The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Alexis de Tocqueville Institution

The Alexis de Tocqueville Institution (AdTI) (not "Institute") is a Washington, DC-based freelance astroturfing company, named after the French historian Alexis de Tocqueville. It was founded in 1988. Its president is Ken Brown and its chairman is Gregory Fossedal. It has 14 staff researchers.

Its mission statement states that "we follow the principles of Tocqueville himself ... among these liberal ideas are civil liberty, political equality, and economic freedom and opportunity."

The AdTI is most famous for its reports questioning Linux and open source software (which its detractors hold were written at the behest of Microsoft) and for its public relations work for the tobacco industry. Many opponents of the AdTI regard it as a mere public relations front for its backers. While the Institution's reports have been strongly criticised in technical circles, its intended audience is legislators, newspaper editors and talk show hosts.


Funding sources

The AdTI maintains a strong policy never to reveal its backers beyond legal requirements. 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:

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 has been one of the Institution's backers for five years, although a Microsoft spokesman said they had not funded any specific research [1]. Microsoft funds several think tanks, including the American Enterprise Institute, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute. [2] [3]

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 [4], the Cooler Heads Coalition [5], Consumer Alert [6], Heartland Institute [7] [8] and the Competitive Enterprise Institute [9] [10] [11].


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 [12].

Open source and Linux

The AdTI is best known as the source of a series of studies beginning in 2002 on the theme of intellectual property in the software industry. The Institution's reputation 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 Samizdat: And Other Issues Regarding the 'Source' of Open Source Code (prereleased May 2004, but unreleased as of November 2004), 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 messageboard 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 a month of almost universal derision towards the book from the technical press, 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." [13]

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.

Staff (2004)

  • Ken Brown, President
  • Mike Gravel, Chairman
  • Gregory Fossedal, Chairman
  • Christopher Cox, Co-Chairman, AdTI Board of Advisors
  • John Norquist, Co-Chairman, AdTI Board of Advisors
  • Gordon Macklin, Co-Chairman, Market History Research Program
  • Robert Toricelli , Co-Chairman, IMF Assessment Project
  • Donald Payne, Co-Chairman, Opportunity Africa
  • Alveda King, Senior Fellow, Education Policy and Civil Rights
  • Becky Norton Dunlop , Director, Democracy and the Environment Research Program
  • David Kirkpatrick , Fellow, Education Policy
  • Dan Evans, Teacher Choice Fellow
  • Don Koniezco , Teacher Choice Fellow
  • Marilyn Ketter Rittmeyer , Teacher Choice Fellow
  • Sahir Zuberi , Webmaster
  • Dan Buck Board member
  • Sita Mazumder , Director
  • Philip Peters
  • Merrick Carey Alexis de Tocqueville Institution former president
  • Cesar Conda executive director of AdTI, currently on Board of Empower America.
  • Jack Kemp Co-Chairman, Alexis de Tocqueville Institution and Co-Director, Empower America

Addresses: 1611 N. Kent Street room 901, Arlington, AV 22209 (almost the same as the Emerging Markets Group)

External links

AdTI writings



Technology, open source and intellectual property



Science, Politics and Environmental Policy: A Critical Examination (1994)

Opening the Open Source Debate (2002)

Samizdat: And Other Issues Regarding the 'Source' of Open Source Code (2004)

See Samizdat (book).

AdTI notes recent attacks on web site (2004)

Samizdat's critics ... Brown replies (2004)

News coverage

Last updated: 05-07-2005 11:17:35
Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04