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Mercatus Center

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Follow the money in the Koch wiki.

The Mercatus Center, part of George Mason University, is one of the best-funded think tanks in the United States. It is listed as "sister organization" to the Institute for Humane Studies. Mercatus describes its mission as "to generate knowledge and understanding of the institutions that affect the freedom to prosper, and to find sustainable solutions that overcome the barriers preventing individuals from living free, prosperous, and peaceful lives."[1]

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. According to The Guardian in 2010, it "now fills the role once played by the economics department at Chicago University as the originator of extreme neoliberal ideas."[2] During the George W. Bush administration's campaign to reduce government regulation, the Wall Street Journal reported, "14 of the 23 rules the White House chose for its "hit list" to eliminate or modify were Mercatus entries -- a record that flabbergasted Washington lobbying heavyweights."[3]

The Wall Street Journal has called the Mercatus Center “the most important think tank you’ve never heard of."[4]

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.

History and Ties to the Koch Brothers

The Mercatus Center was founded in 1978 as the Center for the Study of Market Processes.[5] Richard Fink, then an economist at Rutgers, had sought funding to found a center for advancing Austrian school economics, and secured the funds from Charles Koch after visiting him in Wichita, Kansas.[6] The Center moved to George Mason University in 1980, where it merged with the Center for the Study of Public Choice during 1998 to become the James M. Buchanan Center for Political Economy.[4] The Mercatus Center writes of the move that "Once again, support from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation provided the critical funding for this formative move."[5] The Mercatus Center brand was developed in 1999 from the James Buchanan Center.[4]

In a 2011 profile, Philanthropy wrote that Charles Koch and Fink shared a goal for Mercatus:

"...Koch and Fink had another goal in mind. Mercatus would bridge two worlds. Like many of the on-campus centers that Koch has funded, it would continue to conduct original academic research […] At the same time, it would take advantage of its proximity to Washington, bringing its scholarship into direct contact with public policy."[6]

Charles Koch sits on the board of the Mercatus Center.[7]

Rich Fink is also executive vice president of Koch Industries and also founded 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 and Mary Koch Foundation, and a director and co-founder, with David Koch, of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation.

Mercatus board member Vernon L. Smith is also a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, which was co-founded by Charles Koch.

Organizations with links to the Koch brothers have reported giving funding to the Mercatus Center. The Center received $5.5 million from the Koch-linked DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund between 2010 and 2012. The Charles G. Koch Foundation reported giving $8.8 million from 2002 to 2012, and the David H. Koch Foundation gave $100,000 to George Mason University for "Mercatus Center Programs" between 1999 and 2001.

Right-Wing Ties

In addition to being funded by the Charles G. Koch Foundation, the Mercatus Center also has ties to several prominent right-wing groups, 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.[8][9][10]

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.[11] 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."[12]

Gramm is also chairman emeritus of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, an ALEC-affiliated State Policy Network member.

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.[13][14]In August 2011, Williams received the American Legislative Exchange Council's (ALEC's) Private Sector Member of the Year Award.[15] 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[16] presented to the Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force at ALEC's 2010 annual meeting.[17] Keith Hall, another Mercatus senior research fellow[18] also gave a presentation at the task force meeting of ALEC's 2012 States and Nation Policy Summit[19]

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 ALECexposed.org, and check out breaking news on our PRWatch.org site.


Controversies

Influence on Congress (2000-2006)

According to the Center for Public Integrity, Mercatus holds seminars for congressional staff on topics related to its political agenda and an annual retreat for congressional chiefs of staff, spending "at least $227,000 on more than 400 trips for lawmakers and their staff from 2000 through mid-2005." [20]

Opposition to Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (2014)

Hester Peirce, a Senior Research Fellow at the Mercatus Center, has testified against the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, claiming that its "lack of accountability, the opacity of the Bureau’s decision-making processes," and its power to control its own budget and data collection required "fundamental reforms."[21]

Google Funds Legal Conference While Under Investigation (2014)

The Washington Post reported that while Google was being investigated for antitrust violations, the company funded conferences at George Mason University, where the Mercatus Center is hosted, at which "leading technology and legal experts forcefully rejected the need for the government to take action against Google" in front of an audience that included FTC officials, members of Congress, and Justice Department officials.[22] Google has donated to conservative organizations including the Mercatus Center to support research on weakening copyright and patent laws.[23]

Funding

The Mercatus Center describes itself as "100% privately funded." According to its website, in FY 2014 it received 54% of its funding from foundations, 42% from individuals, and 4% from corporations.[24]

Mercatus has received funding from a number of foundations that support conservative causes.

The Center received $5.5 million from the Koch-linked DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund between 2010 and 2012. The Charles G. Koch Foundation reported giving $8.8 million from 2002 to 2012, and the David H. Koch Foundation gave $100,000 to George Mason University for "Mercatus Center Programs" between 1999 and 2001.

In February 2014, the Mercatus Center received a $1.99 million grant from the conservative John Templeton Foundation.[25]

Between 2002 and 2008, the right-wing Bradley Foundation gave $50,000 to George Mason University specifically designated for the Mercatus Center.

Personnel

Board of Directors

As of June 2014:[7]

Senior Staff

As of June 2014:[7]

Contact Information

Mercatus Center
George Mason University
3301 North Fairfax Drive, Suite 450
Arlington, VA 22201-4433
tel: (703) 993-4930
  1-800-815-5711
Fax: (703) 993-4935
web site: www.mercatus.org

External links

Related Sourcewatch Articles

References

  1. Mercatus Center, About, organizational website, accessed July 9, 2014.
  2. George Monblot, "The Tea Party movement: deluded and inspired by billionaires," The Guardian, October 25, 2010. Accessed July 9, 2014.
  3. Bob Davis, "In Washington, Tiny Think Tank Wields Big Stick on Regulation," July 16, 2004. Accessed July 9, 2014.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Jane Mayer Covert Operations: The billionaire brothers who are waging a war against Obama The New Yorker, August 30, 2010
  5. 5.0 5.1 Mercatus Center, History and Timeline, organizational website, accessed June 24, 2014.
  6. 6.0 6.1 James K. Glassman, "Market Based Man," Philanthropy, Fall 2011. Accessed June 16, 2014.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Mercatus Center, Board of Directors, organizational website. Accessed June 10, 2014.
  8. Mercatus Center, Wendy Gramm, organizational website, accessed May 2013
  9. Bloomberg Business, Executive Profile: Wendy L.Gramm, Company Overview of National Federation of Independent Business, accessed May 2013
  10. NFIB, "Small Business Advisory Board", Legal Center, accessed May 2013
  11. Clean Air Trust, Trust names Wendy Lee Gramm The Clean Air 'Villan of the Month', January 2002
  12. 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."
  13. American Legislative Exchange Council Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force, organization website, accessed May 28, 2011
  14. Mercatus Center, Bob Williams, organizational website, accessed May 2013
  15. American Legislative Exchange Council, "Solutions for the States," 38th Annual Meeting agenda, on file with CMD, August 3-6, 2011
  16. Mercatus Center, Matthew Mitchell, organizational website, accessed May 2013
  17. American Legislative Exchange Council, Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force Meeting agenda, 2010 Annual Meeting, on file with CMD, August 7, 2010-
  18. Mercatus Center, Keith Hall, organizational website, accessed May 2013
  19. 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
  20. Anupama Narayanswamy and Alex Knott, "Unregistered Advocates," The Center for Public Integrity, May 19, 2014. Accessed May 27, 2014.
  21. Hester Peirce, "Testimony Before the Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit Subcommittee of the House Committee on Financial Services," May 21, 2014. Accessed May 27, 2014.
  22. Tom Hamburger and Matea Gold, "Google, once disdainful of lobbying, now a master of Washington influence," The Washington Post, April 12, 2014. Accessed May 27, 2014.
  23. Timothy B. Lee, "How Google money is helping turn the political right against strong copyrights," Vox, May 11, 2014. Accessed May 27, 2014.
  24. Mercatus Center, Donate, organizational website, accessed June 24, 2014.
  25. Buzz McClain, "Mercatus Center at Mason Receives $2 Million Grant for Economic Research," George Mason University News, February 10, 2014. Accessed May 27, 2014.