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The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) is a non-profit libertarian think tank founded in 1984 by Fred L. Smith, Jr and based in Washington, D.C.marker, USA. CEI's stated belief is that humans are best helped not by government regulation of commercial interests, but by humans being allowed to make their own choices in a free marketplace. CEI states that it promotes libertarian ideals through analysis, education, coalition-building, advocacy, and regulation. CEI offers 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.

CEI is a think tank funded by donations from individuals, foundations and corporations. CEI does not accept government funding. Past and present funders include the Scaife Foundations, Exxon Mobil the Ford Motor Company Fund, Pfizer, and the Earhart Foundation. CEI cites its major issues of concern as Environmental Policy, Regulation and Economic Liberty, Legal and Constitutional, 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 most recent television ad campaign, entitled A Bright Future For Some, 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 opponent of global warming constituting a problem, and of government action that would require limits on greenhouse gas emissions. It favors free-market environmentalism, stating that market institutions are more effective in protecting the environment than is government.

In March 1992, CEI’s founder Fred Smith said of global warming: "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." [90289]

In May 2006, CEI's global warming policy activities gained fame as it embarked upon an ad campaign with two television commercials[90290]. These ads promote carbon dioxide and argue that global warming is not a problem. One 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." The other states that the world's glaciers are "growing, not melting... getting thicker, not thinner." 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 back their claims. "These television ads are a deliberate effort to confuse and mislead the public about the global warming debate," he said. [90291]

Some of CEI's work on global warming policy includes:
  • Participating in (and reporting on) the UNFCCC negotiations in Montrealmarker 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." [90292]
  • 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 Republicmarker 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 The chairman is Myron Ebell, the Director of Energy and Global Warming Policy at CEI.


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 caused or influenced subjects in the area, including matters 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 regulatations, entitled "10,000 Commandments: An Annual Snapshot of the Federal Regulatory State".

Legal and constitutional

CEI is also active in the legal aspects of antitrust and government regulation. As part of its "Control Abuse of Power" (CAP) project, CEI launched lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the 1998 tobacco Master Settlement Agreement and the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB), respectively.

The Project on Technology & Innovation is extending CEI's efforts into new areas, including antitrust in high tech and network industries, privacy, e-commerce, intellectual property, and telecommunications.

CEI opposes 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 criticizes 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.

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), which features short videos on political topics.

CEI Studios

CEI Studios is the organization's video project. CEI produces short-format videos on current public policy issues, from the 2008 financial crisis to flood insurance to global warming and many other topics. Videos may be viewed on CEI On Demand.

CEI staff

CEI lists its Adjunct Scholars and thirty full-time staff members, their titles, and major area of responsibility on its website.[90293]. Some notable staff members include:


In its IRS Form 990 for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2007, 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 page nine of a report from the CEI contained on the University of California, San Franciscomarker'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.[90294],[90295],[90296] For example, the listing on the Philip Morris Glossary of Names: C 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. [90297] In 2002 the company gave $405,000;[90298] in 2004 it gave CEI $180,000 that was earmarked for "global climate change and global climate change outreach." In 2006, the company announced that it had ended its funding for the group.[90299]


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, and Fred Smith. [90300]


  1. Europe Advises U.S. Officials on Climate By Juliet Eilperin, Staff Writer (March 6, 2009); Page A04 - Washington Post
  2. Global Warming and the Free Market - The Debate By Emily Messner (October 3, 2005)
  3. Self-description on National Survey of Oncologists
  4. Issues | CEI
  5. The Tempest Washington Post, by Joel Achenbach, May 28, 2006
  6. Competitive Enterprise Institute SourceWatch Encyclopedia
  7. Jerome C. Arnett, Is the public health message on secondhand smoke based on science? Skin and Allergy News, 38(2):13, 2007.
  8. 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

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