Thursday, January 19, 2017

Best Think Tank Tweet of 2017

Although it is early in the year, Think Tank Watch can definitely declare that this tweet from Ariel Edwards-Levy, Staff Reporter and Polling Director at The Huffington Post, is the best think tank tweet of 2017:


Simple but deep...

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

USIP Hosts "Passing the Baton" Event with Trump, Obama Teams

On January 9 and 10 the US Institute of Peace (USIP) hosted a "Passing the Baton" conference to facilitate Donald Trump's transition into the presidency.

Here is more about the event from USIP:
Ten days before the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump, members of his national security team will join Secretary of State John Kerry and other senior foreign policy officials from current and former administrations to discuss immediate and long-term challenges facing the United States. The president-elect’s designated National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, current National Security Advisor Ambassador Susan Rice, former National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and other officials and experts join in a day of on-the- record discussion on January 10.
The meetings will form the third Passing the Baton conference hosted by the U.S. Institute of Peace as part of the transfer of power between U.S. presidents since 2001. USIP, an independent and nonpartisan national institution founded by Congress, hosts the event in accordance with its congressional mandate to advance informed, problem-solving on threats to U.S. national interests and to promote international peace without violence. The conference will bring together current, future and former officials as well as hundreds of foreign policy and national security experts to cover topics such as America’s role in the world, and how the country can prepare to deal with unanticipated strategic surprises.
USIP’s partners for the conference include the American Enterprise Institute, the Atlantic Council, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Center for American Progress and the Heritage Foundation. Politico and SiriusXM’s POTUS Channel 124 are USIP’s media partners for this event.

Here is a full list of speakers and panelists, which included various think tank leaders and scholars such as Arthur Brooks (AEI), Fred Kempe (Atlantic Council), and James Carafano (Heritage).

An event program can be found here. Partners of the event included American Enterprise Institute, Atlantic Council, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Center for American Progress (CAP), and the Heritage Foundation.  Media partners included Politico and SiriusXM

Sponsors of the event included LMI, Boeing, Chevron, and J. Robinson West & Eileen Shields-West.  [J. Robinson West is the Founder and Chairman of PFC Energy.]

So, did the event accomplish anything?  Indeed it did according to the New York Times, which says that the Obama team and the Trump team engaged in a "public display of harmony" when incoming National Security Adviser Michael Flynn shook hands with outgoing National Security Adviser Susan Rice.

Here is how The Economist describes the think tank event.

In 2009 USIP held a "Passing the Baton" event 50 high-level speakers and 1,900 attendees.

Vanity Fair recently wrote a piece about USIP entitled "Is the US Institute of Peace Really Making the World a Better Place?"

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Top-Level Think Tankers Being Ignored by Trump Team

The numerous think tank scholars who signed anti-Trump pledges that had been circulating around for several months are now feeling the repercussions deeply.  Here is more from the Washington Post:

They are some of the biggest names in the Republican national security firmament, veterans of past GOP administrations who say, if called upon by President-elect Donald Trump, they stand ready to serve their country again.
But their phones aren’t ringing. Their entreaties to Trump Tower in New York have mostly gone unanswered. In Trump world, these establishment all-stars say they are “PNG” — personae non gratae.
Their transgression was signing one or both of two public “Never Trump” letters during the campaign, declaring they would not vote for Trump and calling his candidacy a danger to the nation.
One letter, with 122 names, was published by War on the Rocks, a website devoted to national security commentary, during the primary season in March. The other, with 50 names, including some repeat signatories, was published by the New York Times during the general-election campaign in August.
Now, just days before Trump is sworn in as the nation’s 45th president, the letter signers fear they have been added to another document, this one private — a purported blacklist compiled by Trump’s political advisers.
...The purportedly blacklisted figures report to their jobs at Washington law firms and think tanks in a state of indefinite limbo as their colleagues, some working in the same offices, are flirting with potential administration jobs.

The article goes on to note that the Trump transition team held a private briefing for secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson to prepare him for his Senate confirmation hearing.  But an unnamed former Bush national security official who works at a think tank said that some of his younger staff assistants were invited to participate but he was not.  The reason?  Likely retribution for signing an anti-Trump letter.

Think Tank Watch wrote about the "Never Trump" letters early last year.

But people who signed those letters are not the only think tankers who may be left out in the cold as the Trump Administration takes office.  After all, it is looking increasingly likely that Mr. Trump will largely ignore the *entire* think tank community as he favors businessmen over scholars.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Death of Think Tanks Fast Approaching?

The death of the think tank may not be greatly exaggerated.  Why?  Simply put, President-elect Donald Trump, who will be in power for the next four or eight years, prefers businessmen over scholars.  Here is more from Josh Rogin:
For decades, Washington think tanks have been holding pens for senior government officials waiting for their next appointments and avenues of influence for sponsors of their research. Donald Trump’s incoming administration is bent on breaking that model.
Trump’s appointments have so far have been heavy on business executives and former military leaders. Transition sources tell me the next series of nominations — deputy-level officials at top agencies — will also largely come from business rather than the think tank or policy communities. For example, neither the American Enterprise Institute’s John Bolton nor the Council on Foreign Relations’ Richard Haass is likely to be chosen for deputy secretary of state, while hedge fund manager David McCormick is on the shortlist. Philip Bilden, a private equity investment firm executive with no government experience, is expected to be named secretary of the Navy.
The president-elect favors people who have been successful in the private sector and amassed personal wealth over those who have achieved prominence in academic or policy fields. Those close to him, including chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon and senior adviser Jared Kushner, see think tanks as part of a Washington culture that has failed to implement good governance, while becoming beholden to donors.
 “This is the death of think tanks as we know them in D.C.,” one transition official told me. “The people around Trump view think tanks as for sale for the highest bidder. They have empowered whole other centers of gravity for staffing this administration.”

The piece goes on to note that if Mr. Trump ends up shutting out think tanks, they will likely try to maintain influence by focusing more on Congress, industry, and foreign entities.

Others have come to the same, bleak conclusion about think tanks.  The Economist recently noted that the world has reached "peak think tank" and many have become redundant and useless.  Think Tank Watch recently wrote a piece entitled "Trump Dumping Think Tanks."

Think tanks are trying to change rapidly in order to evolve to the new environment.  The liberal Center for American Progress (CAP) has pivoted from thinking to attacking.  The Brookings Institution is touting itself as a sanctuary think tank for liberals.

To be sure, a handful of conservative think tanks have close ties to the Trump Administration, but whether they have any real influence after January 20 is an open question.

Update:

Here are some reactions from the piece:
  • Bruce Bartlett: Trump could cause the death of think tanks as we know know them...but they've been brain-dead for years.
  • Rebecca Buckwalter-Poza, a fellow at CAP: Trump can't kill off think tanks.  Separate streams.  He's more likely to end up outsourcing to them.
  •  James Jay Carafano of the Heritage Foundation: There is room for better think tanks in Washington.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Economist Talks Think Tanks

The Economist has a new piece on think tanks entitled "What Do Think Tanks Do?"  Here are Think Tank Watch's favorite quotes:

  • Sharp quotes, intriguing facts, and bold new policy proposals are attributed to the mysterious [think] tanks (as is plenty of rubbish).
  • The "think tank" label become popular in the 1950s.
  • Think tanks aim to fill the gap between academia and policymaking.  Academics grind out authoritative studies, but at a snail's pace.  Journalists' first drafts of history are speedy but thin.  A good think tank helps the policymaking process by publishing reports that are as rigorous as academic research and as accessible as journalism.  (Bad ones have a knack of doing just the opposite.) 
  • Think tanks flourished in the 20th century for two reasons.  Governments were expanding everywhere, meaning there was lots of demand for policy expertise.  And the arrival of the 24-hour news cycle created an insatiable appetite for informed interviewees.  The same trends are now causing think tanks to take off in developing countries.
  • Yet the world may have reached peak think tank.  UPenn researchers found that in 2014 the number of new think tanks declined for the first time in 30 years.  One reason is that donors nowadays prefer to make project-specific grants, rather than funneling money into mere thinking.  Another is increased competition.  Professional consultancies such as McKinsey publish a fair bit of brainwork, and members of opinionated "advocacy organizations" can make for more compelling interviewees than balanced think tankers.

To cut straight to the chase, the Economist is saying that think tanks are essentially becoming redundant and useless.

We should note that the Economist recently wrote a piece on "worried wonks" at think tanks.

Think Tank Quickies (#249)

  • Trump NSC pick Monica Crowley plagiarized from think tanks. 
  • Bruegel event on Jan. 26: Why are think tanks more important now than ever before? 
  • Economist: What do think tanks do?
  • Jennifer Rubin on the challenges for think tanks in 2017.
  • Washington Post calls white nationalist group National Policy Institute a "think tank."
  • What role for a European think tank in the age of populism?
  • Will think tankers be put on something similar to the "Professor Watchlist" created by conservative youth group Turning Point USA?
  • Center for American Progress (CAP) casts doubts on Trump infrastructure plan. 
  • Jacob Leibenluft joined CBPP as a senior adviser for national policy; he most recently led Hillary Clinton's economic policy team during the 2016 campaign and served in the Treasury and White House under President Obama. 
  • Former Brookings and Urban Institute alum Carey Anne Nadeau featured in Washington Post for her company Open Data Nation.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

US Intel Agency Says Russia Targeted Think Tanks

A new report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) confirms many previous reports from the media and cybersecurity firms in saying that Russian has been hacking into think tanks.  Here is an excerpt:
We assess Russian intelligence services collected against the US primary campaigns, think tanks, and lobbying groups they viewed as likely to shape US policy...Immediately after Election Day, we assess Russian intelligence began a spearphishing campaign targeting US Government employees and individuals associated with US think tanks and NGOs in national security, defense, and foreign policy fields.  This campaign could provide material for future influence efforts as well as foreign intelligence collection on the incoming administration's goals and plans.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post on Russia's alleged targeting of think tanks during the election season.  Nearly every major US think tank has been targeted by foreign intelligence agencies over the past few years.

Atlantic Council's Top Risk of 2017: Trump

The think tank Atlantic Council has just published a list of the top 10 risks for 2017 and at the top of the list is the Trump transition.  Here is the full list:
  1. The Trump transition
  2. An imploding Europe
  3. An emboldened Russia
  4. US influence collapses in Asia
  5. A new low in the Middle East
  6. Escalating African conflicts
  7. Instability returns in Latin America
  8. Liberal values retreat
  9. A leaderless world
  10. A major pandemic finally happens

On the Trump transition, Atlantic Council says that a "crisis badly handled in the early days could weaken" Mr. Trump and the US, and Trump "has made it harder for himself by alienating the US Intelligence Community" even before he assumes office.

Atlantic Council also has a list of what it considers to be the top 10 risks for the year 2035.  The list comes from the think tank's 2016 report entitled "Global Risks 2035: The Search for a New Normal."

As some of you may know, Atlantic Council hosted an event about that report at the Improv in Washington, DC in which comedians parodied and poked fun of the contents of the report.  Think Tank Watch voted it the best think tank event of 2016.

Other think tanks produce similar lists.  For example, in December the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) published its 2017 Preventive Priorities Survey which asks foreign policy experts to rank conflicts based on the likelihood of occurring or escalating and their potential impacts on the US.

In December the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) issued its 2017 Global Forecast, a collection of essays by CSIS experts focused on the critical issues facing the US and the world in the year ahead.

Think tanks are big fans of both short- and long-term outlooks.  In 2010, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace published a report entitled The World Order in 2050.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Fake Think Tanks?

While fake news is getting all the attention these days, it is a little known fact that fake think tanks are highly fashionable.

The New York Times just wrote a piece on the proliferation of fake academia - what is essentially "fraudulent" journals and conferences.  Here is an excerpt from NYT:
OMICS International is a leader in the growing business of academic publication fraud.  It has created scores of "journals" that mimic the look and feel of traditional scholarly publications, but without the integrity.  OMICS is also in the less well-known business of what might be called conference fraud.  Both schemes exploit a fundamental weakness of modern higher education: Academics need to publish in order to advance professionally, get better jobs or secure tenure.  Even within the halls of respectable academia, the difference between legitimate and fake publications and conferences is far blurrier than scholars would like to admit."

But fake think tanks have been around awhile.  Here is a piece that Think Tank Watch wrote in 2015 about "fake" think tanks.

In fact, fake think tanks have been around for decades.  Take the so-called Boring Institute, a "fake," one-man think tank that originated in 1984.  Here is more on that "think tank" from the New York Times.

We should also note that there are a number of fictitious think tanks floating around...

Monday, January 9, 2017

Democrats Finding Think Tank Market Tight

As the Obama era comes to a close and staffers pore out into the Washington job market, many are finding that their desire to score a cushy think tank job may not necessarily be a piece of cake.  Here is more from Politico:
The job market is about to get even more crowded for Washington Democrats, as thousands of Obama appointees join the hundreds of Clinton campaign staffers looking for employment.
There’s rarely been less demand for their services.
The Trump tornado is tearing up post-election planning around the Beltway. It’s not just that those 4,000 administration jobs are no longer available to Hillary for America alumni, or that failed Senate candidates like Russ Feingold and Katie McGinty won’t be able to hire their staff on the Hill. There are also the lobbying firms, trade associations and corporate government affairs offices that are pitching senior Obama aides’ resumes into the round file while scrambling to hire operatives with Republican connections.
It’s insult to injury for a generation of young operatives who are still managing their shock and grief from Hillary Clinton’s loss. And for those who want to fight to keep President Barack Obama’s legacy from being erased, there aren’t a lot of places ready to pay them to do it.

Making the navigation of the think tank scene even trickier is the fact that many Democratic think tanks have been tweaking their missions as the Trump Administration moves into Washington.

Moreover, fewer positions are opening for Democrats as many Clinton supporters at think tanks have decided to remain in place for the next four years, hoping for better luck in 2020.

But those that can score a coveted full-time think tank position will find salaries and benefits fairly robust, as money continues to pore into think tanks from corporations and foreign governments.

Nevertheless, the think tank outlook has been getting bleaker, particularly as more people have begun to question the independence of think tank research, the abundant pay-for-play schemes that have clouded think tanks, and the fact that Donald Trump does not seem to care much for think tanks.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Pair of Think Tank Heads Could Become Ambassadors

Here is what The Hill is reporting about Jon Huntsman, the Chairman of the think tank Atlantic Council, and Michele Flournoy, the Co-Founder and CEO of Center for a New American Security (CNAS):

Incoming White House chief strategist Steve Bannon is backing candidates for ambassadorships that are opposed by other advisers to President-elect Donald Trump and who fall outside the far-right view for which he is known, according to a report Wednesday in The New York Times.
Bannon has spoken favorably of Jon Huntsman, the former governor of Utah who served as ambassador to China under President Obama, according to the Times. Huntsman has reportedly been suggested for ambassador to Japan.
Bannon has also backed Michele Flournoy, who was the third-highest-ranking Pentagon official under Obama, for ambassador to NATO, the newspaper reported.
Flournoy, who was widely believed to be Hillary Clinton’s choice for Defense secretary had she won, has already denied any interest in taking a role in the Trump administration.
Amid speculation that Flournoy was in the running for Trump’s deputy Defense secretary, her think tank, Center for a New American Security (CNAS), put out a statement saying she was staying put.

As we reported earlier this week, several top think tankers are still in the running for high-level posts in the incoming Trump Administration.

Think Tank Watch will continue to provide updates of all the think tankers who go into the Trump Administration as well as all the outgoing Obama officials who are beginning their post-government lives in think tank land.

Will Heritage Foundation Bring All Republicans Together?

Politico reports that the Heritage Foundation continues to bring powerful Republicans together, confirming the fact that the conservative think tank will play an outsized role in US politics in the years ahead.  Here is more:
...the House Freedom Caucus and the Republican Study Committee -- two conservative caucuses in the House -- are holding a joint retreat in New York in February. There will be A LOT of opinions at this one, as the two groups represent well more than half of all House Republicans. The weekend is organized by the Heritage Foundation.

The Freedom Caucus has quite an affinity for the Heritage Foundation, which reportedly plagiarized from the think tank a list of rules the incoming Trump Administration should immediately repeal or revise.

The Heritage Foundation has already been a big influencing on the Trump transition team and Trump's political and economic thinking.

However, Heritage and similar influential think tanks are not omnipotent.  After all, as Associated Press has noted, "Trump's roster of agency heads and advisers conspicuously lacks and academics."

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Think Tank Quickies (#248)

  • FBI head James Comey probably faxing his resume around to right wing think tanks. 
  • How a think tank got a professor dropped from 538 for wrongthink.
  • Gen. Reshetnikov, head of Kremlin's foreign policy think tank RISS and key ideologist of war on Ukraine, fired.
  • What a progressive think tank gained by hosting Netanyahu. 
  • Brookings takes credit for Morocco app ban reversal.
  • Information on how to use Brookings's books in university courses.
  • Sponsored ad about getting DC dating advice from a think tank!
  • Most think tanks have consistently championed regime change from Iraq to Libya to Syria.
  • All the think tanks except Cato want to buy the tri-service F-35 fighter.
  • Peggy Noonan: "A stupid man from a leftist think tank..." 
  • RAND's overview of foreign policy issues that Mr. Trump will face.
  • Quality control at think tanks.

Monday, December 19, 2016

CFR Head Now in Running for Deputy Secretary of State

Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) did not get the nod for Secretary of State, but he is reportedly still in the running for the number two spot at Foggy Bottom: Deputy Secretary of State.

Here is more from Politico:
As President-elect Donald Trump fills out his national security and foreign policy team, among the names being circulated as the potential No. 2 at the State Department: Council on Foreign Relations president Richard Haass, according to two senior transition aides.
Haass, a veteran of both Bush administrations, has served as director of policy planning at the State Department and as a senior director on the National Security Council.
Trump has praised Haass, who is a regular presence on one of his favorite television programs, MSNBC’s Morning Joe. “I respect Richard Haass, who’s on your show a lot,” Trump told the show’s hosts in May. “And I like him a lot. I have a few people that I really like and respect.”
Haass also met with Trump privately in 2015 in Trump Tower to brief him on global issues. “I've spent an hour with him there. I've seen him a few times on and off golf courses,” Haass told NPR.
In that same NPR appearance, Haass said of Trump, “We obviously have areas of, you know, some disagreement, to say the least, on policy,” citing his support for free trade.

The article also notes that Haass is an acquaintance of his potential boss at the State Department, Chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil Rex Tillerson.  Mr. Haass hosted Tillerson at CFR in 2012 for a conversation about energy security and climate change.  Moreover, Haass's former colleagues, Bob Gates and Condoleezza Rice, were the ones who recommended Tillerson for the top State Department job.

More about Tillerson's strong connections to think tanks can be found here.

Two others who are also in the running for the Deputy Secretary of State slot also happen to be think tankers: former UN Ambassador John Bolton, a Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), and Elliott Abrams, a Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at CFR.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

CAP Pivots from Thinking to Attacking

In the time period of about one month, the liberal think tank Center for American Progress (CAP) has done a super-quick pivot from being Hillary Clinton's brain to being the top think tank assailant of Donald Trump.

Here is more from Politico:
Looking to build itself into a nerve center for the anti-Donald Trump resistance, the liberal Center for American Progress think tank is relaunching its advocacy-focused arm Thursday and bringing on a longtime senior aide to Sen. Harry Reid to help lead the charge.
Adam Jentleson, Reid’s deputy chief of staff, will work to steer the new war room at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, which its leaders hope will provide Democrats with a centralized resource to oppose the president-elect’s moves — starting with his Cabinet nominations.
The reorientation comes at a difficult inflection point not only for Democrats, but for the constellation of left-leaning organizations that pepper the Washington landscape and that fully expected to be advising Hillary Clinton’s White House transition team at this point. CAP’s move, landing Thursday to mark the 225th anniversary of the signing of the Bill of Rights, is one of the most significant in a series of pushes into a world where Democrats are once again the opposition.
Now, the group will be hiring researchers as it promotes its Trump transition tracker, which is intended to “empower readers and users to oppose Trump nominees” by informing them about activities that are being organized to stand in the way of appointments, explained Action Fund Deputy Director Igor Volsky.
Its website — separate from CAP's ThinkProgress news blog that has grown 33 percent in circulation since Trump’s win — will also track Trump’s conflicts of interest and will include resources like petitions and tools allowing readers to send messages to relevant elected officials.

CAP, steeling reeling from Mrs. Clinton's crushing loss to Donald Trump, had been pounding out reports to guide the Clinton Administration and was readying a slew of experts to go into the administration.  Now, it is stuck acting as an attack dog and a waiting room for Democrats who hope to regain power in 2020 or 2024.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Rex Tillerson Has Strong Ties to CSIS

Donald Trump's nominee to be Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, has very strong ties to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), the world's top defense and national security think tank.

Mr. Tillerson, the Chairman and CEO of Exxon Mobil Corporation, has been a member of the CSIS Board of Trustees since 2005.  Here is a statement from CSIS congratulating Tillerson's nomination.

Dr. John Hamre, President of CSIS, defended Tillerson on PBS yesterday evening, saying he is not an ideological man.  Politico reports that Dr. Hamre has spent more than 100 hours discussing foreign policy with Tillerson over the past 11 years.

Exxon is one of the largest funders of CSIS, and is currently listed in a category of recently giving $200,000+ to the think tank in the past year, according to CSIS's corporate donors list.  That money is earmarked for regional studies, executive education, technology, and "general" programs.

Exxon was among those who gave more than $5 million to support CSIS's new $100 million headquarters in Washington, DC.  Tillerson himself also gave a gift, listed at "under $500,000," to support the new building.

In 2009, Exxon gave $5 million to strengthen CSIS's Global Health Policy Program and to provide space in its new headquarters to house the Global Health Program.

Exxon is a huge supporter of think tanks, having given more than $30 million over the years to more than a dozen think tank.

In 2009, Tillerson gave a speech at the Wilson Center in which he announced that his company supported a carbon tax to help fight climate change.

Tillerson is one of several of Mr. Trump's Cabinet picks who hails from think tank land.

Monday, December 12, 2016

AEI Has Grand Opening Party for New Headquarters

The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) continues to celebrate its new headquarters in Washington, DC. 

Here is more from Politico:
AEI President Arthur Brooks and AEI scholars hosted the grand opening of their new HQ, The Daniel A. D’Aniello building, at 1789 Massachusetts Ave. last night. SPOTTED: Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas), Rep. Pat Meehan (R-Pa.), Rep. French Hill (R-Ark.), RSC Chairman Bill Flores (R-Texas), RSC Chairman-elect Mark Walker (R-N.C.), Carl Cannon, S.E. Cupp and John Goodwin, Hugo Gurdon, Daniel Halper, John Parkinson, Paul Teller, Chris Isham, Jonathan Karl, Michele Kelemen, Bill Kristol, Libby Liu, Josh and Ali Rogin, Neil Irwin, Chris Bedford, Lauren Zelt, Benny Johnson, Katie Glueck, Rich Lowry, Chris Stirewalt, Niels Lesniewski, Matt Continetti, Jim Geraghty, John Bolton, Jim DeMint, Strobe Talbot [sic], Sue Desmond-Hellman, Jonah Goldberg, Robby George, Ramesh Ponnuru, April Ponnuru, Cornel West, Marc Thiessen, Tim Carney, David French, Danielle Pletka, Michael Strain, Kevin Hassett, Michael Barone, Paul Wolfowitz.

In truly bipartisan fashion, AEI, a conservative think tank, invited Strobe Talbott, President of the liberal think tank Brookings Institution, as well as think tank competitor Jim DeMint, the head of the Heritage Foundation.

Here is more from Think Tank Watch on AEI's new headquarters.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Brookings Touts Itself as Santuary Think Tank for Liberals

Here is what PJ Media is reporting:
The center-left Brookings Institution hosted an event for former Labor Party members of parliament, and joked that the institution is now a "a sanctuary think tank for liberals." Apparently liberals are getting so outnumbered all over the world that the institution thinks it has to provide a safe space for them.

The video of that event, entitled "Cities in the Age of Trump and Brexit," can be watched here.  It featured Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and British MP Tristram Hunt.

Emanuel's visit to Brookings was part of a trip to Washington in which he was lobbying for more aid for Chicago.

The influence of the Brookings Institution has diminished greatly with the news that Donald Trump will be the next president of the United States.

During the next several years (if not much longer), Brookings's main role will be acting as a Democratic government-in-waiting and an "attack dog" against various Trump policies.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

British Think Tank IISS Covertly Funded by Bahraini Royals

Here is more from The Guardian which broke the story:
A British think tank that bills itself as a global authority on military and diplomatic affairs has been accused of jeopardising its independence after leaked documents showed it has secretly received £25m from the Bahraini royal family, which has been criticised for its poor human rights record.
Confidential documents seen by the Guardian show that the country’s repressive rulers donated the sum to the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) over the last five years.
The documents also reveal that IISS and the Bahraini royals agreed to “take all necessary steps” to keep most of the donations secret. The Bahrain donations make up more than a quarter of IISS’s income.
The disclosure comes as Theresa May, the prime minister, is on a two-day visit to Bahrain to discuss post-Brexit trade with Gulf leaders. Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, is due to give a speech in Bahrain’s capital, Manama, on Friday at a conference organised by IISS and paid for by Bahrain’s ruling family. The royals are footing the bill for all delegates to stay in villas at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.

IISS's Manama Dialogue 2016, a regional security summit (more info. here), is taking place December 9-11 in Bahrain.  An archive of past dialogues can be found here.

The annual IISS conference has been hailed as "the central pillar" of discussions about about security in the Middle East.  Delegations from around 30 countries reportedly attend.

It has been reported that almost 30 percent of the Bahraini delegates at the 2015 Manama Dialogue were members of the Al Khalifa royal family.

The UK Charity Commission is reportedly investigating whether the think tank compromised its independence by accepting the financing.

Here is a list of IISS's sources of funding, and no, Bahrain is not included.  Here is more from Bahrain Watch.  Here is the most recent IISS financial report statement.

In 2016 IISS, which was founded in 1958, was ranked as the world's 7th best think tank by the University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings.  It was also ranked as the world's 2nd best think tank for defense and national security research.

IISS, which is considered one of four major British think tanks specializing in foreign affairs, is headquartered in London and has offices in Washington, DC, Singapore, and Manama, Bahrain.  Besides the Manama Dialogue, the think tank is well known for its annual Military Balance assessment of the world's armed forces, and the Shangri-La Dialogue, which was launched in Singapore in 2002.

Bahrain is also known to give to influential think tanks in the United States, including the Atlantic Council.  But with President-elect Donald Trump's general indifference about think tanks, it seems that Bahrain has decided to bypass think tanks and go directly to the source of influence.

We should also note that think tanks hiding their funding sources is extremely prevalent in the United States as well as think tanks overseas.

Update: It is being reported that John Jenkins quietly stepped down as executive director of IISS-Middle East in late November.  Sources close to IISS management reportedly said that there had been various internal management disputes on issues such as "lack of oversight."  His bio can be found here.

Also, Middle East Eye has been doing its own investigation into IISS and says that it believes the think tank's financial dependence on Bahrain may be significantly greater than The Guardian has suggested.

The Most Powerful Think Tanks Now All Start With the Letter "H"

With Donald Trump as the new sheriff in town, think tank influence and power has shifted dramatically to a select few conservative think tanks that all happen to start with the letter "H."  We are referring to the Heritage Foundation, Hoover Institution, and, to a lesser extent, the Hudson Institute.

The Heritage Foundation is by far the biggest think tank winner with the incoming Trump Administration, and has dozens of current and former scholars and experts helping the Trump team with its transition process.  A massive amount of Heritage scholars likely will go into the Trump Administration.

The Hoover Institution is also a big winner, with Gen. Jim Mattis just being named as Trump's Secretary of Defense.  Mattis was a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Hoover.

Moreover, it was just announced that Kevin Warsh, another Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Hoover, will be the only think tanker on Mr. Trump's new "President's Strategic and Advisory Forum."

Elaine Chao, Trump's pick for Secretary of Transportation, was a Distinguished Fellow at the Heritage Foundation until June 2016, when she became a Distinguished Fellow at the Hudson Institute.

Of course, other think tanks, such as Atlantic Council, Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), American Enterprise Institute (AEI), and even the Cato Institute could score some big wins, but for now, the "H" think tanks dominate.

Think Tank Watch should also note that these newly empowered think tanks are not omnipotent.  After all, it seems that Donald Trump is listening to a just a handful key advisors much more than the think tankers in Washington, DC.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Trump Dumping Think Tanks

Even though a massive amount of think tankers from the Heritage Foundation and other conservative think tanks are on the Trump transition team, it doesn't mean that Donald Trump is actually listening to any of them.

Here is more from Politico:
While Donald Trump dines on frog legs with Mitt Romney and meets with a parade of lawmakers and governors in his gold-plated Midtown skyscraper, most of his transition staff are hunkered down in Washington, D.C., writing detailed governing plans for his first 100 days.
But so far, Trump and his inner circle have largely ignored those plans as they focus on top appointments and lean on the advice of politicians, CEOs and donors, rather than on their transition staff, say sources close to the transition.
The president-elect, meanwhile, has been more likely to set policy on Twitter than through consultation with his D.C. advisers.
The New York-D.C. transition divide reflects Trump’s tendency to focus on personnel and, especially, personality, over policy. Experts say that bent, combined with his improvisational style and the divisions between the teams will complicate his transition to the White House, making it less likely he’ll have a cohesive roadmap for governing on Day One. 
...former transition officials say Trump’s operation is unusual in the way it’s leaving so much of the policy and second-tier personnel appointments to D.C. transition team members, many of whom are volunteers with little power and no connection to Trump’s key advisers.
Trump has few real ties to Washington’s network of Republican policy wonks and is much more likely to take advice from son-in-law Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon, Trump’s incoming chief strategist, than from veterans of Republican presidencies.

The article goes on to list Mr. Trump's "inner core," which consists of Jared Kusher, Steve Bannon, Mike Pence, Reince Priebus, and Kellyanne Conway.  Think Tank Watch should note that of those five, only Mike Pence has any real connection to the think tank world.

To be sure, hundreds of think tankers will go into the Trump Administration over the next few months and years, and they will certainly influence policy, but by how much has yet to be determined.

Think Tank Quickies (#247)

  • To all you highly educated wonks at think tanks scratching your head, there's no big mystery.  "It's just that most voters are idiots."
  • Brookings trustee meeting in Mexico City.
  • Will we see bona fide white nationalist think tanks emerge in DC, with offices off of K Street?
  • 48 hours after election, Clinton-linked think tank sent out fundraising appeal.
  • Pic: Think tanks who endorsed HRC.
  • At least two UK think tanks set up 501(c)(3) arms in US.
  • The think tank that built the alt-right is basically just a bunch of white supremacists?
  • Jewish groups urge Israel's envoy to reject award from "anti-Muslim" think tank.
  • Princeton doing joint workshop in UK on role of think tanks in foreign policy.
  • Any bankers at think tank Third Way?
  • Think Tank Digital...in the basement of CSIS...think tank revolution is changing think tanks.
  • Penn State SIA learning about think tank at CSIS.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

VP-Elect Pence Keynotes Heritage Foundation Event

Here is more from Politico:
The Heritage Foundation has reserved the “presidential ballroom” at President-elect Donald Trump’s Washington D.C. hotel on Tuesday for an event to honor some of the group’s top donors — those who give at least $1,000 annually.
And who keynoting the evening event at Trump’s hotel? None other than Vice President-elect Mike Pence.
Trump’s hotel, in the renovated Old Post Office Building only blocks from the White House, has become a symbol of the potential financial conflicts for the incoming president, as two foreign nations have already scheduled events there.

As Think Tank Watch has reported, Mike Pence is no stranger to think tank land and has close ties to the Heritage Foundation, and no other think tank is more closely aligned with the Trump transition team than Heritage.

We should also point out that Pence served in the House with Jim DeMint, the current President of the Heritage Foundation.  Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), who has been tapped by Mr. Trump to be is Attorney General, also has a close relationship with DeMint and Heritage.

In related news, CNN just published a new piece entitled "Meet Donald Trump's Think Tank" which is all about Trump's connections to Heritage.

Think Tankers Secretly Pushed for Taiwan Call With Trump

Asia advisers to President-elect Donald Trump apparently were behind Mr. Trump's phone call with Taiwan's leader Tsai Ing-wen.

Alexander Gray, Peter Navarro, and Stephen Yates were whispered to be the drivers behind the call, according to several insiders close to the Trump transition team.

Stephen Yates, CEO of D.C. International Advisory (DCIA), previously served as a Senior Policy Analyst at the Heritage Foundation.  Several sources say Yates was behind the call, but he has denied it.  Yates reportedly wrote much of the China/Taiwan portion of the Republican Party platform.

The Heritage Foundation has very close ties to Taiwan, and Ed Fuelner, the former President of that think tank (and current adviser to the Trump transition team), is said to have cultivated extensive ties with Taiwan for decades. [Fuelner actually took a group from his think tank and met with Tsai Ing-wen in October 2016, and is said to have been a "crucial figure" is setting up communications channels between the two sides.]

Here is the Heritage Foundation's most current thinking on Taiwan.  Last month the think tank held an event on US-Taiwan relations in the new administration (video here).

Walter Lohman, Director of the Heritage Foundation's Asia Studies Center, said that the Trump-Tsai call is a "good start" to reforming US-Taiwan relations.

Lohman told Politico today that Heritage has received money for 30 years from three Taiwanese companies, although he declined to name them.  Politico noted that Taiwan has also given money to American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).  However, an AEI spokesman said the think tank no longer accepts foreign donations.

Mr. Gray was a Policy Analyst at the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) from 2011-2013, and also participated in the CSIS-Pacific Forum Young Leaders Program in 2014 and the Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI) Future Leaders Program 2014-2015.

The phone call was reportedly arranged by Bob Dole, Special Counsel at the law firm of Alston & Bird LLP and Co-founder of BPC.

Dr. Navarro,a professor at the University of California-Irvine, is not tied directly to any think tanks but writes extensively about China and Taiwan.  Here is a Navarro piece from July 2016 entitled "America Can't Dump Taiwan."

Here is a recent Foreign Policy piece by Gray and Navarro entitled "Donald Trump's Peace Through Strength Vision for the Asia Pacific."

Think Tank Watch should note that other conservative think tanks have also been supportive of Trump's seemingly new Asia policy.  Michael Pillsbury, Senior Fellow and Director of the Center for Chinese Strategy at the Hudson Institute, said he admires Trump's writing and campaign speeches about how to negotiate with China.

Dan Blumenthal, Director of Asian Studies and Resident Fellow AEI, and Randall Shriver, President and CEO of the Project 2049 Institute, said that Trump's Taiwan call was a step toward balanced relations.

The call comes as Taiwan has begun to ramp up its lobbying and think tank efforts in Washington, DC the past year, and the incoming Trump Administration should be a big boon to new Taiwan-funded think tanks such as the Global Taiwan Institute (GTI).

One thing is for sure: Asia hands from think tanks who supported Hillary Clinton should have their hands full as they work to figure out how to handle the new administration.

Clinton's Asia Policy Team to Burrow In at Think Tanks

Hillary Clinton's Asia policy team may still be reeling from the surprise loss to Donald Trump and the realization of no high-level White House post, but most still have their think tanks to fall back on.

Earlier this year the China Program at the Carter Center compiled a list of Hillary Clinton's Asia Policy Team, and nearly all of them hailed from think tank land.

Among those on the list include:
  • Jeff Bader, a Senior Fellow at Brookings
  • Karen Brooks, an Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR)
  • Kurt Campbell, Co-Founder and Co-Chairman of the Center for a New American Security (CNAS)
  • Amy Chang, a former Research Associate at CNAS
  • Michael Chase, a senior political scientist at RAND Corp.
  • Darcie Draudt, a Research Associate at CFR
  • Elizabeth Economy, a Senior Fellow and Director of Asia Studies at CFR
  • Glen Fukushima, a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress (CAP)
  • Bonnie Glaser, a Senior Adviser for Asia and Director of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)
  • Brian Harding, Director for East and Southeast Asia for the National Security and International Policy team at CAP (and formerly at CSIS)
  •  Scott Harold, Associate Director of the RAND Center for Asia Pacific Policy
  • Duyeon Kim, Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Harry Krejsa, Research Associate at CNAS
  • Satu Limaye, Director of the East-West Center in Washington
  • Jamie Metzel, Senior Fellow at Atlantic Council
  • David Parker, Associate Fellow at CSIS
  • Jim Schoff, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Sheila Smith, Senior Fellow for Japan Studies at CFR
  • Alexander Sullivan, Adjunct Fellow at CNAS
  • Ali Wyne, Nonresident Fellow at Atlantic Council

The complete list can be found here, although Think Tank Watch should note that many others were advising Clinton on Asia policy.

Nevertheless, their think tanks should provide a nice resting place until the 2020 election.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Think Tank Quickies (#246)

  • Heritage breaks with Trump in describing Russia threat. 
  • Cato agrees with Trump on many issues.
  • RAND study: Predictive death of household landline telephones in US may be premature.
  • Elizabeth Warren aligns with daughter's think tank on policy goals.
  • Can Trump overcome the US foreign policy blob at think tanks?
  • US Army ranked weak in new think tank report.
  • How should think tanks respond to a changing post-truth reality?
  • Atlantic Council announces Stockholm office.
  • Why think tanks should implement Accelerated Mobile Pages.
  • 18 think tanks every teacher should know.
  • Emma Connors of Lowy Institute on the scene in DC post-election.
  • Brookings on the three possible Trump presidencies.

One Think Tanker on Trump's New 16-Member Policy Panel

On December 2 President-elect Donald Trump established the President's Strategic and Policy Forum, a group consisting mostly of current and former business executives that will advise Mr. Trump on how government policy impacts economic growth, job creation, and productivity.

One think tanker made the list: Kevin Warsh, the Shepard Family Distinguished Visiting Fellow in Economics at the Hoover Institution, a think tank housed at Stanford University.

Warsh served as member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System from 2006 to 2011.  He currently serves on the Board of Directors of UPS and is a member of the Group of Thirty.

Warsh is married to Jane Lauder, the granddaughter of Estée Lauder and heiress to the Estée Lauder beauty empire.

Mr. Trump's pick for Secretary of Defense, Gen. Jim Mattis, is also a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Two Think Tank Heads Could be Trump's Secretary of State

In recent days President-elect Donald Trump has been expanding his search for Secretary of State, and Jon Huntsman, the Chairman of the Atlantic Council, is one of the names that has recently surfaced.

The Atlantic Council has been issuing strategy papers meant as a "blueprint" for the Trump Administration, and Huntsman has participated in the writing of some of those reports.

Another dark horse candidate for Secretary of State is Richard Haass, the President of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).

Haass was among several think tank heads who had a private briefing with Mr. Trump during the presidential campaign, and Trump has shown affection for Haass.

Another think tanker that has been considered for the Secretary of State position is John Bolton, a Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).

Mr. Trump has already hired and nominated a number of think tankers for his transition team and Cabinet, including a number of scholars and experts from the Heritage Foundation, Hoover Institution, and Hudson Institute.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Trump's SecDef "Mad Dog" Mattis Hails From Think Tank Land

President-elect Donald Trump continues to choose people for his transition team and Cabinet with extremely deep ties to powerful US think tanks.

Gen. Jim Mattis, who has just been selected by Mr. Trump to be his Secretary of Defense, is the Davies Family Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution, a conservative think tank at Stanford University.

Before that, he was the Annenberg Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Hoover.

He is also a member of the think tank's Military History/Contemporary Conflict Working Group.

A number of think tankers seem to hold Gen. Mattis in high regard.  Heather Hurlburt, Director of the New Models of Policy Change initiative at New America, said "Mattis is respected by people I respect."

Max Boot, a Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), said that Mattis is a "great choice" for Defense Secretary.

Mattis has also praised think tanks, such as the defense-oriented Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).  In an April 22, 2016 speech at that think tank, he said that he is "routinely copying things down from CSIS," and noting that "CSIS doesn't just make assertions...It also includes discussions where you actually come out with something that is perhaps a little better each time you go through a cycle."

The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank with extremely close ties to Mr. Trump, has a new piece on the "four things you need to know" about Mattis.  That think tank says Mattis faces challenges of rebuilding the US military and American credibility.

Lt. Gen. Thomas Spoehr, the Director of the Heritage Foundation's Center for National Defense, said Gen. Mattis will bring a "solid perspective" to the job.  Think Tank Watch should note that in May 2015 Mattis spoke at Heritage on "the state of the world."

Gen. Mattis recently co-edited a book with Kori Schake, a Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution, entitled "Warriors and Citizens: American Views of Our Military."

In related Cabinet-think tank news, Mr. Trump chose Elaine Chao, who has strong ties to the Heritage Foundation and the Hudson Institute, to be his Transportation Secretary.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

New Think Tank Quickies (#245)

  • Think tankers partying at Georgetown rape house?  Topless models covered in body paint mingled with foreign policy experts...lots of cocaine...
  • Tech companies tap new talent from academia (and think tanks)?
  • Donna Harris, co-founder of start-up incubator 1776, suggests she may move to a think tank.
  • Max Abrahms: Media treats think tanks like they're objective information sources rather than advocacy centers funded by ideologues with specific agendas.
  • Max Fisher: Will Gulf states pull $$ out of think tanks and put it into Trump hotel suites?  "Cheaper way to buy influence as think tank reach declines."
  • Surprisingly high numbers of safe spaces and grief counselors at DC think tanks...
  • First-ever "black girls think tank."
  • Careers in think tanks by Minna Islama Horowitz.
  • Clinton think tank asks for cash by depicting itself as the progressive firewall to Trump (via David Sirota).
  • Doing data journalism as a think tank.
  • Alt-right "think tank" comes to Washington?

Trump's DOT Pick Elaine Chao Has Close Ties to Heritage Foundation

President-elect Donald Trump has selected Elaine Chao to be his Secretary for the Department of Transportation (DOT).  Chao, whose husband is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), was a Distinguished Fellow at the Heritage Foundation from 2009 to June 2016 and has been a Distinguished Fellow at the Hudson Institute since June 2016.  Chao was also a Distinguished Fellow at Heritage from 1996 to 2000.

With the Heritage Foundation's close connections to Donald Trump, the Chao pick was by no means a surprise.

Paul Conway, a former Heritage staffer who is heading up the landing team at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) for the Trump transition, was the chief of staff to Chao when she served as US Secretary of Labor in the George W. Bush Administration.

Here is an interesting tidbit about Chao from WND:
When she [Elaine Chao] served the conservative Heritage Foundation as Asian studies adviser, a military analyst who sounded warnings about Chinese threats to U.S. security was shown the door, WND reported at the time. Chao served at Heritage beginning in 1996 before leaving to become Bush’s labor secretary in 2001. While at Heritage, the think tank opened an office in Hong Kong.
Some reports by the ousted Heritage analyst – 16-year veteran Richard Fisher Jr. – were footnoted in the declassified version of the bipartisan Cox Report, which documented Chinese espionage at U.S. defense labs, while warning of China’s goal of modernizing the People’s Liberation Army to project power past the mainland’s waters, targeting U.S. allies like Taiwan and even the U.S.
“Elaine Chao was part of the deal that got Rick Fisher fired from Heritage,” a congressional aide who worked with him on China matters told WND. “She pushed him out not because of free-trade issues, but because he raised national security concerns over China.”  A Heritage insider agreed: “She was not supportive of any of his writings on the Chinese military.”

A WND article from 2001 notes that one of Chao's "patrons" at the Heritage Foundation was former Chairman and CEO of American International Group (AIG) Maurice "Hank" Greenberg, then a "pro-China lobbyist."  Greenberg, protested about a Heritage paper by analyst Stephen Yates and threatened to cut off funding to the think tank.  After that threat, Heritage reportedly issued a new report (co-authored by Yates' replacement Larry Wortzel) that was beneficial to Greenberg.

With Chao's deep connections to Heritage, the Department of Transportation may be loaded up with people from that think tank.  When she was Labor Secretary, Chao hired former Heritage analyst Mark Wilson who wrote a paper in 1995 calling for closing the department and moving its key functions to other Cabinet agencies.

Citing her past writings at the Heritage Foundation, safety advocates are worried that Chao may roll back consumer protections put in place under the Obama Administration.

Here is the Heritage Foundation's statement on Mr. Trump's nomination of Elaine Chao.  Her past work at Heritage can be found here.

In other Trump-think tank news, here is a Think Tank Watch piece on speculation that the former head of the Cato Institute may get a top White House post in the Trump Administration.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Former Cato Head Met With Trump; May Get Top Econ Post

John Allison, the former head of the libertarian think tank Cato Institute, had a meeting with Donald Trump this week and it is rumored that he may get a top slot in a Trump Administration.  Here is more from the Wall Street Journal:
The 68-year-old North Carolina native [John Allison] met Monday with President-elect Donald Trump. In an interview Tuesday, Mr. Allison said he spent an hour to 90 minutes with Mr. Trump and others, including Vice President-elect Mike Pence and chief strategist Stephen Bannon.
Mr. Allison said they discussed the financial arena and the Federal Reserve. He added that the talks touched on “possibilities” for roles in the new administration, but he emphasized that nothing had been offered and he would have to know more about any potential role before deciding whether he could accept a position.
Until recently the CEO of libertarian think tank Cato Institute, Mr. Allison is a frequent quoter of Aristotle and a devoted fan of author Ayn Rand, who argued for minimal government and self-interest. As chief executive of BB&T Corp., he distributed copies of Ms. Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” to senior officers and influenced BB&T’s charitable arm to fund classes about the moral foundations of capitalism at a number of colleges.

Mr. Allison retired from Cato after just two and a half years as the think tank's head.  Here is a previous Think Tank Watch piece on how Mr. Allison came to power at Cato.

Other think tankers are reportedly being considered for top Cabinet posts in a Trump Administration, including Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) head Richard Haass and American Enterprise Institute (AEI) John Bolton who are both possible picks for Secretary of State.

Think Tank Quickies (#244)

  • Leaders of 17 think tanks around the world react to election of Donald Trump. 
  • Josh Boak: "Whoa.  Even think tanks are getting into the Cyber Monday action."
  • Chris Baker: If you start to search most think tanks in Google, the top suggested result is the think tank's name followed by "bias."
  • These professors (and think tankers?) make more than a thousand bucks an hour peddling mega-mergers. 
  • Think tank funded by Dick & Betsy DeVos: "Bring back child labor: Work is a gift our kids can handle"; Blake Hounshell says may come up at confirmation hearing.
  • Chicago Council partnered with Brookings and Atlantic Council to produce "Preserving Ukraine's Independence" report.
  • John Bolton of AEI and Richard Haass of CFR are potential Secretary of State picks under Trump. 
  • Burson-Marsteller and Bipartisan Policy Center host panel discussion focused on policing, race, and the media.
  • "Think tank" (British Influence) plans legal action to keep UK in EU single market. 
  • Foreign Policy Research Institute provided reports to the Washington Post on misinformation campaign against Hillary Clinton.

Monday, November 28, 2016

French Think Tank Hosts Trump's Son to Talk Syria

Donald Trump and his sons have been quietly embracing think tanks both in the US and overseas as they work to beef up their foreign and domestic policy credentials.  Here is the latest example from The Wall Street Journal:
Donald Trump’s eldest son, emerging as a potential envoy for the president-elect, held private discussions with diplomats, businessmen and politicians in Paris last month that focused in part on finding a way to cooperate with Russia to end the war in Syria, according to people who took part in the meetings.
Thirty people, including Donald Trump Jr., attended the Oct. 11 event at the Ritz Paris, which was hosted by a French think tank. The founder of the think tank, Fabien Baussart, and his wife, Randa Kassis, have worked closely with Russia to try to end the conflict.  Ms. Kassis, who was born in Syria, is a leader of a Syrian group endorsed by the Kremlin.
Mr. Baussart’s think tank, the Center of Political and Foreign Affairs, has hosted a number of current and former government officials and leaders of multilateral organizations, according to its website.
Those meetings have included Turkey’s former president, Abdullah Gul; former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan; and James Rubin, a one-time State Department spokesman who advised Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Here is a link to the Center of Political and Foreign Affairs (CPFA), which is based in Paris, France.  Others who have attended the think tank's events in the past include Al Gore, Bob Woodward, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, Donald Rumsfeld, Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) President Richard Haass, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) President John Hamre, and Brookings Institution President Strobe Talbott.

As Think Tank Watch noted last week, the lobbyist purge from Mr. Trump's transition team has allowed think tankers to gain a stronger foothold into the Trump team.

By the way, did anyone else notice that acronym for the think tank CPFA is an anagram of FCPA - the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (a US law against foreign bribery)?

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Lobbyist Purge Allows Think Tanks to Dominate Trump Transition

The recent purge of registered lobbyist from Donald Trump's presidential transition team has created more work (and more influence) for think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation.  Here is more from Daily Mail:
The Trump transition team has lost nearly half its staff and volunteers in a matter of days since instituting a ban on registered lobbyists at the end of last week, the Daily Mail has learned.
...The sources estimated that the number of staffers and volunteers working on the transition plummeted from around 250 late last week to less than 125 on Tuesday.  The sudden purge of lobbyists has allowed conservative think tanks like the Heritage Foundation and the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) to take a stronger role in the transition.

Here is a recent Think Tank Watch piece on how the Heritage Foundation is vetting resumes for the Trump team.  Here is a piece on the fact that many think tankers are worried about the new Trump era.  And here is a piece about the new think tank landscape in Washington, DC.