Goldwater Institute


Phoenix, AZ

Tax-Exempt Status:



Victor Riches

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The Barry Goldwater Institute for Public Policy Research, known as the Goldwater Institute, is a right-of-center think tank based in Phoenix, Arizona, that promotes right of center, free-market public policy reforms in the state of Arizona as well as nationally. The organization was founded in 1988 with the support of former U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater (R-AZ).

The institute is a member of the State Policy Network, a consortium of state-based, right-of-center policy organizations that promote free-market policies in state governments and has subsequently grown into one of the largest State Policy Network affiliates with an expanded scope outside of Arizona engages on issues across the United States. In recent years, the organization has established a legal center that sues government agencies for alleged overreach and overregulation. 1


The Goldwater Institute was founded in 1988 with the blessing and support of former Senator Barry Goldwater (R-AZ), who had been the unsuccessful Republican Presidential nominee in the 1964 Presidential election. While the full name of the organization is The Barry Goldwater Institute for Public Policy Research, the organization has done business as the Goldwater Institute for most of its existence. 2

The Goldwater Institute touts dozens of various policies supported in the decades since its founding. In 1992, the organization helped pass its first tax reform proposal by providing tax-related research to Arizona Governor Fife Symington (R), who later praised the organization’s efforts. In 1998, the organization proposed a charter school funding model for the state of Arizona, which became an early adopter of charter schools, which serve seventeen percent of the state’s student population as of early 2021. In the early 2000s, the Goldwater Institute began to lobby for policies outside of Arizona and in 2005 pushed for the passage of mandatory open school enrollment in Indiana. 3

In 2007, the organization founded its litigation arm with the intent to initiate lawsuits around property rights, government overreach, and other right-leaning policy priorities. In the 2010s the Goldwater Institute began to further expand its influence by both lobbying for issues across the nation and initiating several high-profile lawsuits against government agencies on behalf of pro-bono clients. In McComish v. Bennett, a case challenging campaign finance law, the institute argued and won before the U.S. Supreme Court. The organization also sued to block the city of Glendale, Arizona, from giving $100 million for the Phoenix Coyotes of the National Hockey League to build a new stadium. 4

The organization has awarded the annual Goldwater Award since 1993. The inaugural recipient was former U.S. Rep. Jack Kemp (R-NY). Subsequent recipients of the award have included notable conservative figures such as Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Clarence Thomas, Milton Friedman, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, George Will, and Peggy Noonan. 5

In 2007, the Goldwater institute founded its Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation with the intent of suing government agencies on behalf of individuals over various right-leaning issues such as property rights, free speech, school choice, and equal protections. The organization often actively litigates up to thirty cases at a time on behalf of a wide variety of groups and individuals. Many cases center on free speech protections provided under state constitutions as opposed to the United States Constitution. The group has sued over free speech protection of college athletes, donors, small business owners, and corporations. 6

Several suits brought by the organization have centered on challenging mandatory bar association dues for attorneys in several states. The institute won such a case against the North Dakota Bar Association in 2015 over the association using money collected by members’ dues to fund political activities and advocacy that some members of the bar did not support. 7

In 2011, the Goldwater Institute’s litigation arm successfully brought a case concerning an Arizona election law to the United States Supreme Court. The organization challenged a state law that provided extra matching public funds to candidates when opposing candidates or groups that opt-out of public financing raise more than a certain amount. In a 5-4 decision authored by Chief Justice John Roberts and joined by conservative justices, the court sided with Goldwater and struck down the law under first amendment grounds. 8

NHL Dispute with City of Glendale

In 2011, the Goldwater Institute opposed the sale of the Phoenix Coyotes of the National Hockey League from the NHL to Chicago-based investor Matthew Hulsizer. The planned sale included the city of Glendale, which owned the arena where Coyotes played, providing $116 million to Hulsizer to help him purchase the team. Concerns brought by the Institute initially raised bond prices and hindered the city’s ability to initially provide the funds for the sale. The Institute held that the plan violated a ban on gifts to private individuals in the state constitution and warned bond rating agencies of its concerns. 9

Eventually, both the Hulsizer proposal and a later proposal from another prospective ownership group fell apart in part due to the Goldwater Institute’s opposition. In 2013, a deal that was not opposed by the Institute was reached with a separate ownership group that did not include a large payment of public money. 10


Victor Riches is the president and CEO of the Goldwater Institute. Riches previously served as deputy chief of staff to Arizona Governor Doug Ducey (R) and is the former chief of staff to both the Arizona State Senate and State House of Representatives. 11

Timothy Sandefur runs the litigation arm of the Goldwater Institute and is also a scholar at the Cato Institute. Sandefur previously worked as a litigator at the Pacific Legal Foundation for fifteen years and has authored several books about the constitution and free-market principles. 12

Board members of the Goldwater institute include Grover Norquist, the founder and president of the right-leaning group Americans for Tax Reform, and Barry Goldwater, Jr. the son of the organization’s namesake who himself served in Congress as a U.S. Representative from California from 1969 to 1983. 13


The Goldwater Institute has been reported to receive funding from a broad base of right-leaning grantmaking organizations and family foundations, including many Arizona-based foundations such as the Bill and Marian Cook Foundation, the Edmunds Family Foundation, the Herbster Family Foundation, the Nehring Foundation, and the Robert and Marie Hanen Foundation. National funders of the institute include the State Policy Network, the Mercer Family Foundation, and the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation. 14


  1. “About.” Goldwater Institute. Accessed January 28, 2021.
  2. “IRS Form 990.” Goldwater Institute. 2018. Accessed January 28, 2021.
  3. “30 Milestones for 30+ Years of Advancing Freedom.” Goldwater Institute. Accessed January 28, 2021.
  4. “30 Milestones for 30+ Years of Advancing Freedom.” Goldwater Institute. Accessed January 28, 2021.
  5. “30 Milestones for 30+ Years of Advancing Freedom.” Goldwater Institute. Accessed January 28, 2021.
  6. “Litigation.” Goldwater Institute. Accessed January 28, 2021.
  7. “30 Milestones for 30+ Years of Advancing Freedom.” Goldwater Institute. Accessed January 28, 2021.
  8. “McComish v. Bennett.” SCOTUSblog. Accessed January 28, 2021.
  9. Associated Press. “Group accused of hindering sale.” ESPN. March 3, 2011. Accessed January 28, 2021.
  10. Giblin, Paul. “Advocacy group won’t block Coyotes deal.” USA Today. July 11, 2013. Accessed January 28, 2021.
  11. “Victor Riches.” Goldwater Institute. Accessed January 28, 2021.
  12. “Timothy Sandefur.” Federalist Society. Accessed January 28, 2021.
  13. “About.” Goldwater Institute. Accessed January 28, 2021.
  14. Moore, David. “Koch-Funded Group Seeks to Overturn Voter-Approved Tax on Arizona’s Wealthiest 1%.” Sludge. December 16, 2020. Accessed January 28, 2021.
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Goldwater Institute

Phoenix, AZ