Cato was founded by Ed Crane and Charles Koch in 1971. It was originally named the Charles Koch Foundation. According to Jane Mayer in her 2016 book Dark Money, provided an estimated $10 - $20 million in the first three years of operation (p. 87). As reported by Mayer, Cato employees believed that Charles Koch closely managed Cato's operations:
Crane became Cato’s president, but early employees at Cato described Charles as single-handedly exerting absolute iron control. David Gordon, a libertarian activist who worked at Cato in the early days, told Washingtonian magazine, “Ed Crane would always call Wichita and run everything by Charles. It was quite clear that Koch was in charge.” Another early Cato employee, Ronald Hamowy, added, “Whatever Charles said, went.” Despite Crane’s antipathy toward government, by 1977 Cato was based in Washington, D.C. It soon hired a slew of scholars whom the mainstream media respect- fully quoted as nonpartisan experts. [p. 88]
In 2012, the Koch brothers sued the Cato Institute in order to exert more control over the organization. The lawsuit was dropped after an agreement was reached between the two parties, following months of highly-publicized attacks back and forth. The lawsuit led to the departure of Cato's founding CEO and President, Ed Crane, who was replaced by John Allison, the former head of BB&T Corp. An unsual shareholder agreement was dissolved, after the Kochs exploited it to exert majority control against the will of Cato's board of directors. David Koch remains on Cato's board of directors, along with other former Koch Industries executives, contractors, and donors in Charles Koch's network.
In April, 2015, Peter Goettler became CEO and President of the Cato Institute, replacing John Allison. Goettler is a former Barclays Capital executive who joined Cato's board in 2014.
Cato is a member of the State Policy Network.
The Cato Institute misrepresents the science of global warming, and frequently questions or rejects the rationale for solving climate change.
The organization's 2009 "Handbook for Policymakers" on global warming begins with the suggestions that Congress should "pass no legislation restricting emissions of carbon dioxide" and "inform the public about how little climate change would be prevented by proposed legislation." Robert Bradley, an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute, is also a founder and the CEO of the Institute for Energy Research.
In 2007 the Cato Institute gave $120,000 to New Hope Environmental Services, an "advocacy science consulting firm" founded and run by long-time climate science denier Patrick Michaels, himself a non-practicing climatologist. Michaels uses New Hope to publish his World Climate Report, a sort of ongoing journal of denial of climate science. Michaels is also a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, which paid him $98,000 to write a book, The Satanic Gases, with fellow skeptic Robert Balling. Over the years, Michaels' work has been financed by a number of coal and polluter interests, including the Western Fuels Association, the Intermountain Rural Electric Association, and others.
In 2012, Patrick Michaels wrote an unofficial "addendum" to the U.S. government's "Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States" assessment. The Cato report was designed to be almost identical to the U.S. government report (in aesthetics, layout and topical content), but contains unsubstantiated conclusions on climate science. The report was financed in part by Peter Goettlier, who joined Cato's board and became its CEO and President.
In a May, 2015 Town Hall post titled "When Will Climate Scientists Say They Were Wrong?", Michaels republished a misleading dataset used by a prominent climate science denier who had recently testified before Congress. John Christy, a University of Alabama, Huntsville professor and rare scientist who disputes climate change, disputed the accuracy of modeling programs used by scientists to predict climate change. In his testimony, Christy presented irrelevant temperature data: instead of using data from the lower-troposphere, where humans live, Christy presented data from the mid-troposphere, which is thousands of feet higher in elevation than humans live, and compared it to what climate models had predicted for the lower troposphere. Michaels repeated the false claim in his post, characterizing to Christy's dataset as a measurement of "average lower-atmospheric temperature changes."
Cato Institute funding from Koch Foundations, 1986 - 2015*
*Data published by Greenpeace U.S., based on information reported in tax filings by the Charles Koch Foundation, Charles Koch Institute, the now-defunct Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation, and the David H. Koch Foundation and Personal Philanthropy. Most data before 2001 is unverified by PolluterWatch, it is sourced from the archived Conservative Transparency database first published by Media Matters, now maintained by American Bridge 21st Century.