Roosevelt Institute, a New York City-headquartered 501(c)3 nonprofit, is a left-leaning think tank that asserts that the system of free-market capitalism is inherently unjust. The organization’s full name is The Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt Institute. It brings together liberal and Democratic lawmakers, economists, and academics to attempt to reshape policies, from the federal to the local levels.
The group is closely aligned with the progressive funder network Democracy Alliance, and the Alliance categorizes Roosevelt Institute as a “recommended organization.” Right-leaning groups are critical of the Institute’s major programs, asserting that Roosevelt Institute would see the American economy changed into a system more resembling socialism.
One of the institute’s major projects was the creation of a campus network for younger people with liberal ideologies, working together on such projects as Government By and For Millennial America where they learn organizing and campus activism. The group promotes such left-leaning ideas as automatic voter registration, public financing of political candidates, and more government support for public universities
As an example, Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, reported in April 2017 it had worked on such issues as lobbying trainings for an on-campus gun control group, Kenyon Students for Gun Sense, and mental health issues on campus. At George Washington University in Washington, D.C., Roosevelt Institute campus members pushed for the overhaul of a student health insurance plan, including subsidized premiums for low-income students.
Democracy Alliance, the left’s attempt to help guide top Democratic Party contributors’ money to the states to boost political will, urged its members in 2015 to invest in groups like Roosevelt Institute that pushed progressive economic policies.
The institute’s “Rewrite the Rules” touts higher taxes for heavy earners. Joseph E. Stiglitz, an economist and influential adviser to Hillary Clinton, issued a report published by Roosevelt Institute in 2015 that pushed rewriting decades of economic policies – including boosting taxes on capital gains – and that the group hoped would influence Clinton’s economic agenda during her presidential campaign.
Roosevelt Institute was among the left-leaning groups defending the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as Republicans looked to curb some of its power following President Trump’s election. Republicans argue that the level of authority given to CFPB Director Richard Cordray, a Democrat appointed by Barack Obama, violates the Constitutional separation of powers.
Felicia Wong serves as the institute’s president and CEO. She previously worked for the Democracy Alliance. She is co-author of “Rewrite the Racial Rules: Building an Inclusive American Economy.” The book claims that various laws, policies and institutions are the “driving force behind the patently unequal life changes and opportunities for too many individuals.”
Wong received total compensation of $305,431 from the organization in 2015, according to its IRS 990 form.
Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, granddaughter of FDR, serves as the chairwoman of the board. She also served as president and CEO of Goodwill Industries of Northern New England.
As a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, Roosevelt Institute is not required to disclose its donors, but does report total revenue of $5,010,159 and expenses of $6,446,069 on its 2015 IRS 990 form. Some reports over the years have revealed some sources of Roosevelt’s funding, such as the $200,000 grant in 2011 from the Peterson Foundation to have the institute’s campus network help prepare a fiscal summit to discuss methods for reducing the fiscal deficit. The Rockefeller Brothers Fund reported giving $233,000 to the institute from 2013-15. McArthur Foundation is a bedrock donor, having given $750,000 in 2014 and $700,000 in 2016.
The institute also lists the recipients of its grants, including such colleges and universities as Columbia University ($174,250) and University of California-Berkeley ($10,000). Roosevelt Institute also reports spending more than $300,000 for stipends and fellowships for members of the campus network at left-leaning think tanks in 2015.