottner YYYYY 
Janie Tisdale YYYYY 
Mindy Berry YYYYY 
Claudette Lajam  YYYY 
Jennifer Higgins  YYYY 
Laura Cox Kaplan  YYYY 
Sandra Swirski  YYYY 
Anne Kolton   YYY 
Kelly Cushman   YYY 
Krista Cupp   YYY 
Lisa Gable   YYY 
Mercedes Schlapp   YYY 
Sabrina Schaeffer   YYYLeadership Circle Chair
April Ponnuru  Y    
Kim BoltYY     
Danielle CrittendenY      


Christina Villegas           YSenior Fellow
Beverly Haliberg           YSenior Fellow
Lisa Schiffren   YYYYYYYYYSenior Fellow
Vicki E. Alger   YYYYYYYYYSenior Fellow
Angela Logomasini    YYYYYYYYSenior Fellow
Rachel DiCarlo Currie     YYYYYYYSenior Fellow
Naomi Schaefer Riley      YYYYYYSenior Fellow
Erin Hawley       YYYY Legal Fellow
Laura Carno           YSenior Fellow
Kristin Shapiro           YSenior Fellow
Nicole Neily       YYY  Senior Fellow
Claudia Rosett        YYYYForeign Policy Fellow
Jennifer C. BracerasYY       YY Senior Fellow
Amy Oliver Cooke         YY Senior Fellow
Elisha Maldonado         YYYSenior Fellow
Karin Agness Lips         YY Senior Fellow
Donna Wiesner Keene YYYYYYYY   Senior Fellow
Karin Agness Lips  YYYYYYY  YSenior Fellow
Anna Rittgers   YYYYYY   Senior Fellow
Gayle Trotter   YYYYYY   Senior Fellow
Abby W. Schachter     YYYY   Senior Fellow
Jillian Melchior     YYYY   Senior Fellow
Charlotte Allen      YYY   Senior Fellow
Patrice Lee Onwuka        Y   Senior Policy Analyst
Patrice J. Lee     YYY    Senior Fellow
Amber Smith      YY  Y Senior Fellow
Krista KaferYY YYYY     Senior Fellow
Emily Esfahani Smith     YY     Senior Fellow
Amber Barno     Y      Senior Fellow
Diana Lopez   YY       Senior Fellow
Jenny Korn    Y       Senior Fellow
Kristen Soltis    Y       Senior Fellow
Kristen Solti   Y        Senior Fellow
Charlotte HaysYYY         Director of Cultural Programs, Senior Editor
Sabrina SchaefferYYY         Leadership Circle Chair
Allison Kasic YY         Senior Fellow
Julie Gunlock YY         Director, Center for Progress and Innovation
Vicki E. MurrayY Y         Senior Fellow
Maria Andersen  Y         Junior Fellow
Nicole Kurokawa  Y         Senior Fellow
Anthony J. Colón Y          Senior Fellow
Derrell Bradford Y          Senior Fellow
Hadley Heath Y          Director of Health Policy
Helen Whalen-Cohen Y          Junior Fellow
Megan Carl Y          Junior Fellow
Romina Boccia Y          Policy Analyst
Suzanne Bottorff Y          Junior Fellow
Tara Shaughnessy Y          Junior Fellow
Anne TrenoloneY            
Elise ViebeckY            
Princella SmithY            

Visiting Fellows

Carrie Sheffield          YY
Kelsey Bolar          YY
Qanta Ahmed          YY
Mandy Gunasekara           Y
Beverly Hallberg          Y 
Kara Jones          Y 
Laura Carno          Y 
Sara A. Carter          Y 
Christina Villegas   YYYYYYY  
Jamie Wells         Y  
Kristin Shapiro         Y  
Mattie Duppler         Y  
Nicole Russell         Y  
Jenn Jacques        Y   
Lane Scott   YYYYY    
Jennifer Marsico     YYY    
Diana McKibben   YY       
Ana Carcani RoldYYY         
Jennifer C. BracerasYYY         
Krista KaferYYY         
Nina OwcharenkoYYY         
Sandy Liddy BourneYYY         
Solveig SingletonYYY         
Anthony J. Colon  Y         
Derrell Bradford  Y         
Donna Wiesner Keene  Y         
Jo Kwong  Y         
April LassiterYY          
Sabrina SchaefferYY          
Vicki MurrayY           


Charlotte Hays YYYYYY YYYYYYYDirector of Cultural Programs, Senior Editor
Julie Gunlock     YY YYYYYYYDirector, Center for Progress and Innovation
Victoria Coley        YYYYYYYVP, Communications
Amber Schwartz          YYYYYExecutive Vice President
Michele Vogt          YYYYYCreative Design & Digital Specialist
Ashley B. Carter           YYYYDirector of Coalitions
Jennifer Marquez            YYYDirector of Foundation Relations
Hadley Heath Manning             YYDirector of Policy
Sekayi Stephens             YYGraphic Design Lead
Andi Bottner              YSenior Advisor
Betsy Pearson              YCommunications & Staff Assistant
Caroline Phelps              YSenior Manager, Strategic Communications
Casidy McMeans              YDevelopment Associate
Elizabeth Tew              YCommunications Specialist
Ericka Andersen Sylvester              YDigital Marketing Director
Heather Madden              YDirector of Operations and Policy Research
Inez Feltscher Stepman              YSenior Policy Analyst
Patrice Lee Onwuka              YSenior Policy Analyst
Somerlyn Cothran              YSenior Vice President of Investor Relations
Sabrina Schaeffer     YY YYYYYY Leadership Circle Chair
Celia Meyer           YYY  
Hadley Heath       YYYYYY  Director of Health Policy
Whitney Garrison Athayde         YYYY  Director of Donor Relations
Emily Wismer        YY     Policy Analyst
Rebecca Bernbach         Y     Outreach Coordinator
Carol Eberly     YYY       Director of Communications and Media Relations
Romina Boccia       Y       Policy Analyst
Michelle D. Bernard YYYYYY        President and CEO
Stacy Chin   YYYY        Vice President of Operations and Administration
Regina Truslow    YYY        Executive Assistant to the President
Christie Raniszewski Herrera     YY         
Heather R. Higgins     YY        Chairman
Christina Jamison      Y        Vice President of Communications
Tatiana M Posada      Y        Director of New Media and the Silberman Center for Campus Studies
Erin Grant    YY         Vice President of Development and Programs
Kate Pomeroy    YY          
Anne Trenolone     Y          
Princella Smith     Y          
Christina Hoff Sommers YYYY          National Advisory Board Chairman
A. Yasmine Rassam    Y          Director for Foreign Policy and International Women’s Issues
Halima Karzai    Y          Associate Director for Foreign Policy and International Women’s Issues
Martha H. Hutto    Y          Chief Financial Officer & Vice President of Administration
Arianne Massey YYY           Chief Operating Officer
Christina Hobbs YYY           Manager of Communications
Jen Gustafson  YY           Director of Development
Catherine Seipp   Y            
Laurie Woydziak YY            Executive Assistant
Louise Filkins YY            Director of Communications
Nancy M. Pfotenhauer YY             
Travis K. McSherley YY            Online Editor/Webmaster
Barbara Constantine Y             Development Coordinator
Joy Simington Y             Operations Administrator
Michael Berry Y             Chief Operating Officer
Rieva Holycross Y             Senior Vice President
Anita BlairY              Executive VP/General Counsel
Barbara LedeenY              Executive Director


February 6, 2020

Independent Women’s Forum (IWF) Visiting Fellow Mandy Gunasekara testifed before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform on why the Trump administration’s proposed rollback of regulations on Mercury Air Toxics Standards (MATS)  would be “a positive change and how claims that the new standards would harm children are false and  feed into a culture of alarmism.” [45]

Gunasekara is the founder of the Energy 45 Fund, a nonprofit “dedicated to informing the public about the environmental and economic gains made under the Trump Administration.” She is also listed as a member of the CO2 Coalition, a group that promotes carbon dioxide as “vital for life” and dismisses mainstream climate science as a “campaign demonizing CO2.” [46]

She previously served as majority counsel for prominent climate change denier Jim Inhofe during the 114th congress. [46]

January 27–February 1, 2020

IWF paid for Facebook ads to promote an article critical of Greta Thunberg. In the article, IWF‘s senior editor Charlotte Hays reprinted U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s comments suggesting “the 17-year-old should study economics at college before lecturing the U.S. on fossil fuel investments” and added that “It is truly uplifting to see an adult treat a 17-year-old like a 17-year-old should be treated.” [58], [59]

IWF Greta Thunberg Ad

“The horrifying thing about the Greta Thunberg vogue is that she is being used,” Hays claimed in the article. “a teenager says what these world leaders say. She simplifies the issue (teenagers do this, don’t they?).”[59]

December 4, 2019

IWF released a video with PragerU titled ”How Big Government Hurts Women.” According to a description by Carrie Lukas, who is also featured in the video, it “is just one of the many ways IWF is pushing back against the women-as-victims narrative and correcting the record about how policies actually work in practice and principle.” In the video, Lukas argues that government mandated paid leave for women is a bad idea. [54]

June 10, 2019

Heather Higgins, chairman of the board of IWF, appeared in a PragerU video titled “Who Does the Media Most Want to Silence?” In the video, Higgins claimed that conservative women are treated unfairly by the media, pointing to former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Kellyanne Conway as examples. [56]

September 2018

IWF consistently pushed for the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court Justice, even after Christine Blasey Ford’s sexual assault allegations came to light. IWF, while it was still known as “Women for Judge Thomas,” the group released a list of women who claimed they had never been harassed by Clarence Thomas and worked to stigmatize Anita Hill. These are similar to current tactics being employed by numerous groups to disparage and discredit Christine Blasey Ford for her sexual assault allegations against Justice Brett Kavanaugh. [42]

Some samples of IWF publications and appearances below:

IWF Senior Fellow Jennifer C. Braceras went on The Wilkow Majority to discuss the Me Too movement. According to Braceras, Blasey’s insistence on an investigation into the charges is “just proving it’s clearly a delay tactic. I mean, this was all manufactured to delay the nomination to after the midterms.”

IWF criticized Anita Hill’s comments on the sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh.

Jennifer C. Braceras wrote an Op-Ed at the Boston Globe reiterating her claim that Christine Blasey Ford’s charges of sexuall assualt were “a delay tactic, pure and simple.”

“In a just world, a last-minute attempt to stop judicial confirmations based on an uncorroborated allegation of teenage misconduct would not succeed,” Braceras wrote.

The IWF published an article titled “Women Should Support Judge Kavanaugh’s Nomination.” It was originally published at Real Clear Policy. The author is Erin Hawley, a legal fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum, an associate professor of law at the University of Missouri, and a former clerk to Chief Justice John Roberts. [41]

“Judge Kavanaugh does not hire ideologically — he hires women in record number regardless of their points of view. His former female law clerks, coming from diverse ideological persuasions, enthusiastically support Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination, not in spite of his position on women, but because of his advocacy for women,” Hawler claimed in the article.

“The erroneous statements of women’s rights organizations — that Judge Kavanaugh poses a danger to the rights of women to make their own decisions about health care, abortion, and workplace protections — are based on a misguided view of the Supreme Court. “

The IWF‘s version of the article features a stock image. A search of Shutterstock finds the image captioned “Female African American banker dressed in elegant black suit folding hands and looking on side standing against office building. Confident female entrepreneur with crossed arms looking on copy space.” [39], [40]

July 18, 2018

The Independent Women’s Forum, represented by Carrie L. Lukas, was among signatories of a letter supporting an anti-carbon tax resolution from House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va. [36]

“We oppose any carbon tax. We oppose a carbon tax because it would lead to less income and fewer jobs for American families,” the letter read. “We support the House Concurrent Resolution in opposition to a job-killing carbon tax and urge members to co-sponsor and support this effort.” [36]

The resolution would call a carbon tax “detrimental to the United States economy.”E&E News reported it was similar to a measure that passed the House in 2016. Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Florida, co-chairman of the Climate Solutions Caucus, said he would not vote for the resolution. [37]

“Protecting our environment and economic growth are not mutually exclusive,” he said in a statement. “The resolution presents a false choice.” [37]

The Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) issued a point-by-point rebuttal of the measure when it was first introduced. [38]

February 12, 2018

The Independent Women’s Forum was one of several organizations to join Americans for Prosperity (AfP) in a coalition opposing a federal gas tax increase. [34]

“Raising the gas tax is a bad idea. It will make the burden of government on families and businesses heavier,” the coalition’s open letter read[34]

Signatories include: [35]

Brent Wm. GardnerChief Government Affairs OfficerAmer
Michael A. NeedhamCEOHeritage Action for America
Grover NorquistPresidentAmericans for Tax Reform
David McIntoshPresidentClub for Growth
Nathan NascimentoExecutive Vice PresidentFreedom Partners Chamber of Commerce
Mark ScribnerSenior FellowCompetitive Enterprise Institute
Jason PyeVice President of Legislative AffairsFreedomWorks
Tom SchatzPresidentCitizens Against Government Waste
Pete SeppPresidentNational Taxpayers Union
Phil KerpenPresidentAmerican Commitment
Mario H. LopezPresidentHispanic Leadership Fund
Daniel GarzaPresidentThe Libre Initiative
Carrie L. LukasPresidentIndependent Women’s Forum
Heather R. HigginsPresident and CEOIndependent Women’s Voice
Harry C. AlfordPresident and CEONational Black Chamber of Commerce
Jeffrey MazellaPresidentCenter for Individual Freedom
Donald BrysonPresidentCivitas Action
David BarnesPolicy DirectorGeneration Opportunity
Norm SingletonPresidentCampaign for Liberty
Judson PhillipsFounderTea Party Nation
Seton MotleyPresidentLess Government
Kim Crockett, Esq.Vice President, Senior Fellow and General CounselCenter of the American Experiment
Tom Brinkman, Jr.ChairmanCoalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST)
Matthew KandrachPresidentConsumer Action for a Strong Economy (CASE)
Katie McAulliffeExecutive DirectorDigital Liberty
Brett HealyPresidentJohn K. MacIver Institute
Sean NoblePresidentAmerican Encore
Annette MeeksCEOFreedom Foundation of Minnesota
Andrew F. QuinlanPresidentCenter for Freedom and Prosperity

June 21, 2017

A report by CMD, following the release of files from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, found that IWF had sought $200,000 in 2016 from the Bradley foundation to fund a campaign dubbed “Working for Women” which would cost at least $720,00. In 2015, IWF had sought $350,000 from Bradley for a precursor to that project. The foundation ended up giving $150,000 that year. [47]

In the request to the Bradley Foundation for funding, IWF said it was developing “messaging to women which counter progressive appeals for ever-larger government programs to address policy issues of most concern to women.” [47]

The Bradley Files note the project was based on a book the Independent Women’s Forum published in 2014 called “Lean Together,” which the Foundation promoted on its website, noting it funded IWF[47]

In 2014, IWF sought nearly a quarter of its annual budget from Bradley or $250,000. That proposal was spearheaded by the Independent Women’s Forum’s board President, Heather Higgins. [47]

February 22–25, 2017

The IWF was a an Exhibitor at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), among a range of other conservative and pro-industry groups. [32]

January 12, 2017

IWV‘s Chairman Heather Higgins was a signatory to a January 12, 2017 official letter of support (PDF) for Scott Pruitt, in which numerous groups, including The Heartland InstituteAmerican Energy Alliance (AEA), and others, declared that the Senate should “swiftly approve his nomination” for Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Other signatories of the letter included: [31]

August 18, 2016

The Independent Women’s Forum (IWF) was profiled in The Nation, following analysis by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD). [29]

The Nation reports that “since 2010, IWF and its political arm, Independent Women’s Voice, have become aggressive players in Republican politics, embedded in the network of organizations backed by Charles and David Koch, advocating for the Koch brothers’ myriad concerns, and playing on their ‘independent’ label to elect GOP candidates.” [30]

The Independent Women’s Forum misrepresentations have included used its “independent” label to help Republications:

Being branded as neutral, but actually having people who know know that you’re actually conservative puts us in a unique position,” Heather Richardson Higgins, the President of the Independent Women’s Voice and the Board Chair of theIndependent Women’s Forum, admitted in a speech to potential 2016 donors at a David Horowitz Freedom Center retreat.

Our value here and what is needed in the Republican conservative arsenal is a group that can talk to those cohorts [women who are not Republican conservatives] that would not otherwise listen but can do it in a way that is taking a conservative message and packaging it in a way that will be acceptable,” she said. [29]

While IWF claims to be neutral on abortion, nearly all of the GOP congressional candidates supported by IWV have had a zero rating from NARAL Pro Choice America. The CMD report found that The Independent Women’s Voice (IWV) spent $850,000 in 2014 supporting GOP Senate candidates who had a zero rating from NARAL, except for Scott Brown. [30]

Our investigation showed that Higgins uses IWV’s independent brand name to reach independent or Democratic voters and spends money to help anti-choice extremists,” CMD’s Lisa Graves notes, “while IWF claims it is not anti-abortion and there is no GOP ‘war on women.’” [30]

“It’s clear that IWF and IWV are in the business of saying one thing, but doing another,” said CMD Executive Director Lisa Graves, co-authored of the report on the IWF and IWV. “The Not-So-Independent Women’s Forum/Voice.” “They call themselves ‘independent,’ while IWF backs policies that echo the corporate lobbying agenda and IWV tells donors it’s a crucial part of the ‘Republican conservative arsenal.’”

The Nation describes how Heather Higgins, president of the Independent Women’s Voice, is also a supporter of Donald Trump:

“Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good,” higgins told a GOP convention in Cleveland in July. “Your choice is Hillary Clinton who will be wrong on all issues.[…] Trump will surround himself with principled, savvy advisers who will lead us to the best possible outcomes on a wide range of [issues] and his judicial picks.” [30]

August, 2015

In an article titled “EPA’s stringent smog rules could suffocate economic opportunity,” Jillian Melchior, energy fellow for the Independent Women’s Forum, claims that EPA standards seeking to reduce smog levels would be economically damaging.

Melchior also doubts the studies that the EPA has used to reach its conclusions.

“In other words, junk science can enjoy its heyday, as long as its conclusions are politically convenient for an overzealous EPA,” she says. “[I]t’s increasingly clear that the EPA is cherry-picking its science, giving undue consideration to studies that support lower ozone standards while ignoring research that doesn’t match the agency’s political agenda.”  [14]

August 4, 2015

Jillian Kay Melchior, energy fellow for the Independent Women’s Forum, writes in the National Review that Obama’s Clean Power Plan will come at “enormous economic expense.” [15]

Melchior claims that the impact of the plan on climate change will be minimal, citing well-known climate change skeptics Patrick J. Michaels and Chip Knappenberger of the Cato Institute for support.

According to Melchior, “The Clean Power Plan exemplifies bad policy, deeply harming the economy without meaningful environmental or diplomatic achievements. States and the other two branches of federal government should act fast to halt this wrongheaded executive action.”

April 1, 2015

The Independent Women’s Forum (IWF) signed on to a letter (PDF) opposing the Clean Power Plan.  [16]

According to the Letter, the Clean Power Plan would “further centralize power in Washington,” and is a “power grab” by the EPA.

October 17, 2014

The Independent Women’s Forum promoted a study accusing the EPA of “low-ball[ing]” its costs, and ascribes “huge economic costs” to the EPA‘s Clean Power Plan. [17]

January 2013

IWF sent a spokesperson to testify against gun control laws in the aftermath of Newtown (the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting), claiming “guns make women safer.” [53]

May, 2010

IWF formed a supporting group called Balanced Education for Everyone with the goal of stopping the teaching of global warming in U.S. Schools, describing it as “junk science.” [18]

The group presented a petition to the District 51 school board demanding that modern climate change science suggesting that man-kind is responsible for climate change should not be taught in classrooms. Rose Pugliese presented the petition and stated that “It (global warming) is not a proven scientific theory. There is not evidence to support it.”

According to the campaign’s press release, “It’s wrong for schools to try to scare our children and not provide them with another perspective on global warming.  Schools are supposed to present facts and let students make judgments for themselves.” [19]

As part of the campaign, Balanced Education distributed a “documentary” titled Not Evil Just Wrong which purports to confront “the erroneous claims of environmental extremists” along with additional teaching curriculum materials. The film features a number of prominent climate change skeptics including Roy Innis, Richard Lindzen, Stephen McIntyre and Patrick Moore.

The Denver Post reports the link between Balanced Education and Rose Pugliese, “a Mesa County resident and officer of the Western Slope Conservative Alliance, when she petitioned the Mesa County District 51 school board to prohibit the teaching of manmade global warming and to stop teachers from presenting their political views in classrooms.” [20]

The school board denied Balanced Education’s petition, and the group’s website has since been taken down. [26]


IWF launched an initiative titled “Mothers for Educating with Sound Science” (MESS) which included radio appearances questioning mainstream science regarding climate change. [27]

In the same year, IWF hosted its annual college essay contest (PDF) where they offered $10,500 in prizes to write on the implications of climate change (emphasis added):

“While there are differing views among scientists regarding global warming, do you believe the potential costs to the American economy in terms of diminished economic growth, jobs and higher costs for goods and services are worth the cost of proposed climate policies to address the issue? If so, why? Or, do you believe this money should be spent on other priorities (and if so, where and why)?” [21]


IWF opposed the renewal of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), legislation which served to fund efforts to combat domestic abuse and aid victims of violence. IWF said that “the battered women’s movement has outlived its useful beginnings,” and suggested that passing VAWA would “do nothing to protect women from crime” but instead “perpetuate false information, waste money and urge vulnerable women to mistrust all men.” [22]

IWF wrote in a 15-page amicus brief that “Ideological distortions have produced a law that is not only unconstitutional, but harmful to the victims it purports to help.”

February 17, 1999

The Independent Women’s Forum held a conference titled “Scared Sick” contending “that many women don’t understand complex scientific issues and have developed unfounded fears about illnesses because of a cabal of liberals, environmental extremists, feminists and trial lawyers,” according to an article by John Schwartz at The Washington Post. [49]

A speech from the IWF conference was referenced by Steven Milloy in an issue of Policy Analysis on file at the UCSF tobacco archives. Milloy best known for running the website and working extensively with the tobacco industry (Milloy was executive director of The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition (TASSC), a front group set up by Philip Morris in 1993 and run by the public relations firm APCO & Associates). [50] 

IWF Contact & Location

As of June 2016, the Independent Women’s Forum (IWF) listed the following contact information on its website: [28]

Independent Women’s Forum
1875 I Street NW | Suite 500
Washington, DC 20006
202.857.5201 | phone
202.429.9574 | fax
email: [email protected]

Social Media


  1. Meredith Turits. “Women Don’t Trust GOP,” Says Conservative Organization Independent Women’s Forum. Do You Agree?” Glamour, November 9, 2012. Archived August 27, 2015.
  2. About IWF,” Independent Women’s Forum. Archived November 27, 2012.
  3. About IWF,” Archived October 12, 2015. WebCite URL
  4. Politically-charged pay equity bill to get vote in Senate Tuesday,” CNN Political Ticker, June 4, 2012. Archived August 27, 2015.
  5. Carrie L. Lukas. “Paycheck Fairness Act Proponents Are Only Playing Politics,” Republished by Independent Women’s Forum, May 30, 2012. Archived August 27, 2015.
  6. There Is No Male-Female Wage Gap,” The Wall Street Journal, April 12, 2011. Archived August 27, 2015.
  7. Ronnee Schreiber, Righting Feminism: Conservative Women and American Politics, Oxford University Press, June 2008. ISBN 0195331818 ISBN 978-0195331813.
  8. Carrie L. Lukas,” Independent Women’s Forum. Archived August 27, 2015.
  9. Carrie Lukas. “Government Jobs Programs Never Fair to All,” Goldwater Institute, December 17, 2008. Archived August 27, 2015.
  10. IWF Announces Exciting New Partnership” (Press Release), Independent Women’s Forum, October 28, 2003. Archived November 9, 2003.
  11. Carrie L. Lukas. “Skeptism on Climate Change,” Independent Women’s Forum, June 26, 2009. Archived August 27, 2015.
  12. Vickie E. Alger. “Common Core’s Global Warming Agenda,” Independent Women’s Forum, May 24, 2014. Archived August 28, 2015.
  13. Independent Women’s Forum,” Conservative Transparency. Accessed May 20, 2016.
  14. Jillian Melchior. “EPA’s stringent smog rules could suffocate economic opportunity,” The Sacramento Bee, August 15, 2015. Archived August 28, 2015.
  15. Jillian Kay Melchior. “Obama’s Latest Executive Action: Spend Hundreds of Billions to Not Help the Environment,” National Review, August 4, 2015. Archived August 28, 2015.
  16. “Dear Sen. McConnel” (PDF), Americans for Tax Reform, April 1, 2015. Archived August 28, 2015.
  17. Jillian Kay Melchior. “Study: EPA Low-Balled Costs of Carbon Regs,” Independent Women’s Forum. Archived August 28, 2015.
  18. Nancy Lofholm. “Push to teach ‘other side’ of global warming heats up in Colorado’s Mesa County,” The Denver Post, May 26, 2010. Archived August 28, 2015.
  19. IWF Launches Balanced Education for Everyone Campaign,” PR Newswire, April 5, 2010. Archived August 28, 2015.
  20. About,” Balanced Education for Everyone. Archived April 15, 2010.
  21. “Independent Women’s Forum 2008-2008 College Essay Contest” (PDF), Retreived from, November 2012. Archived August 28, 2015.
  22. Dana Milbank. “Ashcroft puts foxes over henhouse / 2 women who oppose domestic violence law named to oversee it,” Washington Post. Republished by San Francisco Chronicle, September 5, 2002.
  23. About IWV,” Independent Women’s Voice. Archived August 28, 2015.
  24. About,” Health Care Lawsuits. Archived August 28, 2015.
  25. Graham Readfearn. “The Millions Behind Bjorn Lomborg’s Copenhagen Consensus Center US Think Tank,” DeSmogBlog, June 24, 2014.
  26. Nancy Lofholm. “Conservatives’ ‘balanced education’ campaign disbands,” The Denver Post, July 3, 2010. Archived August 28, 2015.
  27. Amy Watson. “The Steve Largent Show: Mothers for Educating with Sound Science,” Independent Women’s Forum. Archived August 28, 2015.
  28. Contact IWF,” Independent Women’s Forum. Archived June 29, 2016. WebCite URL
  30. Joan Walsh. “Meet the ‘Feminists’ Doing the Koch Brothers’ Dirty Work,” The Nation, August 18, 2016. URL:
  31. “Dear Senators,” (PDF)Competitive Enterprise Institute, January 12, 2017. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.
  32. CPAC 2017 Sponsors,” Archived March 6, 2017. URL
  33. Independent Women’s Forum (IWF): Koch Industries Climate Denial Front Group,“ Greenpeace USA. Archived March 14, 2017. URL:
  34. Americans For Prosperity Leads Coalition Against Gas Tax Hike,” Americans for Prosperity, February 12, 2018. Archived February 20, 2018. URL:
  35. “Dear Representative:” (PDF), Americans for Prosperity, February 12, 2018.
  36. 41 Conservative Groups Support Scalise/McKinley Anti-Carbon Tax Resolution,” Americans for Tax Reform, July 18, 2018. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.
  37. Nick Sobczyk. “House voting on anti-carbon-tax measure: ‘Pass the popcorn’,” E&E News, July 16, 2018. Archived Aug 2, 2018. URL:
  38. Teaching opportunities from House Concurrent Resolution 119 (H.Con.Res.119)” (PDF), Citizens’ Climate Lobby, April 30, 2018.
  39. Why Women Should Support Judge Kavanaugh’s Nomination,” Independent Women’s Forum, September 10, 2018. Archived September 21, 2018. URL
  40. Female African American banker dressed in elegant black suit folding hands and looking on side standing against office building. Confident female entrepreneur with crossed arms looking on copy space,” Shutterstock image uploaded by user “GaudiLab.” Archived September 21, 2018. URL
  41. Why Women Should Support Judge Kavanaugh’s Nomination,” Independent Women’s Forum, September 10, 2018. Archived September 21, 2018. URL:
  42. Lisa Graves. “Confirmation: the Not-So Independent Women’s Forum Was Born in Defense of Clarence Thomas and the Far Right,” PR Watch, April 21, 2016.
  43. Carrie L. Lukas. “Inconvenient Facts About Inconvenient Youth,” Independent Women’s Forum, May 11, 2010. Archived May 26, 2019. URL:
  44. Eli Clifton. “Guess Which Women’s Group Rush Limbaugh Has Donated Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars to?The Nation, June 12, 2014. Archived February 4, 2020. URL
  45. WATCH LIVE: Independent Women’s Forum to Testify Before House Subcommittee on Environment, Effects of Proposed MATS Regulations,” Independent Women’s Forum, February 6, 2020. Archived February 6, 2020. URL:
  46. AMANDA (MANDY) GUNASEKARA,” CO2 Coalition. Archived February 6, 2020. URL:
  47. Bradley Foundation Fueled ‘Independent Women’s Forum’ Campaign Against Paid Sick Leave Laws and More,” The Center for Media and Democracy, June 21, 2017. Archived February 6, 2020. URL:
  48. Dear Kirk,” Independent Women’s Forum, March 22, 1999. Retrieved from Truth Tobacco Industry Documents Library. Bates No, 2065243729-2065243730. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.
  49. John Schwartz. “IF YOU SEEK THE TRUTH, DON‘T TRASH THE SCIENCE,” The Washington Post, Februry 21, 1999. Archived February 8, 2020. URL:
  50. Michael Gough and Steven Milloy. “The Case for Public Access to Federally Funded Research Data,” Policy Analysis no 386 (February 2, 2000). Retrieved from the Truth Tobacco Industry Documents Library. Bates No. 2077805898-2077805915.
  51. Public Policy Review Committee Meeting,” September 23, 1999. Retrieved from Truth Tobacco Indusry Documents library. Bates No. 2073204225-2073204271.
  52. 990000 PUBLIC POLICY CONTRIBUTIONS,” May 3, 1999. Retrieved from Truth Tobacco Indusry Documents library. Bates No. 2065281658-2065281661.
  53. Release: Gayle Trotter’s Full Senate Hearing Testimony ‘What Should America Do About Gun Violence’,Independent Women’s Forum, January 30, 2013. Archived February 12, 2020. URL:
  54. New PragerU Video: ‘How Big Government Hurts Women’,” Independent Women’s Forum, December 4, 2019. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog.
  55. 41 Conservative Groups Urge Support for Scalise/McKinley Anti-Carbon Tax Resolution,” MacIver Institute, July 19, 2018. Archived February 4, 2020. URL
  56. Who Does the Media Most Want to Silence?” YouTube video uploaded by user “PragerU,” June 10, 2019. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog.
  57. 41 Conservative Groups Urge Support for Scalise/McKinley Anti-Carbon Tax Resolution,” MacIver Institute, July 19, 2018. Archived February 4, 2020. URL
  58. Independent Women’s Forum sponsored ad (ID:320760718834924) for January 27 – Feb 1, 2020. Archived .png on file at DeSmog.
  59. Charlotte Hays. “Why Do Elites So Love to Be Lectured by a Swedish Teenager?Independent Women’s Forum, January 23, 2020. URL:

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