Competitive Enterprise Institute

Competitive Enterprise Institute
Competitive Enterprise Institute
Motto Free Markets and Limited Government
Established 1984

The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) is a non-profit libertarian think tank[1] founded on March 9, 1984 in Washington, D.C. by lobbyist Fred L. Smith, Jr to fight big government. CEI's stated belief is that people are best helped not by government regulation of commercial interests, but by a free marketplace. CEI states that it promotes libertarian ideals through analysis, education, coalition-building, advocacy, and regulation.[2] CEI offers or has offered analysis and advocacy on public policy issues such as energy, environment, biotechnology, pharmaceutical regulation, chemical risk, telecommunications, insurance, transportation, tobacco regulation, constitutional issues, economic policy and securities law.[3]

CEI is funded by donations from individuals, foundations and corporations. Past and present funders include the Scaife Foundations, Exxon Mobil, the Ford Motor Company Fund, Pfizer, and the Earhart Foundation.[4] CEI cites its major issues of concern as environmental policy, regulation and economic liberty, legal and constitutional matters, and health and safety. Among the methods used to implement the organization's agenda are various press releases and policy papers, testifying at governmental hearings, suits against various governmental agencies, paid advertising, editorial and op-ed pieces, open letters, books, and NGO operations. CEI's last television ad campaign (to date), entitled A Bright Future For Some,[5] focused on energy policy and global warming, criticizing policies advocated by former Vice President Al Gore. The CEI ad aired nation-wide in March and April, 2008.


Policy areas

Environmental policy

CEI is an outspoken anthropogenic climate change skeptic and an opponent of government action that would require limits on greenhouse gas emissions. It favors free-market environmentalism, and supports the idea that market institutions are more effective in protecting the environment than is government.

In March 1992, CEI’s founder Fred Smith said of anthropogenic climate change: "Most of the indications right now are it looks pretty good. Warmer winters, warmer nights, no effects during the day because of clouding, sounds to me like we’re moving to a more benign planet, more rain, richer, easier productivity to agriculture."[6]

In May 2006, CEI's global warming policy activities attracted attention as it embarked upon an ad campaign with two television commercials [6]. These ads promote carbon dioxide as a positive factor in the environment and argue that global warming is not a concern. One ad focuses on the message that CO2 is misrepresented as a pollutant, stating that "it’s essential to life. We breathe it out. Plants breathe it in... They call it pollution. We call it life."[7] The other states that the world's glaciers are "growing, not melting... getting thicker, not thinner."[7] It cites Science articles to support its claims. However, the editor for Science stated that the ad "misrepresents the conclusions of the two cited Science papers... by selective referencing". The author of the articles, Curt Davis, director of the Center for Geospatial Intelligence at the University of Missouri-Columbia, said CEI was misrepresenting his previous research to inflate their claims. "These television ads are a deliberate effort to confuse and mislead the public about the global warming debate," Davis said.[8]

In 2009, CEI's director of energy and global warming policy told The Washington Post, "The only thing that's been demonstrated to reduce emissions is economic collapse".[9]

Some of CEI's work on global warming policy includes:

  • Participating in and reporting on[10] the UNFCCC negotiations in Montreal as an NGO in December 2005.
  • A letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury in 2006, after the Archbishop urged Christians to take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The CEI wrote that reducing these levels, even in "baby steps," would "result in the deaths of more people in the U.S. than global warming would worldwide."[11]
  • The book Blue Planet in Green Shackles: What is Endangered, Climate or Freedom?. Published in May 2008, it was written by Václav Klaus, President of the Czech Republic and keynote speaker at CEI's annual dinner in 2008. Klaus argues that the politics of global warming policy are about human freedom, not the environment.
  • The Cooler Heads Coalition, which operates the website[12] The chairman is Myron Ebell, the Director of Energy and Global Warming Policy at CEI.

In 2010, coincident with CEI's financial ills, the pace of CEI's work on climate change slowed significantly: national advertising campaigns ceased and, through the first half of the year, CEI's only studies on the topic were two letters written to regulators.[13]


CEI uses think tank and advocacy methods to support activities in various areas, such as antitrust and government regulation, in matters including corporate welfare, Internet and E-Commerce, and Privacy and Security. They have written comments involving Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE), rent control, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposals, and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). CEI publishes an annual report on the cost burden imposed by government regulations, entitled "10,000 Commandments: An Annual Snapshot of the Federal Regulatory State".[14]

Legal and constitutional

CEI has also been active in the legal aspects of antitrust and government regulation. As part of its "Control Abuse of Power" (CAP) project,[15] CEI launched lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the 1998 tobacco Master Settlement Agreement and the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB), respectively. The project's web page has been dormant since 2008.

The Project on Technology & Innovation, during the period of its existence, extended CEI's efforts into new areas, including antitrust in high tech and network industries, privacy, e-commerce, intellectual property, and telecommunications.

CEI has opposed a range of regulatory intervention into commercial activities including bans on alcohol advertising, fuel economy mandates and proposals to mitigate global warming. CEI supports constitutional checks over government's power over corporations.

Health and safety

CEI previously criticized health and safety regulation and argues through its Death by Regulation project that overregulation itself can be deadly. For example, they have claimed that automotive downsizing due to federal fuel economy standards may increase road accident deaths, and have criticized the delayed availability of new medical therapies due to Food and Drug Administration rules. CEI scholars have also claimed that the health risks of secondhand smoke have not been adequately proven, and thus restrictions on smoking are unwarranted.[16]

CEI events

Annual dinner

Every year CEI hosts an annual dinner gala and presents the Julian L. Simon Memorial Award. The Simon award honors the work of the late economist, winner of the Simon–Ehrlich wager.

Award winners include:

CEI projects

Warren T. Brookes Journalism Fellowship

In 1991, CEI established the Warren T. Brookes Fellowship to identify and train journalists who wish to improve their knowledge of environmental issues and free market economics. In this manner, the program seeks to perpetuate the legacy of Warren Brookes, who was a longtime journalist with the Boston Herald and the Detroit News and a nationally syndicated columnist.

Former and current fellows


Bureaucrash, a special outreach and activist project of CEI, is described as an international network of pro-freedom activists working to promote a political ideology based on personal and economic freedom. Bureaucrash conducts political activism using new media, creative marketing, and education campaigns. Bureaucrash maintains a website ( and a channel on YouTube, Bureaucrash TV,[17] which features short videos on political topics. Begun as an independent organization, Bureaucrash was absorbed into CEI and, for a time, maintained full-time staff as part of CEI's staff. In mid-2010, coincident with CEI's financial ills, Bureaucrash transferred its only full time staffer to an open position on CEI's communications staff leaving Bureaucrash itself without any full-time staff.

CEI Studios

CEI Studios was the organization's video project. It produced short-format videos on current public policy issues, from the 2008 financial crisis to flood insurance to global warming and many other topics. It stopped producing original videos in 2011, using its site instead as a repository for videos of CEI events and occasional TV appearances by CEI fellows.[18]

CEI staff

CEI lists its adjunct scholars as well as full and part-time staff members on its website and major area of responsibility on its website.[19] Some notable full-time staff working out of CEI's Washington, D.C. offices include:

  • Fred Smith (director) - Founder and president
  • Myron Ebell (since 1999) - specializes in climate change*

+ Sam Kazman General counsel

Some other individuals affiliated with CEI include:


In its IRS Form 990 for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2007,[20] CEI reported revenues totaling $3,650,461, including donations from individuals, foundations and corporations. Its net assets were $2,012,478. Salaries and benefits to its top employees were reported as:

  • Fred L. Smith, President, $208,935
  • Marlo Lewis, Senior Fellow, $104,974
  • Sam Kazman, General Counsel, $132,152

According to the website Charity Navigator, Smith's salary—at about 5 percent of CEI's budget—constitutes a larger percentage of revenues than the salaries of the heads of think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute, Cato Institute, and Reason Foundation.

According to page nine of a [21] from the CEI contained on the University of California, San Francisco's Legacy Tobacco Documents Library (LTDL), the following companies and foundations were among those listed as supporting CEI's work with annual contributions of at least $10,000, currently the CEI's "Entrepreneurs" level:

Aequus Institute, Amoco Foundation, Inc., Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, Coca-Cola Company, E.L. Craig Foundation, CSX Corporation, Earhart Foundation, Fieldstead and Co., FMC Foundation, Ford Motor Company Fund, Gilder Foundation, Koch Family Foundations (including the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, David H. Koch Charitable Foundation, and Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation), Philip M. McKenna Foundation, Inc., Curtis and Edith Munson Foundation, Philip Morris Companies, Inc., Pfizer Inc., Precision Valve Corporation, Prince Foundation, Rodney Fund, Sheldon Rose, Scaife Foundations (Carthage Foundation and Sarah Scaife Foundation), and Texaco, Inc. (Texaco Foundation).

Other documents in the LTDL show that CEI has received funding directly from various tobacco companies.[22][23] For example, the listing on the Philip Morris Glossary of Names: C[24] gives the note "Received public policy grant from Philip Morris (1995); Pro-market public interest group dedicated to advancing the principles of free enterprise and limited government."

ExxonMobil Corporation was a major donor to CEI, with over $2 million in contributions between 1998 and 2005. In 2002 the company gave $405,000;[25] in 2004 it gave CEI $180,000 that was earmarked for "global climate change and global climate change outreach." [26] In 2006, the company announced that it had ended its funding for the group.[27]

United States IRS forms 990 for Competitive Enterprise Institute
Organization Name State Year Total Assets Form Pages EIN
Competitive Enterprise Institute - 2002







Competitive Enterprise Institute - 2003







Competitive Enterprise Institute - 2004







Competitive Enterprise Institute - 2005







Competitive Enterprise Institute - 2006







Competitive Enterprise Institute - 2007







Competitive Enterprise Institute - 2008







Competitive Enterprise Institute - 2009








The organization is governed by a board of directors. The current board of directors consists of: James Curley, William Dunn, Michael Greve, Leonard Liggio, Thomas Gale Moore, Frances Smith (the wife of Fred L. Smith), and Fred Smith.[28]

Financial Ills

In late 2009, the Competitive Enterprise Institute reported a budget gap of at least $450,000[29] and the loss of its profitable Center for Risk, Regulation and Markets to the Heartland Institute. Shortly thereafter, CEI reported a year-over-year decline in its program spending coupled with a large increase in its fund-raising spending. As a result, the website Charity Navigator cut CEI's four star rating to two stars.[30] CEI also contracted its web presence significantly in the wake of its financial ills leaving sites including,, and dormant. In 2010, furthermore, CEI's production of reports and papers dropped significantly. Whereas the think tank had produced 20 studies during the first six months of 2009, it produced only 10 during the first six months of 2010.[13]


  1. ^ Global Warming and the Free Market - The Debate[dead link] By Emily Messner (October 3, 2005)
  2. ^ Self-description on National Survey of Oncologists
  3. ^ Issues
  4. ^ The Tempest Washington Post, by Joel Achenbach, May 28, 2006
  5. ^ "Bright Future For Some" (Video). [dead link]
  6. ^ "Consequences of Global Warming". NRDC. Retrieved 2011-08-25. 
  7. ^ a b Bank, Justin (2006-05-26). "Scientist to CEI: You Used My Research To "Confuse and Mislead"". Retrieved 2006-05-30. 
  8. ^ [1][dead link]
  9. ^ Europe Advises U.S. Officials on Climate By Juliet Eilperin, Staff Writer (March 6, 2009); Page A04 - Washington Post
  10. ^ "Dispatches from the Montreal U.N. Climate Conference | Competitive Enterprise Institute".,05031.cfm. Retrieved 2011-08-25. 
  11. ^ "Leader of Anglican Church Should Consider Effects of His Comments on World's Poor | Competitive Enterprise Institute". 2006-03-28.,05235.cfm. Retrieved 2011-08-25. 
  12. ^ "— Climate Change News & Analysis". Retrieved 2011-08-25. 
  13. ^ a b "Studies | Publications | Competitive Enterprise Institute". Retrieved 2011-08-25. 
  14. ^ "Ten Thousand Commandments | Competitive Enterprise Institute". 2008-07-10. Retrieved 2011-08-25. 
  15. ^ "Controlled Power | Not another 1984 please". Retrieved 2011-08-25. 
  16. ^ Jerome C. Arnett, Is the public health message on secondhand smoke based on science?[dead link] Skin and Allergy News, 38(2):13, 2007.
  17. ^ "Канал користувача bureaucrash". YouTube. Retrieved 2011-08-25. [dead link]
  18. ^ CEI On Demand
  19. ^ [2][dead link]
  20. ^
  21. ^ report
  22. ^ "(qlh36e00)". Retrieved 2011-08-25. 
  23. ^],[
  24. ^ [3][dead link]
  25. ^ [4][dead link]
  26. ^ Exxon-Mobil 2005 annual giving (donations) report: Competitive Enterprise Institute, Washington, D.C., General Operating Support 90,000, General Operating Support* 180,000 ,Total 270,000 2005 annual giving report[dead link]
  27. ^ "Exxon Mobil softens its climate-change stance". 2007-01-11. Retrieved 2011-08-25. 
  28. ^ [5][dead link]
  29. ^ Newlin, Eliza. "CEI Losing Money and a 'Profit Center' - Under The Influence - Under the Influence". Retrieved 2011-08-25. 
  30. ^ "Charity Navigator Rating - Competitive Enterprise Institute". Retrieved 2011-08-25. 

External links

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