The Libertas Institute is a non-partisan public policy think tank that advocates for free markets, individual freedom, and limited government in Utah. The institute was founded in 2011 and produces educational resources and policy proposals focused primarily on state and local laws and policies. 1
The Libertas Institute is an affiliate member of the State Policy Network, a coalition of free-market state-level policy organizations. 2 While the Libertas Institute is non-partisan, members of its staff have affiliations with the Republican Party.
The Libertas Institute advocates for a limited and open government, especially pertaining to regulations. The Institute recently published a policy paper stating that citizens of Utah should have the right to consistent and clear rules governing how permits are granted. The Libertas Institute claims that the current permit process is confusing, inconsistent, and unnecessarily lengthy, which poses a threat to personal freedom and property rights. The Libertas Institute further claims that these burdensome regulations, especially regarding building permits, may have the unintended consequence of either discouraging people from completing valuable projects or encouraging them to do so illegally. 3
The Libertas Institute opposes Utah SB228 (Electronic Free Speech Amendments), claiming that it allows the government to violate private companies’ First Amendment rights. The Institute further claims that SB228 would give the government more control over private speech, which could effectively discourage social media platforms from stopping the spread of misinformation and force private online platforms to support content they would have previously restricted. The Libertas Institute also claims that SB228 could also expose individuals to more online harassment, as companies would moderate their platforms less for fear of lawsuits. 4
The Libertas Institute produces educational materials that teach free-market economics to children. The Institute’s series The Tuttle Twins intends to teach children the advantages of a free-market economy, property rights, and educational choice. The Tuttle Twins series also intends to help children develop critical thinking skills that the Institute claims are lacking in most other children’s books. 5
The Libertas Institute is funded by donations from individuals, foundations, and corporations. While the Libertas Institute does not disclose its donors, tax filings confirm donations from the Coalition for Public Safety ($46,500 in 2018), 6 Donors Capital Fund ($41,500 in 2016), 7 and the John Templeton Foundation ($40,000 in 2016). 8
The Libertas Institute makes most of its revenue from the sale of its educational materials. According to its 2020 tax filing, the Libertas Institute earned more than $8 million in revenue from these sales. 9
Connor Boyack is the founder and president of the Libertas Institute and president of the Association for Teaching Kids Economics. Boyack is the former director of the Utah Tenth Amendment Center. 10
Michael Melendez is the executive vice president of the Libertas Institute and formerly worked as a legislative aide for former Utah State Senator Howard Stephenson (R-Draper). Melendez is the former state chair of the Utah chapter of the Young Americans for Liberty, campus coordinator for Students for Liberty, and activist for Campaign for Liberty. 11
Jen Maffessanti is the director of communications of the Libertas Institute. Maffessanti formerly worked as a senior writer for the Foundation for Economic Education and director of communications for the Libertarian Party of Georgia. Maffessanti is a former member of the leadership team of the Atlanta chapter of the Ladies of Liberty Alliance and former chair of the of the Atlanta chapter of the America’s Future Foundation. 12
Molly Davis is a policy analyst at the Libertas Institute, the executive director of the Utah Cannabis Association, and a senior contributor to Young Voices. 13
Rees Empey is the director of state government affairs at the Libertas Institute and a former criminal justice associate for the Utah Justice Coalition. 14
Amandah Hendricks is the donor relations manager at the Libertas Institute and a former legislative district chair of the Utah County Republican Party. 15
James Dunavant is the donor relations manager at the Libertas Institute and the executive director of the Free Market Medical Association. Dunavant is a former director of development of the Mises Institute. 16
Jessica Murphy is the grants coordinator at the Libertas Institute, a former foundations officer for Students for Liberty, and former state chair of the Utah chapter of Young Americans for Liberty. 17
Board of Trustees
Jeffrey Harmon is a co-founder of the Endorse Liberty PAC. 18
Other members of the board include board chair John Pestana, Jonathan Johnson, and Ty Brewer. 19
- “About.” Libertas Institute. Accessed October 20, 2021. https://libertas.org/about/.
- “The Network: Utah.” State Policy Network, 2021. Accessed October 20, 2021. https://spn.org/directory/#UT.
- Christensen, Aerin. “Permit Freedom: Reducing Regulation in Everyday Life.” LIbertas Institute. Accessed October 25, 2021. https://libertas.org/policy-papers/permit_freedom.pdf.
- Boyack, Connor. “Utah should not restrict or mandate online speech.” Libertas Institute, March 19, 2021. Accessed October 25, 2021. https://libertas.org/op-eds/utah-should-not-prohibit-or-mandate-online-speech/.
- “Home.” The Tuttle Twins, 2021. Accessed October 25, 2021. https://tuttletwins.com/.
- Coalition for Public Safety, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990), 2018, Schedule I, Part II.
- Donors Capital Fund, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990), 2016, Schedule I, Part II.
- John Templeton Foundation, Return of Private Foundation (Form 990-PF), 2016, Part XV, Line 3a.
- Libertas Institute, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990), 2020, Part VIII, Line 2g.
- Evans, Chemain. “Connor Boyack, CEO of the Libertas Institute, Author of the ‘Tuttle Twins’ Series, Lover of the Free Market.” Lemonade Stand, September 1, 2020. Accessed October 21, 2021. https://blog.lemonadestand.org/connor-boyack/.
- “Michael Melendez.” LinkedIn, 2021. Accessed October 21, 2021. https://www.linkedin.com/in/michaelamelendez/.
- “Jen Maffessanti.” LinkedIn, 2021. Accessed October 21, 2021. https://www.linkedin.com/in/jenmaffessanti/.
- “Molly Davis.” LinkedIn, 2021. Accessed October 21, 2021. https://www.linkedin.com/in/mollyedavis/.
- “Staff.” Libertas Institute. Accessed October 20, 2021. https://libertas.org/about/staff/.
- “Amandah Hendricks.” LinkedIn, 2021. Accessed October 21, 2021. https://www.linkedin.com/in/amandah-hendricks-93981471/.
- “James Dunavant.” LinkedIn, 2021. Accessed October 21, 2021. https://www.linkedin.com/in/james-dunavant-12ab9926/.
- “Jessica Murphy.” LinkedIn, 2021. Accessed October 21, 2021. https://www.linkedin.com/in/jmurphy11/.
- “Jeffrey Harmon.” LinkedIn, 2021. Accessed October 21, 2021. https://www.linkedin.com/in/jeffreyharmon/.
- “Board of Trustees.” Libertas Institute. Accessed October 20, 2021. https://libertas.org/about/board-of-trustees/.