Shortly before 3 p.m. [Monday], the men and women of the Cato Institute strolled into the renovated Friedrich von Hayek Auditorium to confirm their good news. Five days earlier, the Washington Post broke news of a settlement between David Koch, Charles Koch, and America’s largest, longest-lived libertarian think tank. Ed Crane, 68, Cato’s president since its 1977 genesis in San Francisco, would step down. His replacement would be John Allison, 64, a banker who’d endowed college courses on the work of Ayn Rand.
“I didn’t see today as Ed’s swan song,” says Levy. “He’s going to stay on for a while as CEO, and after that, he’s going to remain a very important consultant on fundraising and other issues.” What about all of that public Jell-O wrestling with two of the planet’s richest men? “We’ve gotten past that.” David Koch had stopped donating to Cato, but “if everybody behaves in a way that was contemplated, he’ll be a supporter in the future as he was in the past.”
An earthquake rocked the libertarian world last week when news broke that a lawsuit had been filed over the ownership of shares in the Cato Institute, the libertarian think tank founded some 30 year ago in the wake of Ed Clark’s run as the 1980 Libertarian Party Presidential nominee. It started, apparently, last year with the death of William Niskanen, who along with Ed Crane, David Boaz, and countless others, had spent three decades shaping Cato into not just the leading libertarian public policy think tank, but also an organization that has become well-respected on both sides of the political aisle.
It’s difficult to list everything that Cato has done in the past thirty years, because they’ve done so much. They publish numerous publicy policy analyis reports on every subject that the nation’s leaders deal with. For many years they have published a guide book for each new Congress. Since the late 1980s they have run Cato University, an opportunity for young libertarians to learn from an interact with some truly great minds. Indeed, yours truly particlpated in one of those seminars at Dartmouth College in 1989 and I still remember it as one of the most intellectually engaging weeks of my life. That’s just a short list, I’m sure I’m missing something.
In any case, the dispute that is rocking Cato now is, as I said rooted in the death of William Niskanen last year, and a shareholder agreement with Charles and David Koch:
The billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch filed a lawsuit Wednesday for control of the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank in Washington.
The left often makes boogeymen out of Charles and David Koch, the billionaire brothers who supply significant funds to many conservative causues, including Americans for Prosperity. The groups that receive money from this duo are deemed to be part of the “Kochtopus.”
Following the stories coming out of left-wing publications about FreedomWorks, one thing that I’ve found interesting is that we’ve heard a lot about their donors — but nowhere in these stories about leaked memos or a search through contributions to FreedomWorks will you find any mention of the Koch brothers.
While many conservative organizations are wholly dependent on corporate money or big donors, FreedomWorks has built an effective small donor strategy combined with private citizen contributions, as noted by Open Secrets back in October:
The group, a conservative super PAC with tea party roots, is an anomaly among super PACs in its emphasis on small-donor funding. In September, unitemized contributions, or those of $200 or less, made up 47 percent of contributions to the super PAC, exceeding its 35 percent average for the year.
Even larger contributions to the group were relatively small in September. There were many $250 donations and only five contributions of $10,000 or more that didn’t come from a FreedomWorks affiliate. The largest donation, $750,000, came from Mary Stiefel, a retiree from Pinecrest, Florida. This was her first contribution of the year, although she gave the group $5,000 in 2010 and has contributed to seven 2012 campaigns across the country.
I just read a post over at ThinkProgress’ Climate Progress section called “Must-Read: A Guide for Engaging and Winning on Climate and Green Energy.” It looks to me, though, that what it really is is a proposal for liberals to just lie, mislead, obfuscate, or otherwise not know what the hell they are going on about.
Here’s point one of three:
Key Finding 1: Extreme Weather
Voters have taken note of the nation’s unusual and severe weather—the tornadoes, heat waves, wildfires, and drought. The public clearly gets that something is going on with the climate because they see it in their own lives and on the news. Some are still uncertain about the causes of climate disruption, but three out of four now recognize it is real
Newsflash: extreme weather is not new. Tornadoes, heat waves, wildfires, droughts, and hurricanes have been with human beings for centuries. (And over that time, deaths attributable to extreme weather have dropped by 98%, so there.) There isn’t even a recent upturn in this weather either. And weather does not directly correlate to climate, which is the bigger thing. Just because there’s a storm outside doesn’t mean the world is dramatically changing; it’s mean there’s a damn storm outside. So ThinkProgress wants people to basically lie and mislead folks about this topic, which I suppose is par for the course.
From the Charles G. Koch Institute’s Crony Chronicles project.
After some speculation, we now have an idea of some of the changes that will be made at the Cato Institute as a result of the lawsuit filed by Charles and David Koch. We had heard rumors in recent days, much of which was true.
Dave Weigel offered up some details on the campfire that was held yesterday at Cato to explain to employees what had transpired and how they would move forward under the terms of the agreement:
We should know the firm details of the future of the Cato Institute by the end of the day, but the Washington Times reports that Ed Crane, who founded Cato in 1974 and has served as the influential think tanks president since that time, will be forced into retirement as part of the settlement with Charles and David Koch:
The Cato Institute’s co-founder and president, Edward Crane, has been forced out by the libertarian organization’s board of directors, according to inside sources. John A. Allison, former chairman and CEO of BB&T Corporation, will take over as interim president.
Mr. Allison is believed to be planning to arrive at the Washington-D.C. think tank on Monday for the transition news to be announced. Asked about the leadership changes, Cato spokesman Khristine Brooks said a statement would be issued on Monday.
By one account, Mr. Crane is “leaving kicking and screaming,” but he will do so “under the guise that he is retiring earlier than he had planned.” He will continue to have a role at the organization as a fundraiser and liaison with big donors. Ms. Brooks denied Mr. Crane was being forced out, adding, “Ed Crane will stay at Cato Institute for a period of time.”
Based on the rumors I’ve heard, the Kochs will have control of the board of directors as the recent additions to the board will supposedly be removed. That doesn’t strike me as a good thing for the future of the Cato Institute, but no one seems overly concerned, which I find to be odd if the Kochs truly have control.
Again, we should know more later today.
The legal battle between the Koch brothers and Ed Crane over the future of the Cato Institute may or may not finally be finished. Details of the supposed settlement have not yet been made clear, but here is what has been reported up to this point:
“Looks like we’ve come to an accommodation with the Koch brothers,” Cato founder and President Ed Crane said in a Tuesday e-mail to employees.
Crane said that staffers will be briefed on Monday on the “settlement” by Cato Chairman Bob Levy and John Allison, a prominent libertarian and former BB&T chief executive officer, who mediated the negotiations. “It will be great to get all this unpleasantness behind us,” Crane said.
In a follow up email to staff, Crane cautioned that negotiations are ongoing.
The deal will settle a lawsuit that the Koch brothers filed in February over shares that determine control of Cato. It results from the original division of shares between the two Koch brothers, Crane, and the late Cato Chairman William Niskanen.
After Niskanen died of stroke complications in October, the Koch brothers claimed that a founding shareholder agreement gave them the option to buy his shares. Crane held that they should go to Niskanen’s widow, which would leave him in effective control of the organization.
Last month, Charles and David Koch filed a lawsuit against the Cato Institute over the shares owned by the late William Niskanen. They insist that the shares were not transferrable to Niskanen’s widow and should have been made available for purchase.
In the days since the lawsuit was filed, scholars employed by and supporters of the Cato Institute have taken to the Internet, explaining that the lawsuit is nothing more than a hostile takeover of one of Washington’s premier, independent think tanks.
Unfortunately, the battle for the heart and soul of the libertarian movement was escalated yesterday when the Koch brothers filed a second lawsuit against Cato. They’re claiming that a recent election to expand the Institute’s governing board should be invalidated:
According to court documents filed Monday and obtained by The Washington Post, the Kochs are asking the court to invalidate the results of an “improper election” held recently by Cato’s board—an action the Kochs refer to as a “Board-packing scheme.”
On March 22 Cato’s board voted, by a narrow margin of 9-7, to increase the number of seats on the board and to fill those seats with four previous members whom the Kochs had removed earlier in March by exercising their shareholder rights in the organization.
According to the documents, the Kochs argue that, in accordance with Cato’s by-laws, the board has neither the power to expand its size, nor the power to fill the seats.
Doug Mataconis has already written a very good post weighing in on the legal battle between Charles and David Koch and the Cato Institute, so I’m not going to get into the meat of the issue again. But this recent bomb on the libertarian movement does have me concerned about its future, and with that, it’s something that you can expect us to cover as the case develops.
When it comes to the Koch brothers, I’m typically defensive. I think they’ve become a boogeyman for the Left. With that said, however, the Cato Institute is well-respected for their work promoting free markets, school choice, civil liberties, and an non-interventionist foreign policy. The folks at Cato are willing to call out all sides, including conservatives and Republicans, for trying to increase the size and scope of government. Making the Cato Institute a partisan would be a disaster, ruining the credibility of this respected think tank.
Below is a roundup of the various news and blog coverage of the fight for, what I consider to be, the very heart and soul of the libertarian movement (in no particular order). Not all of it is unbiased, meaning that it does include links to people with close ties to Cato, but it all makes for good reading if you want to follow the story:
Ben Smith reports over at Politico that Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), who chairs the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), recently solicited money from those evil Koch brothers (you can listen to audio of the personal phone call from her to them here).
Given the anger expressed by Democrats toward the Koch brothers, specially over the Wisconsin budget fight, Philip Ellender, president of Government & Public Affairs, shot over this letter to Sen. Murray:
For many months now, your colleagues in the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee leadership have engaged in a series of disparagements and ad hominem attacks about us, apparently as part of a concerted political and fundraising strategy. Just recently, Senator Reid wrote in a DSCC fundraising letter that Republicans are trying to “force through their extreme agenda faster than you can say ‘Koch Brothers.’”
So you can imagine my chagrin when I got a letter from you on June 17 asking us to make five-figure contributions to the DSCC. You followed that up with a voicemail* indicating that, if we contributed heavily enough, we would garner an invitation to join you and other Democratic leaders at a retreat in Kiawah Island this September.
I’m hoping you can help me understand the intent of your request because it’s hard not to conclude that DSCC politics have become so cynical that you actually expect people whom you routinely denounce to give DSCC money.