Tuesday, July 7, 2015

CAP Helps EPA Influence the Media on Climate Debate

This article from Fox News shows how think tanks try (and are often successful) in influencing the public policy debate in the United States:
A prominent left-wing group helped formulate Environmental Protection Agency talking points designed to sell a controversial regulatory scheme to skeptical journalists, internal emails show. 
The emails show Joseph Goffman, the senior counsel of EPA's Office of Air and Radiation, circulating talking points from Center for American Progress climate strategy director Daniel Weiss among EPA colleagues attempting to sell the agency's controversial power plant regulations to a New York Times reporter. 
Weiss emailed Goffman in September 2013 with a series of suggestions for convincing the Times' Matt Wald of the commercial viability of carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology, a vital component of the agency's stringent power plant emissions regulations. 
Five minutes later, Goffman sent an email to five colleagues in his office and the agency's public affairs division. Unredacted language in the email is identical to language in Weiss' list of talking points. 
The Environment & Energy (E&E) Legal Institute obtained the emails through a Freedom of Information Act request. Chris Horner, a senior legal fellow at E&E, said they show extensive behind-the-scenes collaboration between EPA and third-party groups that support the regulations.

The Center for American Progress (CAP) has extremely strong relations with the EPA, and former EPA Administrator Carol Browner is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the think tank.

Current EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy has given speeches at CAP, including this one in 2014, and this one in 2013.

Think Tank Watch should point out that it is not uncommon for think tank scholars to have close relationships with the White House, federal agencies, and the US Congress.  And since CAP has extremely close relations with the Obama Administration, it is no surprise that CAP helped craft EPA talking points.

And if Hillary Clinton becomes president, she will likely utilize CAP's ideas and talent.

In related think tank/climate change news, a new study shows that even with the numerous climate change-denialist think tanks, the US may not have the most climate change skeptics per capita.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

USG Paying Attention as Think Tanker Warns of WWIII with China

A 40-year-old Senior Fellow at the think tank New America Foundation (NAF) is causing a stir in the Defense Department and intelligence agencies with his predictions about World War III.  Here is more from The Wall Street Journal:
Peter Singer, one of Washington’s pre-eminent futurists, is walking the Pentagon halls with an ominous warning for America’s military leaders: World War III with China is coming.
In meeting after meeting with anyone who will listen, this modern-day soothsayer wearing a skinny tie says America’s most advanced fighter jets might be blown from the sky by their Chinese-made microchips and Chinese hackers easily could worm their way into the military’s secretive intelligence service, and the Chinese Army may one day occupy Hawaii.
The ideas might seem outlandish, but Pentagon officials are listening to the 40-year-old senior fellow at the New America Foundation, a nonpartisan think tank.
In hours of briefings, Mr. Singer has outlined his grim vision for intelligence officials, Air Force officers and Navy commanders. What makes his scenarios more remarkable is that they are based on a work of fiction: Mr. Singer’s soon-to-be-released, 400-page techno thriller, “Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War.”
Pentagon officials typically don’t listen to the doom-and-gloom predictions of fiction writers. But Mr. Singer comes to the table with an unusual track record. He has written authoritative books on America’s reliance on private military contractors, cybersecurity and the Defense Department’s growing dependence on robots, drones and technology.
The Army, Navy and Air Force already have included two of his books on their official reading lists. And he often briefs military leaders on his research.

Here is a bio of Mr. Singer, who was the founding director of the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence at the Brookings Institution (which Think Tank Watch calls a "Mini-CIA").  He was the youngest person named senior fellow in that think tanks 100 year history.

A copy of the book Ghost Fleet, co-written by August Cole, can be found here.  Mr. Cole is a Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council.

Here is a Popular Science Q&A about Singer's new book and a possible future war with China.  Here is what Brookings scholar Michael O'Hanlon, a friend and former colleague of Singer, says about the new book.

In related think tank/war news, Michele Flournoy and Richard Fontaine of the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) recently wrote a piece for the Washington Post entiteld "Go Big to Destroy the Islamic State."

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Think Tank Quickies (#183)

  • Atlantic Council pens new donor disclosure policy: $250 is the key number.
  • How the world is changing think tanks, by Brad Lips.
  • Think tanks move to fore on energy.
  • CNAS is the only national security think tank to be co-led by a Democrat and a Republican.
  • Even a junior analyst at a think tank can meet virtually anyone.
  • Ben Wattenberg, AEI scholar and host of PBS series "Think Tank With Ben Wattenberg," dies.
  • Think tanks are "overcrowded by people more concerned with official designations rather than serious policy research..."
  • Heritage Foundation honors John Von Kannon with its highest honor: the Luce Award.
  • Wang Chaoyong, founding Chairman and CEO of ChinaEquity Group, joins CEIP's Board of Trustees.
  • Todd Harrison, formerly with CSBA, joins CSIS as Director of Defense Budget Analysis and Senior Fellow in the International Security Program.
  • Robit Chopra, formerly with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, joins CAP as Senior Fellow.
  • Nora Bensahel and David Barno named as Nonresident Senior Fellows at Atlantic Council.
  • NAF scholars at NATO's CyCon conference; NAF cybersecurity fellows announced; NAF collaborates with community orgs to privacy and poverty in the US.
  • USIP's newly-created PeaceTech Lab announces board of directors.
  • RAND Corp. announces new Center of Excellence on Health System Performance.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Prospect Mag's 2015 Think Tank Awards Issued

The United Kingdom's Prospect Magazine has just announced the 2015 winners of its annual think tank awards.

Here is who won for the US side:

*Best economic/financial think tank: Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC)
(Reason and Peterson Institute for International Economics were on the shortlist)

*Best social policy think tank: New America Foundation (NAF)
(RAND Corp. and Brookings were on the shortlist)

*Best energy/environment think tank: RAND Corp.
(Brookings and World Resources Institute were on the shortlist)

*Best international affairs think tank: Brookings Institution
(Migration Policy Institute and Carnegie Endowment for International Peace were on the shortlist)

For the UK, the "think tank of the year" award went to the Institute for Fiscal Studies. 

There have been various questions about how the awards, which are underwritten by oil giant Shell, are actually chosen, including some speculation that they may be rigged.

We should also mention that a think tank has to actually enter to win.  Think Tank Watch conclusion: lame.

Pro-Kremlin "Think Tank" in New York Shuts Down


From Rosie Gray at Buzzfeed:
A pro-Kremlin think tank based in New York City is shutting down, an official with the group told BuzzFeed News on Tuesday.
“I can confirm that the Institute is closing its operations,” Nikolay Pakhomov, an associate at the Institute for Democracy and Cooperation, said.
Russian news site Gazeta.ru reported on Sunday that the organization is shutting down and that its director, Andranik Migranyan, is returning to Russia. Migranyan told the site that the group is stopping its work because its mission of monitoring human rights in the U.S. has been “accomplished,” because “The human rights situation has improved in the United States.” The institute would publish reports detailing human rights issues in the U.S. Sources told Gazeta that the institute was in fact closing its doors due to a lack of financing.
Migranyan used the institute to function as a kind of unofficial spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government. Migranyan told the Associated Press in 2008 that the creation of the institute had been approved by the Kremlin, but that it was funded privately through business donations.

The Institute for Democracy and Cooperation in New York is not to be confused with a different think tank in Paris with the same name.  Both were funded by the same Russian lawyer and a group of NGOs but have since gone their separate ways.

Former CIA Officer and Convicted Felon Joins Think Tank IPS

Think Tank Watch has learned that former CIA officer turned whistleblower John Kiriakou has been hired by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), a liberal/progressive think tank, to work on penal-system issues.  He apparently got the job after posting on Facebook that he needed employment.

Kiriakou served 23 months in prison for confirming the name of a CIA operative to a reporter.  He apparently got the job while still incarcerated, and since the Bureau of Prisons said it was inappropriate to talk about prison reform while he was still officially incarcerated, his start date for the job was delayed until May, when his sentence ended.

Kiriakou is now officially an Associate Fellow at the think tank, and his writings can be found here.

Last year, Think Tank Watch wrote about an IPS scholar who was fired from his position due to his stance on climate change.

Here is a Think Tank Watch list of former spies and intelligence officers who now work at think tanks.

Monday, June 29, 2015

AEI Trying to Shape 2016 Presidential Elections

From the Washington Post's PowerPost:
Best known for housing foreign-policy hawks and the high priests of supply-side economics, the American Enterprise Institute has long been a regular, if low-key stop for Republican presidential candidates, be it for a hand with their white papers or huddles with resident scholars like John Bolton.
But for 2016, Arthur C. Brooks — AEI’s 51-year-old, French horn-playing president — is positioning the think tank on 17th Street to be a bigger player in the presidential campaign by putting itself in the middle of its biggest debates.
Instead of hosting scattered briefings on Iraq or tax policy — and leaving it at that — Brooks envisions AEI as an engine for refashioning conservatism for a weary electorate.
Nowhere is Brooks’s approach more evident than on addressing the rising gap between the rich and the poor — and the failure of many Republicans to speak cogently about income inequality and the stagnation of the middle class.
If Brooks and AEI can help give Republicans a persuasive argument, then they might be able to take their case to Democrats and independent voters disenchanted with Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The article goes on to note that a variety of former AEI scholars have started working with 2016 presidential candidate, including Abby McCloskey, who recently left the think tank to join former Texas Gov. Rick Perry's policy shop.

Interestingly, the article says that when presidential candidates show up at AEI, they are often steered toward a meeting with Robert Doar, an AEI fellow in poverty studies.

Arthur Brooks said that the most called-upon AEI experts on poverty also include tax economist Kevin Hassett, and labor scholars Andrew Biggs and Michael Strain.  The article notes that James Pethokoukis is "plugged in" with GOP strategists.

The article also notes that AEI will co-host a Republican presidential debate, and Arthur Brooks and Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Reince Preiebus are currently working on the details of that.

Earlier this year, AEI was ranked as the world's 24th best think tank by the University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings.  It was ranked as the 12th best think tank in the United States.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Think Tank Quickies (#182)

  • Conservative think tanks are dead.
  • Urban Institute report projects home ownership rate in US to fall until 2030.
  • Are French better thinkers and think tankers than Americans?
  • Should think tanks have tenure?
  • Think tanks scramble to address possible loss of Obamacare subsidies.
  • A century of international affairs think tanks in historical perspective.
  • Will leaked Saudi documents show extent of Saudi government funding of US think tanks?
  • League table of UK think tanks on Twitter, via Jimmy Tidey.
  • AEI attacks Heritage Foundation on free trade.
  • New directory of think tanks in Pakistan.
  • Analysts from four major think tanks met in Indonesia to discuss security issues.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

European Officials Prefer Lobbyists Over Think Tanks


A new analysis released today by Transparency International shows that European officials hold many more "lobbying" meetings with corporate interests than think tanks.
Analysis of the 4,318 lobby meetings declared by the top tier of European Commission officials between December 2014 and June 2015 shows that more than 75% were with corporate lobbyists. This compares to 18% with NGOs, 4% with think tanks and 2% with local authorities.

Think Tank Watch analysis: no surprises here.  So without further ado, here are the top European think tanks that held lobbying meetings with European Commission officials during the past six months:
  1. Centre for European Policy Studies
  2. Bertelsmann Stiftung
  3. Bruegel
  4. European Policy Centre
  5. Policy Network and Communications Ltd.
  6. ETP ZEP
  7. Centre for European Reform
  8. Open Europe

The full report can be read here.  And Transparency International's new interactive lobbying tool, called EU Integrity Watch, can be found here.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Bernanke Slams Hamilton Demotion on $10 Bill in Brookings Post

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, a Distinguished Fellow in Residence at the Brookings Institution, slammed Treasury Secretary Jack Lew's decision to remove Alexander Hamilton from the ten dollar bill.

We at Think Tank Watch wonder if Bernanke's love of Hamilton has anything to do with the fact that his think tank houses The Hamilton Project, an economic policy initiative launched in 2006 that produces policy proposals on how to create a growing economy that benefits more Americans.

The Project is indeed named after Alexander Hamilton, who the think tank says "laid the foundation for the modern American economy."

The Hamilton Project is full of big-name economists, although Bernanke is not directly affiliated with it.

In related Hamilton Project news, Jane Dokko, who recently became Policy Director at Hamilton Project after a stint at the Council on Economic Advisers, just got married to Jonathan Rose, a senior economist at the Federal Reserve Board of Governors.

Think Tank Quickies (#181)

  • How Jeb Bush started his think tank: Foundation for Florida's Future.
  • AEI weighs in on NFL, finding Wells Report deeply flawed.
  • In the Loop on Sen. Cotton's invite to CNAS.
  • Think tanker Robbie Gramer asks the hard-hitting questions.
  • Democratic senators use conservative think tank (AEI) to promote a carbon tax.
  • Online conference on insights into think tanks, via On Think Tanks.
  • CNAS currently on a hiring spree.
  • PS21 announces governing board.
  • Think tanks need to reevaluate their publishing strategy, via Mike Connery.
  • "How Government Think Tanks Enslave America," via Infowars.com.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Think Tank Sought to Block Pope's Climate Encyclical


Last week Pope Francis released a much-anticipated statement about climate change, but not before at least one think tank attempted to prevent the statement from ever entering the public realm.

Here is more from The Washington Post:
In late April, the Chicago-based Heartland Institute, a free-market group that serves as a hub of skepticism regarding the science of human-caused global warming, sent a delegation to the Vatican. As a Heartland news release put it, they hoped “to inform Pope Francis of the truth about climate science: There is no global warming crisis!”
Heartland’s activists were not part of the invited contingent, either, Heartland communications director Jim Lakely said.
“It was a side event,” he said. “We were outside the walls of the Vatican. We were at a hotel — literally, I could throw a football into St. Peter’s Square.”
Seven scientists and other experts gave speeches at the Heartland event, raising doubts about various aspects of the scientific consensus on climate change, even as several also urged the pope not to take sides in the debate. It’s impossible to know how that influenced those in the Vatican working on the pope’s document — which one Vatican official said was at “an advanced stage.” But Lakely said his group did not see much of its argument reflected in the final document.
One member of the Heartland delegation was E. Calvin Beisner, a theologian and founder of an evangelical group called the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation. In April, the group launched an “open letter” to the pope, signed by more than 100 scholars and theologians, arguing that climate-change models “provide no rational basis to forecast dangerous human-induced global warming, and therefore no rational basis for efforts to reduce warming by restricting the use of fossil fuels or any other means.”
Beisner said he thinks that “between a quarter and a third” of the signers were Catholic. He said he is not totally unhappy with the pope’s encyclical — he appreciates the sections on the need to help the poor and “the sanctity of human life.” But as for the climate section, he said, Francis is “writing in an area that is not his own background, and it looks to me as if he was poorly served by his adviser.”

Other think tankers were not happy about the Pope's climate statement, including Paul Knappenberger, a climate scientist at the libertarian Cato Institute.  He said that the Pope "goes too far in the perception that the changing of the climate leads to bad outcomes and necessarily needs some sort of immediate reaction."

But a variety of think tanks did offer praise for the Pope's climate statements.  Neera Tanden, head of the liberal Center for American Progress, issued a statement in support of the encyclical.

Timmons Roberts, a Nonresident Senior Fellow at the liberal-leaning Brookings Institution, also praised the Pope's encylcial.

Here is what Jeffrey Mazo of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) had to say about the encyclical.

Robert McMahon, Editor of CFR.org, conducted an interview entitled "How to Read Pope Francis on the Environment."

Friday, June 19, 2015

State Dept. to Blame for Lack of Russia Specialists at Think Tanks?

A new Foreign Affairs article titled "The Decline of International Studies" suggests that the US State Department's elimination of funding for advanced language and cultural training on Russia, which supported a variety of think tankers, is one of the contributing factors to the problems we currently have with Russia.  Here is an excerpt:
In October 2013, the U.S. Department of State eliminated its funding program for advanced language and cultural training on Russia and the former Soviet Union. Created in 1983 as a special appropriation by Congress, the so-called Title VIII Program had supported generations of specialists working in academia, think tanks, and the U.S. government itself. But as a State Department official told the Russian news service RIA Novosti at the time, “In this fiscal climate, it just didn’t make it.” The program’s shuttering came just a month before the start of a now well-known chain of events: Ukraine’s Euromaidan revolution, Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and the descent of U.S.-Russian relations to their lowest level since the Cold War. The timing was, to say the least, unfortunate.
The end of the United States’ premier federal program for Russian studies saved taxpayers only $3.3 million—the cost of two Tomahawk cruise missiles or about half a day’s sea time for an aircraft carrier strike group. The development was part of a broader trend: the scaling back of a long-term national commitment to education and research focused on international affairs.

The article, written by Charles King, a professor at Georgetown University, goes on to note that democratic societies depend on having a "cadre of informed professionals" outside government - people in universities, think tanks, museums, and research institutions "who cultivate expertise protected from the pressures of the state."  In explaining the importance of think tanks, the article says: "Many countries can field missile launchers and float destroyers; only a few have built a Brookings Institution or a Chatham House."

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

French Ambassador Angers US With Atlantic Council Speech


French Ambassador to the United States Gerard Araud is not shy, and has less of a filter than many other diplomats.

The latest example can be found in a recent visit to the Atlantic Council, where he created some waves and angered some pretty powerful people with him frank comments about the Iran nuclear negotiations.  Here is more from The New York Times:

...John Kerry was angry at Araud’s bluntness. Still, the ambassador doubled down at a recent panel at the Atlantic Council think tank, asserting that there had been too much focus on Iran’s “chest-banging” and demands at the start of the negotations, and predicting: “It’s very likely that we don’t have an agreement before the end of June, or even after June.” That made news and drew a rebuke from the State Department’s lead negotiator.

“Wendy Sherman called me, and she was livid. ‘GĂ©rard, what do you say?’ ” Araud told me, with a charming smirk. He sent out a dutiful tweet, clarifying that he simply meant that the Iranians would wait until the last minute, as they have done before.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch piece on how Amb. Araud loves partying with think tankers.  Perhaps he is looking for a post-diplomatic career at a Washington, DC think tank?

Monday, June 15, 2015

Think Tank Quickies (#180)

  • Are lobbying shops competitors to think tanks?  (via Douglas Ollivant)
  • Think tankers going to annual Bilderberg meeting.
  • Cato's Gene Healy on think tanks and the Iraq War.
  • Think tank softball league up and running again for another season.
  • Glenn Greenwald: "Many of the worst people on the planet are found in DC think tanks."  Ouch.
  • The Cato Institute and the libertarian movement.
  • Wilson Center EVP (and think tank expert) Andrew Selee discusses 2015 Think Tank Summit.
  • New piece on think tank management by Raymond Struyk.
  • FP: Think tank pundits see threats around every corner.  Don't fall for it.
  • Foreign policy think tanks in China and Japan: Characteristics and current profile.
  • Who are the most influential EU think tanks on Twitter?

Friday, June 12, 2015

South Korea Deepens Its Think Tank Game


The Wilson Center has just announced the creation of the Hyundai Motor-Korea Foundation Center for Korean History and Public Policy, being support by Hyundai Motor Co. and the Korea Foundation.

Here is more:
The Korea Center will provide a coherent, long-term platform for improving historical understanding of Korea and frame the public policy debate on the Korean peninsula in the United States and beyond. The Hyundai Motor Company Center for Korean History and Public Policy is part of the History and Public Policy Program (HAPP) directed by Dr. Christian Ostermann.

Hyundai reportedly donated $2 million for the new center and the Korea Foundation donated $1 million.

Pictures of the launch can be found here.

Other US think tanks have strong ties to the Koreans.  For example, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) has an International Affairs Fellowship in South Korea, and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) has a Korea Chair.

Here is an informal list of Korea-related think tanks.

Flashback: Remember when South Korean intelligence was reportedly giving the Heritage Foundations millions of dollars back in the 1980s?

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Think Tank Uses Public Intel to Show Russia's Activities in Ukraine


The Atlantic Council has recently released an investigative report revealing where and how Russians weapons are entering Ukraine.

The report, entitled "Hiding in Plain Sight: Putin's War in Ukraine," was the result of an Atlantic Council Working Group launched to examine direct Russian military involvement in Ukraine.

Here are the five key findings:

  1. Satellite images confirm the movement of Russian troops and camp buildups along the Ukrainian border.
  2. Russian training camps stationed along the Ukrainian border are the launching points of Russia's war in Ukraine. These camps are the staging ground for Russian military equipment transported into Ukraine, soon to join the separatist arsenal, and for Russian soldiers mobilized across Russia to cross into Ukraine.
  3. Commanders order Russian soldiers to conceal the identifying features of military vehicles, remove insignia from uniforms, and travel across the border to join separatist forces in eastern Ukraine.
  4. A variety of Russian manufactured arms and munitions—not used by the Ukrainian military—have appeared in the hands of separatists, including shoulder launched surface-to-air missiles (MANPADS), various types of rocket launchers, anti-tank guided missiles, landmines, and various small arms.
  5. During key offensives, Russian forces in Ukraine have received cover from Russian territory. A combination of satellite data, crater analysis, and open source materials confirms that many attacks originated in Russia.

Here is what Politico had so say about the report.  The New York Times called it an "unusual investigative report" since it used publicly available videos, smartphone photographs and satellite images to make its case.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Think Tank Quickies (#179)

  • RAND: Companies are making cybersecurity a greater priority, but hackers still winning.
  • Pozen Director's Chair established at Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center (TPC); Leonard Burman will be the new director.
  • Shivshankar Menon, former national security adviser to India's prime minister, named Distinguished Fellow in Foreign Policy at Brookings.
  • IMF's chief economist Olivier Blanchard appointed the first C. Fred Bergsten Senior Fellow at PIIE.
  • CSIS launches Missile Defense Project to be lead by Dr. Thomas Karako; establishes US-Philippines Strategic Initiative (USPSI).
  • Madeleine Albright and Stephen Hadley to lead Atlantic Council's new Middle East Strategy Task Force (MEST); joins US Water Partnership (USWP); has new Afghanistan initiative; former SecDef Chuck Hagel returns to Atlantic Council as Distinguished Statesman.
  • New America Foundation (NAF) launches new database of drone regulation and civil use of drones.
  • NAF's VP and OTI Director Alan Davidson joins Commerce Department.
  • USIP to hold biannual PeaceGame to focus on countering rise of global extremism.
  • New RAND Corp. board members: Malcolm Gladwell, Soledad O'Brien, Lionel Johnson, & Gerald Parsky; former SecDef Chuck Hagel elected to Board of Trustees.
  • Publish or perish: NBER and others look to make a splash.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Think Tank Quickies (#178)

  • New Hillary gear includes "think tank."
  • The role of think tanks in the US security policy environment.
  • Think tank expert Thomas Medvetz on Charles Murray and think tanks.
  • Win $100,000 for your think tank via Templeton Freedom Award.
  • New socialist power in Spain creates need for array of free-market think tanks?
  • Think tanks should spend less time thinking and more time twerking.
  • Cato describes itself in 3 words: "LIBERTARIAN (not conservative!) think tank."
  • Pic: Right-wing think tank in action, via Bruce Bartlett.
  • Asian Development Bank (ADB) holds gathering of think tanks during Knowledge Partnership Week.
  • Think tanks need to rethink accountability, via VOA.
  • Former members of Congress lobby current members of Congress via think tanks.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

JPMorgan Starts New Think Tank

JPMorgan Chase & Co. has just launched a new think tank called the JPMorgan Chase Institute, dedicated to delivering data-rich analysis and expert insights for the public good.  Here is more from their mission statement:
The mission of the JPMorgan Chase Institute is to help decision makers – policymakers, businesses, and nonprofit leaders – appreciate the scale, granularity, diversity, and interconnectedness of the global economic system and use better facts, real-time data and thoughtful analysis to make smarter decisions to advance global prosperity.

The President and CEO of the think tank is Diana Farrell, who was previously the Global Head of the McKinsey Center for Government.  She also served in the White House as Deputy Director of the National Economic Council (NEC) and Deputy Assistant to the President on Economic Policy from 2009-2011.  Prior to serving in the Obama Administration she was head of the McKinsey Global Institute.

Here is the think tank's inaugural report, entitled "Weathering Volatility: Big Data on the Financial Ups and Downs of U.S. Individuals."

Here is what the International Business Times says about the new think tank:
The institute isn't your typical corporate stab at social responsibility. It has access to a uniquely vast trove of customer data: Chase’s checking and savings accounts. Moored to the largest American bank by assets, the think tank says it can put "the broad spectrum of data within the firm to use for the public good.”
The institute's opening comes as major financial institutions try to burnish public reputations still damaged from the fallout of the financial crisis and subsequent scandals. Just a day before the JPMorgan Chase Institute announced itself to the world, the bank pleaded guilty, with several other firms, to criminal antitrust violations related to foreign exchange rigging.

Here is a press release on the new think tank.  Here is what Fortune has to say.

Corporate think tanks are quite popular in the US and several other countries these days.  A list of the best for-profit (corporate) think tanks can be found here.  Currently, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) is the top for-profit think tank, followed by McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), and Google Ideas.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Osama Bin Laden Loved US Think Tanks

This week the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) released a tranche of documents recovered during the raid of Osama bin Laden's compound.  Among the documents released were 40 think tank and "other studies."

Following is the list of think tank papers that Bin Laden apparently had in his possession:

  • Canadian Institute of Strategic Studies, “African Jihad: Al-Qaeda in Darfur”
  • Carnegie Papers, “Pakistan: The Myth of an Islamist Peril” by Frederic Grare (2006)
  • Carnegie Papers, “Islam, Militarism, and the 2007-2008 Elections in Pakistan” by Frederic Grare (2006)
  • Carnegie Papers, “Pakistan-Afghanistan Relations in the Post-9/11 Era” by Frederic Grare (2006)
  • Chatham House, “Al-Qaeda Five Years On” by Maha Azzam (Sept 2006)
  • Chatham House, “Security, Terrorism and the UK” (July 2005)
  • Heritage Foundation, “The Evolving Al-Qaeda Threat” by James Phillips (17 March 2006)
  • Hudson Institute, “Jihad Ideology in Light of Contemporary Fatwas” by Shmuel Bar (August 2006)
  • Jamestown Foundation, Report on Turkish Arms Industry (June 2008)
  • Jamestown Foundation, Terrorism Focus (issues from 8 Jan 2008, 1 July 2008, 16 July 2008, 23 July 2008, 5 Aug 2008, 2 Sept 2008, 10 Sept 2008, 18 Sept 2008, 24 Sept 2008, 1 Oct 2008, 22 Oct 2008, 30 Oct 2008, 5 Nov 2008, 21 Jan 2009, 19 Feb 2009, 25 Feb 2009)
  • Jamestown Foundation, Terrorism Monitor (issues from 2 Nov 2006, 2 Feb 2007, 7 March 2008, 24 March 2008, 3 Apr 2008, 17 Apr 2008, 1 May 2008, 15 May 2008, 29 May 2008, 12 June 2008, 26 June 2008, 10 July 2008, 25 July 2008, 29 July 2008, 11 Aug 2008, 4 Sept 2008, 22 Sept 2008, 24 Oct 2008, 9 Jan 2009, 10 Feb 2009, 3 March 2009, 7 March 2009, 13 March 2009, 14 Jan 2010, 11 March 2010, 19 March 2010)
  • RAND, Beyond Al-Qaeda (Parts 1 and 2)
  • RAND, Combating Al-Qaeda and the Militant Islamic Threat by Bruce Hoffman
  • RAND, Rethinking Counterinsurgency (2008)
  • RAND, Al-Qaeda: Trends in Terrorism and Future Potentialities by Bruce Hoffman (2003)

Out of the think tank reports, Jamestown Foundation's seemed to have been the most widely read, followed by reports from RAND Corporation (4), Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (3), and Chatham House (2).  Bin Laden had possession of only one think tank paper from each of the following think tanks: Canadian Institute of Strategic Studies, Heritage Foundation, and the Hudson Institute

Bin Laden seems to have been one of the few people actually reading think tank reports...

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Interns and the Revolving Doors of DC Think Tanks

Roll Call's "Hill Navigator" has a new piece that addresses whether think tanks are good places for young people to start a career in Washington, DC.  The piece essentially says yes, but suggests that it is what you make of the internship/job at the think tank that really counts.

Here is the advice given:
  • Do good work. Be the person who takes on any assignment, doesn’t monopolize credit and completes tasks both large and small with care and precision. It is an added bonus if you can demonstrate an enthusiasm for the principles behind the organization. Want some more details on how to ace your internship? Read Roll Call’s free eBook: “Best Intern Ever.”
  • Follow the leader. Looking to make a particular move? Find someone who has come before you who has done so and speak with him or her. See the options previously available and how you might replicate that path. Follow up with a thank you note, preferably handwritten. 
  • Meet everyone, even the interns. It is easy to befriend interns when you are one. Keep in mind that this summer’s interns are next year’s staff assistants. By the time you’re graduating school they might be in a position to recommend you for paying work. Keep in touch. This goes beyond being Facebook friends. Find ways to connect while you are back at school. 
  • Don’t reinvent the wheel. You’ve landed at a think tank that has strong connections and knows how to get its people on Capitol Hill. Many Capitol Hill offices promote from within, and staffers of all stripes tend to look fondly on the first employer that gave them a shot, especially one that helped them land their current position. Hopefully a similar trajectory will be in your future as well.

And if you are searching for a think tank job, you may be happy to hear that think tank salaries are rising.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Think Tank Quickies (#177)

  • Maajid Nawaz, a former Islamist, and co-founder and chairman of think tank Quilliam, does not win a seat in the UK parliament.
  • State Dept. official Nisha Desai Biswal praises CSIS; praises its analysis and policy recommendations.
  • Think tankers on the lobbying "arms race."
  • CFR's Council of Councils holds 4th annual conference to assess the state of global governance; Marco Rubio "shows his prowess" at CFR, via Jennifer Rubin.
  • Why is AEI President Arthur Brooks so good at fundraising?
  • Think tank fundraising email offers "disconcerting glimpse" into how Washington works.
  • DC think tanks make big push for defense reforms.
  • Center for Talent Innovation, a think tank founded by economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett, releases study on ambitions of black women.
  • CQ Weekly profiles CEIP President William Burns in April 20 edition; says he is still advising Obama on talks with Iran.
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders: "Critics of raising the capital gains tax are often paid by corporate think tanks."

A "Dirty Little Secret" of Washington Think Tanks?

Brent Budowsky of the New York Observer just penned a piece entitled "The Stephanopolous Syndrome: 8 Dirty Little Secrets Washington Insiders Don't Want Americans to Know," and one is about think tanks.  Here is an excerpt:
Dirty little secret 7: Almost every day brings forth a major analysis of a front-page issue from a “prestigious think tank.” What we are almost never told is that most of these think tanks receive huge donations from friendly and unfriendly foreign governments, giant foreign and domestic conglomerates, and wealthy political ideologues designed to influence our public debates (and government actions) in ways that are kept secret from voters, viewers and readers.
Several months ago the New York Times published a detailed investigative story listing a number of these think tanks and the sources of their largest donations. When commentaries and analyses are offered by experts who take substantial sums from special interests, shouldn’t we know who pays them to influence us?
Don’t get me wrong. Many think tanks produce high quality work that deserves to gain influence. I would cite the liberal-leaning Center for American Progress and the conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute as often offering superb analysis from different points of view. There are others. But there is also propagandistic work by “experts” paid for by special interests with ulterior motives. I propose this money and these interests should no longer remain a dirty little secret.

Mr. Budowsky formerly served as a policy aide to Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-TX) and legislative director to Rep. Bill Alexander (D-AR).

Monday, May 18, 2015

Are Think Tank Salaries Increasing?

The NonProfit Times recently had a front-page article saying that salaries and benefits are improving as the economy and market conditions foster growth.  So, is your think tank salary increasing?

Here is more:
Nonprofit managers reported awarding average salary increases of 3.13 percent for all staff during 2014, up ever so slightly from 3.11 percent the previous year. Executives saw an average hike of 3.44 percent. Total cash compensation costs as a percentage of the operating budget has typically averaged about 38 percent during the past several years of the study.
The average pay hike for respondents during the past five years of salary surveys is just less than 3 percent. The largest organizations ($50 million or more operating budgets) had the highest average of that time, 3.61 percent, pulled up by a high of 8.27 percent last year. The average increase among other nonprofits of varying sized operating budgets — from less than $500,000 to less than $50 million — ranged from 2.39 percent to 3.84 percent.
The average total cash compensation for chief executive officers has fluctuated during the past five years, ranging from $110,599 (2011) to $122,286 (2013). The average for 2014 was $113,562, slightly less than the five-year average of $114,544. The five-year average tenure for a CEO was 11.3 years with an organization.

Here is a Think Tank Watch update from last year on pay at think tanks.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

New Think Tank Report to Drive 2016 Debate for Democrats

The New York-based think tank Roosevelt Institute has just published a new report that will likely drive the 2016 Democratic debate on the economy, wealth, taxes, jobs and a host of other key issues.

The report, which has 37 policy recommendations, is being unveiled today at an event at the National Press Club in Washington, DC featuring Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The 114-page report, entitled "Rewriting the Rules of the American Economy: An Agenda for Growth and Shared Prosperity," was written by Joseph Stiglitz, Chief Economist of the Roosevelt Institute.

The report was co-authored by four other Roosevelt Institute scholars, and received input from a variety of academic and liberal-leaning think tank scholars, including those from Center for Economic Policy Research (CEPR), Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), Washington Center for Equitable Growth, and Economic Policy Institute (EPI).

The New York Times says that the report will likely influence Hillary Clinton's agenda, and it calls the Roosevelt Institute a "liberal think tank with ties to Mrs. Clinton's economic team."

In the Washington Post, Katrina vanden Heuval says that the report is part of the "emerging populist agenda.  Jim Tankersley of the Washington Post says the report is a "new manifesto for fighting inequality," and calls it "very liberal."

More coming soon...

Monday, May 11, 2015

Think Tank Quickies (#176)

  • Quora: What is it like to work at a think tank?
  • Urban Institute event on 5/14: Promoting diversity in our nation's think tanks; On Think Tanks has new series on women in think tanks.
  • Heritage Foundation to score votes for 2016 presidential elections.
  • Corinthian Colleges secretly funded DC think tanks, including AEI.
  • American think tanks manipulate German politics?  Are think tanks (like lobbying) booming in Germany?
  • Libya drops Qorvis, the PR shop whose goal was to ensure Libya's messages reached think tanks.
  • A think tank queen (Heather McGhee) fighting for a seat at DC's table.
  • UAE gets new think tank: Emirati Institute.
  • Bjorn Lomborg row shows why universities are different from think tanks.
  • On 5/12 President Obama participates in discussion with AEI President Arthur Brooks.
  • Third Way President Jon Cowan celebrates 50th b-day at 14th St. condo in DC.

Monday, May 4, 2015

China Sets Up Think Tank in DC to Counter Other Asian Powers


China has set up a new think tank in the Washington, DC-area to counter the influence of other Asian countries at the nearby think tanks.

The new think tank, which is China's first think tank within the Washington Beltway, will reportedly focus on maritime dispute issues in the South China Sea.  Here is more:
The Institute for China-America Studies’ three staff members work from a small office near Ronald Reagan International Airport. Their mission is to research and conduct exchanges on maritime issues and China-U.S. relations, not to represent the Chinese government, according to its executive director, Nong Hong.
But a hurdle for the new Chinese institute is whether it can establish its independence from the Chinese government, which keeps a tight rein on academic institutions and polices research.
At its inaugural conference last month, China’s ambassador to the U.S., Cui Tiankai, gave a keynote address defending China’s efforts to build artificial islands in the South China Sea.
Set up in Arlington, Va., in November, the institute is registered as a corporation in the state, pending approval as a nonprofit, Ms. Hong said. She said she isn’t a Communist Party member and the think tank would be free to do research critical of Chinese policy, as long as it fits within its research programs. “We want to be an independent nonprofit organization here,” she said.
The think tank is, however, an offshoot of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, a government-affiliated body, which also employs Ms. Hong and plays a prominent role in promoting China’s views on maritime issues.

The article goes on to question whether the new think tank will need to register as a "foreign agent" under the US Justice Department's Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).  Those acting on behalf of a foreign government for political purposes must register, but the article notes that the think tank was established by the Hainan Nanhai Research Foundation, which is registered in China as a private foundation.  But that foundation was set up by the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, the government-backed organization that also employs Ms. Hong, according to the WSJ.

The Economist has also reported about the new think tank, saying that its Chinese government connections "clearly have pull."  It notes that Henry Kissinger spoke at at ICAS conference held April 16 in Washington, DC, and China's Ambassador to the US Cui Tiankai attended that event in person.

The think tank is already looking for bigger offices and plans to add a few more resident fellows in the next few years.  Think Tank Watch noticed that they are now looking for a full-time research fellow.

The new website for ICAS can be found here.  The three staff members are listed here.  The advisory board can be found here.   Its partner institutions can be found here.

The establishment of the new Chinese think tank comes as the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) has been using satellite intel to track the Asian islands dispute.  And the governments of Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and others have been spending heavily on Washington think tanks to support their agenda.

The establishment also comes as the Chinese government has just announced that it is setting up as many as 100 national-level think tanks to try to replicate the US think tanks model.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Bernanke Joins With PIMCO But Stays Full-Time at Brookings

Another day, and another way for former Federal Reserve Chairman to rake in the dough.  This time, it was just announced that he has joined bond giant PIMCO as a senior advisor.  Here is more:
In an interview, Bernanke, who only last week announced he'd signed on to consult for the hedge fund Citadel, said he will restrict his Wall Street advisory roles to just the two firms. He also works at the Brookings Institution.
"I remain full time at Brookings. I am not an employee of either firm. I am an outside senior advisor," Bernanke, 61, told Reuters.
"This is it," he said.  "There won't be anymore. They (Pimco and Citadel) prefer not having me consult too many firms and I personally think working with two firms will be plenty."

Here is a recent Think Tank Watch piece entitled "Think Tank for Show, Wall Street for Dough," highlighting how Bernanke is at Brookings for the prestige but relies on Wall Street for the real money.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Think Tanker Behind New Book on Clinton's Foreign Cash

That new book on foreign government donations to the Clinton Foundation?  Yup, it was written by a think tanker.

More precisely, the book, titled "Clinton Cash," was written by Peter Schweizer, a former fellow at the conservative think tank Hoover Institution.  His past work while at the think tank can be found here.

Here is more on the Hoover Institution by Ade Adenji, who just wrote a piece for Inside Philanthropy entitled "How the Hoover Institution Vacuums Up Big Conservative Bucks":
Like AEI, Hoover might be described as a moderate conservative think tankin contrast, say, to the Heritage Foundation and other policy shops that push a harder line and have been aligned in recent years with the Tea Party. 
Hoover's moderate positioning makes sense, since Herbert Hoover himself was certainly no doctrinaire conservative and even considered being a Democrat at one time. The Hoover Institution's mission includes principles such as "representative government, private enterprise, peace, and personal freedom" and senior fellows at the institution have included Condoleezza Rice, economist Thomas Sowell, and author Shelby Steele.

Hoover, which is housed within Stanford University, was just ranked as the 19th best think tank in the United States by the University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings.  It was also considered the 4th best university-affiliated think tank in the world.

So, will a sole think tanker bring down the entire Clinton campaign?

Here is Think Tank Watch's most recent piece on Hillary Clinton's use of think tanks.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Think Tank Quickies #175

  • How the Hoover Institution vacuums up big conservative bucks.
  • Hawaii and Texas think tanks unite to push back on Planned Parenthood's sex-ed agenda.
  • Brookings holds US-China think tank summit.
  • China's think tanks need to reach out and connect.
  • America's lobbying addiction, via Brookings. 
  • Atlantic Council announces 2015 Leadership Awardees, including country music singer Toby Keith and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani; welcomes inaugural class of Millennium Fellows; Secretary of State John Kerry promotes US trade agenda at Atlantic Council.
  • Should think tanks be required to disclose donors if they produce reports that might be considered political?
  • Anders Borg, Sweden's former Minister of Finance, joins PIIE as Nonresident Senior Fellow.
  • Rebecca Hersman, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), joins CSIS.
  • Todd Cox, former staffer at the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, joins CAP; Jeff Krehely of Human Rights Campaign (HRC) rejoins CAP.
  • New Wilson Center-Gramsci Institute project on the Italian Communist Party and China.
  • Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi confers with policy experts at USIP.
  • RAND: China not a threat to US national security interests in Africa.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Rick Perry Hires Think Tankers Ahead of 2016 Campaign

Former Texas Governor Rick Perry is beefing up his policy team by hiring from think tank land.  Here is more from Bloomberg Politics:
That effort now includes the hiring of the widely respected Avik Roy, a former health care adviser to Mitt Romney and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, who will become RickPAC's senior adviser, the person said. Also coming on board: Abby McCloskey, whose conservative credentials include work as an economic policy program director for American Enterprise Institute, will head Perry’s national policy team. Brett Fetterly, a graduate student at John Hopkins University who studied under former U.S. Ambassador Eric Edelman, will coordinate Perry’s foreign policy shop.
The Manhattan Institute and AEI are two of the most respected think tanks in conservative circles, and these hires will serve in some quarters as validation of Perry’s heft as both a wonk and a candidate. In his first presidential campaign, Perry gave a number of policy speeches, including on energy, the economy, and national security, that were largely overshadowed by the attention to his late entry, rapid rise, and even more rapid collapse.

It should be mentioned that Eric Edelman (mentioned above), is a Distinguished Fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), and has connections to a variety of other think tanks.

Edelman was also an advisor to Mitt Romney for his 2012 presidential run.

Leaked Docs Reveal Morocco's Influence at US Think Tanks


Here is what The Intercept is reporting:
A controversial cache of what appear to be Moroccan diplomatic documents show how the Moroccan government courted [Hillary] Clinton, built a cooperative relationship with the Secretary of State, and orchestrated the use of consultants, think tanks and other “third-party validators” to advance the North African nation’s goals within elite U.S. political circles.
The use of think tanks, business associations, other “third party validators … with unquestionable credibility,” one cable said, relates to the “peculiarity of the American political system.” Think tanks, the cable continued, “have considerable influence” on government officials, especially because so many former officials move in and out of think tank work. Mentioning the State Department as one agency that could be swayed through think tank advocacy, the memo goes on to state, “our work focuses on the most influential think tanks … across the political spectrum.” The memo lists several think tanks such as the Atlantic Council, the Heritage Foundation and the Hudson Institute.

The cable, which can be read here, is written in French.

Fact: Morocco has 33 think tanks according to the 2015 University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Think Tank Naming Fail

A great lesson was hopefully learned by those who are planning to start a think tank: be careful how you name your think tank, because the acronym could be quite embarrassing.

Unfortunately, it is too late for one new think tank.  This week, Pakistan and China announced that they would launch a joint think tank named Research and Development International (RANDI), which is dedicated to research and development of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

"Randi" happens to be Hindi slang for prostitute.  It is also a heterograph of the English word "randy," which means sexually excited.

Austin Powers would have loved this name (see video here), but many were dumbfounded by the think tank's acronym.

Indians heavily ridiculed the name.  The Nation says that Twitter giggled at it.  A variety of Twitter comments on the think tank's acronym can be found here.  And here is a comic about the think tank.

One joke report said that the think tank has been renamed to RANDI-RONA.  Yet another jokester said that the think tank has pivoted to become a branding agency.  Other reports indicate that the name has already been changed to RADI.

Some have also point out that Pakistan once had a think tank called the Pakistan Institute of Strategic Studies, or PISS.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch piece on the longest think tank acronym.  Another long think tank acronym that we've covered can be found here.  And here is another Think Tank Watch piece on how the ISIS acronym was hurting a think tank's reputation.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Think Tank for Show, Wall Street for Dough

They say that in golf one drives for show and putts for dough.  Well, in the policy wonk world, one works at a think tank for show, and Wall Street for dough.

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is the perfect example.  Bernanke joined the Economic Studies program at the Brookings Institution as a Distinguished Fellow in Residence early last year.  [And he just started a new blog at the think tank.]

Bernanke is likely making a low six-digit salary at Brookings, the world's #1-ranked think tank.  Considering that pittance of a salary and the fact that he can't seem to get a refi on his mortgage, he has decided to rake in some real money by joining with hedge fund Citadel.

Since he has been making $250,000+ on many of his speeches, it is likely that Bernanke will pull down seven figures with his new gig.  That will make him one of the wealthiest think tankers around.  Now THAT is how it's done.