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Sally C. Pipes

When CEOs lock and load during testimony at legislative and regulatory hearings, it’s Sally Pipes who sometimes provides the ammunition.As …

When CEOs lock and load during testimony at legislative and regulatory hearings, it’s Sally Pipes who sometimes provides the ammunition.

As president of the San Francisco-based Pacific Research Institute, Pipes, 48, leads the charge for market-minded solutions and less regulation in areas such as taxes, education, health care, transportation, and the environment. But no sterile think tank, PRI: Upon taking the reins in 1991, Pipes gutted the group’s ivory tower and transformed it into a missile silo, taking aim at left-of-center targets. Right now, for example, California legislators are drafting bills based on PRI recommendations to slash the state’s estimated $10 billion deficit by privatizing the Office of State Printer and the Department of Motor Vehicles, and by outsourcing a range of services.

The institute’s mission becomes particularly critical, Pipes says, with President Clinton’s chameleonic “new democratic” agenda materializing as simply another tax-and-spend package. “We have to remobilize,” she says. “People want to be shown alternative solutions.”

PRI proposes solutions through books, conferences, speeches, and newsletters and makes them available to corporate and political leaders and the media. Supported entirely by the private sector since its creation in 1979, the organization had a 1992 budget of $1.2 million, up 71.4 percent from the previous year. Of that total, 10 percent came from corporations, 30 percent from individual donations and literature sales, and 60 percent

from foundations. Not nearly enough to fund all the schemes Pipes basin mind. “We have to get down to the grass roots and win more support for our research,” says Pipes, her soft-voiced patter at odds with her machine gun delivery and emphatic gestures. “It’s hard, because outreach is like throwing a stone on the water; you have to follow up or the ripples will go away quickly.”

To that end, PRI zeros in on issues that hit companies and individuals where it hurts most-in the pocketbook. For instance, a 1992 book, “Free Market Environmentalism,” espoused a market-oriented approach to pollution problems. The institute’s research on NAFTA prompted a barrage of inquiries from companies such as Dow Chemical, Chevron, and Arco. Sometimes the ideas come from outside PRI. Its recommendations on trimming California‘s budget came from residents participating in a PRI-sponsored contest.

An economist by training, Pipes previously worked as a researcher for the Canadian Department of Energy, Mines, and Resources, and the Bureau of Economics and Small Business Development. High on her agenda at PRI are projects in immigration, health care, and education. Pipes describes California as a “springboard” for public policy, so the institute’s research frequently takes on a local spin. Thus, a recent study on a voucher system for education, which Pipes hopes to see adopted in California and nationwide.

“Sally is moving the institution in the right direction,” says Larry Mone, research director at the Manhattan Institute. “The interesting policy ideas are being debated on state and local levels-they won’t filter from Washington. Rather, Washington will be on the receiving end.”

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