Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Think Tanks Help in Fight With ISIS

Think tanks are working at a furious pace to publish reports and analysis on Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), hold events on how to defeat ISIS, convey study groups to research ISIS, get scholars to talk about ISIS in the media, and advise policymakers on steps moving forward.

Following is the ultimate guide to what top think tanks experts are saying about ISIS.  Please note that this list will be updated periodically.

  • Philippe Le Corre: Hollande comes to Washington: Can France and the US lead the fight against ISIS?
  • Shadi Hamid: The perils of Islamic apologetics: Does ISIS really have nothing to do with Islam?
  • Bruce Reidel: Saudi Arabia is part of the problem and part of the solution to global jihad; and Modeled on Mumbai?  Why the 2008 India attack is the best way to understand Paris.
  • Mara Revkin and William McCants: Is ISIS good at governing?
  • William McCants: Post-Paris, how should we think about the relationship between ISIS and Islam; and How the Islamic State declared war on the world.
  • William Galston: Hillary Clinton lays out a strategy for defeating ISIS.
  • Javier Lesaca: Fight against ISIS reveals power of social media.
  • Jeremy Shapiro: How not to overreact to ISIS.
  • Alberto Fernandez: Four ways to counter ISIS propaganda more effectively.
  • Daniel Byman: Why ISIS might regret the decision to go global; and Five things to know about the Paris attack.
  • Hafez Ghanen: Economic inclusion can help prevent violent extremism in the Arab world.
  • J.M. Berger: How terrorist recruit online (and how to stop it).
  • Fred Dews: ISIS, ISIL, Islamic State?  A terminology primer.

Council on Foreign Relations (CFR):
  • Richard Haass: After Paris.
  • Max Boot and Jeane Kirkpatrick: Islamic State's achilles' heel: its Sunni identity; and To defeat ISIS, it must be an American fight; and How to fight a real war on ISIS.
  • Philip Gordon: How to address the cause, not the symptoms, of ISIS.
  • Zachary Laub and Jonathan Masters: Islamic State backrounder.
  • Micah Zenko: Can thinking like a terrorist prevent attacks on airplanes?
  • Steven Cook: The Islamic State and the aftermath of Paris.
  • Farah Pandith: Islamic State dominates the digital battlefield.
  • Gayle Tzemach Lemmon: What will change now?
  • Graeme Wood: ISIL: Who is calling the shots?

American Enterprise Institute (AEI):
  • John Bolton: To defeat ISIS, create a Sunni state; and Four important lessons the world must learn from the French tragedy.
  • Ramesh Ponnuru: Call Islamic terrorism what it is.
  • Frederick Kagan and Kimberly Kagan: Do's and Dont's - How the US should respond to the Paris attacks; and What to do and don't do in response to the Paris attacks.
  • Marc Thiessen: ISIS terrorists have already infiltrated America posing as refugees.
  • J. Matthew McInnis: After Paris, can Iran be counted on to help defeat ISIS?
  • Karlyn Bowman, Heather Sims, Eleanor O'Neil: AEI Political Report - The terrorist threat now.
  • Gary Schmitt: After Paris - More to come?
  • Dalibor Rohac: Five lessons from the Paris attacks for Europe.
  • Danielle Pletka: On the Paris terrorist attacks.

Center for a New American Security (CNAS):
  • Richard Fontaine: ISIS in the aftermath of the Paris attacks. 
  • Robert Kaplan: ISIS and the logic of anarchy.
  • Alex Velez-Green: A better, smarter approach to beating ISIS.

Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS):
  • Anthony Cordesman: Paris, ISIS, and the long war against extremism; and Paris, ISIS and the rush to "war." 
  • Simond de Galbert: The stakes for France as Hollande rallies against Islamic State; and After the Paris attacks, France turns to Europe in its time of need.
  • Thomas Sanderson: The Paris attacks (Q&A)

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP):
  • Joseph Bahout: ISIS and Syria - What to do and not do about it.
  • Marc Pierini: Pressures on the West to shift strategies against the Islamic State.
  • Alex Velez-Green: A better, smarter approach to beating ISIS.

US Institute of Peace (USIP):
  • Gopal Ratnam: ISIS isn't the deadliest extremist group.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Think Tank Quickies (#200)

  • Center for a New American Security (CNAS) announces formation of ISIS Study Group.
  • CNAS announces new project on the future of ground forces.
  • Canadian Ambassador to US Gary Doer named Co-Chair of Canada Institute Advisory Board at Wilson Center. 
  • Wilson Center gets a new website in November.
  • Amb. Ryan Crocker named Distinguished Fellow at Wilson Center.
  • Wilson Center award honors Defense Secretary Ashton Carter.
  • Meet the Wilson Center's Polar Initiative.
  • AEI launches new app for iPad. 
  • Kirsten Madison, formerly at the White House, State Department, DHS, and US Senate, joins AEI as Resident Fellow and Deputy Director of Foreign and Defense Policy Studies.
  • AEI hires three for its Economic Policy Studies team: Eric Belasco, Benedic Ippolito, and Lawrence Mead.
  • Brookings appoints Janice Eberly and James Stock as co-editors of the Brookings Papers on Economic Activity (BPEA).
  • Brookings launches Brookings China Council to coincide with state visit of President Xi Jinping.
  • Brookings announces the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Initiative on Innovation and Placemaking.  (Robert Bass is president of Keystone Group.)
  • CFR hires two new adjunct senior fellows: Esther Brimmer (formerly at the State Dept.) and Gordon Goldstein (Managing Director at Silver Lake). 
  • Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at CFR; Chris Christie to speak at CFR on Nov. 24.
  • Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP) appoints Tim Maurer for the think tanks new cyberpolicy initiative.
  • CEIP and Chicago Council on Global Affairs launch task force on US policy toward Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia.
  • PIIE appoints Pedro Nicolaci da Costa (previously with Reuters & WSJ) to help with social media.
  • CSIS hires Jeff Rathke, a former Foreign Service officer, as Deputy Director and Senior Fellow of the Europe Program; also hires Lisa Sawyer Samp (formerly at DoD) for Int'l Security Program.
  • CSIS names nine new members to its Board of Trustees, including Erskine Bowles, William Daley, Stanley Druckenmiller, Martin Edelman, Elizabeth Holmes, Ron Kirk, Leon Panetta, Bob Schieffer, and Frances Townshend.
  • CSIS announces Marshall Program on Science and National Security.
  • Cato Institute names Robert Gelfond, CEO/Founder of Macro Quantitative Strategies, to its Board.
  • CAP launches national grassroots effort to raise awareness for nutrition assistance programs.
  • Atlantic Council holds Energy & Economic Summit in Istanbul, Turkey Nov. 18-20.
  • Atlantic Council, US Embassy Islamabad, and Meridian International Center announce 2015 Emerging Leaders of Pakistan (ELP) Fellows.
  • Atlantic Council presented annual Global Citizen Awards on Oct. 1 to Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi, and Yu Long; Henry Kissinger accepts Distinguished Service Award, IMF's Christine Lagarde presents award to Draghi.
  • Atlantic Council and The Defense Entrepreneurs Forum (DEF) announce partnership.
  • Columnist Reihan Salam and Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin join NAF's Board of Directors.
  • Secretary of State John Kerry delivers Syria policy speech at USIP.
  • USIP lights headquarters blue for UN anniversary.
  • Henry Rowen, second president at RAND Corp., passes away.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Did Think Tanks Facilitate Pfizer Deal With Allergan?

Have think tanks been helping grease the wheels for the massive $160 billion Pfizer-Allergan merger that has just been announced?  Here is more from Paul Hodgson in Forbes:
Ken W. Cole, Pfizer’s senior vice president for government relations, would not comment on Pfizer’s lack of disclosure of donations to think tanks and trade associations, nor would he indicate which organizations were in receipt of such donations.
However, a researcher at the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University, Brooke Williams, uncovered that Pfizer, among other companies like General Motors and ExxonMobil, had given between $10,000 and $25,000 to the National Bureau of Economic Research. It is difficult to nail down how NBER views tax inversions, though an NBER paper from 2002 gave intellectual cover to tax inversions by suggesting that tax evasion was not the primary impulse behind U.S. companies seeking to incorporate overseas.

Among others, it appears that Pfizer has also given to the libertarian think tank Cato Institute.  On inversions, the think tank thinks that they should be stopped with tax cuts.  The think tank also held an event last year on corporate inversions which can be found here.

Karen Katen, former President of Pfizer Human Health, sits of the Board of Directors at the Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE).

Pfizer has also been a contributor to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).  For example, along with Google, Hewlett-Packard (HP), IBM, and Proctor & Gamble, it has contributed to the think tank's Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Speaker Series.  CSIS has also hosted speakers from Pfizer.  Scholars at the think tank have also worked at Pfizer.

Brookings has also weighed in on Pfizer and corporate tax inversions.  In 2013, Amy Schulman, Executive Vice President and General Counsel; and Business Unit Lead, Consumer Healthcare at Pfizer, was elected to the Board of Trustees at Brookings.

Scholars at the Heritage Foundation have also worked at Pfizer, including Edmund Haislmaier.

Of course, it is well documented that think tanks get tons of funding from the healthcare and pharmaceutical industry. 

Friday, November 20, 2015

Washington, DC = Center of Think Tank Universe

Peter Singer, Director of the Brookings Institution's Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence and Senior Fellow in Foreign Policy at the think tank, wrote this peice entitled "Washington's Think Tanks: Factories to Call Our Own" in 2010.  Here are some excerpts:
Travel down Massachusetts Avenue in Northwest DC and you’ll find yourself in the heart of an industry that was, when it began, unique to the nation’s capital. The imposing facades of the Brookings Institution, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies bear little resemblance to the old steel mills of Pittsburgh, but they are factories all the same—producing an endless stream of books, policy papers, reports, analyses, and commentary on everything from health care to taxes to defense.
Washington’s “ideas” economy, based in its think tanks and universities, has made the city an intellectual leader. In 2009, the University of Pennsylvania conducted a survey of the world’s think tanks. It identified 6,305 in 169 countries. At the center of this universe was Washington. Some 393 think tanks were located in the District, more than in any other city in the world; DC is home to about one-fifth of all the think tanks in the United States. Another 149 are in Virginia and Maryland. With budgets ranging from a few hundred thousand dollars to $80 million, the ideas industry is a huge driver of the local economy.

And it’s not just a matter of numbers. When the think tanks in the survey were rated for the influence of their work, nine of the top ten in the United States had offices in Washington; the Hoover Institution at Stanford University—staffed with many DC refugees—was the only non-DC think tank to make the top ten.

The latest University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings released in 2015 say that Washington, DC has a whopping 396 think tanks (and Think Tank Watch knows that in an inaccurate figure and there are actually more).  The runner-up in Massachusetts, which "only" has 176 think tanks.  Combined, Maryland and Virginia, which surround DC, have 155 think tanks.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Think Tank Quickies (#199)

  • Micah Zenko's look into CIA's "what if?" think tank, the Red Cell.
  • Europe's first Turkish think tank aims to boost relations between Turkey, Britain.
  • Brookings debate: Is Twitter helping or hurting news?
  • New America Foundation (NAF) debate: Will libraries outlive books.
  • Google-chaired think tank (NAF) says Google is #1 for digital rights; Google gives to 140 think tanks, civil society groups, and academics.
  • Hot tip for think tankers: How to get access to academic papers on Twitter.
  • Irish think tanks don't think any more?
  • John McCain's think tank wants to shut down Russia's RT.
  • Former World Bank VP and Nigeria's Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala joins CGD. 
  • CIA Director John Brennan gives keynote at CSIS's Global Security Forum 2015.
  • Grover Norquist says AEI head Arthur Brooks is brilliant and all should read him.

Speaker Ryan's Top Foreign Policy Aides Come From Think Tanks

Here is more from the Washington Post:
Ryan will also be keeping the counsel of some of the Republican Party’s most recognized foreign policy experts, many of them veterans of the 2012 campaign in which he was Mitt Romney’s running mate.
That roster, according to Ryan aides, includes: Dan Senor, a prominent foreign policy adviser to the Romney campaign who previously worked as spokesman for the Coalition Provision Authority in Iraq; Elliott Abrams of the Council on Foreign Relations, who worked as a national security adviser to former President George W. Bush; and Eric Edelman, a former ambassador who served in Bush’s Defense Department.

Dan Senor used to be an Adjunct Senior Fellow for Middle East Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).  He also established a think tank called Foreign Policy Initiative, along with William Kristol and Robert Kagan.

As the article mentions, Elliott Abrams works at CFR, where he is a Senior Fellow for Middle East Studies.

Eric Edelman, a Distinguished Fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA).  Among other things, he is also a member of the Board of Directors at the US Institute of Peace (USIP).

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post on Ryan's deep connection to think tanks.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Think Tank Quickies (#198)

  • CEIP: Could 3-D printing make it easier for states to build nuclear weapons?
  • Former CAP staffer Zaid Jilani: We had a ban on writing about Jamie Dimon because JPMorgan Chase gave around a quarter of a million dollars to the think tank.
  • Brookings President Strobe Talbott: "We are all French now."
  • Prime Minister of Georgia hosts dinner for Atlantic Council delegation.
  • Bruce Katz of Brookings named first-ever Centennial Scholar; Amy Liu appointed VP and Director of Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings.
  • Subir Gokarn of Brookings India appointed as Executive Director at IMF.
  • Nonprofit Quarterly (NPQ) on the Netanyahu fiasco at CAP (includes staff rebuttal).
  • CBPP staffers ("Center on Buckets") playing some hoops (a new think tank basketball league?).
  • 30 think tanks attended the 2015 Latin America Think Tank Summit.
  • How the Heritage Foundation uses Medium to replace PDF reports.
  • New York Times bestselling author Max Brooks joins Atlantic Council.

Presidential Candidate Bobby Jindal to Think Tank Land

Republican presidential candidate Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) has just announced that he is dropping out of the race for the White House.  He announced that he will soon be working at the "think tank" he founded in 2013 - America Next - where he will be "outlining a blueprint for making this the American century."

Here is what Politico said about America Next when Gov. Jindal announced its formation back in October 2013:
The Louisiana governor wants “America Next” to produce detailed proposals for how conservatives would improve health care, education and energy policy if they were in charge again.
As he seriously considers a run for president in 2016, the [group] could help Jindal bolster his bona fides as one of the party’s intellectual leaders and give him a fresh national platform as his term leading the Republican Governors Association ends next month.

Here is the website for America Next.  It is said to be an organization designed to forge and promote conservative policy ideas.  American Next is technically a 501(c)(4) organization (i.e., a lobbying group), and former Romney campaign manager Jill Neunaber has been helping run it.  Jindal confidant Curt Anderson, a veteran Republican strategist, serves as an adviser to the group.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Nancy Birdsall to Vacate Top Post at CGD in 2016

Nancy Birdsall, the Founding President of the Center for Global Development (CGD) announced that she was stepping down as head of the think tank in 2016, once her successor is in place.

Birdsall, however, will remain as a Senior Fellow at the think tank.  She noted that in her new position, she will have more time for research, writing, and collaborating with colleagues.  She also said she would have more time and flexibility to travel and enjoy her large and still-growing extended family.

CGD's board chair, former US Treasury Secretary and Harvard University president emeritus Lawrence Summers, will head the search committee to fill Birdstall's spot.

The firm of Russell Reynolds has been engaged to work with the search committee to conduct the global search for Birdsall's successor.

Here is a letter that Birdsall has been circulating about her upcoming departure from the think tank.

CGD was founded in November 2001 by Birdsall, Edward Scott Jr., and C. Fred Bergsten, who was formerly the head of the Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE).  Birdsall has been CGD's only president since its founding.

CGD was ranked as the 27th best think tank in the United States by the 2015 University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings.  It was also ranked as the world's 10th best international development think tank.

BAE: Reading Think Tank Reports Can Harm Your Company

The threats intelligence department of  defense giant BAE Systems says that even though think tanks have been the subject of targeted cyber attacks for quite some time, it has seen a particularly aggressive campaign against think tanks over the past year.

BAE says that think tanks are attractive targets because they have an unusual combination of a high level of trust among the participants with relatively low resources for defense.

In a video with James Hatch, Director of Cyber Services at BAE Systems Applied Intelligence, the attacks against think tanks are described in more details:
Attackers want to access think tank network for two purposes:  Firstly, they are interested in the conversations and policy discussions that go on within those organization, and secondly, they are interested in using them as staging posts to attack major corporations and government departments.  They'll do this either by compromising email infrastructure to be able to set up spearfishing attacks or by compromising websites to be able to set up watering hole attacks.
We recently investigated an attack on a major think tank where their website was compromised.  The compromise was undertaken using an exploit that had only been publicly known about for a few days.  Anyone who accessed the website would have had software downloaded on their machine that would have given a toehold to the attackers.  Given the nature of that think tank, most of the people accessing that website would have been doing so from the machines of major corporations.  We traced the attack group to be a nation-state with a particular interest in commercial espionage.

In other words, think tanks could very likely be exposing your business to cyber attacks and espionage. 

As Think Tank Watch has reported, during the past few years, it has been publicly (and privately) disclosed that nearly every major US think tank has been hacked.  Besides attacks on Heritage and Urban Institute, Think Tank Watch has documented hacks on think tanks such as the Aspen Institute, Brookings, American Enterprise Institute (AEI), Center for American Progress (CAP), Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), and Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

Monday, November 16, 2015

Think Tank Quickies (#197)

  • New book on Asian think tanks by Erin Zimmerman.
  • A master's in international relations can lead to the prestigious but fiercely competitive career in international think tanks.
  • Panel launched by CIGI and Chatham House urge new social compact on Internet privacy.
  • Military science fiction from Atlantic Council's Art of Future Warfare project. 
  • Rethinking T20: Think tanks, ideas and innovation in foreign policy, via Juan Luis Manfredi.
  • Lee Fang story: SEC nominee to oversee Wall Street (Hester Maria Peirce) works at think tank dedicated to blocking regulation (Mercatus Center).
  • Netanyahu escapes CAP event without any fireworks, via FP's John Hudson.
  • Cato on Instagram: A behind-the-scenes look at life in a libertarian think tank.
  • Rethinking Russia launches new research project to map think tanks that study Russia.
  • Yahoo News report on new CFR Task Force report "eliminates reference" to every single woman involved.
  • Third Way takes home two pumpkin carving trophies (h/t David Slavick).

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Updated List of Atlantic Council Donors

Atlantic Council has recently updated its donors list, and Think Tank Watch has been analyzing the list for interesting tidbits.  Donors include US government agencies, foreign government agencies, corporations (both domestic and foreign), other think tanks and think tankers, universities, foundations, law firms, PR firms, consulting firms, foreign stock exchanges, cultural centers, former government officials, and others.  Here is what we found:

  •  US government entities include: US State Department, US Air Force, US Army, US Marines.
  • Large corporations: Airbus, Chevron, Google, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Southern Company, Thomson Reuters, BP, ExxonMobil, General Electric, Northrup Grumman, Panasonic, SAIC, United Technologies, Barclays Capital, Coca-Cola Co., ConocoPhillips, ENI, FedEx, McAfee, Microsoft, Target, Boeing, Bloomberg, Caterpillar, Daimler, Gallup, HSBC, Dow Chemical, Comcast, Rolls-Royce, Bank of Tokyo - Mitsubishi UFJ. 
  • Foreign governments: United Arab Emirates (UAE; which gives the think tank at lesast $1 million), Kingdom of Bahrain, City of London, Temasek Holdings (Singapore), Embassy of Hungary, Ministry of Defense of Finland, Embassy of Latvia, Estonian Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Defense of Georgia, Ministry of Defense of Montenegro, Republic of Macedonia Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Embassy of Slovakia, Embassy of Czech Republic.
  • Other think tanks and think tankers: Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Nicolas Veron of Bruegel (formerly at PIIE), Anne-Marie Slaughter (head of New America Foundation), Michele Flournoy (head of Center for a New American Security), Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings Institution.
  • Other notable entities: UCLA, Georgetown University Law Center, The Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, Sandia National Laboratories, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Baker & McKenzie LLP, Scowcroft Group, Edelman, McLarty Associates, Istanbul Stock Exchange.

Here is a Think Tank Watch story from 2013 about Atlantic Council revealing its donors after Chuck Hagel, then-Chairman of Atlantic Council, had to reveal who funded his think tank during his nomination process for Defense Secretary.

The most interesting thing from the latest donor disclosures is probably the number of outside think tanks and think tankers who donate to Atlantic Council.  And just like for other think tanks, colleges and universities donate to Atlantic Council.

 Below is the full list that Atlantic Council has disclosed, lumped into categories by donation amount:

 ǂ denotes a sponsor of the 2014 Wroclaw Global Forum
denotes a sponsor of the 2014 Energy and Economic Summit

$1,000,000 and above

Adrienne Arsht
Bahaa Hariri
United Arab Emirates

$250,000 - $999,999

Bromak EOOD
Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions
Corporate Commercial Bank
Hunton & Williams
Kingdom of Bahrain
George Lund
MNG Holding Company, Inc.◊
Dinu Patriciu
Brent Scowcroft
Smith Richardson Foundation
Turkiye Halk Bankasi A.S.◊
US State Department

$100,000 - $249,000

Atlantic Advocacy Fund Inc.
Thomas L. Blair
Bob Woodruff Foundation
Central Europe Energy Partners AISBL (CEEP)◊
Cheniere Energy, Inc.◊
Chopivsky Family Foundation
Defense Ministry of Norway
Dentons LLP◊
Genel Enerji◊
Istanbul Stock Exchange◊
Lockheed Martin Corporationǂ
Macarthur Foundation
Alexander Mirtchev
Ploughshares Fund
Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Inc.
Southern Companyǂ
The Morganti Group
Thomson Reuters
Ukrainian World Congress
Olin Wethington

$50,000 - $99,000

ACE Group
African Rainbow Minerals
Tewodros Ashenafi
Audiovisuelle International
Bank of America Corporation
BOTAS - Boru Hatlari Ile Petrol Tasima Anonim Sirk◊
Calik Enerji Sanayi Ve Ticaret A.S.◊
Michael Calvey
CEZ Group◊
City of London
DRS Technologies, Inc.
ETH Zurich
ExxonMobil ◊
Julie Finley
Ronald M. Freeman
Frontera Resources
Robert S. Gelbard
General Electric ◊
Peter Kovarcik†
Krauss Maffei Wegmann
John Macomber
McGraw Hill Financial
Meads International, Inc.ǂ
Georgette Mosbacher
Northrop Grumman Corporation
Ahmet Oren
Panasonic Corporation of North America
W. DeVier Pierson
PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP
Republic of Cyprus
RTI International Metals, Inc.
Skoll Global Imperatives
Standard Chartered Bank
Temasek Holdings
James C. Temerty
The Blackstone Group
Tishman Speyer Properties LP
Transatlantic Policy Network
United Technologies Corporationǂ
Zorlu Enerji◊

$25,000 - $49,999

Allianz SE◊
American Water
Bank of Tokyo - Mitsubishi UFJ
Barclays Capital
Victor L. Chu
Coca-Cola Company
Steven and Roberta Denning
DEPA Public Gas Corporation of Greece◊
Markus Dohle
Conrado Dornier
Ekkou VP SRL◊
Embassy of Hungary
FedEx Corporation
Fluor Corporation
Garanti Bank◊
C. Boyden Gray
Grupa Lotos S.A.
Grupo Salinas
Guggenheim Partners, LLC
Gulf Keystone Petroleum Ltd.◊
James L. Jones, Jr.
Leidos, Inc.
LexisNexis Group
Lucky Cement Limited
Mannheim LLC
MBDA Incorporated
McAfee, Inc.
McLarty Associates
Microsoft Corporation
Ministry of Defence of Finland
Mol Group◊
Moroccan-American Cultural Center
MVM Magyar Villamos Muvek Zrt.◊
William H. Nixon
Novartis Corporation
OMV Petrol Ofisi A.S.◊
Andrew Prozes
Publicis Groupe
Renaissance Strategic Advisors
Jeffrey A. Rosen
Scowcroft Group
Alan J. Spence
Stfa Yatirim Holding A.S.◊
Target Corporation
Thales USA
The Boeing Company
Thermo Fisher Scientific
Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) AG◊
Turkerler Holding, A.S.◊
US Air Force
US Army
US Chamber of Commerce
US Marines

$10,000 - $24,999

Odeh Aburdene
Accuron Technologies Limited
Baker & McKenzie LLPǂ
Bloomberg L.P.
Caterpillar Inc.
Center For Strategic & International Studies
John Chapoton
C. Diane Christensen
CISCO - Basic Solutions Corp.
DBS Bank
Deloitte Services
Embassy of Latvia
Estonian Ministry of Defence
Alan H. Fleischmann
Futurewei Technologies, Inc.
Gallup, Inc.
Sherri Goodman
Gokhan Gundogdu
Stephen J. Hadley
Ian Hague
Brian C. McK. Henderson 
Henry Schein, Inc.
Mary L. Howell
Instititue of International Education
Franklin D. Kramer
Loews Corporation
Hilda Ochoa-Brillembourg
Arnold L. Punaro
Rockefeller & Co.
Charles O. Rossotti
Shearman & Sterling, LLP
Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP
Syngenta Corporation
TD International LLC
The Dow Chemical Company
The Soufan Group
Enzo Viscusi
Water Standard Company LLC
John C. Whitehead†

$5,000 - $9,999

Alliant Techsystems Operations LLC
Aspen Healthcare Services
British High Commission
CH2M Hill
Charles F. Wald
Comcast Corporation
Corsair Capital
Dov S. Zakheim
Ellen O. Tauscher
Frederick Kempe and Pamela Meyer
Globis Capital Partners
Harlan K. Ullman
Jan M. Lodal
Jay Walker
John Gastright
Judith A. Miller
Litespeed Management, LLC
Michael V. Hayden
Ministry of Defence of Georgia
Ministry of Defense of Montenegro
New Mountain Capital
Paul Twomey
Peter J. Tanous
Republic of Macedonia Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Robert Hormats
Robert M. Kimmitt
Rodel Charitable Foundation of DE
Rolls-Royce of North America
John Megrue
Semnani Family Foundation
The Asan Institute For Policy Studies
The Hand Foundation
The Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership
Thomas Nides
Thomas J. Edelman
VT Systems
William E. Mayer
Wolfgang Friedrich Ischinger

$1,000 - $4,999

John R. Allen
David D. Aufhauser
Elizabeth F. Bagley
Sheila C. Bair
Base Per Altezza
Peter Behr
Margaret Bennett
Bertelsmann Foundation
Susan M. Blaustein
Julia Chang Bloch
Harold Brown
R. Nicholas Burns
Byron Callan
Capital Alpha Partners, LLC
James E. Cartwright
Peter Cunniffe
Cyber Conflict Studies Association
Ivo H. Daalder
Paula J. Dobriansky
Christopher J. Dodd
Stuart E. Eizenstat
Embassy of Slovakia
Embassy of the Czech Republic
eNGO Network on CCS
Lawrence P. Fisher II
Michele Flournoy
Paul R. S. Gebhard
Georgetown University Law Center
Rita E. Hauser
Robert Hunter
Timothy Adams
George A. Joulwan
Stephen R. Kappes 
Zalmay M. Khalilzad
Henry A. Kissinger
Geraldine S. Kunstadter
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Richard L. Lawson
Lotus International
Magellan Aerospace Corporation
Wendy W. Makins
Eric D.K. Melby
Franklin C. Miller
George E. Moose
Virginia Mulberger
Joseph S. Nye
Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum
Raul Perea-Henze
Thomas R. Pickering
Pioneer Natural Resources
Quincy Jones Productions, Inc.
Kirk A. Radke
Joseph W. Ralston
Nanako Sakai
Sandia National Laboratories
Anne-Marie Slaughter
Walter B. Slocombe
Paula Stern
John S. Tanner
Texas Water Recycling Association
The Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation
Philip Verveer
Mary Yates

Up to $999

Michael Allen
Kurt Amend
Daniel J. Arbess
Stuart Archer
Cresencio S. Arcos
Victor H. Ashe
Noris D. Balabanian
Robert M. Beecroft
J.D. Bindenagel
Martin Bollinger
Arnaud de Borchgrave†
Christopher Bott
James Bowen
David Buffaloe
Theodore Hopkins Bunzel
Edward J. Burger, Jr.
Keith Ross Butler
CD Global Strategies Group LLC
Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings
Sandra L. Charles
Frances D. Cook
James De Francia
Rob de Wijk
Mary B. DeRosa
Joseph J. Drach, Jr.
Glenn D. Dunmire
William Ebert
Pantea Fiuzi Farkhan
Francis Finelli
Lucy Reilly Fitch
Randall Fort
Andrew D. Frank
Laurie Fulton
Alice Gast
Glenn Gerstell
Carol Giacomo
Richard W. Graber
James Greene
Michael Hanna
Harry Harding, Jr.
David P. Harris
Scott Harris†
Steven Hefter
E.C. Michael Higgins
Jeffrey Hoffman
James R. Hogg
Barry B. Hughes
Brian A. Hunter
Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science
Bobby R. Inman
Jason Jarrell
Roger Kirk
Kurt J. Klingenberger
Martin Klingst
Steven B. Klinsky
Stefan Kornelius
Tom C. Korologos
Matthew Lauer
Eric L. Lewis
Malcolm Lovell, Jr.
Clay Lowery
Gerhard Mally
Ronald Marks
Margarita Mathiopoulos
Jules Frank Mermoud
Mark Meyer
R. Garrett Mitchell
Michael Moore
Powell Moore
David Morey
Dambisa Moyo
Varoges Muradian
Terence Murphy
Eugene L. Nardelli
Sandra Navidi
Mark Nihols
William A. Nitze
Norman F. Oblon
Eileen O'Connor
Peter Pace
Sally Painter
Walter Parchomenko
Jesper Pedersen
Yannis Perlepes
Mary Ann Peters
Philip Pilevsky
William A. Plapinger
Joseph A. Presel
John Price
Pamela Quanrud
Henrik Fogh Rasmussen
Charles Ries
Christina Rocca
Zvi S. Rome
Ann E. Rondeau
Daniel A. Russell
Steven E. Schmidt
Mark Schwendler
Andrew Shapiro
Stephen Shapiro
Matthew T. Sherman
Cenk Sidar
Jeffrey M. Siegal
Pamela H. Smith
Daniel Speckhard
Solveig B. Spielmann
Walter E. Stadtler
James Steinberg
Patrick Stephenson
Eric Stewart
Francesco Stipo
Nigel J. Sutton
Frank A. Tapparo
John F. Tefft
Jay Timmons
Olesya Tkacheva
Mamuka Tsereteli
USAID Colombia
Marten H.A. van Heuven
David Van Buren
Nicolas Veron
Samuel S. Visner
Mark Vlasic
Don Wallace, Jr.
Leigh Warner
Ruth Wedgwood
James Wildman
Samuel Zega


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Exclusive: Think Tankers Using Private Platform to Make Extra Money

Think tanking is not known as the most lucrative of industries (unless you at the top of the food chain), and that is why think tankers are flocking to work outside of their respective think tanks in order to supplement their income.

Think Tank Watch has learned that more than 200 think tankers are using a private, crowdsourcing platform of a for-profit consultancy to bring in extra money outside of their think tank salary.  The consulting firm, called Wikistrat, operates a global network of over 2,000 subject matter experts who work collaboratively to help decision-makers identify solutions to complex challenges.

Clients to the firm include the US Department of Defense, Allied Command Transformation (ACT), Department of the Navy, Department of the Air Force, United States Africa Command, Royal Air Force (UK's aerial warfare force), and Deloitte.  So-called "partners" to Wikistrat include Northrup Grumman, Concurrent Technologies Corporation (CTC), Lockheed Martin, and Global Resource Solutions (GRS).

Think Tank Watch has analyzed scores of "experts" who use the platform and found a number from well-known think tanks, including Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Hudson Institute, Atlantic Council, American Enterprise Institute (AEI), New America Foundation (NAF), Center for a New American Security (CNAS), American Security Project, German Marshall Fund, Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), Middle East Institute (MEI),and many others.

The analytics services that Wikistrat provides include prediction and early warning, scenario planning, strategic forecasting, on-the-ground collection, policy recommendations, real-time analysis/monitoring of world affairs, and modeling of complex environments through big data and crowdsourcing.

Scenario planning (which is similar to forecasting) was first used by the military in WWII and then by Herman Kahn of the think tank RAND Corporation who later founded the Hudson Institute.

We should point out that many think tankers have jobs outside of their think tanks (consulting gigs, teaching positions, etc...) in order to bring in an extra source of income.

Monday, November 9, 2015

List of Top Think Tanks Based on Media Citations

In 2013, Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) released its annual list of top think tank based on citations of those think tanks in the media.  Think Tank Watch has mentioned the list before, but we have not dedicated an individual post to it, so here are the results:

  1. Brookings: 2,632
  2. Heritage Foundation: 1,548
  3. American Enterprise Institute (AEI): 1,196
  4. Kaiser Family Foundation: 994
  5. Council on Foreign Relations (CFR)
  6. Cato Institute: 773
  7. Center for American Progress (CAP): 756
  8. Urban Institute: 688
  9. Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS): 613
  10. RAND Corporation: 537

The think tank survey was conducted by sociologist Michael Dolny, who has been doing the think tank survey for FAIR since 1996.

A nice copy of the chart (as pictured above) can be found here.

Anne-Marie Slaughter: Rethinking the Think Tank

New America Foundation (NAF) President and CEO Anne-Marie Slaughter has just co-authored a piece with Ben Scott of NAF entitled "Rethinking the Think Tank."  Here are some excerpts:
Objective research from think tanks can still play an important role in federal policymaking. But the think tank as a policy institution has not adapted fast enough to escape the dysfunction of Washington. Even superb policy analysis seldom results in policy change. One reason is that expert positions in many debates are alien to the mobilized bases of both parties.  Another is that the desire to score partisan points trumps the effort to get something done irrespective of whether the “right answer” is served up on a silver platter. Meanwhile, a plethora of specialized research institutions funded by trade associations, corporations, and partisan donors on both right and left have led many to question the objectivity of the policy positions adopted.
It is time to propose rethinking the think tank to meet these evolving challenges. The central mission is the same—to help solve public problems—but the form and function of the work must adapt. The theory of action of the traditional think tank is that change comes from the top-down adoption or abolition of laws and regulations. Papers and reports advocating specific changes are, of course, directly influenced by bottom-up political movements, from labor organizing to interest group coalitions. But the energy of such movements is typically harnessed to pass or block laws in a legislative process that is removed from direct engagement with people. Today, that model is too elitist, too narrow, and too slow.
We propose a new model of civic enterprise. “Civic” because it engages citizens as change makers—conscious members of a self-governing polity that expects government to be at least part of the solution to problems that individuals cannot solve on their own. And “enterprise” because of the energy and innovation involved in actually making change on the ground. Civic enterprise blends conventional policy research with local organizing, coalition building, public education, advocacy, and bottom-up projects that generate and test ideas before, during, and after engagement in the policymaking process with government. 

The authors go on to note that the past decades of growth and expansion in the think tank sector have resulted in an explosion or production of white papers.  They say, however, that inevitably, think tanks reflect (and sometimes amplify) the partisanship, compartmentalization, and money in politics.  She adds that even the best think tanks and think tankers are disconnected from the communities that the ideas are developed to serve.

The authors then tout NAF's own community engagement - Opportunity@Work, which they say researches the problem, prototypes solutions, tests them in the field with partners in companies and job centers, and accelerates the process of policy change by demonstrating what is possible.

She also calls out her own think tank, saying this:
Even at an institution called New America, we look much more like old America: largely white, majority male, and almost entirely upper middle class. Think tanks operate with career ladders that recruit in elite universities, privilege advanced degrees, leverage political connections to move people up the ranks, and ultimately perpetuate institutions that look nothing like the rest of America. The problem is evident across the Washington policy ecosystem: the people most engaged in thinking, regulating, and legislating do not actually represent the citizenry.

Ben Scott, one of the co-authors, is a Senior Adviser to to NAF's Open Technology Institute (OTI).   He is also a Visiting Fellow at the Stiftung Neue Verantwortung in Berlin, Germany.

More about Opportunity@Work, which was launched by NAF in March 2015, can be found here.  Its co-founders are Byron Auguste (former Deputy Assistant to the President for Economic Policy and Deputy Director of the National Economic Council under President Obama) and Tyra Mariani (former Chief of Staff to US Deputy Secretary of Education in the Obama Administration).

Friday, November 6, 2015

Coolest Think Tank Studies Program

Bland think tank studies programs focusing on topics such as economics, foreign policy, immigration studies, and education policy abound at think tanks.  Boring.

But do not fear all of you bon vivants, for the conservative think tank Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) probably has the coolest program around, and it is run by Michelle Minton, a Fellow at CEI and Director of "Sindustry Studies."

Yes, sindustry studies. Her Twitter description says that she fights for the right to eat, drink, gamble, and be merry.

In other words, she writes about beer, wine, liquor, soda, sugar, meat, doughnuts, junk food, Internet gambling, and even tampons.  Where do we sign up?

We think that the program should join forces with what is probably the coolest corporate think tank in 2015: Absolut Labs.  The brand director of that new think tank also happens to have the coolest think tank business card around.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Speaker Ryan and His Deep Think Tank Connections

For years Think Tank Watch has written about how Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) has been the darling of conservative think tanks, including the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and to the Heritage Foundation.  In fact, AEI's annual dinner in 2013 was solely meant to honor Rep. Ryan.

He is also close to scholars at the Hudson Institute and has had dinner with the head of American Action Forum.  He has also spoken at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) as well as the center-left think tank Brookings Institution.

Ryan has also spoken at state-level think tanks, including the Center of the American Experiment (in Minnesota).  And he has embraced other think tanks outside of the beltway, such as the Manhattan Institute, which was reportedly advising some of his staff.

His think tanking is so prolific that during the 2012 vice presidential debates, Ryan was described as "Think Tank Ryan."  Even David Hoppe, Ryan's new chief of staff, reportedly has connections with think tanks.

But Ryan's deep relationship with think tanks has not been all friendly.  And his relationship with the Heritage Foundation is actually quite nuanced.  For example, in 2013, Heritage Action, the lobbying arm of Heritage Foundation, came out against Ryan's budget plan.

As you may remember, former House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) was often attacked by Heritage, and the think tank may have even helped destroy his career in Congress.

So the big question going forward is will Heritage play naughty or nice with Ryan.  Heritage Action has recently said that it is time for "moving away from the US Chamber of Commerce's preferred agenda," and it will surely be watching Ryan closely.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

2016 Republicans Outsource Policy to Secret Group of Think Tankers

Although the John Hay Initiative (JHI) - which is made up of a variety of powerful think tankers and conservative insiders - is super-secretive and not well-known, it is the go-to source for Republican candidates to get foreign policy ideas and advice.  Here is more from Josh Rogin:
There's a good reason so many GOP candidates seem to be well-prepared yet uncannily in sync when it comes to foreign policy: Most of them have tapped the same group of experts for guidance, a shadow foreign policy campaign infrastructure just waiting for a nominee to emerge.
Ever since Mitt Romney lost the race in 2012, his foreign policy team has been working to remain intact, become a resource for as many primary candidates as possible, and position itself to influence the next president, if he or she is a Republican. For candidates who haven't the time or resources to build their own foreign policy staffs at this stage, the project, called the John Hay Initiative, is a handy tool to get smart fast on complicated subjects and even hand off some heavy lifting on national security issues.
The co-founders say the group issues biweekly policy papers on a range of issues, does specific research for different campaigns on demand, and has briefed more than half of the 17 Republican candidates running for president. The Hay Initiative helped write recent foreign policy speeches for Carly Fiorina and Chris Christie, speeches that struck very similar notes. Members have also briefed Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham and others. Rand Paul and Donald Trump are the outliers who have no interaction with the group, likely because their foreign policy views don't jibe.

Here is Josh Rogin's original piece about the John Hay Initiative.  It says that the group is made up of more than 150 senior foreign policy and national security experts and former officials.  Now, JHI says it has 250 experts.  It was founded by three of the top leaders of the Romney 2012 foreign policy team: Eliot Cohen, Eric Edelman, and Brian Hook.

JHI recently released a book, dedicated to the next president of the United States, which "seeks to restore the bipartisan tradition of American leadership in world affairs."

The authors of the book include a number of think tankers, such as:
  • Elliot Abrams, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).
  • Dan Blumenthal, Director of Asian Studies at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).
  • Jacqueline Deal, Senior Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI).
  • Paula Dobriansky, Senior Fellow with the Future of Diplomacy Project at Harvard University's JFK Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs
  • Eric Edelman, a Distinguished Fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA).
  • Aaron Friedberg, Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the German Marshall Fund (GMF) and a Senior Advisor to the National Bureau of Asian Research (NBR).
  • Rebeccah Heinrichs, Fellow at the Hudson Institute.
  • Will Inboden, Non-Resident Fellow at GMF.
  • David Kramer, Senior Director for Human Rights and Democracy at the McCain Institute for International Leadership.
  • Jeffrey Kupfer, Bernard Schwartz Fellow at the Asia Society Policy Institute.
  • Clay Lowery, Visiting Fellow at the Center for Global Development (CGD) and Senior Advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
  • Wess Mitchell, Co-Founder of the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA).
  • J. Peter Pham, Director of the Africa Center at Atlantic Council.
  • Daniel Runde, Schreyer Chair in Global Analysis at CSIS.
  • Michael Singh, Managing Director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP).
  • Jim Talent, Senior Fellow at AEI.

More about the John Hay Initiative can be found here.

The Powerful Think Tank Tied to EU's Inner Circle

From a Politico Europe story:
When Ann Mettler started work as a top policy adviser to the European Commission president, one of the first things she said to colleagues had echoes of Ronald Reagan’s famous words to Mikhail Gorbachev: “Tear down these walls.”
Mettler was referring to the office layout on the 12th floor of the Berlaymont, where she took over as head of the Commission’s in-house think tank, the European Political Strategy Centre, last December. She might have been talking about the way that thinking is done in the EU’s executive body.
“Everyone sat in their own offices with the doors closed,” Mettler said in an interview. “That’s not how you work a think tank. A lot of think-tanking is tearing down intellectual walls and opening minds to new ideas.”
Her staff now sits in a communal office space.

Among other things, the article goes on to note that Ms. Mettler came to the European Political Strategy Centre (EPSC) from the Lisbon Council, a think tank she co-founded in 2003 with her husband Paul Hofheinz.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Think Tank Quickies (#197)

  • AEI: 20 reasons ride-sharing is better than taxis.
  • Are think tanks undermining democracy? (via Dr. Glenn Savage of University of Melbourne)
  • Karen Attiah of Washington Post: "DC think tanks keep excluding Africans from Africa panels."
  • Think tank CEI: "Glyphosate in Tampons, Oh My!"
  • RAND Corp. on how to stop the world's growing heroin crisis.
  • A case study of the US foreign policy think tanks' debates in the general elections of 2004, 2008, and 2012 (via Seyed Hamidreza Serri).
  • CSIS on ISIS access to to nuclear material originating from Moldova.
  • Bill Kristol interviews AEI President Arthur Brooks.
  • Brookings: Make college free.
  • Image of think tank financing. (h/t Transparify)
  • Vladimir Putin's close confidant Vladimir Yukunin launches new think tank.

New Book Outlines Neocon Think Tanks That "Drive Policy & War"

Salon has just released some excerpts from a new book by Molly Sinclair McCartney and the late James McCartney entitled "America's War Machine: Vested Interests, Endless Conflicts" which says that well-funded think tanks push corporate agendas through media "experts."  Here are Think Tank Watch's favorite quotes:

  • More than twenty AEI people wound up with top jobs in the George W. Bush administration. Paul Wolfowitz, the former deputy defense secretary and backer of the Iraq War, is now a visiting scholar at the AEI, which has an annual budget of about $20 million. It has about fifty so-called scholars and about 150 on the payroll. Its objective is to influence public policy. Christopher DeMuth, president of the AEI from 1986 through 2008, who worked in both the Nixon and Reagan administrations, put it this way: “We try to get in the newspaper op-ed pages and hawk our books and magazines much more aggressively than a university would feel comfortable with.”
  • If you watch the op-ed pages in the newspapers carefully, you will find the AEI and other think tanks well represented, week after week, month after month. You will also see them on television presenting their point of view. When network-television talk shows and the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) want “experts” on foreign policy, they often turn to the AEI or other prominent think tanks. But they don’t always tell the public who is paying the salaries of the “experts.” You can bet it is corporate America.
  • A prominent opponent of the war was the libertarian Cato Institute, which is conservative on domestic issues but traditionally opposed to foreign intervention. In California’s Orange County Register, Cato vice president Ted Galen Carpenter wrote—just days before the war began—that the pro-war camp’s justifications for invading Iraq were faulty: “The United States is supposed to be a constitutional republic. As such, the job of the U.S. military is to defend the vital security interests of the American people. U.S. troops are not armed crusaders with a mission to right all wrongs and liberate oppressed populations. American dollars are too scarce and American lives too precious for such feckless ventures.”
  • Two of Washington’s most successful think-tank hawks are Frederick and Kimberly Kagan, the husband-and-wife team who spent a year in Afghanistan working as unpaid volunteers for the U.S. general in charge of the war. Frederick Kagan is a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, which has a history of supporting American military intervention around the world.
  • Think-tank hawks have always sought to impact defense policy. The Kagans found a way to go beyond traditional influence peddling and gain the ear of the military man in charge of a real war. The Kagans were not paid by the U.S. government for their work, but their proximity to Petraeus provided valuable benefits. The Post article reported that the arrangement with Petraeus “provided an incentive for defense contractors to contribute to Kim Kagan’s think tank,” the Institute for the Study of War, which advocates an aggressive U.S. foreign policy. At an August 2011 dinner, Kim Kagan thanked two contractors, DynCorp International and CACI International, for funding her institute and making it possible for her to spend a year in Afghanistan with Petraeus.

The new book can be found here.  Molly McCartney was actually housed within the Wilson Center for part of the time that she was working on the book.

Coolest Private Sector Think Tank of 2015 - Absolut Labs

Think tanks are typically non-profits, but there are a host a corporate and other private sector think tanks in the United States and elsewhere.  One example is JPMorgan Chase & Co. which launched a think tank earlier this year.

Now, the alcoholic beverage company Asolut, known for its vodka, has recently created a think tank to plan for the next 30 years of nightlife (we are not making this up folks).  Here is more:
When you hear "think tank," the first words that come to mind are more likely policy, or government, or economics, or the military, rather than, say, vodka. Afdhel Aziz, however, is not constrained by your limited notions of what a think tank can be. As brand director for Absolut Labs, he's in charge of looking at ways that the company can spur innovation in the world of nightlife.
"It's there to do two things," Aziz says of Absolut Labs. "It's there to be an idea incubator, and to be a think tank, as well."
What that means in plain English is that Absolut Labs is looking for weird, unexpected ways to influence the nightlife experience. They started in August with a virtual reality project involving the Brooklyn band Bob Moses, where they provided Google Cardboard headsets to thousands of the band's fans, so they could all have an experience not unlike the one being enjoyed—live and in real time—by the 400 people in Williamsburg on the night of the band's gig. "That was our calling card," Aziz says of the experience. "To say 'this is what we're here to do: We're here to make nightlife better by using art, music, and technology in new and unique ways.'"
The think tank, meanwhile, is looking at unique ways to apply data they've cultivated to the world of nightlife. "We had been doing research with a hundred of the most influential and interesting people doing nightlife in the U.S.," Aziz explains. "If our purpose was to make nightlife better, we had to first find out what's going on in nightlife, and what trends are driving it. So we created an interesting piece of qualitative research where we identified people from different tribes—the people making the music, the people making the visuals, the people promoting the parties—and we talked to lots of different types of people, to gather these insights to put together the report."

The think tank has just released a "State of Nightlife 2015" report identifying emerging trends in the nightlife scene.  The Absolut Labs website can be found here.

Now THAT is a think tank report that will not put you to sleep...

Update: Mr. Aziz also happens to have the coolest business card of any think tank we know.  See a picture here.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Think Tank Limerick

The Limerick King has just put out a new limerick about think tanks:

While Think Tank Watch takes no position on the limerick, we are sure that Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who attacked Brookings for an industry-funded study that one of its scholars co-authored, would approve.

The limerick reminds of of the think tank haikus (or "tanku") that we used to play around with on Twitter...

Friday, October 30, 2015

Think Tank Quickies (#196)

  • In National Review, AEI's Michael Strain lists his favorite quotes that Think Tank Watch aggregated from the Ezra Klein interview with AEI head Arthur Brooks.
  • Map: Right-wing think tanks in the US.
  • Third Way Vice President Lanae Erickson Hatalsky appointed to President's Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Parnterships.
  • Earlier this year, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) joined Third Way as Honorary Senate Co-Chairs, joining Sens. Shaheen, Coons, Carper, and McCaskill.  Reps. Suzan DelBene (D-WA), Scott Peters (D-CA), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) became Honorary House Co-Chairs, joining Reps. Clyburn, Kind, Crowley, and Polis.
  • Under outgoing CEO Michael Grebe, Bradley Foundation has supported an infrastructure of conservative think tanks. 
  • Former USTR official Claire Reade becomes Non-Resident Senior Associate on the Freeman Chair in China Studies at CSIS. 
  • Trying to crack open Congress's confidential think tank after a century of secrecy. 
  • Brookings: Fighting crime with Daylight Savings Time (DST).
  • Petitioning Center for American Progress (CAP) to recognize disability as a demographic.
  • 43 think tanks from 27 countries joined Silk Road Think Tank Network (SiLKS), co-founded by CIRSD and China's Development Research Center (DRC).

Thursday, October 29, 2015

RAND Makes Washingtonian's "Best Places to Work" List

The November 2015 edition of the Washingtonian has its annual list of best places to work, and one think tank made the list: RAND Corporation.  Here is what it says:
The 67-year-old institution is known for its policy research, which often lands in the news.  Employees might study the rise of militant Islam, marijuana legalization, or flood risk in coastal communities.  In 2014, Rand's findings on rates of sexual assault in the military led the Defense Department to announce new initiatives.  Employees of this California-based nonprofit - 380 work out of an office in Pentagon City - say they like doing work that can make a difference.  They also appreciate the flexibility they're given - and the benefits, which include a contribution equaling 5 to 9 percent of salary to their retirement plan.  Perk: To encourage work/life balance, employees are paid an extra 5 percent for every vacation day taken.

It a press release, RAND notes that it actually pays employees more than time-and-a-half ("1.65 times normal salary, to be precise") when they take vacation.  The think tank also notes that it had previously been selected as a "Great Place to Work" by Washingtonian in 2007 and received an honorable mention in 2009.

On the subject of RAND, The Washington Post recently had a piece outlining some of the fascinating history of the think tank and its deep connection to DARPA.

RAND was recently named as the world's 7th best think tank by the annual University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings.  It was ranked as the 6th best think tank in the United States, and the world's second best think tank for defense and national security issues.  It was also ranked as the world's second best education policy think tank, and the world's second best domestic health policy think tank.  Among other things, it was also ranked as having the world's best transdisciplinary research program, and having the world's best policy-oriented public programs.

Rothkopf: Your Bold Think Tanks Idea Means no Government Job

Here is what David Rothkopf says about modern day think tanks in his new TED talk:
...And the other problems came from the fact that in Washington and in many capitals right now, we're in a creativity crisis. In Washington, in think tanks, where people are supposed to be thinking of new ideas, you don't get bold new ideas, because if you offer up a bold new idea, not only are you attacked on Twitter, but you will not get confirmed in a government job. Because we are reactive to the heightened venom of the political debate, you get governments that have an us-versus-them mentality, tiny groups of people making decisions. When you sit in a room with a small group of people making decisions, what do you get? You get groupthink. Everybody has the same worldview, and any view from outside of the group is seen as a threat. That's a danger. You also have processes that become reactive to news cycles. And so the parts of the U.S. government that do foresight, that look forward, that do strategy -- the parts in other governments that do this -- can't do it, because they're reacting to the news cycle. And so we're not looking ahead.

This is not the first time that Rothkopf has taken a swipe at think tanks.  Last year, Think Tank Watch wrote about how Rothkopf thinks that little bold thinking goes on at US think tanks.

And Rothkopf is not the only one making this argument.  For example, Didier Jacobs just wrote a piece in Foreign Policy about groupthink at think tanks.

Mr. Rothkopf, who is CEO and Editor of the FP Group, has a deep connection to a variety of think tanks.  For example, he is a Visiting Scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP), and is on the International Advisory Council of US Institute of Peace (USIP).  He was also on the Advisory Committee of the Center for Global Development (CGD), and he is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Netanyahu's Think Tank Balancing Act: AEI & CAP

When heads of state and foreign leaders come to Washington, it is customary for them these days to do a bit of the think tank circuit.

As Think Tank Watch reported earlier, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanhayu will be coming to the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute (AEI) on November 9 to pick up the 2015 Irving Kristol Award.

But in a new twist, he will also be visiting the liberal Center for American Progress (CAP), a think tank with extremely close ties to the Clintons and the Obama Administration.  Here is more from Foreign Policy:
Call it think tank diplomacy.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is on his way to Washington for a Nov. 9 meeting with President Barack Obama — the first between the two leaders since they engaged in a bruising and protracted feud over the Iran nuclear deal.
Netanyahu has been under pressure to try to repair his battered relationship with Obama and other leading Democrats and raised eyebrows when he scheduled an event at the conservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI) for the same day. Perhaps mindful of the poor optics, Netanyahu has settled on a simple way of trying to defuse the controversy: giving an address to the liberal Center for American Progress, which announced Tuesday that it, too, would host the Israeli leader during his November visit.
The decision to visit the liberal think tank is being welcomed by some pro-Israel Democrats, who have urged Netanyahu to try to strengthen his ties to the American left. Critics of the hard-line leader, though, said they doubted he’d use the address to announce any substantive policy shifts.
Initial liberal complaints about Netanyahu’s upcoming visit emerged when the Israeli government announced that the prime minister would visit AEI the same day as his meeting at the White House. AEI is a prominent conservative think tank in Washington that routinely blasts Obama’s policies and maintains relationships with a wide array of veterans of the George W. Bush administration. In September, it hosted former Vice President Dick Cheney, who said the Iran deal was “madness.”
The center’s decision to host Netanyahu has rankled some employees of the progressive research organization. “I’m not thrilled with the idea of giving Netanyahu a platform, but as long as his ideas are challenged in an open way, I think it’s healthy,” said an employee who works in the center’s network.

The Huffington Post has some pretty in-depth reporting on how CAP was able to land Netanyahu for a policy address.  The general conclusion is that it took a lot of lobbying from the Israeli Embassy as well as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).  Here is more:
As part of the tour, the Israeli government pushed hard for an invite to the Center for American Progress and landed an event at the progressive institution on Nov. 10, the day after Netanyahu has a scheduled meeting with Obama. The embassy's push for the invite, sources familiar with the lobbying said, was joined by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which also applied pressure to CAP to allow Netanyahu to speak.
Some current and former CAP employees were disappointed by the news of Netanyahu’s upcoming visit, which was first floated Tuesday by the Jewish Insider, a newsletter on Jewish politics. Multiple sources confirmed the news to The Huffington Post. (Tanden declined to comment.)
“He’s looking for that progressive validation,” said a former CAP staffer, “and they’re basically validating a guy who race-baited during his election and has disavowed the two-state solution, which is CAP’s own prior work."
 “This is someone who is an enemy of the progressive agenda, who has targeted Israeli human rights organizations throughout his term, and was re-elected on the back of blatant anti-Arab race-baiting,” echoed Matt Duss, who used to work at CAP and now heads the Foundation for Middle East Peace. “The idea that CAP would agree to give him bipartisan cover is really disappointing.”
As part of the effort to restore Netanyahu’s clout with Democrats, the Israeli embassy reached out to Tanden, the president of CAP, requesting the institution host the prime minister during his November trip. AIPAC, which has paid for multiple CAP employees to visit Israel, followed up to pressure the think tank on the request.
CAP’s relationship with AIPAC and its allies is fraught. Three years ago, CAP employed policy analyst Matt Duss, and its publication ThinkProgress employed Ali Gharib and Eli Clifton; all three wrote controversial pieces challenging the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories. Pro-Israel lobbyists pushed hard against CAP, and all three felt the pressure and have since left.
Some former staffers have criticized CAP for not engaging aggressively enough in the Iran debate, a contention those involved in the fight say is simply inaccurate, and doesn't account for both its public statements and behind-the-scenes work. 

Netanyahu is among many of the world's prime ministers and presidents who have recently visited Washington, DC's top think tanks.  For example, on October 27, Indonesian President Joko Widodo spoke at the Brookings Institution.  And earlier this month, South Korean President Park Geun-hye spoke at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

Here is a link to CAP's Netanyahu event on November 10.

Update: Here is what The Washington Free Beacon has to say about Netanyahu speaking at CAP.  And here is what The Nation is saying about the upcoming speech in an piece written by former CAP staffer Ali Gharib entitled "Why Is the Center For American Progress Hosting Benjamin Netanyahu."  It notes that MoveOn has started a petition to disinvite Netanyahu to CAP.  As of this writing, the petition had more than 700 signatures.

Update: Los Angeles Times: CAP should host Netanyahu.

Update: Foreign Policy: "Netanyahu Visit Sparks Internal Backlash at Powerhouse DC Think Tank."  CAP held an all-staff meeting Friday on the Netanyahu speech, and at the end of the meeting, around a dozen CAP employees stood up and delivered an impassioned joint statement criticizing CAP's decision to host Netanyahu.  The article also notes that the Arab American Institute and Jewish Voice for Peace has have issued an open letter to CAP criticizing the think tank for hosting Netanyahu.

Update: US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation is planning to picket outside of CAP's office on Nov. 10.

Update: Washington Post: CAP under fire for hosting Netanyahu.

Update: Jeffrey Goldberg says that Netanyahu should speak at CAP.