The “first, and largest, libertarian think tank,” according to the New Yorker, the Cato Institute was founded by Ed Crane and Charles G. Koch as a “public policy research organization…dedicated to the American principles of liberty and limited government.” Cato is well known for advocating limited government and deregulation, especially the privatization of Social Security. Cato has for the most part stuck to libertarian principles, advocating for the elimination of many federal agencies while also supporting the decriminalization of marijuana and opposing bans on gay marriage. Cato is closely associated with the Koch brothers, though not without disputes through the years. In the early 1990s, Charles Koch resigned from the board and withdrew his financial support (David stayed as a member of the board). Twenty years later, however, Charles Koch – who remained a shareholder of the think tank – made a “very serious play to reassert his control of the organization.” After the death of another shareholder, Charles and David attempted to block the transfer of the remaining shares and to effectively take control of the think tank. A compromise was eventually reached, as a result of which Crane stepped down as CEO.

Notable Facts:

  • John Allison, the new CEO of the Cato Institute and an “ardent devotee of Ayn Rand,” is the former chairman and CEO of the BB&T Corporation. Allison has “waged a campaign” to make college students read Rand’s works by bestowing large grants to schools on the condition that they develop and teach courses on Rand.
  • Some conservatives believe the Koch brothers have not given up on moving the Cato Institute into closer alignment with their other political efforts. According to economist and former Reagan adviser Bruce Bartlett: “It’s clear to me that the Kochs have abandoned libertarianism and essentially thrown in totally with the G.O.P. They are putting in place a structure that will gradually erode Cato’s independence and move it closer to the American Enterprise Institute and Heritage Foundation.”
  • Along with David Koch, Americans for Prosperity board member Nancy Pfotenhauer serves on Cato’s board of directors.
View Financial Record
Grants In
Grants Out
Total Expenses
12015$72,934,328$36,069,847$34,969,047$773,968$28,246,157View 990
22014$64,520,251$28,350,110$27,386,455$708,851$24,538,565View 990
32013$60,639,117$22,006,365$20,782,297$873,596$26,028,845View 990
42012$67,083,178$33,097,063$31,736,230$246,888$22,344,728View 990
52011$57,206,316$40,410,727$39,253,053$843,602$23,648,195View 990
62010$37,636,959$31,529,336$29,717,643$425,636$21,766,084View 990
72009$27,347,589$20,145,060$19,129,916$702,724$23,244,194View 990
82008$23,990,296$23,740,702$22,189,765$107,073$18,702,714View 990
92007$22,680,917$20,354,008$18,878,487$581,134$19,044,629View 990
102006$21,461,645$6,364,917$6,104,825$1,243,000$5,145,645View 990
112005$15,869,850$22,656,851$21,651,722$146,898$17,065,056View 990
122004$18,341,494$14,530,419$13,537,255$549,000$17,002,063View 990
132003$20,996,283$12,975,701$12,063,401$193,650$15,630,490View 990
142002$21,602,805$16,975,933$15,561,332$515,246$17,582,455View 990

686 transactions on record as a recipient.

Ordered By: Year (Newer to Older)

Showing record as recipient
1Center for Independent ThoughtCato Institute$20,5002014+
2Charles G. Koch Charitable FoundationCato Institute$1,110,0002014+
3Charles G. Koch Charitable FoundationCato Institute$34,3902014+
4Holman FoundationCato Institute$50,0002014+
5Donors Capital FundCato Institute$50,0002014+
6Donors Capital FundCato Institute$50,0002014+
7DonorsTrustCato Institute$20,0002014+
8DonorsTrustCato Institute$1,0002014+
9DonorsTrustCato Institute$25,0002014+
10DonorsTrustCato Institute$5,0002014+
11DonorsTrustCato Institute$50,0002014+
12DonorsTrustCato Institute$1,0002014+
13DonorsTrustCato Institute$5,0002014+
14DonorsTrustCato Institute$2002014+
15DonorsTrustCato Institute$9,0002014+
16DonorsTrustCato Institute$5,0002014+
17DonorsTrustCato Institute$2502014+
18DonorsTrustCato Institute$100,0002014+
19DonorsTrustCato Institute$3502014+
20DonorsTrustCato Institute$5,0002014+
21DonorsTrustCato Institute$15,0002014+
22DonorsTrustCato Institute$5,0002014+
23DonorsTrustCato Institute$1,0002014+
24DonorsTrustCato Institute$5,0002014+
25National Christian Charitable FoundationCato Institute$2,5002014+
26DonorsTrustCato Institute$5,0002013+
27DonorsTrustCato Institute$10,0002013+
28DonorsTrustCato Institute$2,0002013+
29DonorsTrustCato Institute$5,0002013+
30DonorsTrustCato Institute$4,0002013+
31DonorsTrustCato Institute$2502013+
32DonorsTrustCato Institute$25,0002013+
33DonorsTrustCato Institute$4,0002013+
34DonorsTrustCato Institute$2502013+
35DonorsTrustCato Institute$5002013+
36DonorsTrustCato Institute$5,0002013+
37DonorsTrustCato Institute$6,0002013+
38DonorsTrustCato Institute$1,0002013+
39DonorsTrustCato Institute$55,0002013+
40DonorsTrustCato Institute$5,0002013+
41DonorsTrustCato Institute$1,5002013+
42DonorsTrustCato Institute$5,0002013+
43DonorsTrustCato Institute$20,0002013+
44DonorsTrustCato Institute$6,0002013+
45Center for Independent ThoughtCato Institute$86,0002013+
46The Weiler FoundationCato Institute$20,0002013+
47Dunn's Foundation for the Advancement of Right ThinkingCato Institute$25,0002013+
48Dunn's Foundation for the Advancement of Right ThinkingCato Institute$100,0002013+
49Dunn's Foundation for the Advancement of Right ThinkingCato Institute$5,0002013+
50Dunn's Foundation for the Advancement of Right ThinkingCato Institute$100,0002013+
The transactions in Conservative Transparency are based on information reported by the donors and exclude 'dark money' raised by the recipients from unknown donors that are not in the database. For more information about our methodology, visit our about page.