The New York Times profiles the Mackinac Center, a free-market think tank in Michigan, and its efforts at franchising localized idea factories for small-government policy advocacy. The article by Jason DeParle gives a decent larger picture of what such state level think tanks can accomplish. An excerpt:
In Colorado, the Independence Institute has been a leading force behind a constitutional spending cap called the Taxpayer Bill of Rights. In Arizona, the Goldwater Institute has championed a school-choice law that sends 22,500 children a year to private schools. The Texas Public Policy Foundation helped pass a law to end what the group said were excessive lawsuits.
It also notes the sort of opposition they can attract:
"Their philosophy encourages selfishness and greed," said Iris J. Lav, who runs the State Fiscal Analysis Initiative, a network of 29 liberal state-level groups organized in part as a countervailing force. "If you have problems, they don't care — just too bad."
Greed is the rare accusation that rankles Mr. [Lawrence] Reed [head of Mackinac]. "They think if you're pushing free markets there must be something in it for you," he said. "It speaks to their ignorance."