Center of the American Experiment: Right-wing lobbyists disguised as a think tank

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President John Hinderaker also owns Power Line, the conservative blog that leans more crackpot than scholar

You might have noticed that the Center of the American Experiment is getting a lot of ink this week.

First, there was the think tank's op-ed in the Star Tribune, “Minnesota, where the economy is not even average.” President John Hinderaker tried to argue, despite all evidence to the contrary, that Minnesota's economy is in the dumps and getting worse, with legions fleeing the state due to high taxes.

Then came another Strib op-ed, “Why fight over light rail when there’s a bus rapid transit? by center vice president Kim Crockett. She defended Republicans' blockade of light rail funding, saying the southwest suburbs don't need light rail because they already have buses.

If a reader didn't know better, one might think these lofty views were the product of independent scholars at the center's Golden Valley headquarters. They're not. Despite the impressive and most researchy name, the Center for the American Experiment is run by the same guy, John Hinderaker, who runs the Power Line, where he leaves no question about his worldview.

At Power Line, Hinderaker does little to feign any notion of scholarship. Some recent headlines:

“The Trump speech that will win him the presidency.”

“Obamacare is collapsing, but Democrats don’t mind.”

“Another implausible Black Lives Matter martyr.”

“The climate gang that couldn’t shoot straight.”

Power Line can't usually can’t get the mainstream media to repeat its opinions, but it did influence big news stories this week from the Star Tribune and Fox 9.

Last Friday, Power Line wrote Ilhan Omar, the Somali American woman who just made history by winning the DFL nomination to the Minnesota legislature, is legally married to someone other than the man she calls her husband. This was proof, the site suggested, that Omar married her brother in order to commit immigration fraud.

It was a pretty big leap, but the mystery of Omar’s marriage records proved just enticing enough for mainstream reporters to bite, including City Pages

The Center of the American Experiment has been around since 1990. It was founded by a Reagan education department appointee Mitch Pearlstein and was funded by corporations, wealthy conservatives, and right-wing charities like the Bradley Foundation, John M. Olin Foundation, and the J.M. Foundation. A number of its researchers are are actually registered lobbyists.

Despite all that money, the center struggled to gain visibility in the liberal Twin Cities.

Then Pearlstein, who led the center for 25 years before passing the torch to Hinderaker, began shaming the media for being biased against conservatives and not giving his think tank enough respect and attention.

Wealthy backers aside, he positioned the center as a Robin Hood of sorts, battling Minnesota’s lefty orthodoxy.

The Center of the American Experiment is certainly gaining visibility now, and there’s nothing particularly exceptional about the way they did it. As the New York Times recently reported, many think tanks have become corporate lobbying firms disguised as research institutes. 


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