Gala, indeed

The Center’s annual event highlights a year of extraordinary accomplishments, despite COVID-19.

Center of the American Experiment celebrated a year of unprecedented success despite the constraints of COVID-19 when close to 3,000 people attended a “virtual” version of its annual gala on September 19. The 75-minute, internet-based event featured a live keynote address from former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and a visit from South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, who received the Center’s first “Courage in Government Award.”

“The theme of the evening should have been ‘lemonade,’” says Ron Eibensteiner, the Center’s chairman. “It showed how John Hinderaker and his staff absorbed all the lemons that the COVID economy could muster and posted the most productive year we’ve seen to date.”

The gala included a video that recapped the Center’s year-to-date.

Public Events

• Speaker Series. The Center reconfigured its once-live quarterly speaker series to a Zoom platform, attracting record numbers of “attendees.” Conservative entertainer and podcast host Adam Carolla drew 972 viewers. Iconic conservative social critic Heather Mac Donald digitally “returned” to Minnesota with a fascinating take on crime, race and policing before a live audience of several thousand. The recorded YouTube video has over 99,000 views.

• Masterclass Series. The Center’s policy fellows swapped their growing schedule of public speaking engagements for a series of weekly “masterclass” digital seminars that provided updates on their ongoing work. In all, more than 4,300 people logged in to watch the programs either live or archived over a six-week span.

Grassroots Activism

• The Center launched a billboard campaign to support the Minneapolis Police Department in the wake of the devastating George Floyd riots in May. As vandals repeatedly defaced eight of those signs, the Center put them back up. A related website petition——has been signed by more than 30,000 Minnesotans so far.

• A “Back to Work MN” campaign generated more than 52,000 emails from Minnesotans to the governor or their individual legislators. The project achieved a national award from the State Policy Network as the “Best Issue Campaign” of the past year.

• The Center collaborated with four other regional think tanks to successfully bring about a rule change that prevents public unions from skimming off dues from Medicaid payments intended for personal care attendants. This effort earned the “Network Award” from the State Policy Network.

• The Center’s “Open MN Schools” campaign gathered 14,000 supportive signatures to help persuade state and district leadership to bring students back into public school classrooms.

• The Center hosted 16 public town meetings across two weeks in August that brought awareness to Governor Walz’s proposal to impose California auto mandates on Minnesotans.


• Thinking Minnesota magazine, the Center’s quarterly publication, has grown from a readership of 8,000 five years ago to 97,000 in its most recent issue.

Policy Leadership

• Policy Fellow Isaac Orr continued his role as Minnesota’s most prominent conservative voice on issues related to energy and the environment. He and researcher Mitch Rolling collaborated on “Doubling Down on Failure,” a paper that exposes how Minnesota’s green energy mandates will cost Minnesotans $80.1 billion, destroy jobs, and have almost no positive impact on the environment. Their research earned the State Policy Network’s award for “Most Influential Research” of 2019.

• Economist John Phelan began the year with an analysis of Minnesota’s economy, which at the time enjoyed a $1.5 billion surplus. He will soon release a second version of that report, which addresses the current $2.4 billion deficit.

• Policy Fellow Catrin Wigfall released an education paper, “Allergic to Accountability,” that calls attention to the very little progress Minnesota’s public schools have made over the years despite increased spending. Her initiative informs teachers they do not have to financially support the teachers’ union and helps interested educators opt-out during an annual September resignation window.

• Senior Policy Fellow Katherine Kersten continued her role exposing what the left is up to on a host of social, cultural, and educational issues here in Minnesota—particularly its emphasis on white privilege curricula and teacher training in K-12 education.

• Adjunct Policy Fellow Jeff Johnson, the Hennepin County Commissioner and former gubernatorial candidate, contributed his first Center research project, “Out of House and Home,” that reveals how exploding housing costs in the Twin Cities are directly related to government policy and regulations.