Non-profit

Commonwealth Foundation

Website:

www.commonwealthfoundation.org/

Location:

Harrisburg, PA

Tax ID:

23-2473845

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(3)

Budget (2017):

Revenue: $3,486,350
Expenses: $2,993,022
Assets: $1,050,050

Formation:

1987

Type:

Think tank

The Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy Alternatives, commonly known as the Commonwealth Foundation, is a right-of-center think tank that promotes free market solutions for Pennsylvania policy matters. It is a member of the State Policy Network, a right-of-center consortium of conservative and libertarian thinktanks that focus on state-level policy. [1]It is also a regular collaborator with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a nonprofit organization of conservative state legislators and private sector representatives who promote free market legislation.

The Commonwealth Foundation currently prioritizes its research on expanding school choice, moderating criminal justice approaches, balancing the Pennsylvania state budget, and placing limits on state spending.

Founding and History

The Commonwealth Foundation was founded in 1987 by Alex G. McKenna, Don Eberly, and T. William Boxx. Brought together by national-level conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation, its founders received support from, among other sources, the Philip M. McKenna Foundation, the Sarah Scaife Foundation, and the Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association. [2]

The Commonwealth Foundation was created with the purpose of combatting entrenched Pennsylvania labor union interests, and, in its first year under president Don Eberly, the Commonwealth Foundation promoted privatization and targeted agency shop rules (“forced dues”) and minimum wage hikes while promoting tort reform and tax reductions. [3]

As early as 1989, the Commonwealth Foundation became a leading advocate for school choice and voucher systems in the state of Pennsylvania. [4] Since 1991, it has worked closely with the REACH Foundation (Road to Educational Achievement through Choice), an alliance of school choice advocates that was instrumental in the 2001 passage of Pennsylvania’s Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program. [5]As of 2021, two Commonwealth Foundation affiliates are on the REACH Foundation’s board of directors. [6]

In 2002, Matthew Brouillette, the former director of education policy for the right-of-center Michigan-based Mackinac Center for Public Policy, was appointed CEO and president of the Foundation. [7] Under his leadership, the Commonwealth Foundation grew from three employees and $350,000 in revenue to 18 employees and over $4 million in revenue by 2016. [8]

In 2012, the Commonwealth Foundation led an effort, together with the ACLU and a bipartisan coalition, to secure the passage of Pennsylvania’s 2012 criminal justice reforms. According to coverage by the center-left PennLive, the overall estimated savings of the reform recommendations was projected to top $250 million over five years. [9]

In 2016, Brouillette stepped down and was replaced by Charles Mitchell, a longtime staffer and the Commonwealth Foundation’s COO since 2010.  [10]

That same year, Jane Leader Janeczek, a registered Democrat and daughter of former Democratic Governor of Pennsylvania George Leader, was appointed as chair of the Foundation’s board of directors.  In a column announcing her election as the organization’s chairwoman, she wrote: “As my father and I — both lifelong Democrats — became more familiar with the work of the Commonwealth Foundation, we found not one policy proposal with which we disagreed. Whether prison reform to fix an ailing system, pension reform to put our state on solid financial footing, or paycheck protection to respect the use of taxpayer dollars, the Commonwealth Foundation’s proposals represent common-sense policies.” [11]

Activities

The Commonwealth Foundation publishes its research, news, and commentary on its website. On its “Accomplishments” page, it takes credit for defeating billions of dollars in tax hikes for pensions (a reference to its advocacy for Pennsylvania’s 2017 pension reform) and continuing to expand school choice throughout the state. [12]

With regard to the 2020 election of President Joe Biden, the Commonwealth Foundation shared an article on its website written in RealClearPolitics that expressed an optimism surrounding the new administration. It cited a former Republican mayor of Scranton, who said: ““I feel very confident about Biden… I tried to serve all the people – that’s my philosophy in government – and I believe Biden will have a similar approach.” [13]

Finances

The Commonwealth Foundation’s 2019 tax filings show total revenues of $5,704,965 and total expenses of $4,301,074. That year, the Commonwealth Foundation gave Philadelphia-based right-of-center advocacy group Broad and Liberty a grant of $10,000. [14]

Leadership

The current president of the Commonwealth Foundation is Charles Mitchell. In 2014, Charles received State Policy Network‘s Overton Award; in 2017, City & State PA named him one of its 40 Under 40 Rising Stars; and in 2019 he was honored with the Heritage Foundation‘s Distinguished Alumni Award. [15] Prior to being appointed president, Mitchell was the Foundation’s COO. He draws a yearly salary of $290,414. [16]

The Commonwealth Foundation’s Board of Directors claims U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) and former Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania Bill Scranton III (R), as Directors Emeriti. [17]

References

  1. Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy Alternatives. (n.d.). Retrieved January 26, 2021, from https://spn.org/organization/commonwealth-foundation-for-public-policy-alternatives/ ^
  2. Boxx, T. W. (n.d.). History. Retrieved January 26, 2021, from https://www.commonwealthfoundation.org/about/page/history ^
  3. Boxx, T. W. (n.d.). History. Retrieved January 26, 2021, from https://www.commonwealthfoundation.org/about/page/history ^
  4. Harley, K. (1989, January). HOW “SCHOOLS OF CHOICE” CAN IMPROVE THE PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM. Retrieved January 26, 2021, from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED398326.pdf ^
  5. Educational Improvement Tax Credit Program. (2008, July 19). Retrieved January 26, 2021, from http://bgc.pioneerinstitute.org/educational-improvement-tax-credit-program/ ^
  6. About. (n.d.). Retrieved January 26, 2021, from https://www.paschoolchoice.org/about ^
  7. Matthew J. Brouillette. (n.d.). Retrieved January 26, 2021, from https://www.mackinac.org/bio.aspx?ID=92 ^
  8. CEO of Commonwealth Foundation stepping down in June. (2016, April 05). Retrieved January 26, 2021, from https://www.cpbj.com/ceo-of-commonwealth-foundation-stepping-down-in-june/ ^
  9. Gilliland, D. (2012, July 06). Gov. Tom Corbett signs Pennsylvania prison reform into law. Retrieved January 26, 2021, from https://www.pennlive.com/midstate/2012/07/corbett_signs_prison_reform_in.html ^
  10. Charles Mitchell. (n.d.). Retrieved January 26, 2021, from https://www.commonwealthfoundation.org/about/detail/charles-mitchell ^
  11. Leader Janeczek, Jane (June 6, 2016). “How Democratic Gov. Leader’s daughter shed party labels”. York Daily Record. Retrieved 6 June 2016. ^
  12. Pennsylvania’s Pension Systems. (2018, November 06). Retrieved January 26, 2021, from https://www.commonwealthfoundation.org/policyblog/detail/pennsylvanias-pension-systems Accomplishments. (n.d.). Retrieved January 26, 2021, from https://www.commonwealthfoundation.org/about/page/accomplishments ^
  13. McElwee, C. (2021, January 13). Op-Ed: Will a Biden Presidency Reflect His Scranton Roots? Retrieved January 26, 2021, from https://www.commonwealthfoundation.org/policyblog/detail/op-ed-will-a-biden-presidency-reflect-his-scranton-roots ^
  14. Commonwealth Foundation 990. (n.d.). Retrieved January 26, 2021, from https://www.guidestar.org/profile/23-2473845 ^
  15. Commonwealth Foundation. “Charles Mitchell.” Commonwealth Foundation. Accessed January 27, 2021. https://www.commonwealthfoundation.org/about/detail/charles-mitchell. ^
  16. Commonwealth Foundation 990. (n.d.). Retrieved January 26, 2021, from https://www.guidestar.org/profile/23-2473845 ^
  17. Board of Directors. (n.d.). Retrieved January 26, 2021, from https://www.commonwealthfoundation.org/about/page/board-of-directors ^
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: September - August
  • Tax Exemption Received: June 1, 1988

  • 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
    2017 Sep Form 990 $3,486,350 $2,993,022 $1,050,050 $171,971 N $3,486,121 $0 $126 $538,429 PDF
    2016 Sep Form 990 $3,661,832 $3,480,789 $492,902 $95,518 N $3,658,014 $0 $144 $392,627
    2015 Sep Form 990 $2,113,078 $2,734,578 $764,438 $547,184 N $2,108,374 $0 $146 $266,819 PDF
    2014 Dec Form 990 $3,929,099 $3,838,154 $1,018,031 $178,846 N $3,764,218 $0 $451 $302,410 PDF
    2013 Dec Form 990 $2,810,324 $2,665,762 $919,970 $161,248 N $2,642,015 $0 $1,296 $308,118 PDF
    2012 Dec Form 990 $1,551,722 $1,648,046 $696,947 $82,975 N $1,513,556 $0 $397 $247,122 PDF
    2011 Dec Form 990 $1,951,566 $1,671,566 $758,913 $48,930 N $1,944,041 $0 $1,345 $289,476 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    Commonwealth Foundation

    225 STATE ST STE 302
    Harrisburg, PA 17101-1129