Summary: The Caesar Rodney Institute is a far-right, free-market advocacy group based in Delaware that receives considerable funding from dark money sources and the Koch-controlled State Policy Network. Throughout 2020, when it wasn’t denying the basic science of the Covid-19 pandemic, Caesar Rodney Institute was spreading misinformation about TCI and attacking clean transportation policy.
The Caesar Rodney Institute is a far-right, anti-government group that endorses corporate welfare, polluter protections,, and de-regulation. Throughout 2020, the Institute spread dangerous disinformation about the coronavirus pandemic — that masks do not protect against the virus, that children are unaffected, and that the death rate is miniscule — while attacking the government’s role in public health interventions.
Over the last few years, The Caesar Rodney Institute put the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) in its crosshairs, devoting the majority of its energy in 2020 to fighting against Delaware’s involvement in the program.
The institute is a member of and funded by the State Policy Network, a network of right-wing organizations that the Koch network funds to promote junk science, climate denial, and corporate welfare.
It is also funded by dark money foundations including Donors Capital Fund and DonorsTrust, two pass-through funds that have been called the “dark-money ATM of the conservative movement,” that mask donations from foundations controlled by Charles Koch.
The group’s finances and structure are otherwise hazy. It claims no employees on tax records, but its website lists at least six employees, including David Stevenson who leads Caesar Rodney’s anti-TCI efforts. Stevenson is an outspoken denier of established climate science and served in President Trump’s U.S. Environmental Protection Agency transition team.
The Caesar Rodney Institute’s attacks on TCI follow a formula that it developed to fight against the state’s involvement in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), and using relationships that it has built to fight against other clean transportation policies. For nearly a decade, the Institute has fought RGGI, falsely arguing that it doesn’t reduce pollution.
More recently, Stevenson and CRI orchestrated a letter to the U.S. Senate Finance and U.S. House Ways and Means Committees to attack and oppose the electric vehicle tax credit, and signed onto other letters coordinated by the Koch-affiliated American Energy Alliance and Institute for Energy Research (IER) to oppose federal clean car standards. In February 2020, Stevenson appeared on an IER podcast to spread false information about TCI’s impacts on Delaware drivers. In short, they seek out opportunities to ensure that consumers are stuck suffering the health and financial consequences of pollution by opposing incentives that could shift the market for both drivers and power producers.
Stevenson exports his critical views on clean energy solutions and climate science and policy across the region. He has testified to the Pennsylvania legislature on RGGI and appeared on a Maine radio program to allege a “failure” of the state’s climate policies.
Despite its relatively small budget, the Caesar Rodney Institute has emerged as a cog in the State Policy Network’s coordinated attacks on clean transportation policy, even if they represent no one in the state but themselves.