Free to Choose Network

Free to Choose Network


The Free to Choose Network is a a non-profit foundation that arose from Milton Friedman's 1980s PBS series, “Free To Choose” and the resulting book. The group's founder, Bob Chitester, was the PBS program's executive producer and sought to “expose a world hindered by big government to Friedman’s concepts of limited government, individualism, and the US Constitution.” [1], [2]

The late Milton Friedman was an advocate of free markets and past was fellow at the Hoover Institution which SourceWatch reports has received grants from ExxonMobil, Koch Foundations and other right wing foundations such as the Sarah Scaife Foundation. [3]

Bob Chitester also ran the now-defunct Palmer R. Chitester Fund, a libertarian 501(c)(3) nonprofit  based in Pennsylvania which appears to have merged/now operates as Free to Choose Network (they share the same EIN).  Free to Choose Media and a group called Izzit.olrg were both “operating divisions” (PDF) of the Palmer R. Chitester Fund and work to reproduce programs and videos regarding classical liberal ideas., (formerly In the Classroom Media) describes itself as an “educational initiative of the Free to Choose Network” and produces media for children. notably distributed climate change denial videos funded by the Heartland Institute to schools in the United States. [4][5], [6]

Free to Choose Network describes it's purpose as “To use accessible and entertaining media to build popular support for personal, economic and political freedom thus advancing human well-being.” [7]

Stance on Climate Change

The following is a quote from Roy Spencer, promoted in an Izzit DVD (a group supported by the Free to Choose Network): [8]

“So the truth is out. And it really is inconvenient: The earth is probably warming a little bit – and man probably doesn't have that much influence. If we were to take draconian measures to change our miniscule contribution, we'd be shooting ourselves in the economic foot (especially when we can currently do absolutely nothing about the behavior of the sun).”


The following funding are taken from the Conservative Transparency Project, based on publicly-available 990 tax returns. Note that not all funding values have been verified by DeSmogBlog for accuracy. [9]

The Network has received over $500,000 from Donors Trust, and over $1.8 million from Donors Capital Fund, two groups that anonymously distribute donations. DCF has been a major funder of the Heartland Institute, and has given money to numerous other organizations skeptical of man-made climate change. Mother Jones has described the Donors Capital Fund as the “Dark money ATM of the conservative movement.” [10], [11]

Donor Contributions
Donors Capital Fund $1,814,414
DonorsTrust $508,500
The Rodney Fund $349,966
Bochnowski Family Foundation $300,000
Dunn's Foundation for the Advancement of Right Thinking $258,000
Hickory Foundation $105,000
Searle Freedom Trust $100,000
Smith Richardson Foundation $100,000
The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation $70,000
Dorothy D. and Joseph A. Moller Foundation $30,000
The Challenge Foundation $30,000
Atlas Economic Research Foundation $26,350
Armstrong Foundation $25,000
Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation $10,058
Center for Independent Thought $10,000
John William Pope Foundation $5,000
The Vernon K. Krieble Foundation $5,000
Grand Total $3,747,288

990 Forms


Key People

Board of Directors

As of October, 2015: [12]

  • Sarah Humphreys Atkins
  • Robert J. Chitester — Chairman, President and CEO
  • David Jorgensen — Vice Chairman
  • Wayne Olson
  • Chris J. Rufer
  • Suzanne Beach
  • Preston Cody
  • Michael L.S. Keiser
  • John Reese
  • Brian Singer, CFA
  • James J. Bochnowski
  • Maryjo Cohen
  • Ronald H. Muhlenkamp
  • Elizabeth Rose
  • Andy Walters

Past Directors

As of 2011, the following directors were also listed on Free to Choose's website: [13]


April, 2015

FreeToChoose Media promoted a program by Cato Institute Senior Fellow Johan Norberg titled “Power to the People,” which aired on PBS. [14]
“While bringing electricity to many remote villages in India and the Sahara causes an increase in carbon emissions, it also allows families to have refrigeration for their food, electricity to light their homes and the time to develop their lives beyond working just to sustain themselves every day.   'Don’t they deserve the same kinds of life changing benefits that power has brought the west?' Norberg asks.”

May 21 - 23, 2012

Free to Choose Network is listed as a “Silver Sponsor” of the Heartland Institute's Seventh International Conference on Climate Change (ICCC7). [16]

DeSmogBlog researched co-sponsors behind the conference and discovered that they had received a total of over $67 Million from ExxonMobil, Koch, and Scaife family foundations. [17]

May 16 - 18, 2010

The Free to Choose Network was a co-sponsor (PDF) of the Heartland Institute's Fourth International Conference on Climate Change (ICCC4). [18]

DeSmogBlog found that 19 of the 65 sponsors (including Heartland itself) had received a total of over $40 million in funding since 1985 from ExxonMobil (who funded 13 of the organizations), and/or Koch Industries family foundations (funded 10 organizations) and/or the Scaife family foundations (funded 10 organizations). [19]

June 2, 2009

The Free to Choose Network was a co-sponsor of the Heartland Institute's Third International Conference on Climate Change (ICCC3). [20]

March 8 - 10, 2009

The Free to Choose Network was a co-sponsor of the Heartland Institute's Second International Conference on Climate Change (ICCC2) in New York. [21]

DeSmogBlog found that the conference's sponsors had received over $47 milion in funding from energy companies and right-wing foundations. [22]


The Idea Channel produced a video that was funded and distributed by the Heartland Institute titled “Unstoppable Solar Cycles: Rethinking Global Warming.” 

A version of the video was distributed to schools by the advocacy organization, which describes itself as the “educational initiative of the Free To Choose Network” and included a “Teacher's Guide” (PDF) and lesson plan — Which the Heartland Institute co-promoted on their own website.  [5], [23], [24], [25

According to Free to Choose Network, “What we learn in this program is that earth’s climate is always changing—from The Middle Ages and the 'Little Ice Age' to the modern warming that has been going on since 1850—well before human-generated CO2 began increasing in our atmosphere.”

View sample of the video, produced by the Idea Channel, below:

Speakers featured in the program included prominent climate change skeptics Willie Soon and David Legates.  Notably, in the same year Free to Choose Network gave Willie Soon a $19,383 grant to study “The sun's influence on climate change.”  [26]

Rie Oldenburg, curator of the Narsaq Museum was interviewed in the video. She later said that she had been tricked into participating. She had thought she was contributing to a video on Norse history, and was shocked to learn that the DVD denied the human contribution to climate change. [6]

Related Organizations


  1. Company: Our Beginnings,” Free to Choose Network. Archived October 25, 2015. WebCite URL

  2. Company: Our Founder,” Free to Choose Network. Archived October 25, 2015. WebCite URL

  3. “Milton Friedman,” The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics. Archived October 25, 2015. WebCite URL

  4. Production Team for 'The Ultimate Resource” (PDF), Free to Choose Media, July 31, 2007. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmogBlog.

  5. About Us,” Archived October 25, 2015. WebCite URL

  6. Richard Littlemore. “Heartland Institute Tricked Video Subject in 'Unstoppable Solar Cycles',” DeSmogBlog, May 5, 2008.

  7. COMPANY: Our Purpose,” Free to Choose Network. Archived October 25, 2015. WebCite URL:

  8. Roy Spencer: Climate Realism v. Junk Science,” Ideas Matter. Archived May 6, 2012.

  9. Free To Choose Network,” Conservative Transparency. Accessed October 27, 2015.

  10. Exposed: The Dark-Money ATM of the Conservative Movement,” Mother Jones, February 5, 2013. Archived October 26, 2015. WebCite URL

  11. The case for Barre Seid as the Heartland Institute's Anonymous Donor, Part 3,” Daily Kos, February 26, 2012. Archived October 26, 2015.

  12. Company: Our Board of Directors,” Free to Choose Network. Archived October 26, 2015. WebCite URL

  13. Board of Directors,” Archived November 26, 2011.

  14. Power to the People,” Free to Choose Media. Archived October 27, 2015. WebCite URL

  15. Understanding the World’s Energy Needs,” Cato Institute, May 7, 2015. Archived October 27, 2015. WebCite URL

  16. Cosponsors,” 7th International Conference on Climate Change. Archived May 10, 2012.

  17. Michael Fisher. “A Closer Look at Heartland's ICCC7 Denial-a-Palooza Speakers and Sponsors,” DeSmogBlog, May 23, 2012. 

  18. 4th International Conference on Climate Change Conference Program (PDF), The Heartland Institute.

  19. Brendan DeMelle. “Denial-a-palooza Round 4: 'International Conference on Climate Change' Groups Funded by Exxon, Koch Industries,” DeSmogBlog, May 13, 2010.

  20. Co-Sponsors,” Third International Conference on Climate Change. Archived July 14, 2010.

  21. Co-Sponsors,” The 2009 International Conference on Climate Change. Archived April 28, 2011.

  22. Heartland Institute's 2009 Climate Conference in New York: funding history of the sponsors,” DeSmogBlog.

  23. “Unstoppable Solar Cycles: Rethinking…Global Warming” (PDF), Archived .pdf on file at DeSmogBlog.

  24. Unstoppable Solar Cycles: Rethinking Global Warming,” Heartland Institute. Archived October 27, 2015. WebCite URL

  25. “Unstoppable Solar Cycles: Production Team,” Free to Choose Network. Accessed May, 2012. **URL no longer available on live web.

  26. CASE STUDY: Dr. Willie Soon, a Career Fueled by Big Oil and Coal,” Greenpeace. Archived October 27, 2015. WebCite URL