Competitive Enterprise Institute

SOURCE:  Wikipedia, captured 2020-06-30

  • Formation: 1984
  • Founder: Fred L. Smith Jr.
  • Type: Public policy think tank
  • Headquarters: Washington, DC 20036
  • President and CEO: Kent Lassman
  • Revenue (2015): $7,703,763 | Expenses (2015) $7,811,133
  • Website:
  • See also (climate change denial):  Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow  |  Cooler Heads Coalition  |  Heartland Institute

    The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) is a non-profit libertarian think tank founded by the 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. CEI focuses on a number of regulatory policy issues, including energy, environment, business and finance, labor, technology and telecommunications, transportation, and food and drug regulation.

    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."

    Policy areas

    Energy and environment

    Academic research has identified the Competitive Enterprise Institute as one of the Conservative think tanks funded to overturn the environmentalism of the 1960s, central to promoting climate change denial. CEI was involved in assisting the anti-environmental climate change policy of the George W. Bush administration.

    The Competitive Enterprise Institute promotes environmental policies based on limited government regulation and property rights and rejects what they call "global warming alarmism." 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. CEI 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."

    In March 1992, CEI's founder Fred Smith said of anthropogenic climate change:

    In May 2006, CEI's global warming policy activities attracted attention as it embarked upon an ad campaign with two television commercials. 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." The other states that the world's glaciers are "growing, not melting... getting thicker, not thinner." 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.

    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."

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

    Climate change denial

  • SOURCE:  Disinformation troll  Mark Steyn

    In July 2012, Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) blogger Rand Simberg accused American climatologist Michael E. Mann of "deception" and "engaging in data manipulation" and alleged that the Penn State investigation that had cleared Mann was a "cover-up and whitewash" comparable to the recent Jerry Sandusky sex scandal, "except that instead of molesting children, Michael Mann has molested and tortured data." The CEI blog Editor then removed the sentence as "inappropriate," but in a National Review blog post, Mark Steyn cited the deleted sentence / misallegation, and alleged that Mann's hockey stick graph was "fraudulent."

    Michael Mann asked CEI and National Review to remove the allegations and apologize, or he would take action. The CEI published further insults, and National Review Editor Rich Lowry responded in an article headed "Get Lost" with a declaration that, should Mann sue, the discovery process would be used to reveal and publish Mann's emails. Mann's lawyer filed the defamation lawsuit in October 2012.

    Before the case could go to discovery, CEI and National Review filed a court motion to dismiss it under anti-SLAPP legislation, with the claim that they had merely been using exaggerated language which was acceptable against a public figure. In July 2013 the judge ruled against this motion, and when the defendants took this to appeal a new judge also denied their motion to dismiss, in January 2014. National Review changed its lawyers, and Steyn decided to represent himself in court. Journalist Seth Shulman, at the Union of Concerned Scientists, welcomed the judge's statement that accusations of fraud "go to the heart of scientific integrity. They can be proven true or false. If false, they are defamatory. If made with actual malice, they are actionable."

    The defendants again appealed against the decision, and on August 11, 2014 the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press with 26 other organizations, including the ACLU, Bloomberg, Gannet (USA Today), Comcast (NBC), Time, FOX News and the Seattle Times, filed an amicus brief arguing that the comments at issue were Constitutionally protected as opinion. Steyn chose to be represented by attorney Daniel J. Kornstein.

    An appeal to get the lawsuit thrown out, filed by Steyn's co-defendants (National Review, CEI and Simberg), was heard in the D.C. Court of Appeals on November 25, 2014. Steyn was present for oral arguments but did not join in the appeal, preferring to go to trial. On December 22, 2016 the D.C. appeals court ruled that Mann's case against Simberg and Steyn could go ahead. A "reasonable jury" could find against the defendants, and though the context should be considered, "if the statements assert or imply false facts that defame the individual, they do not find shelter under the First Amendment simply because they are embedded in a larger policy debate.." A counterclaim Steyn filed through his attorneys on March 17, 2014, was dismissed with prejudice by the D.C. court on August 29, 2019, leaving Steyn to pay litigation costs.

    The defendants filed for certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court in the hope it would hear their appeal. On November 25, 2019, it denied the petition without comment. In a dissenting opinion, associate justice Samuel Alito wrote that he had favored hearing the case on the basis that, even though the defendants might yet prevail in the case or the outcome itself come before the Court for review, the expense of litigating the case this far may itself have a chilling effect which would deter speakers. Mann said that he looked forward to the trial.

    Regulatory reform

    The Competitive Enterprise Institute 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.

    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.

    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."

    Technology and telecommunications

    In 2015, Competitive Enterprise Institute 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."

    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.

    CEI has argued against using antitrust regulation to break up big technology companies such as Facebook and Google.


    The Competitive Enterprise Institute has a longstanding project to recapture the moral legitimacy of capitalism through research, writing, events, and other outreach activities. In 2019, CEI's Vice President for Strategy Iain Murray argued, in an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, that advocates of capitalism and free markets had taken the support of social conservatives for granted.

    Legal advocacy

    The Competitive Enterprise Institute "is one of a small number of think tanks that have a litigation arm to their organization."

    Center for Class Action Fairness (former project)

    From 2015 to 2019, the Center for Class Action Fairness (CCAF) was part of CEI. It has since spun off as part of the new Hamilton Lincoln Law Institute, a free-market nonprofit public-interest law founded by Frank and his CCAF colleague Melissa Holyoak. CCAF represents class members against what it calls, "unfair class action procedures and settlements."

    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 ["as near as possible"] funds and more than $2 million for class-action lawyers. Class members were not awarded any part of the settlement.

    In 2015, Competitive Enterprise Institute 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."

    Challenges to the Affordable Care Act

    The Competitive Enterprise Institute 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. 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." 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." 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?" The case made its way to the Supreme Court, which is a 6-3 decision rejected the challenge and upheld the ACA subsidies.

    Challenges to the Dodd-Frank Act and financial regulation

    In 2012, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, 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. The CEI also contends that President Obama's recess appointment of Richard Cordray as CFPB director was unconstitutional and that the powers of the Financial Stability Oversight Council, created by Dodd-Frank, are unconstitutional. In 2016, a federal judge rejected the challenge to Cordray's appointment. The CEI's challenge to the constitutionality of CFPB remains pending in the federal courts.

    CEI events

    Every year the Competitive Enterprise Institute 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, the Competitive Enterprise Institute 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:


    Bureaucrash was a special outreach and activist project of the Competitive Enterprise Institute 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.


    The Competitive Enterprise Institute is funded by donations from individuals, foundations and corporations. Donors to CEI include a number of companies in the energy, technology, automotive, and alcohol and tobacco industries.

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

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

    DonorsTrust has also funded the Competitive Enterprise Institute:

  • Wikipedia:  The Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, and David H. Koch Charitable Foundation, were among the funders of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a non-profit, libertarian think tank.
  • "The Competitive Enterprise Institute is a nonprofit that is funded through donations. Up until 2006, Exxon-Mobil donated 2 million dollars to the CEI. The CEI does not disclose donors, however, they are funded heavily by the Bradley Foundation and the Koch Family, as well as numerous gas/oil companies such as Amoco and Texaco. ... Overall, we rate the Competitive Enterprise Institute Questionable based on far-right bias, promotion of propaganda, use of poor sources, lack of transparency with funding, and a general rejection of scientific consensus."

    Former Staff

  • Will Chamberlain, Will Chamberlain is a lawyer, a member of the Federalist Society, a member of the Internet Accountability Project, and the publisher of Human Events.

    Prior to relaunching Human Events, Will Chamberlain worked as an attorney at the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington, DC, focusing on class action litigation. Before that, he was an associate at Quinn, Emanuel, Urquhart & Sullivan LLP in Los Angeles, where he practiced complex commercial litigation. Will graduated from University of the Pacific in 2010 with a B.A. in Economics, and received his J.D., magna cum laude, from Georgetown University Law Center in 2015. Will is an active member of the State Bar of California, and the District of Columbia Bar.

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