Organization founded in 1943 by Lewis H. Brown (the asbestos tycoon).
(Brown's company, Johns-Manville, was the largest asbestos manufacturer in the US during the 1930s, and was involved in a massive, 40-year cover-up of the severe health risks posed by asbestos.)
The American Enterprise Association (AEA) was created to design and promote policies that strengthen the political power of large corporations. In 1970, William Baroody, Sr. became its head and changed the name from "Association" to "Institute" (AEI); he had earlier learned how to (a) launder oversized campaign contributions from corporate boards, and (b) how to present the AEI as an earnest, high-minded, non-partisan research group (or "thinktank
"). Baroody's sons, William Jr. and Michael, both became important Conservative Movement
The AEI was, until the 1990's, mainly a very well-heeled devil's advocate against any progressive cause: it opposed regulating cigarettes, municipal water systems, environmental protections of all kinds, and the Endangered Species Act. Its budget grew enormously and it spawned subsidiary organizations such as NGOWatch
, the Center for Strategic and International Studies
, the Project for a New American Century
), and many more besides.
During the period 1997-present, the AEI became much more intensively focused on armed confrontation. In the name of "security," especially "energy security," the AEI appears to have spent an increased share of its already-burgeoning budget on promoting war or sanctions against many countries with a majority Muslim population. It argued against democratic review of US foreign policy, and in favor of criminalizing dissent. Position papers ceased to have any research content at all, and became pure polemics.
After the 2008 elections, which provided a clear repudiation of AEI policies *en masse*, the AEI focused on promoting itself as the guardian of national security; it did this by arguing that torture and extraordinary renditions were vital to keeping the USA safe from foreign terrorists. This made the organization valuable to former administration officials subject to prosecution for violations of Hague Conventions
& Geneva Conventions
In February 2007, *The Guardian* (UK) reported that the American Enterprise Institute was offering scientists and economists $10,000 each, "to undermine a major climate change report" from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
). AEI asked for "articles that emphasise the shortcomings" of the IPCC report, which "is widely regarded as the most comprehensive review yet of climate change science."