Beacon Center of Tennessee Publishes State’s 2023 Pork Report

The Nashville-based Beacon Center of Tennessee published its annual Pork Report on Wednesday, highlighting the wasteful spending of taxpayer dollars this past year across the Volunteer State.

Examples of “offensive” and “wasteful” uses of Tennessee taxpayer money highlighted in the 2023 Pork Report include the nearly $5 million taxpayer subsidy given to benefit the California burger chain In-N-Out’s move to Tennessee, large property tax increases in multiple counties, and the City of Memphis giving out over $1 million to a TV show on the verge of cancellation.

Read the full story

New Documentary Chronicles How Memphis’s Corporate Welfare Scheme with IKEA Backfired

A new documentary profiles examples of corporate welfare that shortchanged taxpayers and business owners, including in Memphis, where city officials bestowed a generous tax break upon IKEA. This documentary, Corporate Welfare: Where’s the Outrage?, debuted on public television and YouTube late last month. Free To Choose Media Executive Editor and Cato Senior Fellow Johan Norberg hosted the documentary.

Read the full story

No Credible Evidence to Support Nashville Mayor John Cooper’s July Shutdown of Bars and Reduction of Restaurant Capacity, Despite Bullying Tactics by His Administration

When Nashville Mayor John Cooper announced at a July 2 press conference that he was shutting down all the city’s bars for 14 days, reducing restaurant capacity from 75 percent to 50 percent, and temporarily closing event venues and entertainment venues, all due to “record” cases of COVID-19 traceable to restaurants and bars, he apparently knew that his own Metro Health Department said less than two dozen cases of COVID-19 could be traced to those establishments. But he failed to disclose that the “record” of bar and restaurant traceable cases to which he referred to was about one tenth of one percent of Davidson County’s 20,000 cases of COVID-19.

Read the full story

After Bombshell Revelations, Nashville Mayor John Cooper Accused of Suppressing COVID-19 Data and Destroying Livelihoods

Nashville Mayor John Cooper and members of his administration weren’t straightforward enough with their COVID-19 data and, in effect, hurt local businesses and justified fears that government officials would abuse their power during this long emergency.

This, according to Beacon Center of Tennessee spokesman Mark Cunningham. Cunningham responded to a FOX 17 of Nashville report that suggested Cooper and his staff members kept secret the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases coming out of the bars and restaurants in the city’s lower Broadway area.

Read the full story

The Beacon Center’s Mark Cunningham: People Need to Look at City Leadership Over These Past 10 Years

Towards the end of the third hour of Monday’s Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy, The Beacon Center’s Marks Cunningham weighed in on Mayor Cooper’s proposed 32% property tax increase stating that it was the wrong time to be doing this to the citizens of Nashville in lieu of the government-mandated shutdown and recent tornado destruction. He suggested that government cuts and freezes need to be put on the table if they are going to hinder small businesses while corporate businesses receive tax breaks and incentives.

Read the full story

Beacon Center Tells 30 Largest Tennessee Cities It Will Call Them Out on July 4, 2020 on How Free Their Citizens Are

  Conservative think tank Beacon Center of Tennessee has placed the 30 largest Volunteer State cities on notice: On Independence Day 2020, it will call them out on how free their citizens are – or are not. The Beacon Center of Tennessee announced Tuesday it will release a City Freedom Index on Independence Day 2020. As many of our state and local elected officials know, thousands of people across the United States move to Tennessee each year. While their reasons may vary, many choose to live here due to state-level policies such as: Right to Work, a lack of a state income tax, low taxes per capita, and low levels of debt. These policies are well known and their benefits well documented. While certainly the state you live in has a large impact on your life, so does the city you live in. However, we have found there are few resources on the best places to live within Tennessee due to local level polices. In an emailed press release, Mark Cunningham, vice president of communications and outreach, said the center will rank the 30 cities according to an overall freedom score. Because this is a brand new report, Beacon is giving cities a…

Read the full story

Beacon Center of Tennessee Files Suit Over New Online Auctioneer Law

  The Nashville-based Beacon Center of Tennessee has filed suit against a new law that state legislators passed earlier this year that forces online auctioneers to get a state license. This, according to a press release Beacon officials released Thursday. The same press release said the state exempts big online auction sites, including Ebay. Beacon is a free-market think tank. “This law is not just unfair but is also unconstitutional, as it clearly violates the First Amendment,” Beacon spokesman Mark Cunningham said in the release. “Beacon is suing the Tennessee Auctioneer Commission before the law takes effect on July 1.” In an emailed statement to The Star, Beacon Vice President of Legal Affairs Braden Boucek (pictured above) said the law is “a step in the wrong direction.” “Tennessee is a state that values freedom and equal opportunity.  A barrier to work is out of step with what Tennesseans value, no matter how ‘in step’ it might be for auctioneers who want to try and debilitate the upstart,” Boucek said. “As a state, we need to be committed to giving people access to good paying jobs, especially in rural counties.” As The Star reported in April, online auctioneers will suffer, as…

Read the full story

Latest Nashville Plan for Affordable Housing ‘A Double-Edged Sword,’ Metro Council Member Steve Glover Says

One day Nashville gives away a certain sum of economic incentives to major corporations to get them to come to the city. The next day, as part of one proposal Metro Council members will soon consider, the city would then have to hand out an equal sum of money for more affordable housing units. Nashville Metro Council members Fabian Bedne and Colby Sledge are reportedly pushing the idea. But their fellow council member Steve Glover said the city is broke and taking even more money out of the city’s operations budget is “a double-edged sword, no matter how you slice and dice it.” “We are to the point where I don’t think we can afford many more incentives,” Glover told The Tennessee Star. “Frankly all we have done is give away incentives and not had anything in return to be prepared for all those incentives.” Mark Cunningham, spokesman for the Nashville-based Beacon Center of Tennessee, a free market think tank, said city officials have identified the right problem — but they have the wrong solution. “The whole idea of these incentives is to make your economy better. A lot of times you can make it more affordable for people to…

Read the full story

Amazon’s $100 Million-Plus Tennessee Tax Incentives Deal ‘Unfair and Immoral,’ Beacon Center Says

The State of Tennessee’s and Metro Nashville’s $102 million taxpayer gift to Amazon is not a Prime deal, a public watchdog organization says. Amazon turned down Nashville for its coveted two new headquarters sites, called HQ2, but Nashville landed a $230 million operations center near downtown in the future Nashville Yards. For more on Amazon’s Nashville announcement, see this story in The Tennessee Star. Mark Cunningham, vice president of communications and outreach at the Beacon Center of Tennessee, criticized the deal. The center is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to providing empirical research and free market solutions for Tennesseans. Cunningham said, “Nashville was passed over for Amazon’s second (and third) headquarters, yet city and state officials still got scammed into giving the company more than $100 million in taxpayer giveaways for a consolation prize, which includes $80 million in cash handouts. Amazon, one of the world’s most valuable companies, and the government played taxpayers with this incentive deal, and it is time for us to speak up against this type of corporate welfare. While we welcome new businesses and the jobs they create to our state, forcing middle-class Tennesseans and small businesses to give their hard-earned dollars to a multi-billion dollar business is both unfair and immoral.” Rick Manning,…

Read the full story

Report: Corporate Welfare in Tennessee Needs More Transparency

Tennessee officials hand out a good bit of corporate welfare, but they could do better to make sure the public knows how that money gets spent, according to a new state Comptrollers report. The report suggests several ways members of the Tennessee General Assembly can make matters better. As the report notes, Tennessee offers several kinds of corporate welfare. The degree of transparency for each differs to a certain extent. Some business incentives require public hearings. Some require business officials hand over annual reports on the status of an incentive program, Comptrollers said. “For other incentives, state law does not require periodic reports on the status of programs, and data and information are not posted online,” Comptrollers wrote in a press release. “The Comptroller’s Office of Research and Education Accountability found one type of business incentive with a required evaluation on a periodic basis: business tax credits,” Comptrollers wrote. But that was an exception. State officials do not require evaluations for most business incentive programs, Comptrollers added. Tennessee officials entice businesses and industries to set up shop or stay or expand in Tennessee. To do that they offer Payment in Lieu of Tax agreements, tax credits, and tax exemptions, and…

Read the full story

TV and Film Producers Who Cheat Tennessee Taxpayers Might Go to Jail

tv film production

A federal appeals court just ruled that states that hand out TV and film credits — as Tennessee does — can prosecute people who lie or mislead to get those corporate welfare benefits. Tennessee gave out millions of dollars in incentives to the fictionalized TV drama “Nashville” and more than $300,000 in incentives to the Robin Williams film “Boulevard.” That movie, filmed in Nashville in 2013, was about a man who starts a relationship with a male prostitute. According to Bloomberg, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled film and TV tax credits are property and thus subject to federal mail and wire fraud laws. That means states can better monitor fraud involving TV and film tax credits. The case, United States vs. Hoffman, involved film and TV tax credits in Louisiana. The court ruled “the fraudulent issuance of those credits would deplete the state treasury, meaning Louisiana had a property interest in the tax credits and could prosecute for fraud in relation thereto,” according to Bloomberg. Members of the Beacon Center of Tennessee, a Nashville-based free market think tank, have spoken out against those tax credits for years. Beacon spokesman Mark Cunningham told The Tennessee Star…

Read the full story

Tennessee Taxpayers Gave $1 Billion in Corporate Welfare Last Year


You, the taxpayers of Tennessee, helped give away nearly $1 billion in tax credits to corporations who set up shop here last year. State law, as it turns out, forbids you from finding out exactly what kind of return you’re getting on your investment. In other words, even though the money came out of your wallet, you may not know how any one corporation spent it. For this, you can thank Tennessee’s confidentiality laws. Mark Cunningham, spokesman for the Nashville-based Beacon Center of Tennessee, a free market think tank, said state officials hide behind them. “Beacon wants the books to be completely open when it comes to corporate handouts,” Cunningham said. “If you are getting money from the taxpayers then we should know how many jobs you are creating and what that money is being used for. If you are taking our money then you don’t get to hide behind these walls, in our opinion.” When there’s more transparency with these tax credits then there’s more clarity. When there’s more clarity about what, precisely, corporations do with this money then there’s more likelihood the taxpayers will dislike it, Cunningham said. The state’s powers that be, of course, bestow these tax…

Read the full story