Friday, September 22, 2017

Think Tank Quickies (#284)

  • Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture: Fashion world's equivalent of a think tank.
  • VOA: Russia accused of funding anti-EU think tanks in the West.
  • "A writer for Christian think tanks." 
  • Flashback from Tom Medvetz: Think tanks as an emergent field. 
  • Flashback from Urban Institute: Managing think tanks (via Raymond Struyk).
  • Did you know that HuffPost has a "think tanks" section?  (AP too!)
  • Mind & Life Think Tank Grant.
  • World Food Programme (WFP) has a long-standing partnership with think tanks.
  • Book: Think  Tanks - The Brain Trusts of US Foreign Policy (by Kudilay Yado Arin).
  • HowStuffWorks: How think tanks work.
  • Flashback: Gates Foundation, Hewlett Foundation and others pledge $30 million to African think tanks.

Media Leaving Readers Clueless on Think Tanks They Cite?

According to Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), the media often does a poor job of balancing (and explaining) think tank sources used in stories and articles.  Here is a recent example from a new FAIR piece entitled "NYT Lets Think Tank Funded by Gov't and Arms Industry Claim Huge US Military Budget Isn't Huge Enough":

The New York Times (9/18/17) gave an enormous platform to a hawkish think tank that is funded by the US government and by top weapons corporations, letting it absurdly claim, without any pushback, that the gargantuan US military—by far the largest in the world—has been “underfunded.”
The nearly 700-word article quoted three people, only one of whom was not an elected official. Not a single person or organization that opposes the Defense Department budget expansion was cited in the story.
The lone non-official voice quoted by the Times was Anthony H. Cordesman (incorrectly identified as Anthony N. Cordesman), a national security analyst at the influential, bellicose think tank the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
The Times gave no background information about Cordesman, failing to disclose that—as his CSIS bio clearly notes—he previously served as McCain’s national security assistant, and that he formerly worked for the Pentagon, the State Department and NATO. (He was even awarded the Pentagon’s distinguished service medal.)
Cordesman’s notoriously pro-war employer CSIS, which in January boasted of being “named the world’s number one Defense and National Security think tank for the sixth year in a row,” also just so happens to be generously funded by the governments of the US and its military allies, along with leading corporations in the arms industry (Extra!, 10/16)—although the New York Times left that out of its report as well.
CSIS states clearly on its website that the think tank’s top corporate donors include the most influential weapons companies, such as Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Boeing and General Dynamics. Another significant contributor is Raytheon.
All of these military technology contractors stand to profit directly from an expanded Department of Defense budget.
Fossil fuel companies Chevron, ExxonMobil and Saudi Aramco are likewise some of the biggest donors to CSIS. These corporations also will likely profit from an expanded Pentagon budget, given that the US military is the world’s largest consumer of oil.

Top government donors to CSIS, moreover, include the United States and its close allies the United Arab Emirates, Japan and Taiwan, which coordinate with the US military. The UAE is also the second-largest customer for US arms.

Harvard has put out an excellent tip sheet that can help journalists (and others) who are citing think tanks and think tank scholars.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Former Brookings Scholar Booted from Singapore for Covert Activities

Here is what the New York Times recently reported:

Singapore has ordered the expulsion of a noted American academic for what it said was his covert effort to influence Singapore's foreign policy on behalf of an unnamed foreign government.
The academic, Huang Jing, was accused of passing "privileged information" to senior Singapore officials with the intent of affecting their decisions.  He was quickly removed from his position as the Lee Foundation professor on United States-China relations at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.
"He did this in collaboration with foreign intelligence agents," the Singapore Ministry of Home Affairs said in a statement on Friday that announced the order.  "This amounts to subversion and foreign interference in Singapore's domestic politics."
Mr. Huang has held posts at the Brookings Institution, Stanford University and Harvard University.  Some view his academic writings as pro-Chinese.

Here is a link to the biography page of Huang Jing when he was at Brookings, where he was a Senior Fellow in the Foreign Policy Studies program.  His past writings at the liberal-leaning think tank can be found here.

Korean President Meets With Think Tanks to Discuss North Korea

Here is what the Korean press is reporting:

Earlier in the day, [South Korean President Moon Jae-in] met with heads of leading U.S. think tanks, including Richard Haass, a former U.S. diplomat and currently the head of the Council on Foreign Relations, and discussed the North Korea issue.

Others at that meeting include Kevin Rudd (President of the Asia Society Policy Institute) and Thomas Byrne (President of the Korea Society).

But CFR head Richard Haass seems to be a favorite of Moon, who also met with Haass in June and asked for help "conveying a positive message about developing the South Korea-US alliance" to the US government and public.

Bannon & Gorka to Start National Security Think Tank?

Here is what the Daily Beast is reporting:

Multiple sources with knowledge of their conversations tell The Daily Beast that [Steve] Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist who [Sebastian] Gorka reported to both at Breitbart News and subsequently in the Trump administration, has been talking to Gorka over the past couple weeks about potentially starting a new national-security and foreign-policy initiative together. Such a group, which is in the embryonic planning stages, would champion the same clash-of-civilizations and pro-Trump, nationalist worldview that both men share.
One source said that such a project, which could take the form of a think tank or advocacy organization, would very likely have the blessing and financial backing of the Mercer family, the pro-Trump Republican mega-donors who have long worked and partnered with Bannon. The Mercers also co-own Bannon’s media flagship, Breitbart.
Bannon and Gorka worked closely together at the Strategic Initiatives Group, an internal White House “think tank,” early in the Trump presidency. Initially conceived as an informational apparatus to brief the president and staff on key policy issues, SIG was quickly seen by some in the White House as a rogue attempt to circumvent the National Security Council. It was soon disbanded, leaving Gorka without a clear portfolio of White House responsibilities, and working primarily as a Bannon aide.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post about the White House's now-defunct Strategic Initiatives Group, as well as Gorka's deep ties to think tanks.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Think Tank Quickies (#283)

  • Breitbart attacks: "H.R. McMaster served 11 years on think tank (IISS) financed by Boeing, which inked billions in Iran deal." (IISS to Trump: Stop "adversarial atmosphere" with Iran).
  • Boston Globe: Think tank of Trump era?  Message boards.
  • BRICS think tanks agree to enhance exchanges.
  • OpenCanada: Africa boasts many credible/quality think tanks but not often acknowledged.
  • The Intercept: US-backed think tanks target Latin America.
  • RAND: American workplace is physical/emotionally taxing.
  • Libro Vaquero, Mexico's best-selling magazine, teams up with think tank to fight corruption.
  • Rep. Keith Ellison: We need more progressive think tanks.
  • Think tank CEI accepting Bitcoin donations.
  • RAND's summer reading list for Congress.
  • Cato: 40 ways the world is getting better every day.
  • WINEP hires ex-WSJ reporter Jay Solomon for North Korea project.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Climate-Change-Skeptical Think Tank Stacking Deck at EPA?

A handful of small but influential think tanks continue to play a major role in the Trump Administration as it continues to staff up and fill various government boards and commissions.

Here is more from The Washington Post:

People who have questioned aspects of mainstream climate research appear on a list of 132 possible candidates for positions on EPA’s influential Science Advisory Board, which the agency has opened for public comment until September 28. The board currently has 47 members, but 15 have terms ending in September and could be replaced by some of the candidates.
Several of the candidates are affiliated with the Heartland Institute, an Illinois-based conservative think tank with a long history of questioning various aspects of climate change science. E&E News reported that it had suggested a number of the names.
“We applaud any effort by Administrator Pruitt to bring qualified non-alarmist scientists onto the EPA’s advisory boards,” Heartland spokesman Jim Lakely told the publication.
One Heartland-affiliated scientist who is now a candidate for the EPA board is meteorologist Joseph D’Aleo, a co-founder of the Weather Channel and currently chief forecaster with WeatherBELL Analytics LLC. D’Aleo was one of 13 scientists who submitted an amicus brief in litigation over the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, challenging the agency’s science, including its key finding that atmospheric carbon dioxide, by driving climate change, endangers human health and welfare.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post about the Heartland Institute.

Update: Here is a new E&E News post which says that the EPA asked the Heartland Institute for experts who question climate science.

Monday, September 18, 2017

AEI Scholar Becomes Head of White House CEA

It is now official.  Kevin Hassett, a long-time scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), has been confirmed as Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA).

Shortly after President Donald Trump announced his intent to nominate Hassett to head the CEA, Michael Strain, Director of Economic Policy Studies and Resident Scholar at AEI, said that Hassett would be a great choice as chief economist to the president.  Strain has also praised the confirmation.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post about Hassett.  Here is more about Hassett from CNN.

A handful of AEI scholars served on Trump's transition team and have gone into the Trump Administration, but the Heritage Foundation still dominates in terms of connections to the White House.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Think Tank Quickies (#282)

  • Game of Thrones think tank talk draws largest crowd ever at Cato.
  • How a little-known US libertarian think tank is remaking Latin American politics.
  • Ghanaian think tanks accused of pursuing personal interests.
  • Think tanks gather in Morocco to tap Arab economic growth.
  • US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks at AEI. 
  • Pic: "Think tanks" section at Waterstones.
  • Are think tank news sites just creating more content for elites who already read lots of news?
  • Third Way's VP in a punk band.
  • Politico 50 (2017) has a number of think tankers.
  • Govs. Kasich and Hickenlooper discuss healthcare markets at Center for American Progress.
  • Mother Jones: Don't blame liberal foreign policy on think tanks (and accompanying Vox piece).

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Think Tanks Preparing Studies on War With North Korea

Laura Rozen, a diplomatic correspondent at Al-Monitor, says that conservative think tanks aligned with President Donald Trump are "quietly preparing studies on the aftermath of war with North Korea."

Here is a thread from Twitter (via Ben Norton):

Another tweet says that she is "not entirely sure" which think tanks are preparing the studies, but "got the impression [they] might be linked up with" the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) and its affiliates.

ISW is a Washington, DC-based think tank founded in 2007 by Kimberly Kagan, a strong supporter of the controversial "surge" strategy in Iraq.

Think Tank Watch should note that a number of conservative think tanks track and write reports about North Korea, including the Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute (AEI).  [A number of liberal think tanks also track North Korea, including the Brookings Institution and Center for American Progress.]

Here is a recent Think Tank Watch piece about the role some think tankers are playing behind-the-scenes to negotiate peace with North Korea.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Think Tank Quickies (#281)

  • Inside RAND Corp's impressive art collection.
  • Meet the artist whose job is to creatively synthesize think tank conversations.
  • New Saudi think tank (Center for Strategic Development) is hiring.
  • Andrew Schwartz of CSIS featured in Politico's "Birthday of the Day."
  • CSIS conducted year-long study to lay out a comprehensive strategy toward Russia.
  • Japan expert Michael Auslin leaves AEI and joins Hoover.
  • Trump's EPA enlists controversial think tank (Heartland Inst.) to find climate experts to argue with mainstream scientists; obscure right-wing think tank fueling Trump's war on renewables.
  • CNAS launches Artificial Intelligence and Global Security Initiative.
  • Acton Institute lecture series: "Think tanks, Politics, and the Casualties in the War of Ideas," with James McGann. 
  • Olin Wethington, a non-resident fellow at the Atlantic Council, is the leading contender for the nomination of assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs. 
  • Jon Huntsman, Chairman of Atlantic Council, gets nod for ambassador to Russia; will Victor Cha of CSIS become ambassador to South Korea?
  • New book by Christopher James Rastrick: Think Tanks in the US and EU - The Role of Policy Institutes in Washington and Brussels.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Google-Critic Fired from Think Tank Funded by the Tech Giant

Rule No. 1 of think tank land: Don't mess with donors.   Rule No. 2?  Don't mess with donors.
Here is more from Kenneth Vogel of The New York Times:

In the hours after European antitrust regulators levied a record $2.7 billion fine against Google in late June, an influential Washington think tank learned what can happen when a wealthy tech giant is criticized.
The New America Foundation has received more than $21 million from Google; its parent company’s executive chairman, Eric Schmidt; and his family’s foundation since the think tank’s founding in 1999. That money helped to establish New America as an elite voice in policy debates on the American left and helped Google shape those debates.
But not long after one of New America’s scholars posted a statement on the think tank’s website praising the European Union’s penalty against Google, Mr. Schmidt, who had been chairman of New America until 2016, communicated his displeasure with the statement to the group’s president, Anne-Marie Slaughter, according to the scholar.
The statement disappeared from New America’s website, only to be reposted without explanation a few hours later. But word of Mr. Schmidt’s displeasure rippled through New America, which employs more than 200 people, including dozens of researchers, writers and scholars, most of whom work in sleek Washington offices where the main conference room is called the “Eric Schmidt Ideas Lab.” The episode left some people concerned that Google intended to discontinue funding, while others worried whether the think tank could truly be independent if it had to worry about offending its donors.

The article goes on to give a number of juicy details about the firing of Barry Lynn, head of the think tank's Open Markets initiative.  Emails reportedly suggest that the head of New America wanted to exile the entire team of the Open Markets initiative (around 10 full-timers and unpaid fellows).

NYT reports that Lynn is now starting a stand-alone nonprofit with the same team to continue the work of the Open Markets initiative.  The new entity does not yet have a name, but it almost certainly will not be receiving any funding from Google.  However, the tech giant continues to fund New America.

Here is New America's response to the New York Times story.  Kenneth Vogel (author of the NYT piece) says it is inaccurate and demands a correction.

Here is what Zephr Teachout, who has been a Fellow at New America since 2014, has to say about the incident for the Washington Post.  Here is more in The Intercept (and even more).

Here is what Matthew Yglesias of Vox has to say.

Here is what The Intercept has to say.

Here is The Wall Street Journal's take.

David Sirota sums up the situation succinctly.

New America Fellow Jesse Eisenger: This is deeply troubling.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is now criticizing New America for firing Barry Lynn.

Here is an updated NYT piece from Kenneth Vogel on how New America is facing a big backlash from the firing.

Here is what WIRED has to say about the issue.

Charles Kolb says that the controversy illustrates the value of transparency.

A statement from the Open Markets team.

The Federalist: Bullying a leftist think tank pierces Google's carefully cultivated "don't be evil" image.

Dan Drezner: Nothing to see here.  Think tanks are poised for a comeback.  (And a response from James Jay Carafano and Mike Gonzales of Heritage).

Anne-Marie Slaughter: When the truth is messy and hard.

Former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO): Google-New America shows why nonprofits should reject corporate funding.

Economist: New America falls into a familiar trap.

Barry Lynn: "A slow, creeping consolidation of power by big money over thinks tanks in US."

New America Co-Chair: Google didn't prompt critics ouster.

The Weekly Standard: The Do-Not-Think Tank.

John Judis (in New Republic): The credible think tank is dead.

The Week: The suspicious firing of a Google critic.

Till Bruckner of Transparify: How funder pressures can torpedo the credibility of research.

Barry Lynn doubles down on anti-monopoly crusade after being fired from New America.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Trump Ain't No Think Tanker (Part IV)

Here is even more evidence that President Donald Trump is not reading your think tank report.  Says the Washington Post:

Trump had little time for in-depth briefings on Afghanistan’s history, its complicated politics or its seemingly endless civil war. Even a single page of bullet points on the country seemed to tax the president’s attention span on the subject, said senior White House officials.
“I call the president the two-minute man,” said one Trump confidant. “The president has patience for a half-page.”

Here are links to Part I, Part II, and Part III of "Trump Ain't No Think Tanker."  Most think tank reports are at least several pages long, with many of them running into the dozens or even hundreds of pages.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Secret $20 Million Gift Given to DC Think Tank

Here is what The Intercept is reporting:

The United Arab Emirates on pace to contribute $20 million over the course of 2016 and 2017 to the Middle East Institute, one of Washington’s leading think tanks, according to a document obtained by The Intercept. The outsized contribution, which the UAE hoped to conceal, would allow the institute, according to the agreement, to “augment its scholar roster with world class experts in order to counter the more egregious misperceptions about the region, inform U.S. government policy makers, and convene regional leaders for discreet dialogue on pressing issues.”
MEI was founded in 1946 and has long been an influential player in Washington foreign policy circles. It serves as a platform for many of the U.S.’s most influential figures, allowing them to regularly appear on cable news, author papers, host private briefings and appear on panels in between stints in government.
Think tanks in Washington play a role perhaps as important as K Street, though with far less public insight into their activity or sources of funds. While the political establishment is gripped by the question of Russia’s influence on the 2016 elections, Washington itself is awash in money from both foreign corporations and foreign governments.

The whole Intercept piece, authored by Ryan Grim, is worth reading in its entirety.  It has appearances by UAE Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba, think tanker Bilal Saab, UAE-based consultant Mac McClelland Jr., MEI President Wendy Chamberlain, Egyptian activist/scholar Ramy Yaacoub, Richar Mintz of The Harbour Group, Egyptian oligarch Naguib Sawiris, MEI board chairman Richard Clarke, Managing Director of Qorvis MSLGroup Michael Petruzzello, Barry Pavel of Atlantic Council, top lobbyist for Occidental Petroleum Ian Davis, former Center for a New American Security (CNAS) staffer Andrew Exum, think tank ECSSR, and many more.

Here is a recent Think Tank Watch post on the UAE's influence at other think tanks in the United States.

Friday, August 11, 2017

NYT: Political Memes Now More Influential Than Think Tanks

Another big blow to think tanks from The New York Times:

Imagine you’re a millionaire or billionaire with strong political views and a desire to spread those views to the masses. Do you start a think tank in Washington? Funnel millions to a shadowy “super PAC”? Bankroll the campaign of an up-and-coming politician?
For a growing number of deep-pocketed political donors, the answer is much more contemporary: Invest in internet virality.
As TV, radio and newspapers give way to the megaphonic power of social media, today’s donor class is throwing its weight behind a new group of partisan organizations that specialize in creating catchy, highly shareable messages for Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms. Viral media expertise is emerging as a crucial skill for political operatives, and as donors look to replicate the success of the social media sloganeers who helped lift President Trump to victory, they’re seeking out talented meme makers.

Here is a recent Think Tank Watch piece about other "threats" to today's think tanks.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Think Tank Quickies (#280)

  • RAND Corp. expands into Silicon Valley. 
  • Think tank in France (Fine Minds 4 Fine Wines, or FM4FW) discusses the future of "fine" wines.
  • CFR President Richard Haass gets birthday shout-out from Politico; reveals he went to Woodstrock, is addicted to golf, listens to country music, likes dry martinis, and walks to work.
  • Polls find faltering trust in American universities (and think tanks)? 
  • Laurel Miller, an analyst from the RAND Corp. who had been serving as Acting Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan at DOS, has departed
  • Why Myanmar needs foreign policy think tanks. 
  • As interest in Hong Kong affairs grows, time is ripe for local think tanks to shine.
  • Cato scholar Daniel Ikenson: US and China engaged in a low-profile, high-technology trade war. 
  • Alliance for Securing Democracy, housed within the German Marshall Fund (GMF), has new dashboard tracking Russian propaganda on Twitter.
  • Searchable map of 100 UK think tank locations.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Conservatives Attack McMaster for Work at Think Tank

Here is more from the conservative news site Breitbart:

White House National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster served at a UK-based think tank financed by a controversial, George Soros-funded group identified by the Obama White House as central in helping to sell the Iran nuclear deal tothe public and news media.
From September 2006 to February 2017, McMaster is listed as a member of International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), where he served as consulting senior fellow.  The IISS describes itself as a “world-leading authority on global security, political risk and military conflict.”
The IISS has been supportive of the Obama administration-brokered 2015 nuclear accord with Iran, and the group has repeatedly hit back against charges that Tehran has violated the agreement.
McMaster himself has been accused of purging the National Security Council of hardliners on Iran, and he is seen as a leading proponent of the Iran nuclear accord within the Trump administration. He has reportedly urged the White House to recertify Iran’s compliance with the Iran nuclear deal.
IISS’s website contains a list of groups, corporations and government entities that provide funding to the think tank, including during the period of McMaster’s work there. Curiously missing from the page of donors, however, is the controversial Ploughshares Fund, a grantmaking group identified last year by the Obama White House as central in helping to market the Iran nuclear deal to the news media.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch piece on McMasters' various connections to think tanks.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Former Heritage Scholar a "Fixer" in Trump's Washington

Politico recently highlighted the work of Lisa Curtis, the former Senior Research Fellow in Asian Studies at the Heritage Foundation's Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy, who is now in the Trump Administration.  Here is a clip:
It may not be President Donald Trump's list of problems to solve but the relationship with Pakistan has an unfortunate habit of flaring up, and doing so at the most inopportune times.
Tasked with making headway in the thorny and knotty relationship with Islamabad is Lisa Curtis, a longtime expert on Pakistan and counterterrorism who was recruited earlier this year to the White House's National Security Council to be its senior director for South Asia.

Curtis is one of dozens of scholars at the Heritage Foundation who either advised the Trump Administration during the presidential campaign or who has actually gone into the administration.

In related news, the Heritage Foundation continues to look for a new president after Sen. Ben Sasse reportedly turned down the job.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Meet the 28-Year-Old Think Tanker Frightening Amazon

Here is more from The Washington Post:

Amazon’s general counsel, David Zapolsky, had a lot on his mind last month when he and four members of his legal team visited the offices of New America, a liberal-leaning think tank in Washington. The retail juggernaut was days from announcing its $13.8 billion purchase of Whole Foods, a deal that would not only roil the grocery industry but also trigger a government antitrust investigation into the strategies and practices of the “Everything Store.” And, as Zapolsky was no doubt aware, no organization had been more dogged in raising those concerns than New America — and, in particular, a 28-year-old law student named Lina Khan.
Earlier this year, the Yale Law Journal published a 24,000-word “note” by Khan titled “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox.” The article laid out with remarkable clarity and sophistication why American antitrust law has evolved to the point that it is no longer equipped to deal with tech giants such as, which has made itself as essential to commerce in the 21st century as the railroads, telephone systems and computer hardware makers were in the 20th.

Here is Lina Lina Khan's biography from New America, where she is a Fellow in the Open Markets program.

Think Tank Watch should note that Amazon is a donor to New America, giving between $50,000 and $99,999 to the think tank in the 2016-2017 period.  Other tech giants also help fund New America, including Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Facebook.

Think Tank Quickies (#279)

  • Obama's Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz starting low-carbon energy think tank.
  • Project 2049 Institute: China carries out think tank propaganda tour in US.
  • New think tank idea: Center for American ProgRock (via Timothy Noah).
  • New report on Armenian think tank industry.
  • Pic: Zbigniew Pisarski takes "beast" to DC for think tank visits.
  • First-ever think tank dedicated to college athletics.
  • New CSIS report on US-Carribean relations. 
  • CNAS launches future of sanctions task force.
  • Daniel Feehan, former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Readiness joins CNAS.
  • South Korean President Moon Jae-in speaks at CSIS.
  • Third Way holds annual summer party at Long View Gallery with lots of lawmakers.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

CAP Gets Revenge Against Trump in New Report

The Clinton-friendly think tank Center for American Progress (CAP) suffered a big blow when Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton for the presidency, but it is not giving up its battle to bring down Mr. Trump.  Here is more from BuzzFeed:

A major progressive think tank wants Democrats to stop being shy about accusing the Trump campaign of colluding with Russia.
The Center for American Progress has written a nearly 50-page report for Democrats in Congress, making the case for collusion between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia. The report, a draft of which was reviewed by BuzzFeed News ahead of its release Wednesday, makes the bold claim that “it is now clear there was collusion” and “this is the biggest political scandal in American history.”
CAP’s report, which includes several appendices linking to news reports and quotes from the Trump administration, does not include any new information, but it does represent a push for a dramatic change of tone for Democrats in Congress.
The draft of CAP’s report lays out everything the public knows about how the Trump campaign and Russia interacted during the campaign based on information gathered from press reports and congressional testimony. According to CAP, the evidence should be enough for Democrats to argue the campaign colluded with Russia.
CAP’s plan is to deliver the report to “key offices” on the Hill with the hope of giving Democrats the “confidence” to make a collusion argument. Jentleson said Democratic leadership, as well as members of the Judiciary and Intelligence committees in the House and Senate, will be receiving the report.

Update: Here is a link to CAP's new report, entitled "Russiagate: The Depth of Collusion," written by Max Bergmann.

Here is how Fox News describes the report.

Sen. Sasse Declines Top Job at Heritage Foundation

Although the salary would likely be more than six times as much as his current salary as a US senator, Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) has declined an offer to lead the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation.  Here is more from Politico:

The Heritage Foundation has approached one of the Senate’s leading anti-Trump Republicans, Ben Sasse, to gauge his interest in serving as president — an indication the influential conservative think tank may turn away from its supportive posture toward the president.
Sasse, who was elected to his first term in the Senate in 2014, has swatted down the overtures from Heritage’s board of trustees, according to two sources familiar with the recruitment effort. The Nebraska senator rose to national prominence when he announced early in the primary calendar that he would support neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton, and he has been a persistent critic of Trump ever since.
The entreaties are one sign that Heritage may be looking to change course after the May ouster of its former president, Jim DeMint. In the Senate, DeMint was a leading antagonist of establishment Republicans, and at Heritage he suffered from the perception that the organization was becoming too political — and too reflexively pro-Trump — as its focus on scholarship fell by the wayside.
Kay Coles James, a member of the Heritage Foundation Board of Trustees' Presidential Search Committee, said in a statement that the group is considering more than 200 people for the job, "many of them nationally renowned. We have engaged a professional search firm and we look forward to reviewing the candidates they suggest.”
The organization’s interest in Sasse — sources say board members have been persistent to the point of irritating the senator — indicates that it is looking for a reset. Other conservative think tanks have been less explicitly pro-Trump than Heritage was under DeMint. While American Enterprise Institute President Arthur Brooks, for example, has sought to explain the source of Trump’s support, he has stopped short of expressing support for him.

Jim DeMint earned $1.1 million from Heritage in 2015, and US senators make $174,000 per year.  If Sen. Sasse took the job, his likely salary for one year (before taxes) would be approaching his entire net worth, which is estimated to be around $1.48 million.

In related news, here is what former Mr. DeMint is up to these days.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Former Heritage President Jim DeMint Launches New Institute

Former Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint, who was ousted this spring from what is arguably the most influential conservative think tank in the US, is starting a new venture.  Here is more from Politico:

Former Sen. Jim DeMint will serve as chairman of the new Conservative Partnership Institute to fortify the presence of conservatives in Washington, he said in a news release Tuesday, adding that he thinks the status quo is hindering the development of conservative lawmakers and staffers.
Previously, DeMint served at the helm of the Heritage Foundation, a venerable conservative think tank that at times has had a turbulent relationship with the rise of Donald Trump. He was ousted in May after internal disputes over Heritage's mission.

Here is the Conservative Partnership Institute's (CPI) new website.

Here is a comprehensive Think Tank Watch guide to what happened at the Heritage Foundation that led to DeMint's ouster.

Think Tank Quickies (#278)

  • Think tank RethinkX says $25 oil is coming.
  • Exxon gave $1.6 million to think tanks and advocacy groups opposing climate change in 2016.
  • Ben Norton to AEI: Delete your think tank.
  • China criticizes Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) scholar Ely Ratner.
  • Center for American Progress (CAP) releases its own proposal to fix Obamacare.
  • Reactor Room: Very first think tank for adults with autism.
  • Chafuen: Cato and Heritage receive less than 3% of funding from corporations; average free-market think tank is 10%.
  • Balkan Think Tank Convention II, led by Turkish think tank SETA.
  • CNAS partners with The Washington Post.
  • Pic: A refurbished RAND Europe.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Think Tank Scholar Secretly Trying to Broker US-North Korea Peace

Suzanne DiMaggio of the think tank New America helped establish an unofficial channel with the North Koreans in early 2016, according to The Wall Street JournalHere is more of what they say about DiMaggio:

Early last year, Ms. DiMaggio established through interlocutors in Stockholm a “track two” dialogue with North Korea, a term reflecting the fact no active U.S. officials were present at the initial meetings. She made the first of two trips to the North Korean capital in February 2016, in an early bid to help defuse the nuclear crisis.
Ms. DiMaggio has long worked to establish diplomatic channels to countries in conflict with the U.S. She held numerous track two discussions with Iranian officials before the Obama administration formally started nuclear negotiations with Tehran in 2012.

Ms. DiMaggio is Director of the US-Iran Initiative at New America and a Senior Fellow at the think tank.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post about another think tanker who has been active regarding talks with North Korea.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Congressman: CBO Should Aggregate Think Tank Reports

Here is more from The Hill:

House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) is trying to eliminate 89 positions from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office's staff and require the office to aggregate think tank data instead of using its own professional expertise.
“They ought to be aggregators; there are plenty of think tanks that are out there,” Meadows said at a National Press Club event. 
In an amendment to be offered to the security-related spending bill scheduled for a House vote this week, Meadows would cut $15 million of funding to CBO staff members responsible for estimating the budgetary costs of bills in Congress, and have them "carry out such duties solely by facilitating and assimilating scoring data compiled by the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, the Brookings Institution, and the Urban Institute."

Scholars at the conservative think tank R Street Institute are advising against Rep. Meadows' idea, arguing, among others things, that think tanks "may not even have the manpower or desire to generate scores for the hundreds of pieces of legislation that are produced each year."

Think Tanks Using Congressional Hearings to Help Foreign Donors?

With more foreign money flowing into US think tanks, it is becoming more commonplace for think tanks and their scholars to use congressional hearings to lobby on behalf of their foreign donors.  The Institute for Gulf Affairs recently documented an example that brings some recent think tanker testimony into question.  Here is more:

Hundreds of thousands of dollars paid by the United Arab Emirates’ Ambassador to the U.S. to a witness testifying at a congressional hearing later today are casting doubts on his credibility, leaked documents show.
The Center for a New American Security, whose Director of the Middle East Security Program Ilan Goldenberg will testify before the House’s Foreign Affairs Committee, received at least $250,000 in from the United Arab Emirates embassy, the documents show.
The hearing “Assessing the U.S.-Qatar Relationship,” is scheduled for July 26 and called by Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chairman, House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Middle East and North Africa.
The emails also show Mr. Goldenberg’s extensive email and phone communications with U.A.E. Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba since last summer to fund CNAS work and a trip of Goldenberg and colleagues to the U.A.E.
The emails came from the group known as Global Leaks who sent it to the Institute for Gulf Affairs days ago.
The emails also show Goldenberg pushing business contracts for Lockheed Martin, while CNAS’s chief executive officer Michèle Flournoy was lobbying Al Otaiba for Polaris to win a U.A.E. government contract.
The August 2016 invoice was signed by Flournoy and submitted to Ambassador Al Otaiba to request payment for a study about U.A.E missile technology control regime. The study was given to Al Otaiba in February 2017 and distributed to U.A.E leadership, including Abu Dhabi’s crown Prince and strongman Mohamed Bin Zayed, emails show.
CNAS did not answer any questions posed by IGA but emailed the written testimony of Mr. Goldenberg delivered to the subcommittee and included a footnote acknowledging the $250,000 payment. The payment, the statement said, was for a Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) project carried out by CNAS and managed by Goldenberg. U.A.E. is not party to the MTCR.

The Institute for Gulf Affairs (formerly the Saudi Institute), a think tank run by Saudi dissident Ali al-Ahmed, goes on to note that this case "raises legal and ethical questions for congressional committees who rely on witnesses possibly compromised by foreign cash."

In 2015, the House passed a rule requiring witnesses of congressional panels to disclose whether they have been paid by foreign governments.

Update: Here is a new piece from The Intercept entitled "Hacked Emails Show UAE Building Close Relationship With DC Think Tanks That Push Its Agenda."  It has lots of interesting tidbits, including about a UAE-sponsored trip for think tank scholars that was organized by Ilan Goldenberg and Brian Katulis of the Center for American Progress (CAP).

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Think Tank Quickies (#277)

  • Think tank European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) moving operations from London over Brexit.
  • Prestigious Chinese think tank (Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, or SASS) implicated in a scheme to entice US spies to leak classified information.
  • Western think tank funding cheat sheet for the Qatar-GCC conflict.
  • Chart: Should you ask a question during a think tank seminar?
  • New book: The Power of Ideas - The Rising of Thinkers and Think Tanks in China.
  • Video: What happens when you invite 100 local high school students to Brookings.
  • RAND Corp.: Strategic stability between the US and Russia is eroding.
  • Watch the 2017 Prospect Magazine think tank awards on Periscope.
  • Tevi Troy: Can conservatives and their think tanks find their way?
  • CSIS launches "Joint US-China Think Tank Project on the Future of US-China Relations."
  • Leadership Institute holds first Think Tank Opportunity Workshop.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Kushner Introduced to Russian Ambassador by Think Tank Head

This is from an 11-page statement to congressional committees that Jared Kushner has released (as reported by Axios):

With respect to my contacts with Russia or Russian representatives during the campaign, there were hardly any. ... [T]he day after the election, I could not even remember the name of the Russian Ambassador. ... I sent an email asking [Dmitri Simes of the Center for the National Interest, which hosted a Trump foreign policy speech], 'What is the name of the Russian ambassador?'"

In the statement, Kushner said that Simes had done a "great job" putting the event together and said that Simes had created the guest list and extended the invitations for the event.  Kushner also said that Simes has introduced him to four ambassadors at the event, including Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Here is more on that speech from a previous Think Tank Watch post.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Clinton Adviser Searches for Meaning in Think Tanks

Here is more from a Washington Post piece on Jake Sullivan, senior policy advisor to Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign and former Director of Policy Planning at the US State Department under President Barack Obama:

Sullivan...divides his time between an empty think-tank office in Washington and Yale, where he lectures one day a week on law and foreign policy. Almost everything about his professional life is transitory, uncertain, unsettled.
He ran through a list of his early mentors who had helped him find purchase in Washington: There was Leslie H. Gelb, the former president of the Council on Foreign Relations, where Sullivan had spent time as a summer intern, assigned by happenstance to Gelb’s office.
There was Strobe Talbott, who runs the Brookings Institution. In 2000, when Sullivan was starting law school, Talbott had just been chosen to lead the newly formed Yale Center for the Study of Globalization. “Those were the heady days when the mainstream foreign policy consensus was that globalization was a force for good,” Sullivan recalled. He had sought out Talbott after learning that they had both been Rhodes scholars and edited the Yale Daily News.

The "empty think tank office" that the piece mentions likely refers to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where Sullivan is a Senior Fellow in the think tank's Geoeconomics and Strategy Program.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Google Pays Think Tanks to Influence Policy

Here is more from The Wall Street Journal:
Over the past decade, Google has helped finance hundreds of research papers to defend against regulatory challenges of its market dominance, paying $5,000 to $400,000 for the work.
Google has funded roughly 100 academic papers on public policy matters since 2009, according to a Journal analysis of data compiled by the Campaign for Accountability, an advocacy group that has campaigned against Google and receives funds from Google's rivals, including Oracle Corp.  Most mentioned Google's funding
Another 100 or so research papers were written by authors with financing by think tanks or university research centers funded by Google and other tech firms, the data show.  Most of the papers didn't disclose the financial support by the companies, the Campaign for Accountability data show.
Google's strategic recruitment of like-minded professors is one of the tech industry's most sophisticated programs, and includes funding of conferences and research by trade groups, think tanks and consulting firms...

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch piece on Google's close ties to the think tank world.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Think Tank Quickies (#276)

  • AEI President Arthur Brooks weighs in on whether or not think tanks matter.
  • Chart: Elite confidence in various think tanks, via Dan Drezner.
  • William Burns (president of Carnegie Endowment), Jessica Mathews (also Carnegie), Leon Wieseltier (Brookings), Marie-Josee Kravis (Hudson), and Niall Ferguson (Hoover) attend Bilderberg  2017.
  • Patrick Crowley (of Dayblink Consulting) to marry AEI senior media associate Meg Cahill.
  • Hudson Institute hosted spring reception in New York at home of Joe and Marlene Ricketts; UN Amb. Nikki Halley sat down with Hudson CEO Ken Weinstein for an off-the-record talk.
  • New America's Bretton Woods II at Sea event took place aboard super yacht of philanthropists John Evans and Steve Wozencraft.
  • CSIS President John Hamre among those who attended Brzezinski funeral.
  • Fred Kempe, Jim Jones, and Jon Huntsman of Atlantic Council dined at Cafe Milano ahead of their Distinguished Leadership Awards ceremony.
  • Drezner: By moving from Harvard to the Hoover Institution, Niall Ferguson was able to relinquish all of his teaching responsibilities, which had become a distraction for him.
  • Heritage Foundation was the only think tank that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko visited during his trip to Washington.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Think Tank Land Becoming Playground for Spies

Hacked US government emails show that certain experts at think tanks are being heavily targeted by foreign spy agencies.  Here is more from Foreign Policy:
A 2016 document from the Department of Homeland Security Office of Intelligence and Analysis, and obtained by FP, warned that there have been more than a dozen recent cases of U.S. think tanks being hacked, including one breach that involved stealing data on Russia-Turkey relations. The document, which is marked “For Official Use Only,” says, “Cyber actors likely will continue to target think tanks and similar organizations, as many maintain significant connections to US government information and personnel, especially foreign policy officials.” The DHS did not respond to a request for comment.

Think Tank Watch has reported several times about Russian scholars at Western think tanks being targeted by foreign spies, and we have documented that nearly every major US think tank has been hacked over the past few years.

Here is a recent Think Tank Watch post on how a Chinese think tank was used to recruit a US spy.

Chinese Think Tank Used to Recruit US Spy

Here is more from Foreign Policy:
Caught with a bag of cash and an electronic device used to communicate with his handlers, a former government official with years of military and intelligence experience is accused of spying for China.
[Kevin] Mallory allegedly provided several classified government documents to a Chinese contact, who initially claimed affiliation with a prestigious Chinese think tank, in exchange for cash.
A Chinese handler posing as an employee of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences (SASS) made contact with Mallory during trips to China in March and April.
The SASS is a reputable and internationally known think tank.  But it also maintains a close working relationship with the Shanghai State Security Bureau, a regional office of the Ministry of State Security, China's intelligence arm.
Chinese think tanks, including SASS, often work closely with the Ministry of State Security.  China's spy arm prefers to meet sources inside China, and social science academics provide a useful front for intelligence and influence operations.
Some intelligence-linked Chinese think tanks also maintain a known presence in Washington.  One of those is the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.  The institute actively engages in the Washington think tank ecosystem and also invites US officials and academics for events in Beijing.  The Center for Strategic and International Studies...has co-hosted numerous cybersecurity dialogues with the Chinese institute in recent years.
For more than two decades, the institute has sent a fellow to Washington, who stays for a year or two...

The Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences (SASS) is ranked as the 35th best think tank among the countries of China, India, Japan, and South Korea, according to the latest University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings.

Think tanks in both the US and overseas are popular with spies, and a large number of spies are housed within policy shops while others are trying to spy on think tanks (and scholars) themselves.

In related news, Bill Gertz of The Free Beacon just reported that the Chinese spy network in the US may include 25,000 spies.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Heritage Gets Serious About Finding a New President

Here is more from Politico:
The Heritage Foundation has hired the executive search firm CarterBaldwin to assist in its search for a new president, according to a notification obtained by POLITICO.
The job listing, circulated by the Atlanta-based search firm on Tuesday, says the next president of the conservative think tank “has a historic opportunity to build strategically on the organization’s success, to promote unity within the conservative movement, and to positively address current public policy challenges facing our nation.” A spokesman for the Heritage Foundation did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
The top job at the influential conservative institution opened up in early May when the Heritage Foundation’s board of directors unexpectedly pushed out former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, who had led the organization since 2012, citing “significant and worsening management issues that led to a breakdown of communication and trust.”

Here is Think Tank Watch's ultimate guide to what happened at Heritage earlier this year that led to Jim DeMint's ouster.

The job as Heritage president earned DeMint $1.1 million in 2015, the highest of any of think tank head in the world.