Thursday, February 26, 2015

New Libertarian Think Tank Launches in DC

The libertarian think tank scene has just gotten more crowded with the official launch today of the new libertarian think tank The Niskanen Center.

Here is a press release about the launch.  Among other things, it says that the think tank "plans to build momentum and deliver results for libertarian policies in Congress and across the federal government."

The Niskanen Center website says that the think tank was established in 2014.  The think tank is named after the late William (Bill) Niskanen, former Chairman and Chairman Emeritus of the Cato Institute.  Niskanen, who had also worked for the RAND Corporation, passed away in 2011.  [The name was reportedly chosen because Mr. Niskanen was both principled and pragmatic.]

Jerry Taylor is the founder and president of the new think tank.  Previously, Taylor had worked 23 years at the libertarian think tank Cato Institute.  The Vice President is Joe Coon, another former Cato alum.

Several of the analysts at the think tank also have previous think tank experience, such as immigration policy analyst David Bier (formerly of Competitive Enterprise Institute), and foreign/defense policy analyst Matthew Fay (formerly of Cato).

The advisory board consists of a variety of libertarian think tankers and conservative activists, and includes:
  • Terry Anderson, Property and Environment Research Center
  • Lawson Bader, Competitive Enterprise Institute
  • Thomas Beach, Reason Foundation
  • John Cochrane, University of Chicago Booth School of Business
  • Tyler Cowen, Mercatus Center
  • Joseph Lehman, Mackinac Center for Public Policy
  • Eli Lehrer, R Street
  • Brad Lips, Atlas Network
  • Mark Littlewood, Institute of Economic Affairs
  • Alexander McCobin, Students for Liberty
  • Lisa Nelson, American Legislative Exchange Council
  • Grover Norquist, Americans for Tax Reform,
  • Darcy Olsen, Goldwater Institute
  • Tom Palmer, Atlas Network
  • Jon Basil Utley, The American Conservative

Some of the think tanks first publications can be read here.  A Wall Street Journal post about the think tank from January notes that the think tank aims to "influence policy fights" rather than just "author headline-grabbing proposals."  Here is more from that piece:
One of the group’s most provocative proposals centers on an issue rarely viewed as a Republican priority: climate change. The Niskanen Center advocates a tax on carbon emissions that would replace existing environmental regulations. Prominent conservatives have long advocated a carbon tax as a way to let the market determine the cost of burning fossil fuels, but using it as a bargaining chip to limit environmental regulators is relatively new. Mr. Taylor admits this proposal faces little prospect of becoming law in the next Congress, but he said it will help set the stage for the environmental debate in the 2016 presidential race.

Here is what Richard Young has to say about the new think tank.

Here is a Think Tank Watch post from 2012 mentioning the explosion of libertarian think tanks.

Should every new libertarian think tank have its own rap star?  Think Tank Watch on how libertarian think tanks party.

By the way, how is libertarian icon Ron Paul's think tank doing?

Russia's RT Bashes American Think Tanks

Russia's RT has a new piece titled "American Think Tank Policy: Not For Or By The People," written by Phil Butler, a policy and public relations analyst for Russia Today and a partner at the digital marketing firm Pamil Visions PR.

Among other things, the piece takes a strong swipe at Zbigniew Brezezinski, the former US national security adviser who has strong ties to think tanks such as Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and Atlantic Council:
There’s a term that Brzezinski and other think tank brains adhere to, it’s a term the Council on Foreign Relations defines, a central strategic idea known as the “Arc of Crisis.” The concept is essentially an American strategy aimed at surrounding Russia, an ongoing and devastatingly negative fight against a convenient and well known foe.
...Moving forward past the tens of millions funding Washington think tanks, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), and organizations like the Brookings Institution are the playgrounds for the Brzezinskis of the world.

The piece goes on to list seven well-known or well-connected people and their various think tank affiliations.

RT is not exactly known for being super friendly to US think tanks...

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Urban Institute Hacked, Details Kept Under Wraps

Think tank spying and hacking is the new normal.

Here is more from The Hill newspaper about the latest attack on the world's top education policy and social policy think tank:
The TurboTax of the nonprofit world has been hacked.

The Urban Institute, a prominent think tank in Washington, D.C., alerted charitable organizations around the country Tuesday that its system for filing tax forms was breached.

Hackers were able to access usernames, passwords, IP addresses and other account data for nonprofits that use the Urban Institute's National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS) to file their taxes.
An official with the Urban Institute estimated that between 600,000 and 700,000 organizations were affected by the breach. At this point, there is apparently no evidence that tax filings themselves were compromised. There were also no Social Security numbers or credit card information in the system, the official said. 
Hackers repeatedly target D.C. think tanks. Security analysts say there is virtually no major organization or agency in the city that has not faced a breach or hacking attempt of one kind or another, though almost none will confirm the details.

Urban Institute was recently ranked as the US's 20th best think tank by the annual University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings.  It was also ranked as the world's top education policy think tank and the world's top social policy think tank.

Here is what the Huffington Post had to say about the hack.  Here is what the Chronicle of Philanthropy says.

During the past few years, it has been publicly (and privately) disclosed that nearly every major US think tank has been hacked.  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).  Many others have been hit, including the Heritage Foundation.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Breaking: Spy Cables Reveal Think Tank Spying

Recently released spy cables indicate that think tanks were the target of intelligence agency spying.

Al Jazeera, which has just received hundreds of leaked cables from some of the world's top intelligence agencies, reports that South Africa's State Security Agency (SSA) had a deal with Zimbabwe to spy on think tanks.

At this point, it is unclear what type of information they were searching for, and what exact think tanks were spied upon.

More coming...

Monday, February 23, 2015

Japanese Think Tanks in Decline?


This is from a piece originally written in Japanese by Harano Jōji of Nippon.com:
In January 2015 the University of Pennsylvania released the 2014 Global Go To Think Tank Report, an influential and comprehensive ranking of 6,618 policy institutes around the world. On the combined US and non-US list, the Japan Institute of International Affairs placed thirteenth and was the highest-placed entry from Asia. The only other Japan-based think tank in the top 100 was the Asian Development Bank Institute, which was ranked twenty-eighth.
While the number of think tanks in Asia has dramatically increased since the turn of the millennium, Japan’s institutes are becoming less active and have lost significant economic clout. Even the JIIA, which focuses principally on foreign policy, is not highly regarded in this category in the University of Pennsylvania’s report, placing only fiftieth in the Top Foreign Policy and International Affairs Think Tanks.
Japanese think tanks tend to have a smaller social role and be less influential than those in Europe and North America. A major reason for this is that many were founded at the instigation of business lobbies or corporations and focus on contributing to these organizations rather than taking a broader outlook and exerting influence in wider politics, economics, diplomacy, and culture. Another factor is that Japan’s bureaucracy has long dominated policy formation and agenda setting. Think tanks are also hemmed in by numerous restrictions on establishment, funding, and taxation.

Here is a previous Nippon.com piece titled "How to Enliven Japan's Foreign Policy Think Tanks."

Canadian think tanks are also said to be in decline.

Think Tank Quickies (#163)

  • CNAS launches new project on implications of a drone-filled world.
  • Cynthia Wagner of AAI Foresight notes that futurist think tanks featured prominently in latest UPenn think tank report.
  • Heritage Foundation urges Britain to leave EU.
  • Hewlett Foundation: Think tanks need core support.
  • President of Liberia addresses USIP on Feb. 26 to discuss Ebola.
  • What happens when a think tank away day last longer than 24 hours, by Richard Darlington.
  • Jack Straw joins "facade" Kazak think tank?
  • YouTube video: Think tanks and why they matter.
  • Chief economist at Heritage can't find a single fact to prove ObamaCare is failing?
  • AEI Resident Scholar Leon Aron confirmed as member of Broadcasting Board of Governors; former Director of Michigan Department of Human Services joins AEI.
  • CAP and AEI host discussion on demographics and democracy; CAP hosts former Defense Secretary William Cohen; Sen. Bob Casey unveils new CAP analysis on income inequality.

Friday, February 20, 2015

CAP's New BFF: Koch Industries!?

Strange bedfellows are afoot in Washington, as one of the world's top liberal think tanks has just joined forces with its archenemy.  Here in more from the New York Times:
Usually bitter adversaries, Koch Industries and the Center for American Progress (CAP) have found at least one thing they can agree on: The nation’s criminal justice system is broken.
Koch Industries, the conglomerate owned by the conservative Koch brothers, and the center, a Washington-based liberal issues group, are coming together to back a new organization called the Coalition for Public Safety. The coalition plans a multimillion-dollar campaign on behalf of emerging proposals to reduce prison populations, overhaul sentencing, reduce recidivism and take on similar initiatives.

Officials at CAP  reportedly spent a considerable amount of time debating the pros and cons of this new partnership.

After all, CAP has labeled the Koch network as being anti-environment, accused them of trying to influence state supreme court races, and bashed them for donating to Heritage Action (CAP's major enemy), among other things.

The Koch brothers have been prolific donors to think tanks, mainly of the libertarian and conservative persuasion.

Here is a press release about the new partnership.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Jeb Bush Lines Up More Think Tankers for Hillary Assault

As presidential jockeying heats up, Jeb Bush continues to beef up his policy advisor team, and he has just announced a group of 20 people who are advising him on foreign policy.  Among those include a variety of think tankers, such as:

  • James Baker, Honorary Chair of the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University; member of CFR
  • Paula Dobriansky, Senior Advisor at Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC); Board Member of Atlantic Council; Board of Advisors at Center for a New American Security (CNAS); member of CFR
  • John Hannah, Senior Fellow, Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD)
  • Stephen Hadley, member, Council on Foreign Relations (CFR)
  • Robert Zoellick, former Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE); member of CFR
  • Kenneth Juster, member, CFR
  • Paul Wolfowitz, Visiting Scholar, AEI; member of CFR
  • George Shultz, Distinguished Fellow, Hoover Institute
  • Meghan O'Sullivan, Adjunct Senior Fellow, CFR
  • Roger Noriega, Visiting Fellow, AEI

The same day he released this list of advisors, Mr. Bush spoke at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, a think tank that was recently named in the University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings as one of the top "Think Tanks to Watch."

Vin Weber, who had helped Mitt Romney arrange think tank meetings in the 2012 presidential race, has also started advising Mr. Bush.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post on Jeb Bush's favorite think tank.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post on the favorite think tanks of the George W. Bush Administration.

On the other side, Hillary Clinton has an army of think tankers ready to fight for her.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Fake Think Tank Set Up by Russia to Project Its Power?

Here is what Business Insider is saying about the "think tank" behind Russia's "infiltration of Europe" reports:
A website for a supposed new think tank called the "Center for Eurasian Strategic Intelligence" (CESI) mysteriously appeared last year. The website claimed to "provide analysis and surveys of political, economic and security processes in Eurasia region".
And so it did. In December it produced a research report showing all of the political parties in Europe that it claimed were under the thumb of Moscow. Unfortunately, a large chunk of its research appeared to have been plagiarised from other sources and its analysis appeared suspiciously superficial.
Anton Shekhovtsov, a blogger and researcher of the European extreme right, looked into the story. What he found was even more interesting than the think tank's incendiary claims.

The think tank listed "William Fowler" as its chairman and chief executive. A Facebook page purportedly belonging to Fowler boasted a picture of a besuited, grey-haired businessman but there was very little information on him otherwise. It turns out that the picture is actually a stock photo with the title "suited old businessman" and "grey hair man glasses", Shekhovtsov says.
The only member of the think tank that appeared to exist at all was Alex Kraus, its supposed chief analyst, who appeared in videos on the site speaking with what is described as a Slavic (but not Russian) accent.
Since Shekhovtsov's investigation the CESI website has been taken down, as has Fowler's Facebook page. Indeed the only evidence of the think tank's existence online appears to be a LinkedIn page here which claims that the company has 11-50 employees but lists none, and a Facebook page that was last updated in December blaming an "attack" for the website going down.

Think Tank Watch is aware of other "fake" think tanks.  For example, some have called Employment Policies Institute a fake think tank, and in 2008 there was the fake think tank called the Harding Institute for Freedom and Democracy that even came with its own fake think tank experts.

As Think Tank Watch has previously reported, there have also been instances of fake think tank documents.

Think Tank Quickies (#162)

  • If you run a think tank and don't have an economist on the payroll, you're an exception.
  • Different think tanks show different views of German-Israel relationship.
  • Brookings scholar Martha Derthick, an authority on Social Security, passes away.
  • Foreign think tankers spied on by NSA? 
  • CSIS Advisor Arnaud de Borchgrave passes away.
  • Think tank publishes report on tanks that think.
  • Free market think tanks: 2015 website and social media presence.
  • Why do Western think tanks draw contradictory conclusions on the Chinese army?
  • Brookings poll: President Obama the worst US president?
  • North Carolina's GOP legislature axing the UNC poverty think tank founded by John Edwards.

NYT on the Influence of CAP Founder John Podesta

The New York Times has a big piece on how John Podesta, the co-founder of the Center for American Progress (CAP), will play a significant role in Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign.  Here is what they say about Podesta and his think tank:
After leaving the White House, Mr. Podesta founded the Center for American Progress, an organization that married policy and politics. “He’s a policy wonk’s policy wonk,” said Sarah Rosen Wartell, a co-founder who added he was also “very much a doer.” Enlisting wealthy donors like George Soros and Herb and Marion Sandler, Mr. Podesta made the center and himself power players in liberal politics.

The article notes that when Podesta become Counselor to President Obama in early 2014, he "came with a strategy" that he and Sarah Rosen Wartell had outlined in a 2010 report about how the president should aggressively use his executive authority.

The report referred to by NYT is CAP report from November 16, 2010 entitled "The Power of the President: Recommendations to Advance Progressive Change."  That report could be one of the most significant think tank reports ever to come out of think tank land.

As Think Tank Watch has noted, CAP will likely become Hillary Clinton's go-to think tank and policy shop.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

New Report: Think Tanks Becoming More Transparent

The transparency organization Transparify has just published its 2015 think tank transparency report showing that a selection of the world's think tanks are becoming more transparent in terms of financial disclosure.

The new report details disclosures of 169 think tanks in 47 countries.

In the US, six think tanks scored the highest rating (5-stars).  Those think tanks are:
  • Center for Global Development (CGD)
  • World Resources Institute (WRI)
  • Pew Research Center
  • Stimson Center
  • Natural Resource Governance Institute
  • Wilson Center

A five-star rating means that donors are disclosed, clearly identifying funding amounts for, and sources of, particular projects.

As with all think tank ratings and rankings, there is lots of self-congratulations.  Here is what the Stimson Center had to say about its transparency.  Here is what Bruegel has to say in a piece entitled "Bruegel's Commitment to Transparency: The Think Tank as Fish Tank, Not Gas Tank."

A few US think tanks scored very low (i.e., 1-star) and were labeled as "highly opaque."  Those think tanks include:
  • American Enterprise Institute (AEI)
  • Earth Institute
  • Hoover Institution
  • Hudson Institute

More specifically, one-star means that the think tank lists some donors, but it is not an exhaustive or systematic list.

Open Society Foundations was the only US "think tank" to score a zero.  Interestingly, Open Society Foundations funds the work of Transparify.

A variety of think tanks are taking notice.  For example, the report notes that the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) has informed Transparify that it will be disclosing all of its donors to 4-star level from February 2015.  Four-stars means that all the think tank's donors above $5,000 are listed in at least four precise funding brackets, with anonymous donors no more than 15%.

A press release about the report from Transparify can be found here.  On Think Tanks has a piece entitled "A Quick and Dirty 'Transparify-like' Assessment of US Think Tanks."

Financial Times picked up on the report, with a piece entitled "British Think-Tanks (sic) 'Less Transparent About Sources of Funding."

The EUobserver has a piece entitled "UK and Hungarian ThinkTanks (sic) Least Transparent in EU."

So, is all this disclosure good or is it essentially meaningless?

Will the think tank transparency movement move toward foundations funding think tanks?

Monday, February 16, 2015

How Powerful Russian Oligarchs Use Think Tanks


Following are some excerpts from a recent New York Times article entitled "Powerful Russians Commanding Park Views," which is part of a series of articles called "Towers of Secrecy."

First is a mention of the Brookings Institution:
In March 2009, a bookish-looking Russian senator stepped to the podium at the Brookings Institution in Washington. The occasion was the inauguration of a new think tank devoted to United States-Russia cooperation on financial and energy security, and the speaker, Andrey Vavilov, had donated money.
Mr. Vavilov was introduced as a brave individual who had toiled for years under adverse circumstances in Russia, a onetime deputy finance minister and former proprietor of an oil company. His talk, delivered in Russian, focused on the intricacies of the energy markets.
Behind the trappings of Brookings and his professorial demeanor, though, were some more ambiguous elements of Mr. Vavilov’s career.

Here is a summary of that event.

There is also a mention of Mr. Vavilov's involvement in another US-based think tank which was used as an attack platform against an alleged enemy:
Now, tensions had escalated to such a degree that Mr. Vavilov wanted the operative, Rinat Akhmetshin, director of a Washington think tank called the International Eurasian Institute, to help derail Mr. [Ashot] Egiazaryan’s application for asylum in the United States.
“I remember there was money in like $100 bills bags,” Mr. Akhmetshin would later testify, recounting how Mr. Vavilov pulled out $70,000 or $80,000 and handed it over — the first payment in a media campaign to discredit Mr. Egiazaryan.
For help, Mr. Akhmetshin turned to Peter Zalmayev, who runs the Eurasia Democracy Initiative, which describes itself as devoted to promoting democracy and the rule of law in former Soviet states.
Mr. Zalmayev later acknowledged in a deposition that he had been paid $100,000 but had not disclosed that he was working at the behest of Mr. Vavilov when he approached groups including the American Jewish Committee and the National Conference on Soviet Jewry. Both ultimately signed anti-Egiazaryan letters to the State Department and the Homeland Security secretary.

Mr. Egiazaryan is a financier and former Russian lawmaker.

The article also mentions that in the early 1990s Mr. Vavilov had been doing a fellowship at the Institute for International Economics (IIE), which is now called the Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE).

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Think Tank Quickies (#161)

  • Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker does Chatham House; blasted for avoiding questions.
  • Brookings has a new foreign policy blog.
  • IISS releases Military Balance 2015; China refutes findings.
  • Transparify to release 2015 financial transparency report on think tanks Feb. 17.
  • Russian think tank that pushed for invasion of Ukraine now calling for invasion of Belarusian leader?
  • Pentagon think tank analysis: Putin has Asperger's syndrome.  Dubious "science"?
  • Anton Tsvetov: How think tanks can make Russia's foreign policy better (in Russian).
  • Think tanker Justin Wolfers says that more running probably isn't bad for you.
  • How Congress's dysfunction has degraded its own in-house think tank.
  • A journalist having trouble covering Canadian politics/economics?  Fraser Institute to the rescue?

Conservative Think Tanks to Kill Obamacare?

Here is what Mother Jones is saying:
The arguments of the plaintiffs in King v. Burwell, the case in front of the Supreme Court of the United States that could potentially undo the Affordable Care Act...
The intention of the plaintiffs isn’t to identify a flaw in the law and fix it but to bring down the entire program of federally mandated (and for income-qualified consumers, subsidized) health insurance coverage. The case appears to have started with a conference sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute where attendees devised legal strategies to bring down the Affordable Care Act. The Competitive Enterprise Institute, distinct from AEI, was one of the conservative think tanks that took up the challenge of this lawsuit, recognizing that removing subsidies from consumers who got their insurance on the federal exchanges because of the recalcitrance of their home states could potentially make the ACA unworkable, deprive millions of health insurance, and force insurance premiums to skyrocket. In other words, CEI and its allies would victimize lower-income consumers, wiping out their insurance coverage in order to gut the law.

Here is what Slate has to say.  And here is some commentary by The Washington Post.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Attack on Forbes.com Linked to Think Tank Attacks

A recent cyber attack on Forbes.com has been linked to a group of Chinese hackers who apparently have also targeted think tanks.  Here is more:
The researchers attributed the hack to a cyberespionage group called Team Codoso, also known as the Sunshop Group, which has a long history of similar "watering hole" style attacks. Researchers at FireEye linked the group to attacks affecting multiple Korean military and strategy think tanks and a Uighur news and discussion site, among others, in 2013.
Here are some more details about the attacks from Invincea.

Think Tankers (And Donors) Lining Up to Support 2016 Candidates

More and more think tankers are quietly working behind the scenes to join 2016 presidential campaigns.

The latest news is that Jeb Bush is considering naming Meghan O'Sullivan, former Deputy National Security Advisor for Iraq and Afghanistan to George W. Bush, as his top foreign policy aide.

Among other things, O'Sullivan is an Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).

In related think tank-2016 presidential news, billionaire media mogul Haim Saban, a large donor to the Brookings Institution, has said he will spend "whatever it takes" to help Hillary Clinton become the next president.  [An Al Jazeera satire piece jokes that Saban has been parading Hillary around Brookings.]

Monday, February 9, 2015

Think Tank Quickies (#160)

  • Atlantic Council launches EconoGraphics, a weekly take on the global economy; Obama "energy czar" Heather Zichal named Senior Fellow to the think tank's new Global Energy Center.
  • Former Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-PA) joins Center for American Progress (CAP) as Senior Fellow; former Times of India Executive Director Gautam Adhikari becomes Senior Fellow.
  • Konrad Yakabuski: Think tanks need to show us the money.
  • SCMP: Free thinking required to win the battle of think tanks in China.
  • Bjorn Lomborg think tank funder revealed as billionaire Paul Singer.
  • William J. Burns begins first day at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; CEIP Moscow Center expands team; former State Dept. intel official joins Carnegie Russia team.
  • CSIS renews Derwin Pereira Indonesia Initiative; think tank forms Project on Chinese Business and Political Economy, with Scott Kennedy as Director.
  • CNAS and NYU School of Law and Security launch Economic Statecraft and National Security Project; CNAS also launches American Leadership Series with Carnegie Council; think tank expands focus on economic issues in national security.
  • Nancy Lindborg officially becomes USIP's fifth president.
  • RAND Corp. announces new Water and Climate Resilience Center (WCRC).

Friday, February 6, 2015

Ukraine Crisis Sparks Brookings War

Brookings seems to have the fighting spirit these days.

First it was the Think Tank Fight Club that started last year at the think tank, and now it seems there is a heated debate among Brookings scholars that is "fracturing" the world's top think tank (NYT words, not ours).

Here is what Peter Baker of The New York Times wrote in a piece titled "Debate on Arming Ukraine Fractures Washington Think Tank":
Ukraine isn’t the only place consumed by civil war thanks to Russia. The venerable Brookings Institution, long one of Washington’s most prestigious research centers, has fractured very publicly this week over Russia as well.
The institution’s president, Strobe Talbott, and one of his scholars, Steven Pifer, joined six other national security figures in a report on Monday calling on the Obama administration to provide arms to Ukraine’s government to help it battle pro-Russian separatists. But ever since, other Brookings scholars have excoriated the idea.
Jeremy Shapiro, a former State Department official now at Brookings, wrote on the institution’s website that arming Ukrainians “will lead only to further violence and instability, and possibly a dangerous confrontation.” Fiona Hill and Clifford Gaddy, two other Brookings scholars, added in The Washington Post that following their boss’s advice would mean that “the Ukrainians won’t be the only ones caught in an escalating military conflict.”

The full story can be read here.  Some have already complained about the NYT headline being too dramatic (indeed, we chose the softer, gentler sounding "war").

Personally, Think Tank Watch thinks that the various sides of the Ukraine argument within Brookings should solve this dispute with an official Brookings Fight Club challenge.

Think Tank to Hold "Defeat Jihad Summit" to Counter WH Summit

The conservative Center for Security Policy is holding a "Defeat Jihad Summit" to compete with the "Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) Summit" being held by the White House on February 18.  Here is more from CSP President and Founder Frank Gaffney:
The international conclave that actually holds promise for being illuminating, fact-based, and consequential is a counterpoint to the official event that will take place exactly a week before:  Its sponsors, including my own Center for Security Policy, have given it a clarifying title: the “Defeat Jihad Summit.”
Like Team Obama’s shindig, this meeting will be by invitation only and feature a number of eminent figures in foreign governments, as well as our own. Unlike the closed-door official function, however, ours will be live-streamed.
Among those participating in the Defeat Jihad Summit will be Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders, Britain’s Lord Malcolm Pearson, former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Pete Hoekstra, Danish free speech advocate Lars Hedegaard, former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy, and roughly three dozen other freedom fighters.

The event will be live-streamed live on Feb. 11 at Brietbart.com and SecureFreedom.org.

In related news, the Brookings Institution held a CVE discussion this week.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Favorite Think Tank Among Billionaires: AEI?

Think Tank Watch has reported numerous times about billionaires who fund think tanks.  Now, David Callahan of Inside Philanthropy has a new piece titled "Which Washington Think Tank Do Billionaires Love the Most?  And Why?," in which he says that the most popular think tank among the ultra-rich is American Enterprise Institute (AEI).

Here are some excerpts about why these billionaires favor AEI:
One way to understand AEI's ties with the wealthy is that it's the smart conservative think tank in Washington. 
If you're a rich right-winger who made your fortune opening car dealerships in the Sun Belt, you give to the Heritage Foundation, with it's Tea Party leader Jim DeMint and simple black-and-white view of how the world should work (in your favor). 
If you're a wealthy libertarian, with the ideological sophistication of a 15-year-old boy ("Leave me alone!") you give your money to Cato. 
But if you have a Wharton MBA and got wealthy with algorithm-based trading strategies, than AEI is your place, with its brainy president, Arthur Brooks, and a building stocked with Ph.D.s. 
Back in the 1980s, many of America's wealthy had made their money in industry or real estate or retail. A shift toward a knowledge economy has produced an explosion of billionaires who got rich in finance or tech by monetizing their intelligence and Ivy League credentials. That change in how wealth is created helps explain why AEI is doing so well these days.
Heritage and AEI push many of the same positions—e.g., keep taxes on rich people low and make poor people get off their asses—but AEI does so in a more nuanced, sophisticated way. You won't find any Tea Party types floating around the building. (Although you might run into Dick Cheney in the elevator.)
Also, AEI doesn't just have a big brain, it has the stirrings of a heart. Arthur Brooks gets that the right seems oblivious to poverty, wage stagnation, and inequality, and he's been pushing for the institute to come up with conservative-friendly ways to address these problems.

The piece also lists nine billionaires who fund AEI:
  • Philip Anschutz
  • Daniel D'Aniello
  • Richard DeVos
  • Seth Klarman
  • Charles Koch
  • Bruce Kovner
  • Peter Peterson
  • George Roberts
  • Paul Singer 

A list of their descriptions can be found here.  So, do billionaires run AEI?

AEI was just ranked as the best think tank by the University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings for 2014.

It should be noted that the author himself (David Callahan) has worked at various think tanks, and his father was the founder of a think tank on bioethics.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

WPost Blasts WH for Misleading on Think Tank Book on TPP

Glenn Kessler of Washington Post's Fact Checker has called out the Obama Administration for making what is says are false claims from a book by a well-known economic think tank.

The claim?  Well, Glenn Kessler wanted to test the statement being used by the White House that completing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal would increase US exports by $123 billion and help support an additional 650,000 jobs.  Here is more:
The Peterson Institute in 2012 published a book titled “The Trans-Pacific Partnership and Asia-Pacific Integration: A Quantitative Assessment,” by Peter A. Petri, Michael G. Plummer and Fan Zhai. The book does include an estimate that, by 2025, the United States would experience a gain of $77.5 billion in income from TPP, as well as a $124 billion increase in exports. (More on those numbers, which are expressed in 2007 dollars, below.) But nowhere in the book does it says 650,000 jobs would be created.
Asked about the statistic on 650,000 jobs, the White House referred us to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. USTR spokesman Matthew McAlvanah directed us to page 58 of the book. “They do not provide an estimate on jobs,” he acknowledged. “However they do provide a methodology that one could use.”
Essentially, the book suggests that an income gain of $121,000 would be “roughly equivalent to creating an extra job.” So the Obama administration took the figure of $77.5 billion and divided it by $121,000, which yields 640,000. Rounded up, that becomes 650,000.
There’s just one problem: This is the incorrect way to use Petri’s research, especially when officials such as Kerry combine the jobs figure in the same sentence as the income prediction: “The TPP could provide $77 billion a year in real income and support 650,000 new jobs in the US alone.”
 That’s because the calculation on jobs can only be done if one assumes that wages have been frozen and there is no income gain. So it’s completely misleading to suggest there would be both a gain in income and a gain in jobs.
It looks like others at the Washington Post (e.g. David Ignatius) are paying attention to Mr. Kessler's column...

More can be read here.  The Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE) was just ranked as the 15th best think tank in the world by the annual University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings for 2014.  It was also ranked as the 4th best domestic economic policy think tank, and the #1 international economic policy think tank.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Next CBO Director to Hail From Think Tank Land?

With majorities in both the House and Senate, Republicans are said to be considering a wide variety of people to replace Douglas Elmendorf as the next director of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).  Many of those under consideration come from think tanks, including:

  • Donald Marron, Fellow and Director of Economic Policy Initiatives at Urban Institute
  • G. William Hoagland, Senior Vice President, Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC)
  • Alan Viard, Resident Scholar, American Enterprise Institute (AEI)
  • John Cogan, Leonard and Shirley Ely Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution
  • James Capretta, Visiting Fellow, AEI

Elmendorf himself is part of a think tank power couple.  He used to be a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, and his wife Karen Dynan also used to work at Brookings.

In other words, Republicans may be trying to shift the helm of the CBO from being steered by a liberal think tanker to a more conservative think tanker.  [Yes, we know that the Urban Institute is not exactly a bastion of conservative thinking...]

Here is what Charles Blahous (Senior Research Fellow at the Mercatus Center; Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution; and contributor at e21, the economics portal of the Manhattan Institute) has to say about picking the next CBO head.

Does the new CBO Director need to be a Ph.D. or think tanker to be taken seriously?

Monday, February 2, 2015

New Think Tank Report Rocks Biofuel World

A new report by the World Resources Institute (WRI) says that Western governments need to seriously reconsider their reliance on biofuels.  Here is more from the New York Times:
Western governments have made a wrong turn in energy policy by supporting the large-scale conversion of plants into fuel and should reconsider that strategy, according to a new report from a prominent environmental think tank.
Turning plant matter into liquid fuel or electricity is so inefficient that the approach is unlikely ever to supply a substantial fraction of global energy demand, the report found. It added that continuing to pursue this strategy — which has already led to billions of dollars of investment — is likely to use up vast tracts of fertile land that could be devoted to helping feed the world’s growing population.
Some types of biofuels do make environmental sense, the report found, particularly those made from wastes like sawdust, tree trimmings and cornstalks. But their potential is limited, and these fuels should probably be used in airplanes, for which there is no alternative power source that could reduce emissions.

The full WRI paper can be found here, and a WRI blog post about it can be found here.

The University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings just ranked WRI as the 15th best think tank in the United States for 2014.  WRI was also ranked as the world's top environmental think tank.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Republicans Confront DeMint over Think Tank's Ratings

Here is what Politico is reporting:
Long-simmering tensions between The Heritage Foundation, its sister political arm and House Republicans erupted Tuesday during a weekly meeting of conservatives, as GOP lawmakers confronted the nonprofit group’s leader behind closed doors.
Several Republican lawmakers unleashed on Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint — a former South Carolina senator — griping mostly about Heritage Action’s legislative scorecard. The Heritage Foundation and Heritage Action are related groups, but the latter advocates for policy and has a scorecard that judges lawmakers’ voting records on Capitol Hill.
 heated exchange came just one day before conservative Republicans headed to the Salamander Resort and Spa in Virginia for a retreat hosted by The Heritage Foundation.
...Texas Rep. Mike Conaway, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, pressed DeMint on the separation between the foundation and its political arm, Heritage Action. Conaway said he doesn’t believe there is a clear separation between the organizations, according to multiple sources who were in the meeting. Republicans applauded Conaway after he was done speaking.

Here is Slate's coverage of the confrontation.  And, Public Slate says the think tank has fallen under control of the Tea Party.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Think Tank Quickies (#159)

  • In response to Ukraine crisis, Berlin to launch new think tank.
  • The role of think tanks in a fragmented global system, via Lowy Institute.
  • Chinese think tanks to ramp up economic, reform studies.
  • UAE think tanks spark policy reform, innovation.
  • FP's Ilya Lozovsky bashes UPenn think tank report, calls it "status quo."
  • Think tanks may hold the vision Australia's politicians lack.
  • Reputation of Spanish think tanks.
  • Think tanks discuss role in global issues.
  • How Congress's dysfunction has degraded its own in-house think tank.
  • CAP reveals major 2014 donors; shows many Clinton ties; donors kept secret; access to Clinton?
  • A think tank like no other; Israeli think tank holds anti-BDS hackathon.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Former Rep. Mike Rogers Joins Hudson Institute

It was just announced that former Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) has joined the conservative think tank Hudson Institute as a Distinguished Fellow.  In that role, he will focus on cyberwarefare and security, counterterrorism, and national security policy.

In Congress, Rogers was Chairman of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Scores of former lawmakers have gone on to join think tanks; here is a list that Think Tank Watch compiled showing various examples.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Top Free-Market Think Tanks Ranked

President and CEO of Atlas Economic Research Foundation Alejandro Chafuen has ranked the top free-market think tanks for 2014 using how many mentions they had in the just-released University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings.  Here are the results:
  1. Heritage Foundation: (21 mentions)
  2. Cato: 20
  3. Fraser Institute: 18
  4. American Enterprise Institute (AEI): 16
  5. Libertad y Desarrollo: 13
  6. CIDAC: 11
  7. IMANI: 10
  8. CEDICE; Atlas Network: 9
  9. Adam Smith Institute; Unirule: 8
  10. Hoover Institution: 7

Even though Heritage had more mentions than Cato (by 1), Cato is considered a higher ranked think tank in the US (#8) compared to Heritage Foundation (#9).

Mr. Chafuen writes extensively about free-market think tanks, and if Dr. James McGann (who runs UPenn's think tank program) is "Mr. Think Tank," Mr. Chafuen is "Mr. Free-Market Think Tank."

Thursday, January 22, 2015

2015 Think Tank Rankings - Cheat Sheet

The 2015 University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings are hot off the press.  Here is a cheat sheet:

Top Think Tanks Worldwide (US and Non-US):
  1. Brookings
  2. Chatham House
  3. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP)
  4. Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)
  5. Bruegel
  6. Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)
  7. RAND Corporation
  8. Council on Foreign Relations (CFR)
  9. International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS)
  10. Wilson Center
  11. Amnesty International (AI)
  12. Transparency International (TI)
  13. Japan Institute of International Affairs (JIIA)
  14. German Institute for International and Security Affairs
  15. Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE)
  16. Cato Institute
  17. Heritage Foundation
  18. Fundacao Getulio Vargas (FGV)
  19. Fraser Institute
  20. French Institute of International Relations (IFRI)

Top Think Tanks in the US:
  1. Brookings
  2. CEIP
  3. CSIS
  4. CFR
  5. Wilson Center
  6. RAND Corporation
  7. Pew Research Center
  8. Cato Institute
  9. Heritage Foundation
  10. Center for American Progress (CAP) 
  11. National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
  12. American Enterprise Institute (AEI)
  13. PIIE
  14. Center for a New American Security (CNAS)
  15. World Resources Institute (WRI)
  16. Atlantic Council
  17. Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs
  18. James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy
  19. Hoover Institution
  20. Urban Institute

Top Think Tanks Worldwide (Non-US):
  1. Chatham House
  2. Bruegel
  3. SIPRI
  4. IISS
  5. Transparency International 
  6. French Institute of International Relations (IFRI)
  7. Amnesty International (AI)
  8. Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS)
  9. Korea Development Institute (KDI)
  10. Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS)

Top Think Tanks in Mexico and Canada:
  1.  Fraser Institute
  2. Consejo Mexicano de Asuntos Internacionales (COMEXI)
  3. Fundar, Centro de Analisis e Investigacion
  4. Centro de Investigacion y Docencia Economicas (CIDE)
  5. C.D. Howe Institute 

Top Think Tanks in China, India, Japan, and Korea:
  1. Korea Development Institute (KDI)
  2. Japan Institute for International Affairs (JIIA)
  3. China Institute of International Studies (CIIS)
  4. Korea Institute for International Economic Policy (KEIP)
  5. China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR)

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

Top Think Tanks in Sub-Saharan Africa:
  1. Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis (KIPPRA)
  2. IMANI Center for Policy and Education
  3. South Africa Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA)
  4. Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA)
  5. Botswana Institute for Development Policy Analysis (BIDPA)

Top Think Tanks in Central and South America:
  1. Fundacao Getulio Vargas (FGV)
  2. Comision Economica para America Latina (CEPAL)
  3. Centro de Implementacion de Politicas Publicas para la Equidad y el Crecimiento (CIPPEC)
  4. Centro Brasiliero de Relacoes Internacionais (CEBRI)
  5. Consejo Argentina para las Relaciones Internacionales (CARI) 

Top Think Tanks in Central Asia:
  1. Center for Economic and Social Development (CESD)
  2. Kazakhstan Institute for Strategic Studies (KazISS)
  3. Caucuses Research Resource Center (CRRC)
  4. Armat Center for the Development of Democracy and Civil Society
  5. Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) 

Top Think Tanks in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA):
  1. Carnegie Middle East Center
  2. Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies (ACPSS)
  3. Brookings Doha Center
  4. Center for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies (EDAM)
  5. Institute for National Security Studies (INSS)

Top Think Tanks in Western Europe:
  1. Chatham House
  2. Bruegel
  3. Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)
  4. French Institute of International Relations (IFRI)
  5. Amnesty International (AI)

Top Think Tanks in Central and Eastern Europe:
  1. Carnegie Moscow Center
  2. Center for Social and Economic Research (CASE)
  3. Polish International of International Affairs (PISM)
  4. Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO RAS)
  5. Razumkov Centre

Top Defense and Security Think Tanks:
  1. CSIS
  2. RAND Corp.
  3. IISS
  4. Brookings
  5. Chatham House 

Top Foreign Policy and International Affairs:
  1. Brookings
  2. Chatham House
  3. CEIP
  4. CFR
  5. CSIS

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

Top Energy and Resource Policy Think Tanks:
  1. Oxford Institute for Energy Studies (OIES)
  2. World Resources Institute (WRI)
  3. Institute of Energy Economics
  4. James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy
  5. RAND Corp. 

Top Environment Think Tanks:
  1. World Resources Institute (WRI)
  2. Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI)
  3. Worldwatch Institute
  4. Brookings
  5. Center for Climate and Energy Studies (C2ES)

Top Foreign Policy and International Affairs Think Tanks:
  1. Brookings
  2. Chatham House
  3. CEIP
  4. CFR
  5. CSIS 

Best  For-Profit Think Tanks:
  1. Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU)
  2. McKinsey Global Institute
  3. Google Ideas
  4. Ernst and Young (EY)
  5. Deutsche Bank Research 

Top Education Policy Think Tanks:
  1. Urban Institute
  2. RAND Corporation
  3. Brookings
  4. Cato Institute
  5. National Institute for Educational Policy Research (NIER) 

Top Domestic Health Policy Think Tanks:
  1. Cambridge Centre for Health Services Research (CCHSR)
  2. RAND Corporation
  3. Brookings
  4. Bloomberg School of Public Health Research Centers (JHSPH)
  5. Fraser Institute
More coming shortly...

The full think tank report can be read here.  Also, here is a press release from UPenn on the think tank rankings.

By the way, you may want to be careful reading too much into think tank rankings.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

New Study: Think Tank Employees Extremely Partisan

Tom VanAntwerp, the Director of Information Technology (IT) at the Tax Foundation, has just written a new piece about think tank employees and the various biases they have.  The conclusion: think tank employees are extremely partisan.  Here are some of the key conclusions:
  • Think tank employees are extremely partisan. According to OpenSecrets, only 0.4% of Americans gave $200+ to partisan causes in 2012. The proportion of a think tanks’ employees who give at that level ranged from 2.9% to 8.7%.
  • Think tank employees overwhelmingly give to Democratic causes. Nearly 78% of all political contributions from think tank employees went to Democrats. 208 think tank employees gave a total of  $452,589 to Democrats in 2012; only 82 employees gave a total of $112,653 to Republicans. Predictably, no one at Heritage or Cato gave to a Democrat and no one at CAP gave to a Republican. The only donation to a Libertarian was $250 from Cato’s former president Ed Crane to the Gary Johnson campaign.
  • The libertarian Cato Institute doesn’t give to Libertarians. There are two possible reasons for this. The first, and probably the one advanced by people who oppose Cato’s policy positions, is that Cato isn’t really libertarian at all. I do suspect that some employees at Cato really are conservative rather than libertarian. The second explanation, and the one I find more likely from personal experience with many employees of Cato, is that they have no faith in the Libertarian Party as a vehicle for policy change.

The raw data from this analysis can be found here.  And here is a chart of the percentage of employees at top ten think tanks giving to political groups during the 2012 election cycle and the partisan division of the total contributions.  Here is a chart of total contributions of top ten think tanks giving to political groups during the 2012 election cycle.

Here is a previous think tank funding piece by Mr. VanAntwerp.  And here is a previous Think Tank Watch post essentially saying the same thing as above: think tank employees tend to support Democrats.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

China Preempts UPenn Think Tank Rankings


China has just released its own think tank report ranking the top think tanks in China, preempting the respected (but deeply flawed) University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings which will be announced this week (yes, Brookings is #1 again).  Here is more:
The "2014 Chinese Think Tank Influence Report" is the first think tank ranking based on objective influence indicators including professional influence, government influence, social influence and international influence, according to a press conference for the report's release in Beijing on Thursday.  In addition to compiling comprehensive rankings, the report also issues rankings on category and influence.  The project team interviewed over 100 experts in the think tank industry and gathered data on 300 major think tanks in China, according to a press release.
The "2014 Chinese Think Tank Influence Report" combines objective indicators with rankings determined by the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences to create the final rankings.

The report was jointly issued by the Horizon Institute of Global Development Power, the Horizon Research Consulting Group, and state-run news website China.org.cn.

Here are the top 20 Chinese think tanks:
  1. Development Research Center of the State Council 
  2. Chinese Academy of Social Sciences 
  3. Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences 
  4. National School of Development, Peking University 
  5. Party School of the Central Committee of the CPC 
  6. Academy of Macroeconomic Research, National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) 
  7. Chinese Academy of Environmental Planning 
  8. China Center for International Economic Exchange 
  9. Horizon Research Consultancy Group 
  10. Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China 
  11. Center for China Studies, School of Public Policy and Management 
  12. China Institute for Reform and Development 
  13. Center for China & Globalization 
  14. China Society for Economic Reform 
  15. Center for American Studies, Fudan University 
  16. Institute of Modern International Relations, Tsinghua University 
  17. China Finance 40 Forum 
  18. China Institute of International Studies 
  19. PLA National Defense University 
  20. Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation

In related news, China has just issued a detailed guide for a "new type of think tank with Chinese characteristics."  Among other things, Chinese think tanks should stick to Marxist ideology, according to the guidelines.

Think Tanks Slammed for Absence of Women in Middle East Debates

Think tanks were slammed today by two scholars for their absence of women in Middle East policy debates.  The authors in the Washington Post piece, Tamara Cofman Wittes of Brookings and Marc Lynch of GWU, said that last year, six leading Washington think tanks held more than 150 events on the Middle East that included not a single woman speaker.  Here is more:
Fewer than one-quarter of all the speakers at the 232 events at those think tanks recorded in our newly compiled data-set were women. How is it possible that in 2014, not a single woman could be found to speak at 65 percent of these influential and high-profile D.C. events?
...As for the think tanks, women run the Middle East Institute, the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution (Tamara Cofman Wittes), the Middle East Center of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson Center and the Center for the Middle East and Africa at the U.S. Institute of Peace, and play key roles at the Middle East programs of the Center for a New American Security and the Atlantic Council.
...The paucity of women’s voices in public discussion comes not just from thoughtless conveners, but also from long-standing problems in the professional “pipeline” that carries individuals to the top levels of the field. Inequities in hiring and promotion often reflect, and help perpetuate, the unconscious bias of a male-dominated field.

Tamara Cofman Wittes tells Think Tank Watch that the six think tanks studied were: Brookings, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP), Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), Wilson Center, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), and Atlantic Council.

Here is what the two authors are proposing to address this issue:
First, we can commit to consistently drawing attention to the issue – all of us, whatever our level or role in the policy and academic community. Male scholars who are troubled by the ongoing imbalance in our field can take one concrete step that would have faster and more notable impact than any other: They can join colleagues, like the Center for Global Development’s Owen Barder and Foreign Policy’s David Rothkopf, in a pledge not to appear on programs that do not include any women, at least not without a clear, satisfying and publicly articulated explanation from the organizers.
Another way we can all help to increase women’s participation in policy discussions and public panels is to highlight women experts, easing the path for busy organizers building media programs or events. Foreign Policy Interrupted, the brainchild of the journalists Lauren Bohn and Elmira Bayrasli, puts out a weekly newsletter of foreign policy writing by women. Women in International Security, founded by a group of women pioneers in national security in 1987, boasts a network of some 7,000 members and a robust Washington chapter including luminaries like Michèle Flournoy, former U.S. Under Secretary of Defense for Policy. After Foreign Policy’s 2012 Twitterati list was trashed for ignoring women, Twitter users crowdsourced a list of women Twitterati on a wide array of foreign policy topics (100 “FPwomerati;” a larger list is available on request). Tamara Cofman Wittes is building a searchable database of female foreign policy experts that will be publicly available, so that “I couldn’t think of any women to invite” becomes a practical impossibility.

So, are think tank panels generally biased towards the viewpoint of men?  Send your thoughts to Think Tank Watch.

Also, here is a previous Think Tank Watch post about the male-female divide at think tanks, which includes other links to similar pieces.  And here is a previous Think Tank Watch piece about a 2014 event on advancing women in the think tank sector.

Think Tank Watch predicts many more women will be on think tank panels in 2015 and beyond.

By the way, is there also a lack of mid-level experts at think tanks?

Updated: Here is the list of leading think tanks' record on woman's inclusion on think tank panels.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Lobbying Shifts Sharply to Think Tank Land

The culture of influence-peddling is changing rapidly, and more people are trying to influence policy through think tanks rather than directly through Congress.

A new piece in Time Magazine written by Erin Quinn and Chris Young of Center for Public Integrity says that Washington influencers are spending more on advertising and PR than lobbying.  Here is more:
The steady rise in public relations worldwide spending has been accompanied by an overall drop in lobbying spending, beyond the trade group sector.
Lobbying expenditures peaked in 2010, when special interests spent $3.6 billion on lobbying federal lawmakers. Since then, they have declined steadily, falling to $3.2 billion in 2013, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The total number of registered lobbyists has also dropped.
Some say the change indicates a shift toward so-called “soft lobbying,” a strategy that enables industry groups and unions to influence public policy not only with public relations, but through think tanks, nonprofit organizations and grassroots groups that aren’t subject to federal disclosure rules.

The article goes on to note one example where American Petroleum Institute (API) hired PR firm Edelman to help with its so-called "Vote4Energy" campaign, and they worked together to organize a panel discussion targeting "key influencers" such as think tank scholars.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Heritage Foundation Issues Major New Policy Book, Changes Tone

The conservative think tank Heritage Foundation has just released a major new policy book titled "Opportunity for All, Favoritism for None."

The nearly 200-page book has 12 chapters on: jobs, energy, k-12 education, college/university, healthcare, economy, bailouts, welfare reform, spending, taxes, society, and national security.

Town Hall notes that the book calls for Republicans to embrace "conservative populism" rather than "donorism."

The book was released during the Heritage Action Conservative Policy Conference taking place from January 12-13.  The agenda of that conference, which includes speeches from more than 20 lawmakers, can be found here.  And Heritage's legislative preview for the summit can be found here.

Attendees at the conference reportedly were not too excited about Mitt Romney running for president in 2016.

National Journal says that the Heritage Foundation isn't moderating its principles but is focusing more on reform over opposition in 2015.  Here is more:
Heritage Action for America spent the past two years as an obstructionist force within the Republican Party, hoping to pull the party to the right through a string of confrontations. But now, with Republicans running Congress, the group is changing its strategy toward a policy push, advocating an economic agenda aimed at appealing to middle-class voters. The rationale behind the shift comes from an understanding that constructive policy ideas sell better than instinctive opposition—even if Heritage Action's favored prescriptions are more conservative than what many party officials support.

The article questions whether the shift in tone for the think tank is more about rebranding its image, or a substantive shift.

In related Heritage Foundation news, Think Tank Watch recently reported that the think tank has received a major new gift.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Sen. Jay Rockefeller Joins Top Foreign Affairs Think Tank

Former Sen. Jay Rockefeller (R-WV) will join the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) this month as a Distinguished Fellow.  Rockefeller's portfolio will include Japan, East Asia, and cybersecurity, and he will remain in CFR's Washington, DC office.

Rockefeller, the former Chairman of the US Select Committee on Intelligence, has been a member of CFR since 1978.

CFR was previously chaired by David Rockefeller (Jay's uncle), and CFR's David Rockefeller Studies Program (which is considered CFR's "think tank") is home to more than 70 full-time, adjunct, and visiting scholars and practitioners.

The Rockefeller Foundation was involved in the early financing of CFR.

In 2005 CFR held a special symposium in honor of David Rockefeller's 90th birthday.  And here is what Inside Philanthropy recently had to say about David Rockefeller and his funding.

Here is what The Hill has to say about the CFR-Rockefeller announcement.

Each year a number of former lawmakers join think tanks, and the trends seems to have picked up over the past few years as think tanks compete to land "big names" at their policy shops.

Here is a previous list from Think Tank Watch on members of Congress who have joined think tanks (or are affiliated with think tanks).  The list has been updated periodically and will be updated in the near future (it is by no means complete).