American Enterprise Institute

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The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research (AEI) is an extremely influential, pro-business, think tank founded in 1943 by Lewis H. Brown. It promotes the advancement of free enterprise capitalism and its people have served in influential governmental positions. It is the base for many neo-conservatives. The AEI is most noted in recent years for providing the George W Bush administration with the hawkish officials and advisers who promoted the administration’s “war on terror” policies, including the 'hawks' John Bolton, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, and John Yoo. The result was the "coalition of the willing" going to war with Iran; it also strongly promotes a right-wing “pro-Israel” position.

The AEI’s influence in the White House during the Bush presidency marked a high-point of its role in influencing public debate on American foreign policy and defense. However it still actively promotes Middle Eastern military entanglements for both the US and its allies. In recent years it has advocated intervention in Syria’s civil war, and it actively lobbied the Obama administration to take a hard line against Iran while retaining the military presence in Afghanistan. The AEI's "Institute for the Study of War" has recently suggested that the United States should send 25,000 ground troops to Iraq and Syria.

Split Entry
See also Document Index & Timeline


Koch Wiki

The Koch brothers -- David and Charles -- are the right-wing billionaire co-owners of Koch Industries. As two of the richest people in the world, they are key funders of the right-wing infrastructure, including the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the State Policy Network (SPN). In SourceWatch, key articles on the Kochs include: Koch Brothers, Koch Industries, Americans for Prosperity, American Encore, and Freedom Partners.


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.[1], 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.

Irving Kristol left the Congress for Cultural Freedom in the late 1960s to work at the AEI after the CIA's funding of CCF was widely revealed in the media following initial reports in Ramparts magazine. [2]

President Ronald Reagan said of AEI in 1988:

"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."

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.[3][4][5] 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.[6]

Documents Contained at the Anti-Environmental Archives
Documents written by or referencing this person or organization are contained in the Anti-Environmental Archive, launched by Greenpeace on Earth Day, 2015. The archive contains 3,500 documents, some 27,000 pages, covering 350 organizations and individuals. The current archive includes mainly documents collected in the late 1980s through the early 2000s by The Clearinghouse on Environmental Advocacy and Research (CLEAR), an organization that tracked the rise of the so called "Wise Use" movement in the 1990s during the Clinton presidency. Access the index to the Anti-Environmental Archives here.

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."[7]

Between 2002 and 2013, the American Enterprise Institute received a total of $867,289 in funding from the Charles G. Koch Foundation.[8]

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.[9] 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."[10][11]

DonorsTrust Funding

The American Enterprise Institute received $19,840,954 from DonorsTrust between 2002 and 2011.[12]

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.[13]

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.[13] 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.

In 2013, the Center for Media and Democracy released a special report on SPN. Those who received DonorsTrust funding included media outlets such as the Franklin Center and the Lucy Burns Institute, as well as think tanks such as SPN itself, the Heartland Institute, Illinois Policy Institute, Independence Institute, Mackinac Center for Public Policy, South Carolina Policy Council, American Legislative Exchange Council, Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, and the Cascade Policy Institute.[14]

About ALEC
ALEC is a corporate bill mill. It is not just a lobby or a front group; it is much more powerful than that. Through ALEC, corporations hand state legislators their wishlists to benefit their bottom line. Corporations fund almost all of ALEC's operations. They pay for a seat on ALEC task forces where corporate lobbyists and special interest reps vote with elected officials to approve “model” bills. Learn more at the Center for Media and Democracy's, and check out breaking news on our site.

Ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council

In August 2011, AEI President Arthur C. Brooks spoke at a "Leadership Dinner" sponsored by Reynolds American Tobacco at the 38th Annual Meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).[15]

Controversies and Claims

Minimum Wage Hikes "Simply Reckless"

AEI scholars caution against legislation raising the minimum wage “for the sake of low-wage workers,” claiming that mandating a higher wage increases the cost of employment and will therefore leave fewer jobs. In one article, AEI resident scholar Michael R. Strain called Seattle’s initiative to increase the city’s wage requirements “simply reckless.”[16]

Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform "Disastrously Wrong Response"

AEI has spoken out against the financial system regulations created under the Dodd-Frank Act. In an article, AEI scholar Peter J. Wallison claimed that the 2008 financial crisis, which led to the legislation, “was not caused by insufficient regulation, let alone by an inherently unstable financial system. It was caused by government housing policies…” Wallison wrote, “The Dodd-Frank Act was a disastrously wrong response,” claiming it created uncertainty and removed the incentive for financial institutions to take risk.[17]

Support for ALEC Voter ID Requirements

In 2008, AEI showed support for photo ID requirements for voting in elections, a "model bill" endorsed and promoted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in 2009. AEI resident scholar Norman J. Ornstein wrote, “I do not think, in principle, that requiring a photo ID is evil or onerous. An official photo ID can protect voters against charges that they are ineligible to vote” — as long as the ID is issued at no cost to the recipient.[18]

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."[19]

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.[19]

Since the time of that report, AEI has continued to receive money from Exxon Mobil — a total of at least $1,520,000.[20]

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."[21]

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."[21]

Support for "Regime Change" in Iraq

AEI emerged as one of the leading architects of the Bush administration's foreign policy. AEI has rented office space to the Project for the New American Century, one of the leading voices that pushed the Bush administration's plan for "regime change" through war in Iraq. AEI reps have also aggressively denied that the war has anything to do with oil.

Paul Wolfowitz, who was Secretary of Defense under former President George W. Bush from the beginning of his presidential term until June 2005, is a scholar at AEI (as of July 2014).[22] During his time in the Bush administration, Wolfowitz was a major architect of the United States’ failed Iraq policy.[23]

Defending Big Tobacco

In 1980, AEI for the sum of $25,000 produced a study in support of the tobacco industry titled, Cost-Benefit Analysis of Regulation: Consumer Products. The study was designed to counteract "social cost" arguments against smoking by broadening the social cost issue to include other consumer products such as alcohol and saccharin. The social cost arguments against smoking hold that smoking burdens society with additional costs from on-the-job absenteeism, medical costs, cleaning costs and fires.[24] The report was part of the global tobacco industry's 1980s Social Costs/Social Values Project, carried out to refute emerging social cost arguments against smoking.

NGO Watch

In June 2003, AEI and another right-wing group, the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies, launched a new website to expose the funding, operations and agendas of international NGOs, and particularly their alleged efforts to constrain U.S. freedom of action in international affairs and influence the behavior of corporations abroad.[25] AEI claimed that "The extraordinary growth of advocacy NGOs in liberal democracies has the potential to undermine the sovereignty of constitutional democracies, as well as the effectiveness of credible NGOs."[26] Ralph Nader responded, "What they are condemning, with vague, ironic regulatory nostrums proposed against dissenting citizen groups, is democracy itself." [27]


AEI has more than 200 employees at their headquarters in Washington, D.C.[28] AEI also has adjunct scholars and fellows at research universities around the United States.[29] It also trains scholars from other parts of the world in how to run neopconservative think-tanks.

Board of Trustees

"AEI is governed by a Board of Trustees, composed of leading business and financial executives."[30]

As of July 2016, they were:

  • Tully M. Friedman, Chairman, Chairman and CEO of Friedman Fleischer & Lowe LLC
  • Daniel A. D'Aniello, Vice Chairman, Chairman and Co-Founder of The Carlyle Group
  • Clifford S. Asness, Managing and Founding Principal of AQR Capital Management
  • Gordon M. Binder, Managing Director of Coastview Capital, LLC
  • Arthur C. Brooks, President and Beth and Ravenel Curry Chair in Free Enterprise for the American Enterprise Institute
  • The Honorable Richard B. Cheney
  • Peter H. Coors, Vice Chairman of the Board of Molson Coors Brewing Company
  • Harlan Crow, Chairman and CEO of Crow Holdings
  • Ravenel B. Curry III, Chief Investment Officer for Eagle Capital Management LLC
  • Elisabeth DeVos, Chairman for The Windquest Group
  • John V. Faraci, Chairman for International Paper
  • Christopher B. Galvin, Chairman for Harrison Street Capital, LLC
  • Raymond V. Gilmartin, Harvard Business School
  • Harvey Golub, Retired Chairman and CEO for American Express Company and Chairman for Miller Buckfire
  • Robert F. Greenhill, Founder and Chairman for Greenhill & Co., Inc.
  • Frank J. Hanna, Hanna Capital, LLC
  • John K. Hurley, Founder and Managing Partner for Cavalry Asset Management
  • Seth A. Klarman, President and CEO for The Baupost Group, LLC
  • Bruce Kovner, Chairman for the Caxton Alternative Management, LP
  • Marc S. Lipschultz, Partner, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts
  • John A. Luke, Jr., Chairman and CEO for MeadWestvaco Corporation
  • Kevin B. Rollins, Retired CEO for Dell, Inc.
  • Matthew K. Rose, Executive Chairman for BNSF Railway Company
  • Edward B. Rust Jr., Chairman and CEO for State Farm Insurance Companies
  • D. Gideon Searle, Managing Partner for The Serafin Group, LLC
  • Mel Sembler, Founder and Chairman for The Sembler Company
  • Wilson H. Taylor, Chairman Emeritus for the Cigna Corporation
  • William H. Walton, Managing Member for Rockpoint Group LLC
  • Marilyn Ware, Chairman, Ret., American Water Works


As of July 2016,, AEI's officers were:[31].

Former Board of Trustees Members

Emeritus Trustees

As of July 2016 the Emeritus Trustees were:[33]

Former Emeritus Trustees

Former Officers

  • Christopher DeMuth - President. Researches government regulation. He became president of AEI in 1986.
  • David Gerson - Executive Vice President
  • Jason Bertsch - Vice President, Marketing
  • Henry Olsen - Vice President, National Research Initiative
  • Danielle Pletka - Vice President, Foreign and Defense Policy Studies. Research areas include the Middle East, South Asia, terrorism, and weapons proliferation.


Academic Advisors

"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."[35]

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

Former Academic Advisors


The following was compiled by RightWeb:[37]


Corporate Donations

In 1997, Philip Morris contributed $100,000 to the Institute.[38] During 2007, ExxonMobil contributed $240,000 (including an addition $30,000 for the joint AEI Brookings "Judicial Education Program").[39]

Foundation Funding

From 1990 to 2014, AEI received more than $111 million in disclosed contributions from the following organizations:[40]

Funding has come from many other sources, such as Amoco, the Kraft Foundation, and the Procter & Gamble Fund. Records are incomplete.

Contact Information

American Enterprise Institute
1150 Seventeenth Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20036
Phone: 202-862-5800
Fax: 202-862-7177


American Enterprise - a bi-monthly magazine published by AEI.

Articles and Resources

Related SourceWatch Articles


  1. "AEI's Diamond Jubilee, 1943-2003", an essay from the American Enterprise Institute's 2003 Annual Report.
  2. Saunders, F: The Cultural Cold War, page 419. The New Press,1999.
  3. William Baroody, Jr., Assistant to the President for Public Liaison: Files, 1974?77, Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library.
  4. "AEI's Diamond Jubilee, 1943-2003", an essay from the American Enterprise Institute's 2003 Annual Report.
  5. Todd Lencz, "The Baroody bunch - William Baroody Jr," National Review (, September 12, 1986.
  6. [1]
  7. American Enterprise Institute, National Council, organizational website, accessed June 23, 2014.
  8. American Enterprise Institute, "Conservative Transparency," financial data, accessed July 3, 2014.
  9. Rebekah Wilce, A Reporters' Guide to the "State Policy Network" -- the Right-Wing Think Tanks Spinning Disinformation and Pushing the ALEC Agenda in the States,, April 4, 2013.
  10. Andy Kroll, Exposed: The Dark-Money ATM of the Conservative Movement, "Mother Jones", February 5, 2013, accessed June 2014.
  11. Suzanne Goldenberg, Secret funding helped build vast network of climate denial thinktanks, The Guardian, February 14, 2013, accessed June 2014.
  12. Greenpeace, Donors Trust: The shadow operation that has laundered $146 million in climate-denial funding, accessed July 1, 2014
  13. 13.0 13.1 Paul Abowd, Donors use charity to push free-market policies in states, The Center for Public Integrity, February 14, 2013, accessed July 1, 2014
  14. Donors Trust,, IRS form 990, 2011, accessed June 2014
  15. American Legislative Exchange Council, "Solutions for the States," 38th Annual Meeting agenda, on file with CMD, August 3-6, 2011
  16. Michael R. Strain, Seattle do-gooders just shot themselves in the foot, American Enterprise Institute, June 7, 2014.
  17. Peter J. Wallison, The case for repealing Dodd-Frank, American Enterprise Institute, November 26, 2013.
  18. Norman J. Ornstein, There’s Value In Voter ID Requirement—If It’s Done Properly, American Enterprise Institute, May 7, 2008.
  19. 19.0 19.1 Ian Sample, "Scientists offered cash to dispute climate study," The Guardian, February 1, 2007. Accessed July 30, 2014.
  20. American Bridge, Contributions to American Enterprise Institute,, accessed July 8, 2014.
  21. 21.0 21.1 Jeffrey Sachs, How the AEI Distorts the Climate Debate, Huffington Post, February 8, 2014
  22. American Enterprise Institute, AEI Scholar Paul Wolfowitz,, accessed July 8, 2014.
  23. Peter J. Boyer, The Believer: Paul Wolfowitz Defends His War, ‘’The New Yorker’’, November 1, 2004.
  24. Legacy Tobacco Document Archive, A. AT ITS LAST MEETING EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE AUTHORIZED PROGRESS ON SOCIAL COST PROGRAM THROUGH FEBRUARY., University of California-San Francisco, accessed July 30, 2014.
  25. [2]
  26. American Enterprise Institute, statement, organizational website.
  27. [3]
  28. American Enterprise Institute, "[ About]," organizational website, accessed August 4, 2015.
  29. American Enterprise Institute, "[ About]," organizational website, accessed August 4, 2015.
  30. American Enterprise Institute, Board of Trustees, organizational website, accessed July 11, 2016.
  31. American Enterprise Institute, Officers, organizational website, accessed July 11, 2016.
  32. BusinessWeek, "Robert Pritzker: Executive Profile," December 31, 2009.
  33. American Enterprise Institute, Board of Trustees, organizational website, accessed July 11, 2016.
  34. Officers of AEI, organizational website, accessed June 2007.
  35. American Enterprise Institute, Council of Academic Advisors, organizational website, accessed June 23, 2014.
  36. AEI - Council of Academic Advisers. AEI. Retrieved on 2009-12-31.
  37. Profile: American Enterprise Institute, RightWeb.
  38. Matt Winokur, "Public Policy Groups", Philip Morris memo, April 21, 1997.
  39. ExxonMobil, 2007 "Worldwide Contributions and Community Investments", ExxonMobil website, accessed December 2008, page 1.
  40. American Enterprise Institute, "Conservative Transparency," financial data, accessed July 03, 2014.

External Resources

External Articles


General articles