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Defenders of Property Rights

Defenders of Property Rights
1350 Connecticut Ave., NW
Suite 410
Washington, DC 20036

Founded in 1991, the Defenders of Property Rights (DPR) seeks to preserve traditional property rights, as well as intellectual property rights. Incorporated as a 501(c)3 non-profit legal defense corporation, they have offices in Washington, DC, 9 staff members and over 6,000 contributing members. DPR specializes in fighting eminent domain proceedings, property restrictions due to environmental laws such as the Endangered Species Act, and intellectual property rights. Founded by former staff members of the Mountain States Legal Foundation Roger and Nancy Marzulla, they are also active in the "Wise Use" movement.

DPR works to achieve its goals through litigation and support for legislation that eases government regulation of property, striving to make it easier to seek government compensation. According to the testimony of Paul J. Harris, the group's executive director, Defenders "has a large national membership representative of property owners, users and beneficiaries of the rights protected by the Constitution and traditional Anglo American property law. Defenders has participated in every landmark property case in recent years, including Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council, 505 U.S. 1003(1992) and Dolan v. City of Tigard, 114 S.Cr. 2309 (1994)."

Tobacco industry documents suggest that DPR worked with the industry to fend off regulations in exchange for helping the group elevate the notion of property rights. In one memo, DPR advised the company to fend off attacks by anti-smoking advocates by "[educating] the under-aged on the inadvisability of smoking and, yet retain and extol the principle of individual freedom, personal responsibility and decision-making." Defenders testified in Massachusetts against a state disclosure bill based upon its support for the treatment of trade secrets as property rights.

Due to the secrecy with which it operates, it is difficult to gather much information about the group's sources of funding. According to Guidestar, in 2002, DPR had an income of $454,851 and assets of $195,382. Sources of funding include the Sarah Scaife Foundation ($100,000 in 2002, similar donations in years past), the Castle Rock Foundation ($10,000 in 2002 and $25,000 in 4 donations since 1995). The Carthage foundation, another Scaife family foundation, has also made several donations. Tobacco industry documents suggest the industry has made numerous donations to the group over time, including at least $45,000 in 1997.

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