Ed Crane Pins Fallout With Charles Koch on Russia-Trip Speaking Snub

News has been mostly quiet along the Kochs vs. Cato front (the background for which, including details on multiple Reason conflicts of interest, can be found in my five previous blog posts on the subject), until earlier this week, when Washingtonian magazine posted a very long article about this bitter conflict within institutional libertarianism.

Much of interest, and of possible dispute, within the piece, but this section featuring Cato President Ed Crane's ideas about his original fallout with Cato co-founder Charles Koch was 100 percent new to me:

In September 1990, Cato organized the first-ever conference on freedom in the Soviet Union. Held in Moscow, the conference required months of preparation, including meticulous negotiations with the US State Department and Soviet officials. Crane, Koch, and several Cato staffers made the trip.

The economic situation in Moscow was so desperate that a security detail had to guard a tray of cold cuts Cato ordered for lunch. The marquee event was an open forum in an auditorium that held 700. More than 1,000 Soviets showed up—"hanging literally from the rafters," Crane says. For Cato staffers, who devoted their lives to promoting freedom, it was a moving turnout.

Minutes before the program began, Koch pulled Crane aside and said, "I need to speak to these people."

The request frustrated Crane. After spending so much time working out the details of the event, he felt it was too late to change the lineup of speakers. "Charles, we have negotiated every 30 seconds here," Crane replied. "I can't do that." Koch never got to speak.

Although Koch had planned to stay in Moscow for two more days, he left early the next morning without saying goodbye.

Crane regrets his decision not to let Koch speak. "If I had been smarter, more mature, I would have said, 'Okay, Charles, we'll work something out—you can take my spot,'" Crane says.

Months later, Crane read in a libertarian newsletter that he was no longer Koch's top political adviser. The newsletter reported that Crane had been supplanted by Richard Fink, a former economics professor whom Crane had selected to run Citizens for a Sound Economy—a Koch-funded, grassroots organization—when it was formed in 1984, Crane says.

Crane was surprised and called Koch to find out what had happened. Koch refused to take the call, Crane says.

Whole Washingtonian piece here. Some reaction to it by Ira Stoll and Ilya Somin.

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  • John||

    MY God are people children.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    It strikes me that Koch is an egotistical ass.

  • John||

    Pretty much. I can see him being a bit miffed. But get over yourself for God's sake. And isn't Koch an idiot son anyway? Didn't the old man build the business?

  • creech||

    No.

  • Tulpa the White||

    Keep in mind this is one side of the story...

  • AlmightyJB||

    Yes John, yes they are.

  • Voros McCracken||

    Remember that this is Crane's side of the story.

  • John||

    True. But the fact remains there seems to be nothing at the bottom of this beyond bruised egos. It is not like one of them banged the other one's wife or something.

  • Voros McCracken||

    I agree, but we don't have Koch's version of events here which probably would reflect equally as poorly on Crane.

  • ||

    So they had a missile waving contest in Moscow. If you're going to wave your missile, 1990's Moscow seems the proper place. :-)

  • ChrisO||

    The article seems fairly balanced. Neither Koch nor Crane comes off particularly well.

    While it may seem naive, I completely understand Koch's desire to see some kind of "deliverable." Cato is brilliant at putting on seminars and stoking discussion within the think-tank world, but how much real-world effect has it really had?

    Ron Paul has done more to advance libertarian ideas in two long-shot presidential campaigns than Cato has done in 30 years of existence.

  • NoVAHockey||

    different purposes. Paul is about converting the masses. Cato is putting ideas in front of policy makers, who wouldn't hear them otherwise.

  • RBS||

    Shhhh, don't tell the Paulista's there is more than one vehicle to spread the message.

  • ChrisO||

    Policymakers might "hear," but they only "listen" if actual voters are involved.

  • ChrisO||

    By the way, I'm not dogging the existence of Cato. I'm glad that it exists and does the work it does. I'm just saying that I can understand Koch's frustration after several decade. Even if he does come off like a petulant child in the process.

  • libertard||

    Unfortunately, Koch's "frustration" has convinced him to hit the self-destruction button on Cato, don't see how that's helpful.

    None of the public libertarian "thought leaders" see value in Cato playing the AFP/Heritage game, which it seems clear that this is what Koch wants. He's already donating billions to Republican causes. Are libertarians going to be happier with Romney than Obama? It's pretty close, IMO.

  • Tulpa the White||

    Do you have anything to back up your claim that Koch wants to turn Cato into a partisan GOP think tank?

    Even Crane didn't make that claim. He just said CATO has leftist donors who would never fund a Koch-run org.

  • T||

    Yes, the lineup of people the Kochs are putting on the board. I mean, shit, John Hinderaker? How on earth could anybody view him as a GOP partisan?

  • Tulpa the White||

    Ron Paul is a GOP partisan too.

  • Paul.||

    Even Crane didn't make that claim. He just said CATO has leftist donors who would never fund a Koch-run org.

    He's probably right.

  • Tulpa the White||

    Cato is putting ideas in front of policy makers

    Only if the policy makers are sitting behind their office trash can.

    How many uniquely CATO-advocated policies have actually been put into practice in the past decade or two?

  • NoVAHockey||

    off the top of my head, HSAs were a Cato idea. maybe not theirs entirely.

  • Tulpa the White||

    The question is whether the actual event was as balanced as Crane would have us believe. I care more about truth than balance.

    A history that said Hitler and FDR enacted statist policies during the 1930s would be fairly balanced, too.

  • Brandybuck||

    Ron Paul has done more to advance libertarian ideas in two long-shot presidential campaigns than Cato has done in 30 years of existence.


    Ron Paul was in the right place at the right time. If you haven't forgotten, he also ran for president in 1988, and still didn't manage to break the 0.5% LP vote barrier. Ron Paul is currently riding an anti-federal-government wave, but he did not create the wave.

  • ChrisO||

    No, he didn't. But the fact is that he has taken the bull by the horns and observably advanced the libertarian cause.

    This brings up a larger question, implied in the article, as to how much is Charles Koch still a genuine libertarian. The article seems to assume that anyone working within the GOP cannot be a libertarian. It brings up the constant strategic question facing libertarians interested in trying to affect policy in the near-term: work within an existing mainstream party or create new institutions.

    Both Crane and Koch have it right, actually. It can take a long time to instill a new political philosophy--especially one that doesn't involve distributing boodle to favored groups. But you DO have to start seeing the needle move at some point, otherwise, you are accomplishing exactly nothing.

  • Tulpa the White||

    Whereas CATO has made quite a good living of being in the wrong place (Washington) casting libertarian pearls before leftist swine.

    Remember the howls of criticism from CATO of the RP movement when it first began. Remember their claiming that gay marriage was the #1 liberty issue of our times.

    The ONLY time in recent memory that liberty issues have been accepted by a mainstream political group, they've been paired with right-wing sensibilities on nonliberty issues like immigration, abortion, and gay marriage. That says something.

  • Tulpa the White||

    And it's not like Koch is going to Crane's house and beating him up for not letting him speak. If you personally dislike someone it's totally sensible to not have them as your top advisor and not return their calls.

    Do keep in mind that this occurs in the context of the Crane-led coup attempt at Cato. So he has every reason to try to make Koch look like a petty tyrant.

  • ||

    Matt Welch, hate to be a nitpicker, but perestroika and glasnost, market reforms and freer information (for them anyways) were in full swing in 1990, though the formal dissolution of the USSR was in 1991. Technically commie in name only, but not quite in actuality and hastened by the 1989 Baltic revolutions.

    This should also show our more lefty progressive types that socialism can not be managed; allowing the marketplace to flow unfettered as possible must take place. Though they did institute some reform, a weird democratic socialism emerged and eventually sank the USSR as they invested most of their capital in war machines. Our current band of clowns in DC really should take note of this, and Europe is plunging into another recession trying to borrow their way out theirs.

    Where's Krugabe to defend this with his, "But..but...they didn't spend enough?"

  • Paul.||

    Perestroika and glasnost, while major reforms relative to the institutional Soviet (see how 'reducing the rate of spending causes epilepsy in this country), were pretty weak tea.

    I seem to recall whats-his-name with the map of Albania on his forehead said his intention was to "put a human face on socialism".

  • Matt Welch||

    Ask a Balt what year Soviet communism was no more.

  • affenkopf||

    Obligatory Rothbard was right.

  • John||

    about nothing.

  • affenkopf||

    About most things.

  • T||

    Except bailing out (or not fighting being forced out) of Cato way back when, which I think is what affenkopf refers to. Rothbard was a Cato founder as well, unlike David Koch.

  • Tulpa the White||

    He did have a strong sense of fleet-footed.

  • johnl||

    That this reflects bably on Crane gives it a ring of truth. If he was going to make up a story about something, it wouldn't be that he could not figure out a way to put his biggest funder on the stage for a celebration.

  • Azathoth!!||

    Unless Crane is catering to the leftists who donate to Cato--in which case keeping Koch off the stage is a grant-worthy action--particularly if you're using HIS money to do it.

    This is the gramscian destruction of libertarianism. The left is adamantly opposed to the ideas behind libertarianism. To believe otherwise is to be part of the problem.

  • T||

    Is it just me or does "institutional libertarianism" have a whiff of oxymoron to it?

  • BakedPenguin||

    A whiff, but not nearly as much as institutional anarchy"

  • Pi Guy||

    Yeah. That shit stinks.

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    Jesus Christ, but I do love a good 1%er/academitard bitchslapfest.

    Except that I don't. I'll never get back the minute or so it took me to read this - curse you, Matt Welch!!

    Koch and Crane - I hope both your asses hurt forever, you thin-skinned, peurile, effete pussies. And go fuck yourselves, just for good measure.

  • John||

    And they don't even have a good grudge. If they had banged each other's wives, hit on one another's teenage daughters or had some old fraternity dispute where Koch put Crane's head in a toilet or something, this would at least be entertaining. As it is, it is nothing but a nerd fight and a sorry one at that.

  • Tulpa the White||

    I'm only vaguely familiar with Koch but he seems to have good instincts and good ideas; and I have a strong perception that Crane is a duche. So I don't buy this story as being complete.

  • Paul.||

    Story actually seems straightforward enough.

    Crane seems to admit his regret, etc.

  • Tulpa the White||

    Yeah, but it's one of those non-apology apologies. His stated regret is that he didn't bend over backwards to make the evil, selfish Koch happy.

  • johnl||

    But the main job of the head of a thinktank is to keep funders happy. It's not "bending over backwards". He should have brought up the idea to CK, instead of the other way around, and then saying "no". So he's admitting to a huge blunder.

    The other error is that he didn't explain the rest of Cato his blunder 20 years ago.

  • Tulpa the White||

    I disagree; he's painting Koch as a plainly unreasonable donor who he wasn't corrupt enough to cow-tow to.

    Note that Crane gives all sorts of reasons why he thought he couldn't give Koch the speaking gig, but never gives Koch's reasons for insisting that he speak.

  • ||

    Crane seems to admit his regret, etc.

    Maybe he should simply apologize to Koch rather then call him a stooge of the GOP.

  • Dan Bongard||

    I suspect that the story is "100 percent new to you" because it didn't actually happen that way.

  • Emmerson Biggins||

    Also, I heard that once, Crane took the last cup of coffee and didn't make a new pot. TWICE IN THE SAME DAY!

  • Mo' $parky||

    Son of a bitch must pay!

  • John||

    And on top of that, he never lifts the seat on the office toilet.

  • Paul.||

    Also, I heard that once, Crane took the last cup of coffee and didn't make a new pot. TWICE IN THE SAME DAY!

    Tragedy of the commons!

  • Paul.||

    institutional libertarianism

    This does not compute... well...

  • R C Dean||

    You could do worse than to call the Constiution an "institutional libertarian" document.

  • Paul.||

    My comment was half snark, and in last place as I saw that T had already posted essentially the same comment.

    But I agree.

    Oh, RC, while I have your eyes, I was listening to NPR this morning, and they were talking about the Edwards case in how they couldn't prove he "Knowingly and willfully" broke campaign finance laws.

    Hook a brother up... if ignorance of the lore is no excuse... and I have it upon good authority that you can be prosecuted for violating federal statutes you didn't know existed (see the intro to 'don't talk to the cops') why would anyone have to prove he 'knowingly' broke CF rules? Couldn't he be convicted even if he unknowingly broke CF rules?

  • Tulpa the White||

    Strong central government with vaguely-defined powers and no bill of rights? I don't think so. The anti-feds would probably agree with me.

  • ||

    This reminds me of the time when I sat on a jury selection panel for a case of two lawyers suing each other (or one suing the other) over the dissolution of their law practice. I think my red hot glare of burning hate and contempt got me dismissed from that panel.

  • John||

    Douche Fight!!

  • ChrisO||

    One of those cases where you wish they could both lose.

  • ||

    Sooooo 22 years later....

    Koch sure moves slow in trying to remove Crane.

    Also how does this make Koch a republican stooge bent on manipulating CATO into becoming an arm of the GOP?

  • Paul.||

    Koch always plays the long game...

  • jdgalt||

    So it is just a personality conflict and not a real political difference.

    A pox on both their houses.

  • ||

    I guess...

    But Koch gave Crane a 20+ year run of the place.

    Personality conflict or not Crane is way out of line saying Koch will make Cato into an arm of the GOP when it is obvious that he is simply trying to save his job.

    Koch: 20 years time to go.

    Crane: But...but...GOP STOOGE!!!! WAHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!

    I call bullshit.

  • Tulpa the White||

    Indeed, the timing is suspicious. You would think that a libertarian "thought leader" would have more confidence in his prospects in the outside world than Crane seems to have.

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