Independent Institute

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

The Independent Institute (TII) is a think tank that was founded in 1986 by David J. Theroux, who was also the president of the think tank.

Don't confuse it with the Independence Institute which was established in Colorado with funding from Joseph Coors.

The Independent Institute has been a vocal opponent of the "war on drugs", immigration restrictions, corporate welfare, censorship, the neoconservative ("Bush Doctrine") of pre-emptive war, restrictions on reproductive rights, and the death penalty. Some of their analysts oppose the dominant view of scientists of the need for urgent action to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

However they are also part of the libertarian think-tank phenomenon and in (about) 1992 the Institute under Robert Higgs took over the administration of the tobacco industry's Cash for Comments Economists Network from Robert Tollison, James Savarese and the Center for the Study of Public Choice.

The Independent Institute/Personnel
Independent Institute (Doc Index)
David J. Theroux   Robert Higgs
Cash for Comments Economists Network

TII, Microsoft Money and Oracle's Private Investigators

In May 1999 The Independent Institute published the book Winners, Losers and Microsoft: Competition and Antitrust in High Technology by Stan J. Liebowitz and Stephen E. Margolis. A media release promoting the book stated that the book "makes a compelling case that the real danger to American high technology leadership is a too powerful, too intrusive government which believes it knows consumer preferences and needs better than they do." [1]

On June 2, 1999 The Independent Institute "sponsored" full-page advertisements - titled Open Letter on Antitrust Protectionism - in the Washington Post and the New York Times. The ads were signed by 240 academic economists and claimed "headline-grabbing cases against Microsoft, Intel, Cisco Systems, Visa and MasterCard, along with a flurry of merger investigations now under way, would appear to demonstrate the need for a vigorously enforced antitrust policy that will create checks and balances to eliminate consumer harm. However, consumers did not ask for these antitrust actions — rival business firms did. [2] (Pdf) (See accompanying media release). The advertisement also promoted Winners, Losers and Microsoft: Competition and Antitrust in High Technology. The same day, TII held a media conference in Washington D.C. unveiling the advertisements as well, co-inciding with the resumption of the anti-trust trial involving Microsoft.

A little over three months later New York Times reporter Joel Brinkley revealed that the advertisements had been paid for by Microsoft. Public relations manager for the company, Greg Shaw, told Brinkley that "we thought this was an important, substantive letter, and we were interested in contributing to making it visible. In our view, the letter speaks for itself." [3] Based on internal TII documents "provided to The New York Times by a Microsoft adversary associated with the computer industry who refused to be further identified", Brinkley revealed that Microsoft "has secretly served as the institute's largest outside financial benefactor in the last year." [4]

Brinkley reported that while the Institute's Theroux had "long acknowledged" Microsoft as a funder of the think tank, he downplayed the company's role as being "just one of 2,000 members" which had paid an annual membership fee of roughly $10,000 a year. Theroux told Brinkley that all Microsoft gained was "free copies of our publications, discounted tickets to our events" and denied that Microsoft had any role with the newspaper ads which he said were "were paid for out of our general funds." [5]

However, TII internal documents revealed that Microsoft had contributed $203,217 for the year to that June, making it the single largest contributor. Brinkley calculated that Microsoft's contribution amounted to approximately 20% of the funds in that year from external sources,excluding $304,725 that Theroux contributed to his own foundation. [6]

One of the documents provided to Brinkley was a bill for $153,868.67 covering the cost of the ads plus Theroux's travel expenses from San Francisco to Washington for the news conference. The bill was sent to Microsoft's John Kelly. When asked by Brinkley about the bill Theroux confimed that Microsoft had paid for the ads but claimed it made no difference. "The academic process we use is independent of sources of revenue," he said. [7]

When contacting the academics to sign on to their advertisement, TII did not disclose Microsoft's funding. One of the At least one academic who signed the ad disagreed. Simon Hakim, an economist at Temple University told Brinkley "He should have told us. I would not have participated if I had known. It's not right to use people as a vehicle for special interests," he said. [8] Nor did Stan Liebowitz, one of the co-authors of the TII published book Winners, Losers and Microsoft, know of the company's funding though he stated "it doesn't matter to me." [9]

The day after Brinkley's article appeared, Theroux issued a media release focussing on the origin of the documents from a Microsoft adversary and claiming they had been "stolen". However, Theroux did not dispute the specific funding amounts referred to. He stated that "our final year-end records do not agree with the numbers he had been provided by his source" and claimed that at the media conference he had stated that the Microsoft funding amounted only to 7%. "It now appears the final figure is about 8%, a statistically insignificant difference, and far less than the 20% figure Mr. Brinkley claimed in his article," Theroux claimed. [10]

In June 2000 the Wall Street Journal revealed that the the Independent Institute's funding documents had been obtained by by staff of Investigative Group International, a private investigation firm hired by Microsoft's rival Oracle. The WSJ reported that while Theroux suspected they had been stolen, those familiar with the operation hinted that they were obtained by rifling through the think tank's office trash. [11]

Environmental Issues

Much of the Anti-Global Warming rhetoric published by The Independent Institute is the work of a few persons, and one stands out, both in quantity of releases, as well as notoriety, S. Fred Singer who ran the climate-denial tobacco-funded organisation Science & Environmental Policy Project (SEPP).

Other analysts at the Independent Institute agreed that the environment was a pressing concern, including the issue of greenhouse gas emissions. Where they dissented from current environmental theory is in their proposed methodologies for remediation; they propose strong private property and free market solutions rather than regulation, a libertarian model for environmentalism.

Documents Contained at the Anti-Environmental Archives
Documents written by or referencing this person or organization are contained in the Anti-Environmental Archive, launched by Greenpeace on Earth Day, 2015. The archive contains 3,500 documents, some 27,000 pages, covering 350 organizations and individuals. The current archive includes mainly documents collected in the late 1980s through the early 2000s by The Clearinghouse on Environmental Advocacy and Research (CLEAR), an organization that tracked the rise of the so called "Wise Use" movement in the 1990s during the Clinton presidency. Access the index to the Anti-Environmental Archives here.

Tobacco Industry

Robert D. Tollison, Richard E. Wagner and Thomas Gale Moore are members of the Board of Advisors at the Independent Institute, Gary Anderson, Robert Ekelund, Dwight R. Lee, Mark Thornton and S. Fred Singer are Research Fellows and Richard Vedder is a Senior Fellow .

All of the above have a long history of working for the Tobacco Institute (TI) and/or Philip Morris and all nine were also members of the 'Academic Advisory Board' for the pro-tobacco junk science report 'Science, Economics, and Environmental Policy: A Critical Examination' published by the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution (AdTI) on August 11, 1994. AdTI received money from both TI and Philip Morris. (See: AdTI-Funding)


On its website TII states that it "receives no government funding. Instead, it draws its support from a diverse range of foundations, businesses and individuals, and the sale of its publications and other services." [12] The Institute does not list its contributors on its website, stating their rationale for this is in compliance with the Donor's Bill of Rights. However, the Donor's Bill of Rights does not require secrecy.

However, some funders of the Institute have been identified. These include:

  • Philip Morris contributed a donation of $10,000 in 1997 [13] and a donation of $25,000 in 1998. [14]
  • Exxon donated $10,000 in 1998 [15]; $5,000 in 2000 and 2001, $10,000 as Exxon Mobil in 2002 [16]; $10,000 in 2003 and $30,000 in 2005. [17]
  • The San Francisco Foundation contributed $10,000 in fiscal year 2000 (July 1, 1999-June 30, 2000) ([18])

According to Media Transparency, TII has received $718,000 (unadjusted for inflation) between 1995 and 2005. [19] Grants have included those from:


The number of personnel involved in the Independent Institute as Directors, Senior Fellows, Research Fellows and others is so extensive that it has been posted to a separate page. See The Independent Institute/Personnel

Contact info

The Independent Institute
100 Swan Way, Oakland, CA 94621-1428
Orders: 1-800-927-8733
Phone: (510) 632-1366
Fax: (510) 568-6040
web site:

Related Links


TII, Microsoft and Anti-Trust Law

TII Reports on Environmental Issues

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