American Tradition Institute

American Tradition Institute (ATI)


**Note: The American Tradition Institute (ATI) has been renamed the Energy & Environment Legal Institute (E&E Legal).

The American Tradition Institute was launched in Colorado in February 2009 as the nonprofit Western Tradition Institute, later changing its name to ATIWTI, in turn, was a spinoff of the Western Tradition Partnership (WTP) — a 501(c)(4) political advocacy group backed by energy interests.

The American Tradition Institute has described itself as  a public policy research and educational foundation – a 'think tank' – founded in 2009 to help lead the national discussion about environmental issues, including air and water quality and regulation, responsible land use, natural resource management, energy development, property rights, and free-market principles of stewardship.


During the 2010 elections, the Montana Commission of Political Practices found that ATI organization broke state campaign laws by failing to register as a political committee or report its donors and spending.

The state suggested WTP/ATP was involved in corruption and money laundering. Huffington Post reported they found that it solicited unlimited contributions to support candidates and then passed them through a “sham organization,” the Bozeman-based political action committee The Coalition for Energy and the Environment that ran attack ads against Democrats. WTP told corporations that it aimed to combat 'radical environmentalists' and 'beat them at their own game' and that their contributions would remain secret.” [1]

According to a 2010 filing with the IRS (PDF), ATI received $40,000 from its sister group ATP, which in turn is supported by oil, gas and coal interests.

It received another $5,000 from the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, a Virginia-based think tank that, according to ExxonSecrets, received over $1 million in funding from Exxon Mobil since 1998. Atlas also received $122,300 from the Koch foundations and $735,000 from the Pope foundation. [8]

Stance on Climate Change

An online petition hosted by the American Tradition Institute opposing cap and trade makes the following assertions about climate change: [2]

“… the claims of carbon-driven anthropogenic global warming (AGW) are unproven and are, in fact, contested by over 31,000 scientists…”

“… global temperatures have not risen since 2000 and data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration demonstrates that the earth has actually been cooling for the last 4 years…”

Key People

  • J. Daniel Reed — Chairman (as of 2012) [9]
  • Christian LeFer — Director (2012) [9]
  • Nick Spyros, Esq. — Director (2012) [9]
  • Geoff Goble — Director (2012)  [9]
  • Dennis Champion — Director (2012)  [9]


January 19, 2011

ATI filed a federal FOIA request with NASA seeking information on how climate scientist James Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies “has complied with applicable federal ethics and financial disclosure laws and regulations, and NASA Rules of Behavior.”

ATI sued NASA for withholding documents over concerns about Hansen's privacy rights. [6]

January 6, 2011

ATI Filed a Virginia Freedom of Information Act (“VFOIA”) request in order to obtain emails and other documents related to former professor Michael Mann, an award-winning climate scientist.

After the Circuit Court of Prince William County (“trial court”) denied the disclosure of certain documents related to Mann, ATI re-opened the case (American Tradition Institute, et al. v. Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia, et al.).  The case was decided in April 17, 2014, that the original William County court's decision was in the right. [5]

Related Organizations

The American Tradition Partnership, first registered as the Western Tradition Partnership, is the group that created the Western Tradition Institute. The Western Tradition Institute has since become the American Tradition Institute. [7]


  1. Climate Scientist Wins A Round for America,” Huffington Post, November 1, 2011. Archived September 9, 2015. WebCitation URL:

  2. Petition Opposing Cap-and-Trade,” Western Tradition Partnership. Archived January 14, 2012. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmogBlog.

  3. SPECIAL INVESTIGATION: Who's behind the 'information attacks' on climate scientists?“ FacingSouth, November 31, 2011. Archived September 9, 2015. WebCitation URL

  4. “2011 Year in Review,” Review, August 12, 2011. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmogBlog

  5. AMERICAN TRADITION INSTITUTE, et al. v. RECTOR AND VISITORS OF the UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA, et al.” Record No. 130934, Supreme Court of Virginia. Accessed at FindLaw. Archived September 9, 2015. WebCite URL

  6. ATI Environmental Law Center Seeks NASA Records on Dr. James Hansen,” E&E Legal, January 19, 2011. Archived September 9, 2015. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmogBlog

  7. American Tradition Partnership,” Wikipedia.

  8. Sue Sturgis. “A Pope of climate denial,” FacingSouth, October 26, 2010. Archived September 9, 2015. WebCite URL:

  9. “American Tradition Institute: Board of Directors,” American Tradition Institute. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmogBlog.

Other Resources