Competitive Enterprise Institute

The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) is a non-profit libertarian think tank founded by political writer Fred L. Smith Jr. on March 9, 1984, in Washington, D.C., to advance principles of limited government, free enterprise, and individual liberty.

According to the 2017 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report (Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program, University of Pennsylvania), CEI is number 59 (of 60) in the "Top Think Tanks in the United States".[2]

Competitive Enterprise Institute
TypePublic policy think tank
Headquarters1310 L Street NW,
Washington, DC 20036
President and CEO
Kent Lassman
Revenue (2015)
Expenses (2015)$7,811,133[1]

Policy areas

Energy and environment

CEI promotes environmental policies based on limited government regulation and property rights and rejects what they call "global warming alarmism".[3] The organization's largest program, the Center for Energy and Environment, focuses on energy policy, chemical risk policy, Clean Air Act regulation, land and water regulation, the Endangered Species Act, and private conservation policies.

CEI is an outspoken opponent of government action by the Environmental Protection Agency that would require limits on greenhouse gas emissions. It favors free-market environmentalism, and supports the idea that market institutions are more effective in protecting the environment than is government. CEI President Kent Lassman wrote on the organization's blog that, "there is no debate about whether the Earth’s climate is warming", that "human activities very likely contribute to that warming", and that "this has long been the CEI's position".[4]

In March 1992, CEI's founder Fred Smith said of anthropogenic climate change: "Most of the indications right now are it looks pretty good. Warmer winters, warmer nights, no effects during the day because of clouding, sounds to me like we're moving to a more benign planet, more rain, richer, easier productivity to agriculture."[5]

In May 2006, CEI's global warming policy activities attracted attention as it embarked upon an ad campaign with two television commercials.[6] These ads promote carbon dioxide as a positive factor in the environment and argue that global warming is not a concern. One ad focuses on the message that CO2 is misrepresented as a pollutant, stating that "it's essential to life. We breathe it out. Plants breathe it in... They call it pollution. We call it life."[7] The other states that the world's glaciers are "growing, not melting... getting thicker, not thinner."[7] It cites Science articles to support its claims. However, the editor of Science stated that the ad "misrepresents the conclusions of the two cited Science papers... by selective referencing". The author of the articles, Curt Davis, director of the Center for Geospatial Intelligence at the University of Missouri, said CEI was misrepresenting his previous research to inflate their claims. "These television ads are a deliberate effort to confuse and mislead the public about the global warming debate," Davis said.[8]

In 2009, CEI's director of energy and global warming policy told The Washington Post, "The only thing that's been demonstrated to reduce emissions is economic collapse".[9]

In 2014, CEI sued the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy over a video that linked the polar vortex to climate change.[10]

Regulatory reform

CEI advocates for regulatory reform on a range of policy issues, including energy, environment, business and finance, labor, technology and telecommunications, transportation, and food and drug regulation.[11]

Its annual survey of the federal regulatory state entitled Ten Thousand Commandments: An Annual Snapshot of the Federal Regulatory State, documents the size, scope, and cost of federal regulations, and how the U.S. regulatory burden affects American consumers, businesses, and the economy.[12]

CEI’s Clyde Wayne Crews Jr. coined the phrase "regulatory dark matter," referencing astrophysics to distinguish between ordinary government regulations or "visible matter," and “regulatory dark matter,” which consists of “thousands of executive branch and federal agency proclamations and issuances, including memos, guidance documents, bulletins, circulars and announcements with practical regulatory effect.” [12]

Net neutrality

In 2015, CEI filed an amicus brief in support of the petitioners in U.S. Telecom v. FCC. The brief argued that, "Congress did not authorize the FCC to regulate the Internet when it enacted Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act and, in fact, placed it outside the scope of the FCC’s rulemaking authority.” [13]

CEI was one of several free market think tanks who publicly supported the Federal Communication Commission's Restoring Internet Freedom Order in 2017, which repealed net neutrality regulations implemented under the Obama Administration.[14]

Legal advocacy

The Competitive Enterprise Institute "is one of a small number of think tanks that have a litigation arm to their organization."[15] CEI’s Center for Class Action Fairness (CCAF) represents class members against what it calls, "unfair class action procedures and settlements."[16]

CEI argued Frank v. Gaos before the U.S. Supreme Court on October 31, 2018, opposing a proposed class action settlement involving Google, who paid out an $8.5 million settlement including $6 million in cy-près funds and more than $2 million for class action lawyers. Class members were not awarded any part of the settlement.[17]

In 2015, CEI successfully appealed a class action settlement in a case about the length of Subway's "footlong" sandwiches. CEI argued that the proposed settlement benefited only nine people in the class but awarded more than half a million dollars to the class attorneys. The Seventh Circuit's ruling rejected the settlement in the Subway case that would have paid plaintiffs' attorneys $525,000 and left the class with nothing. The court's decision included the statement that "[a] class settlement that results in fees for class counsel but yields no meaningful relief for the class is no better than a racket."[18]

Challenges to the Affordable Care Act

CEI funded and coordinated King v. Burwell and Halbig v. Burwell, two lawsuits that challenged the Internal Revenue Service's implementation of the Affordable Care Act.[19] The strategy of bringing such lawsuits was pioneered by Michael S. Greve, former chairman of CEI's board of directors, an avowed ACA opponent who stated: "This bastard [the act] has to be killed as a matter of political hygiene. I do not care how this is done, whether it’s dismembered, whether we drive a stake through its heart, whether we tar and feather it and drive it out of town, whether we strangle it."[20][21] The King v. Burwell suit alleged that the IRS's implementation violated the statute and sought to block "a major portion of Obamacare: the subsidies that more than 6 million middle-income people, across more than 30 states, now receive to buy health insurance."[19] CEI general counsel Sam Kazman argued in a USA Today op-ed that the disputed IRS rule "raises a basic issue that goes far beyond Obamacare: Do agencies have to follow the laws enacted by Congress, or can they rewrite them?"[22] The case made its way to the Supreme Court, which in a 6-3 decision rejected the challenge and upheld the ACA subsidies.[19]

Challenges to the Dodd-Frank Act and financial regulation

In 2012, the CEI, along with the conservative activist group 60 Plus Association, filed a lawsuit against the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The CEI's suit alleges that the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act's creation of the CFPB violates the constitutional separation of powers.[15][23] The CEI also contends that President Obama's recess appointment of Richard Cordray as CFPB director was unconstitutional[15][24] and that the powers of the Financial Stability Oversight Council, created by Dodd-Frank, are unconstitutional.[15] In 2016, a federal judge rejected the challenge to Cordray's appointment.[23] The CEI's challenge to the constitutionality of CFPB remains pending in the federal courts.[23]

CEI events

Every year CEI hosts an annual dinner gala and presents the Julian L. Simon Memorial Award. The Simon award honors the work of the late economist, winner of the Simon–Ehrlich wager. Award winners have included:

CEI projects

Warren T. Brookes Journalism Fellowship

In 1991, CEI established the Warren T. Brookes Journalism Fellowship to identify and train journalists who wish to improve their knowledge of environmental issues and free market economics. In this manner, the program seeks to perpetuate the legacy of Warren Brookes, who was a longtime journalist with the Boston Herald and the Detroit News and a nationally syndicated columnist. and Former and current fellows include:

1993–1994 Ronald Bailey
1994–1995 Michael Fumento
1995–1996 Michelle Malkin
1996–1997 James Bovard
1997–1998 Jesse Walker
1999–2000 Brian Doherty
2000–2001 Sean Paige
2001–2002 Eileen Ciesla-Norcross
2002–2003 Hugo Gurdon
2003–2004 Neil Hrab
2004–2005 John Berlau
2005–2006 Timothy Carney
2006–2007 Jeremy Lott
2007–2008 Lene Johansen
2008–2009 Silvia Santacruz
2009–2010 Ryan Young
2010–2011 Kathryn Ciano
2011–2012 Matt Patterson
2012–2013 Matthew Melchiorre
2013–2014 Bill Frezza
2014–2015 Carrie Sheffield


Bureaucrash was a special outreach and activist project of CEI, described as an international network of pro-freedom activists working to promote a political ideology based on personal and economic freedom. Bureaucrash conducted political activism using new media, creative marketing, and education campaigns. Bureaucrash maintained a website ( and a YouTube channel, Bureaucrash TV, which featured short videos on political topics. Begun as an independent organization, Bureaucrash was absorbed into CEI and, for a time, maintained full-time staff as part of CEI's staff. In mid-2010 Bureaucrash transferred its only full-time staffer to an open position on CEI's communications staff leaving Bureaucrash itself without any full-time staff.


CEI is funded by donations from individuals, foundations and corporations.[25] Donors to CEI include a number of companies in the energy, technology, automotive, and alcohol and tobacco industries.[26]

CEI's revenues for the fiscal year ending on September 30, 2015, were $7.5 million against expenses of $7.4 million.[27]

ExxonMobil Corporation was a donor to CEI, giving the group about $2 million over seven years.[28] In 2006, the company announced that it had ended its funding for the group.[29]

In 2015, it was reported that over three years, CEI received $4.3 million from Donors Trust, a donor-advised fund that distributed nearly $120 million to 102 think tanks and action groups skeptical of the science behind climate change between 2002 and 2010.[30]


  1. ^ a b "Competitive Enterprise Institute" (PDF). Foundation Center. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  2. ^ James G. McGann (Director) (December 4, 2017). "2017 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report". Retrieved February 14, 2015. Other "Top Think Tank" rankings include #43 (of 65) of Environment Think Tanks and #47 (of 75) for Best Advocacy Campaign.
  3. ^ "Energy and Environment". Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  4. ^ Lassman, Kent (April 13, 2016). "CEI Will Surmount Crimethink Persecution". Competative Enterprise Institute. Competative Enterprise Institute. Retrieved 2018-12-16.
  5. ^ "Consequences of Global Warming". NRDC. Retrieved 2011-08-25.
  6. ^ Archived December 11, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ a b Bank, Justin (2006-05-26). "Scientist to CEI: You Used My Research to 'Confuse and Mislead'". Archived from the original on 2006-05-30. Retrieved 2006-05-30.
  8. ^ [1] Archived July 4, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ "Europe Advises U.S. Officials on Climate". The Washington Post. 2009-03-06. Retrieved 2015-03-11.
  10. ^ "US Civil Action No. 14-1806" (PDF). Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  11. ^ "About | Competitive Enterprise Institute". Retrieved 2019-01-15.
  12. ^ a b "Trump's team has detected the 'dark matter' of government regulation, meaning you ain't seen nothing yet". The Washington Post. 2017-02-01. Retrieved 2019-01-15.
  13. ^ August 6, 2015 (2015-08-06). "Amicus Brief: Congress Has Never Given FCC the Authority to Regulate the Internet | Competitive Enterprise Institute". Retrieved 2019-01-15.
  14. ^ Elizabeth Harrington (2017-05-17). "Report: Net Neutrality Leads to Higher prices, Less Innovation - Washington Free Beacon". Retrieved 2019-01-15.
  15. ^ a b c d McDuffee, Allen (22 June 2012). "Competitive Enterprise Institute files lawsuit against Obama's consumer watchdog". The Washington Post. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  16. ^ "Class Action Fairness | Competitive Enterprise Institute". Retrieved 2019-01-15.
  17. ^ "Supreme Court Weighs Google Settlement That Paid Class Members Nothing - The New York Times". Retrieved 2019-01-15.
  18. ^ Gilbert, Sarah (2018-10-24). "INSIGHT: Before You Settle That Class Action, Remember the Footlong". Retrieved 2019-01-15.
  19. ^ a b c Sanger-Katz, Margot (25 June 2015). "Obamacare, Back at the Supreme Court: Frequently Asked Questions". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  20. ^ Toobin, Jeffrey (9 March 2015). "Hard Cases". The New Yorker. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  21. ^ Linda Greenhouse. "By Any Means Necessary". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-03-11.
  22. ^ "Obamacare rule harms millions: Opposing view". 2015-03-01. Retrieved 2015-03-11.
  23. ^ a b c Barber, C. Ryan (12 July 2016). "Judge Rejects Recess-Appointment Challenge Over CFPB Director". The National Law Journal. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  24. ^ Weinberger, Evan (24 July 2015). "DC Circ. Revives Texas Bank's CFPB Challenge". Law360. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  25. ^ "The Tempest". 2006-05-23. Retrieved 2015-03-11.
  26. ^ Eilperin, Juliet (June 20, 2013). "Anatomy of a Washington dinner: Who funds the Competitive Enterprise Institute?". The Washington Post. Retrieved 25 September 2016.
  27. ^ "Competitive Enterprise Institute". GuideStar. Retrieved 25 September 2016.
  28. ^ Mufson, Steven (February 10, 2007). "Exxon Mobil Warming Up To Global Climate Issue". The Washington Post. Retrieved 25 September 2016.
  29. ^ "Exxon Mobil softens its climate-change stance". 2007-01-11. Retrieved 2011-08-25.
  30. ^ Goldenberg, Suzanne; Bengtsson, Helena (June 9, 2015). "Secretive donors gave US climate denial groups $125m over three years". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 November 2016.

External links

Coordinates: 38°54′14″N 77°02′35″W / 38.9040°N 77.0431°W

Brian Doherty (journalist)

Brian Doherty (born June 1, 1968) is an American journalist. He is a senior editor at Reason magazine.

Carrie Sheffield

Carrie Sheffield (born 1983) is a writer and political analyst based in New York City. Founder of the new media startup Bold, Sheffield is a former editorial writer for The Washington Times, a reporter for Politico, and The Hill. In 2009, Sheffield won funding from Harvard University to serve as a correspondent for The Jerusalem Post in Israel.

Christopher C. Horner

Christopher C. Horner is an attorney in Washington, D.C. and a Senior Fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute who opposes the mainstream view of climate change and has been prominent in promoting climate change denial. He is the author of three books disputing the scientific evidence for man-made global warming. Horner had a financial relationship with coal companies who provided him with funds. Horner has been criticized for hounding climate scientists with frivolous requests for documentation and emails.

Cooler Heads Coalition

The Cooler Heads Coalition is a politically conservative "informal and ad-hoc group" in the United States, financed and operated by the Competitive Enterprise Institute. The group, which opposes the scientific consensus on climate change, is known to promote falsehoods about climate change and has been characterized as a leader in efforts to stop the government from addressing climate change.

Deirdre McCloskey

Deirdre Nansen McCloskey (born September 11, 1942), is the Distinguished Professor of Economics, History, English, and Communication at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). She is also adjunct professor of Philosophy and Classics there, and for five years was a visiting Professor of philosophy at Erasmus University, Rotterdam. Since October 2007 she has received six honorary doctorates. In 2013, she received the Julian L. Simon Memorial Award from the Competitive Enterprise Institute for her work examining factors in history that led to advancement in human achievement and prosperity. Her main research interests include the origins of the modern world, the misuse of statistical significance in economics and other sciences, and the study of capitalism, among many others.

Donors Trust

Donors Trust is an American non-profit donor-advised fund. It was founded in 1999 with the goal of "safeguarding the intent of libertarian and conservative donors". Like all donor-advised funds, Donors Trust can offer anonymity to its clients who do not wish to make their donations public. It makes grants to charities that are not dependent on government support and that promote limited government, personal responsibility and free enterprise. It is affiliated with Donors CapitalFund, another donor-advised fund. In September 2015, Lawson Bader was announced as the new president of both DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund. Bader was formerly president of the Competitive Enterprise Institute and Vice President at the Mercatus Center.

Fred L. Smith (political writer)

Fred L. Smith, Jr. is founder and former president of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit libertarian think tank. He has written on topics such as antitrust law, environmental regulation, and the economic impacts of global warming.

Immigration tariff

An immigration tariff is a charge levied on immigrants wanting permanent residency within a nation. As a means of applying price theory to a nation's immigration policy, it is generally advocated as an alternative to existing bureaucratic procedures as a means of moderating or better regulating the flow of immigration to a given level.

The idea is frequently associated with American economist Gary Becker, who stated, "When I mention this to people, they sometimes go hysterical." Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration policy analyst, wrote a policy analysis arguing for immigration tariffs for the Competitive Enterprise Institute.In March 2015 the Australian government launched an inquiry into the use of an immigration tariff as an alternative to existing immigration arrangements.

James Bovard

James Bovard (; born 1956) is an American libertarian author and lecturer whose political commentary targets examples of waste, failures, corruption, cronyism and abuses of power in government. He is a USA Today columnist and is a frequent contributor to The Hill. He is the author of Attention Deficit Democracy, and nine other books. He has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, New Republic, Reader's Digest, The American Conservative, and many other publications. His books have been translated into Spanish, Arabic, Japanese, and Korean.

Jeremy Lott

Jeremy Lott (born October 1, 1978) is an American writer, editor, and pundit. He briefly worked at the news website Rare. Previously, Lott was the editor of

Real Clear Religion and associate editor of Real Clear Science. Lott has written several books and articles, with his work appearing in well over 100 publications, including the National Post, Australian Financial Review, the Financial Times, the Guardian, Politico, and the American Prospect.

Lott has previously worked at the Cato Institute, Capital Research Center, American Spectator, and the Competitive Enterprise Institute. And from 2006–2007 he was the Warren T. Brookes Journalism Fellow at CEI. Although much of Lott's past employment has been associated with conservative and libertarian organizations, he publishes frequently in left-leaning The Guardian.

Lott holds a B.A. from Trinity Western University in religious studies and lives bicoastal between Lynden, Washington and Fairfax, Virginia.

Jesse Walker

Jesse Walker (born September 4, 1970) is books editor of Reason magazine. The University of Michigan alumnus has written the books The United States of Paranoia: A Conspiracy Theory (HarperCollins, 2013) and Rebels on the Air: An Alternative History of Radio in America (NYU Press, 2001), and he maintains a blog called The Perpetual Three-Dot Column. His articles have appeared in a number of publications, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Salon, The New Republic, L.A. Times, L.A. Weekly, Chronicles, and No Depression.

John Berlau

John Berlau is an American economist who currently lives in Washington, D.C. and is the director of the Center for Investors and Entrepreneurs (formerly Center for Entrepreneurship) at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free market think tank.

Berlau has degrees in journalism and economics from the University of Missouri. Early in his career he was a policy analyst for Consumer Alert, a position he held until 1996. He has written for Investor's Business Daily and Insight on the News, and his work has also appeared in Barron's Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, The Weekly Standard, National Review and Policy Review. Berlau is also a regular contributor to Newsmax, where he writes a column titled "Economic View." He won the National Press Club's Sandy Hume Memorial Award for Excellence in Political Journalism in 2002.Berlau is known for strong criticism of parts of the U.S. government, such as the Internal Revenue Service.

Koch family foundations

The Koch family foundations are a group of charitable foundations in the United States associated with the family of Fred C. Koch. The most prominent of these are the Charles Koch Foundation and the David H. Koch Charitable Foundation, created by Charles Koch and David Koch, two sons of Fred C. Koch who own the majority of Koch Industries, an oil, gas, paper, and chemical conglomerate which is the US's second-largest privately held company. Charles' and David's foundations have provided millions of dollars to a variety of organizations, including libertarian and conservative think tanks. Areas of funding include think tanks, political advocacy, climate change skepticism, higher education scholarships, cancer research, arts, and science.

Michael Greve

Michael S. Greve is a Professor at the George Mason University School of Law. Previously, he served as the John G. Searle Scholar and Director of the Federalism Project at the American Enterprise Institute. He is also a member of the board of directors of the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Greve's research interests include federalism, constitutional law, environmental policy, and Internet regulation.

Previously, Greve founded and, from 1989 to February 2000, directed the Center for Individual Rights (CIR), a public interest law firm. CIR served as counsel in many precedent-setting constitutional cases, including United States v. Morrison (2000), a key Supreme Court verdict on federalism. Greve earned his Ph.D. in Government from Cornell University in 1987. He has commented on constitutional and administrative law, environmental policy, civil rights, and federalism.

Michelle Malkin

Michelle Malkin (; née Maglalang; born October 20, 1970) is an American conservative blogger, political commentator, author and businesswoman. Her weekly syndicated column appears in a number of newspapers and websites. She is a Fox News contributor and has been a guest on MSNBC, C-SPAN, and national radio programs. Malkin has written four books published by Regnery Publishing. She founded the conservative websites Twitchy and Hot Air.

Robert L. Bradley Jr.

Robert L. Bradley Jr. (born June 17, 1955) is CEO and founder of the Institute for Energy Research, and the author of several books on energy economics. He is also an adjunct scholar of the Cato Institute and the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C.; a senior fellow at the Texas Public Policy Foundation in Austin, Texas; and a visiting fellow of the Institute of Economic Affairs in London.

Ronald Bailey

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Timothy M. Carney

Timothy Michael Carney (born July 12, 1944) is a retired American diplomat and consultant. Carney served as a career Foreign Service Officer for 32 years, with assignments that included Vietnam and Cambodia as well as Lesotho and South Africa before being appointed as ambassador to Sudan and later in Haiti. Carney served with a number of U.N. Peacekeeping Missions, and until recently led the Haiti Democracy Project, an initiative launched under the presidency of George W. Bush to build stronger institutional foundations for the country's long-term relationship with the United States.

In 2003, Carney was appointed to oversee America's reconstruction efforts in Iraq after the war that deposed Saddam Hussein. After a long diplomatic career, Carney served as Executive Vice President of the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, a non-profit organization whose principal purpose was to assist Haiti's redevelopment in the aftermath of the January 2010 earthquake until the Fund rolled over operations in December 2012 to a domestic Haitian non-profit organization.

Carney's appointment to diplomatic postings in countries that had often difficult relations with the United States earned him both praise and criticism from observers for his hands-on diplomatic style. His strong views on Iraq's reconstruction efforts after the war in 2003 were in part responsible for a wholesale change in the Bush administration's strategy to stabilize the war-torn nation. He also advocated engagement with Sudan at a time when White House officials and the C.I.A. wanted the U.S. Embassy closed in Khartoum.

Warren T. Brookes

Warren T. Brookes (1929 – December 28, 1991) was a journalist with the Boston Herald and the Detroit News and a nationally syndicated columnist known for his conservative political and economic views.

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