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Meet Our Donors
Jeremy and Katie Bencken
After major life events that most of us experience–like the birth of a child or the death of a parent–we started to consider our own lives. How do we want to be remembered, what legacy could we leave, and how can we ensure in some small way that America remains a country of opportunity for our children?
As small business owners, we also saw firsthand the importance of legal protections. We operated a website where renters could rate and review apartments nationwide. Today, it is a given that products, restaurants and apartments have online reviews. But when we launched our business in 2000, there was only one other large review website, Epinions.com, and it had small notoriety compared to Yelp.com and the now-ubiquitous reviews on major retailers’ websites. Over the seven years that we owned the website, we received stacks of legal letters requesting that apartment reviews be removed–either altogether for an apartment building, or selectively (i.e., the negative ones). There were many executives in the apartment industry who loudly said that our website should not exist, and who told our advertising partners that they would sever their relationship if those partners continued to work with us. Thankfully after 13 years, the website continues to grow and now has 1.4 million reviews of apartments across the United States.
We became aware of the Institute for Justice as a nonprofit legal firm that might be able to help us in the event we faced a lawsuit, since we knew we could never fight the deep pockets of the apartment industry in court. As a protector of liberty and with the First Amendment as one of its pillars, the Institute for Justice is a perfect fit with our libertarian philosophy. Although we were fortunate to have our worries of a lawsuit stay just a worry, we began to donate to IJ annually as a commitment to IJ’s support for entrepreneurs and small business owners who are solving a need and trying to make an honest living. The ability to enforce economic and other rights should not depend on your pocketbook, yet without the Institute for Justice that would be true for many.
When it came time to revise our wills, we wrestled with the legacy questions, and knew that while we wanted to take care of family after our deaths, we also wanted to take care of our country. For what good is an inheritance in a society that is not free? The Institute for Justice rose to the forefront of our minds as a world-class organization with the foundation and infrastructure to continue the work to protect liberty for as long as it is needed. We are proud to be connected to the Institute for Justice through the Four Pillars Society and through our annual donations. It is important to us to be part of something lasting and big: a group that has its eye on the large issues of freedom of speech, school choice, property rights and economic liberty. So while we work on our next businesses and raise our kids, we rest easy knowing that IJ is fighting the good fight for the present and the future.
Jeremy and Katie Bencken are members of IJ’s Four Pillars Society.