The Cato Institute, Washington D.C.’s libertarian think tank, has long had a fraught relationship with VDARE.com (see here, here, here, and here)—although, let the record show, it did host an event for Editor Peter Brimelow’s 2003 book The Worm in the Apple. [Watch it here or here.]
Which, however, Cato honcho David Boaz (see below) ostentatiously skipped. Still, Cato has become one of the largest think tanks in the world and is credited with bringing libertarianism into the political mainstream [Cato Institute - InfluenceWatch]. Recently, however, Cato has become increasingly indistinguishable from the other Leftist organizations in D.C. This could be because Cato has been quietly—perhaps even secretly—taking money from George Soros.
Since 2004, Cato has been uploading versions of its annual report to its website, presumably in the interest of transparency. Since 2014, however, Cato has not been uploading a page in its annual report that appears in the print version: the page dedicated to the organization’s institutional support. The institutional support page includes the names of big organizations, and big corporations, that have given money to Cato in the past year.
The institutional support page is missing from the 2021 online version of Cato’s annual report (it should be on the missing page 58). It is also conspicuously missing from the 2020 (page 46), 2019 (page 42), 2018 (page 42), 2017 (page 46), 2016 (page 42), 2015 (page 42), and 2014 (page 44) reports. It’s unclear why the institutional support page has gone missing since 2014, though that is the last year The Center for Media and Democracy’s Sourcewatch focused on it when discussing the group’s institutional supporters at the time. The Sourcewatch reference now leads to a 404 page.
Previous reporting and previous annual reports from Cato reveal that Cato has received funding from Soros-led foundations. In 2010, 2011, and 2012, for instance, Foundation to Promote Open Society, as well as Open Society Foundations, were both listed as donors to Cato. In 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009, the Open Society Institute was listed as an institutional backer to Cato. A 2013 Forbes report claims that, in 2010, Cato received $80,000 from the Foundation to Promote Open Society.
Cato is still receiving money from Soros. A print version of the institutional support page for the 2021 annual report, obtained by VDARE.com, shows that Cato yet again received money from Soros through the Open Society Foundations.
Not only has Cato accepted funding from Soros, but he spoke at a Friedrich Hayek–themed event at Cato in 2011, culminating with his photo being featured on Cato’s 40th anniversary cover. Cato also gave a favorable nod to Soros just last year in order to try to spite Tucker Carlson.
Tucker Carlson says Viktor Orban is protecting Hungary from “the hard‐edged libertarianism of Soros and the Clinton Foundation.” Maybe he has a point. https://t.co/BeYZEMI8CU pic.twitter.com/x2cKlpAqVj— Cato Institute (@CatoInstitute) August 17, 2021
Is Orban Protecting Hungary from Libertarianism?, by David Boaz, Cato at Liberty Blog, August 11, 2021
In 2016, Distinguished Senior Fellow and former Executive Vice President David Boaz said that libertarians agree with Soros on the nature of cooperation.
The 2009 annual report even states that Cato’s speaking tours at the time were made possible, in part, by Soros (and another far-left nonprofit organization):
TOUR FOR GLOBAL PEACE Promoting peace both at home and abroad has long been a goal of the Cato Institute, and two recent speaking tours, made possible by grants from the Ploughshares Fund and the Open Society Institute, have provided an opportunity for Cato scholars to spread this important message in person.
One of Soros’s biggest causes has been funding district attorney races to make sure candidates that support “criminal justice reform”—or soft on crime policies—win [George Soros’ quiet overhaul of the U.S. justice system, by Scott Bland, Politico, August 30, 2016]. It just so happens that Cato also supports policies that would lead to more violent criminals on the streets.
Although one of Cato’s founders was paleolibertarian Murray Rothbard, of “Take Back the Streets,” “Crush Criminals,” and “unleash the cops” fame, it now has an entire section of its website devoted to Criminal Justice Reform, filled with pieces attacking the police as racist. Cato’s support for Criminal Justice Reform aka Jared Kushner–style decarceration. Cato even has its own cutesy little hashtag, “#CatoCJ.” Cato also has a hashtag devoted to ending qualified immunity, “#AbolishQI.”
In fact, Cato’s support for Criminal Justice Reform turned it into a running joke during the 2020 summer riots of peace and love. When violent Leftists attacked D.C., they also smashed one of Cato’s windows. A former Cato staffer posted that the vandals must just not read any of Cato’s white papers on police brutality…because, otherwise, they clearly wouldn’t have targeted the group:
Cato tweeted out its support for Black Lives Matter even after its window was shattered.
After tweeting more in support of Black Lives Matter and boarding up its windows, a now-deleted tweet from conservative personality Ryan Girdusky asked facetiously: “Why isn’t Cato supporting open borders?”
(Of course it does—see below.)
In addition to receiving money from Soros over the years, another frequent appearance on the annual report is corporate funding from big tech. Google and Meta (formerly Facebook), for instance, appear on many of the annual reports that include the institutional support page.
The print version of the 2021 annual report shows that Cato received money from Apple, Google, and Meta. In 2013 and 2012, Facebook and Google were both corporate sponsors. In 2011 and 2010, Google was a corporate sponsor. In 2007 and 2006, Microsoft was a corporate sponsor. In 2006, 2005, and 2012, eBay was a corporate sponsor.
Although it is unclear what it means to be a “Trenchard & Gordon Society member,” the 2021 annual report claims both Google and Meta, as well as the Open Society Foundations, happen to be members, denoted with an asterisk. In previous annual reports, an asterisk meant donations of more than $5,000.
It just so happens a frequent topic for Cato is criticizing conservatives for being too hard on Big Tech. “What’s Behind the War on Big Tech?,” “All Roads Lead to Big Government: Heritage Takes on Big Tech,” “Trump’s Truth Social Rejects Free Speech, For Good Reason,” and “The First Amendment Protects Everyone, Even Facebook and Twitter” with the subheading, Florida passed a law to stop Big Tech “censorship.” But the law itself tramples First Amendment rights, making it clear that Cato is not in favor of restricting big tech at all.
While Big Tech often tries to make the case to let in more immigrants so that it can continue to underpay American workers, it just so happens one of Cato’s most prolific principles is advocating for Open Borders. Even the COVID pandemic didn’t cause Cato to moderate its stance on the issue, despite the obvious threat from unscreened immigrants.
Perhaps the most visible Cato immigration “expert” is Alex Nowrasteh. According to Nowrasteh, there is nothing that immigrants don’t do better than native-born Americans; they reportedly use less welfare (wrong) and even allegedly litter less (unless, of course, you count the border). When it comes to basic issues of American patriotism, Nowrasteh claims that immigrants are prouder of being American than actual Americans and believe that America is better than other countries.
This might prompt the question: If immigrants, and illegal immigrants, are always better than native Americans, how come Nowrasteh doesn’t move to those other, supposedly better countries?
It should be noted that WalMart also donated to Cato in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 as Wal-Mart Stores Inc., and in 2013, there was a donation from the Walton Family Foundation.
It is unclear if WalMart and Big Tech have funded Cato in the years that the institutional support page is missing.
One of the 2021 donors to Cato was also Gays for Capitalism and Freedom. Judging by Boaz’s open proclivities, Cato would probably make these kinds of posts for free:
In three separate tweets at the time of writing, Cato linked to a post by Boaz about the allegedly historic and monumental promotion of Karine Jean-Pierre to press secretary. The initial tweets gushed, “Karine Jean-Pierre will be the first black person and first openly gay or lesbian person to be the White House press secretary. Here’s why that matters…” and “For roughly the first two centuries of American independence, no black or gay person and no woman could aspire to be the White House Press Secretary.”
In the piece, Boaz, who mentions in his post that he himself is gay, argued:
I know a lot of people get tired of “firsts”—first black this, first Asian-American that. But today’s papers report that Karine Jean-Pierre will be the first black person and first openly gay or lesbian person to be the White House press secretary, and that’s worthy of notice. (Also surely the first Haitian-born press secretary and quite possibly the first native French speaker.)
Boaz also included a ludicrous comment about how Jean-Pierre must have been chosen on the basis of merit as opposed to an Affirmative Action hire to appease the most loyal Democratic voting bloc:
This is not an argument for affirmative action, quotas, or even diversity as a goal in itself. I assume that the Biden administration selected Ms. Jean-Pierre to represent them to the media and the country because she was the best available person for the job. And it is to the administration’s credit, and to the credit of the country, that she was not rejected on the grounds of her gender, race, or sexual orientation.
This comes just shortly after Cato penned two different endorsements of Ketanji Jackson Brown for the U.S. Supreme Court, which was clearly also entirely based on merit. It just so coincidentally happens she is also a black woman.
After facing resistance for the second tweet praising Jean-Pierre, Cato tried to assuage fears that it was arguing in favor of race, gender, and sexuality-based preferences, but reminded supporters that this move is one of “progress”:
According to Cato, “progress” means an America that is less straight, white, and male.
Cato also celebrated June as the annual Gay Pride month:
Cato’s priorities have made it essentially nothing more than a standard Leftist nonprofit organization in recent years.
For instance, Aaron Ross Powell, the (now) former director and editor of Cato’s Libertarianism.org blog, is a Lefty who also despises the Right (and American libertarianism’s historical association with the Right):
Powell’s views go to the point of claiming that the far Left has no political influence, whereas the allegedly far Right is all over the U.S. Congress:
Previously, Powell also called conservatism “horrifying”:
Powell left Cato in February 2022, after 13 years. This means that, for 13 years, a libertarian who delusionally believes the Left has no institutional power, and the Right is a genuine threat, was making decisions at Cato and on behalf of the “Libertarianism.org” brand.
Meanwhile, Boaz has published an article in The Bulwark—since publishing in Bill Kristol’s website definitely makes sense for someone who helps run an allegedly anti-interventionist organization—calling for conservatives to purge their own:
No Enemies to the Right?, September 16, 2019
Even though the piece was seemingly meant to be some sort of advice to conservatives, Boaz does not like conservatives.
Cato is so entrenched in the left-wing culture of the Beltway that the organization didn’t even come to the defense of Ilya Shapiro, former Cato vice president and legal scholar, who the Mises Institute notes was affiliated with Cato for 15 years [The Curious Case of Ilya Shapiro, by Jeff Deist, Mises Wire, June 18, 2022]. Shapiro came under fire for a tweet critiquing Biden’s reasons for picking Brown. The tweet was naturally misconstrued as being “racist,” and Shapiro was investigated by Georgetown University School of Law, where he was set to take over as the head of the Center for the Constitution [Constitutional Law and Supreme Court Expert Ilya Shapiro Joins the Georgetown Center for the Constitution, Georgetown Law News, January 21, 2022]. He ultimately resigned [Why I Quit Georgetown, by Ilya Shapiro, WSJ, June 6, 2022].
Significantly, Cato did not defend Shapiro. Apparently, this silence was partially due to the fact that Cato’s staffers assert they do not get involved in culture war–related topics:
The internal dynamic at Cato, according to other staffers, has been driven by an invocation that “we don’t do culture wars”—a view held by older libertarians averse to the right-left conflagrations of recent decades. But Shapiro’s experience, while certainly containing a culture war dynamic, rested on issues of free thought, free speech, and academic freedom—all matters where Cato has historically seen fit to weigh in. Just not in this case.
The lack of support did not go unnoticed by those close to Shapiro, and in an interview, he expressed disappointment that Cato was unwilling to even act as a character witness in his defense.
“Through this ordeal, I really got to know who my friends are and was humbled and gratified to learn there are many of them,” Shapiro said. “I was disappointed to see that Cato, where I’ve devoted 15 years of my life, was not among them.”
The Cato Institute fails to stand up to cancel culture, by Ben Domenech, Spectator World, June 17, 2022
For not doing the Culture Wars, Cato sure spends a lot of time involved in the Culture Wars, and receiving money for its involvement in the Culture Wars.
Perhaps things are not all just about economics, even when they’re purported to be.
Email Emma Goldman.