Non-profit

Bell Policy Center

Website:

www.bellpolicy.org/

Location:

DENVER, CO

Tax ID:

84-1550841

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(3)

Budget (2016):

Revenue: $862,447
Expenses: $1,007,995
Assets: $401,665

Bell Policy Center is a left-of-center state-level think tank based in Colorado. It is known for its support of efforts to raise state taxes and increase state spending; the group opposes the state’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR). It also focuses on other economic issues with a self-described emphasis on economic mobility.

It is affiliated with national left-of-center organizations and networks. Among the affiliations are with the labor union backed Economic Policy Institute and the national left-wing state level policy network the Economic Analysis and Research Network. The organization is also a supported organization of the Colorado Democracy Alliance.

Opposition to TABOR

The Bell Policy Center has been a strong opponent to Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR). TABOR was enacted in 1992 as a state constitutional amendment; liberal groups including the Bell Center continue to challenge it in court and in ballot initiatives. [1] Under TABOR, state and local government must get the approval of voters in order to raise taxes. State government spending is also limited to increases in population and inflation. If tax revenues exceed spending, the state government must issue refunds to state taxpayers. [2]

The Bell Policy Center sees TABOR as forcing state government to shrink. It also criticized the law for forcing state government to come up with complex schemes to fund state government. “It promised power to the people, but it gave us more of a Rube Goldberg mechanism for funding public structures and systems,” then-Bell Policy president Wade Buchanan said in 1993. “You’ve got a legislature that is supposed to make spending decisions and the people, who are supposed to make revenue decisions. You don’t really have a way of effectively rationalizing the two of those processes.” [3]

In 2005, the Bell Policy Center supported Referendum C, which suspended the rebates to taxpayers. Instead, the state government would be allowed to spend the money on transportation, education, and health care. Bell helped assemble a coalition that included labor unions, teachers, and chambers of commerce, among others. “I’ve never seen a coalition like that before,” said Buchanan. “I don’t think we’ll see it again. It was the most important state election in the last 15 years.” [4]

Referendum C had a companion, Referendum D, which would’ve allowed the state to issue over $1.5 billion in bonds to repair schools, roads, and improve facilities at state universities. Referendum C narrowly passed and Referendum D narrowly failed. [5]

Bell Policy Center continues to support efforts to weaken or eliminate TABOR. In 2019, the organization conducted a poll that found 60% of Colorado voters supported raising taxes on the wealthy to fund early childhood education. The Bell Policy Center supports replacing Colorado’s flat tax with a graduated income tax system. [6]

Colorado Democracy Alliance

The Bell Policy Center has ties to the Colorado Democracy Alliance, an organization of wealthy Colorado left-wing funders. As of 2008, the Bell Policy Center was one of 37 approved organizations that received donations from alliance members. [7]

The Bell Policy Center generated the policy research for the ascendant Colorado left wing. Among the organizations that donated money to the organization were the Gill Foundation and the Rutt Bridges Family Foundation. [8]

Another tie between Bell and CoDA is they share a former employee, Laurie Zeller. Zeller worked as a policy director for Bell and was the former executive director of CoDA. Zeller praised Bell and its campaign against TABOR in a presentation at the Democratic National Convention in 2008. “As you may know, we have an arcane constitutional provision that requires that voters have to approve any increase in taxes and spending. And the Bell has developed an expertise and a communications capacity on those issues that has helped to empower the progressive sector to be able to talk about the funding concerns of the states, and really about the role of government, that it plays. There are 19 measures on the ballot here in Colorado, and the Bell is serving as an information conduit for progressive organizations and progressive leaders.” Zeller said. [9]

Leadership

The president of the Bell Policy Center is Colorado Democratic operative Scott Wasserman. Wasserman has been president since August 2016. Previously, Wasserman was deputy chief of staff to Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper (D). He was also chief of staff to Lt. Governor Joe Garcia (D) and Lt. Governor Donna Lynne (D). He also worked in leadership positions at the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the SEIU’s Colorado local, Colorado Wins. Before that, he worked as a lobbyist and press secretary for the Colorado House Minority Office. [10]

Julie Pecaut serves as the director of strategy and operations. She has worked at Bell since 2013. Before working at Bell, she worked at the Family Resource Center Association. Previously, she owned a consulting service that worked for left-progressive campaigns and causes. [11]

The director of policy and research is Tyler Jaeckel. Jaeckel worked as a program director at the Kennedy School Government Performance lab. Previously, he held a position in the administration of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He also held positions with the Senate Banking Committee and the executive office of the president. [12]

Cate Blackford is the director of outreach and development. Previously, she worked for Hunger Free Colorado. Before that, she was advocate for public health initiatives and affordable housing. [13]

Wade Buchanan was the first president of the Bell Policy Center. He was president from the founding of the organization in 2001 and served as president until 2016. Buchanan was a former top aide to Colorado Governor Roy Romer (D). He also served as executive director of Colorado Conservation Voters.

Laurie Zeller once worked as a policy director. She is a former executive director of the Colorado Democracy Alliance and once served as the former publisher of the left-leaning Colorado Independent news website. Zeller led the campaign to weaken Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) in 2005, Referendum C and Referendum D.

Funding

According to its 2015 tax returns, the Bell Policy Center raised a little over $1 million. It spent $988,838 in expenses.

The major expenditure is on the family economic security program. It spent $760,301 on research and developing policy on issues such as workforce development, education, aging, economic policy such as raising the minimum wage, and retirement issues.

It spent $23,490 influencing the Colorado legislature and grassroots lobbying.

References

  1. Bunch, Joey. “Supporters of Colorado’s TABOR Have Something New to Worry About.” Colorado Springs Gazette. The Colorado Springs Gazette, L.L.C., August 14, 2019. https://gazette.com/news/supporters-of-colorado-s-tabor-have-something-new-to-worry/article_546edd08-acdd-11e9-b15f-7f4d5e134b51.html. ^
  2. Hoover, Tim. 2013. “Tabor At Twenty”. National Conference Of State Legislatures. http://www.ncsl.org/research/fiscal-policy/tabor-at-twenty.aspx. ^
  3. Hoover, Tim. 2013. “Tabor At Twenty”. National Conference Of State Legislatures. http://www.ncsl.org/research/fiscal-policy/tabor-at-twenty.aspx. ^
  4. Ehrenhalt, Alan. 2006. “Rewriting The Formula”. Governing. https://www.governing.com/topics/politics/Rewriting-Formula.html. ^
  5. Jacobson, Linda. 2005. “Colorado Referendum Targets Revenue Cap – Education Week”. Education Week. https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2005/10/19/08colo.h25.html. ^
  6. Draplin, Derek. 2019. “Pro-Tax Group’s Poll Says 60 Percent Of Coloradans Want To Tax The Rich Despite Voters Rejecting Tax Hikes”. The Center Square. https://www.thecentersquare.com/colorado/pro-tax-group-s-poll-says-percent-of-coloradans-want/article_a1887af4-3096-11e9-9486-cf8635912b8d.html. ^
  7. Fender, Jessica. 2008. “Progressive Gang Uses Nonprofits To Push Politics”. The Denver Post. https://www.denverpost.com/2008/10/05/progressive-gang-uses-nonprofits-to-push-politics/. ^
  8. Vadum, Matthew, and James Dellinger. 2008. “The Democracy Alliance Does America: The Soros-Founded Plutocrats’ Club Forms State Chapters”. Capital Research Center. https://capitalresearch.org/article/the-democracy-alliance-does-america-the-soros-founded-plutocrats-club-forms-state-chapters/. ^
  9. Vadum, Matthew, and James Dellinger. 2008. “The Democracy Alliance Does America: The Soros-Founded Plutocrats’ Club Forms State Chapters”. Capital Research Center. https://capitalresearch.org/article/the-democracy-alliance-does-america-the-soros-founded-plutocrats-club-forms-state-chapters/. ^
  10. “Staff”. 2019. The Bell Policy Center. Accessed August 19. http://www.bellpolicy.org/meet-the-staff/. ^
  11. “Staff”. 2019. The Bell Policy Center. Accessed August 19. http://www.bellpolicy.org/meet-the-staff/ ^
  12. “Staff”. 2019. The Bell Policy Center. Accessed August 19. http://www.bellpolicy.org/meet-the-staff/. ^
  13. “Staff”. 2019. The Bell Policy Center. Accessed August 19. http://www.bellpolicy.org/meet-the-staff/. ^

Directors, Employees & Supporters

  1. Laurie Zeller
    Former Policy Director
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: March 1, 2001

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2016 Dec Form 990 $862,447 $1,007,995 $401,665 $17,761 N $857,916 $0 $31 $209,918
    2015 Dec Form 990 $1,053,956 $988,838 $555,520 $26,068 N $1,049,710 $0 $20 $189,335 PDF
    2014 Dec Form 990 $1,177,142 $1,035,691 $487,335 $23,001 N $1,175,291 $0 $0 $159,320 PDF
    2013 Dec Form 990 $1,009,060 $1,002,542 $343,046 $20,163 N $1,004,659 $0 $0 $161,510 PDF
    2012 Dec Form 990 $1,050,284 $1,044,285 $328,242 $11,877 N $1,049,349 $0 $53 $156,589 PDF
    2011 Dec Form 990 $700,531 $1,040,656 $338,337 $27,971 N $698,018 $0 $204 $160,000 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    Bell Policy Center

    1905 N SHERMAN ST STE 900
    DENVER, CO 80203-1130