Competitive Enterprise Institute

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Competitive Enterprise Institute
Abbreviation CEI
Motto Free Markets and Limited Government
Formation 1984
Type Public Policy Think Tank
Headquarters 1899 L Street NW,
Washington, DC 20036
Lawson Bader
Revenue: $6,354,832
Expenses: $5,385,796
(FYE September 2012)[1]

The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) is a non-profit, libertarian think tank in the United States founded on March 9, 1984, in Washington, D.C., by Fred L. Smith, Jr. It seeks to advance economic liberty by fighting excessive government regulation because it believes that a free marketplace that allows entrepreneurship and innovation to thrive is better policy.

CEI states that it "promotes liberal ideals through analysis, education, coalition-building, advocacy", and, when appropriate, "litigation".[2] CEI has offered analysis and advocacy on public policy issues such as tobacco regulation, energy, environment, biotechnology, pharmaceutical regulation, chemical risk, telecommunications, insurance, transportation, and securities law.[3] According to the 2014 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".[4]

General activity

CEI consists of five centers: the Center for Advancing Capitalism, the Center for Economic Freedom, the Center for Energy and Environment, the Center for Law and Litigation, and the Center for Technology and Innovation.[5] CEI cites its major issues of concern as environmental policy, regulation and economic liberty, legal and constitutional matters, and health and safety. Among the methods used to implement the organization's agenda are various press releases and policy papers, testifying at governmental hearings, paid advertising, editorial and op-ed pieces, open letters, books, NGO operations, and "when appropriate", litigations. Their legal actions have included lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of statutes, interstate agreements, and onerous regulations, and suing government agencies to force the disclosure of public information.[6]

CEI's last television ad campaign (to date), entitled A Bright Future For Some,[7] focused on energy policy and global warming, criticizing policies advocated by former Vice President Al Gore. The ad aired nationwide in March and April 2008.

Policy areas

Environmental policy

CEI promotes environmental policies based on limited government regulation and property rights. The organization's 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 anthropogenic climate change denier and an opponent of government action 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.

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."[8]

In May 2006, CEI's global warming policy activities attracted attention as it embarked upon an ad campaign with two television commercials.[9] 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."[10] The other states that the world's glaciers are "growing, not melting... getting thicker, not thinner."[10] 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-Columbia, 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.[11]

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".[12]

Some of CEI's work on global warming policy includes:

  • Participating in and reporting on[13] the UNFCCC negotiations in Montreal as an NGO in December 2005.
  • A letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury in 2006, after the Archbishop urged Christians to take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The CEI wrote that reducing these levels, even in "baby steps", would "result in the deaths of more people in the U.S. than global warming would worldwide."[14]
  • The book Blue Planet in Green Shackles: What is Endangered, Climate or Freedom?. Published in May 2008, it was written by Václav Klaus, President of the Czech Republic and keynote speaker at CEI's annual dinner in 2008. Klaus argues that the politics of global warming policy are about human freedom, not the environment.
  • The Cooler Heads Coalition, which operates the website[15] The chairman is Myron Ebell, the Director of CEI's Center for Energy and Environment.

In 2010, coincident with CEI's financial ills, the pace of CEI's work on climate change slowed significantly: national advertising campaigns ceased; during the first half of 2010, CEI's only studies on the topic were two letters written to regulators.[16]

Government regulation

CEI uses think tank and advocacy methods to support activities in various areas, such as antitrust and government regulation, in matters including corporate welfare, Internet and E-Commerce, and Privacy and Security. They have written comments involving Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE), rent control, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposals, and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). CEI publishes an annual report on the cost burden imposed by government regulations, entitled "10,000 Commandments: An Annual Snapshot of the Federal Regulatory State".[17]

On December 19, 2012, CEI released a "Regulatory Report Card" on the Environmental Protection Agency. The report, authored by Ryan Young, CEI Fellow in Regulatory Studies, attempts to assess the EPA's regulatory activity and its impact on the U.S. economy.[18] The report estimates that regulations cost Americans $353 billion per year.

Legal and constitutional

CEI has also been active in the legal aspects of antitrust and government regulation. As part of its "Control Abuse of Power" (CAP) project,[19] CEI launched lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the 1998 tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) and the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB), respectively. The project's web page has been dormant since 2008. The lawsuit challenging the MSA ended in March, 2011, when the United States Supreme Court declined to hear the case on appeal from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.[20] The lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the PCAOB, Free Enterprise Fund v. Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, reached the Supreme Court in 2010. On June 28, 2010, the court held, on a 5–4 vote, that the method through which PCAOB members are removed from the board violates the United States Constitution's separation of powers.

The Project on Technology & Innovation, now incorporated into the Center for Technology and Innovation, extends CEI's efforts into antitrust in high tech and network industries, privacy, e-commerce, intellectual property, and telecommunications.

In July 2012, CEI filed an amici curiae in support of a petition for writ of mandamus by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), in an effort to compel the Transportation Security Administration to begin a court-ordered rulemaking proceeding on the agency's use of full-body scanners in airports. CEI was joined in this action by Robert Crandall, former Chairman and CEO of AMR Corporation and American Airlines, the National Association of Airline Passengers, Americans for Tax Reform's Digital Liberty, Electronic Frontier Foundation, The Rutherford Institute, Center for Individual Freedom, Cyber Privacy Project, Center for Financial Privacy and Human Rights, and the Liberty Coalition.[21]

Also in July 2012, CEI joined the State National Bank of Big Spring, Texas, and the 60 Plus Association as plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of provisions of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. The lawsuit, filed on July 21, 2012, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, asks the court to invalidate the law.[22] Plaintiffs argue that the law gives the federal government unprecedented, unchecked power. The lawsuit was amended on September 20, 2012, to include as plaintiffs the states of Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Michigan.[23] PDF The states are asking the court to review the constitutionality of the Orderly Liquidation Authority established under Title II of Dodd-Frank.

CEI has opposed a range of regulatory intervention into commercial activities including bans on alcohol advertising, fuel economy mandates and proposals to mitigate global warming. CEI supports constitutional checks over government's power over corporations.

Health and safety

CEI previously criticized health and safety regulation and argued through its Death by Regulation project that overregulation itself can be deadly. Previously, CEI has claimed that automotive downsizing due to federal fuel economy standards increased road accident deaths, and criticized the delayed availability of new medical therapies due to Food and Drug Administration rules. CEI scholars have also claimed that the health risks of secondhand smoke have not been adequately proven, and thus restrictions on smoking are unwarranted.[24]

Affordable Care Act

As part of its public interest litigation efforts to defend rule of law, in 2013 CEI helped coordinate and fund two lawsuits challenging Internal Revenue Service implementation of the Affordable Care Act. The lawsuits, King v. Burwell and Halbig v. Burwell, alleged that, notwithstanding the express statutory language of the ACA that limits premium assistance subsidies to exchanges established by the states, the IRS promulgated a regulation purporting to authorize subsidies in states with only federally established exchanges. On November 7, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari in the King case, and oral arguments took place March 4, 2015.[25] A decision is expected by late June or early July 2015. CEI general counsel Sam Kazman explained in a March 1 op-ed in USA Today 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?"[26] Michael S. Greve, former Chairman of CEI's Board of Directors, opposes the Affordable Care Act health insurance program. He said, "This bastard [the act] has to be killed as a matter of political hygiene", and adopted a strategy of bringing lawsuits such as King v. Burwell.[27]

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:[citation needed]

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.[28] 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, coincident with CEI's financial ills, Bureaucrash transferred its only full-time staffer to an open position on CEI's communications staff leaving Bureaucrash itself without any full-time staff. Bureaucrash was officially dissolved in December 2011.[29]

CEI Studios

CEI Studios was the organization's video production project. The studio produced short-format videos on current public policy issues, from the 2008 financial crisis to flood insurance to global warming and many other topics. It stopped producing original videos in 2011, using its site instead as a repository for videos of CEI events and occasional TV appearances by CEI fellows.[30]

During 2011 and 2012, CEI released a series of short video commentaries called "Fred Weekly", with Fred L. Smith, Jr., addressing public policy topics such as the Law of the Sea Treaty,[31] regulation of oil refineries,[32] and "assaults on capitalism".[33] The "Fred Weekly" video series is posted to[30] and to the organization's YouTube channel.[34]

In November 2012, CEI released an animated short film adaptation of "I, Pencil", an essay by Leonard Read that tells the story of the making of a pencil as a lesson in the economic concept of spontaneous order.[35] The short film was produced and directed by Nick Tucker, and the screenplay was written by Nicole Woods Ciandella.

CEI staff


The organization is governed by a board of directors. The current board of directors consists of: Lawson Bader, Michael Gleba, W. Thomas Haynes, James R. Von Ehr, James Curley, Michael Greve, Todd J. Zywicki, Kerry Halferty Hardy, Jean Claude Gruffat, Fred Smith, and Thomas Gale Moore (Member Emeritus).[36] On November 1, 2012, CEI announced[37] the selection of a new president, Lawson Bader,[38] who began his new role in January, 2013. Bader was formerly a vice president at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. Smith retains a role at CEI as founder and as director of CEI's Center for Advancing Capitalism.[39]

Scholars and affiliates

CEI lists its adjunct scholars as well as full and part-time staff members on its website and major area of responsibility on its website.[40] Some full-time staff working out of CEI's Washington, D.C. offices include:

  • Lawson Bader – President
  • Fred Smith (director) – Founder
  • Wayne Crews – Director of CEI's Center for Technology and Innovation
  • Myron Ebell (since 1999) – Director of CEI's Center for Energy and Environment – specializes in climate change*
  • Sam Kazman General Counsel and Director of CEI's Center for Law and Litigation
  • Iain Murray – Director of CEI's Center for Economic Freedom

Other individuals affiliated with CEI include:


CEI is funded by donations from individuals, foundations and corporations. Past and present funders include the Scaife Foundations, Exxon Mobil, the Ford Motor Company Fund, Pfizer, and the Earhart Foundation.[41]

CEI's revenues for the fiscal year ending 6/30/12 were $6,354,832 against expenses of $5,385,796; for the fiscal year ending 6/30/11 were $5,349,662 against expenses of $4,863,897.[42] 2012 Salaries and benefits to its top employees were reported on its year-ending 6/30/12 tax return as:

  • Fred L. Smith, President, $236,300 salary, $11,710 benefits
  • C. Wayne Crews, Director of Tech, $161,500 salary, $10,137 benefits
  • Sam Kazman, General Counsel, $122,800 salary, $10,115 benefits

According an undated CEI brochure from prior to 2001, the following companies and foundations were among those listed as supporting CEI's work with annual contributions of at least $10,000, the CEI's "Entrepreneurs" level:[43]

Aequus Institute, Amoco Foundation, Inc., Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, Coca-Cola Company, E.L. Craig Foundation, CSX Corporation, Earhart Foundation, Fieldstead and Co., FMC Foundation, Ford Motor Company Fund, Gilder Foundation, the Koch family foundations (including the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, David H. Koch Charitable Foundation, and the Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation) Philip M. McKenna Foundation, Inc., Curtis and Edith Munson Foundation, Philip Morris Companies, Inc., Pfizer Inc., Precision Valve Corporation, Prince Foundation, Rodney Fund, Sheldon Rose, Scaife Foundations (Carthage Foundation and Sarah Scaife Foundation), and Texaco, Inc. (Texaco Foundation).[citation needed]

Other documents in the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, UCSF show that CEI has received funding directly from various tobacco companies.[44][45][46] For example, the listing on the Philip Morris Glossary of Names: C[47] gives the note "Received public policy grant from Philip Morris (1995); Pro-market public interest group dedicated to advancing the principles of free enterprise and limited government."

ExxonMobil Corporation was a major donor to CEI, with over $2 million in contributions between 1998 and 2005. In 2002, the company gave $405,000;[48] in 2004, it gave CEI $180,000 that was earmarked for "global climate change and global climate change outreach".[49] In 2006, the company announced that it had ended its funding for the group.[50]

United States IRS forms 990 for Competitive Enterprise Institute
Organization Name State Year Total Assets Form Pages EIN
Competitive Enterprise Institute – 2002 DC 2002 $1,466,817 990 17 52-1351785
Competitive Enterprise Institute – 2003 DC 2003 $1,957,912 990 30 52-1351785
Competitive Enterprise Institute – 2004 DC 2004 $1,801,154 990 18 52-1351785
Competitive Enterprise Institute – 2005 DC 2005 $1,865,080 990 18 52-1351785
Competitive Enterprise Institute – 2006 DC 2006 $2,182,380 990 19 52-1351785
Competitive Enterprise Institute – 2007 DC 2007 $2,144,222 990 22 52-1351785
Competitive Enterprise Institute – 2008 DC 2008 $2,736,320 990 23 52-1351785
Competitive Enterprise Institute – 2009 DC 2009 $2,125,439 990 40 52-1351785
Competitive Enterprise Institute – 2010 DC 2010 $2,063,906 990 40 52-1351785

Financial ills

In late 2009, CEI reported a budget gap of at least $450,000 and the loss of its profitable Center for Risk, Regulation and Markets to The Heartland Institute.[51] Shortly thereafter, CEI reported a year-over-year decline in program spending, coupled with a large increase in its fundraising spending. As a result, the website Charity Navigator cut CEI's four-star rating to two stars.[52] CEI also contracted its web presence significantly in the wake of its financial ills, leaving sites including,, and dormant. In 2010, CEI's production of reports and papers dropped significantly. Whereas the think tank had produced twenty studies during the first six months of 2009, it produced only ten during the first six months of 2010.[16]


  1. "Charity Rating". Charity Navigator.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> Also see "Quickview data". GuideStar. Total Revenue: $6,354,832; Total Expenses: $5,385,796 [FYE September 2012]<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "A National Survey of Oncologists Regarding The Food and Drug Administration" (PDF). Competitive Enterprise Institute. 30 April 2002.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Issues | Competitive Enterprise Institute". Retrieved 2015-03-11.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  13. "Dispatches from the Montreal U.N. Climate Conference | Competitive Enterprise Institute". Retrieved 2011-08-25.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. "Leader of Anglican Church Should Consider Effects of His Comments on World's Poor | Competitive Enterprise Institute". 2006-03-28. Retrieved 2011-08-25.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. "Climate Change News & Analysis". Retrieved 2011-08-25.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  18. "Regulatory Report Card: Environmental Protection Agency | Competitive Enterprise Institute". 2012-12-19. Retrieved 2015-03-11.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. "Controlled Power | Not another 1984 please". Retrieved 2011-08-25.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. "Supreme Court Declines to Hear Case Challenging Tobacco Settlement | Competitive Enterprise Institute". 2011-03-07. Retrieved 2015-03-11.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. "Brief of Amici Curiae Supporting EPIC's Petition for Writ of Mandamus (EPIC v. DHS) | Competitive Enterprise Institute". 2012-07-19. Retrieved 2015-03-11.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. "State National Bank of Big Spring et al v. Timothy Geithner, United States Secretary of the Treasury et al" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-03-11.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. "Dodd-Frank Challenge - Amended Complaint | Competitive Enterprise Institute". 2012-09-20. Retrieved 2015-03-11.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  42. Competitive Enterprise Institute IRS Form 990, available at
  43. "COMPETITIVE ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE (jot72e00)". Retrieved 2015-03-11.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  44. "(qlh36e00)". University of California, San Francisco: Legacy Tobacco Documents Library. Retrieved 2011-08-25.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  49. Exxon-Mobil 2005 annual giving (donations) report: Competitive Enterprise Institute, Washington, D.C., General Operating Support 90,000, General Operating Support* 180,000, Total 270,000 2005 annual giving report[dead link]
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External links

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