Mercatus Center

Mercatus Center, George Mason University

 Background

The Mercatus Center is a conservative think tank located at George Mason University and is a sister organization to the Institute for Humane Studies. The Mercatus Center was originally founded at Rutgers University by Richard Fink in the late 1970s, under the name the Center for Market Processes. [1]

Koch Industries began funding the organization when it moved to George Mason University in the 1980s, and still finances the center today. In 1999, the organization was renamed the Mercatus Center. Charles Koch and Richard Fink serve on its board of directors.  [1][2]

The Mercatus Center believes that a gap exists between economic understanding and real-world decision and policy making. Its mission is to “bridge the gap between academic research and public policy problems, to advance an understanding of the economics of public policy.” through “education (graduate student training), research (peer reviewed academic publications and policy studies), and outreach (media, testimony, and lectures).” [3]

The Wall Street Journal has called the Mercatus Center “the most important think tank you’ve never heard of.” SourceWatch identifies the Mercatus Center as “one of the best-funded think tanks in the United States.” [4], [5]

From 1999-2006, the Mercatus Center received a total of $2,670,662 in funding from conservative organizations, including $1.44 million from the Koch Family Charitable Foundations. Since 1998, the Mercatus Center at GMU has received at least $330,000 from ExxonMobil. [6]

Stance on Climate Change

“The evidence regarding global warming and human contribution to it is mixed, and as forecasts of anthropogenic warming get more refined, they predict less extreme warming.” [7]

 Funding

According to data compiled by the Conservative Transparency project, the Mercatus Center received the following funding from 1985 to 2014. Note that not all funding data has been verified by DeSmogBlog for accuracy. See the attached spreadsheet for funding details for the Mercatus Center by year (.xls).

Donor Contribution
Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation $9,085,500
DonorsTrust $6,917,400
Searle Freedom Trust $1,770,000
Marshall Heritage Foundation $1,500,000
Donors Capital Fund $1,083,000
Sarah Scaife Foundation $780,000
Earhart Foundation $717,125
Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation $500,000
Exxon Mobil $330,000
John Templeton Foundation $254,971
The Opportunity Foundation $240,000
Armstrong Foundation $200,000
The Challenge Foundation $175,000
Pierre F. and Enid Goodrich Foundation $170,000
John William Pope Foundation $155,000
Chase Foundation of Virginia $150,000
Bochnowski Family Foundation $145,000
The Shelby Cullom Davis Foundation $124,000
The Rodney Fund $88,200
JM Foundation $75,000
The Roe Foundation $60,000
Tepper Family Foundation $53,000
David H. Koch Charitable Foundation $50,000
Lowndes Foundation $45,000
Atlas Economic Research Foundation $30,000
Castle Rock Foundation $30,000
Philip M. McKenna Foundation $30,000
The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation $30,000
American Petroleum Institute $25,000
PhRMA $25,000
The Randolph Foundation $25,000
The Gordon and Mary Cain Foundation $20,000
Lynn & Foster Friess Family Foundation $11,000
William H. Donner Foundation $10,000
Aequus Institute $7,000
Leadership Institute $3,500
The Vernon K. Krieble Foundation $1,000
Grand Total $24,915,696

According to Greenpeace's PolluterWatch project, the Mercatus Center received at least $10,474,500 from Koch Foundations from between 1997 and 2010. [8]

Key People

Board of Directors

As of September, 2015: [9]

  • Frank Atkinson
  • Donald J. Boudreaux — Senior Fellow
  • Emily Chamlee-Wright — Mercatus Center Senior Research Scholar
  • Tyler Cowen — Holbert L. Harris Chair of Economics at George Mason University.  Chairman and General Director of Mercatus Center
  • Richard Fink —  Executive VP and member of the board of directors of Koch Industries, Inc.
  • Brian Hooks — President of the Charles Koch Foundation 
  • Manuel H. Johnson
  • Charles Koch — Chairman of the Board and CEO of Koch Industries, Inc.
  • Edwin Meese
  • Vernon Smith — Mercatus Center Fellow

 Scholars

As of September, 2015: [10]

  • Sherzod Abdukadirov — Research Fellow; Regulatory Studies Program at the Mercatus Center
  • Paul Dragos Aligica — Senior Research Fellow; F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics.
  • Charles Blahous — Director of Spending and Budget Initiative; Senior Research Fellow
  • Peter J. Boettke — Vice President and Director, F.A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics; BB&T Professor for the Study of Capitalism;  University Professor of Economics and Philosophy, George Mason University
  • Donald J. Boudreaux — Senior Fellow; Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism, Mercatus Center; Senior Fellow, F.A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics.
  • Tyler Cowen —  Holbert L. Harris Chair of Economics at George Mason University; General Director
  • Christopher Coyne —  Associate Director, F.A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics;  Director of Graduate Programs, George Mason University
  • Veronique de Rugy —  Senior Research Fellow. Fiscal Policy Analyst at the Cato Institute. [11]
  • Eli Dourado —  Director of Technology Policy Program; Research Fellow
  • Jerry Ellig —  Senior Research Fellow
  • Michael Farren — Research Fellow; Mercatus Center Frédéric Bastiat Fellow.
  • Jason J. Fichtner —  Senior Research Fellow
  • Jack Goldstone —  Senior Fellow; Hazel Professor of Public Policy, George Mason University; Director, Center for Global Policy at George Mason University
  • Robert Graboyes —  Senior Research Fellow
  • Tim Groseclose —  Adam Smith Chair, Mercatus Center; Professor of Economics, George Mason University
  • Joseph V. Gulfo —  Visiting Scholar
  • Steven Horwitz —  Affiliated Senior Scholar. Has been listed as a Heartland Institute “Expert.”
  • Garett Jones —  Senior Scholar;  BB&T Professor for the Study of Capitalism. One called for “Less Democracy” in an event on campus. [12]
  • Daniel Klein JIN Chair in Economics; Professor of Economics, George Mason University. 
  • Christopher Koopman — Research Fellow with the Project for the Study of American Capitalism at the Mercatus Center.
  • Timur Kuran —  Visiting Scholar, F.A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics.
  • Peter Leeson —  BB&T Professor for the Study of Capitalism; Duncan Black Professor of Economics and Law, George Mason University. A “Peter Leeson” is listed as a “Select Faculty Member” of the Foundation for Economic Education, according to Sourcewatch. [13]
  • Jayme Lemke —  Senior Research Fellow;  Associate Director, Academic and Student Programs; Senior Fellow, F.A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics.
  • Kevin McCabe —  Mercatus Center Scholar; Professor of Economics and Law, George Mason University
  • Patrick McLaughlin —  Senior Research Fellow
  • Maurice P. McTigue —  Vice President, Outreach; Director of the Mercatus Center’s Government Accountability Project and a member of its Spending and Budget Initiative. A Maurice P. McTigue is listed as a Former Fellow at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, according to SourceWatch. [14]
  • Stephen Matteo Miller — Senior Research Fellow
  • Adam Millsap — Research fellow for the State and Local Policy Project at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University; Mercatus Center Adam Smith Fellow.
  • Matthew Mitchell —  Director of the Project for the Study of American Capitalism; Senior Research Fellow
  • Johanna Mollerstrom — Senior Scholar; Assistant Professor of Economics, George Mason University
  • Eileen Norcross —  Senior Research Fellow; Director for the State and Local Policy Project
  • John Nye —  Frederic Bastiat Chair in Political Economy, Mercatus Center; Professor of Economics, George Mason University.
  • Hester Peirce —  Director of Financial Markets Working Group; Senior Research Fellow
  • Margaret Polski —  Affiliate Research Fellow at the Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study.
  • Dima Yazji Shamoun — Research Fellow with the Regulatory Studies Program 
  • Brent Skorup —  Research Fellow in the Technology Policy Program at the Mercatus Center
  • Vernon Smith —  Mercatus Center Fellow; Professor of Economics and Law, Chapman University; Board Member, Mercatus Center
  • Solomon Stein —  Research Fellow, F.A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics
  • Virgil Storr — Senior Research Fellow; Senior Director, Academic and Student Programs;Senior Fellow, F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics and Economics
  • Thomas Stratmann —  Mercatus Center Scholar; University Professor of Economics, George Mason University
  • Alexander Tabarrok — Bartley J. Madden Chair in Economics, George Mason University. Also a Senior Fellow and Former Research Director of the Independent Institute. [15]
  • Adam Thierer —  Senior Research Fellow with the Technology Policy Program at the Mercatus Center
  • J. W. Verret —  Member, Financial Markets Working Group; Affiliated Senior Scholar; Assistant Professor, George Mason University School of Law
  • Richard Wagner —  Holbert L. Harris Professor of Economics, George Mason University; Distinguished Senior Fellow, F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics and Economics
  • Mark J. Warshawsky —  Senior Research Fellow
  • Richard Williams —  Vice President, Policy Research; Director of Regulatory Studies Program; Senior Research Fellow
  • Todd Zywicki —  Senior Scholar; Senior Fellow, F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics; George Mason University Foundation; Professor of Law, George Mason University School of Law. A Todd J. Zywicki is Chairman of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Board of Directors (2012)

As of March, 2012, the Mercatus Center listed the following members of their Board of Directors on their website: [16]

Scholars (2012)

The Mercatus Center at George Mason University listed the following “Scholars” on their website as of March, 2012. [17]

  • Sherzod Abdukadirov — Research Associate, Regulatory Studies Program.
  • Omar Ahmad Al-Ubaydli — Research Fellow.
  • Paul Dragos Aligica — Senior Research Fellow.
  • Charles Blahous — Senior Research Fellow.
  • Peter J. Boettke
  • Donald J. Boudreaux — Senior Education Advisor.
  • Karol Boudreaux — Affiliated Research Fellow.
  • Jerry Brito — Senior Research Fellow.
  • Bryan Caplan — Senior Scholar.    
  • Emily Chamlee-Wright —  Senior Research Scholar.    
  • Tyler Cowen — General Director.
  • Christopher Coyne
  • David Borys
  • Veronique de Rugy — Senior Research Fellow. Also a monthly columnist for Reason Magazine of the Reason Foundation. [18]
  • Eli Dourado — Research Fellow.    
  • Jerry Ellig — Senior Research Fellow.    
  • Jason J. Fichtner —  Senior Research Fellow.    
  • Jack Goldstone —  Senior Fellow.
  • Wendy Gramm —  Distinguished Senior Scholar (Emeritus).
  • Andrew Hale
  • Robin D. Hanson — Associate Professor of Economics, GMU.
  • Steven Horwitz —  Affiliated Senior Scholar. Also listed as “Faculty” of the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE)[13]
  • Noel D. Johnson — Research Fellow.    
  • Garett Jones —  Senior Scholar.
  • Don W. King — Senior scholar.
  • Arnold Kling —  Affiliated Senior Scholar.
  • Mark Koyama — Senior Scholar.
  • Peter Leeson — Senior Scholar. Also listed as a “Faculty” member at the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE)[13]
  • Kevin McCabe — Scholar.    
  • Maurice P. McTigue — Vice President and Distinguished Visiting Scholar. Also listed as a “Senior Fellow” at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. [14]
  • Matthew Mitchell —  Senior Research Fellow    
  • Claire Morgan —  Director, Social Change Project.    
  • John Morrall —  Affiliated Senior Scholar.    
  • Andrew Morriss — Senior Scholar.    
  • Eileen Norcross — Senior Research Fellow.    
  • Sarah Nutter — Senior Scholar.     
  • John Nye —  Frederic Bastiat Chair in Political Economy, Mercatus Center.
  • Hester Peirce — Senior Research Fellow.    
  • Margaret Polski — Affiliate Research Fellow at the Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study.    
  • Russell Roberts —  J. Fish and Lillian F. Smith Professor of Economics Chair, Mercatus Center. Also ALEC “Featured Speaker.  [19]
  • Hilton Root — Affiliated Senior Scholar.    
  • William Ruger —  Affiliated Scholar.     
  • Anthony B. Sanders — Senior Scholar.
  • Houman Shadab
  • Vernon Smith — Fellow, and member of the Mercatus Center's Board of Directors.
  • Jason Sorens — Affiliated Scholar.
  • Virgil Storr —  Senior Research Fellow.     
  • Thomas Stratmann — Scholar.
  • Daniel Sutter — Senior Scholar.
  • Alexander Tabarrok — Research Fellow. Also Research Director, The Independent Institute.   [15]
  • Adam Thierer — Senior Research Fellow.    
  • Gordon Tullock — Emeritus Professor of Law, George Mason University.    
  • J. W. Verret — Senior Scholar.
  • Richard Wagner — Senior Fellow.
  • Lawrence H. White — Senior Fellow. Also listed as a “Adjunct Scholar” at the Cato Institute. [20]
  • Lawrence J. White — Member, Financial Markets Working Group.
  • Bob Williams — Visiting Fellow. Founder and Senior Fellow at the Freedom Foundation.
  • Richard Williams — Director of Policy Research.
  • Bruce Yandle — Member, Financial Markets Working Group.
  • Todd Zywicki — Senior Scholar.

 Actions

Mercatus Center and Lobbying

According to the Center for Public Integrity, the Mercatus Center regularly lobbies in the federal government, including providing lawmakers with “Capitol Hill breakfasts and luncheons hosted by deregulation scholars.” [21]

The Mercatus Center states that it does not engage in lobbying, and does not employ nor retain any registered lobbyists. However, in 2005 Ohio Congressman Bob Ney, who has traveled on 19 occasions at the expense of the Mercatus Center, proposed a bill to amend the Clean Air Act. 

Ney’s bill called for the Secretary of Energy to build fifteen new oil refineries and sell them to private companies. Ney’s amendment fell in line with the position of the Mercatus Center, which had been trying to weaken the Clean Air Act, and had the potential to benefit Koch Industries, Inc.—the largest private oil company in the United States and the Mercatus Center’s largest beneficiary.

Lobbying rules stipulate that any organization that spends more than $24,500 within a six-month period trying to influence government representatives, must register itself as a lobbying group. In both 2004 and 2005, the Mercatus Center spent over $55,000 on congressional travel. Furthermore, between 2000 and 2005 Mercatus spent $227,000 on more than 400 trips by government officials and their aides. The Mercatus Center has never registered itself as lobbying group. [22]

Craig Holman of Public Citizen reported that “‘There is no conceivable argument of why this group has not registered to lobby. They have met the threshold that makes them a lobbying group.” Carrie Conko, the Center's communications director responded, saying “The Mercatus Center does not engage in lobbying.” [23]

2009

The Mercatus Center opposed a mandatory greenhouse gas reporting rule. They claimed that a solution to global warming should not be cutting emissions, but rather “Work to facilitate movement of people from areas likely to be harmed by climate change” (PDF). [24]

2002

In 2002, the Mercatus Center's Distinguished Senior Scholar, Wendy Gramm asked for the reassessment of 44 of the Clean Air Act’s federal regulations.

Regulations included in the Mercatus Center’s requests for review were: national public health standards for smog and soot, and standards for tailpipe exhaust pollution from gasoline vehicles, diesel vehicles, and heavy diesel trucks.  As the non-profit group, Clean Air Trust highlighted, “Gramm would like to pull the plug on virtually every effective air pollution cleanup measure adopted in recent years.” [25]

January, 2001

In a public comment (PDF) to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on vehicle emissions, the Mercatus Center suggested that global warming would be, “beneficial, occurring at night, in the winter, and at the poles. If a slight warming does occur, historical evidence suggests it is likely to be beneficial, stimulating plant growth and making humans better off.” [7]

2001

The Mercatus Center suggested 44 regulations to kill or modify under the Bush Administration, among them rules governing renovations to electric-utility plants. 14 of the 23 rules that the Whitehouse chose had been suggested by Mercatus, which according to the Wall Street Journal was “a record that flabbergasted Washington lobbying heavyweights.” [26]

Mercatus Center/CSMP Founding

The Mercatus Center began as the Center for the Study of Market Processes, “an educational and research center affiliated with George Mason University.” View historic documents below:

Related Entries

 Resources

  1. History and Timeline,” Mercatus Center: George Mason University. Archived September 20, 2015. WebCite URLhttp://www.webcitation.org/6bhBYUeaY

  2. Jane Mayer. “Covert Operations,” The New Yorker, August 30, 2010. Archived September 22, 2015.  WebCite URLhttp://www.webcitation.org/6bh6rwBBX

  3. About,” Mercatus Center, George Mason University. Archived September 22, 2015. WebCite url: http://www.webcitation.org/6bioX3Pc6

  4. Rey Banks. “Mercatus Center Quietly Wields Influence,” The Mason Gazette, August 11, 2004. Archived August 24, 2007. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmogBlog.

  5. Mercatus Center,” SourceWatch. Archived September 21, 2015.

  6. ExxonSecrets Factsheet: George Mason University.

  7. “Public Interest Comment on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Request for Comment on a Petition: Control of Emissions From New and In-use Highway Vehicles and Engines” (PDF), Mercatus Center Regulatory Studies Program. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmogBlog.

  8. Mercatus Center: Koch Industries Climate Denial Front Group,” Greenpeace USA. Archived September 22, 2015. WebCite URLhttp://www.webcitation.org/6biqbTKOh

  9. All - Board of Directors,” Mercatus Center: George Mason University. Archived September 22, 2015. WebCite URL:  http://www.webcitation.org/6bis4ds4p

  10. All- Scholars,” Mercatus Center: George Mason University. Archived September 22, 2015. WebCite URLhttp://www.webcitation.org/6bis9LAOx

  11. Veronique de Rugy. “The Republican Spending Explosion,” Cato Institute, 2004. Archived September 22, 2015. WebCite URLhttp://www.webcitation.org/6bitoXdjD

  12. Zaid Jilani. “Professor at Koch-funded university department calls for 'less democracy',” Raw Story, March 8, 2015. Archived September 22, 2015.

  13. Foundation for Economic Education,” SourceWatch. Archived September 22, 2015. 

  14. Texas Public Policy Foundation,” SourceWatch. Archived September 22, 2015.

  15. Alexander T. Tabarrok: Senior Fellow,” Independent Institute. Archived September 22, 2015. 

  16. All - Board of Directors,” Mercatus Center. Archived February 15, 2012.

  17. All - Scholars,” Mercatus Center. Archived May 3, 2012.

  18. Policy Study Authors: Veronique de Rugy,” Reason Foundation. Archived September 22, 2015. WebCite URLhttp://www.webcitation.org/6biyKxzhO

  19. ALEC Featured Speakers,” SourceWatch. Archived September 22, 2015.

  20. Cato Institute/Personnel,” SourceWatch. Archived September 22, 2015.

  21. Kevin Bogardus. “Koch's low profile belies political power,”  The Center for Public Integrity, July 15, 2004. Archived September 22, 2015. WebCite URLhttp://www.webcitation.org/6bivL16QX

  22. Anupama Narayanswamy and Alex Knott. “Unregistered advocates?“ The Center for Public Integrity, June 20, 2006. Archived September 22, 2015. WebCite URLhttp://www.webcitation.org/6bivQp7si

  23. Pam Martens. “The Koch Whisperers,” CounterPunch, September 12, 2011. Archived September 22, 2015. WebCite URLhttp://www.webcitation.org/6bivl4sZU

  24. Bruce Yandle, Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Economics, MERCATUS CENTER. “Environmental Quality & Market Processes,” Mercatus Center. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmogBlog.

  25. Clean Air Villain of the Month,” Clean Air Trust, January, 2002. Archived September 22, 2015.

  26. Rule Breaker: In Washington, Tiny Think Tank Wields Big Stick on Regulation,” Wall Street Journal. Republished by the Mercatus Center. Archived September 22, 2015. WebCite URLhttp://www.webcitation.org/6biwV2rgK

Other Resources

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