The challenge to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) heard before the U.S. Supreme Court on March 4 is supported and bankrolled by a right-wing think tank most widely known for its campaign against environmental regulation, or “eco-socialism.”
The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) was founded in 1984, backed by tobacco companies and other corporate and foundation funders. It ran tobacco disinformation campaigns in the 1980s while the industry faced growing government regulation and private lawsuits.
The Competitive Enterprise Institute’s funders include the Charles Koch Foundation, the Claude R. Lambe Foundation (a Koch Family group), the David H. Koch Charitable Foundations, the Sarah Scaife Foundation and the Scaife Family Foundations.
CEI fellow Myron Ebell has since raised the profile of the institute through a well-funded climate program that provides “scientific research” and policy experts to challenge legitimate scientific findings on man-made climate change.
Less known is CEI’s Free Market Litigation Program, which is funding the King v. Burwell lawsuit against the ACA. It was Jonathan Adler, a law school professor who had worked with the CEI’s environmental group, who found the single phrase on which the King v. Burwell lawsuit hangs, in an article posted online by a South Carolina lawyer.
When the lawyer, Thomas Christina, presented his research at an American Enterprise Institute symposium in 2010, Michael Greve was convinced that Obamacare could be taken down in federal court, announcing:
“This bastard has to be killed as a matter of political hygiene. I do not care how this is done, whether it’s dismembered, whether we drive a stake through its heart, whether we tar and feather it and drive it out of town, whether we strangle it. I don’t care who does it, whether it’s some court some place, or the United States Congress. Any which way. Any dollar spent on that goal is worth spending. Any brief filed toward that end is worth filing. Any speech or panel contribution toward that end is of service to the United States.”
Greve is a law school professor at George Mason University, a former AEI fellow, and a director on CEI’s nonprofit board.
CEI’s litigation team recruited plaintiff David King. King is a 64-year-old resident of Virginia, earns $39,000 a year, and is therefore eligible for the subsidized health coverage provided by the Affordable Care Act.
Politico mined his Facebook postings and found altered photos of Michelle Obama in Middle-Eastern garb and a Back to the Future parody with instructions to the time traveler: “Marty, there is no time to lose. You must go back in time and give Obama’s dad a condom.” King is represented by Jones Day attorney Michael Carvin, the lead counsel in a separate CEI lawsuit challenging the ACA. Carvin represented George W. Bush before the Florida Supreme Court in the 2000 Bush v. Gore lawsuit.
CEI spent $750,000 on litigation in 2012, according to its 2012 990 IRS filing (the most recent available). The same filing listed $6,470,211 in contributions and grants.
CEI does not disclose its funders, but Media Transparency researched foundation tax records and reported donors that include the Charles Koch Foundation, the Claude R. Lambe Foundation (a Koch family group), the David H. Koch Charitable Foundations, the Sarah Scaife Foundation and the Scaife Family Foundations (the core group of affluent funders of right-wing advocacy).
A 2006 Washington Post story reported the CEI had received funding from General Motors, the American Petroleum Institute, the American Plastics Council, and Arch Coal.
A win in the Supreme Court will provide the ideological investors a healthy return on their money.
Lou Dubose is the editor of The Washington Spectator.
See also: “SCOTUS v. the ACA.”