Remarks by CEI President Kent Lassman at 2018 Annual Dinner


Remarks by CEI President Kent Lassman
CEI’s 2018 Annual Dinner and Reception

As prepared for delivery on June 28, 2018.

Welcome to the CEI annual dinner. Thank you all for being here. 

Thank you especially to so many of our generous supporters. These are the people who share our principles and value results.

We have a great night planned. Jonah Goldberg is here to light up the evening as our ringmaster. 

He has become something of a one-man media conglomerate. Of course, there is Twitter where he spars with the best of them and talks about his adventures as a dingo wrangler. We find him on TV, hosting multiple podcasts, and everywhere on tour with his latest book, “Suicide of the West.”   

Like Jonah, our keynote speaker is pretty busy as an advocate for free market values. However, serving as the director of the Office of Management and Budget isn’t enough for Mick Mulvaney. 

For the past seven months, this guy has been moonlighting as the head of an unnecessary and unconstitutional agency. He even renamed it so folks know it’s not really here to help. The Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection. 

Nothing scarier folks. Another government bureau focused on your finances.

Now some of you may find it odd to have a regular critic of the president and a member of the Cabinet on the same stage.

Let’s think about that. One critiques bad policies and the other implement good policies. That sounds to me a lot like CEI.    

We argue for meaningful changes that will constrain the regulatory state and promote individual liberty now and for future generations.

Mick Mulvaney has taken charge of the administration’s regulatory front line and is leading a systematic and purposeful regulatory revolution.

Both of these men understand the profound importance of the lessons learned from the economist Julian Simon—primarily that human ingenuity is our greatest resource. 

Later this evening, we’ll present CEI’s highest honor to a man who shares Julian Simon’s hope and optimism for the future: Hernando de Soto. He is an evangelist for property rights. More importantly, he has done the nitty gritty work necessary to transform the lives of millions of people in need.

Now tonight, we’re here to celebrate. I know that Washington is a circus, but freedom really is the greatest show on earth. So, laugh, cry, cheer, and embrace the wonder of life on your own terms.

Because most people, most of the time, are going to make good decisions about their own lives. We don’t need an instruction manual from the Code of Federal Regulation… for the few of us who even know how to find it. We also don’t need hundreds of regulatory agencies micromanaging the way we do just about everything in this country.

We do need a little more confidence from just about everyone that our experiment in democratic capitalism can thrive without government intervention at every turn.

This is what we believe at CEI. Whether it’s lawmakers, executive branch officials, judges in the courtroom, or simply our friends and family…we argue, persuade, poke, and jab, but ultimately, we bring others along to join us to support the miracle of free people pursuing their own lives in harmony with others.

Now, I said we have a great night planned. It appears that some of you got started early, which works well for me because I’d like to toast some of my colleagues’ work from the past year.  

  • For the first time in decades, the onslaught of new federal regulations is slowing down. This doesn’t mean that our massive regulatory state isn’t still a problem, but progress has been made. The administration has even gone so far as to address what Wayne Crews calls “regulatory dark matter” – all those murky guidance documents, memoranda, and other items that regulators like to use to go around Congress.

I’d also like to point out a quiet hero who is vital to this effort. She is with us tonight. Neomi Rao, thank you for all you are doing.

  • What else? Under this administration, the Environmental Protection Agency initiated at least 22 deregulatory measures in its first year. Where was CEI? Providing the analysis to roll back rule after rule which has threatened Americans’ access to affordable and reliable energy. I call 22 a good start.
  • Over at the Federal Communications Commission, with the longstanding support of CEI scholars, Chairman Pai has introduced transparency and stronger economic analysis. He also put a stake in the ground for Internet freedom and innovation and replaced the Obama administration’s net neutrality rules.
  • In our legal system, too often class action settlements provide little or no relief while lawyers walk away with a windfall. CEI is changing the class action system. In the fall, the Supreme Court will hear Frank v. Gaos, one of more than two dozen cases in the CEI portfolio that are the result of patient, painstaking work to identify, bring, and win the key cases that change the law of the land.
  • In this past year, CEI has been active on three cases at the Supreme Court. I’d like to mention one of those cases because we have with us tonight Mark Janus and his attorney Jacob Huebert. Mark was the plaintiff in yesterday’s landmark ruling for workers’ right to choose union representation and vindication of free speech.

Thank you Mark – for the courage to stand on principle for what is right.

When the lights go down and our days under the big top end, a history of a regulatory revolution will be written.  It is the people in this room who will carry the story. 

We can create a world where the focus of our lives becomes bigger than the politics of the day. It is a world where law and regulation no longer gets in the way of how your life unfolds.

So if you are new to all this, step right up, get your tickets for the show. Join CEI in the great noble challenge of our generation. 

For my old friends, always remember, it is okay to have fun at work, to expect to win, and to celebrate what was previously unthinkable. 

Again, thank you all for being a part of CEI and this wonderful evening.