American Enterprise Institute

SOURCE:  Wikipedia, 2020-05-26

  • Abbreviation: AEI
  • Formation: 1938; 82 years ago
  • Type: Public policy think tank
  • Legal status: 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization [not required to disclose donors]
  • Headquarters: Washington, D.C.
  • Location: United States
  • President: Robert Doar
  • Advisory board: Muneer Satter

  • Revenue (2016): $75,066,910
  • Expenses (2016): $55,822,303
  • Website:
  • In 1946, Phyllis Stewart Schlafly became a researcher for the American Enterprise Institute and worked in the successful United States House of Representatives campaign of Republican Claude I. Bakewell.
  • The Center for American Progress is a public policy research and advocacy organization which presents a liberal viewpoint on economic and social issues. The Center for American Progress was created in 2003 as a left-leaning alternative to conservative think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation, and the American Enterprise Institute.

  • The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, known simply as the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), is a Washington, D.C.-based think tank that researches government, politics, economics, and social welfare. AEI is an independent nonprofit organization supported primarily by grants and contributions from foundations, corporations, and individuals.

    Founded in 1938, the American Enterprise Institute's stated mission is "to defend the principles and improve the institutions of American freedom and democratic capitalism -- limited government, private enterprise, individual liberty and responsibility, vigilant and effective defense and foreign policies, political accountability, and open debate." AEI is closely associated with conservatism and neoconservatism, although it is officially non-partisan.

    AEI is governed by a 28-member Board of Trustees, composed of executives and former executives from various corporations. Approximately 185 authors are associated with AEI.

    Arthur C. Brooks served as president of the American Enterprise Institute from January 2009 through July 1, 2019. He was succeeded by Robert Doar.


    American Enterprise Institute current scholars and fellows include Kevin Hassett, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Michael Barone, Nicholas Eberstadt, Jonah Goldberg, Phil Gramm, Glenn Hubbard, Frederick Kagan, Leon Kass, Jon Kyl, Charles Murray, Norman Ornstein, Mark J. Perry, Danielle Pletka, Michael Rubin, Gary Schmitt, Christina Hoff Sommers, Jim Talent, Peter J. Wallison, Michael R. Strain, Bill Lenner, and W. Bradford Wilcox.

    Former American Enterprise Institute scholars or affiliates notably include President Gerald Ford, William J. Baroody Jr., William J. Baroody Sr., Robert Bork, Arthur F. Burns, Ronald Coase, Dinesh D'Souza, Alfred de Grazia, Christopher DeMuth, Martin Feldstein, Milton Friedman, David Frum, Reuel Marc Gerecht, David Gergen, Newt Gingrich, James K. Glassman, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Irving Kristol, Michael Ledeen, Seymour Martin Lipset, John Lott, James C. Miller III, Joshua Muravchik, Michael Novak, Richard Perle, Roscoe Pound, Laurence Silberman, Antonin Scalia, Ben Wattenberg, and James Q. Wilson.

    Some American Enterprise Institute staff members are considered to be among the leading architects of the Bush administration's public and foreign policy. More than twenty staff members served either in a Bush administration policy post or on one of the government's many panels and commissions. Among the prominent former government officials now affiliated with AEI are: AEI Board of Trustees member Dick Cheney, vice president of the United States under George W. Bush; John R. Bolton, former Ambassador to the United Nations; Lynne Cheney, former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities; Paul Wolfowitz, former Deputy Secretary of Defense.

  • Well-known anti-affirmative action litigant Edward Blum  [see also his Project on Fair Representation] holds a Fellowship at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research (AEI). Edward Blum's areas of research at AEI include civil rights policy, affirmative action, multiculturalism, and redistricting. Edward Blum has also written the book, "The Unintended Consequences of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act" (2007).

  • Political stance and impact

    The American Enterprise Institute describes itself as nonpartisan and its website includes a statement on political advocacy: "Legal requirements aside, AEI has important reasons of its own for abstaining from any form of policy advocacy as an institution ... AEI takes no institutional positions on policy issues (whether or not they are currently before legislative, executive, or judicial bodies) or on any other issues." This distinguishes AEI from other think tanks, such as The Heritage Foundation and the Center for American Progress. Although the institute is often cited as a right-leaning counterpart to the left-leaning Brookings Institution, the two entities have often collaborated. From 1998 to 2008, they co-sponsored the AEI-Brookings Joint Center for Regulatory Studies, and in 2006 they launched the AEI-Brookings Election Reform Project. In 2015, a working group consisting of members from both institutions coauthored a report entitled Opportunity, Responsibility, and Security: A Consensus Plan for Reducing Poverty and Restoring the American Dream.

    The American Enterprise Institute is the most prominent think tank associated with American neoconservatism, in both the domestic and international policy arenas. Irving Kristol, widely considered to be one of the founding fathers of neoconservatism, was a senior fellow at AEI (arriving from the Congress for Cultural Freedom following the revelation of that group's CIA funding) and many prominent neoconservatives -- including Jeane Kirkpatrick, Ben Wattenberg, and Joshua Muravchik -- spent the bulk of their careers at AEI. AEI staff member Norman J. Ornstein, a self-identified centrist, criticizes commentators who label him a "neocon" and says that "the intellectual openness and lack of orthodoxy at AEI exceeds what I have seen on any college campus ... Even though my writings have frequently ticked off conservative ideologues and business interests -- especially my deep involvement in campaign finance reform -- I have never once been told, 'You can't say that' or 'You better be careful'."

    American Enterprise Institute staff have taken strong stances against the farm bill and agricultural subsidies. A 2007 document authored by Bruce Gardner claimed that "There is no need for farm subsidies, and it would not really hurt anyone if we eliminated them."

    According to the 2011 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report (Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program, University of Pennsylvania), the American Enterprise Institute is number 17 in the "Top Thirty Worldwide Think Tanks" and number 10 in the "Top Fifty United States Think Tanks." As of 2019, the American Enterprise Institute also leads in YouTube subscribers among free-market groups.

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    Research programs

    The American Enterprise Institute's research is divided into seven broad categories:

  • economic policy studies,
  • foreign and defense policy studies,
  • health care policy studies,
  • political and public opinion studies,
  • social and cultural studies,
  • education, and
  • poverty studies.
  • Until 2008, the American Enterprise Institute's work was divided into economics, foreign policy, and politics and social policy. AEI research is presented at conferences and meetings, in peer-reviewed journals and publications on the institute's website, and through testimony before and consultations with government panels.

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    Goldwater campaign

    In 1964, William J. Baroody Sr., and several of his top staff at The American Enterprise Institute, including Karl Hess, moonlighted as policy advisers and speechwriters for Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater. "Even though Baroody and his staff sought to support Goldwater on their own time -- without using the institution's resources -- the American Enterprise Institute came under close scrutiny from the IRS in the years following the campaign," Andrew Rich writes. Representative Wright Patman subpoenaed the institute's tax papers, and the IRS investigated for two years. After this, AEI's officers scrupulously attempted to avoid even the appearance of political advocacy.

    Source of funding

    A 2013 study by Drexel University Sociologist Robert J. Brulle noted that The American Enterprise Institute received $86.7 million dollars between 2003 and 2010, with the single largest source being Donors Trust, which has Charles Koch and David Koch as its largest contributors.

  • Additional funding from the Smith Richardson Foundation.

  • Grantees of the Searle Freedom Trust have included conservative and libertarian public policy organizations. Searle Freedom Trust founder Daniel Searle was one of the largest donors to the American Enterprise Institute, and the largest donor to the American Enterprise Institute in his last two decades of life.

  • In 2010, the Donors Capital Fund granted US$2.5 million to the American Enterprise Institute.

  • Global warming

    Some American Enterprise Institute staff and fellows have been critical of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the international scientific body tasked to evaluate the risk of climate change caused by human activity.

    In February 2007, a number of sources, including the British newspaper The Guardian, reported that the American Enterprise Institute had sent letters to scientists offering $10,000 plus travel expenses and additional payments, asking them to critique the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report. This offer was criticized as bribery. The letters alleged that the IPCC was "resistant to reasonable criticism and dissent, and prone to summary conclusions that are poorly supported by the analytical work" and asked for essays that "thoughtfully explore the limitations of climate model outputs."

    The Guardian reported that the American Enterprise Institute received $1.6 million in funding from ExxonMobil, and further notes that former ExxonMobil CEO Lee R. Raymond is the Vice-Chairman of the American Enterprise Institute's board of trustees. This story was repeated by Newsweek, which drew criticism from its contributing editor Robert J. Samuelson because "this accusation was long ago discredited, and Newsweek shouldn't have lent it respectability." The Guardian article was disputed both by AEI and in an editorial in the Wall Street Journal. The rebuttals claimed factual errors and distortions, noting the ExxonMobil funding was spread out over a ten-year period and totaled less than 1% of AEI's budget. The Wall Street Journal editorial stated: "AEI doesn't lobby, didn't offer money to scientists to question global warming, and the money it did pay for climate research didn't come from Exxon."

    The American Enterprise Institute denies that the organization is skeptical about global warming. Criticizing the story as part of a "climate inquisition" published in "the left-wing press", the AEI's Steven Hayward and Kenneth Green wrote in The Weekly Standard:

    Statements by affiliated people

    Former scholar Steven Hayward has described efforts to reduce global warming as being "based on exaggerations and conjecture rather than science." He has stated that "even though the leading scientific journals are thoroughly imbued with environmental correctness and reject out of hand many articles that don't conform to the party line, a study that confounds the conventional wisdom is published almost every week."

    Likewise, former American Enterprise Institute scholar Kenneth Green has referred to efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as "the positively silly idea of establishing global-weather control by actively managing the atmosphere's greenhouse-gas emissions", and endorsed Michael Crichton's novel State of Fear for having "educated millions of readers about climate science."

    Christopher DeMuth, a former American Enterprise Institute President, accepted that the earth has warmed in recent decades, but he stated that "it's not clear why this happened" and charged as well that the IPCC "has tended to ignore many distinguished physicists and meteorologists whose work casts doubt on the influence of greenhouse gases on global temperature trends." Fellow James Glassman also disputes the prevailing scientific opinion on climate change, having written numerous articles criticizing the Kyoto accords and climate science more generally for Tech Central Station. He supported the views of U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK), who claims that "global warming is 'the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people,'" and, like Green, cites Crichton's novel State of Fear, which "casts serious doubt on global warming and extremists who espouse it."

    Joel Schwartz, an American Enterprise Institute visiting fellow, stated: "The Earth has indeed warmed during the last few decades and may warm further in the future. But the pattern of climate change is not consistent with the greenhouse effect being the main cause."

    After Energy Secretary Steven Chu recommended painting roofs and roads white in order to reflect sunlight back into space and therefore reduce global warming, American Enterprise Institute's magazine "The American" endorsed the idea. It also stated that "ultimately we need to look more broadly at creative ways of reducing the harmful effects of climate change in the long run." The American's Editor-in-Chief and Fellow Nick Schulz endorsed a carbon tax over a cap and trade program in the Christian Science Monitor on February 13, 2009. He stated that it "would create a market price for carbon emissions and lead to emissions reductions or new technologies that cut greenhouse gases."

    In October 2007, Resident Scholar and Executive Director of the AEI-Brookings Joint Center for Regulatory Studies Robert W. Hahn commented:

    American Enterprise Institute Visiting Scholar N. Gregory Mankiw wrote in The New York Times in support of a carbon tax on September 16, 2007. He remarked that "there is a broad consensus. The scientists tell us that world temperatures are rising because humans are emitting carbon into the atmosphere. Basic economics tells us that when you tax something, you normally get less of it."

    Termination of David Frum's residency

    On March 25, 2010, American Enterprise Institute Resident Fellow David Frum announced that his position at the organization had been "terminated." Following this announcement, media outlets speculated that Frum had been "forced out" for writing a post to his FrumForum blog called "Waterloo", in which he criticized the Republican Party's unwillingness to bargain with Democrats on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. In the editorial, Frum claimed that his party's failure to reach a deal "led us to abject and irreversible defeat."

    After his termination, Frum clarified that his article had been "welcomed and celebrated" by American Enterprise Institute President Arthur Brooks, and that he had been asked to leave because "these are hard times." Brooks had offered Frum the opportunity to write for the American Enterprise Institute on a nonsalaried basis, but Frum declined. The following day, journalist Mike Allen published a conversation with Frum, in which Frum expressed a belief that his termination was the result of pressure from donors. According to Frum, "AEI represents the best of the conservative world...But the elite isn't leading anymore...I think Arthur Brooks took no pleasure in this. I think he was embarrassed."

    Additional Reading

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