A Look Ahead to CEI’s Future

Four years ago, I had the privilege—and the daunting task—of searching for a new president to lead CEI, when founder Fred Smith decided it was time for him to step down. Our six-person search committee set out to find an intelligent and charismatic leader with a positive vision for defending individual liberty and free enterprise, and the focus to lead us toward achieving those goals. We pored over scores of resumes, held dozens of interviews with many highly qualified candidates, and eventually selected Lawson Bader as our unanimous choice to be the next CEI president.

Following an organization’s founder as president is a formidable job. But Lawson rose to the challenge, and proudly led CEI in some of its most important battles: fighting the Obama administration’s energy rationing policies, the National Labor Relations Board’s onerous employment rules, the Treasury Department and Securities and Exchange Commission’s assault on America’s banking and finance industries, and many other expansions of federal power. Under Lawson’s leadership, CEI took our Obamacare legal challenge all the way to the Supreme Court. And Lawson laid out an ambitious vision for a bigger, more effective CEI as we negotiated, and recently completed, a successful merger with the Center for Class Action Fairness, a move that will make CEI’s litigation program even more effective. For his own recollections, see here.

Last week, we said a fond farewell to Lawson, as he rose to yet another challenge: replacing his dear friend Whitney Ball as the head of DonorsTrust. We, of course, will miss Lawson. But my colleagues and I are also eager to turn the page on a new chapter in CEI’s future. Lawson is gone, but our work continues. And we mean to be every bit as feisty and aggressive as CEI has been for the past three decades.

We will continue to implement our strategic plan to derail the upcoming Paris climate change agreement and prevent implementation of the EPA’s destructive and unconstitutional power plant emissions rules. We will continue to expose and push back against the Obama administration’s lawless Operation Choke Point, which uses threats of harassment by bank regulators to shut down legal but politically unpopular businesses such as small dollar lenders, pawn shops, and gun dealers. We will continue to battle the Transportation Security Administration’s intrusive and ineffective airline passenger screening practices. And, in time, we expect our legal challenge to the constitutionality of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to land CEI back in the Supreme Court.

We are working closely with House and Senate leaders from both political parties, and with state and local government officials, on a raft of reform measures to roll back aggressive regulatory policies. In the current Congress alone, more than half a dozen pieces of legislation to rein in the regulatory state and make federal agencies more accountable to the American people incorporate ideas developed and promoted by CEI scholars.

In short, we at CEI have an ambitious agenda, and are eager to get on with the business of implementing it in practice. Sure, we may have to look for a new president. But we won’t let that slow us down.

Stay tuned.