Alexis de Tocqueville Institution

Alexis de Tocqueville Institution

The Alexis de Tocqueville Institution (abbreviated AdTI) is a Washington, D.C.–based right-wing think tank that produces reports and policy research.

It is named after the French historian Alexis de Tocqueville. AdTI's reports are intended primarily to influence public policy debate. Founded in 1988, its president is Ken Brown and its chairman is Gregory Fossedal. It has 14 staff researchers.

It is known for its criticisms of Linux and its work supporting the tobacco industry. Its detractors claim that the AdTI is a freelance "astroturfing" organization and that these reports are written at the behest of its financial backers and various lobbyists.

Funding sources

Like most think tanks, AdTI refuses to publicize its backers and donors. Like all non-profit organizations, some of this information is available in its annual filings with the IRS. In 2002, Greg Fossedal stated, "it isn't our general policy to discuss who does and doesn't fund de Tocqueville, except in the case of qualified press or public officials who are willing to make symmetrical disclosures." (communication with David Skoll of Roaring Penguin Software)

Ken Brown summarized the Institution's funding policy: "We don't talk about money with anybody ... but we'll accept money from anybody." ("LinuxInsider", 19 May 2004)

Brown later denied influence from the Institution's backers: "I publish what I think and that's it. I don't work for anybody's PR machine." (ZDNet, 20 May 2004)

As reported by MediaTransparency, the AdTI's backers from 1988 to 2002 include:

* Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation
* John M. Olin Foundation
* Philip M. McKenna Foundation, Inc.
* Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation
* The Carthage Foundation

Projects funded include:
*numerous grants from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation "to support education-reform research and activities";
*a number of grants to support the Teacher Choice Project;
*$50,000 in 2000 to "support research on teacher unions and education reform" from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation;
*in 1998, $168,750 from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation and the John M. Olin Foundation "to support research and writing on new tactics of U.S. progressive movement in the Post-Cold War era";
*A total of $30,000 in 1995 and 1996 from the John M. Olin Foundation for "the Action Plan for Defense Privatization, conducted by the Committee for the Common Defense";
*In 1998 $5,000 from the John M. Olin Foundation to "support promotion for "The Democratic Century", a book by Gregory Fossedal."

The Capital Research Center reports funding by the Fannie Mae Foundation, the AT&T Foundation, and the Amoco Foundation.


Microsoft and Linux

The AdTI rose to notoriety with a controversial book that claimed that Linus Torvalds, creator of Linux, had plagiarized Linux source code from Professor Andrew Tanenbaum (creator of the MINIX operating system). Both Tanenbaum and independent source code analysis have refuted the claim. Tanenbaum, an operating systems theorist, produced an account of how the institution wrote a book about the history of Unix. []

It has also published reports attacking Linux and open source software.Fact|date=September 2007

Microsoft has been one of the Institution's backers for five years, although a Microsoft spokesman said they had not funded any specific research. [] Microsoft funds several think tanks, including the American Enterprise Institute, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute. [] []

Open source and Linux

The AdTI is known for publishing a series of studies beginning in 2002 on the theme of intellectual property in the software industry. The Institution's reputation among free software advocates suffered when it emerged that it had obtained funding from Microsoft concurrent with authoring "Opening the Open Source Debate" (June 2002), a report critical of Microsoft's open-source rivals. This report claimed that open source software was inherently less secure than proprietary software and hence a particular target for terrorists.

These studies culminated in "" (prereleased May 2004, but unreleased as of March 2008), questioning the generally accepted provenance of Linux and other open source projects, and recommending that government-funded programming should never be licensed under the GNU General Public License but under the BSD license or similar simple permissive licenses.

The book claims that Linus Torvalds used source code taken from Minix, a small Unix-like operating system used in teaching computer science, to create Linux 0.01, on the theory that no mere student could write an entire Unix-like kernel single-handedly — although writing a kernel of similar size and capabilities is a standard part of many computer science degrees. These claims have been seriously questioned, including by many of those quoted in support, such as Andrew S. Tanenbaum, author of Minix; Dennis Ritchie, one of the creators of Unix; and Richard Stallman, leader of the GNU project. Others have said that quotes attributed as being from an "interview with AdTI" were in fact from prerelease papers (Ilkka Tuomi) or from message board posts (Charles Mills, Henry Jones). Alexey Toptygin said he had been commissioned by Brown to find similarities between Minix and Linux 0.01 source code, and found no support for the theory that Minix source code had been used to create Linux; this study is not mentioned in the book.

After the technical press gave the book a month of almost universal derision, Microsoft also repudiated it in mid-June, a spokesman calling it "an unhelpful distraction from what matters most—providing the best technology for our customers." ("WSJ", 14 June 2004)

Unfazed by the response to "Samizdat", the AdTI was preparing a new study in November 2004, tentatively titled "Intellectual Property Left", to argue that "the IT industry sector's reluctance to pursue rampant IP infringement against public domain software developers and users is going to precipitate billions of dollars in balance sheet downgrades by Wall Street." []

The later papers stand in contrast to the Institution's 2000 paper, "The Market Place Should Rule on Technology", which discusses Linux as a direct competitor to Microsoft Windows.

Tobacco industry work

As part of the 1998 Tobacco Settlement Agreement, the Philip Morris corporation released millions of pages of documents concerning their operations. These detail how, after the Environmental Protection Agency moved in 1993 to have second-hand tobacco smoke declared a carcinogen, Philip Morris hired the AdTI to campaign against the move. This resulted in the 1994 paper "Science, Economics, and Environmental Policy: A Critical Examination".

In 1994, part of the Clinton administration's health plan proposed an increase in cigarette sales tax from 24¢ a packet to 99¢ a packet. Merrick Carey, then president of the AdTI, put a plan to Philip Morris whereby, for $30,000 a month, the Institution would conduct a campaign for them. The AdTI presented itself as a "bipartisan" economic think tank presenting an analysis of the Clinton plan, nowhere mentioning they were directly hired by Philip Morris to oppose the tax increase. [] contains a number of searchable documents produced as court discovery linking AdTI to Lorillard and Phillip Morris corporations. AdTI is linked to Dr. Fred Singer in the tobacco documents [] , the Cooler Heads Coalition [] , Consumer Alert [] , Heartland Institute [] [] and the Competitive Enterprise Institute [,02832.cfm] [,02833.cfm] [,02821.cfm] .


The AdTI has produced a considerable number of papers on education policy. It runs a program called the Teacher Choice Project, advocating vouchers for education and marking unions as bad for teachers. Most of these were produced during 2000 and 2001.


When the B-2 bomber program was threatened in 1995, the AdTI organised a letter to President Bill Clinton signed by seven former Pentagon chiefs: Dick Cheney, Caspar Weinberger, Frank Carlucci, Harold Brown, James Schlesinger, Donald Rumsfeld and Melvin Laird [] .


The AdTI published Newt Gingrich's 2003 book, "Saving Lives & Saving Money: Transforming Health and Healthcare".

Global warming

AdTI is a member organization of the Cooler Heads Coalition which asserts that the theory of global warming is a myth.

Notable members

*Kenneth Brown, former AdTI president and Linux critic
*Mike Gravel, former Senator and presidential candidate


External links

* [ Official home page] (not in DNS at 2008-08-27, though the domain name is still owned by AdTI)
* [ Alexis de Tocqueville Institution] (Disinfopedia, Center for Media & Democracy)
* [ Grant data matrix: Alexis de Tocqueville Institution, 1988-2002] (MediaTransparency)
* [ "Science, Economics, and Environmental Policy: A Critical Examination"] (11 August 1994)
** [ Criticism of "Science, Economics, and Environmental Policy"] ("American Journal of Public Health", Vol. 91 No. 11, November 2001)

Media coverage

* [,1411,52973,00.html Did MS Pay for Open-Source Scare?] (Wired News, 5 June 2002)
* [ Accusatory Study: Many Open-Sourcers Steal Code] (LinuxInsider, 19 May 2004)
* [ Is Torvalds really the father of Linux?] (ZDnet, 19 May 2004)

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