The billionaire Koch brothers, David and Charles, have hired super lawyer Daniel Crabtree to sue the widow of William Niskanen, Kathyrn Washburn. Niskanen, who passed away in October 2011, was chairman emeritus at the Cato Institute. Between 1985 and 2008, Niskanen was the chairman of the Cato Institute.
The lawyer the Koch Brothers have hired to sue Washburn is a member of the law firm, Stinson Morrison Hecker LLP. The firm is based in Kansas City, home of Koch brothers operations.
Crabtree has been selected to:
Missouri & Kansas Super Lawyers 2011
Missouri & Kansas Super Lawyers 2010
Missouri & Kansas Super Lawyers 2009
Missouri & Kansas Super Lawyers 2008
Missouri & Kansas Super Lawyers 2007
Missouri & Kansas Super Lawyers 2006
Missouri & Kansas Super Lawyers 2005
Apparently, Washburn has not returned to the Cato institute the 16 shares that Niskanen held.
According to the Koch brothers in the suit, she is required to return the shares.
The Koch brothers are also suing the current Cato president, Ed Crane.
According to the suit, Cato was divided before Niskanen's death between four shareholders: the two Koch brothers, Cato president Crane, and Niskanen.
The Koch brothers believe that they have the option to buy Niskanen’s shares, while Cato officials (i.e.Crane) believe that the shares belong to Niskanen’s widow, Kathryn Washburn.
Ed Crane has issued the following statement:
Charles G. Koch has filed a lawsuit as part of an effort to gain control of the Cato Institute, which he co-founded with me in 1977. While Mr. Koch and entities controlled by him have supported the Cato Institute financially since that time, Mr. Koch and his affiliates have exercised no significant influence over the direction or management of the Cato Institute, or the work done here.
Mr. Koch’s actions in Kansas court yesterday represent an effort by him to transform Cato from an independent, nonpartisan research organization into a political entity that might better support his partisan agenda. We view Mr. Koch’s actions as an attempt at a hostile takeover, and intend to fight it vehemently in order to continue as an independent research organization, advocating for Individual liberty, limited government, free markets and peace.It's a bit hard to swallow that the Koch brothers had little significant influence over Cato. It is not so hard to swallow that they want to maintain that control and Crane is attempting to fight off the Koch brothers in a joint effort with the widow of Niskanen.
An additional note, and it is not clear how big a point this is going to be, but it is very interesting. Court documents show that an original shareholder Cato Institute agreement was signed in 1977 by Charles Koch, George Pearson, Roger L MacBride, Murray N. Rothbard and Edward H. Crane III
Note well the name, Murray N. Rothbard. He had a falling out with the Charles Koch and Ed Crane and it does not appear that Rothbard ever signed away his rights as a shareholder. That this document surfaces in this lawsuit, thus may be very interesting.
Here's David Gordon explaining the period:
Koch and Crane had no adequate answer to Rothbard’s devastating indictment. They responded instead by attempting to remove him from the Cato Institute Board of Directors. The Board was completely under Charles Koch’s sway; if it did not do his bidding, he could call a stockholders’ meeting and replace the Board. Naturally, this state of affairs was not publicized. Koch and Crane demanded that Rothbard surrender his own shares of stock in Cato; when he refused, they illegally took them from him.
As Rothbard recounted the story in the January-April 1981 issue, Crane informed him by letter that his personal antagonism toward Crane required him to leave the Cato Board. "Crane concluded that, because of the alleged antagonism, ‘we believe it would be difficult, if not impossible, for you to objectively evaluate ongoing and future Cato projects as a Board member.’ In other words, disagreement with Crane robs one of ‘objectivity’; unfailing agreement and lickspittle fawning upon Crane is the only way to make sure that you are superbly and consistently ‘objective’." Not only was Rothbard a founding member of the Cato Board and an original stockholder: he had suggested the name "Cato" for the Institute. But none of this mattered to Crane and Koch.
Rothbard nevertheless appeared at the Cato Board meeting held on "Black Friday," March 27, 1981, in San Francisco. He argued that his disputes with Crane over LP policy should not affect his standing on the Board. "So since the Cato Institute, as a tax-exempt institution…is not supposed to have anything to do with partisan politics, how dare Crane make my stand within the LP a criterion for my continued shareholder or board membership at Cato?"With this backstory, it is mighty odd that a second Cato Institute shareholder agreement appears in the court documents without any explanation as to what happened to the original shareholders Rothbard and MacBride. Will this require investigation?
Koch and Crane, of course, rejected Rothbard’s claim. "Crane, aided and abetted by Koch, ordered me [Rothbard] to leave Cato’s regular quarterly board meeting…. The Crane/Koch action was not only iniquitous and high-handed, but also illegal, as my attorneys informed them before and during the meeting. They didn’t care. What’s more..., in order to accomplish this foul deed to their own satisfaction, Crane/Koch literally appropriated and confiscated the shares which I had naively left in Koch's Wichita office for ‘safekeeping,’ an act clearly in violation of our agreement as well as contrary to every tenet of libertarian principle."
In any case, Rothbard would have no idea that the original document signed by him and held from him by Charles Koch would appear in a court document as supporting evidence between the two combatants who originally illegally threw Rothbard out of the Cato Institute.
As one follower of this latest Koch soap opera says:
I can hear Murray's delightful laugh!