Independent Women's Forum

Independent Women's Forum (IWF)


The Independent Women's Forum is a conservative 501(c)(3) think tank that describes itself as a “research and education institute.” Their original mission was to “expand the conservative coalition, both by increasing the number of women who understand and value the benefits of limited government, personal liberty, and free markets, and by countering those who seek to ever-expand government in the name of protecting women.” Their revised mission is to “improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty.” [1][2], [3]

The group is often at odds with prominent women's advocacy groups like the National Organization for Women. For example, when Congress considered legislation to address the gender wage gap between men and women, IWF opposed the legislation while denying that a gender-wage gap even exists. [4], [5], [6]

The Independent Women's Forum has been a vocal opponent to President Obama's Clean Power Plan, as well as the teaching of Global Warming in the public school system. IWF formed a supporting group called Balanced Education for Everyone with the goal of stopping the teaching of global warming in U.S. Schools, describing it as “junk science.” They were also behind an an initiative titled “Mothers for Educating with Sound Science” (MESS) which included radio appearances questioning mainstream science regarding climate change. [18], [27]

According to Ronnee Schreiber in his book Righting Feminism, IWF came out of Women for Judge Thomas, a coalition that formed to support George W. Bush's Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas who had been accused of sexual harassment. After Thomas's successful appointment, the group disbanded and reformed as WIN (Women's Information Network) which in turn founded the Independent Women's Forum in 1992. [7]

The IWF has had ties to the Conservative movement, including Managing Director Carrie Lukas who used to work at the Cato Institute as a social security analyst and has been a senior fellow at the Goldwater Institute.  [8], [9]

Director emerita include Kynne Cheney of the American Enterprise Institute and Nancy Pfotenhauer who was the president and CEO of Americans for Prosperity, once the chief in-house lobbyist for Koch Industries, and served as a senior policy adviser to Senator John McCain's presidential campaign. Another director emerita is Sally Pipes, President and CEO of the Pacific Research Institute.

In October, 2003, IWF announced its affiliation with Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE)  which later became the Americans for Prosperity Foundation. A 2003 press release explained the relationship: “while the two organizations will share leadership and senior staff and be co-located in IWF’s new suite of offices in Washington, D.C., each will be a separate organization with its own board of directors.” According to the IWF, as of July 2005, the “IWF and AFP have had no formal relationship.”  The past president of the Independent Women’s Forum, Nancy Pfotenahuer, also acted as the president of Americans for Prosperity, but that arrangement ended in July 2005. [10]

Stance on Climate Change

“Here at IWF, we have been promoting a more robust discussion about the scientific evidence (and lack thereof) for awhile now. Last year we had the authors of this book Scared to Death, talk about how science is often misused in policy debates, with global warming being a leading example. […] Others should take a look at this book which provides an outline of what one expects from a 'scare' – more and more it looks like we are in the midst of one now and if Congress acts by passing this massive legislation, the public could pay dearly for the hysteria.” [11]

IWF senior fellow Vicki Alger claimed “a majority of scientists believe that global warming is largely nature-made.” [12]


According to data from the Conservative Transparency Project, the Independent Women's Forum (IWF) has received funding from the following sources: [13]

View the attached spreadsheet for details on the Independent Women Forum's donations by year (.xls) for more details.

Donor Total
The Randolph Foundation $3,779,850
DonorsTrust $3,704,104
Sarah Scaife Foundation $1,900,000
Donors Capital Fund $1,640,000
Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation $835,000
John M. Olin Foundation $776,000
The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation $580,000
Castle Rock Foundation $400,000
The Carthage Foundation $400,000
Jaquelin Hume Foundation $375,000
William H. Donner Foundation $308,157
Searle Freedom Trust $300,000
National Christian Charitable Foundation $200,000
Scaife Family Foundation $200,000
Independent Women's Voice $161,568
JM Foundation $120,000
The Shelby Cullom Davis Foundation $116,000
Ruth & Lovett Peters Foundation $100,000
Diana Davis Spencer Foundation $68,000
Holman Foundation $55,000
Exxon Mobil $50,000
Gilder Foundation $50,000
Windway Foundation $40,500
John William Pope Foundation $40,000
Earhart Foundation $35,000
The Roe Foundation $35,000
Joyce and Donald Rumsfeld Foundation $31,500
Hickory Foundation $17,500
William E. Simon Foundation $16,000
Bochnowski Family Foundation $10,000
Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation $9,115
Chase Foundation of Virginia $6,000
Armstrong Foundation $5,000
National Association of Manufacturers $5,000
Grand Total $16,369,294

Koch Funding

According to data collected by Greenpeace USA, the Independent Women's Forum received $844,115 in combined donations from Koch-related foundations between 1998 and 2012: [33]

Year Charles Koch Foundation Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation Grand Total
1998 $20,000 $20,000
2001 $10,000 $10,000
2002 $15,000 $15,000
2005 $25,000 $25,000
2006 $15,000 $15,000
2007 $250,000 $250,000
2009 $150,000 $150,000
2010 $350,000 $350,000
2012 $9,115 $9,115
Grand Total $9,115 $835,000 $844,115

990 Forms

Key People

According to the IWF website, as of October, 2015: [3]

IWF Staff

  • Sabrina Schaeffer — Executive Director
  • Carrie L. Lukas — Managing Director
  • Victoria R. Coley — Director of Communications
  • Whitney Garrison Athayde — Director of Foundations and Donor Relations
  • Julie Gunlock — Senior Fellow and Culture of Alarmism Director
  • Charlotte Hays — Director of Cultural Programs, Senior Editor
  • Hadley Heath — Director of Health Policy
  • Celia Meyer — Communications Associate
  • Amber Schwartz — Director of Outreach
  • Michele Vogt — Digital Director
  • Ashley B. Carter — Grassroots Director

IWF Senior Fellows

  • Karin Agness
  • Vicki E. Alger, Ph.D
  • Charlotte Allen
  • Rachel DiCarlo Currie
  • Krista Kafer
  • Donna Wiesner Keene
  • Patrice J. Lee
  • Angela Logomasini
  • Jillian Melchior
  • Naomi Schaefer Riley
  • Anna Rittgers 
  • Abby W. Schachter
  • Lisa Schiffren
  • Emily Esfahani Smith
  • Amber Smith
  • Gayle Trotter

IWF Visiting Fellows

IWF Board of Directors

  • Heather R. Higgins - Chairman
  • Elizabeth Biar
  • Yvonne S. Boice
  • Kellyanne Conway
  • Giovanna Cugnasca
  • Lisa Gable
  • The Hon. Nan Hayworth
  • Adele Malpass

IWF Leadership Circle

  • Mindy Berry
  • Kim Bolt
  • Andrea Bottner
  • Susanna Dokupil
  • Windi Grimes
  • Clark Judge
  • Kate Pomeroy
  • Janie Tisdale

IWF Directors Emeritae

Previous Staff & Directors (2012)

According to the IWF website, as of November, 2012: [2]

Board of Directors (2012)

  • Heather R. Higgins — Chairman
  • Yvonne S. Boice
  • Giovanna Cugnasca
  • Mary Arnold
  • Michaelon Wright

Leadership (2012)

  • Kim Bolt
  • Danielle Crittenden
  • Susanna Dokupil
  • Windi Grimes
  • Clark Judge
  • Kate Pomeroy

Directors Emeritae (as of 2012)

Staff (2012)

  • Sabrina Schaeffer — Executive Director.
  • Carrie L. Lukas — Managing Director.
  • Victoria R. Coley — Director of Communications.
  • Julie Gunlock — Director, Women for Food Freedom, Senior Fellow.
  • Hadley Heath — Senior Policy Analyst.
  • Charlotte Hays — Director of Cultural Programs.
  • Emily Wismer — Policy Analyst.

Senior & Visiting Fellows (2012)

  • Gayle Trotter — General Counsel
  • Kristen Soltis
  • Lisa Schiffren
  • Anna Rittgers
  • Diana Lopez
  • Donna Wiesner Keene
  • Krista Kafer
  • Libby Jacobson
  • Lori Drummer Armistead
  • Karin Agness
  • Vicki E. Alger
  • Christina Villegas — Visiting Fellow
  • Lane Scott — Visiting Fellow
  • Diana McKibben — Visiting Fellow


February 12, 2018

The Independent Women's Forum was one of several organizations to join Americans for Prosperity (AfP) in a coalition opposing a federal gas tax increase. [34]

“Raising the gas tax is a bad idea. It will make the burden of government on families and businesses heavier,” the coalition's open letter read[34]

Signatories include: [35]

Name Title Company
Brent Wm. Gardner Chief Government Affairs Officer Amer
Michael A. Needham CEO Heritage Action for America
Grover Norquist President Americans for Tax Reform
David McIntosh President Club for Growth
Nathan Nascimento Executive Vice President Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce
Mark Scribner Senior Fellow Competitive Enterprise Institute
Jason Pye Vice President of Legislative Affairs FreedomWorks
Tom Schatz President Citizens Against Government Waste
Pete Sepp President National Taxpayers Union
Phil Kerpen President American Commitment
Mario H. Lopez President Hispanic Leadership Fund
Daniel Garza President The Libre Initiative
Carrie L. Lukas President Independent Women’s Forum
Heather R. Higgins President and CEO Independent Women’s Voice
Harry C. Alford President and CEO National Black Chamber of Commerce
Jeffrey Mazella President Center for Individual Freedom
Donald Bryson President Civitas Action
David Barnes Policy Director Generation Opportunity
Norm Singleton President Campaign for Liberty
Judson Phillips Founder Tea Party Nation
Seton Motley President Less Government
Kim Crockett, Esq. Vice President, Senior Fellow and General Counsel Center of the American Experiment
Tom Brinkman, Jr. Chairman Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST)
Matthew Kandrach President Consumer Action for a Strong Economy (CASE)
Katie McAulliffe Executive Director Digital Liberty
Brett Healy President John K. MacIver Institute
Sean Noble President American Encore
Annette Meeks CEO Freedom Foundation of Minnesota
Andrew F. Quinlan President Center for Freedom and Prosperity

February 22 - 25, 2017

The IWF was a an Exhibitor at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), among a range of other conservative and pro-industry groups. [32]

January 12, 2017

IWV's Chairman Heather Higgins was a signatory to a January 12, 2017 official letter of support (PDF) for Scott Pruitt, in which numerous groups, including The Heartland InstituteAmerican Energy Alliance (AEA), and others, declared that the Senate should “swiftly approve his nomination” for Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

 Other signatories of the letter included: [31]

August 18, 2016

The Independent Women's Forum (IWF) was profiled in The Nation, following a new analysis by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD). [29]

The Nation reports that “since 2010, IWF and its political arm, Independent Women’s Voice, have become aggressive players in Republican politics, embedded in the network of organizations backed by Charles and David Koch, advocating for the Koch brothers' myriad concerns, and playing on their 'independent' label to elect GOP candidates.” [30]

The Independent Women's Forum misrepresentations have included used its “independent” label to help Republications:

Being branded as neutral, but actually having people who know know that you’re actually conservative puts us in a unique position,” Heather Richardson Higgins, the President of the Independent Women’s Voice and the Board Chair of theIndependent Women’s Forum, admitted in a speech to potential 2016 donors at a David Horowitz Freedom Center retreat.

Our value here and what is needed in the Republican conservative arsenal is a group that can talk to those cohorts [women who are not Republican conservatives] that would not otherwise listen but can do it in a way that is taking a conservative message and packaging it in a way that will be acceptable,” she said. [29]

While IWF claims to be neutral on abortion, nearly all of the GOP congressional candidates supported by IWV have had a zero rating from NARAL Pro Choice America. The CMD report found that The Independent Women's Voice (IWV) spent $850,000 in 2014 supporting GOP Senate candidates who had a zero rating from NARAL, except for Scott Brown. [30]

Our investigation showed that Higgins uses IWV’s independent brand name to reach independent or Democratic voters and spends money to help anti-choice extremists,” CMD’s Lisa Graves notes, “while IWF claims it is not anti-abortion and there is no GOP ‘war on women.’” [30]

“It’s clear that IWF and IWV are in the business of saying one thing, but doing another,” said CMD Executive Director Lisa Graves, co-authored of the report on the IWF and IWV. “The Not-So-Independent Women’s Forum/Voice.” “They call themselves ‘independent,’ while IWF backs policies that echo the corporate lobbying agenda and IWV tells donors it’s a crucial part of the ‘Republican conservative arsenal.’”

The Nation describes how Heather Higgins, president of the Independent Women's Voice, is also a supporter of Donald Trump:  

“Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good,” higgins told a GOP convention in Cleveland in July. “Your choice is Hillary Clinton who will be wrong on all issues.[…] Trump will surround himself with principled, savvy advisers who will lead us to the best possible outcomes on a wide range of [issues] and his judicial picks.” [30]

August, 2015

In an article titled “EPA’s stringent smog rules could suffocate economic opportunity,” Jillian Melchior, energy fellow for the Independent Women's Forum, claims that EPA standards seeking to reduce smog levels would be economically damaging. 
Melchior also doubts the studies that the EPA has used to reach its conclusions.
“In other words, junk science can enjoy its heyday, as long as its conclusions are politically convenient for an overzealous EPA,” she says. “[I]t’s increasingly clear that the EPA is cherry-picking its science, giving undue consideration to studies that support lower ozone standards while ignoring research that doesn’t match the agency’s political agenda.”  [14]
August 4, 2015
Jillian Kay Melchior, energy fellow for the Independent Women's Forum, writes in the National Review that Obama's Clean Power Plan will come at “enormous economic expense.” [15]
Melchior claims that the impact of the plan on climate change will be minimal, citing well-known climate change skeptics Patrick J. Michaels and Chip Knappenberger of the Cato Institute for support. 
According to Melchior, “The Clean Power Plan exemplifies bad policy, deeply harming the economy without meaningful environmental or diplomatic achievements. States and the other two branches of federal government should act fast to halt this wrongheaded executive action.”

April 1, 2015

The Independent Women's Forum (IWF) signed on to a letter (PDF) opposing the Clean Power Plan.  [16]
According to the Letter, the Clean Power Plan would “further centralize power in Washington,” and is a “power grab” by the EPA
October 17, 2014
The Independent Women's Forum promoted a study accusing the EPA of “low-ball[ing]” its costs, and ascribes “huge economic costs” to the EPA's Clean Power Plan. [17]

May, 2010

IWF formed a supporting group called Balanced Education for Everyone with the goal of stopping the teaching of global warming in U.S. Schools, describing it as “junk science.” [18]

The group presented a petition to the District 51 school board demanding that modern climate change science suggesting that man-kind is responsible for climate change should not be taught in classrooms. Rose Pugliese presented the petition and stated that “It (global warming) is not a proven scientific theory. There is not evidence to support it.”

According to the campaign's press release, “It's wrong for schools to try to scare our children and not provide them with another perspective on global warming.  Schools are supposed to present facts and let students make judgments for themselves.” [19]

As part of the campaign, Balanced Education distributed a “documentary” titled Not Evil Just Wrong which purports to confront “the erroneous claims of environmental extremists” along with additional teaching curriculum materials. The film features a number of prominent climate change skeptics including Roy Innis, Richard Lindzen, Stephen McIntyre and Patrick Moore.

The Denver Post reports the link between Balanced Education and Rose Pugliese, “a Mesa County resident and officer of the Western Slope Conservative Alliance, when she petitioned the Mesa County District 51 school board to prohibit the teaching of manmade global warming and to stop teachers from presenting their political views in classrooms.” [20]

The school board denied Balanced Education's petition, and the group's website has since been taken down. [26]


IWF launched an initiative titled “Mothers for Educating with Sound Science” (MESS) which included radio appearances questioning mainstream science regarding climate change. [27]

In the same year, IWF hosted its annual college essay contest (PDF) where they offered $10,500 in prizes to write on the implications of climate change (emphasis added):

“While there are differing views among scientists regarding global warming, do you believe the potential costs to the American economy in terms of diminished economic growth, jobs and higher costs for goods and services are worth the cost of proposed climate policies to address the issue? If so, why? Or, do you believe this money should be spent on other priorities (and if so, where and why)?” [21]


IWF opposed the renewal of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), legislation which served to fund efforts to combat domestic abuse and aid victims of violence. IWF said that “the battered women's movement has outlived its useful beginnings,” and suggested that passing VAWA would “do nothing to protect women from crime” but instead “perpetuate false information, waste money and urge vulnerable women to mistrust all men.” [22]

IWF wrote in a 15-page amicus brief that “Ideological distortions have produced a law that is not only unconstitutional, but harmful to the victims it purports to help.”

IWF Contact & Location

As of June 2016, the Independent Women's Forum (IWF) listed the following contact information on its website: [28]

Independent Women's Forum
1875 I Street NW | Suite 500
Washington, DC 20006
202.857.5201 | phone
202.429.9574 | fax
email: [email protected]

Related Organizations


  1. Meredith Turits. “Women Don't Trust GOP”, Says Conservative Organization Independent Women's Forum. Do You Agree?” Glamour, November 9, 2012. Archived August 27, 2015. 

  2. About IWF,” Independent Women's Forum. Archived November 27, 2012.

  3. About IWF,” Archived October 12, 2015. WebCite URL

  4. Politically-charged pay equity bill to get vote in Senate Tuesday,” CNN Political Ticker, June 4, 2012. Archived August 27, 2015.

  5. Carrie L. Lukas. “Paycheck Fairness Act Proponents Are Only Playing Politics,” Republished by Independent Women's Forum, May 30, 2012. Archived August 27, 2015.

  6. There Is No Male-Female Wage Gap,” The Wall Street Journal, April 12, 2011. Archived August 27, 2015.

  7. Ronnee Schreiber, Righting Feminism: Conservative Women and American Politics, Oxford University Press, June 2008. ISBN 0195331818 ISBN 978-0195331813.

  8. Carrie L. Lukas,” Independent Women's Forum. Archived August 27, 2015. 

  9. Carrie Lukas. “Government Jobs Programs Never Fair to All,” Goldwater Institute, December 17, 2008. Archived August 27, 2015.

  10. IWF Announces Exciting New Partnership” (Press Release), Independent Women's Forum, October 28, 2003. Archived November 9, 2003.

  11. Carrie L. Lukas. “Skeptism on Climate Change,” Independent Women's Forum, June 26, 2009. Archived August 27, 2015.

  12. Vickie E. Alger. “Common Core’s Global Warming Agenda,” Independent Women's Forum, May 24, 2014. Archived August 28, 2015.

  13. Independent Women's Forum,” Conservative Transparency. Accessed May 20, 2016.

  14. Jillian Melchior. “EPA’s stringent smog rules could suffocate economic opportunity,” The Sacramento Bee, August 15, 2015. Archived August 28, 2015.

  15. Jillian Kay Melchior. “Obama’s Latest Executive Action: Spend Hundreds of Billions to Not Help the Environment,” National Review, August 4, 2015. Archived August 28, 2015.

  16. “Dear Sen. McConnel” (PDF), Americans for Tax Reform, April 1, 2015. Archived August 28, 2015. 

  17. Jillian Kay Melchior. “Study: EPA Low-Balled Costs of Carbon Regs,” Independent Women's Forum. Archived August 28, 2015.

  18. Nancy Lofholm. “Push to teach 'other side' of global warming heats up in Colorado's Mesa County,” The Denver Post, May 26, 2010. Archived August 28, 2015.

  19. IWF Launches Balanced Education for Everyone Campaign,” PR Newswire, April 5, 2010. Archived August 28, 2015. 

  20. About,” Balanced Education for Everyone. Archived April 15, 2010.

  21. “Independent Women's Forum 2008-2008 College Essay Contest” (PDF), Retreived from, November 2012. Archived August 28, 2015.

  22. Dana Milbank. “Ashcroft puts foxes over henhouse / 2 women who oppose domestic violence law named to oversee it,” Washington Post. Republished by San Francisco Chronicle, September 5, 2002.

  23. About IWV,” Independent Women's Voice. Archived August 28, 2015.

  24. About,” Health Care Lawsuits. Archived August 28, 2015.

  25. Graham Readfearn. “The Millions Behind Bjorn Lomborg's Copenhagen Consensus Center US Think Tank,” DeSmogBlog, June 24, 2014. 

  26. Nancy Lofholm. “Conservatives' 'balanced education' campaign disbands,” The Denver Post, July 3, 2010. Archived August 28, 2015.

  27. Amy Watson. “The Steve Largent Show: Mothers for Educating with Sound Science,” Independent Women's Forum. Archived August 28, 2015. 

  28. Contact IWF,” Independent Women's Forum. Archived June 29, 2016. WebCite URL


  30. Joan Walsh. “Meet the ‘Feminists’ Doing the Koch Brothers’ Dirty Work,” The Nation, August 18, 2016. URL:

  31. “Dear Senators,” (PDF)Competitive Enterprise Institute, January 12, 2017. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

  32. CPAC 2017 Sponsors,” Archived March 6, 2017. URL

  33. Independent Women’s Forum (IWF): Koch Industries Climate Denial Front Group,“ Greenpeace USA. Archived March 14, 2017. URL:

  34. Americans For Prosperity Leads Coalition Against Gas Tax Hike,” Americans for Prosperity, February 12, 2018. Archived February 20, 2018. URL:

  35. “Dear Representative:” (PDF), Americans for Prosperity, February 12, 2018.

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