Meet AEI’s friends and benefactors

Now for Sourcewatch on the AEI.

Originally set up as a spokesperson for big business and the promotion of free enterprise, the AEI came to major national prominence in the 1970s under the leadership of William Baroody, Sr., during which time it grew from a group of twelve resident “thinkers” to a well-funded organization with 145 resident scholars, 80 adjunct scholars, and a large supporting staff. This period of growth was largely funded by the Howard Pew Freedom Trust.

Follow the link for citations.

In 1986, the Olin and Smith Richardson foundations withdrew their support from AEI because of substantive disagreement with certain of its policies, causing William Baroody, Jr. to resign in the ensuing financial crisis. Following criticism by conservatives that AEI was too centrist, it moved its program further to the right and became more aggressive in pursuing its public policy goals.

Ties to the Koch Brothers

David H. Koch is on the American Enterprise Institute’s National Council, whose members “serve as ambassadors for AEI, providing AEI with advice, insight, and guidance as [it] looks to reach out to new friends across the country.”

Between 2002 and 2013, the American Enterprise Institute received a total of $867,289 in funding from the Charles G. Koch Foundation.

Ah but that’s not all the Koch brothers gave. There’s this conduit, see…

Ties to DonorsTrust, a Koch Conduit

DonorsTrust is considered a “donor-advised fund,” which means that it divides its funds into separate accounts for individual donors, who then recommend disbursements from the accounts to different non-profits. Funds like DonorsTrust are not uncommon in the non-profit sector, but they do cloak the identity of the original donors because the funds are typically distributed in the name of DonorsTrust rather than the original donors. Very little was known about DonorsTrust until late 2012 and early 2013, when the Guardian and others published extensive reports on what Mother Jones called “the dark-money ATM of the conservative movement.”

Has AEI received any money from this conduit, this DonorsTrust?

The American Enterprise Institute received $19,840,954 from DonorsTrust between 2002 and 2011.

Wo. That’ll buy some decent chunks of Scholarly Opinion.

A report by the Center for Public Integrity exposes a number of DonorsTrust funders, many of which have ties to the Koch brothers. One of the most prominent funders is the Knowledge and Progress Fund, a Charles Koch-run organization and one of the group’s largest known contributors, having donated at least $8 million since 2005. Other contributors known to have donated at least $1 million to DonorsTrust include the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation, Donald & Paula Smith Family Foundation, Searle Freedom Trust, Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, and the John M. Olin Foundation.

Since its inception in 1999, DonorsTrust has been used by conservative foundations and individuals to discretely funnel nearly $400 million to like-minded think tanks and media outlets. According to the organization’s tax documents, in 2011 DonorsTrust contributed a total of $86 million to right-wing organizations. Many recipients had ties to the State Policy Network (SPN), a wide collection of conservative state-based think tanks and media organizations that focus on shaping public policy and opinion.

Then there’s a list of some of AEI’s pet issues, such as the folly of raising the minimum wage.

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 Nations Intergovernmental 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.

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. It’s time that the AEI puts forward a strategy to achieve the globally agreed objective of avoiding dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.”

There’s a list of trustees, emeritus trustees, officers, former officers…and then there’s a list of Academic Advisers.

“AEI’s Council of Academic Advisers … including distinguished academics from a variety of policy-related fields, advises AEI’s president on the Institute’s research agenda, publications, and appointments, and each year selects the recipient of the Irving Kristol Award.”

As of June 23, 2014, they were:

  • George L. Priest, Edward J. Phelps Professor of Law and Economics, Yale Law School
  • Alan J. Auerbach, Robert D. Burch Professor of Economics and Law, University of California, Berkeley
  • Eliot Cohen, Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University
  • Eugene F. Fama, Robert R. McCormick Distinguished Service Professor of Finance, Booth School of Business, University of Chicago
  • Martin Feldstein, George F. Baker Professor of Economics, Harvard University
  • Aaron L. Freiberg, Professor of Politics and International Affairs, Princeton University
  • Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence Director, James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions, Princeton University
  • Eric A. Hanushek, Paul and Jean Hana Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University
  • R. Glenn Hubbard, Dean and Russell L. Carson Professor of Finance and Economics, Columbia Business School
  • Walter Russell Mead, Dean and Russell L. Carson Professor of Finance and Economics, Columbia Business School
  • John L. Palmer, University Professor and Dean Emeritus, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University
  • Mark Pauly, Bendheim Professor, Professor of Health Care Management, Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania
  • Sam Peltzman, Ralph and Dorothy Keller Distinguished Service Professor of Economics, Booth School of Business University of Chicago
  • Jeremy A. Rabkin, Professor of Law, George Mason University School of Law
  • Harvey S. Rosen, John L. Weinberg Professor of Economics and Business Policy at Princeton University
  • Richard J. Zeckhauser, Frank Plumpton Ramsey Professor of Political Economy, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

I do find it odd that Richard Dawkins, who taught at Oxford for decades, sees fit to promote the work of this Hack Institute.


  1. ShowMetheData says

    You might also want to take a closer look at ALEC – American Legislative Exchange Council
    It is responsible for much of the pro-life legislation for law wording, blocking procedures, and strategies that block and limit choice (TRAPP)

  2. Anthony K says

    I do find it odd that Richard Dawkins, who taught at Oxford for decades, sees fit to promote the work of this Hack Institute.

    Depends on what he taught. If recent experience (and his fiscals) are any guide, he taught “GRIFT101: Which Side Your Bread Is Buttered On”, so there’s no conflict.

  3. screechymonkey says

    As of June 23, 2014, they were

    [peruses list of names]

    Uh huh. Guess the AEI agrees that women don’t do thinky.

  4. Hj Hornbeck says

    Bah, you beat me to it. You missed out an important name, though: one of their trustees is Richard B. Cheney. Ronald Regan once gave them a glowing review, too:

    The American Enterprise Institute stands at the center of a revolution in ideas of which I, too, have been a part. AEI’s remarkably distinguished body of work is testimony to the triumph of the think tank. For today the most important American scholarship comes out of our think tanks – and none has been more influential than the American Enterprise Institute.

    This isn’t merely a business-friendly think tank, it’s one of the star players in transforming the USA into a corporatist oligarchy.

  5. Anthony K says

    Uh huh. Guess the AEI agrees that women don’t do thinky.

    Some special women, like CHS, are allowed, but they have to sign an extra waiver promising they won’t burn their bras, listen to the Indigo Girls, or empty their Keeper Cups over any of the science. It’s mostly legal boilerplate, but the new employee guide helpfully explains that if they stick to the coffee machines in the kitchenette and stay out—for the love of god!—of the games room, they shouldn’t foul anything up.

  6. Athywren; Kitty Wrangler says

    offering scientists and economists $10,000 each, “to undermine a major climate change report”

    Umm… so, is it just me, or is this ever so slightly antithetical to the scientific process?

  7. mildlymagnificent says

    offering scientists and economists $10,000 each, “to undermine a major climate change report”

    Well, it would be a waste of good training to let the decades of experience in opposing and undermining the medical science relating to tobacco just drift away.

    The exercises in keeping asbestos and DDT and lead in petrol from being controlled were mere skills maintenance. Anyone who wants to look can see that the training is transferable. The scientists who originally took on tobacco advocacy weren’t expert in either tobacco or health in the first place. And they’ve shifted seamlessly onto new topics as they’ve come along.

    Though there’s still money to be made in contesting the science around the dangers (pfffft, what dangers!) of second hand smoke. That, after all, leads to governments Interfering In Business and making stipulations about workplace safety and a whole lot of other pinkogreeniecommo palaver. And we can’t have that, can we.

  8. allosteric says

    I have this nagging feeling (but no proof, yet) that Koch/Cato/etc money might be behind some of the Deep Rifts in skepticism/atheism. I would be shocked if Shermer and orgs he is involved in haven’t taken Cato money one way or another. I think some of the conservative ‘intelligentsia’ might consider the possibility that feminists, progressives, environmentalists, scientists,skeptics, and atheists could get together to build a formidable coalition that could challenge their interests. A little strategic spending could help thwart that, or at least keep the feminists out of atheism/skepticism circles. Also, sometimes skeptics are willingly or unknowingly aiding the cause of various bad corporate citizens, and it can be tempting to take some money. And it’s so hard to trace.

  9. guest says

    I’m a Cal alum, and I am mortified that a UC professor is on this list; I’m only slightly less mortified to note that almost all of the ‘academic advisors’ are in economics, law and finance (not my disciplines, obviously).

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