Friday, July 13, 2012

AEI's "Secret" Carbon Tax Meeting With Liberals

The conservative Washington Examiner reported that on Wednesday (July 11) the conservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI) hosted a "secret meeting" with other Washington, DC think tank officials, including members from several prominent liberal think tanks, to discuss how to build support for a carbon pollution tax.

Here is how the Examiner described the meeting:

Representatives from such liberal groups as Union of Concerned Scientists, Public Citizen,  the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and the Brookings Institute, the Climate Action Network and Clean, Air-Cool Planet joined centrist groups such as the Concord Coalition, Taxpayers for Common Sense, and the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies and conservatives scholars from AEI and R Street, a group that broke away from the Heartland Institute.
The 5-hour meeting was titled “Price Carbon Campaign/ Lame Duck Initiative.” The first session on the agenda was titled “Congressional Republicans, Romney and Business Leaders: Detoxifying climate policy for conservatives.” This was followed by discussions titled “Progressive/Social Justice Groups,” and “Economists and deficit hawks.”
The second session was titled “Framing and selling a carbon pollution tax.” It included discussions “Building bipartisan support and navigating Ways & Means” and “Honing the case for a carbon pollution tax.”
The event was not publicly announced, and all participants reached by the Washington Examiner declined to discuss it on the record in any detail, saying it was a private event.
Kevin Hassett, AEI’s director of economic policy studies and Tom Stokes, head of the Climate Crisis Coalition, were the reported organizers of the event.
The article notes that a copy of the agenda was obtained by Myron Ebell, director of energy and global warming policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and a staunch critic of carbon taxes.  He apparently passed on the news about the meeting and the agenda to friends and colleagues.  That is apparently how some in the media heard about the meeting.

It has been said that Mr. Ebell's main job is to provide material to the media in the form of quotes to newspaper reporters and participation in live interviews on the subject of climate change.  He also serves as director of Freedom Action, a web-based grassroots activist organization loosely affiliated with CEI, and chairs the Cooler Heads Coalition with "questions global warming alarmism and opposes energy rationing policies."

It was reported in 2009 that CEI had a deficit of about $450,000.  It also lost its Center for Risk, Regulation and Markets (and its $500,000 budget) to the Heartland Institute.  This seemingly old document shows CEI's funders over $10,000.  The most recently available Form 990 shows CEI with about $2 million in net assets and $4.2 million in total  annual revenues.

The most recently available Form 990 shows AEI with roughly $34 million in total revenue and net assets of roughly $150 million (that is not a typo).

Here is what Right Side News had to say about the secret meeting.

Here is what Reason Magazine had to say about the meeting.

Here is what National Review had to say about the meeting.

Here is what Heartland Institute President Joseph Bast had to say about the meeting.

Update: The July 16, 2012 CQToday describes the AEI meeting like this:
The surprise push by liberal and conservative interests to build support for a carbon tax has provided an unlikely opening for renewed debate on a subject that has almost fallen completely off the map in the current Congress - climate change.
 Advocates for tackling climate change were heartened by news of a July 11 meeting at the conservative American Enterprise Institute focuses on enacting a carbon tax.  The huddle - which according to a leaked agenda posted online included environmentalists, conservative economists and deficit hawks - was part of a quiet campaign to build support for a tax on greenhouse gas emissions.
A liberal participant at the AEI meeting said the effort is in its early stages.  "It still has a long way to go before it becomes a part of the solution," said Daniel J. Weiss, director of climate strategy at the Center for American Progress (CAP).
 Here is how Politico described the meeting:
Nobody expects the idea to be enacted anytime soon, but some liberal and conservative thinkers are having a quiet, informal dialogue about imposing a tax on industrial carbon emissions.  The result: a burst of loud criticism from the right.
Last week's hubbub arose from a private gathering Wednesday hosted by the American Enterprise Institute.  The agenda lists officials representing organizations including Public Citizen, Taxpayers for Common Sense, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Brookings Institution, and Resources for the Future (RFF).