WASHINGTON, D.C., Nov. 1, 2012 — Lawson Bader, a veteran of the free-market movement and seasoned policy organization executive, has been named president of the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Bader, 46, comes to CEI from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, where he served as vice president. He will take over as president of CEI in January 2013.
He succeeds Fred L. Smith, Jr., who founded CEI in 1984. Smith will continue to serve CEI as Founder and Chairman and as head of the organization’s Center for Advancing Capitalism. He will work with Bader through a transition period that will last into next summer.
Bader, a Washington, D.C., native who grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, earned degrees from Wheaton College in Illinois and The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. He prevailed over nearly three-dozen applicants for the position. His hiring marks the end of an eight-month search process directed by Smith, CEI Board Chairman Michael Greve, key CEI staffers and trusted friends of the organization.
The selection committee was impressed by Bader’s commitment to individual and economic liberty and his ability to handle multiple duties, interact with numerous audiences—including policy makers, opinion leaders and organizations not normally associated with free-market initiatives—and appeal to a large cross-section of supporters.
“Lawson brings an impressive list of qualifications and a remarkable amount of enthusiasm to this position,” said Smith. “We took a lot of time with this. We carefully planned how the succession should occur and thought deeply about what the right successor would look like. Lawson jumped off the page at us in his dedication, accomplishments and vision for our organization.”
During his 16 years at Mercatus, Bader played a vital role in the organization’s donor and policymaker outreach efforts, helping it become a leading university-based research center for market-oriented ideas. An accomplished speaker who regularly emcees or speaks at 25 or more events each year, Bader has served in a variety of roles at Mercatus.
As Mercatus’s director of economic education, he created and managed the Capitol Hill Campus, an educational outreach program that uses an international network of faculty to teach key congressional staffers basic economic and market principles. The program was a key part of the organization’s growth and annually reached more than 1,300 staffers, representing more than 85 percent of all congressional offices.
Bader also developed a similar initiative that worked with state policy makers and local officials, and he advised on other important Mercatus programs, including its Financial Markets Working Group, Spending and Budget Initiative, State and Local Policy Project, and Regulatory Studies Program.
Bader looks forward to bringing this expertise in managing multiple priorities to CEI. “As someone who has known of CEI and its work for years, I admire a lot about the organization,” Bader said. “Through humor, individuality and rigorous policy analysis, CEI unashamedly promotes and defends classical liberal economic perspectives. Being intellectually consistent and correct matters more to CEI than being blindly dogmatic. That’s a rare commodity in D.C. these days.”
Before joining Mercatus, Bader served as manager of government relations at SRI International, an Arlington, Va.-based non-profit that performs research on science and technology, economic development, environmental and defense issues. He also worked as a policy analyst with SRI’s Washington International Corporate Circle. Prior to SRI, he served as a legislative analyst with Pierson, Semmes and Finley and as a special assistant at the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs.
Bader will devote his first few months to connecting with CEI’s donors, developing a working understanding of the organization’s key research centers and spending time with its network of scholars. He looks forward to applying his decades of experience in the policy arena to enhance CEI’s capabilities and help it become more efficient and effective.
“CEI is the gold standard in some areas and just beginning to emerge as a power in others,” Bader said. “My goal will be to strengthen the organization across all of its activities, building on the work of Fred Smith and others to ensure we continue to provide a leading voice for free enterprise in Washington and around the world for years to come.”
Meanwhile, as head of CEI’s Center for Advancing Capitalism, Smith will focus on building coalitions with freedom-minded policy organizations around the globe. The Center will organize meetings, policy seminars, research, and other tools to strengthen the voice of classical liberals both within and outside the United States. He will continue to work out of CEI’s offices in downtown Washington through the transition period to assure continuity. “I am excited to enter this new phase in the life of CEI and in my own life,” Smith said. “All around the world, people are fighting for the ideals we hold dear. It’s important for Americans to learn about these critical allies and the work they’re doing—and for us to benefit from their experiences.”
Michael Greve, chairman of CEI’s board of directors, said the organization’s deliberate and carefully planned succession process has yielded a remarkable result. “Lawson is exactly the kind of capable, thoughtful, dynamic leader we were looking for,” Greve said. “We look forward to working with him and to seeing what CEI can become under his leadership.”
Bader resides in Annandale, Va., with his wife and two teenage children.