Edward H. Crane

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Edward H. Crane is the former President and CEO of the Cato Institute, a Washington D.C.-headquartered libertarian think tank, which he founded in Wichita Kansas with financial backing from Charles Koch in 1974.[1][2]. Crane was chairman of the Southern California Libertarian Party in 1972 and became chairman of the National Libertarian Party in 1974.[3] In 1980, Crane served as the Communications Director for the Ed Clark/David Koch Presidential Campaign.[4]

Crane has been referred to as one of the "leaders of the libertarian movement" by the Wall Street Journal.[5] Crane is the coeditor of several books, has been the publisher of Regulation Magazine, serves on the Board of U.S. Term Limits, and is a member of the Mont Pelerin Society. He is a chartered financial analyst and former vice president at Alliance Capital Management Corp.[6]

Koch Wiki

The Koch brothers -- David and Charles -- are the right-wing billionaire co-owners of Koch Industries. As two of the richest people in the world, they are key funders of the right-wing infrastructure, including the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the State Policy Network (SPN). In SourceWatch, key articles on the Kochs include: Koch Brothers, Koch Industries, Americans for Prosperity, American Encore, and Freedom Partners.


Crane was born in View Park, California, where his father was a doctor and his mother a homemaker. In college, he attended the University of Redlands for a year, transferring to the University of California, Berkeley in 1963. He then earned an MBA from the University of Southern California and began working as a money manager.[3]

As reported by the Washington Post, Crane became active in the California state Libertarian Party in the early 1970s. In 1972 he attended the founding convention of the national Libertarian Party in Denver and became chairman of the Southern California Libertarian Party, then became national chairman of the party in 1974. In 1980, Crane worked on Ed Clark's campaign for president, with David Koch running as the vice presidential candidate and providing a significant amount of campaign funding from his personal fortune.[3]

Together with and largely bankrolled by Charles Koch, Crane helped found the Cato Institute (formerly the Charles Koch Foundation0 in 1974 in Wichita Kansas, the home of the Koch Brothers.[7] The Cato institute relocated to San Francisco in 1977. Crane came to believe that the new think tank would not be taken seriously if it was based there, and so he moved Cato to Washington, DC in 1981.[3]

According to the Washington Post, Crane and Charles Koch had a falling out in the early 1990s when

"a management dispute with co-founder Koch veered out of control. Koch resigned from the board and withdrew his generous financial support.
“I broke one of the cardinal rules of fundraising: Never [tick] off a billionaire,” Crane admits."[3]

Describing Crane as a "genetic libertarian," the Cato Policy Report wrote that

"Crane has dedicated his life to guiding the Cato Institute from a three-person outfit in San Francisco to one of the most prominent public policy research organizations in the country… From the beginning he insisted that Cato stick to firm libertarian principles and take on the big issues."[8]

The Policy Report also credits Crane's leadership for Cato supporting the privatization of Social Security as early as 1979.[8] According to the Wall Street Journal, "Under Mr. Crane, Cato held the first conferences on free markets and the rule of law in China (1988) and Russia (1990)."[5]

Influence on Campaign Finance Law

Crane was a plaintiff in two major Supreme Court cases related to campaign finance law, Buckley v. Valeo and SpeechNow.org v. Federal Election Commission.[9]

Ties to Koch brothers

Cato Institute Founding

Crane took on the Cato Institute with financial backing from Charles Koch in 1977.[5] The New Yorker reports that Crane recounted the decision as follows:

“Charles said what would it take to keep me in the libertarian movement. He was very impressed. I said, My bank account is empty. He said, How much do you need? I’d been impressed with Brookings and A.E.I., and told him it would be good to have a libertarian think tank. Charles said, I’ll give it to you.”[10]

Conflict with the Kochs over Cato

By 2010, the New Yorker was reporting on what seemed to be a growing distance between Crane and the Kochs:

Richard Fink "appears to have supplanted Ed Crane, the head of the Cato Institute, as the brothers’ main political lieutenant. Though David remains on the board at Cato, Charles Koch has fallen out with Crane. Associates suggested…that Crane had been insufficiently respectful of Charles's management philosophy."[11]

Whatever its source, the conflict between Crane and the Kochs took a public turn in late 2011, when one of the four shareholders in the Cato Institute, William Niskanen, passed away. The Koch brothers filed a lawsuit in March 2012 seeking control of Cato. As the Washington Post reported, the brothers "believe[d] that they have the option to buy Niskanen’s shares, while Cato officials believe[d] that the shares belong to Niskanen’s widow, Kathryn Washburn."[12]

In response, Crane released a statement arguing that Charles Koch's decision to file a suit

"represents an effort by him to transform Cato from an independent, nonpartisan research organization into a political entity that might better support his partisan agenda."[12]

In an interview with Slate, Crane suggested that the Kochs were trying to fill Cato's board with "Koch Industries supplicants" and claimed that "Charles likes to create his own reality, build a bubble around him […] David Koch was a friend of mine until Charles said, not anymore."[13]

The dispute was settled in June 2012 with an agreement to dissolve the Cato Institute's stockholder structure, replacing it with a 12-member board. In return, Crane agreed to step down as president. A press release stated, "For a majority of Cato’s directors, the agreement confirms Cato’s independence and ensures that Cato is not viewed as controlled by the Kochs."[14] David Koch continues to serve as a member of the Cato Institute's board, while Crane is still listed on Cato's website as "founder and president emeritus."[15]

Articles and Resources


  1. "The Cato Institute", 25 Years at the Cato Institute, The 2001 Annual Report, Accessed July 7, 2014.
  2. Jim Powell, "The Cato Institute Controversy, Forbes, March 11, 2012
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Richard Morin, "Free Radical; Libertarian — and Contrarian — Ed Crane Has Run the Cato Institute for 25 Years. His Way.," Washington Post (archived by the Cato Institute) May 9, 2002. Accessed June 12, 2014.
  4. Karen Jakovich, "Ed Clark Is the Libertarian Party's Headstrong Candidate for the White House," People, September 22, 1980. Accessed June 12, 2014.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Ed Crane's Freedom Legacy," Wall Street Journal, October 23, 2012. Accessed June 12, 2014.
  6. Cato Institute, "Edward H. Crane: Founder and President", organizational website, accessed March 2008.
  7. "The Cato Institute", 25 Years at the Cato Institute, The 2001 Annual Report, Accessed July 7, 2014.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Cato Institute, "The Legacy of Edward H. Crane," Cato Policy Report, January/February 2013. Accessed June 12, 2014.
  9. David Keating and Edward H. Crane, "Meet the Parents of the Super PACs," Wall Street Journal, Opinion, February 10, 2012. Accessed June 12, 2014.
  10. Jane Mayer, "The Kochs vs. Cato," New Yorker, March 1, 2012. Accessed June 11, 2014.
  11. Jane Mayer, "Covert Operations," New Yorker, August 30, 2010. Accessed June 11, 2014.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Allen McDuffee and T. W. Farnam, "Koch Brothers sue Cato Institute, president," Washington Post, March 1, 2012. Accessed June 11, 2014.
  13. Dave Weigel, ""Who the Hell is Going to Take a Think Tank Seriously If It's Controlled by Billionaire Oil Guys?" Cato's President Speaks.", Slate, March 22, 2012. Accessed June 11, 2014.
  14. Allen McDuffee, "Koch brothers, Cato Institute announce terms of settlement," Washington Post, June 25, 2012. Accessed June 11, 2014.
  15. Cato Institute, Edward H. Crane, organizational website, accessed June 11, 2014.

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