Washington Policy Center: Background and History

Washington Policy Center

Background and History

The Washington Policy Center (WPC) is a free-market think tank based in Seattle, Washington with annual revenue of approx. $1.3 million.

The WPC was originally founded as the “Washington Institute for Policy Studies.”  In 1997 the Washington Institute for Policy Studies (WIPS) created a new organization, the Washington Institute Foundation.  Eventually, in 1998, the Washington Institute Foundation replaced WIPS

In 2001 the Washington Institute Foundation was renamed the Washington Policy Center.

WPC's mission is to “promote limited government and free market solutions for state and local issues, and be Washington state's premier public policy institute providing high qulity analysis and research for our state's citizens, policymakers and media.”  Washington Policy Center has been referred to as the “Heritage Foundation of the Northwest.”

In 2007 WPC raised $3.8 million to fund eight research centers focused on:  small business issues, the environment, health care, transportation, government reform, and a legislative information website, WashingtonVotes.org.


The Washington Policy Center does not disclose its donors.  However, according to Media Transparency, $387,500 has been donated cumulatively to the WPC, WIF, and WIPS.  The largest donor is The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, Inc., which has provided the WPC with just under half its funding–$178,500

The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation is considered the “largest and most influential right-wing foundation” in the United States.  As of 2005, the Bradley Foundation had $706 million in assets, and was giving away more than $34 million a year to organizations and institutions.  The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, Inc. states its mission is “to support limited, competent government; a dynamic marketplace for economic, intellectual, and cultural activity; and a vigorous defense of American ideas and institutions.”

To satisfy this objective the Bradley Foundation supports organizations and individuals that promote the deregulation of business, the rollback of most social welfare programs, and the privatization of government services.  Since 1985, The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, Inc. has donated $564,992,276 in grant money.  Conservative organizations that have received funding from the Bradley Foundation include:  the American Enterprise Institute (17,137,797), the Heritage Foundation ($14,293,702), the Hudson Institute ($6,760,560), the George C. Marshall Institute ($3,535,303), the Hoover Institution ($2,501,000), the Competitive Enterprise Institute ($765,040), the Reason Foundation ($957,500), the Cato Institute ($862,500), and the Heartland Institute ($548,000).

Leadership and Staff

The current president of the WPC is Daniel Mead Smith who has been with the WPC since 1991 and became their president in 2001.

The former president was Bill Baldwin.  Baldwin acted as president when WCP was operated under its former name, the Washington Institute for Policy Studies.  Currently, Baldwin is the CEO of the insurance firm Baldwin Resource Group, Inc.  Bill Baldwin has also worked for the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE)–one of the oldest free enterprise think tanks in the United States.  FEE has received funding from both the Scaife Family Foundations and the Koch Family Foundations.

Washington Policy Center on Climate Change

The WPC operates a “Center for Environment” division that consists of a Director named Todd Myers and a Policy Analyst named Brandon Housekeeper.

According to their website the WPC’s Center for the Environment was launched in 2003 and “focuses on free-market solutions to environmental issues.” In June, 2008, the Center hosted “skeptical environmentalist” Bjorn Lomborg and fellow climate skeptic Dr. Don Easterbrook for its annual luncheon address.

The Washington Policy Center's stance on climate change is science does not equal public policy, and that science tends to exagerate its observations.  In his presentation, “The Difference Between Scientists and Policymakers” at the 2008 International Conference on Climate Change, sponsored by the Heartland Institute, Todd Myers stated that science is myoptic and scientists conflate science and policy.  Further, Myers declared “scientists tend to overestimate their confidence in their assessment of risk.” 

To illustrate his point, Myers highlighted the work of the Puget Sound Action Team, which in 2005 claimed that “future sea level rise is likely to accelerate as a result of human-caused global warming, with changes likely in the range of 4-35 inches during the 21st centruy.”  Myers then showed work done in 2008 by the University of Washington Climate Impacts Group, which claimed the atmospheric contribution to sea-level rises in all areas would be 6 inches by 2100.  The evidence he uses does not show an overestimation; in fact it validates the claims of the Puget Sound Action Team as 6 inches falls within their estimation of 4-35 inches.

In conclusion Myers stated the unintended consequences of implementing envirionmental public policy outweigh the positives done by the regulation itself.  And, the last point on his power-point presentation is “David Suzuki is absurd and myopic.”

The Washington Policy Center has criticized building standards created by Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design (LEED) as economically detrimental, environmentally harmful, and providing extremely littlie, and sometimes, no energy savings.

Finally, in the 2004 article, “A Responsible Approach to Climate Change,” the WPC said investing in climate change initiatives was an expensive and poor use of resources.  Instead, they prescribed spending resources in programs designed to create wealth in the Developing World as the best way to deal with the issue of climate change and global warming.  Why?  The explanation is simple, “wealth buffers adversity.”


The Washington Policy Center is a member of the Civil Society Coalition on Climate Change (CSCCC).  The CSCCC describes itself as an organization designed to educate the public about the science and economics of climate change.  Further, the CSCCC claims it was established as a direct response to “the many biased and alarmist claims about human induced climate change, which are being used to justify calls for intervention and regulation.”  Members of the coalition include the Alternate Solutions Institute and the John Locke Foundation.

The WPC is also a member of the State Policy Network (SPN).  The State Policy Network was formed in 1992.  It's mission is to improve the effectiveness of independent, market-oriented, state-focused think tanks, so that “they can educate the general public and policy makers in every state to embrace market-friendly policies that maximize liberty and opportunity.”  SPN's members include the Sutherland Institute and the John Locke Foundation.  SPN's leadership team is comprised of individuals who work for the Heritage Foundation, the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, and the Philanthopy Roundtable.