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Liberal Think Tank Behind Hunter Biden Story Cover-Up Collusion Recruited Arizona Government Workers

January 3, 2023

By Corinne Murdock |

A prominent liberal think tank that helped suppress media coverage of Hunter Biden’s corrupt foreign business dealings recruited Arizonan government workers and activist leaders for its leadership program. 

The Aspen Institute, a prominent liberal think tank, runs 65 programs nationwide to shape communities to its standards: such as the leadership program in Arizona. An independent reporter uncovered this week how one of the institute’s arms, Aspen Digital, coordinated a “tabletop exercise” with social media companies, media outlets, and academia to ensure effective cover-up of the Hunter Biden laptop story released by the New York Post a month later. Twitter’s newest CEO, Elon Musk, uncovered this collusion with the release of internal Twitter communications and documents dubbed the “Twitter Files.”

This revelation adds to another discovery from last November, when The Washington Free Beacon reported that Twitter’s former head of site security, Yoel Roth, served as an advisor for the Aspen Institute’s Commission on Information Disorder. Key advisors on the commission have gone to great lengths to modify public narrative by censoring, filtering, or warping news coverage. 

The Aspen Institute was one of numerous key organizations coordinating with social media and legacy media to control public speech and narratives at the government’s behest. Musk emphasized again on Tuesday that the government has been dictating free speech via social media companies.

“Every social media company is engaged in heavy censorship, with significant involvement of and, at times, explicit direction of the government,” said Musk. 

The Aspen Institute isn’t the only entity to collude with government, social media companies, and other powerful entities to counter public speech. Governor-elect Katie Hobbs, during her term as secretary of state, worked with a middle man organization to censor online speech.

Last year, the Aspen Institute launched its first Arizona-based leadership program: the Greater Phoenix Workforce Leadership Academy, a 10-month stint developed between the institute and the Center for the Future of Arizona. Walmart was the key funder for this program. The academy is part of the “Economic Opportunities Program,” an equity-based program for low- and moderate-income individuals.

“We recognize that race, gender, and place intersect with and intensify the challenge of economic inequality and we address these dynamics by advancing an inclusive vision of economic justice,” reads the program page. 

The leadership program’s inaugural 2021 class includes employees of Maricopa Community Colleges, University of Arizona, the City of Phoenix, Arizona Department of Transportation, Mesa Public Schools, Mesa Community College, Arizona Department of Economic Security/EEA, and the Arizona Commerce Authority. 

Arizona government workers haven’t just been recruited by the Aspen Institute. In the wake of elections-related controversy over the summer, former Yavapai County Elections Director Lynn Constabile was hired by U.S. Digital Response (USDR), which was co-founded by a former Aspen Institute tech policy fellow along with former Big Tech leaders, and advised by three Obama administration chief technology officers.

USDR is a pro-bono nonprofit that assists governments and organizations with crisis response. Part of their work involves shaping public narratives and perception, such as tackling “misinformation” and “disinformation” by working closely with Big Tech-funded entities like the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL). 

The full list of these 24 inaugural Greater Phoenix Workforce Leadership Academy fellows, now part of the Aspen Institute’s Economic Opportunity Fellows Network, is replicated below:

  • Audrey Bell-Jenkins — Workforce Development Manager, UMOM New Day Centers;
  • Katie Belous — Research Analyst, Pipeline AZ
  • Colleen Bivona — Associate Director, Grants Development and Management, Maricopa Community Colleges
  • Miguel Fernandez — Professor, Chandler Gilbert Community College
  • Eileana Gudiño — Community Development Director, Valley of the Sun United Way
  • Allie Halbert — Programs Director, Arizona Sustainability Alliance
  • Kimberly Hanes — Regional Manager, Maricopa County, University of Arizona
  • Jerry McPherson — Director of Economic Empowerment, Greater Phoenix Urban League
  • Jennifer McChristian — Site Director, YearUp – Arizona
  • James Montoya — Workforce Project Manager, City of Phoenix
  • Steve Navis — On-The-Job Training Supportive Services / Workforce Development Program Manager, Arizona Department of Transportation
  • Christine Niven — Director of Adult Education and Family Literacy Programs, Mesa Public Schools
  • Leah Palmer — Executive Director, Arizona Advanced Manufacturing Institute (AzAMI), Mesa Community College
  • Jose Patino — Director Education & External Affairs, Aliento Education Fund
  • Terence “Dee” Pinkston — Deputy Director of Workforce Solutions, Chicanos Por La Causa
  • Alison J. Rapping — CEO, Arouet Foundation
  • Nathan Smith — Chief Program Officer, Phoenix Rescue Mission
  • Mariana Torres — Assistant Program Officer, LISC
  • Cathy Turley — Department Manager – Adult Education, Friendly House, Inc.
  • Terell Welch — Employment Coordinator, Arizona Department of Economic Security/EEA
  • Andre Whittington, CEO & Principal Consultant, Opemia Consulting
  • Ashley Wilhelm — Workforce Arizona Council Manager, Arizona Office of Economic Opportunity, Arizona Commerce Authority
  • Richard Wilkie — Economic Development Director – Pinal County Local Workforce Board member, City of Casa Grande
  • Steven Zylstra — President & CEO, Arizona Technology Council

The program’s advisory council consists of 14 individuals:

  • Daniel Barajas — Associate Vice Chancellor, Workforce Development, Maricopa Community Colleges
  • Heather Carter — Executive Vice President, Greater Phoenix Leadership
  • Elizabeth Cole — Director of Outreach and Community Partnerships, Rio Salado College and Arizona@Work Maricopa County Workforce Board Member
  • Victor Contreras — Director, Workforce Solutions, Chicanos Por La Causa
  • Kristin Ferguson — Professor & Director, Center for Human Capital & Youth Development, Arizona State University
  • Jesus Love — Executive Director, Literacy Volunteers of America and Arizona@Work City of Phoenix Workforce Board Member
  • Jennifer Mellor — Chief Innovation Officer, Greater Phoenix Chamber
  • Liza Noland — Director of Rural Programs, Local First Arizona
  • Rob Stenson — Manager, Arizona@Work City of Phoenix
  • Katrina Thurman — Vice President, Mission Development, Goodwill of Central & Northern Arizona
  • Chevera Trillo — Administrator, Workforce Development, Arizona Department of Economic Security
  • Tina Wadham — Arizona@Work, Manager, Arizona@Work Maricopa County
  • Kweilin Waller — Deputy Director, Human Services, City of Phoenix
  • Kolu Wilson — Arizona Workforce Administrator, Arizona Office of Economic Opportunity

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to

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