Cato Institute

The Cato Institute is a libertarian think tank that often works in coalitions with right-wing groups. Cato's extensive publications program deals with a host of policy issues including budget issues, Social Security, monetary policy, natural resource policy, military spending, government regulation, international trade, and myriad other issues. While the Cato Institute has increased its ties to right-wing policymakers over the years, it often reveals it's libertarian philosophy in addressing government intrusion into privacy issues, recently calling the proposed federal marriage amendment "unnecessary, anti-Federalist, and anti-democratic."

Cato Institute
1000 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.
Washington DC 20001-5403

Established: 1977
Founders: Edward Crane and Charles G. Koch
President: Edward Crane
Finances: $12,975,701 (2003)
Employees: 90 staff members, 60-adjunct scholars, 16 fellows, 14 Board Members
Board of Directors: K. Tucker Andersen, Senior Consultant, Cumberland Associates LLC; Frank Bond, Chairman, The Foundation Group; Edward H. Crane, (President); Richard J. Dennis, President, Dennis Trading Group; Ethelmae C. Humphreys, Chairman, Tamko Roofing Products, Inc.; David H. Koch, Executive Vice President, Koch Industries, Inc.; John C. Malone, Chairman, Liberty Media Corporation; William A. Niskanen, Chairman, Cato Institute; David H. Padden, President, Padden & Company; Lewis E. Randall, Board Member, E*Trade Financial; Howard S. Rich, President, U.S. Term Limits; Frederick W. Smith, Chairman & CEO, FedEx Corporation; Jeffrey S. Yass, Managing Director, Susquehanna International Group, LLP; Fred Young, Former Owner, Young Radiator Company (Board of Directors)
Publications: Inquiry magazine, Cato Journal, quarterly magazine Regulation, bimonthly Cato Policy Report, as well as books, monographs, briefing papers and shorter studies.

Read the latest news on the Cato Institute on the group's Right Wing Watch index page

Principal Issues

  • A libertarian public policy organization that aspires to work outside the traditional conservative v. liberal political framework.
  • Labels itself a "market-liberal" organization with the caveat that liberal "has clearly been corrupted by contemporary American liberals."
  • Cato was named for "Cato's Letters" - a series of libertarian tracts that the organization credits as a catalyst for the American Revolution.
  • Cato leads the push for privatization of government services; as early as 1983, Cato initiated the first push for the privatization of Social Security, and has heavily backed it ever since.
  • Cato supports the wholesale elimination of eight cabinet agencies— Commerce, Education, Energy, Labor, Agriculture, Interior, Transportation and Veterans Affairs— and the privatization of many government services.


  • In 2001, the Washington Post, noting Cato's influence, said it "has spent about $3 million in the past six years to run a virtual war room to promote Social Security privatization."
  • Cato sponsors periodic policy forums and book forums, major policy conferences, Cato has held major conferences in London, Moscow, Shanghai, and Mexico City.

History and Background

  • Cato Institute was founded by Ed Crane with a $500,000 grant from Charles Koch, a chemical and petroleum heir who was active with Crane in the Libertarian Party.
  • In 2002, the Washington Post called Crane "the man who housebroke libertarianism."

High-profile Staffers

  • David Boaz, published in Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Review, and Slate on-line
  • Doug Bandow, writer for Fortune, worked as special assistant to President Ronald Reagan

Alumni in the Bush administration

  • Former Rep. Tim Penny (D-MN), Commission to Strengthen Social Security
  • Sam Beard, Commission to Strengthen Social Security
  • Carolyn Weaver, Commission to Strengthen Social Security
  • Randy Clerihue, spokesman, Commission to Strengthen Social Security
  • Andrew Biggs, staff member, Commission to Strengthen Social Security
  • Mark Groombridge, Special Assistant, Office of the Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security, State Department

Other non-Bush Administration alumni include former board members: Rupert Murdoch and Theodore J. Forstmann, also founding chairman of Empower America, now FreedomWorks.

Corporate sponsors

Cato's corporate sponsors include: Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds, Bell Atlantic Network Services, BellSouth Corporation, Digital Equipment Corporation, GTE Corporation, Microsoft Corporation, Netscape Communications Corporation, NYNEX Corporation, Sun Microsystems, Viacom International, American Express, Chase Manhattan Bank, Chemical Bank, Citicorp/Citibank, Commonwealth Fund, Prudential Securities and Salomon Brothers. Energy conglomerates include: Chevron Companies, Exxon Company, Shell Oil Company and Tenneco Gas, as well as the American Petroleum Institute, Amoco Foundation and Atlantic Richfield Foundation. Cato's pharmaceutical donors include Eli Lilly & Company, Merck & Company and Pfizer, Inc.

Additional Funding

80% of Cato's income comes from individual donations and subscriptions, 8% from corporations (such as ExxonMobil, which donated $30,000 during 2001), another 8% from foundations, and the remainder from conference and book sales, etc. Cato has received $15,633,540 in 108 separate grants from only nine different foundations: Castle Rock Foundation; Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation; Earhart Foundation; JM Foundation; John M. Olin Foundation, Inc.; Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation; Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation; and the branches of the Scaife Foundation

Quotes about Cato

"A soup-to-nuts agenda to reduce spending, kill programs, terminate whole agencies and dramatically restrict the power of the federal government." - Washington Post on the Cato Handbook for Congress

"My contact with [Cato] was strange. They're ideologues, like Trotskyites. All questions must be seen and solved within the true faith of libertarianism, the idea of minimal government. And like Trotskyites, the guys from Cato can talk you to death." - Nat Hentoff, columnist

Quotes from Cato

"I think Franklin Roosevelt was a lousy president. What he did— which is to impose this great nanny state on America— was a great mistake." - Ed Crane

Updated: September 2006

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Cato Institute