The increasingly bitter and public shareholder dispute at Cato between Ed Crane and
the Koch brothers has brought to light Ed Crane’s collaboration with the Democrat
Media Complex, as well as troubling accounts of some of his past dealings with his
In the Crane Chronicles Part I, we reported that Ed Crane partnered with left-wing
New Yorker writer Jane Mayer to launch a smear campaign against the Koch brothers.
Crane then used Mayer’s hit piece as justification for arguing that Cato should distance
itself from the Kochs.
In the Crane Chronicles Part II, we reported on Crane’s antics at a
Cato Board dinner at which he shouted at two of his board members before storming
out of the room, leaving Cato donors, policy analysts, and senior managers in stunned
In response to the Cato shareholder dispute, a number of industry insiders have
described in unflattering terms the culture at Cato under Ed Crane’s leadership.
Steven Hayward of National Review recently stated, “I can also see how Crane can make
Steve Jobs look warm and cuddly by comparison (I suspect Ed will regard this as a
Erick Erickson of Red State described Crane’s actions throughout the controversy over
Cato’s shareholder agreement more brusquely, calling Crane’s behavior “egregious”
and “frankly rather spoiled.” Erickson concludes, “If Cato is to die, it will be because of
Ed Crane’s leadership.”
While offering praise to Ed Crane, Forbes writer John Tamny concedes that, “Cato’s
impish, irascible and very strident culture is a function of the man who runs it….the
atmosphere at Cato events is probably quite unlike what one would witness at other
think tank gatherings.”
In the latest development, perhaps emboldened by the raging shareholder dispute,
former staffers of this gold-standard of libertarian think tanks have actively come
forward to paint a disturbing picture of the work environment at Cato under Ed Crane’s
leadership – suggesting that it is, at least according to them, hostile and degrading to
“It’s hardly the climate you would want your daughter working or interning in,” said one
former Cato employee in an interview with Breitbart News. “Most of the scholars at Cato
are fine, decent, and sincere people. But Ed Crane’s dismissive and degrading attitude
toward women can make them feel more like meat than equals.”
“I think it’s pretty open knowledge inside of Cato that most attractive female
professional staff members have been the target of unsolicited sexual advances by Ed
Crane,” another former Cato employee told Breitbart News. Asked why such behavior
was tolerated, the one-time Cato employee replied: “In a place with no formal system
of redress there becomes a complacent attitude of ‘Oh, that’s just Ed.’ Or ‘He’s probably
had too much to drink.’”
Contacted by email for comment, Director of Media Relations Chris Kennedy responded, “If anyone wants to cite any actual legal complaints ever made against Ed or other members of Cato’s management, we’d respond to them. But we’re not going to respond to baseless rumor and innuendo leveled by unnamed sources.”
Certainly, these are stunning allegations (and similar allegations go way back). Cato
is of such critical importance to the libertarian movement, that it is incumbent on its
Board to full vet them. If accurate, they raise serious questions about how and why the
behavior of Cato’s chief leader would be tolerated for so long by so many.
Part of the explanation, says one former Cato employee, is that, unlike other think
tanks, “Cato has no real endowment”; its sizable operating budget is largely contingent
on Crane’s ability to raise millions of dollars annually.
“Everyone’s paychecks hinge on Ed Crane’s ability to bring in the dollars,” explained on
former Cato employee. “That means people tolerate behavior from Ed that Ed would
never tolerate in others.”
The sense one gets from speaking to those closest to Cato’s culture is one of a leader
with an authoritarian hold on power. As one former Cato staff member explained, “The
gallows humor among Cato-ites holds that what Cato really stands for is this: ‘Crane
And The Others.’”
***Note: In addition to and apart from these accusations about Ed Crane’s behavior, a
recent blog post by Robert Wenzel of the Economic Policy Journal made mention
of allegations of serious misconduct by a “top Cato official.” Lew Rockwell also
commented on the allegations. Breitbart News cannot currently verify the accuracy of
Mr. Wenzel’s allegations, or the identity of the “top Cato official” to which he refers.
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