George Sparks still carries himself like a titan of industry -- a straight spine, a firm handshake and a purposeful gait as he greets a journalist and makes his way through the cavernous halls of the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. His mission this day was to show off the reconstructed bones of a T. Rex dinosaur near the entrance, as parents and children shuffled in.

When he was 45 years old, he thought about the future, about his career with Hewlett Packard and, before that, his service as an Air Force pilot. He made a plan to retire from global software matters at 55 to run a nonprofit. One informed decision led to another until 2004, when Sparks became president and CEO of the state's premier scientific institution, one that began in a cabin in Breckenridge in 1868.

All that expertise and credibility evolved into the museum's Institute for Science & Policy, one of the few chief independent policy resources at the Capitol. That means that as Colorado presses ahead on issues such as climate change and renewable energy, the scientists working at the museum in East Denver will be at the forefront of solutions, if policymakers listen.

Colorado is home to at least two dozen institutes, policy organizations and collaboratives that pick apart issues related to the economy, health care, the environment, religious liberties, fiscal responsibility and other variables of the common good.

Some lean left, some lean right, and some call themselves nonpartisan for tax reasons, though their conclusions tend to follow an ideological direction. Though most own a point of view, they dive deeper into hot political issues and niche theories than mainstream media would or could, especially in a public arena with fewer and fewer professional journalists.

These organizations, funded by donors, inject knowledge and talking points into a process that runs on questions and assumptions ahead of often costly conclusions. Studies, white papers and fact sheets provide the meat in the sausage-making process in government.

Colorado Politics polled news-media experts, current and former legislators, lobbyists and other Capitol insiders about the most prominent and most credible think tanks, regardless of partisan slant. 

Former State Sen. John Andrews, ubiquitous in Colorado politics for decades, has founded five such policy organizations, including two of the think tanks on the list, the Independence Institute in Denver and the Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian University in Lakewood.

"Government is constantly interjecting itself into new areas of our lives, for better or worse," he said. "Most Americans are busy getting on with their lives, so it gives people participating in self-government and the average voter another resource to make sense of the issues beyond the sound bite or the intense emotional debate that gives off more heat than light."      

Andrews said Twitter's short missives provide a poor substitute for rigorous study of the facts and an even more rigorous debate in the public arena of ideas.

Here's a look at 10 Colorado think tanks.

Institute for Science & Policy: "Science is going to win"

No one in Colorado tops the Denver Museum of Nature & Science on independence, stature and credibility, so when it officially opened its own policy think tank -- an outreach program tailored to public communicators and decision-makers -- two years ago, it was a natural fit at the top of the state's information food chain.

"I don't think you can have a war on science any more than you can have a war on math," Sparks said. "Science is going to win. Math is going to win. You can disregard science and math, but that always ends in tears."

The museum doesn't lean to any political view, though it might lend itself to one, depending on what the science yields. Sparks, though, hopes to ensure public policies have good scientific underpinnings to solve future problems that are sure to present themselves -- "issues like gene editing , AI [artificial intelligence], robotics, obviously climate change," Sparks said. 

The Denver museum's think tank also is a Colorado engine for collaboration with universities, scholars and other research facilities that might shy away from politically motivated efforts of other think tanks.

Besides regularly training journalists and policymakers, the museum also puts on an annual symposium at the museum; this year's event on Oct. 26 is slated to take on aspirations versus pragmatism around climate change.

Sparks predicts Colorado is on the edge of a great energy transition from fossil fuels to renewable sources.

"The grid is going to be completely redone into something we couldn't have even imagined -- everywhere, but Colorado is right at the forefront on it," he said.

Mission: "We are a catalyzing force for better policy making by encouraging Americans to talk to each other again, and to solve problems through civil dialogue and scientific thinking."

Year founded: 2017.

Key leadership: George Sparks, president and CEO of the Denver Museum of Natural & Science.

Number of staff, contributors or fellows:  Four staff, three external contributors.

Annual budget: About $300,000.

Key financial contributors: Denver Museum of Nature & Science.

Why is your work important? "The Institute for Science & Policy was born out of a desire for science to be a valued part of the policy-making process. Too often scientific data are disregarded or distorted to suit a particular political agenda."

Bell Policy Center: 'Committed to being credible'

Andrews said The Bell Policy Center in Denver has been a counterweight to the Independence Institute he founded, with a much different view of the same issues, especially the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, libertarians' much-loved constitutional amendment that throttles state spending and returns tax dollars to taxpayers when government grows beyond the state spending cap.

"I respect the work Bell does even when I disagree with all their premises and conclusions," Andrews said.  

That should be music to the ears of Scott Wasserman, Bell Policy's president since 2016.

The organization’s credibility comes partly in its longevity, but also its reliance on solid facts to bolster solid arguments, Wasserman said.

“Since we were founded in 2000, I think we’ve been really committed to being credible,” he said. “I think that folks understand that when we put out a report and we put out analysis, that you can disagree with the findings and you might disagree with the perspective we’re coming from, but you can’t disagree with the facts.”

Bell was one of the first research and advocacy organizations to tackle the questions around general economic opportunity policy in Colorado.

Bell has provided a backbeat for nearly two decades on the arguments against the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, an assembly of economic data and populist spin that have seeped into the state’s political bloodstream. A big piece of the issue rests on the November ballot. Proposition CC would allow the state to keep future tax refunds authorized under TABOR to support transportation and education. Voters would still get to vote on future tax questions, even if CC passes.

“We need facts and we need nuance in the political process,” he said. “And the political process often doesn’t lend itself to a careful, thoughtful conversation. I think what think tanks do at their best is that they throw out new ideas, new perspectives, they look deeper at questions. It’s not just what but it’s who.”

MissionTo promote economic mobility for every Coloradan.

Year founded: 2000.

Key leadership: The founding president was Wade Buchanan. "We’re very proud of our 'founding mothers' Merle Chambers, Linda Shoemaker and Jean Dubofsky," Wasserman said, adding that the current board chair is Kathleen Beatty, former dean of the University of Colorado Denver’s School of Public Affairs.

Number of staff, contributors or fellows: 13.

Annual budget: More than $1 million.

Key financial contributors: Contributors include major foundations like the Merle Chambers Fund, Colorado Health Foundation, the Kresge Foundation and the Piton Foundation at Gary Community Investments. "We also receive major and small dollar support from hundreds of individual contributors," the center says.

Why is your work important? "Our work is important because we help everyone in Colorado’s public policy process see beyond the main economic headlines and understand what is happening to economically to Coloradans living in a variety of different circumstances. We highlight the challenges that people face and connect the dots back to our broader policy decisions. At minimum, we help to shape the conversation. At best, we have a hand in shaping the actual laws and regulations that shape life in Colorado. We also help Coloradans understand what is happening in what is often a very complex process. Our goal is to make economic mobility issues easy to understand and to give people facts and insights that stimulate bigger discussions about how to ensure a bright future for Colorado."

The Independence Institute: 'Freedoms ... are under assault'

Despite the reams of study, arguments, events and media that flow from the Denver-based Independence Institute, it's really about one thing, says Jon Caldara, who waves the baton for this civil libertarian ensemble.

Well, two things, if you count his joke about needing the job.

“I think people think politics is a debate between parties or candidates, when really politics is a debate between philosophies,” Caldara said. "And we’ve got to dive into those philosophies to set a course.

“Our philosophy comes from a very simple thought, which is that people are better off when they can make their own decisions.”

Caldara said Andrews founded the Independence Institute on the "enduring truths of the Declaration of Independence," explaining why there's a statue of Thomas Jefferson in front of the building.

“We have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," Caldara said. "We focus in a lot on that liberty part, and we drink a lot for the happiness part.”

This year the institute is leading the defense of the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights against Proposition CC, which would allow use of future refunds in excess of TABOR's cap for transportation and education.

Last year Caldara was the chief spokesman against a statewide sales tax for highways, running his own ballot question instead that would force the state legislature to fund roads from existing taxes. Both measures lost.

The Independence Institute is built to last as a political mover and shaker with top-level experts, well-financed research and a media reach deep into web reporting, podcasts, TV and radio that could rival Colorado news stations.

“For us, the think tank is just the first step in the process,” Caldara said. “The next step is to get the ideas engaged.”

Mission: "To expand the Colorado Culture of craving the Freedom to make our own decisions we work to empower individuals and to educate citizens, legislators and opinion makers about public policies that enhance personal and economic freedom. We are an 'action tank,' freeing Coloradans through regulatory work, litigation, coalition building, ballot initiatives, new media and investigative reporting."

Year founded: 1985.

Key leadership: Founded by John Andrews and later led by Tom Tancredo. Jon Caldara has been president and CEO since 1998.

Number of staff, contributors or fellows: "25 and one director of animal affairs, Miss Jazzy, our golden retriever."

Annual budget: About $3 million.

Key financial contributors: "We respect our investors’ privacy. We let them decide if they wish to publicize their investments."

Why is your work important? "Colorado has always been a beacon for those who wish to direct their own futures, take risk and write their own biographies. Colorado has traditionally been a magnet for creators who, though the power of voluntary relationships and free exchange, have made this state the envy of the nation. Our mission is more important than ever because the very freedoms that made Colorado special are under assault. Instead of policies that empower people to make their own decisions, lawmakers are making decisions for others and using the coercive power of government to take from others and force their values on those who don’t share them."

Western Resource Advocates: 'Focused on collaborating'

When the late Boulder environmental lawyer Kelley Green started the Land and Water (LAW) Fund of the Rockies in 1989, she was concerned about the future of energy development in the West. She was concerned about healthy rivers that aren't dried up by farming and urban growth.

Those battles rage on today, led still by the organization she founded that became Boulder-based Western Resource Advocates in 2003.

Thirty years ago, no one with research and legal heft was bringing that to bear on local resource decisions -- water boards, statehouses, public utilities commissions and the like.

“Nobody was representing the environment in those discussions at the time,”  said Jon Goldin-Dubois, the organization's current leader, who oversees a staff of 53 working in seven Western states.

“What makes us unique, I think, is we’re outcome oriented first.” he continued. “What we’re looking at right now is: What does the next 30 years look like?”

He’s hoping for a carbon-free West. He hopes for a more “connected” West where wildlife species can migrate and flourish around spaces now occupied by humans.

Mission: "Western Resource Advocates works to protect the West’s land, air and water to ensure that vibrant communities exist in balance with nature."

Year founded: 1989.

Key leadership: Jon Goldin-Dubois has been president of Western Resource Advocates since 2014. 

Number of staff, contributors, or fellows: 53.

Annual budget: $8.8 million.

Key financial contributors: Approximately 50 foundations and 950 other donors.

Why is your work important? “Western Resource Advocates is working to solve the biggest conservation challenges facing the West. What makes us successful is that we’re focused on collaborating to achieve conservation outcomes, not on the fight,” said Jon Goldin-Dubois, president. "WRA works in seven states, primarily at the state and local level. Our staff of attorneys, economists, engineers, and policy experts seek to ensure the West has abundant clean water to support habitat for fish and wildlife, our communities, agriculture, and world- class recreational opportunities. We develop policies that will make sure that our homes, buildings, and transportation systems are powered by clean energy, so the West can prosper in a zero-carbon economy. And WRA envisions a future where half of Western landscapes and habitat will be protected and connected to support thriving wildlife populations, with unparalleled opportunities for people to enjoy the West’s natural beauty. We work to guarantee clean air and clean water for our communities.”

Centennial Institute: 'Renew[ing] the Spririt of 1776'

Jeff Hunt took over as director of the Centennial Institute from Andrews in 2015 and soon added the dual role of vice president of public policy for Colorado Christian University in Lakewood.

It comes as no surprise that that the institute opposes abortion and social drug use, while it defends constitutional rights, and the institute also brings some of the biggest names in politics to Denver each summer for the Western Conservative Summit. The summit is billed as the largest gathering of conservative politicians, media and operatives outside Washington, D.C.

"It creates opportunities for our state so that the grassroots can see these people, and we're able to bring together some experts with pretty serious policy analysis of the issues facing our state," Hunt said.

The Centennial Institute stays current on issues discussed around dinner tables, at churches and at town halls, he added.

"These are issues that are being discussed in the heat of public policy battles, and I think people want guidance and the best intellectual perspectives to draw from to make up their own minds."

He cited two key leaders for the Centennial Institute's success: Andrews and the late former U.S. Sen. Bill Armstrong, who founded Colorado Christian University.

"Certainly everything Bill Armstrong turned to gold," Hunt said. 

Mission: "The Centennial Institute sponsors research, events, and publications to enhance public understanding of the most important issues facing our state and nation. By proclaiming truth, we aim to foster faith, family, and freedom, teach citizenship and renew the Spirit of 1776."

Year founded: 2009.

Key leadership: Founders were Bill Armstrong and John Andrews. Current leadership is Donald Sweeting and Jeff Hunt.

Number of staff, contributors or fellows: Four full-time staff, 15 members of the 1776 scholars (students), 11 professors and 22 fellows.

Annual budget: Undisclosed.

Key financial contributors: Undisclosed.

Why is your work important? "The Centennial Institute is first and foremost a think tank housed at Colorado Christian University. We train students and prepare them for significant positions of leadership in government. We also advance the strategic priorities of the university to impact culture on behalf of the Christian conservative worldview. We are holistically conservative, supporting social and economic conservatism, as well as a strong national defense. The Centennial Institute is important in blending academic research on important public policy with grassroots activism to implement change. By holding to natural law, we remind policymakers that liberty, order, and justice are required for a thriving community."

Colorado Health Institute: 'Surfacing the pros and cons'

Michele Lueck, president and CEO of the Colorado Health Institute, thinks a healthier state depends on a better public policies.

"We believe with research, expert analysis and insight and rigor, that's how we're going to get to better policy decisions and a healthier state," she said.

Her institute, much like the Museum of Nature & Science, isn't an advocacy organization per se.

"We don't espouse opinions unless those opinions are based on the evidence," Lueck said. "Our loyalty is to surfacing the pros and cost of certain ideas and putting that in the hands of legislators and other policy makers throughout the state of Colorado. It could be at a county level or a school district level."

The organization has had a large say in each of the last 10 major health care policy decision in the state, including expanding Medicaid and creating a health exchange under President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act. 

"We've brought to bear on all those decision, regardless of whether they were made by the legislative or executive branch or at city and county levels," Lueck said.

The institute also is the author of some of the state's most often cited evidence on public opinions, statistics, trends and studies related to health care in Colorado.

Every other year, the institute surveys 10,000 Colorado households for the most in-depth look at health insurance coverage, access to health care and the factors helping and hurting Coloradans' health.

The survey is funded in partnership with The Colorado Trust, the Colorado Health Foundation, the Colorado Springs Health Foundation, the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, and the Colorado Department of Human Services' Office of Behavioral Health.

"The politics will always be sticky" around health care, Lueckj said. "We've certainly encountered our fair share of those issues, but on balance I think we bring deliberation to what's ostensibly a deliberative process."

Mission: "We believe everyone should have the opportunity to lead a healthy life. We believe that better health policy can support that opportunity. And we believe that the best policy is made by applying sound evidence and solid analysis. CHI is here to provide that evidence and analysis."

Year founded: 2002.

Key leadership: President and CEO Michele Lueck. Founded by The Colorado Trust, Rose Community Foundation and Caring for Colorado Foundation

Number of staff, contributors or fellows: 27.

Annual budget: $5.5 million.

Key financial contributors: The Colorado Trust, Colorado Health Foundation, Rose Community Foundation and Caring for Colorado Foundation.

Why is your work important? “With so much disagreement in our politics and policymaking, it’s important that we all operate from a common set of facts, reliable data, and the expertise to know what it all means," Lueck said. "We at CHI are proud to fill this need for Colorado.”

Focus on the Family: 'Strengthen families and help people'

Jim Daly, the president of Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family, is a Christian with a mighty platform, a daily radio show available to at least 6.6 million people on about 1,000 radio stations nationwide, a show that has been named the National Religious Broadcasters' program of the year.

Focus has been a part of the American conscience since Dr. James Dobson, a Christian psychologist, began airing programs in 1977 and created the think tank and media outreach organization 30 years ago.

Dobson, Daly and their loyal donors shape policy by first shaping people's hearts, Daly said.

“Fundamentally, what we’re trying to do every day is to strengthen families and help people do the best job they can raising their kids,” Daly said.

But Focus also places equipment in clinics that offer services other than abortion. It’s organized a rally in Times Square. And for decades people have become accustomed to kind voices on their radio from Dobson and programming such as “Adventures in Odyssey” -- programming that reaches about 6.9 million listeners daily and a website that attracts 15 million annually.

Culture, like it or not, is shaped by media. Focus learned that long ago, Daly said.

It’s a way to have a positive impact on the culture without wading through the pits of ideological warfare, he said.

“It’s a lot harder to fight on an ideological level and get things done,” Daly said.

Once known as a combatant over gay marriage, Focus on the Family also is taking on issues such as teen suicides and family poverty, a byproduct and predictor of divorce, Daly said.

He said that when Dobson started the organization, he didn’t envision the media and policy empire it's become. "He simply wanted to hang out a shingle that said, “Help for hurting people here,” Daly said.

Mission“To cooperate with the Holy Spirit in sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with as many people as possible by nurturing and defending the God-ordained institution of the family and promoting biblical truths worldwide.”

Year founded: 1989.

Key leadership: Jim Daly, president, and Dr. James C. Dobson, founder emeritus.

Number of staff, contributors or fellows: 650.

Annual budget: about $100 million.

Key financial contributors: Undisclosed.

Why is your work important? “The single greatest problem facing this nation is the health and vitality of the family," Daly said. "As goes the family, so goes the United States. The American dream is in crisis because of the scourge of broken families. A weakening of the family structure through divorce, cohabitation and absent fathers is evidenced every day as we hear from and minister to hurting families. We exist to help couples with their marriages and parents with their children. We also believe that no nation can ultimately thrive unless it protects the most innocent and vulnerable. A deep and active respect for human life at all stages benefits families and the culture at large.”

Colorado Fiscal Institute: 'Looking for prosperity'

Carol Hedges, a co-founder and leader of the Colorado Fiscal Institute, was once policy director for Democratic Gov. Roy Romer and part of the original staff of the Bell Policy Center. It's no surprise then that her newest endeavor again is at the forefront of political conversation at the state Capitol.

The institute focuses on the state budget and takes on left-leaning position such as deconstructing the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights.

The institute is well-known among politicos for its publication "The Purple Book: A Colorado Compendium of Useful Fiscal Facts." It's working on its fourth updated edition, due out next year.

CFI takes on a widespread array of issues around "equity and widespread economic prosperity," as Hedges put it. 

"That's what everyone is looking for, prosperity," she said. "We all want the best opportunity to do the best we can for ourselves and our families. That's why I think the work we do is important and it resonates with people."

Before rolling out as a separate organization in 2013, the Colorado Fiscal Institute was called the Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute, a project of the Colorado Center for Law and Policy.

The organization sprang from a greater realization from the last recession: Families are directly and deeply impacted by fluctuations in the economy.

"We have a point of view," Hedges said. "We believe there is a role for the public sector to play in supporting and promoting widespread economic prosperity and equity. People sometimes disagree with the conclusions on how to solve the problem, but ir's rare that anybody can does or can question the quality of our research. Being good at what we do is our No. 1 thing." 

Mission: CFI works for a Colorado where responsible fiscal and budget policies advance equity and widespread prosperity. 

Year founded: 2013.

Key leadership: Carol Hedges, executive director, and Don Marostica, board chair, were the founders of CFI. Hedges has served as director ever since; Marostica has left the board and Jack Blumenthal now serves as chair. Other leaders: Deputy director Kathy White, legislative and tax policy director Ali Mickelson and strategic communications director Elliot Goldbaum.

Number of staff, contributors or fellows: 10 staff members.

Annual budget: $1.2 million.

Key financial contributors: Colorado Health Foundation, Colorado Trust, Piton Foundation, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and many individual contributors.

Why is your work important? "Tax and budget policies affect the lives of every person regardless of their race, economic background, or political affiliation, but too often they're inaccessible and confusing. That's especially true in Colorado, where constitutional amendments like TABOR and Gallagher make matters even more complicated. CFI combines research capacity, communications experience, and policy know-how to make those topics just as accessible and understandable to everyday Coloradans as they are to legislators and insiders."

Common Sense Policy Roundtable: 'Bring facts to important debates'

The Common Sense Policy Roundtable provides a sophisticated audience of business leaders in Colorado when researchers and policymakers discuss the fruits of their work.

That is perhaps why Colorado House Speaker KC Becker of Boulder was up early on Sept. 3 to address its Eggs & Issues Breakfast on Proposition CC. Democrats and a token representation of Republicans put the measure on the November ballot last spring to redirect future refunds under the Colorado Constitution's Taxpayer's Bill of Rights to education and transportation.

The nine-year-old roundtable takes information and insight seriously before it steers its research dollars and well-connected membership  toward a conclusion on issues ranging from oil-and-gas development, health care, education, transportation, limits and growth and measures connected to taxation.

“The heart of CSPR’s mission is to bring facts to the important debates facing our state," said Kristin Strohm, the think tank's president and CEO. "In a world filled with rhetoric and spin, we bring sound fiscal analysis, economic modeling and the truth to Coloradans. Pension reform, energy, housing, education -- these are just some of the issues CSPR answers -- with precision, with facts."

The roundtable puts business sense over partisanship to solve problems that might be a drag on the state's economic objectives.

“We believe sound fiscal and economic research is essential to uphold Colorado’s economic vitality, future and individual opportunity,” Strohm said.

CSPR partners with Colorado Concern, the Colorado Bankers Association, the Colorado Association of Realtors and the Denver South Economic Development Partnership in a regional economic modeling program, called the REMI Partnership, to inform and improve public policy decisions.

“Too often, policy makers and elected officials make decisions based on a fiscal note that identifies the cost impact of a particular measure based on a static picture of the economy," Strohm said. "We know there is nothing static about our economy.

“To fully understand the impact of a policy on a particular industry, we have to consider the larger impact on tax revenue, jobs in other sectors and investment in local markets.”

Mission: "As a nonprofit free-enterprise think tank dedicated to the protection and promotion of Colorado’s economy, our mission is to research and promote common sense solutions for the most pressing public policy issues facing Colorado. We examine the economic impact of policies, initiatives, and proposed laws by employing dynamic modeling that accurately measures the impact of each measure on the Colorado economy and individual opportunity. To fully achieve our mission, we actively promote these solutions through the education of policy experts, lawmakers, community leaders, and the general public."

Year founded: 2010.

Key leadership: Kristin Strohm, president and CEO; Chris Brown, director of policy and research; Cinamon Watson, director of public relations; and Jake Zambrano, director of legislative services.

Annual budget: $649,336.

Number of staff: four.

Key financial contributors: The Common Sense Policy Roundtable includes a partnership with the Colorado Association of Realtors,  the Colorado Bankers Association, Denver South Economic Development Partnership and Colorado Concern.

Why is your work important? "We believe sound fiscal and economic research is essential to uphold Colorado’s economic vitality, future and individual opportunity."

Steamboat Institute: 'Knowledge and cheerfulness'

Politics doesn't have to be a full contact sport, but instead can be more like volleyball where the ideas go back and forth and eventually the strong survive, as Steamboat Institute chair and CEO Jennifer Schubert-Akin characterizes it. Knowledge and cheerfulness are more powerful than partisanship, she said.

In August, at one of the Steamboat Institute's largest annual events, the Freedom Conference and Film Festival in Steamboat Springs, Democratic political operative Ted Trimpa discussed socialism versus capitalism onstage with Bhaskar Sunkara, founding editor of Jacobin magazine and the author of the book “The Socialist Manifesto.” This were not people conservatives would normally embrace, but on a relaxing, sunny weekend in Routt County they did.

“If helps to understand the issues, if you’re willing to listen the other side to see where they’re coming from," Schubert-Akin said. "At the same time, we incorporate music and videos. We do that with a lot of the programs we have. We want people to have a good time, to enjoy the experience and to learn some things in the process.”

The institute puts a lot of stock in the next generation of conservatives.

“When a young law school student can meet Alan Dershowitz and visit with him, when they’re able to surround Jim Bridenstine, the head of NASA, and they’re able to meet with him one-on-one, they go away feeling like, ‘Wow, I can meet these people, I can talk with them, I can make a difference,'" Schubert-Akin said.

“It’s not just educating. Many organizations put on conferences can seminars and people get to go and sit in a room and listen, but how many people really go away feeling inspired?”

Reason and persuasion are best mixed with a smile and good conversation, not anger and bitterness, she suggested.

“If you want to inspire people to come around to your way of thinking, you don’t do that by beating them over the head and calling them stupid,” she explained. “... We see plenty of that on both sides of the aisle. Turn on pick-your-favorite-network, it doesn’t really matter, and you’ll see a lot of that.

“We insist there has to be a better way and we try to be good examples, by showing people they’re welcome at our events regardless of your ideology.”

Mission: "The Steamboat Institute promotes America’s first principles and inspires active involvement in the defense of liberty."

Year founded: 2008.

Key leadership: Jennifer Schubert-Akin, chairman and CEO.

Number of staff, contributors or fellows: Seven staff and seven Tony Blankley fellows.

Annual budget: About $850,000.

Key financial contributors: The Adolph Coors Foundation, The Anschutz Foundation, The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, El Pomar Foundation, The Snider Foundation and the Woodford Foundation for Limited Government.

Why is your work important? "The Steamboat Institute offers creative, inspiring and entertaining programs which persuade people from across the political and social spectrum of the value of individual liberty, freedom from excessive government regulation, and personal responsibility. Our popular annual Freedom Conference and Film Festival, which draws people from across America to Steamboat Springs each August, provides ordinary citizens – including dozens of young leaders attending on scholarships – the opportunity to have direct, personal access to our nation’s leaders in conservative thought and policy."

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