Kelley Unger on the Freedom Foundation

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Liberty in the Evergreen State:

The Freedom Foundation 

special to SJCRP 

by Kelley Unger

Director of Development Operations, Discovery Institute 


Washington is known as the Evergreen state, which for many elicits images of green farmlands and forests, and open spaces for hiking, hunting, and exploring. Originally settled by explorers, fur traders, miners and fishermen, Washington has been the home of free spirits and innovators from the time of its early settlement until the present time. But over time, expanded government, more invasive conservation and animal protection legislation, as well as organized unions, have robbed our state’s residents of their freedom and rights.

To combat this loss of freedom and rights, another local think tank was formed, now known as The Freedom Foundation, with offices in Washington and Oregon. Founded in 1991 by Bob Williams and Lynn Harsh as the Evergreen Freedom Foundation, today they are a national leader in winning the fight for freedom at the state and local level. They’ve even received acclaim nationally for their work.

As The Freedom Foundation’s mission states, their goal is to “advance individual liberty, free enterprise, and limited, accountable government.” The organization has a vision of a day when opportunity, responsible self-governance, and free markets flourish in America because its citizens understand and defend the principles from which freedom is derived.

Currently, the primary focus of The Freedom Foundation is Labor Reform. They are working hard to educate the public, and more specifically union members, on the stronghold that public and private sector labor unions have on our citizens.

Most Americans don’t like being told what to do. Yet many government employees are forced, as a condition of working, to pay dues to private union organizations. These union monopolies overcharge workers and spend huge sums of money on political campaigns and lobbying. And, since union power comes from government, union lobbyists always push for bigger and more powerful government.

In fact, government unions are the biggest lobby in Washington State for bigger government. Their undue influence drowns out taxpayers, but taxpayers have had enough. Just like citizens in Indiana, Wisconsin, and Michigan, Washington is ripe for change, for reforms that protect workers and taxpayers alike. The Freedom Foundation is the leading advocate for that change.

The Freedom Foundation has also been successful in several other areas of public policy that impact Washingtonians:

Education: Students and parents in Washington State are not getting their money’s worth, especially given how much the state spends per pupil. Stagnant test scores and embarrassing graduation rates are the results. They analyze reform efforts and recommend solutions to bring Washington students a World Class education system to meet 21st Century needs.

Property Rights: Property rights are intertwined with all other human rights. From works of art to loaves of bread, people produce the things because they are able to own and use resources. The Freedom Foundation stands up for property rights and property owners in Washington State. Most powerfully, they empower property owners themselves to build coalitions, confront local governments, and–often–win.

Budget & Taxes: The Freedom Foundation is a tireless voice for priority-based budgeting in state and local government. They work with responsible policymakers to craft sound, balanced budgets. They helped launch performance audits in Washington State as well as the model for health savings accounts eventually adopted into federal law. They work with elected officials and citizens to make government budget writing transparent and to focus it on real priorities, cutting spending on programs that are unnecessary, counterproductive or unconstitutional.

Constitutional Law: The Freedom Foundation’s Theodore L. Stiles Center for Liberty advances the rule of law and a legal climate where individuals can exercise their fundamental liberties and government is limited to its proper role. They seek to defend individuals against government encroachments upon their rights; unite lawyers who believe that the purpose of the law is to protect liberty; promote a judiciary that embraces its obligation to interpret the constitution; and expand the public’s understanding of the rule of law.

Principles & Voting: The Freedom Foundation anchors their policy work on the principles that made this nation great, and to offer educational programs and presentations on these “first principles.” The Freedom Foundation is also a leading voice for constitutional federalism and election integrity.

You can find lots of resources on all these topics, including blogs, daily radio show podcasts, and weekly video updates at The Freedom Foundation’s website at Sign-up for their email at the bottom of their homepage.

This article was submitted by Kelley Unger, Friday Harbor resident since 2015. Kelley is currently employed as the Director of Development Operations at Discovery Institute, where she has served since 2006.