Let’s take a look at the American Enterprise Institute. Let’s see what SourceWatch has to say.
Controversies and Claims
Minimum Wage Hikes “Simply Reckless”
AEI scholars caution against legislation raising the minimum wage “for the sake of low-wage workers,” claiming that mandating a higher wage increases the cost of employment and will therefore leave fewer jobs. In one article, AEI resident scholar Michael R. Strain called Seattle’s initiative to increase the city’s wage requirements “simply reckless.”
Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform “Disastrously Wrong Response”
AEI has spoken out against the financial system regulations created under the Dodd-Frank Act. In an article, AEI scholar Peter J. Wallison claimed that the 2008 financial crisis, which led to the legislation, “was not caused by insufficient regulation, let alone by an inherently unstable financial system. It was caused by government housing policies…” Wallison wrote, “The Dodd-Frank Act was a disastrously wrong response,” claiming it created uncertainty and removed the incentive for financial institutions to take risk.
No surprises there, only the familiar disgust.
Casting Doubt on Global Warming
In February 2007, The Guardian (UK) reported that AEI was offering scientists and economists $10,000 each, “to undermine a major climate change report” from the United NationsIntergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). AEI asked for “articles that emphasise the shortcomings” of the IPCC report, which “is widely regarded as the most comprehensive review yet of climate change science.” AEI visiting scholar Kenneth Green made the $10,000 offer “to scientists in Britain, the US and elsewhere,” in a letter describing the IPCC as “resistant to reasonable criticism and dissent.”
The Guardian reported further that AEI “has received more than $1.6m from ExxonMobil, and more than 20 of its staff have worked as consultants to the Bush administration. Lee Raymond, a former head of ExxonMobil, is the vice-chairman of AEI’s board of trustees,” added The Guardian.
Since the time of that report, AEI has continued to receive money from Exxon Mobil — a total of at least $1,520,000.
That’s pretty shameless. It’s almost as if AEI is not a think tank at all, but just a paid servant of the oil industry – only for some reason it’s seen as a think tank, so its output is treated not as PR fluff but as think-tankery.
AEI and the head of its energy studies department, Benjamin Zycher, have faced criticism for distorting scientific findings on global warming from Jeffrey Sachs, a leading environmental studies scholar, Columbia University professor, economist, and UN advisor. Zycher had once criticized Sachs for misconstruing the IPCC conclusions on global warming; however, Sachs responded, “It is Zycher who distorts, misrepresents, or simply ignores the IPCC conclusions.”
Sachs went on to write:
“It is time for Zycher and, indeed, the American Enterprise Institute, to come clean. The AEI, despite its roster of distinguished academics, has failed to be constructive in the climate debate.
A roster of distinguished academics who have been bought by ExxonMobil.
Defending Big Tobacco
In 1980, AEI for the sum of $25,000 produced a study in support of the tobacco industry titled, Cost-Benefit Analysis of Regulation: Consumer Products. The study was designed to counteract “social cost” arguments against smoking by broadening the social cost issue to include other consumer products such as alcohol and saccharin. The social cost arguments against smoking hold that smoking burdens society with additional costs from on-the-job absenteeism, medical costs, cleaning costs and fires. The report was part of the global tobacco industry’s 1980s Social Costs/Social Values Project, carried out to refute emerging social cost arguments against smoking.
In June 2003, AEI and another right-wing group, the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies, launched a new websiteNGOWatch.org/NGOwatch.org to expose the funding, operations and agendas of international NGOs, and particularly their alleged efforts to constrain U.S. freedom of action in international affairs and influence the behavior of corporations abroad. AEI claimed that “The extraordinary growth of advocacy NGOs in liberal democracies has the potential to undermine the sovereignty of constitutional democracies, as well as the effectiveness of credible NGOs.”Ralph Nader responded, “What they are condemning, with vague, ironic regulatory nostrums proposed against dissenting citizen groups, is democracy itself.” 
Altogether not a very admirable organization.