Thursday, January 31, 2019

2019 Think Tank Rankings - Cheat Sheet

The University of Pennsylvania has just released its annual think tank rankings today - the 12th version of its extensive rankings of the world's think tanks.

As always, it is no surprise that the Brookings Institution remains the world's #1 think tank, particularly since they were the ones who recently published a book by the UPenn professor who runs the rankings (more on that here).


Top Think Tank Worldwide (US & Non-US):
  1. Brookings Institution
  2. French Institute of International Relations (IFRI)
  3. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  4. Bruegel
  5. Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)
  6. Fundacao Getulio Vargas
  7. Chatham House
  8. Heritage Foundation
  9. RAND Corporation
  10. International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS)
  
Top Think Tanks in the US:
  1. Brookings Institution
  2. CSIS
  3. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  4. Heritage
  5. Wilson Center
  6. RAND Corp.
  7. Peterson Institute for International Economics
  8. Center for American Progress
  9. Urban Institute
  10. Atlantic Council

Top Think Tanks in Mexico and Canada:
  1. Fraser Institute
  2. Consejo Mexicano de Asuntos Internacionales (COMEXI)
  3. Institute for Research on Public Policy (IRPP)
  4. Mexico Evalua Centro de Analisis de Politicas Publicas & CIDAC
  5. Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI)

Top Think Tanks in Central and South America:
  1. Fundacao Getulia Vargas
  2. Fedesarrollo
  3. Centro Brasileiro de Relacoes Internacionais (CEBRI)
  4. Consejo Argentino para las Relaciones Internacionales (CARI)
  5. Centro de Implementacion de Politicas Publicas para la Equidad y el Crecimiento (CIPPEC)

Top Think Tanks in Sub-Saharan Africa:
  1. Botswana Institute for Development Policy Analysis (BIDPA) 
  2. African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD)
  3. IMANI Center for Policy and Education
  4. African Center for Economic Transformation (ACET)
  5. Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA)

Top Think Tanks in Central Asia:
  1. Center for Economic and Social Development (CESD)
  2. Kazakhstan Institute for Strategic Studies
  3. Caucasus Institute for Peace, Democracy and Development (CIPDD)
  4. Caucuses Research Resource Center (CRRC)
  5. Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU)

Top Think Tanks in China, Japan, India, and South Korea:
  1. Korea Development Institute (KDI)
  2. Japan Institute of International Affairs (JIIA)
  3. Korea Institute for International Economic Policy (KIEP)
  4. Observer Research Foundation (ORF)
  5. China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR)

Top Think Tanks in Southeast Asia and the Pacific:
  1. Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)
  2. Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies (IDSS)
  3. Lowy Institute for International Policy
  4. Australian Institute for International Affairs (AIIA)
  5. Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA)

Top Think Tanks in Central and Eastern Europe:
  1. Center for Social and Economic Research (CASE)
  2. Razumkov Centre
  3. EUROPEUM Institute for European Policy 
  4. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Moscow Center
  5. Centre for Liberal Strategies (CLS)

Top Think Tanks in Western Europe:
  1. French Institute of International Relations (IFRI)
  2. Bruegel
  3. Chatham House
  4. International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS)
  5. Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS)

Top Think Tanks in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA):
  1. Center for Strategic Studies (CSS)
  2. Institute for National Security Studies (INSS)
  3. Carnegie Middle East Center
  4. Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies (ACPSS)
  5. Al Jazeera Cenre for Studies (AJCS)

Top Defense and National Security Think Tanks:
  1. Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)
  2. International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS)
  3. RAND Corporation
  4. Brookings Institution
  5. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Top Domestic Economic Policy Think Tanks:
  1. Brookings
  2. National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
  3. German Institute for Economic Research
  4. PIIE
  5. Adam Smith Institute

Top Education Policy Think Tanks:
  1. National Institute for Education Policy Research
  2. Urban Institute
  3. Brookings
  4. RAND Corp.
  5. Center for Education Policy, SRI International

Top Energy and Resource Policy Think Tanks:
  1. James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy
  2. Institute of Energy Economics
  3. Oxford Institute for Energy Studies
  4. Korea Energy Economics Institute
  5. Center for Science of Environment, Resources and Energy

Top Environment Policy Think Tanks:
  1. Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research
  2. Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI)
  3. World Resources Institute
  4. Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES)
  5. Third Generation Environmentalism (E3G)

Top Foreign Policy and International Affairs Think Tanks:
  1. French Institute of International Relations
  2. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace 
  3. Brookings
  4. Chatham House
  5. CSIS

Top Domestic Health Policy Think Tanks:
  1. Cambridge Centre for Health Services Research
  2. Bloomberg School of Public Health Research Centers
  3. Health and Global Policy Institute
  4. RAND Corp.
  5. Philips Center for Health and Well-Being

Top Global Health Policy Think Tanks:
  1. Cambridge Centre for Health Services Research
  2. Bloomberg School of Public Health Research Centers
  3. CSIS
  4. Health and Global Policy Institute (HGPI)
  5. Chatham House, Centre on Global Health Security

Top International Economics Think Tanks:
  1. PIIE
  2. Bruegel
  3. Brookings
  4. Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies
  5. Korea Institute for Economic Policy

Top Science and Technology Think Tanks:
  1. Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF)
  2. Max Planck Institutes
  3. Science Policy Research Unit
  4. Institute for Future Engineering; FKA Institute for Future Technology
  5. RAND Corp.

Top Social Policy Think Tanks:
  1. Urban Institute
  2. Center for Social and Economic Research (CASE)
  3. Brookings
  4. Fraser Institute
  5. Fundacao Getulio Vargas

Best For-Profit Think Tanks:
  1. McKinsey Global Institute
  2. Nomura Research Institute
  3. A.T. Kearney Global Business Policy Center 
  4. Boston Consulting Group (BCG)
  5. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC)
Best Government-Affiliated Think Tanks:
  1. Development Research Group, World Bank
  2. Asian Development Bank Institute
  3. Congressional Research Service (CRS)
  4. East-West Center (EWC)
  5. German Development Institute (DIE)

Here is a look at the cheat sheet for the 2018 rankings, and here is a look at the cheat sheet for the 2017 rankings, compiled by Think Tank Watch.

Remember, you may want to be careful about reading too much into these rankings, which have numerous flaws and biases. 

According to the report, the world now has a whopping 8,162 think tanks, with 1,871 of those in the United States, 509 in India, and 507 in China.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Think Tank Quickies (#342)

  • Former Congressman Carlos Curbelo joins Colombia University's energy think tank.
  • Madam C.J. Walker's mansion to become think tank for women of color entrepreneurs.
  • Twitter thread: How the think tank-journalism connection works.
  • Arnold Vonk: Think tanks need to invest in their legitimacy.
  • Institute for the Study of War: Increasing number of Russian military convoys are moving toward the border between Crimea and Ukrainian-held territory.
  • Ben Friedman tracks how think tanks repackage ideas.
  • Pedro da Costa joins EPI as its new communications director.
  • Should think tanks get free access to academic paywalls?
  • Jamie Whyte leaves IEA and won't miss the "who funds you" tweets.
  • ProPublica: Many undisclosed Trump appointees worked at Heritage.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Think Tank CAP Will No Longer Accept Funds From UAE

Here is what The Guardian is reporting:

The Center for American Progress, one of the most prominent liberal think tanks in Washington, will no longer accept funding from the United Arab Emirates, the Guardian has learned.
The group said it is parting ways with what it views to be anti-democratic governments across the globe, seeking to distinguish itself from the authoritarian regimes with which Donald Trump’s administration has developed a close rapport.
“With a rising undemocratic tide around the world, and serious questions about which side of that struggle our own president stands on, it seemed clear that all Americans should take extra steps and leave no doubt where they stand,” a CAP spokesperson told the Guardian.

CAP recently fired two staffers suspected of being involved in a leaking an email exchange that staffers thought reflected improper influence by the UAE within the think tank.

Think tanks are now being pressured to sign a "democracy pledge" to accept funding only from fellow democracies.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Manafort Ally Had Close Ties to Think Tanks

Here is more from The Atlantic:

[Paul Manafort] grew reliant on Konstantin Kilimnik, a Soviet-born native who could render idiomatic English and translate the cultural nuances of the region that might elude outsiders. Manafort would describe him to others in his office as “my Russian brain.” For a decade, Kilimnik was a fixture in Manafort’s meetings with the region’s leading politicians and oligarchs.
After so much time spent in close quarters, the relationship between the two became trusting and deep. By 2011, Kilimnik had taken over Manafort’s office in Kiev. This made Kilimnik the primary interface for Manafort’s lone client, a corrupt clique of former gangsters that ruled Ukraine under the banner of their political organization, the Party of Regions.
With his access and his ability to trade information, he built an impressive network. His rolodex came to include reporters from big international news organizations, including The New York Times, as well as denizens of Washington think tanks and diplomats. They would describe him as “user-friendly”—unusually smart, almost always available, and able to perfectly express complex thoughts in English.

The office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller recently confirmed that Kilimnik is the focus on a grand jury investigation.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

AEI Taps Robert Doar as New President

The conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute (AEI) has announced that Robert Doar will be its new president.

Here is more from AEI:
Robert Doar, the Morgridge Fellow in Poverty Studies at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), has been chosen by the AEI Board of Trustees to be the Institute’s 12th president. He will succeed Arthur C. Brooks on July 1, 2019. Brooks, who has been AEI’s president since January 1, 2009, announced last March his decision to step down from the position.
Before joining AEI in 2014, Doar was commissioner of New York City’s Human Resources Administration, where he administered 12 public assistance programs. Programs included cash welfare, food assistance, public health insurance, home care for the elderly and disabled, energy assistance, child support enforcement services, adult protective services and domestic violence assistance, and help for people living with HIV/AIDS. In New York City, Doar oversaw a 25 percent reduction in the city’s cash welfare caseload. Before that role, Doar was New York State commissioner of social services, where he helped make New York a model for the implementation of welfare reform.

Doar's full biography can be found here.

Here is what the Washington Post has to say about the new appointment:
Doar is a mild-mannered Republican known for his conservative bent on policy, and has worked closely with Brooks and Ryan in recent years. His career has been marked by his stints working for moderates like former New York governor George E. Pataki (R) and then-independent New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.
While AEI has been an informal farm team for the Trump administration, Doar said he does not want the think tank to be seen as a booster or critic of the president’s agenda.
Doar noted that he looks forward to working on initiatives with more liberal think tanks such as the Brookings Institution, in the spirit of collaboration and finding solutions to policy matters that have long vexed Congress and presidents, such as poverty.

Here is what The NonProfit Times had to say:
The Washington, D.C.-based think tank reported $75 million in total revenue for the Fiscal Year Ending June 2017, with net assets of $304 million.
AEI’s announcement did not indicate a salary for the incoming president. As president, Brooks earned total compensation of $1.11 million, including base compensation of $874,647, according to AEI’s Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Form 990 for the year ending June 2017. As resident fellow, Doar earned total compensation of $216,235, including base compensation of $185,400.

The Washington Examiner says that in choosing Doar, it is putting poverty-fighting at the heart of conservatism.

There had been much speculation that former House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) would become the next president of the AEI.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Think Tank Quickies (#341)

  • Brett McGurk, the former anti-ISIS special envoy, is joining Carnegie Endowment for International Peace as a non-resident senior fellow in its Middle East Program.
  • A history of think tanks - 12 things you should know.
  • The age of the permanent think tank intern.
  • Foundation for Law & International Affairs (FLIA), an "educational, academic, and consultative think tank."
  • RAND: An interactive look at the US-China military scorecard.
  • Suspected North Korean cyber-espionage group using Chrome to spy on think tanks?
  • Husband of New York Times' Washington bureau chief Elisabeth Bumiller (Steve Weisman), is the Vice President of think tank PIIE.
  • ADB Institute: The four Rs to look for in think tanks. 
  • UAE gave Center for American Progress (CAP) between $500,000 to $999,000 in 2017.
  • Pic: Think tank conference rooms becoming more popular at corporations.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Hudson Official Quits After Learning of Donation from Putin-Linked Billionaire

Here is more from the New York Post:

Chaos has erupted at a conservative think tank after it was revealed that one of its new donors is Len Blavatnik, the Ukrainian-born billionaire who owns the Warner Music record label.
Charles Davidson — the founder of the Hudson Institute’s Kleptocracy Initiative, a group dedicated to exposing threats by authoritarian regimes to US democracy — said he quit as its executive director upon learning that the Hudson Institute had accepted a $50,000 donation from Blavatnik.
Russian kleptocracy has entered the donor pool of Hudson Institute,” Davidson said in an exclusive interview with The Post. “Blavatnik is precisely what the Kleptocracy Initiative is fighting against — the influence of Putin’s oligarchs on America’s political system and society — and the importation of corrupt Russian business practices and values.”

Think tank donations have come under intense scrutiny in recent years, an many influential think tanks have been rocked by pay-for-play schemes involving foreign money.

A piece that recently appeared in the Washington Post has called on think tanks to sign a "democracy pledge" to accept funding only from democracies.

Interestingly, Hudson says that it "does not seek or accept financial contributions from non-democratic foreign governments or groups or individuals acting on their behalf."

Friday, January 18, 2019

Think Tanks Pressured to Take "Democracy Pledge"

This piece appeared in the Washington Post and was penned by Thorsten Benner, co-founder and director of the Global Public Policy Institute of Berlin:

The murder of Jamal Khashoggi has put the spotlight on think tanks and universities receiving funding from the Saudi regime. Under pressure by media reports, a few think tanks, such as the Brookings Institution, the Center for International Studies and the Middle East Institute, have decided to return Saudi money. Top universities such as Harvard, MIT and Georgetown have so far gotten away with their ties to the Saudi regime without confronting much public scrutiny. This makes it clear that most will act only when a questionable source of funding blows up in their faces.
Saudi funding is just the tip of the iceberg. Money from authoritarian governments is flowing into scholarship, not only from the Persian Gulf but also from the likes of China and Turkey. If leading think tanks and universities want to regain their credibility, they need to change course and commit to a “democracy pledge” to accept funding only from democracies.
The work of think tanks and universities is premised on independence, integrity and the search for truth. They are part of the very fabric of liberal democracy and embody the values of open societies. They stand for everything authoritarians despise: open debate, independent judgment, freedom of thought and freedom of speech. If think tanks and universities sell their brands to authoritarians, that has a corrosive effect not just on their own credibility. It also erodes their role as trustworthy pillars of liberal democracy.
It is high time for top universities and think tanks to change course and sign a democracy pledge to accept funding only from fellow democracies (i.e., countries classified as “free” in the Freedom House index). Some think tanks, such as the Hudson Institute and the German Marshall Fund of the United States, already subscribe to such a policy.

Since many of the US's top think tanks continue to heavily rely on foreign money, it is fairly unlikely that any of them will commit to the pledge.  That said, there will likely be more pressure and more internal debate within think tanks to do so in the years ahead as think tanks continue to lose credibility due to funding sources.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Think Tank CAP Fires Two Staffers Amid Leak Investigation

Here is more from The Intercept:

The Center for American Progress fired two staffers suspected of being involved in leaking an email exchange that staffers thought reflected improper influence by the United Arab Emirates within the think tank, according to three sources with knowledge of the shake-up. Both staffers were investigated for leaking the contents of an internal email exchange to The Intercept, but neither of the former employees was The Intercept’s source.
One of those fired, Ken Gude, was a senior national security staffer. He worked at CAP since 2003 and previously served as the progressive think tank’s chief of staff.
A CAP spokesperson acknowledged two employees were fired as a result of the leak investigation, but said that the leak was not the reason they were fired: “We are not going to discuss internal personnel matters, but no one was fired at CAP for leaking or whistleblowing.” Internally, however, multiple members of CAP leadership have used the leak as the leading rationale for the firings in multiple settings, sources said.
At issue was an internal debate over how to frame CAP’s response to the murder of Washington Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi, who was dismembered by Saudi Arabian officials inside the nation’s consulate in Istanbul on October 2.
The initial draft of the CAP’s statement condemned the killing and Saudi Arabia’s role in it, calling for specific consequences. Brian Katulis, a Gulf expert at CAP, objected to the specific consequences proposed in an email exchange with other national security staffers, according to sources who described the contents of the thread to The Intercept. 
The UAE, Saudi Arabia’s closest ally, is one of the top donors to the think tank. Katulis is close with the UAE’s ambassador in Washington, Yousef Al Otaiba.
 Katulis is CAP’s link to Otaiba. As The Intercept has previously reported, Katulis worked with the diplomat to help organize UAE-sponsored trips to the wealthy Gulf country for American think tank experts, according to emails purloined from Otaiba’s Hotmail inbox.

The Center for American Progress (CAP) has experienced lots of drama the past couple years.  In April, the think tank was bashed for its response to sexual harassment claims. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Think Tank Quickies (#340)

  • Pic: Ireland's Minister of Finance in Brookings bookstore.
  • Caroline Baxter on a "think tank Christmas."
  • Two think tanks, two very different interpretations of data on harm reduction.
  • Liberal think tank CAP donated $200,000 to conservative think tank AEI. 
  • Eli Lee: DC, a land populated by ornery semi-humanoid creatures called "wonks" who live in giant tanks.
  • US pistachios, think tanks, and sanctions against Iran.
  • Nikki Haley receives Hudson Institute's 2018 Global Leadership Award.
  • Pic: Banksy's Think Tank.
  • Government's leading space think tank (Center for Space Policy and Strategy) had a very busy year.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Think Tank: Trump's Team Had 100+ Contacts With Russia-linked Operatives

An updated report from the liberal Center for American Progress's (CAP) Moscow Project shows that the Trump campaign and transition team had more than 100 contacts with Russian-linked officials.

The Moscow Project has put together a comprehensive chronological list of contacts that have been discovered to date and the "lies Trump's campaign, transition, and White House told to hide them."

Here is more about the Moscow Project:
The Moscow Project is an initiative of the Center for American Progress Action Fund dedicated to analyzing the facts behind Trump’s collusion with Russia and communicating the findings to the public. The Moscow Project’s team employs a multi-disciplinary approach towards its work, leveraging a unique combination of experience and expertise gained on Capitol Hill, at the State Department, and in private industry to examine this complex and sprawling series of events stretching back decades.

The co-founder and director of the Moscow Project is Max Bergmann, who is a senior fellow at CAP, where he focuses on European security and US-Russia policy.  Bergmann served in the State Department of the Obama Administration.

Here is USA Today's story on the updated Moscow Project report.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

AEI Is the Noma of Think Tank Dining Experiences

The conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute (AEI) tends to have better meals than most think tanks in and around Washington, DC.

In fact, it just made the New York Times food section:

At the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington, employees are treated daily to an elaborate buffet with appropriately white-shoe fare like prime rib, crab cakes and housemade beignets.
The prime rib and beignets at the American Enterprise Institute may seem inevitable for a research group that extols the rewards of a free market, but there also less fancy choices like deli meats and eggs. “I wouldn’t call it elaborate,” a company spokeswoman said. “I would call it everyday food.”
Rosemary Newsome, 22, a development intern, is thrilled with the spread. “I do kind of joke that now that I have this, I can’t go back to anything less,” she said.

Back in 2016, the Washingtonian said that AEI has one of the best lunches in Washington.

Scoring free food at think tanks has become so popular that it has even spawned the so-called "Panel Crasher," who years ago was documenting his hunt for free food at think tanks.

Know of any think tanks with better food than AEI?  Please send your tips and opinions to Think Tank Watch.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Jamal Khashoggi Wanted to Start a Washington Think Tank

Here is more from the Washington Post:

Even in exile, [Jamal] Khashoggi remained loyal to Saudi Arabia and reluctant to sever ties to the royal court. In September 2017, at the same time he was embarking on a new role as opinion columnist for The Washington Post, he was pursuing up to $2 million in funding from the Saudi government for a think tank that he proposed to run in Washington, according to documents reviewed by the paper that appear to be part of a proposal he submitted to the Saudi ministry of information.

Here is reaction from the think tank community about taking Saudi money.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Hackers Tried to Infiltrate German Think Tanks

Here is more from Bloomberg:

Hackers have released private data linked to Chancellor Angela Merkel and hundreds of other German politicians in the biggest data dump of its kind in the country.
Hackers tried to infiltrate computers of think tanks associated with the governing CDU and SPD parties in 2017. A year earlier, scammers set up a fake server in Latvia to flood German lawmakers with phishing emails.

Germany has 225 think tanks.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Think Tank Quickies (#339)

  • Pic: China beefing up its think tank game (half-page ad in Wall Street Journal).
  • Only-in-DC: Think tanker approached on Metro by someone who says "I loved your working paper on how to build a think tank."
  • CFR holds Council of Councils 11th Regional Conference.
  • Adam Smith Institute has removed passages from its website which promise donors meetings with politicians and government officials.
  • Jonathan Schanzer: "I'm a wonk at a think tank.  Turkish media say I'm an international man of mystery."
  • FT: Think tanks are having an existential crisis.
  • Stacey Abrams joins board of Center for American Progress.
  • Atlantic Council: NATO must prepare to counter a rapid Russia invasion in Europe.
  • RUSI: China is driving use of armed drones in Mideast.
  • Niskanen Center draws up plan for a new Republican Party.

Friday, January 4, 2019

DC Think Tanks Face New Rules for Serving Food & Drinks

Those who attend think tank events in Washington, DC may notice something a little different with drink stations this year.

As of Jan. 1, 2019, think tanks in DC will need to follow new rules which require the use of compostable and/or reusable straws and stirrers when serving food or beverages.

Fines for violations of the ban on single-use plastic straws and stirrers will begin on July 1, 2019.

A foam ban took effect on Jan. 1, 2016, and a compostable and recyclable food service ware requirement began on Jan. 1, 2017.

Hopefully the new requirements won't cause any fights at think tanks (see video here).

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Think Tank Funded Through Online Platform Patreon

Here is more from The Economist:

Matt Bruenig funded the People’s Policy Project, a left-wing think-tank, through Patreon in 2017. Mr Bruenig already had a large audience before Patreon, with 130,000 followers on Twitter, garnered largely from arguing about the left-wing American politician Bernie Sanders. But now his ideas—expressed through radical papers, such as one on a wealth fund—have a larger audience. And his army of patrons suggests that there is an appetite, at least among younger types, for more radical left-wing proposals in America: with 1,700 patrons Mr Bruenig raises around $9,200 each month.

Here is a link to the People's Policy Project (3P) website, which notes that the think tank is supported by over 1,800 small donors pledging between $5 to $15 per month.  It uses Patreon as well as the ActBlue platform to raise funds.

Matt Bruenig, 3P's president, previously worked as a lawyer at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

He was also a policy analyst at the think tank Demos, where he was fired after sparring with Neera Tanden, the head of the Center for American Progress (CAP).

Vox has noted that Demos is smaller and more left-wing than CAP.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Mysterious Russian Money Flowing to Think Tanks?

Here is more from the Washington Post:

...The party, then known as the National Front and now called the National Rally, was having difficulty securing credit from traditional French banks. Le Pen accused the banks of discrimination for refusing to offer a loan. 
In search of money from a non-French bank, party officials turned to Jean-Luc Schaffhauser, a member of the European Parliament elected as part of Le Pen’s party bloc.
Through what he described as work on a French-Russian development-bank project in 2004 or 2005, Schaffhauser said he met a Russian businessman and member of parliament named Alexander Babakov, who in 2012 became the Kremlin’s special envoy for Russian organizations abroad.
Schaffhauser, for his part, said he received 140,000 euros, or about $181,000 at the time, for brokering the loan. His fee was deposited in what he described as a family foundation. He said people close to Babakov, the Russian member of parliament and special envoy, also discussed investing in his think tank.

WaPo notes that the German Marshall Fund's Alliance for Securing Democracy has conducted a study of the loan along with Washington think tank C4ADS.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Think Tank Quickies (#338)

  • Chinese government arrests China analyst at International Crisis Group.
  • Chinese hackers eavesdropping on think tanks in Europe.
  • Mapping the Atlas Network.
  • Former Hudson Institute president Herbert London passes away.
  • Bruegel: How think tanks can make themselves heard in an information-rich world.
  • RAND partnering with WestEd, Council of Chief State School Officers, and Transforming Education on new US Dept. of Education project.
  • Japanese Embassy hosts Atlantic Council board dinner (cuisine made from embassy chef); outgoing Chairman James Jones gives remarks.
  • Roger Robinson, President and CEO of RWR Advisory Group, co-founded Prague Security Studies Institute (PSSI), a think tank dedicated to international security policy.
  • Harvard: How to moderate panel discussions. 
  • Twitter thread by Dany Bahar: Life in a think tank vs. academia.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Chinese Tycoon Sought Influence From Washington Think Tanks

Here is more from the New York Times:

He struck billions of dollars’ worth of deals in Russia, Eastern Europe and Africa. He sought business with war-torn places like Chad and with international pariahs like North Korea.
Ye Jianming, a fast-rising Chinese oil tycoon, ventured to places only the most politically connected Chinese companies dared to go. But what he wanted was access to the corridors of power in Washington — and he set out to get it.
Soon, he was meeting with the family of Joseph R. Biden Jr., who was then the vice president. He dined with R. James Woolsey Jr., a former Central Intelligence Agency director and later a senior adviser to President Trump. He bestowed lavish funding on universities and think tanks with direct access to top Washington leaders, looking for the benefits access can bring. He asked one former American security official: If he bought oil fields in Syria, could the former official persuade the American military not to bomb them?
To build influence, Mr. Ye turned to Vuk Jeremic, a Serbian diplomat and former president of the United Nations General Assembly whom CEFC hired as a consultant, and Mr. Ho, a former Hong Kong official. CEFC also donated at least $350,000 to the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, a politically connected think tank, according to court testimony. The think tank counts Robert C. McFarlane, the Reagan-era national security adviser, as its president and Mr. Woolsey, a Clinton-era C.I.A. director, as its co-chairman

A link to the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security (IAGS) can be found here.  IAGS projects include the United States Energy Security Council, the Global Forum on Energy Security, the Technology and Rare Earth Metals Center (TREM), the Set America Free Coalition, and the Mobility Choice Coalition.

In related news, it was recently reported that Huawei paid the Brookings Institution to write favorable reports.

A group of China specialists recently released a report saying that China is trying to influence US think tanks.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Iran Targets US Think Tanks

Here is more from Associates Press:

As U.S. President Donald Trump re-imposed harsh economic sanctions on Iran last month, hackers scrambled to break into personal emails of American officials tasked with enforcing them, The Associated Press has found — another sign of how deeply cyberespionage is embedded into the fabric of US-Iranian relations.

The AP drew on data gathered by the London-based cybersecurity group Certfa to track how a hacking group often nicknamed Charming Kitten spent the past month trying to break into the private emails of more than a dozen U.S. Treasury officials. Also on the hackers’ hit list: high-profile defenders, detractors and enforcers of the nuclear deal struck between Washington and Tehran, as well as Arab atomic scientists, Iranian civil society figures and D.C. think tank employees.
[One] Charming Kitten target was an intern working for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington think tank that has been one of the Iran deal’s fiercest critics. How the intern — whose email isn’t public and whose name appears nowhere on the organization’s website — crossed the hackers’ radar is not clear.

Every major US think tank has faced various cyber attacks and hacking attempts from foreign government entities.  Many non-US think tanks have also been targeted by state actors.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Atlas Network Offering New Course on Think Tanks

Virginia-headquartered Atlas Network has just started offering "Think Tank Basics," a new two-hour online course that covers "the fundamental principles and concepts you need to understand before diving into the day-to-day work of a think tank."

According to Atlas, here is what you'll learn:
  • The important role of think tanks in society
  • The concept of the Overton Window and the role think tanks play in moving that window
  • The difference between mission and vision statements
  • The principles that guide the work we do at Atlas Network

The course is part of Atlas's Leadership Academy (ALA), which offers a number of courses related to think tanks.

ALA also offers "Think Tank MBA," a 10-day strategic planning program for leaders within new and established think tanks.

Atlas Network, founded in 1981, promotes free-market economic policies around the world.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Did Google Buy Off Two Think Tanks?

Here is more from Wired:

In February, The New York Times Magazine published a cover story urging regulators to break up Google because the company abuses its dominance in search to crush promising competitors. The next day, representatives from two conservative think tanks published blog posts defending Google and attacking the article’s call for antitrust enforcement. Both think tanks have received funding from Google. Both blog posts referenced studies by a professor who has received funding from Google. In one post, the study referenced was published in a quarterly journal owned by third think tank, which has also received funding from Google.
In a company-wide meeting a couple of weeks later, on March 1, Google’s public policy team described the blog posts as the fruit of Google’s efforts to build deeper relationships with conservatives, according to an audio recording of the meeting reviewed by WIRED.
“Just to give you an example, last weekend The New York Times Magazine cover story was all about breaking up Google,” [Adam] Kovacevich [Google's US Director of Public Policy] said. “Among the people who wrote op-eds and blog posts rebutting that Times piece were two conservative think-tank officials who we work with closely—one from the American Enterprise Institute and one from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, who both attended [Goog'e invite-only reception at CPAC].”

It should also be noted that more liberal-leaning think tanks, such as the Brookings Institution (which has been running into numerous issues of scholarly independence lately), receive hundreds of thousands of dollars from Google.

Last year, a scholar was fired from think tank New America (which takes Google money) for being critical of Google.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Huawei Paid Brookings to Write Favorable Reports

The Brookings Institution just can't seem to catch a break these days.  In recent years, numerous media outlets have exposed questionable practices at the top think tank, including pay-to-play schemes, conflicts of interest, and accepting money from "unsavory" foreign entities.

Here is the latest from Isaac Stone Fish, a contributing columnist for Washington Post's Global Opinions:
In October 2017, the Brookings Institution, one of Washington’s most prestigious think tanks, published a report entitled “Benefits and Best Practices of Safe City Innovation.” The report included a case study praising the Kenyan capital Nairobi and the Chinese city of Lijiang for implementing new technology in policing.
What the report failed to mention is that the controversial Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei provided the technology for both cities, or that Huawei is one of the world’s leading sellers of Safe City equipment, which the company describes as “cutting-edge” security to improve policing and oversight. The Brookings report did, at least, disclose who provided support for the research: “Support for this publication was generously provided by Huawei.” In other words, Brookings praised Huawei’s technology in a report sponsored by Huawei.
Brookings has a conflict of interest problem with Huawei — the world’s second-largest smartphone maker, behind Samsung and ahead of Apple, and a company long seen as a threat to the United States.
Between July 2016 and June 2018, Huawei gave at least $300,000 to Brookings, via FutureWei Technologies, Inc., a U.S.-based subsidiary of the company, according to Brookings' annual reports. 
The person who wrote the Safe Cities report (along with a former Brookings intern) is Darrell M. West, Brookings vice president and founding director of its Center for Technology Innovation. Formerly a professor at Brown University, West has written 19 books, according to his LinkedIn page, and is a respected commentator on issues involving technology policy, privacy and security. Yet West’s relationship with Huawei raises questions about the independence of his scholarship — and represents a worrying example of China’s influence on one of America’s leading think tanks.

Most recently, Brookings was bashed for accepting money from Saudi Arabia, leading it to terminate certain connections to that government.

Several days ago, a group of China experts from think tanks and universities released a report saying that Beijing is trying to influence US think tanks.

Earlier this year, an Australian think tank report criticized Huawei for sponsoring overseas trips for Australian politicians.

In 2017/2018, the think tank Chatham House received between $62,000 to $125,000 from Huawei.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Inside the UN's Littlle-Known Think Tank

Here is more from Devex:

On the 12th floor of a pyramid-shaped, 14-story building in Tokyo’s energetic Shibuya district, sit the headquarters of the United Nations University. Just a few floors down, researchers are busy at Japan’s Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability. The two organizations are linked by more than shared office space, although the ties might not be obvious to the general public. In fact, UNU’s structure and activities aren’t overtly evident to those outside its walls.
The inner workings of the university — comprised of Japan’s IAS and 14 other research entities in 14 countries — have long been obscure, especially when compared to many more globally visible U.N. agencies, said Hillary McBride, who took over UNU communications nearly two years ago.
The U.N.’s research arm serves as a bridge between the international academic community and the U.N. system and was never meant to launch large communications campaigns to promote its projects, McBride told Devex. Still, the term “university” no longer captures the full scope of work of the institution without a traditional campus, set up in the early ‘70s to power collaborative research on the world’s most pressing problems.

A number of large institution's have internal "think tanks," including the World Bank, US Congress, and US Department of Defense.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Canceled Think Tank Event Led to Bannon-Guo Partnership

Trump's former strategist Stephen Bannon and fugitive Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui (also known as Miles Kwok) met after a think tank event was canceled last year.

Here is more from the New York Times:
They met only after Mr. Bannon was forced out of the White House. Mr. Bannon says he received a call from Bill Gertz, a Washington journalist who has long been critical of China. Mr. Gertz told him that Mr. Guo was scheduled to give a talk in Washington at the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank. The talk was canceled at the last minute.
Over lunch, Mr. Guo and Mr. Bannon discussed China’s military capabilities, as well as the financial implications of Beijing’s rule, including what impact the country’s mounting corporate debt might have on its economy. A friendship emerged.

As Think Tank Watch previously reported, in the days leading up to that canceled Hudson event, the Chinese Embassy reportedly had been calling the think tank and warning them not to host Guo.

The two have now formed a partnership and plan to set up a $100 million fund to investigate corruption and aid people they deem victims of Chinese government persecution.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Serious Spearphishing Campaign Against Think Tanks

Here is more from Politico:

A spearphishing campaign that targeted nonprofit groups and think tanks in Washington, D.C., drew Microsoft’s attention because it had “characteristics of previously observed nation-state attacks,” the tech giant said Monday. Because of the people being targeted and the specifics of the spearphishing messages, “Microsoft took the step of notifying thousands of individual recipients in hundreds of targeted organizations,” the company explained in a blog post that shared the technical specifics of the attack. Cyber firm FireEye first publicized the campaign last month, and MC and Reuters subsequently added details.
“Our sensors revealed that the campaign primarily targeted public sector institutions and non-governmental organizations like think tanks and research centers, but also included educational institutions and private-sector corporations in the oil and gas, chemical, and hospitality industries,” Microsoft’s research and threat intelligence teams said in the blog post. The company acknowledged that other firms had attributed the campaign to APT 29, the Russian intelligence service also known as Cozy Bear, but it said it “does not yet believe that enough evidence exists to attribute this campaign” to that group.

Think tanks are a major target of foreign governments, with many of them facing cyber attacks on a daily basis.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Think Tank Lowy Institute Hit by Chinese Hackers

Here is what the Australian press in reporting:

Australia’s leading foreign affairs think tank has been the subject of at least two cyber attacks from China, in an apparent effort to view its dealings with the federal government and foreign dignitaries.
The attacks on the Lowy Institute mirrored a Chinese campaign against think tanks in the United States, in which hackers tried to view correspondence as well as information of people visiting its website.
The think tank has boosted its security controls considerably since the first attack, Fairfax Media reported on Tuesday.
The Lowy Institute was founded in April 2003 by Frank Lowy “to conduct original, policy-relevant research about international political, strategic and economic issues from an Australian perspective”, its website says.  It is based in Sydney.

Several US think tankers are affiliated with Lowy, including Dr. Michael Green and Bonnie Glaser of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), and Thomas Wright of the Brookings Institution.

Jake Sullivan, who served as senior policy adviser on Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign and, during the Obama Administration, as national security adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, is listed as a 2017 Telstra Distinguished International Fellow at Lowy.

Every major think tank in the United States has been hit with cyber attacks over the past few years, and many major think tanks outside of the US have also been targets.

Here is more on the attacks.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Microsoft Looking for Someone to Build Relations with Think Tanks

The Microsoft government affairs team is looking for a corporate affairs manager who will act as a liaison with think tanks.  Here is more:

The Microsoft US Government Affairs team (USGA) is seeking an experienced professional to serve as Manager for external affairs and constituency outreach, based in Washington, DC. The USGA team advocates for Microsoft’s public policy position before policymakers and other stakeholders in Washington, DC and in local communities. This position reports to the Senior Director of External Affairs and is responsible for building and maintaining strong external relations with identified audiences to include think tanks, trade groups, political and policy advocacy organizations at the national and state levels and Microsoft’s technology partners.

A number of corporations have similar positions that involve engaging with think tanks.

By the way, Microsoft recently released an analysis of cyber attacks on US think tanks.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Meet Trump's Go-To China Scholar

Here is more from Politico:

A day before President Donald Trump departed for the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires, several top officials gathered in the Oval Office to strategize about Trump’s highly anticipated meeting there with China’s president.
Seated around Trump’s Resolute Desk were Vice President Mike Pence, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. On couches a few feet away were White House chief of staff John Kelly, Trump’s son in law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, Pence’s chief of staff, Nick Ayers, and Matt Pottinger, the National Security Council’s top Asia hand. White House trade adviser Peter Navarro joined by speakerphone.
Before the discussion ended, Pence stepped out to fetch an outsider for a final briefing about Trump’s Saturday dinner with Chinese president Xi Xinping, which could determine whether the U.S. and China plunge deeper into a potentially disastrous trade war.
That outsider was Michael Pillsbury, a starchy academic at Washington’s conservative Hudson Institute enjoying a remarkable, and unlikely, influence. He has caught the ear of Trump, who during a November press conference proclaimed him “probably the leading authority on China.”
The former Reagan and George H.W. Bush Pentagon official has spent decades in the cold, dismissed by critics as a mix of conspiratorial and self-promoting. But now, current and former Trump officials say he is among the most important voices shaping a confrontational U.S. turn towards China which some analysts fear could trigger a new global cold war.
In addition to occasionally conferring with Pillsbury directly, Trump also catches and approves of his frequent television appearances, in which the China hand often lavishes praise on the president.
Pillsbury — a fluent Mandarin speaker who makes regular visits to China — has sometimes acted as a middle man between the White House and China’s government.
In October, the Wall Street Journal reported that he had discussed Trump’s trade policies — which have recently included mounting tariffs on Chinese goods — with Wang Huiyao, the head of a Beijing think tank with ties to China’s communist leadership. During a September visit to Hudson, Wang publicly unveiled proposals to tamp down the trade fight, which Pillsbury relayed to the Trump White House.
A persistent misconception is that his wealth — reflected in his posh Georgetown home — comes from the Pillsbury flour fortune of “doughboy” fame. 

The New York Times also wrote a piece about Pillsbury which adds some interesting tidbits, including the fact that he plays tennis with Peter Navarro and his house in Georgetown is worth $7.5 million.

A 2005 Wall Street Journal article says that he is a member of the Pillsbury flour family.  It also says that in the 1980s, he lost and regained his security clearance amid allegations of leaking secret information to the press.

When he was 27 years old, Pillsbury joined the RAND Corporation as a China scholar.  At that think tank, he did classified work for the US government.

A few weeks ago, Vice President Mike Pence gave an aggressive at the Hudson Institute that caused Beijing to lash out at the Trump Administration.

Here is a recent Think Tank Watch piece about how the Hudson Institute has become a major anti-China platform.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Think Tank Quickies (#337)

  • New York Times publishes pro-Saudi writers from think tanks that have deep autocratic ties.
  • Robin Niblett: Rediscovering a sense of purpose - the challenge for Western think tanks. 
  • Top Saudi think tank studying possible effects of a breakup of OPEC.
  • IPPA hosts panel on think tank discourse and political change.
  • Healthcare lobbyists use think tanks to battle "Medicare for all?"
  • New GMF report: Why Trumpism will not prevail.
  • New think tank to focus on Cuban heritage. 
  • Hudson Institute brings on NATO Cyber Security Expert Merle Maigre. 
  • Food Tank: The think tank for food.
  • Tory think tank (Adam Smith Institute) unwittingly invited pedophile onto boat with underage guests.

Friday, November 30, 2018

China Specialists Say Beijing Trying to Influence US Think Tanks

Here is more from the Washington Post:

A distinguished group of China specialists who have long championed engagement with Beijing are now advocating the United States take a more skeptical view of what they see as growing Chinese efforts to undermine democratic values, including free-speech rights, both here and abroad.
“Except for Russia, no other country’s efforts to influence American politics and society is as extensive and well-funded as China’s,” the specialists say in a report to be issued Thursday by a working group convened by the Hoover Institution and the Asia Society’s Center on U.S.-China Relations.
The report finds that though the Chinese are trying to shape the agenda of U.S. think tanks, the institutions are “very resilient” in resisting. “There’s very little evidence that the Chinese are successful when they’re trying to shape think-tank scholars’ writing on China,” said Economy, director of Asia studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

For years the Chinese have been working to gain access to US think tanks, both through legitimate funding as well as through more nefarious methods such as cyber attacks.

Update: Here is the report cited in the above-mentioned article (and full PDF version).  Here is the section specifically on think tanks.  33 scholars from think tanks, universities, foundations, and the media were part of the working group that provided input for the report.

Chinese money is flowing to both think tanks and universities.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Lobbyists Relying on Think Tanks to Develop Ties to New Lawmakers

Here is more from Roll Call:

Instead of PAC dollars, corporate interests plan to rely on individual personal donations from their executives, lobbyists and other consultants, instead of the collective contributions from corporate PACs. In addition, lobbyists will be sure to attend meet-and-greets happening over the coming days and weeks with the new members.
Some lobbyists said they also would rely on policy partnerships with think tanks, grassroots activist organizations and charities — as well as shopping op-eds focused on specific lawmakers — for entree to the newly-elected members of Congress.

Individual corporations often pay hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to think tanks in order to influence policy and build relations with other organizations, lawmakers, and government agencies.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Hackers Impersonating State Dept. Officials to Attack Think Tanks

Here is more from Reuters:

Hackers linked to the Russian government are impersonating U.S. State Department employees in an operation aimed at infecting computers of U.S. government agencies, think tanks and businesses, two cybersecurity firms told Reuters.
The operation, which began on Wednesday, suggests Russia is keen to resume an aggressive campaign of attacks on U.S. targets after a lull going into the Nov. 6 U.S. midterm election, in which Republicans lost control of the House of Representatives, according to CrowdStrike and FireEye Inc.

Every major think tank in the US has been hacked by foreign governments over the past several years, and many face attacks on a daily basis.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Think Tank Quickies (#336)

  • Cornell cuts ties with Chinese school after crackdown.  Think tanks cutting ties next?
  • Another day, another Trump official (Peter Navarro) blasting China at a think tank (CSIS).
  • NYT: Why that hot new study may be flawed
  • Businesses turning to public record requests against academic researchers to challenge work at public universities.
  • Seeking work after Congress?  Sharp partisans too poisonous for think tanks?
  • CFR senior fellow Max Boot explains why he left the Republican Party ("Boot now regards the Iraq war, which he giddily championed in explicitly imperialistic terms, as a mistake.") 
  • The Guardian view on political dark money: think tanks must come clean.
  • Russia's RT: Dirty little secret - think tanks are among top culprits in media disinformation crisis. 
  • Banning civilian think tanks in China won't do any good.
  • Flashback to 2006: Think tank will promote thinking.