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Minnesota-based conservative think tank works to expand into North Dakota

The Center of the American Experiment, a nonprofit think tank that works to mobilize citizens on a variety of issues pertaining to state and local governments, is beginning a tour in eastern North Dakota next week.

President John Hinderaker of the Center of the American Experience holds a magazine with a story about an August 2018 report that shows copper-nickel mines in northern Minnesota would be good for the economy. Don Davis / Forum News Service
President John Hinderaker of the Center of the American Experience holds a magazine with a story about an August 2018 report that shows copper-nickel mines in northern Minnesota would be good for the economy.
Forum News Service file photo
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BISMARCK — A conservative think tank that works to influence public policy and educate residents in the Land of 10,000 Lakes is looking to expand across the Red River and into North Dakota.

The Center of the American Experiment, a nonprofit think tank that works to mobilize citizens on a variety of issues pertaining to state and local governments, is beginning a tour in eastern North Dakota next week. The group aims to one day open a North Dakota office and have employees based in the Peace Garden State.

"We want to bring citizens of North Dakota the same kind of high-quality information that for 30 years we've been bringing to people here in Minnesota," John Hinderaker, president of the Center of the American Experiment, told The Forum in an interview.

The organization does not fund political campaigns or endorse candidates, but it has experts and lobbyists who advocate for and against bills during the Minnesota legislative session. Hinderaker said the Center of the American Experiment is "more activist" than traditional think tanks.

Next week, the group is hosting events in Wahpeton, Grand Forks and Fargo to talk about "critical race theory" and how "the 'woke' political movement is working hard to turn North Dakota's public schools into ideological battlegrounds, threatening the quality of our children's education," the organization said in a press release announcing the events.

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During the North Dakota Legislature's special session last November, lawmakers banned the teaching of "critical race theory" in K-12 schools. When asked why the organization was hosting events highlighting the college-level academic theory that is now banned from being taught in the state, Hinderaker said he believes there is a nationwide effort to get the concept into public schools, but it has not yet "invaded" North Dakota schools, so the group is looking to educate parents.

The Center of the American Experiment is looking to launch into North Dakota because residents in the state approached the organization and asked it to consider doing work in North Dakota, Hinderaker said, adding that it's looking to expand into North Dakota first and then perhaps additional states if the North Dakota launch goes well.

Last year, the nonprofit had over 8,700 individual donors and a median contribution of about $50, Hinderaker said.

In March, the Center of the American Experiment sued a golf club in Rochester, Minnesota, after it canceled a planned event where speakers were to discuss policing and public safety, according to court documents.

The Center of the American Experiment said in court documents that the golf club canceled the event after members circulated a petition against it. The organization also sued the citizen who created the petition for interference with a contract, asking the court to grant the nonprofit in excess of $50,000 in damages from both the club and the Rochester resident.

The event was reportedly held at the end of April in a different location.

Hinderaker said one of areas the Center of the American Experiment's expansion into North Dakota will focus on is energy, and the nonprofit aims to inform voters about the state's oil and gas industry.

"We look forward to offering our research, writing and activism to North Dakota citizens and policymakers in the fields of energy, taxes and regulation, education, public safety and healthcare," Hinderaker said in a release.

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Michelle Griffith, a Report for America corps member, at mgriffith@forumcomm.com.

Michelle (she/her, English speaker) is a Bismarck-based journalist for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and Report for America, a national service organization that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered topics and communities.
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