Brett Family Foundation

By Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen
2013 | Case No. SI113 | Length 8 pgs.

Following an employer’s liquidity event, Linda Shoemaker and her husband, Steve Brett, unexpectedly came into significant financial resources. As a result, they founded the Brett Family Foundation, which Shoemaker ran as president. Based on her experience while working as an attorney and elected official, Shoemaker believed that the best way to create systemic change was through public policy. Thus, in the first year of foundation funding, she founded the Bell Policy Center, a nonpartisan 501(c)(3) think tank and funded it through the family foundation. At the same time, she used personal funds to start the Bell Action Network, a sister 501(c)(4) organization. The 501(c)(4) was necessary to carry out advocacy efforts, which could not be accomplished within the legal restrictions governing 501(c)(3) organizations. These two organizations worked together to turn policy ideas into action and action into law. Named after the Liberty Bell, these organizations, which were collectively referred to as “the Bell,” identified and promoted policies through research and advocacy that helped Colorado individuals and families access opportunities and move towards self-sufficiency. The Bell quickly grew to become the state’s largest progressive policy institute. One of the Bell’s major successes was its leadership in addressing the fiscal and budgetary issues associated with the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR), a Colorado constitutional limit on tax and government spending. The Bell’s work—along with the efforts of other key collaborators—helped to pass an amendment to TABOR in 2005, restoring statewide funding for higher education, healthcare, K-12 education and transportation.

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