Founded in 1943 and located in Washington, D.C., the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research (AEI) is the Godfather of Washington neo-conservative lobby groups - America's richest, largest and most influential think tank. It is also regarded as one of the Bush administration's closest allies.
It has the CEOs of both pharmaceutical giant Merck and of The Dow Chemcial Company, as well as the Vice President of Exxon, among the many corporate figures on its Board of Trustees.
Several of the leading lights of the Bush administration, most notably Vice President Dick Cheney, directly connect to AEI, which also rents office space to the Project for the New American Century (PNAC). Founded in 1997, PNAC has been agitating since its inception for war with Iraq. Like PNAC, the AEI is regarded as a major promoter of President Bush's war-agenda.
AEI has some fifty resident scholars and fellows augmented by a network of more than a hundred adjunct scholars. Among its scholars are Roger Bate, Newt Gingrich, James Glassman (of Tech Central Station) and Richard Perle.
In June 2003 AEI held a day-long seminar on 'NGO influence and accountability', entitled Nongovernmental Organizations: The Growing Power of an Unelected Few. Among the speakers at the Washington seminar was Gary Johns of the Institute of Public Affairs which had launched a corporate newsletter called NGO Watch two years earlier. Other contributors included Fred Smith of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and Roger Bate of AEI, IEA, ESEF, IPN, SDN etc. According to Bate, ' NGOs definitely provide benefits in the short run. But I would argue in the long run their influence is nearly always malign, either through their own political acts directly or via aid agencies.' Some commentators saw a profound irony in that fact that AEI is itself an 'unelected' NGO with a truly remarkable degree of influence.
Following on from the seminar, AEI and the Federalist Society launched NGOWATCH.ORG - 'an effort to bring clarity and accountability to the burgeoning world of NGOs'. The writer Melanie Klein describes it as in truth, 'a McCarthyite blacklist, telling tales on any NGO that dares speak against Bush administration policies or in support of international treaties opposed by the White House.' Its launch, Klein noted, coincided with a push by the Bush administration to get NGOs 'to do a better job of linking their humanitarian assistance to U.S. foreign policy' - an effort overseen by USAID and its director Andrew Natsios. (Bush to NGOs: Watch Your Mouths)
AEI also produces The American Enterprise, 'an influential policy magazine' which, like other AEI publications, is 'distributed widely to government officials and legislators, business executives, journalists, and academics; its conferences, seminars, and lectures are regularly covered by national television.'
In June 2003 AEI hosted a conference Biotechnology, the Media and
Public Policy, which brought together probably the largest gathering of leading GM lobbyists assembled outside of the Biotechnology Industry Organization's annual conventions.