American Enterprise InstitutePosted 4 years ago under Bias, Conspiracies, Government, Politics, Research
The American Enterprise Institute was established in 1943, right in the middle of World War II, as a response to proposals by the congress to make wartime price and production controls permanent. It describes itself as an institution “dedicated to defending human dignity, expanding human potential, and building a freer and safer world.” However, many people have touted it as a right-wing think tank that has become even more powerful than the Heritage Foundation. Their advocacy agenda includes free-market economics and militarist security policies, among many others.
Originally, the AEI consisted of only 12 resident thinkers consisting of business executives, university professors, and intellectuals who established the institute to advocate for big businesses and free enterprise. But in the 1970s, under the leadership of William Baroody Sr., it started to become a major research organization and think tank. At that time, AEI started to involve more people in its activities, having 145 resident scholars, 80 adjunct scholars, and even more support staff.
Since it was established, AEI has played an influential role in U.S. politics, with many of their members serving in important government positions. The organization’s power became even bigger during President George W. Bush’s administration because his vice president Dick Cheney was a member of the AEI. In addition, AEI has considerable influence in the business world since the majority of its board of directors are CEOs of major U.S. companies.
The AEI is classified as a tax-exempt educational organization. Because of this, the organization is supposed to follow the Internal Revenue Code that prohibits them from attempting to influence legislation or participating in campaigns for public office. This could be hard to achieve for an organization with its own set of ideas and beliefs that are often controversial due to their contention with government policies. In addition, the number of politicians affiliated with the AEI may cast a shadow of doubt on the organization’s adherence to these policies. However, the organization insists that it has “policies and procedures for assuring the integrity and reputation of its work.”
As a non-profit organization, AEI’s operations are funded by donations from big corporations, foundations, wealthy individuals, and the organization’s investment earnings from internal endowment. Furthermore, the organization claims that none of their works come from contract research or government grants. Unfortunately, the list of AEI’s donors are not released to the public or to other organizations, which makes it hard to determine if the company’s research outputs truly are non-partial even to those who give them their funding.
Involvement in the tobacco industry
Over the years, AEI has been involved in numerous controversies due to their stance on many issues. This includes issues regarding the tobacco industry, with which the organization has aligned itself on different occasions.
One of the controversial claims that AEI made regarding tobacco issues includes them saying that the research industry should accept money from big tobacco corporations to conduct their work. It has even been revealed that the organization has in fact practiced this, accepting money from Altria, the owner of Philip Morris USA, every year from 2011 to 2017. Due to the “highly opaque” nature of the organization, it could not be determined exactly how much of their total funding comes from tobacco companies. However, this could possibly explain why the AEI highly encouraged the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve the sale of Philip Morris International’s IQOS (I-Quit-Ordinary-Smoking) product that heats tobacco without burning it. In the organization’s letter to the FDA, they said, “it is imperative that current US smokers have access to and be properly informed about safer options.” However, the FDA advisory panel rejected claims that this product would be safer than regular smoking.
The AEI also claims that increasing cigarette tax leads to organized crime and terrorism, as well as smuggling. However, health authorities claim that the association between these is exaggerated by tobacco firms.
The American Enterprise Institute’s position on net neutrality
In a time where the internet is used by almost everyone for a wide range of purposes, the AEI is believed to be in favor of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) net neutrality rules, which allow broadband providers to charge consumers for priority access and speeds. However, the organization claims that it does not have an official stance on this issue, even if their publications obviously say otherwise.
AEI’s side in this issue makes a lot of sense since according to a spokesperson for the cable giant Comcast, a major supporter of the net neutrality proposal, they have worked with “most of the major think tanks in town who are interested in communications issues.” This is said to include not just the AEI, but the Aspen Institute and the Brookings Institution as well. However, the company declined to provide further details.
This move by Comcast has led to articles supporting the net neutrality proposal in major publications like the Wall Street Journal and the U.S. News and World Report. The articles made by think tanks can influence more people to support the proposals since the ties between the institutions and the telecom are not disclosed.
The relationship between the American Enterprise Institute and Taiwan’s government
Since AEI donors remain undisclosed to the public, it is easier for the company to hide dirty deals with other companies and governments. However, due to a filing error in 2013, it was revealed that the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO), which is the equivalent of an embassy in Taiwan, contributed $550,000 to the organization back in 2009. This relationship between the AEI and Taiwan raised ethical and legal questions regarding the organization’s work on Taiwan policy.
According to Bill Allison from the Sunlight Foundation, an organization that advocates for government transparency and accountability, “Any organization that’s trying to influence public policy should disclose its donors so the public can know who the money behind these institutions is. It’s critical for the public to know this.”
In response to this issue, TECRO spokesperson Lishan Chang claimed that they were just helping to facilitate a donation by the Institute of International Relations of the National Chengchi University to AEI’s Asian Studies Program. “It was therefore an act of scholarly cooperation between the two research organizations with the goal of promoting academic exchanges and research on issues concerning Asia,” he added.
Neither the university nor AEI was able to explain what the “scholarly cooperation” undertaken by AEI was. However, it is noteworthy that at the time when the donation was made by TECRO, AEI published numerous research reports and articles on the U.S.-Taiwan relationship and urged the government to give military aid to Taiwan. In addition to this, then-President of Taiwan Ma Ying-jeou was very open about the warm relationship that the country had with AEI.
The American Enterprise Institute’s stance in the Iraq war
The AEI is a major supporter of the Bush administration’s foreign policy, especially with regards to the plans to bring about “regime change” in Iraq through war. However, their support for the Iraq war go way back to before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. In line with their support for this policy, the organization also supported the operations of the neoconservative think tank Project for the New American Century (PNAC), which was one of the leading voices that supported this policy. Moreover, AEI representatives firmly denied that oil was not involved in the ongoing war.
During the Bush administration, AEI held a lot of influence of foreign policy since then-Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz was a scholar of the organization. Wolfowitz had a pivotal role in the creation of the U.S.’s Iraq policy, which eventually failed.
Even after all the criticisms of what happened after Saddam Hussein’s defeat, AEI remained unapologetic about the war. Since according to them, the U.S. “accomplished its military mission with low casualties and great speed, sending an unmistakable signal of power and determination throughout the Middle East and around the world.”
The link between NewsGuard and the American Enterprise Institute
In 2018, Steven Brill and Louis Gordon Crovitz founded the new rating agency NewsGuard, which claims to use “old-school journalism” to fight “fake news.” However, it has been heavily criticized for its ratings since many credible sources, including RT, have been given a “red rating” for posting false information, which the agency could not give examples of. Meanwhile, news sites like the Washington Post and CNN which have been proven to publish fake news are given a “green rating.” The bias that NewsGuard obviously has can be attributed to its deep connections with the U.S. government, powerful moneyed interests, and neoconservatives.
The AEI has been associated with NewsGuard through its co-founder Louis Gordon Crovitz, who has been an editor and contributor for some of the books that the AEI has published. Crovitz is also involved with the Heritage Foundation, another neoconservative think tank, as well as the Council of Foreign Relations, which has a hold on more than 90 percent of all U.S. media. In addition, NewsGuard’s advisory board is composed of neoconservatives like Tom Ridge, who is the first Secretary of Homeland Security, Former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and National Security Agency (NSA) Director Michael Hayden, and Condoleezza Rice, a former speechwriter for President Bush’s Secretary of State.