think tank

Cato and the Future of Libertarianism

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.

CPAC Panel: Smartest Guys in the Room

Think Tank Panel

This was probably my favorite panel from the main room at CPAC. The heads of the three of the most well-known think tanks in Washington, DC sat down for a talk today about their organizations, working together from time to time, and some of the issues facing the country.

Watch the full panel below:

Ed Crane is out at the Cato Institute

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.

Koch brothers file second suit against Cato

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.

Koch brothers v. Cato Institute news roundup

Save CatoDoug 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:


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