The Mercatus Center, part of George Mason University, is one of the best-funded think tanks in the United States at the moment. It is listed as "sister organization" to the Institute for Humane Studies. "Mercatus generates knowledge and understanding of how institutions affect the freedom to prosper and holds organizations accountable for their impact on that freedom," it states on its website. 
The Mercatus Center was founded and is funded by the Koch Family Foundations. According to financial records, the Koch family has contributed more than thirty million dollars to George Mason, much of which has gone to the Mercatus Center, a nonprofit organization. Democratic strategist Rob Stein described the Mercatus Center as "ground zero for deregulation policy in Washington.”
The Mercatus Center has engaged in campaigns involving deregulation, especially environmental deregulation. It now fills the role once played by the economics department at Chicago University as the originator of extreme neoliberal ideas. Fourteen of the 23 regulations that George W Bush put on his hitlist were, according to the Wall Street Journal, first suggested by academics working at the Mercatus Centre.
The Wall Street Journal has called the Mercatus Center “the most important think tank you’ve never heard of,” []
The Koch Brothers are the conservative 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.
The Mercatus Center was founded as the Center for Market Processes by former economist Rich Fink, executive vice president of Koch Industries and former president of the Koch Foundations, who went on to found Citizens for a Sound Economy. Fink heads Koch Industries’ lobbying operation in Washington. In addition, Fink is the president of the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, the president of the Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation, a director of the Fred C. and Mary R. Koch Foundation, and a director and co-founder, with David Koch, of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation. In the early 1980s the center moved to George Mason University. It merged with the Center for the Study of Public Choice during 1998 to become the James M. Buchanan Center for Political Economy. The Mercatus Center brand was developed in 1999 from the JBC.
In addition to being funded by the Charles G. Koch Foundation, the Mercatus Center also has ties to several prominent right-wing gropus, including the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB).
Connections to NFIB and Environmental Deregulation
Two advisory board members of NFIB's Legal Arm are involved with the Regulatory Studies Program at the Mercatus Center: Wendy Gramm, a distinguished senior scholar at the Mercatus Center (where she founded the Regulatory Studies Program) and Susan E. Dudley, former director of the Regulatory Studies program.
Both Gramm and Dudley have held government positions where they have crusaded against regulations aimed at protecting the environment. Gramm was previously head of the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) 'Information and Regulatory Affairs'. In 2002, the OMB drew up a "hit list" of existing federal environmental regulations it believes should be changed or rescinded of which 44 had been suggested by the Mercatus Center. Dudley was appointed head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs by President George W. Bush. According to the Los Angeles Times, Dudley was one of three people previously blocked by Congress from holding environment-related positions "because of their pro-industry views."
Ties to ALEC
Bob Williams, a visiting fellow at the Mercatus Center, is on the ALEC Board of Scholars and has worked on several ALEC Task Forces, including the Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force of which he was the chair in 2011.In August 2011, Williams received the American Legislative Exchange Council's (ALEC's) Private Sector Member of the Year Award. Williams is also the founder of the right-wing think tank, Evergreen Freedom Foundation, an ALEC-affiliated State Policy Network member.
The Mercatus Center itself has also been involved in ALEC's Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force. Matthew Mitchell, a Mercatus senior research fellow presented to the Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force at ALEC's 2010 annual meeting. Keith Hall, another Mercatus senior research fellow also gave a presentation at the task force meeting of ALEC's 2012 States and Nation Policy Summit
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 ALECexposed.org, and check out breaking news on our PRWatch.org site.
Regulatory Studies Program
- Wendy Lee Gramm, Chair
- Susan E. Dudley, Director
- Brian Mannix, Senior Research Fellow
- Jay Cochran III, Research Fellow
- Jerry Ellig
- Jonathan H. Adler - From August 2005 to July 2006 - Visiting Senior Scholar.
Board of Advisors
- C. Boyden Gray, Former White House Counsel and Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering
- Sidney E. Harris, Dean, J. Mack Robinson College of Business, Georgia State University
- Christopher Hill, Vice Provost for Research, George Mason University
- Thomas Hopkins, Dean of Business, Rochester Institute of Technology
- Steven Manaster, Dean, College of Business and Administration, University of Colorado
- Susan Phillips, Former Governor of the Federal Reserves Board; Dean, School of Business and Public Management, The George Washington University
- Vernon L. Smith, Professor of Economics and Law, Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science (ICES), George Mason University
- W. Kip Viscusi, John F. Cogan, Jr. Professor of Law & Economics, Harvard Law School
- Frank Atkinson, Chairman, McGuireWoods Consulting, LLC
- Tyler Cowen, General Director, Mercatus Center 
- Richard Fink, Executive Vice President, Koch Industries 
- Manuel Johnson, Co-Chairman, Johnson Smick Group
- Charles Koch, Chairman and CEO, Koch Industries, Inc.
- Dwight Schar, Chairman and CEO, NVR, Inc.
- Roger Silk, CEO, Sterling Foundation Management
- Vernon L. Smith, Professor of Economics and Law
- Wendy Gramm
- Timothy J. Roemer
- Phil Gramm
- George Mason University
- Jennifer Zambone
- Vernon L. Smith
George Mason University
3301 North Fairfax Drive, Suite 450
Arlington, VA 22201-4433
tel: (703) 993-4930
Fax: (703) 993-4935
web site: www.mercatus.org
- "George Mason University", Media Transparency (includes donations for the 'Mercatus Center')
- Bob Davis, "Rule Breaker: In Washington, tiny think tank wields big stick on regulation", Wall Street Journal, July 16, 2004.
- John Quiggin Tribalism and locavorism July 9, 2012
- Jane Mayer Covert Operations: The billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama The New Yorker, August 30, 2010
- Mercatus Center, Wendy Gramm, organizational website, accessed May 2013
- Bloomberg Business, Executive Profile: Wendy L.Gramm, Company Overview of National Federation of Independent Business, accessed May 2013
- NFIB, "Small Business Advisory Board", Legal Center, accessed May 2013
- Clean Air Trust, Trust names Wendy Lee Gramm The Clean Air 'Villan of the Month', January 2002
- Judy Pasternak, "Bush Backs Shunned Nominees: His Three Choices for Jobs Dealing with the Environment Were Previously Blocked as Pro-Industry," Los Angeles Times, April 1, 2007; see also Public Citizen and OMB Watch's extensive report, "The Cost Is Too High: How Susan Dudley Threatens Public Protections."
- American Legislative Exchange Council Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force, organization website, accessed May 28, 2011
- Mercatus Center, Bob Williams, organizational website, accessed May 2013
- American Legislative Exchange Council, "Solutions for the States," 38th Annual Meeting agenda, on file with CMD, August 3-6, 2011
- Mercatus Center, Matthew Mitchell, organizational website, accessed May 2013
- American Legislative Exchange Council, Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force Meeting agenda, 2010 Annual Meeting, on file with CMD, August 7, 2010-
- Mercatus Center, Keith Hall, organizational website, accessed May 2013
- American Legislative Exchange Council, Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force Meeting agenda, 2012 States and Nation Policy Summit, on file with CMD, November 29, 2012