Monday, June 27, 2022

Trump A.G. Bill Barr Joins Hudson Institute

Bill Barr, an Attorney General in the Trump Administration, has joined the Hudson Institute as a distinguished fellow, where he will focus on several policy issues, including violent crime, transnational criminal and drug organizations, international terrorism, separation of powers, and other constitutional principles.

Hudson houses a number of former Trump officials, including former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (a distinguished fellow), former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao (a distinguished fellow), and former National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster (Japan Chair).

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Russia Increasing Pace of Cyberattacks on Think Tanks

Microsoft Corp. has issued a new report saying that Russian intelligence agencies have increased the pace of cyberattacks against countries that have provided aid to Ukraine, and targets include think tanks.

Here is more from Microsoft:

Russian targeting has prioritized governments, especially among NATO members. But the list of targets has also included think tanks, humanitarian organizations, IT companies, and energy and other critical infrastructure suppliers. Since the start of the war, the Russian targeting we’ve identified has been successful 29 percent of the time. A quarter of these successful intrusions has led to confirmed exfiltration of an organization’s data, although as explained in the report, this likely understates the degree of Russian success. 

 

Microsoft notes that Russia, which has been targeting think tanks around the world for years, has mainly been targeting think tanks that advise on foreign policy.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Think Tank Quickies (#446)

  • Why Brookings has such a problematic voice on China.
  • What is the Institute for the Study of War and why does the media trust it?
  • Jake Sullivan caught on hot mic at CNAS admitting taxpayers are paying to "upkeep" seized Russian yachts.  Did Sullivan also get COVID at the event?
  • Sarah Lee of Capital Research Center: Think tanks are taking millions in foreign donations, and Biden has "no interest in imposing transparency."
  • GMF's Jonathan Katz organizes letter from experts urging EU candidate status for Ukraine.
  • Facebook-funded American Edge backed conservative think tanks to create the appearance of grassroots opposition to antitrust regulation. 
  • Video clip: Go inside Meet the Press's exclusive war game with CNAS.
  • Ilya Shapiro lands at Manhattan Institute in quite the circuitous route.
  • Pic: Did Macron promise Zelesnky a think tank?

Thursday, June 16, 2022

New Bill Compels Think Tanks to Disclose Foreign Donations

Amid reports that former Brookings Institution president John Allen may have illegally lobbied on behalf of Qatar, lawmakers in the US House of Representatives have introduced a new bill requiring think tanks to disclose their foreign donations.

Here is more from the Washington Post:

A House bill introduced Thursday seeks to curb foreign influence in U.S. democracy by imposing a lifetime ban on members of Congress, senior military leaders and senior executive branch officials from lobbying for a foreign government or political party, among other measures.

The legislation would also compel tax-exempt groups, including think tanks, to disclose high-dollar donations and gifts from foreign powers and require political campaigns to verify that donors have a valid U.S. address, using the three-digit CVV code on the back of credit cards.

The legislation addresses issues brought to light more recently by the federal probe into whether retired four-star Marine Gen. John R. Allen, who resigned over the weekend as president of the Brookings Institution, lobbied on Qatar’s behalf without disclosing his activities as required under federal law. And the proposals come amid stepped-up enforcement by the Justice Department of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, including the decision last month to sue Steve Wynn, a developer and Republican megadonor, to compel him to register as an agent of China.

The bill’s sponsors also point to a 2020 study from the D.C.-based Center for International Policy that found that the nation’s premier think tanks received at least $174 million in funding from foreign powers between 2014 and 2018. Among those receiving the most foreign funding, according to the analysis, was Brookings.

 

The lead sponsor of the bill, which is being called the Fighting Foreign Influence Act, is Rep. Jared Golden (D-ME).  Co-sponsors include Reps. Lance Gooden (R-TX), Katie Porter (D-CA), and Paul Gosar (R-AZ).  Among other things, the bill would require a think tank to disclose gifts and donations from foreign powers greater than $50,000 in a given year.

The text of the bill can be found here.  Similar bills have been introduced in Congress in the past but have all stalled.  With limited calendar space amid a midterm election year, it is unlikely this bill will pass either.

As Think Tank Watch previously reported, Rep. Jack Bergman (R-MI) is pushing for an investigation into Brookings.

Update: Here is Politico's angle on the whole Allen/Brookings incident.

Monday, June 13, 2022

Brookings Takes Major Reputational Hit as President John Allen Resigns

The Brookings Institution, already facing years of reputational damage from its funding sources, is facing another huge hit as the think tank's president, John Allen, announced on Sunday that he is resigning amid an FBI foreign lobbying probe. 

Allen's resignation letter can be read here.  The news comes six days after a court filing revealed evidence that Allen had secretly lobbied on behalf of Qatar, a country that has donated millions of dollars to Brookings over the years.

Here is more from the Washington Post:

Allen met with senior Qatari leaders in 2017, when he was a part-time senior fellow at Brookings. According to law enforcement, Allen used his Brookings email address to communicate with Trump administration officials, including Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, who was White House national security adviser at the time.

Allen offered a “false version of events” when describing the nature of his work in Qatar while talking with law enforcement officials in 2020, the FBI said. When subpoenaed by a grand jury, law enforcement officials added, Allen did not produce email messages that were relevant to the case.

 

Ted Gayer remains as acting president of Brookings, although he is scheduled to leave this summer to run the Niskanen Center.  Thus, Brookings will need to find a new president or acting president in the coming weeks.  Allen had been making around $1 million a year as president of the think tank.

The Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft notes that Allen's alleged use of Brookings' resources to conduct his work for Qatar "raises questions about Brookings' lucrative relationship with Qatar and the ethical implications of maintaining close ties to a foreign government."

In a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, Rep. Jack Bergman (R-MI) is pushing for an investigation into Brookings.

Here is a new Vox explainer about the whole scandal.  It notes that the small changes that Brookings undertook the past few years regarding foreign donors after being called out multiple times in the media are "[accomplishments that] will now likely be lost to this unfolding investigation."

Joe Cirincione, a prolific think tanker, said the Brookings debacle "is just a small part of the general corruption and degrading of DC think tanks."  He added: "Once proud, independent academic institutions, they are now dominated by corporations and government, issuing mediocre reports that serve their interests."

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Jason Matheny Named as New President of RAND Corp.

Here is more from a RAND Corporation press release:

Jason Matheny, an economist, technologist, national security expert, and longtime civil servant, has been named president and chief executive officer of the nonprofit and nonpartisan RAND Corporation, according to Michael Leiter, chair of the RAND Board of Trustees.

Effective July 5, Matheny will become the sixth president and CEO of RAND, a research institution based in Santa Monica, Calif. He succeeds Michael D. Rich, who has led RAND since 2011.

Matheny recently led White House policy on technology and national security at the National Security Council and the Office of Science and Technology Policy. Previously, he was founding director of the Center for Security and Emerging Technology at Georgetown University and director of the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), where he was responsible for developing advanced technologies for the U.S. intelligence community. Before IARPA, he worked for Oxford University, the World Bank, the Applied Physics Laboratory, the Center for Biosecurity, and Princeton University.

 

According to the think tank, Matheny was chosen from nearly 200 potential candidates.

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Brookings President Implicated in Secret Lobbying Campaign on Behalf of Qatar

Here is more from the Washington Post:

A former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates pleaded guilty Friday to federal charges in connection with a secret lobbying campaign on behalf of Qatar to influence the Trump White House and Congress in 2017, after implicating a retired four-star American general in the effort.

Richard G. Olson, a 34-year career Foreign Service officer who served as the Obama administration’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan from 2015 until 2016, admitted to lying in ethics paperwork and violating revolving-door laws by lobbying for Qatar within a year of retiring from federal service.

In pre-plea proceedings in federal court in Washington, Olson’s defense counsel said he admitted to the misdemeanor charges — each punishable by up to one year in prison at his sentencing Sept. 13 — and cooperated with federal prosecutors on the understanding that they were also investigating and pursuing criminal charges against retired four-star Marine Gen. John G. Allen. The latter commanded U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring in 2013. He was tapped in late 2017 as president of Washington’s influential Brookings Institution, to which Qatar agreed in 2013 to donate $14.8 million over four years.

 

Allen reportedly has denied ever working as a Qatari agent and said his efforts on Qatar in 2017 were motivated to prevent a war from breaking out in the Gulf that would put US troops at risk.  Allen has "voluntarily cooperated" with the government's investigation.

Update: It was reported on June 8 that the FBI has seized Allen's data related to Qatar lobbying.

Here is more from the New York Times of Brookings' affiliation with Qatar:

Brookings once had a large campus in Doha. The campus was established years before General Allen became president of the think tank. In September, according to its website, Brookings ended its affiliation with the Doha institute, which is now called the Middle East Council on Global Affairs.

 Allen became president of the think tank in November of 2017. 

Update II: John Allen has been placed on administrative leave, and EVP Ted Gayer is now serving as acting president of Brookings.

Last week it was announced that Gayer is leaving Brookings to head the Niskanen Center, effective August 2022.

Monday, June 6, 2022

What Do Nearly All Think Tank Reports Have in Common?

Can you remember the last meaningful think tank report you've read?  If you answered "no," you're in good company.

Reports have become so prosaic and mundane that Mr. Brian Katulis, a senior fellow and vice president of policy at the Middle East Institute (MEI), recently tweeted the "recipe" for a foreign policy report at a US think tank:

 

Katulis, who was formerly a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress (CAP), added that for extra credit you can a) throw in the word "strategic" or some variation of it, b) add a list of advisors or reviewers, preferably a transpartisan group, and c) organize a panel with a former distinguished official, where the report is "treated like tablets Moses brought down from the mountains."

It often feels as if think tank reports can be generated by an algorithm, and in the future they certainly will be.  Coupled with this think tank name, logo, and mission statement generator, it should be pretty easy running your very own AI-run think tank in the not-too-distant future.

Think Tank Watch can't help but wonder if the future will be filled with an army of liberal, conservative, centrist, and libertarian think tanks fueled by artificial intelligence all competing for your attention.

Thursday, June 2, 2022

Heritage Foundation Co-Hosts Retreat With Hill Aides to Plot Biden Probes

Here is more from Politico:

“Top Republican congressional aides huddled this month with conservative think-tank leaders on Maryland's Eastern Shore to hone tactics and messaging for Biden administration probes,” reports Axios’ Lachlan Markay.

— “If the GOP wins control in the midterms, leaders want to kick off high-profile investigations as soon as the new Congress is seated. Republicans plan to draw on investigative power from allies across Washington. The retreat was hosted by the Heritage Foundation, the Conservative Partnership Institute and the American Accountability Foundation, a nonprofit run by Trump administration alumni that's dogged Biden nominees with independent investigative work.”

— “Over two days, congressional aides at the retreat got briefings from prominent conservative activists and organizations on a host of investigative tactics,” while the event itself “provides a glimpse of where Republicans see potentially fruitful oversight avenues.”

 

Over the years, the Heritage Foundation has hosted numerous retreats for congressional conservatives.  For example, it held a retreat for Republican lawmakers at the Salamander Resort and Spa in Virginia in 2015.  It held a similar retreat in Baltimore in 2013.  The think tank has also held retreats in Simi Valley, California, and at the Four Seasons hotel in Philadelphia, among other places.

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Brookings EVP to Become President of Niskanen Center

Dr. Ted Gayer, executive vice president of the Brookings Institution and a senior fellow in Economic Studies, will become the next president of the think tank Niskanen Center.

Here is more from a press release: 

The Niskanen Center’s Board of Directors is pleased to announce that it has named Ted Gayer as its new President, effective August 2022.

Gayer has served as executive vice president of the Brookings Institution since 2018, after five years as vice president and director of the Economic Studies program. His background includes extensive experience in academia, government, and public policy organizations. Before joining Brookings in 2009, he was an associate professor of public policy at Georgetown University. From 2007 to 2008, he was deputy assistant secretary for economic policy at the Department of the Treasury. He has also served as a senior economist at the President’s Council of Economic Advisers.

 

Jerry Taylor, co-founder of Niskanen and former president, resigned last year after being charged with violently attacking his wife. 

Joseph Coon, a co-founder of Niskanen, is currently serving the interim president of the think tank.

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Has Heritage Foundation Become a Pacifist Think Tank?

Here is more from the New York Times, in a piece entitled "Why the Once-Hawkish Heritage Foundation Opposed Aid to Ukraine":

Hours before the House voted this month to approve $40 billion in military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine, lobbyists affiliated with the Heritage Foundation, the prominent conservative think tank, were privately pressing Republicans to oppose the measure.

For years, the group advocated a hawkish foreign policy, enthusiastically backing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and, more recently, criticizing President Barack Obama for “always” seeking “to find the absolute minimum level of military power he can get away with.”

But more recently, its lobbying arm has embraced the anti-interventionist fervor that defined President Donald J. Trump’s foreign policy and has swept the Republican Party.

 

In a tweet, E.J. Fagan, an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Illinois, said "I might have read more Heritage Foundation reports than any person who hasn't worked there...It's hard to overstate what a seismic change Heritage becoming pro-Russian is.  They've ditched Ronald Reagan and fully bought into Donald Trump." 

In another tweet, Joseph Collins, Director of the Center for Complex Operations at the National Defense University (NDU), said that "returning to the GOP's isolationist roots, the Heritage Fndtn follows the MAGA mob...Glad to have quit them 2 yrs ago."

Friday, May 27, 2022

Think Tank's Lobbying Arm Helped Coin Term "Ultra-MAGA"

Here is more from the Washington Post:

Biden’s attempt to appropriate the “MAGA” brand as a political attack was hardly accidental. It arose from a six-month research project to find the best way to target Republicans, helmed by Biden adviser Anita Dunn and by the Center for American Progress Action Fund, a liberal group.

The polling and focus group research by Hart Research and the Global Strategy Group found that “MAGA” was already viewed negatively by voters — more negatively than other phrases like “Trump Republicans.”

 

The Center for American Progress Action Found (CAPAF) is the sister lobbying arm of the think tank Center for American Progress (CAP).

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Coinbase Launches an In-House Crypto Think Tank

Here is more from The Block:

Crypto exchange Coinbase is launching a new crypto-focused, in-house think tank. 

The think tank will work with academic institutions and other think tanks to conduct research. The first partnership of this kind is with the University of Michigan's Survey Research Center, which conducts surveys for the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Defense.

The first survey in partnership with Coinbase will focus on the "adoption of and sentiments toward crypto" in U.S. households. The think tank will also work with crypto leaders and policymakers, starting with its first project on crypto and the climate.

Launching today is also the first Monthly Insights Report, which focuses on providing real-time analysis of market movements in crypto and traditional finance. 

Named the "Coinbase Institute," the think tank consists of an in-house team led by Hermine Wong and Dr. Cesare Fracassi.

 

Coinbase Institute, which officially launched on May 18, describes itself as a "global crypto-native think tank ground in evidence-based research." 

Its advisory board currently consists of five members: Christian Catalini of MIT, Marco Di Maggio of Harvard, Manju Puri of Duke, Nagpurnanand Prabhala of Johns Hopkins, and Vikramaditya Khanna of the University of Michigan.

In 2021, Coinbase reportedly was the biggest-spending lobbying blockchain company, with expenses over $1.3 million.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post on cryptocurrency think tanks gaining influence in Washington.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Mike Pompeo to Join Hudson Institute's New China Center

Here is more from the Hudson Institute:

Hudson Institute launched its new China Center, which will be dedicated to crafting policy responses to keep America’s strategic focus on China and foster a national and global dialogue rooted in the values of freedom and democracy.

Under the leadership of Hudson Senior Fellow Dr. Miles Yu, who previously served as the senior China policy and planning advisor at the State Department, this policy initiative will bring together leading China experts, policy makers, and national leaders to solidify and extend the non-partisan national consensus on America’s approach to China.

Hudson Distinguished Fellow and former Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo will serve as the chair of the Center’s advisory board.

 

Hudson already has a number of other policy centers, including the Center for Peace and Security in the Middle East, the Center for Defense Concepts and Technology, the Center for the Economics of the Internet, the Center for Religious Freedom, and the Center for Substance Abuse Policy Research.  In 2019 Hudson founded a Japan Chair. 

Besides Miles Yu and Michael Pompeo, four others are currently listed as "experts" within the China Center: David Asher, John Lee, Nadia Schadlow, and Nury Turkel.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

New AV Startup Leans on Atlantic Council

Here is more from Politico:

Applied Intuition, which specializes in software for autonomous vehicles, is building out its footprint in D.C. 

The company is also set to hold a one-day symposium tomorrow with the Atlantic Council that is expected to draw a number of high-profile guests, including incoming CIA chief technology officer Nand Mulchandani, former Pentagon policy chief Michèle Flournoy, venture capitalist and Applied Intuition investor Marc Andreessen and Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.), who chairs the House Armed Services cyber subcommittee.

Applied Intuition is part of a team led by General Dynamics competing to replace the Army’s M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle, and earlier this year was selected for a blanket purchase agreement from the Pentagon’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center to provide AI and autonomy test and evaluation services.

 

Here is a link to the May 17 symposium, which was entitled Nexus 22.

In related Atlantic Council news, the think tank recently held its annual awards ceremony in Washington, DC, featuring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, former secretaries of state Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton, and Ukrainian Eurovision winner Jamala.

Update: Politico has some additional reporting about the Atlantic Council's award ceremony: BRAND MANAGEMENT MESS: The Atlantic Council last week awarded Claudio Descalzi, CEO of Italian energy giant Eni, a "distinguished leadership" award at a black-tie gala, for "leading an example-setting effort to wean Italy off Russian gas." Fast-forward a week and Eni, which is 32 percent owned by the Italian state, has opened a second rubles account for Russian gas payments. After the European Commission said Tuesday that opening the account "goes beyond what we said was allowed," the executive’s Economy Commissioner, Paolo Gentiloni, an Italian, said the account “does not constitute a violation of sanctions.”

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Think Tank Quickies (#445)

  • Thomas Wright of Brookings joins the NSC.
  • Amanda Howe, most recently a nominee to be an assistant EPA administrator, will be COO at CAP.
  • Max Bergmann has left CAP to join CSIS as its new director of the Europe program.
  • Dr. Sue Mi Terry becomes new Director of the Wilson Center's Asia Program.
  • Heather Hurlburt, formerly at New America, will be the chief of staff to USTR Katherine Tai.
  • Nina Jankowicz, a scholar on disinformation at the Wilson Center, is joining DHS's new Disinformation Governance Board.
  • Kevin Whitaker, a former US ambassador to Colombia, is joining Atlantic Council as a nonresident senior fellow.
  • Paul Ray is the new director of the Heritage Foundation's Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies.
  • Ashley Towshend is joining Carnegie Endowment for International Peace as a senior fellow for Indo-Pacific security.  He's currently the director of foreign policy and defense at the United States Studies Center (USSC) in Sydney, Australia.

Monday, May 9, 2022

Biden Team Conducting Hour-Long Phone Meetings on Russia with Think Tanks

Here is more from Politico:

Another sign that the Blob is regrouping comes in the form of the regular hour-long phone meetings on Ukraine and Russia that the Biden administration has been conducting since February with leading Washington think-tanks, including the Brookings Institution, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Atlantic Council, the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA), and the German Marshall Fund. The briefers from the administration have included National Security Council official Eric Green and Defense Department official Laura K. Cooper.

What’s the aim of these sessions? According to one participant, it’s possible to ask pointed questions, but “the whole point is to carry water for the administration. They’re buttering up the think-tank community. They want it to defend them publicly. They send follow up emails that reinforce the cycle of affirmation.”

NSC official Amanda Mansour is responsible for email blasts to the participants that contain what is called “notable commentary” relating to Ukraine and Russia that fortifies the administration’s stances. These Washington think-tanks — in particular the Atlantic Council and CEPA — play a role in both influencing administration policy and the public perception of it.

 

The White House often holds private meetings and phone calls with the think tank community on a wide variety of issues, including foreign policy, defense, economics, taxes, labor, and technology.

Friday, April 29, 2022

Think Tank MEI Promoting Middle East Objectives Without Disclosing Conflicts of Interest

Here is more from Dr. Ben Freeman, a Research Fellow at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft:

Firas Maksad of the Middle East Institute...dubbed the [US's abandoning of the Middle East] a “crisis” in a Wall Street Journal op-ed in March calling on Biden to renew the U.S.’s “commitment to regional defense by publicly affirming a strategic alliance” with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, or both countries will continue to cozy up to Beijing and Moscow.

Maksad’s MEI colleagues, Bilal Saab and Karen Young, kept up the drumbeat in early April with a Foreign Policy article arguing for a new U.S. “strategic defense framework with the Gulf Arab states.” The article followed an MEI policy memo accusing the United States of being supportive of Iran’s expansionism which, amongst other issues, purportedly pushed Saudi Arabia and the UAE closer to China and Russia.

Noticeably absent from these documents and media appearances clamoring for more U.S. military entanglements with Saudi Arabia and the UAE is any acknowledgement that MEI’s biggest funders are the UAE and Saudi Arabia. In fact, in 2017, leaked emails revealed a $20 million “secret” grant from the UAE to MEI.

Maksad also has personal ties to Saudi and Emirati money as Responsible Statecraft has previously pointed out. Maksad is the Managing Director of Global Policy Associates which, prior to RS’s  reporting, listed Teneo as one of the firms’ clients. Teneo, incidentally, is registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act to represent multiple Saudi and Emirati interests.

 

Among other things, Dr. Freeman notes that media outlets have an obligation to acknowledge these potential conflicts of interest.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Evelyn Farkas to Become New Executive Director of McCain Institute

Here is more from a press release:

The McCain Institute at Arizona State University and ASU President Michael M. Crow have announced that Evelyn Farkas has been named the institute’s new executive director. Farkas will begin her new position at the Washington, D.C.-based McCain Institute on May 2.

Farkas brings decades of American foreign policymaking to the McCain Institute. A member of the Council on Foreign Relations, she previously served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, and executive director of the congressional Commission on the Prevention of WMD Proliferation and Terrorism, among many other senior national security positions in the U.S. government. 

 

Amb. Mark Green previously held the executive director position, which he left after being tapped to run the Wilson Center. 

After Green left, Amb. Josette Sheeran, a Founding Trustee of the McCain Institute, joined the institute's leadership team in the newly created position of Executive Chairman at the McCain Institute.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

For 1st Time Africa Programs at US's Top Think Tanks All Being Run by Africans

Here is more from The Africa Report:

Although he could not attend, the informal meeting was a dream come true for Aloysius Ordu, the director of the Africa Growth Initiative (AGI) at the Brookings Institution. Long accustomed to being one of the only Africans in the room, [Aloysius Ordu, the director of the Africa Growth Initiative (AGI) at the Brookings Institution], suddenly finds himself surrounded by a half-dozen diaspora thinkers who have taken charge of Africa programmes in Washington over the past 18 months.

The Nigerian-born Ordu is the de facto dean of the new group, having joined AGI in August 2020. Since then, French-Senegalese politician Rama Yade and Congolese-born Mvemba Dizolele have taken over the Africa programmes at the Atlantic Council and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), respectively.

Over the same period, three others have been tapped to start new Africa programmes from scratch: Nigerian economist Zainab Usman at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; Cameroon native Joseph Sany at the US Institute of Peace; and Morocco-born Intissar Fakir, who heads the new programme for North Africa and the Sahel at the Middle East Institute.

In addition to Ordu and his predecessors at Brookings, the Zambian-born Monde Muyangwa has led the Africa programme at the congressionally chartered Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars since 2014. Muyangwa, however, is leaving the Wilson Center to take over as the top official for Africa at the US Agency for International Development.

The Center for Global Development (CGD) also has a top African fellow, with Liberia’s former public works minister W. Gyude Moore, who joined the think tank as a fellow in 2018. The CGD, however, does not organise its programmes by geography but instead by area of focus.

 

Here is a 2020 report from South Africa-based Institute for Security Studies (ISS) entitled "Think Tanks in Africa: A Widely Untapped Resource."  Here is more on think tanks in Africa from Africa Portal.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Think Tank Quickies (#444)

  • Lachlan Murdoch helps launch the Centre for the Australian Way of Life at right-leaning Institute of Public Affairs.
  • Heritage Action created a new PAC, the Sentinel Fund, to bolster grassroots support for Republicans running for Congress. 
  • Anastasiia Lapatina, a journalist with the Kyiv Independent, accepted into the 2022 Hertog War Studies Program, a two-week academic program at the Institute for the Study of War.
  • CAP is trying out different hybrid models for its think tank staff to return to work before settling on anything more permanent.
  • When emotion is king, do think tanks still matter?
  • Cato Institute analyzes Heritage Foundation report outlining complaints against "Big Tech."
  • Many think tanks don't have a good track record in terms of intern pay in the foreign policy field.  Neither do university's when it comes to adjunct professor pay.
  • PIIE chief Adam Posen: A two-decade backlash against globalization poses risk to America.
  • The Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy's American head, Paul Haenle, now resides in Singapore.
  • Virtually everything the Niskanen Center publishes falls under a Creative Commons license.

Friday, April 22, 2022

Carnegie Forced to Close its Moscow Center

After 28 years, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace was forced to close its Moscow Center at the direction of the Russian government, according to the think tank.  Here is more from a Carnegie statement:

“We regret the Russian government’s decision to close our Moscow center and believe this step will only deepen Russia’s international isolation,” said Tino Cuéllar, president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “The Carnegie Endowment was the first independent think tank to open in Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union and since then consistently set the standard for objective policy analysis in Russia. As an institution dedicated to advancing international cooperation and peace through independent analysis and innovative strategic thinking, we remain true to our principles and steadfast in our commitment to the mission we’ve had for more than a century. Our worldwide network of scholars, including leading experts from Russia and other states of the former Soviet Union, will continue to tackle the urgent issues facing this region and the world.”

 

The Moscow Times notes that the Russian government shuttered the think tank after claiming that they had "discovered violations of Russian legislation," but didn't provide further details.

Besides its Washington, DC headquarters and Moscow Center, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace also has Carnegie Europe (in Brussels), Carnegie India (in New Delhi), Carnegie China, and the Malcolm H. Kerr Carnegie Middle Easter Center (in Lebanon).

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Russia Declares Think Tank Chatham House "Undesirable"

Here is more from Barron's:

Russia said that it will add the UK think tank Chatham House to a blacklist of "undesirable" international organisations, calling it a threat to national security.

While the Russian announcement did not give any specific reason, it comes following Britain's strong support to Kyiv following the launch of Russia's military operation in Ukraine.

Chatham House is the informal name for The Royal Institute of International Affairs, a respected, more than century-old research institute in London that focuses on international affairs and is widely cited by media.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's chief of staff Andriy Yermak and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba have recently taken part in events organised by Chatham House.

It recently held a webinar titled "Aggression against Ukraine: Holding Russia accountable".

 

Several other thinks tanks were already on Russia's undesirable list, including the Atlantic Council and the German Marshall Fund (GMF).

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Why Are Most Think Tanks Awful at Predictions?

Think tanks and think tank scholars are often criticized for being isolated within a "groupthink" bubble which leads to stale, inside-the-box thinking.  One example, as highlighted in The Atlantic, comes from their COVID predictions:

In the Great Recession that started in 2008, the housing market crashed, state- and local-government budgets were decimated, and the federal government’s rescue efforts were in many ways too little too late. Early on in the pandemic, think tanks, journalists, columnists, and economists all leaned heavily on the preceding recession to try to understand just how bad things were going to get. “There was an awful lot of last-war-type thinking,” Jason Furman, the Harvard economist and former chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, told me. Although looking to the past is normally a good rule of thumb for forecasters, this overreliance missed how different the Great Recession and the pandemic-induced recession were from each other.

In August 2020, the Aspen Institute released a report warning that 30 million to 40 million people in the United States were at risk of eviction, a number equivalent to roughly one in 10 Americans. But in December 2021, Princeton’s Eviction Lab found that in the 31 cities where it had collected data, all but one recorded fewer eviction filings than the historical average. Not only was the prediction startlingly off base—evictions actually declined.

 

There are countless examples of think tanks getting it wrong, and Think Tank Watch will continue to document those cases.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Big Tech Increases Funding to Think Tanks

Here is more from the Financial Times:


The world’s largest technology companies are pouring money into the biggest foreign policy think-tanks in the US, as they seek to advance the argument that stricter competition rules will benefit China.

Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple are behind an increase in funding to four of Washington’s most prestigious research groups: the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Center for a New American Security, Brookings and the Hudson Institute.

Total donations from Big Tech companies to the four think-tanks have risen from at least $625,000 in 2017-18 to at least $1.2mn in 2019-20, according to a Financial Times analysis of financial disclosures. These figures could be as high as $1.2mn in 2017-18 to $2.7mn in 2019-20.

 

Other tech giants are also increasingly funding think tanks.  Here is a recent Think Tank Watch post on Amazon's funding of think tanks.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Think Tank Quickies (#443)

  • Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene does not like think tanks.
  • A Texas bill signed last year - written by the head of a think tank opposed to climate action, then passed by lawmakers - directs the state to boycott financial groups that divest from fossil fuels.
  • Bill Browder calling for think tanks to sever ties with Russian oligarchs.
  • Micah Zenko: "Every Russia-Ukraine conflict wargame I'm aware of [USG or think tanks] began with a devastating Russian cyberattack that turns out the lights and causes mass panic. An assumption taken for granted which turned out to be wrong."
  • New report on women's representation at European think tanks.
  • Chinese think tank looks at long-term impact of Russia's recent actions.
  • International consortium of think tanks launch the "Europe is Asia's Century" in Bucharest.
  • Ex-CDC director, Tom Frieden, recently charged with sexual abuse, hired by think tank CFR.
  • SCMP: Think tanks should play a bigger role in Hong Kong's governance.
  • What's the point of think tank awards?  (When you have to ask...)

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Hoover Inst. Warning: Digital Yuan May Undo Dollar

The Hoover Institution has published a new report entitled "Digital Currencies: The US, China, and the World at a Crossroads," arguing that the Chinese government's introduction of a digital yuan as a domestic alternative to paper currency poses a threat to the US dollar's global dominance.

The report, which had 31 contributors, was edited by Darrell Duffie and Elizabeth Economy, both senior fellows at the think tank.

Other contributors include Jared Cohen, CEO of Jigsaw; Lauren Gloudeman, director for China at Eurasia Group; Niall Ferguson, author of The Ascent of Money; Stuart Levey, CEO of Diem Networks; Sigal Mandelker, general partner at Ribbit Capital; H.R. McMaster, a former National Security Adviser under President Trump; Evan Medeiros, a former NSC staffer; and Matthew Pottinger, former Deputy National Security Adviser under Trump.

The report and the working group that produced it were launched with support of Hoover and its project on China's Global Sharp Power, co-chaired by Larry Diamond and Glenn Tiffert.

A grant from the Smith Richardson Foundation provided the principal financial support for the work.  The Atlantic Council's GeoEconomics Center shared data with the group on the status of central bank digital currency projects around the world.

Monday, April 11, 2022

Atlantic Council Scholar Leaving to Become CEO of Atlantik-Brücke

Here is more from an Atlantik-Brücke press release:

Julia Friedlander, 37, will take over as CEO of Atlantik-Brücke on June 1, 2022. Friedlander is currently C. Boyden Gray Senior Fellow and Director of the Economic Statecraft Initiative at the Atlantic Council in Washington, D.C. She is an expert on transatlantic economic relations, EU economic policy, and financial regulation and sanctions. Previously, Julia Friedlander served as an advisor at the U.S. Treasury Department and the White House, among other positions. Julia is a native New Yorker who studied at Princeton and Johns Hopkins University. She lived in Germany for two years on a DAAD scholarship. Julia Friedlander takes over the position from Dr. David Deißner, who has led Atlantik-Brücke’s operations since 2017. Deißner is leaving Atlantik-Brücke to pursue a new role in the business community.

 

Atlantik-Brücke is currently headquartered in Berlin, Germany.

The news comes as Dr. Michael Green, a scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), was recently tapped to become CEO of the University of Sydney's United States Studies Centre (USSC).

Friday, April 8, 2022

Billionaire Building Community for Think Tankers to Work, Live

Billionaire Nicolas Berggruen, a German-American investor and philanthropist, is creating a new type of community for the think tank world.  Here is more from the New York Times:

[Near the Getty Center] Berggruen plans to construct what he half-jokingly describes as a “secular monastery,” a campus where scholars affiliated with the think tank that he founded, the Berggruen Institute, will live, work, cogitate. The 450-acre property, known informally to Berggruen and his staff as Monteverdi (they haven’t decided on an official name), will be centered around a building designed by a group that includes the Swiss architectural firm Herzog & de Meuron, famed for the Bird’s Nest Olympic venue in Beijing. According to Berggruen, he purchased the land in 2014 for $15 million. But he has yet to break ground on the project, which has drawn resistance from nearby residents. If completed, this spot overlooking Los Angeles will become the de facto seat of what might be called an empire of the mind.

The son of the late Heinz Berggruen, one of postwar Europe’s most celebrated art dealers and collectors, the 60-year-old Berggruen grew up in France and made his fortune in America. For a time, he was known as the “homeless billionaire” because he didn’t have a fixed address and lived out of luxury hotels. In the late 2000s, dissatisfied with his career in finance, Berggruen began privately studying philosophy and political theory with a couple of U.C.L.A. professors. Soon after that, he established the Berggruen Institute. A prolific networker, Berggruen has recruited so many prominent names to the institute’s roster of supporters and advisers — Eric Schmidt, Reid Hoffman, Arianna Huffington and Fareed Zakaria are among those listed on the organization’s website — that it has been described as his own personal Davos.

The institute employs around 30 people, has some 40 fellows worldwide and maintains offices in Los Angeles, Beijing and Venice. It publishes a magazine, Noema (ancient Greek for “thinking”), that covers politics, technology, climate change, culture and much else. In addition to the institute, Berggruen recently bought through his charitable trust a palace in Venice that he plans to turn into a center for the arts. His name also appears on the institute’s annual $1 million Berggruen Prize for Philosophy and Culture. Last year’s recipient was Peter Singer, the moral philosopher and bioethicist.

 

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post about the Berggruen Institute, which was founded in 2010.  According to Forbes, Berggruen's current net worth is $2.9 billion.

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Google Spots Russian Hacker Group Targeting Think Tanks

Here is more from Google:

In early March, Google’s Threat Analysis Group (TAG) published an update on the cyber activity it was tracking with regard to the war in Ukraine. Since our last update, TAG has observed a continuously growing number of threat actors using the war as a lure in phishing and malware campaigns. Government-backed actors from China, Iran, North Korea and Russia, as well as various unattributed groups, have used various Ukraine war-related themes in an effort to get targets to open malicious emails or click malicious links.

COLDRIVER, a Russian-based threat actor sometimes referred to as Calisto, has launched credential phishing campaigns, targeting several US based NGOs and think tanks, the military of a Balkans country, and a Ukraine based defense contractor. However, for the first time, TAG has observed COLDRIVER campaigns targeting the military of multiple Eastern European countries, as well as a NATO Centre of Excellence. These campaigns were sent using newly created Gmail accounts to non-Google accounts, so the success rate of these campaigns is unknown. We have not observed any Gmail accounts successfully compromised during these campaigns.

 

Russia has been targeting US-based and other think tanks for years.

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Think Tank Quickies (#442)

  • Andrey Batlistsky is leaving his position at Moscow State Institute of International Relations, saying he hopes the institute "will provide [the] government and people of Russia unbiased analysis."
  • Former US Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro joins Atlantic Council as a distinguished fellow.
  • South Korea's President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol sending delegation to US to meet with think tanks, others.
  • BlackRock Investment Institute is the Wall Street firm's "global think tank."
  • New Third Way report: "Red State Murder Problem."
  • Think tank and college rankings are a fool's game: Columbia ranked No. 2, but professor is dubious.
  • Rebecca Bill Chavez, an Obama alum, will be new president and CEO of the Inter-American Dialogue.
  • Legal docs tie Quincy Institute scholar Amir Handjani to a spy operation targeting critics of a UAE monarch.
  • Meet the Socialism Research Center (run by Justin Haskins) at the Heartland Institute.
  • New resource for those wanting to build a think tank.

Friday, April 1, 2022

Hong Kong Think Tank Closes After 16 Years

Here is more from SCMP:

The Bauhinia Foundation Research Centre, a Hong Kong think tank set up by a close aide of former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, will close by the end of March, the Post has learned.

Analysts said its exit underscored the limited room for think tanks to develop in a city where policymaking had been dominated by officials.

The centre was founded in March 2006 by Norman Chan Tak-lam, who ran Tsang's campaign to become city leader the previous year.

 

In 2019, Hong Kong think tank SynergyNet closed after 17 years in operation from lack of funds and an "unfavorable environment" for think tanks.

In 2020, German think tank Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom closed its Hong Kong office following China's imposition of a new national security law on the territory.

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Kenya Think Tank Scores $15 Million Gift from MacKenzie Scott

The African Population and and Health Research Center (APHRC), a think tank based in Kenya, has just received a $15 million gift from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott and husband Dan Jewett.

Scott and Jewett have been giving away billions of dollars, and while think tanks have received a bit of that cash, they have been largely ignored by the duo.

In February, Scott gave $15 million to the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-choice research organization that describes itself as an "action-oriented think tank."

As Think Tank Watch reported last year, other think tanks that have received money from them include the Roosevelt Institute and Urban Institute.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Ally of NYC Mayor to Launch New Think Tank

Here is more from Politico:

Tom Allon, publisher of local political website City & State, is raising money for a think tank that will align with the centrist agenda of a Democratic politician Allon counts as a longtime friend — though he vowed independence from the mayor.

A memo to potential donors, obtained by POLITICO, said the organization “anticipates evaluating a number of concrete policy ideas that were part of incoming NYC Mayor Eric Adams campaign platform and putting them through a rigorous academic analysis to assess their financial viability and ability to implement.” One such policy plan is the goal to make the city a global capital for cryptocurrency.

The think tank, which Allon is calling Five Boros Institute, is being established as a “non-profit, non-partisan clearinghouse for great urban policy ideas and pragmatic solutions to chronic problems,” according to a four-page memo.

In an interview, Allon said he has raised $250,000 so far, and hopes to amass up to $1.5 million from private funders for the outfit's annual budget. He said he plans to release the names of donors once the organization launches in early May.

 

Already in existence is the Five Borough Institute (5BI), a research and educational organization whose mission is to "encourage the development and implementation of sound  progressive public policies."

Monday, March 28, 2022

Think Tank Quickies (#441)

  • A Beijing think tank offered a frank review of China's technological weaknesses.  Then the report disappeared
  • CSIS launches new site for translating, interpreting, and analyzing Chinese Communist Party documents.  The project is funded by support from the Ford Foundation and Carnegie Corporation of New York.
  • China "spy think tank" (CICIR) predicts Russia sanctions will backfire.
  • Council on Geostrategy signs MoU with Ukrainian Prism, a think tank.
  • RUSI got access to Russian internal intelligence polling.
  • What think tanks are thinking about European defense and security.
  • Edward Snowden not a big fan of the think tank crowd.
  • Former Brookings scholar Emily Horne leaves NSC; White House is considering adding Brookings scholar Thomas Wright as a senior director for strategy at the NSC.
  • How well are women represented at think tank events?
  • Should think tankers be able to speak/read in the language of the foreign regions they cover?