Monday, October 30, 2017

Think Tanker Pleads Guilty to Lying to FBI in Russia Probe

Former Donald Trump adviser George Papadopoulos, who was affiliated with the Hudson Institute for years, has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about contacts he had with the Russian government in 2016 relating to US-Russia relations and Hillary Clinton's campaign.

Here is more about Papadopoulos's affiliation with the conservative think tank:

Papadopoulos lists on his LinkedIn that he was a research fellow for the Hudson Institute, a conservative think-tank in Washington, DC, for four years.
“Our records indicate that Mr. Papadopoulos started at Hudson Institute as an unpaid intern in 2011 and subsequently provided research assistance on a contractual basis to one of our senior fellows," the Hudson Institute said in a statement to ABC News.
"Mr. Papadopoulos was never a salaried employee of Hudson Institute, we have had no relationship with him since 2014, and it would be inappropriate for us to comment on legal proceedings of which we have no knowledge and to which we are not a party.”

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post about Papadopoulos.

The Daily Caller is reporting that Papadopoulos's foray into politics began when he was recommended to the Ben Carson campaign team by someone from the Hudson Institute.

It has been reported that while at Hudson, Papadopoulos worked for Richard Weitz, Senior Fellow and Director of the think tank's Center for Political-Military Analysis.

Previously, Weitz said that Papadopoulos "is a very productive, outgoing, and enthusiastic member of our team.  He is knowledgeable about a range of issues and always eager to learn more.  [He] would be a great asset to any team."

In related Hudson news, the think tank recently faced a powerful cyber attack that took its website offline.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Think Tank Quickies (#290)

  • WSJ: The media's go-to think tank (Tax Policy Center) trashes GOP tax reform without evidence.
  • European Parliament report: What think tanks are thinking on North Korea.
  • Max Fisher bashes think tanks on Twitter.
  • Zack Gold berates New America scholars for quoting classified information (Wikileaks).
  • Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke misleads on travel expenses at Heritage Foundation speech?
  • RAND Corp: Is sex good for sleep?  Are separate beds the sign of a bad marriage?
  • Marine Le Pen demands senior adviser quits think tank role.
  • RUSI: War between the US and North Korea a real possibility.
  • Think tanks that released critical study of Bernie Sanders' tax/healthcare plans receive funding from industries that would be affected.
  • Owen Paterson to give pro-Brexit speech at Heritage.
  • Shannon Sutton: Do think tanks need more female leaders?

Monday, October 23, 2017

Think Tanks and Corporations: Fact of the Day

This is from a New York Times piece entitled "Amazon Lobbyists Ramp Up Charm Offensive in Capital," which discusses the company's increased activities in Washington:
In 2016, Amazon gave more than $10,000 each to 66 think tanks, lobbying groups and political organizations.  More than a dozen organizations were new to its sponsorship roster...

Here is the 2015 list of Amazon's payments to think tanks and other entities.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post on the 28-year-old think tanker that is frightening Amazon.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Flournoy Stepping Down as CEO of CNAS to Start New Firm

Michele Flournoy, Co-Founder and CEO of the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), will be stepping down from her position to start a new strategic advisory firm.  Here is more from a CNAS press release:

The Center for a New American Security (CNAS) Board of Directors today announced that former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson; former commander of U.S. Strategic Command Adm. Cecil D. Haney, USN (Ret.); Vice Chairman, Investment Banking (USA) for Credit Suisse Frederick O. Terrell; and CNAS CEO Michèle Flournoy will join the Board of Directors. The Board of Directors also announced that Flournoy will transition from her current position as CEO to the Board of Directors effective December 31, 2017.

CNAS said that is board has established a CEO search committee to identify and recruit a new CEO.

Flournoy, who was undersecretary of defense for policy during the Obama Administration, was considered the favorite to be defense secretary in a Hillary Clinton Administration.

She was also under consideration for the #2 defense post in the Trump Administration, but faced stiff resistance and ultimately opted against taking the job.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Heritage Foundation Narrows Down Search for New President

Earlier in the year, after a major shake-up at the conservative Heritage Foundation that led to the ouster of its president, Jim DeMint, the think tank announced that it would begin a broad search for a new president.  Here is an update from The Washington Post:

The Heritage Foundation has narrowed its search for a new president down to a shortlist of finalists, a group that includes Todd Ricketts, a co-owner of the Chicago Cubs, and Marc Short, a senior Trump White House official, according to three people familiar with the discussions.
In addition to Ricketts and Short, Heritage’s board of trustees also has expressed interest in Lisa B. Nelson, the chief executive of the American Legislative Exchange Council, and David Trulio, a vice president at Lockheed Martin, the people said on the condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations. 
The conservative think tank’s trustees, however, remain torn over their decision. Kay Coles James — a Heritage board member who served as the director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management under President George W. Bush and is close to Heritage founder Edwin J. Feulner — has been mentioned by several associates as someone who could serve in a temporary capacity if the board cannot settle on a candidate.
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), the chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus and a Trump ally, was another person considered in earlier talks inside Heritage, although Meadows made clear to several people close to the think tank that he preferred to remain in Congress, a person familiar with the discussions said.
J.D. Vance, the best-selling author of “Hillbilly Elegy,” a memoir about his upbringing in Appalachia, was also floated early in the process as a possible high-profile, younger recruit.

The articles goes on to note that talks to choose a new president have stalled a bit as Heritage trustees "debate the future of the think tank."

As Think Tank Watch previously reported, Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) was being considered but he declined an offer to lead the think tank.

Here is a piece by Philip Wegmann in the Washington Examiner entitled "Senior White House Strategist, Marc Short, Won't Say if He Will Dump Trump for Heritage Foundation."

On October 17, President Trump spoke about tax reform at Heritage's annual President's Club meeting (full speech here).

President Trump was the fourth sitting US president to speak to Heritage members since its founding nearly 45 years ago.   The other three were Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush.

Meanwhile, former Heritage president Jim DeMint, who recently launched the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), is saying that he took Heritage "to new heights of influence" during his four-year tenure.

From his CPI biography: "Under DeMint’s direction, Heritage played a major role in the Trump transition, with the policy series 'Mandate for Leadership' used as the basis for the President’s first budget...Heritage [also] partnered with the Federalist Society to create a list of possible Supreme Court judicial nominations that culminated in the confirmation of Justice Neil Gorsuch."

DeMint has hired several former Heritage staffers for his new outfit, including Wesley Denton, Matt Buckham, Rachel Bovard, and Megan Tubb.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

New Tank Quickies (#289)

  • Are think tanks running out of ideas?
  • AEI and Opportunity America publish new research brief on marriage.
  • Are partisan think tanks writing less for the partisan faithful? 
  • Russian think tanks and soft power (Susanne Oxenstierna and Carolina Vendil Pallin).
  • Brookings: Are the self-employed happy entrepreneurs?
  • Brookings advice to economic development officials on Amazon HQ2.
  • Cheng Li at SAIS: Rising Influence of Thinkers and Think Tanks in China.
  • Anthony Weiner finds female fan in psychiatrist at Washington think tank.
  • Milena Rodban: Every think tank event = panelists that say nothing new, everyone pretends they're impressed, they're all just there for free coffee.
  • Top Chinese think tank sets up in Hong Kong in bid to boost Beijing's understanding of city.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Brookings: Trump Likely Obstructed Justice by Firing FBI Director

Several powerful think tanks continue to work at a furious pace to end the presidency of Donald Trump.  Here is more from The Hill:

President Trump "likely obstructed justice" and could possibly face impeachment for firing FBI Director James Comey if special counsel Robert Mueller reaches the same conclusion, a new analysis from The Brookings Institution found.
In a report released Tuesday, the left-leaning think tank said that Trump had authority to fire the FBI chief, but not if his motives for doing so centered around hindering the ongoing Russia probe.

The 108-page Brookings report, entitled "Presidential Obstruction of Justice: The Case of Donald J. Trump," was written by Barry Berke, Noah Bookbinder, and Norman Eisen.

Berke is co-chair of the litigation department at Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP, and a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers.

Bookbinder is Executive Director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and formerly worked for the Senate Judiciary Committee and US Department of Justice.

Eisen is a Senior Fellow at Brookings and was the chief White House ethics lawyer in the Obama Administration.  He is also chair and co-founder of CREW.

The report concludes that if special counsel Robert Mueller comes to the same conclusion as Brookings, Trump could be impeached.

Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post says that the Brookings report "amounts to an amicus brief" for use by special counsel Mueller and his team., and "should scare the daylights" out of Trump supporters.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post which notes that James Comey is a longtime friend of Brookings scholar Benjamin Wittes.

During the summer, the Center for American Progress (CAP) released its own lengthy report making the case for collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Atlantic Council Trying to Secure Future US Elections

An influential US think tank has been teaming up with other institutions in order to help secure future US elections from manipulation.

Here is more from Reuters:

Hackers are joining forces with U.S. governors and academics in a new group aimed at preventing the manipulation of voter machines and computer systems to sway the outcome of future U.S. elections, a source familiar with the project said on Monday.
The anti-hacking coalition’s members include organizers of last summer’s Def Con hacking conference in Las Vegas, the National Governors Association and the Center for Internet Security, said the source, who asked not to be identified ahead of a formal announcement due to be made on Tuesday.
The Washington-based Atlantic Council think tank and several universities are also part of the project, the source said.
The coalition will be unveiled as Def Con organizers release a report describing vulnerabilities in voting machines and related technology that were uncovered in July.

The Atlantic Council has a Digital Forensics Research Lab (DFRLab) which, among other things, studies disinformation campaigns.

Today, the think tank is hosting an event for the release of a new report on cyber vulnerabilities in US election equipment, databases, and infrastructure.

RT, an international television network funded by the Russian government, recently called Atlantic Council "NATO's propaganda arm" and bashed a Sept. 26 event the think tank held entitled "Transatlantic Forum on Strategic Communications (Stratcom)," which discussed various disinformation campaigns.

More details will be coming soon.

Think Tank Quickies (#288)

  • Sugar and corn syrup lobby bypass traditional lobbyists for think tanks.
  • As career opportunities in academia dwindle, doctorate holders look to think tanks.
  • After Neomi Rao, founder of Study of the Administrative State at George Mason, left the center to join the Trump Administration (OIRA), Adam White of Hoover took over.
  • Alice Rivlin of Brookings was a high-profile supporter of Vincent Gray's run against then-Mayor Adrian Fenty, hosting a fundraiser in her Forest Hills home.
  • Google a big supporter of conservative and libertarian groups, including Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute (AEI), and Cato Institute.
  • Cybersecurity savant: Jim Lewis of CSIS.
  • Prince Charles uses his think tank, the International Sustainability Unit, to seek solutions to challenges such as creating food and water security.
  • Koch Equity Development "operates like a high-level think tank."
  • Why China's think tanks are captivated by Europe. 
  • Christensen Institute: Think tank dedicated to disrupting the world through disruptive innovation.

Monday, October 9, 2017

DOJ Steps In After Cyber Attack on Hudson Institute

Chinese cyberattackers allegedly crashed the website of the Hudson Institute as the think tank was about to host an event with a Chinese political dissident that the Chinese government considers to be a criminal.

Here is more from The Wall Street Journal:

A suspected Chinese cyberattack on the website of a prominent Washington think tank drew a complaint from U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions this week in a meeting with top Chinese government officials.
The website of the Hudson Institute crashed earlier this week, shortly before the organization was scheduled to host an event with Guo Wengui, a fugitive Chinese businessman and political dissident who has alleged corruption within China’s leadership.
The Institute had several days earlier detected a Shanghai-based attack aimed at shutting down access to its website, according to a spokesman. The spokesman said the attack was foiled, and he attributed the website’s problems to a maintenance issue instead. The Wednesday event was called off.
Mr. Guo’s speech would have coincided with a high-level visit to Washington by Chinese government officials. On Wednesday, Mr. Sessions confronted them about the cyberattack on the Institute’s website, according to a Justice Department spokesman. He added that China “pledged to cooperate” when the issue was raised. 
In the days leading up to his canceled appearance at the Hudson Institute, the Chinese embassy made phone calls to Institute staff warning the think tank not to give Mr. Guo the opportunity to speak, according to several staff members who received such calls.
One scholar with a pending visa application to visit China received a phone call about his submission and was asked to send his colleagues a request from Beijing. “They want Hudson to cancel the Guo Wengui event because he is a criminal and tells lies,” he wrote in a message received by several Institute staffers that was reviewed by the Journal.

Here is a link to the event which says that it was "postponed."

The Chinese government is denying that it has any links to the Hudson attack.

On Oct. 2, the think tank held an event entitled "Defense Cooperation in the West Pacific: Countering Chinese and North Korean Threats."

And on Oct. 12, Hudson is scheduled to hold an event on the late Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.

We should note that the Hudson Institute has good relations with the Trump Administration and congratulated Jeff Sessions on his attorney general nomination back in November.

As Think Tank Watch has reported, every major US think tank has been hit with cyberattacks, many coming from foreign governments.

Update: Guo Wengui reportedly planned to disclose three internal Chinese government documents during the Hudson event, but instead burned the documents after the event was canceled.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Think Tank Groupthink

Anyone who has been to even just a handful of think tank events knows that groupthink is rampant at these brain trusts.

Gerald Seib, Washington Bureau Chief of The Wall Street Journal, recently wrote a piece about Washington groupthink, its dangers, and how to overcome it.  Here is an excerpt:

Conventional wisdom emerges with particular ease in Washington—a small, one-industry city in which politicians, journalists, analysts and lobbyists spend a great deal of time talking to one another. “A lot of people in this town spend a lot of time thinking about what other people in this town think,” says Jeff Weaver, who ran Sen. Bernie Sanders’s decidedly unconventional 2016 Democratic presidential campaign. “Anybody who has a contrary idea runs the risk of being ridiculed by others in the commentator community.”

Here is a 2016 ZeroHedge piece entitled "Too Many 'Think Tanks' Are Just Kool-Aid Fueled Group-Think."

Here is a 2015 Think Tank Watch post which mentions groupthink at think tanks.

Here is a 2012 piece on groupthink at think tanks from On Think Tanks.

Here is a 2009 piece by Nathan Hodge in Wired discussing groupthink and think tanks.

Here is a 2008 piece from Outside the Beltway on think tanks and groupthink.

One person even calls think tanks "groupthink tanks."

Has Jared Kushner already been sidelined by DC think tank groupthink?

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Has a Think Tank Just Sunk the Tax Reform Bill?

A think tank specializing in tax policy is causing a massive stir with an analysis it recently released about the Republican tax reform framework.  Here is more from The Hill:

The hottest feud in Washington is between Republicans and the Tax Policy Center (TPC).
Some prominent GOP lawmakers and conservatives are outraged with the wonky joint venture of the left-leaning Urban Institute and Brookings Institution. The group released a study Friday that said the GOP’s tax reform framework would mostly benefit the rich, increase taxes on some middle-income people and lower federal revenue by $2.4 trillion over a decade.
The study was widely covered in the press, drawing front-page stories in The New York Times and Washington Post. The coverage ran counter to the White House’s messaging, which labeled the tax plan the “middle-class miracle.”
Republicans have responded by going after the Tax Policy Center, arguing the group is biased and used inaccurate assumptions to reach its conclusions.
Republican animosity toward the TPC goes back several years. They were highly critical of an analysis the group did in 2012 that found then-Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s tax plan would benefit the rich.
The group “essentially sandbagged a Romney tax proposal,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell.

In response to TPC's tax analysis report, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) said, "It's odd...that the analysis came with a disclaimer that it was expressing only the views of the authors, not the think tank itself.  Even more unusual, no specific authors were listed on the analysis, probably because no respectable academic or researcher was willing to have their name associated with something so haphazardly cobbled together."

TPC's Director, Mark Mazur, said the paper was listed as authored by TPC staff "because there were a large number of people who worked on the report."

Mazur, who served in former President Barack Obama's Treasury Department, also noted that some at the think tank have been involved with Republican administrations.  However, it is unclear if any Republicans worked on the paper.

Kevin Hassett, the new Chair of the White House's Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) and a former scholar at American Enterprise Institute (AEI), slammed the TPC report.

The Wall Street Journal said that even though the media routinely labels TPC as "nonparitsan," its "record of hostility to any Republican tax reform that cuts tax rates shows the opposite."

TPC definitely gets little love from conservatives.  Here is a 2012 report from the Heritage Foundation saying TPC had a "skewed analysis" of Gov. Romney's tax plan.

Even back in 2016 Trump advisers were accusing the TPC of bias.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Think Tank Quickies (#287)

  • Has the US killed expertise at think tanks?
  • US colleges lose luster in global rankings.  Will US think tanks follow?  Should you boycott think tank rankings?
  • Michael Elleman of IISS traces North Korea's missile success to Ukraine plant in new report.
  • Report on revamping US State Department requested last year by Congress and compiled under the auspices of Atlantic Council.
  • Former CIA Director John Brennan skips think tank land and becomes a distinguished fellow for global security at the Fordham University School of Law's Center on National Security.
  • Tax-exempt think tanks fueled climate pact exit (featuring CEI).
  • Fortune: Think tanks part of political-industrial complex rigging the game for their benefit.
  • Can think tanks survive the Trump era? 
  • CNAS 2016 annual conference (done jointly with Washington Post) sponsored by PenFed, Morgan Stanley, Boeing, Airbus Group, The Boston Consulting Group, Northrup Grumman, Raytheon, Generaly Dynamics, FedEx, etc...
  • Actor Richard Gere attended speech by the Dalai Lama at USIP.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Amid Decline, Brookings Names John Allen New President

The Brookings Institution has just announced that retired US Marine Corps four-star general John Allen will become the new president of the think tank.  The news comes as Brookings's reputation has suffered a serious blow after numerous pay-to-play schemes at the well-known think tank were recently uncovered.

Naming a former high-level military official may be an attempt by the board to send a message that discipline is needed to help "clear the swamp."

Here is more from a Brookings press release:

The Brookings Institution announced today that John R. Allen, a retired U.S. Marine Corps four-star general and former commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, will become the eighth leader in the Institution’s 101-year history.
Allen currently serves as a Brookings distinguished fellow in the Foreign Policy program and as chair, Security and Strategy. On November 6, he will succeed Strobe Talbott, who will step down as president after more than 15 years of service.

Strobe Talbott will remain at Brookings as a senior fellow in the Foreign Policy program.

Brookings has been searching for a new president ever since Talbott announced his intent to resign back in January.

At that time, a search committee to find a replacement, reporting to the Board of Trustees, was formed.

And no, NBC News's Jonathan Allen is not the new Brookings president.

John Hudson of BuzzFeed notes that there was an internal push for Martin Indyk to become president, but Allen won out.

Think Tank Watch has noticed that very few in the media covered the news, which may indicate a lack of attention being paid to many major think tanks these days (particularly ones that are out of favor by the current White House).

CFR President Says Tillerson Should Resign

Does the head of one of Washington's most powerful foreign policy think tanks want to become Secretary of State?

In uncharacteristically direct language, Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) President Richard Haass is calling on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to resign.  Here is more from The Hill:

Council on Foreign Relations president Richard Haass slammed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in a tweet on Wednesday, calling for him to step down from the nation's top diplomatic post.
"Rex Tillerson has been dealt a bad hand by the Potus & has played it badly. For both reasons he cannot be effective SecState & should resign," the think-tank's president said.
Haass's comments come as tensions appear to mount between Trump and Tillerson. 
NBC News reported on Wednesday that Tillerson had mulled leaving his post this summer, and that top Trump administration officials, including Vice President Pence, urged him to stay in his post despite his growing frustration with Trump.

As readers may recall, Haass, who is an acquaintance of Tillerson, was in the running to become President Trump's Secretary of State back in December.

Tillerson came into office with fairly good relations with think tank land.  Here is a previous Think Tank Watch piece about Tillerson's strong ties to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Think Tank Quickies (#286)

  • Iran conducting surveillance on US think tanks. 
  • Boris Johnson launching "hard Brexit" think tank (Institute for Free Trade).
  • Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) praises Brookings study for revealing tragic state of civic education.
  • PJ O'Rourke: The thing that makes Cato different from the rest of the think tanks in Washington is its determined nonpartisan status.
  • With Harvard dean canceling Chelsea Manning fellowship, will he go to think tank land? 
  • The Allen Institute: An AI think tank founded by Microsoft founder Paul Allen.
  • Role of think tanks in Iran.
  • Turkey's Erdogan tries (and fails) to censor an American think tank? 
  • High hopes for new think tank launched in Shenzen.
  • What's a think tank and what do people actually do there?  (from Belfast Post)

Heritage Foundation Buying Trump Voter Data

Here is more from The Daily Beast:

Three weeks after Donald Trump was elected president, a data company owned by one of his wealthiest supporters began cashing in.
The company, Cambridge Analytica, inked a deal with the nation’s leading conservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation, for the purpose of hitting up Trump voters for donations.
The marrying of the two institutions was made easier by a shared principle. Cambridge Analytica is run by Rebekah Mercer, who with her father provided major cash infusions for Trump and groups supporting him during the 2016 campaign. Mercer is also a board member of the Heritage Foundation, the nation’s flagship conservative think tank.

The article notes that Heritage has used Cambridge Analytica in the past, including from late 2015 to June 2016 when the firm provided "statistical models to identify new donors" and developed digital ads for the think tank.

Even though Heritage already has a large donor base (having collected nearly $80 million from donors in 2016), Cambridge Analytica thinks it can provide the think tank with another 600,000 new potential donors.

Earlier in the year, Heritage had a huge shakeup which led some to speculate that the think tank could lose a big chunk of its donor support.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Bannon Objected to Think Tank Head Pick at DoD

Here is a juicy tidbit from The New York Times about Michele Flournoy, Co-Founder and CEO of the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), who was being considered for a top defense slot in the Trump Administration:

Shortly before inauguration, Mr. [Jim] Mattis signaled he intended to pick Michele A. Flournoy, a hawkish Democrat who would most likely have been Hillary Clinton's defense secretary, as his chief deputy [at DoD].
The pick stunned Mr. Trump's advisers.  Stephen K. Bannon, then the president's chief strategist, warned that it would infuriate longtime loyalists of the president and influential conservative senators, such as Tom Cotton or Arkansas.  Ms. Flournoy, according to people with direct knowledge of the exchange, told the new secretary he would lose the fight, but Mr. Mattis, a veteran combat commander, assured her that he would win - and he prevailed, gaining Mr. Bannon's unlikely blessing.
Ultimately, Ms. Flournoy opted against taking the job...

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch piece about why Flournoy turned down the job.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

EU Uses Atlantic Council to Lobby US on Iran Deal

European Union (EU) countries have been pouring money into powerful US think tanks for years in order to influence US policy in a number of area.  Here is a recent example from The New York Times, which shows how European countries are trying to preserve the Iran nuclear deal:

...Europe is far closer to Iran and at much greater risk than the United States should it develop nuclear weapons. 
On Monday, the ambassadors to the United States from Britain, France, Germany and the European Union met on a stage at the Atlantic Council in Washington to reinforce that message.
Gérard Araud, the French ambassador, said that it was not just the Europeans who refused to renegotiate but also Iran as well as China and Russia. Their position, he said, was, “‘No way. There won’t be any reopening of the agreement. The agreement is working as it is.’”

Here is a link to that Atlantic Council event, which included a conversation with the French Ambassador to the US, German Ambassador to the US, United Kingdom Ambassador to the US, and the EU Ambassador to the US.

European countries that give money to Atlantic Council include the UK, Norway, Sweden, Latvia, Montenegro, Cyprus, Slovakia, Lithuania, Finland, Poland, and Luxembourg.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Chelsea Clinton Funneled $11 Million to Friend's Think Tank?

Here is more from The Daily Caller:

A company whose president is “best friends” with Chelsea Clinton received more than $11 million in contracts over the last decade from a highly secretive Department of Defense think tank, but to date, the group lacks official federal approval to handle classified materials, according to sensitive documents TheDCNF was allowed to review.
Jacqueline Newmyer, the president of a company called the Long Term Strategy Group, has over the last 10 years received numerous Defense Department contracts from a secretive think tank called Office of Net Assessment.
The Office of Net Assessment is so sensitive, the specialized think tank is housed in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and reports directly to the secretary.
To date, the Long Term Strategy Group has received $11.2 million in contracts, according to USAspending,gov, a government database of federal contracts.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post on the Office of Net Assessment.   Here is a link to the Long Term Strategy Group (LTSG).

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Think Tank Quickies (#285)

  • Brookings/AEI joint event: One nation after Trump. 
  • Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center study: Lowest possible corporate tax rate is 26%.
  • Migration Policy Institute (MPI): The role of think tanks in times of a migration crisis.
  • Flashback from Tom Medvetz: Think tanks and the rise of savvy policy entrepreneurs.
  • First paper to investigate relationship between think tanks and economic policy empirically.
  • Former Obama Administration official Monique Dorsainvil will join Facebook and be a liaison to third-party groups, including think tanks. 
  • Investigative journalist fired over Trump/Scaramucci looking for think tank job?
  • Ben Nimmo's work (at Atlantic Council) on bots and influence operations among a number of initiatives cropping up at think tanks. 
  • NPR's Peter Overby: Who controls think tanks?  Shift in funding highlights changes in industry.
  • WonkComms: Five things we learned about think tank events.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

North Korea Reaching Out to US Think Tanks to Understand Trump

North Korea finds President Donald Trump's thinking on the country so confusing that it is now reaching out to think tank scholars with close ties to the Trump Administration to try to understand his policy.  Here is more from the Washington Post:

North Korean government officials have been quietly trying to arrange talks with Republican-linked analysts in Washington, in an apparent attempt to make sense of President Trump and his confusing messages to Kim Jong Un’s regime.
...To get a better understanding of American intentions, in the absence of official diplomatic talks with the U.S. government, North Korea’s mission to the United Nations invited Bruce Klingner, a former CIA analyst who is now the Heritage Foundation’s top expert on North Korea, to visit Pyongyang for meetings.
Trump has close ties to Heritage, a conservative think tank that has influenced the president on everything from travel restrictions to defense spending, but no personal connection to Klingner.
“They’re on a new binge of reaching out to American scholars and ex-officials,” said Klingner, who declined the North Korean invitation. “While such meetings are useful, if the regime wants to send a clear message, it should reach out directly to the U.S. government.”
North Korean intermediaries have also approached Douglas Paal, who served as an Asia expert on the National Security Council under presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and is now vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
They wanted Paal to arrange talks between North Korean officials and American experts with Republican ties in a neutral location such as Switzerland. He also declined the North Korean request.
[Evans] Revere attended a multilateral meeting with North Korean officials in the picturesque Swiss village of Glion earlier this month, together with Ralph Cossa, chairman of the Pacific Forum of the Center for Strategic and International Studies and another frequent interlocutor with Pyongyang’s representatives. 
The meeting is an annual event organized by the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, a government-linked think tank. But it took on extra significance this year due to the sudden rise in tensions between North Korea and the United States.

In a recent interview, Bruce Klingner said that he attended a meeting with North Korean officials in June but later turned down an invitation to visit Pyongyang.

South Korea's president has also been reaching out to US think tanks in order to help him understand the current administration's thinking on Korea policy.

While a handful of think tank scholars are secretly trying to broker a peace deal with North Korea, some conservative think tanks are preparing studies on war with North Korea.

Think Tank Panels - A Humorous Look

In his book The Beltway Bible, Eliot Nelson has a section in which he humorously describes think tank panels:

Ubiquitous sight inside the Beltway.  Navel gazing is one of D.C.'s most beloved pastimes, and it's no surprise that every week the city plays hosts to dozens - if not hundreds - of panels where its bottomless well of experts gather to impress each other.  Truly, these things are no less common a sight in the nation's capital that black Lincoln Navigators with tinted windows.
Panelists pontificate on roundtables dedicated to the challenges of updating the tax code in the age of hashtags, they ponder the future of dog-grooming regulatory regimes at the Brookings Institution, and they convene at the National Press Club and discuss the challenges restless leg syndrome poses to think tanks in the post-MySpace environment.  Most panel titles follow a similar blueprint, with a catchy statement or question followed by a description of the event - something along the lines of, "Right Tighty, Lefty Loosey?  Examining Knobs in the 21st Century" or "You Say, 'Potato,' I Say, 'Where's the Lactation Room?'  Updating OSHA Regulations for Today's Working Parents."
Though this theory has not been confirmed, it's entirely possible that panels are just excuses for people to have photos of themselves taken while striking a thoughtful pose behind a folding table.  Those things make for great Twitter bio photos, especially for people who don't have a TV appearance from which they can take a still from.

Check out all our past posts on think tank events (such as this one and this one), as Think Tank Watch has documented all the fun, fails, and follies of think tank events over the past years.  Here is more on Washington think tank events.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Think Tank Quickies (#284)

  • Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture: Fashion world's equivalent of a think tank.
  • VOA: Russia accused of funding anti-EU think tanks in the West.
  • "A writer for Christian think tanks." 
  • Flashback from Tom Medvetz: Think tanks as an emergent field. 
  • Flashback from Urban Institute: Managing think tanks (via Raymond Struyk).
  • Did you know that HuffPost has a "think tanks" section?  (AP too!)
  • Mind & Life Think Tank Grant.
  • World Food Programme (WFP) has a long-standing partnership with think tanks.
  • Book: Think  Tanks - The Brain Trusts of US Foreign Policy (by Kudilay Yado Arin).
  • HowStuffWorks: How think tanks work.
  • Flashback: Gates Foundation, Hewlett Foundation and others pledge $30 million to African think tanks.

Media Leaving Readers Clueless on Think Tanks They Cite?

According to Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), the media often does a poor job of balancing (and explaining) think tank sources used in stories and articles.  Here is a recent example from a new FAIR piece entitled "NYT Lets Think Tank Funded by Gov't and Arms Industry Claim Huge US Military Budget Isn't Huge Enough":

The New York Times (9/18/17) gave an enormous platform to a hawkish think tank that is funded by the US government and by top weapons corporations, letting it absurdly claim, without any pushback, that the gargantuan US military—by far the largest in the world—has been “underfunded.”
The nearly 700-word article quoted three people, only one of whom was not an elected official. Not a single person or organization that opposes the Defense Department budget expansion was cited in the story.
The lone non-official voice quoted by the Times was Anthony H. Cordesman (incorrectly identified as Anthony N. Cordesman), a national security analyst at the influential, bellicose think tank the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
The Times gave no background information about Cordesman, failing to disclose that—as his CSIS bio clearly notes—he previously served as McCain’s national security assistant, and that he formerly worked for the Pentagon, the State Department and NATO. (He was even awarded the Pentagon’s distinguished service medal.)
Cordesman’s notoriously pro-war employer CSIS, which in January boasted of being “named the world’s number one Defense and National Security think tank for the sixth year in a row,” also just so happens to be generously funded by the governments of the US and its military allies, along with leading corporations in the arms industry (Extra!, 10/16)—although the New York Times left that out of its report as well.
CSIS states clearly on its website that the think tank’s top corporate donors include the most influential weapons companies, such as Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Boeing and General Dynamics. Another significant contributor is Raytheon.
All of these military technology contractors stand to profit directly from an expanded Department of Defense budget.
Fossil fuel companies Chevron, ExxonMobil and Saudi Aramco are likewise some of the biggest donors to CSIS. These corporations also will likely profit from an expanded Pentagon budget, given that the US military is the world’s largest consumer of oil.
Top government donors to CSIS, moreover, include the United States and its close allies the United Arab Emirates, Japan and Taiwan, which coordinate with the US military. The UAE is also the second-largest customer for US arms.

Harvard has put out an excellent tip sheet that can help journalists (and others) who are citing think tanks and think tank scholars.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Former Brookings Scholar Booted from Singapore for Covert Activities

Here is what the New York Times recently reported:

Singapore has ordered the expulsion of a noted American academic for what it said was his covert effort to influence Singapore's foreign policy on behalf of an unnamed foreign government.
The academic, Huang Jing, was accused of passing "privileged information" to senior Singapore officials with the intent of affecting their decisions.  He was quickly removed from his position as the Lee Foundation professor on United States-China relations at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.
"He did this in collaboration with foreign intelligence agents," the Singapore Ministry of Home Affairs said in a statement on Friday that announced the order.  "This amounts to subversion and foreign interference in Singapore's domestic politics."
Mr. Huang has held posts at the Brookings Institution, Stanford University and Harvard University.  Some view his academic writings as pro-Chinese.

Here is a link to the biography page of Huang Jing when he was at Brookings, where he was a Senior Fellow in the Foreign Policy Studies program.  His past writings at the liberal-leaning think tank can be found here.

Korean President Meets With Think Tanks to Discuss North Korea

Here is what the Korean press is reporting:

Earlier in the day, [South Korean President Moon Jae-in] met with heads of leading U.S. think tanks, including Richard Haass, a former U.S. diplomat and currently the head of the Council on Foreign Relations, and discussed the North Korea issue.

Others at that meeting include Kevin Rudd (President of the Asia Society Policy Institute) and Thomas Byrne (President of the Korea Society).

But CFR head Richard Haass seems to be a favorite of Moon, who also met with Haass in June and asked for help "conveying a positive message about developing the South Korea-US alliance" to the US government and public.

Bannon & Gorka to Start National Security Think Tank?

Here is what the Daily Beast is reporting:

Multiple sources with knowledge of their conversations tell The Daily Beast that [Steve] Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist who [Sebastian] Gorka reported to both at Breitbart News and subsequently in the Trump administration, has been talking to Gorka over the past couple weeks about potentially starting a new national-security and foreign-policy initiative together. Such a group, which is in the embryonic planning stages, would champion the same clash-of-civilizations and pro-Trump, nationalist worldview that both men share.
One source said that such a project, which could take the form of a think tank or advocacy organization, would very likely have the blessing and financial backing of the Mercer family, the pro-Trump Republican mega-donors who have long worked and partnered with Bannon. The Mercers also co-own Bannon’s media flagship, Breitbart.
Bannon and Gorka worked closely together at the Strategic Initiatives Group, an internal White House “think tank,” early in the Trump presidency. Initially conceived as an informational apparatus to brief the president and staff on key policy issues, SIG was quickly seen by some in the White House as a rogue attempt to circumvent the National Security Council. It was soon disbanded, leaving Gorka without a clear portfolio of White House responsibilities, and working primarily as a Bannon aide.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post about the White House's now-defunct Strategic Initiatives Group, as well as Gorka's deep ties to think tanks.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Think Tank Quickies (#283)

  • Breitbart attacks: "H.R. McMaster served 11 years on think tank (IISS) financed by Boeing, which inked billions in Iran deal." (IISS to Trump: Stop "adversarial atmosphere" with Iran).
  • Boston Globe: Think tank of Trump era?  Message boards.
  • BRICS think tanks agree to enhance exchanges.
  • OpenCanada: Africa boasts many credible/quality think tanks but not often acknowledged.
  • The Intercept: US-backed think tanks target Latin America.
  • RAND: American workplace is physical/emotionally taxing.
  • Libro Vaquero, Mexico's best-selling magazine, teams up with think tank to fight corruption.
  • Rep. Keith Ellison: We need more progressive think tanks.
  • Think tank CEI accepting Bitcoin donations.
  • RAND's summer reading list for Congress.
  • Cato: 40 ways the world is getting better every day.
  • WINEP hires ex-WSJ reporter Jay Solomon for North Korea project.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Climate-Change-Skeptical Think Tank Stacking Deck at EPA?

A handful of small but influential think tanks continue to play a major role in the Trump Administration as it continues to staff up and fill various government boards and commissions.

Here is more from The Washington Post:

People who have questioned aspects of mainstream climate research appear on a list of 132 possible candidates for positions on EPA’s influential Science Advisory Board, which the agency has opened for public comment until September 28. The board currently has 47 members, but 15 have terms ending in September and could be replaced by some of the candidates.
Several of the candidates are affiliated with the Heartland Institute, an Illinois-based conservative think tank with a long history of questioning various aspects of climate change science. E&E News reported that it had suggested a number of the names.
“We applaud any effort by Administrator Pruitt to bring qualified non-alarmist scientists onto the EPA’s advisory boards,” Heartland spokesman Jim Lakely told the publication.
One Heartland-affiliated scientist who is now a candidate for the EPA board is meteorologist Joseph D’Aleo, a co-founder of the Weather Channel and currently chief forecaster with WeatherBELL Analytics LLC. D’Aleo was one of 13 scientists who submitted an amicus brief in litigation over the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, challenging the agency’s science, including its key finding that atmospheric carbon dioxide, by driving climate change, endangers human health and welfare.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post about the Heartland Institute.

Update: Here is a new E&E News post which says that the EPA asked the Heartland Institute for experts who question climate science.

Monday, September 18, 2017

AEI Scholar Becomes Head of White House CEA

It is now official.  Kevin Hassett, a long-time scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), has been confirmed as Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA).

Shortly after President Donald Trump announced his intent to nominate Hassett to head the CEA, Michael Strain, Director of Economic Policy Studies and Resident Scholar at AEI, said that Hassett would be a great choice as chief economist to the president.  Strain has also praised the confirmation.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post about Hassett.  Here is more about Hassett from CNN.

A handful of AEI scholars served on Trump's transition team and have gone into the Trump Administration, but the Heritage Foundation still dominates in terms of connections to the White House.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Think Tank Quickies (#282)

  • Game of Thrones think tank talk draws largest crowd ever at Cato.
  • How a little-known US libertarian think tank is remaking Latin American politics.
  • Ghanaian think tanks accused of pursuing personal interests.
  • Think tanks gather in Morocco to tap Arab economic growth.
  • US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks at AEI. 
  • Pic: "Think tanks" section at Waterstones.
  • Are think tank news sites just creating more content for elites who already read lots of news?
  • Third Way's VP in a punk band.
  • Politico 50 (2017) has a number of think tankers.
  • Govs. Kasich and Hickenlooper discuss healthcare markets at Center for American Progress.
  • Mother Jones: Don't blame liberal foreign policy on think tanks (and accompanying Vox piece).

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Think Tanks Preparing Studies on War With North Korea

Laura Rozen, a diplomatic correspondent at Al-Monitor, says that conservative think tanks aligned with President Donald Trump are "quietly preparing studies on the aftermath of war with North Korea."

Here is a thread from Twitter (via Ben Norton):



Another tweet says that she is "not entirely sure" which think tanks are preparing the studies, but "got the impression [they] might be linked up with" the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) and its affiliates.

ISW is a Washington, DC-based think tank founded in 2007 by Kimberly Kagan, a strong supporter of the controversial "surge" strategy in Iraq.

Think Tank Watch should note that a number of conservative think tanks track and write reports about North Korea, including the Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute (AEI).  [A number of liberal think tanks also track North Korea, including the Brookings Institution and Center for American Progress.]

Here is a recent Think Tank Watch piece about the role some think tankers are playing behind-the-scenes to negotiate peace with North Korea.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Think Tank Quickies (#281)

  • Inside RAND Corp's impressive art collection.
  • Meet the artist whose job is to creatively synthesize think tank conversations.
  • New Saudi think tank (Center for Strategic Development) is hiring.
  • Andrew Schwartz of CSIS featured in Politico's "Birthday of the Day."
  • CSIS conducted year-long study to lay out a comprehensive strategy toward Russia.
  • Japan expert Michael Auslin leaves AEI and joins Hoover.
  • Trump's EPA enlists controversial think tank (Heartland Inst.) to find climate experts to argue with mainstream scientists; obscure right-wing think tank fueling Trump's war on renewables.
  • CNAS launches Artificial Intelligence and Global Security Initiative.
  • Acton Institute lecture series: "Think tanks, Politics, and the Casualties in the War of Ideas," with James McGann. 
  • Olin Wethington, a non-resident fellow at the Atlantic Council, is the leading contender for the nomination of assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs. 
  • Jon Huntsman, Chairman of Atlantic Council, gets nod for ambassador to Russia; will Victor Cha of CSIS become ambassador to South Korea?
  • New book by Christopher James Rastrick: Think Tanks in the US and EU - The Role of Policy Institutes in Washington and Brussels.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Google-Critic Fired from Think Tank Funded by the Tech Giant

Rule No. 1 of think tank land: Don't mess with donors.   Rule No. 2?  Don't mess with donors.
Here is more from Kenneth Vogel of The New York Times:

In the hours after European antitrust regulators levied a record $2.7 billion fine against Google in late June, an influential Washington think tank learned what can happen when a wealthy tech giant is criticized.
The New America Foundation has received more than $21 million from Google; its parent company’s executive chairman, Eric Schmidt; and his family’s foundation since the think tank’s founding in 1999. That money helped to establish New America as an elite voice in policy debates on the American left and helped Google shape those debates.
But not long after one of New America’s scholars posted a statement on the think tank’s website praising the European Union’s penalty against Google, Mr. Schmidt, who had been chairman of New America until 2016, communicated his displeasure with the statement to the group’s president, Anne-Marie Slaughter, according to the scholar.
The statement disappeared from New America’s website, only to be reposted without explanation a few hours later. But word of Mr. Schmidt’s displeasure rippled through New America, which employs more than 200 people, including dozens of researchers, writers and scholars, most of whom work in sleek Washington offices where the main conference room is called the “Eric Schmidt Ideas Lab.” The episode left some people concerned that Google intended to discontinue funding, while others worried whether the think tank could truly be independent if it had to worry about offending its donors.

The article goes on to give a number of juicy details about the firing of Barry Lynn, head of the think tank's Open Markets initiative.  Emails reportedly suggest that the head of New America wanted to exile the entire team of the Open Markets initiative (around 10 full-timers and unpaid fellows).

NYT reports that Lynn is now starting a stand-alone nonprofit with the same team to continue the work of the Open Markets initiative.  The new entity does not yet have a name, but it almost certainly will not be receiving any funding from Google.  However, the tech giant continues to fund New America.

Here is New America's response to the New York Times story.  Kenneth Vogel (author of the NYT piece) says it is inaccurate and demands a correction.

Here is what Zephr Teachout, who has been a Fellow at New America since 2014, has to say about the incident for the Washington Post.  Here is more in The Intercept (and even more).

Here is what Matthew Yglesias of Vox has to say.

Here is what The Intercept has to say.

Here is The Wall Street Journal's take.

David Sirota sums up the situation succinctly.

New America Fellow Jesse Eisenger: This is deeply troubling.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is now criticizing New America for firing Barry Lynn.

Here is an updated NYT piece from Kenneth Vogel on how New America is facing a big backlash from the firing.

Here is what WIRED has to say about the issue.

Charles Kolb says that the controversy illustrates the value of transparency.

A statement from the Open Markets team.

The Federalist: Bullying a leftist think tank pierces Google's carefully cultivated "don't be evil" image.

Dan Drezner: Nothing to see here.  Think tanks are poised for a comeback.  (And a response from James Jay Carafano and Mike Gonzales of Heritage).

Anne-Marie Slaughter: When the truth is messy and hard.

Former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO): Google-New America shows why nonprofits should reject corporate funding.

Economist: New America falls into a familiar trap.

Barry Lynn: "A slow, creeping consolidation of power by big money over thinks tanks in US."

New America Co-Chair: Google didn't prompt critics ouster.

The Weekly Standard: The Do-Not-Think Tank.

John Judis (in New Republic): The credible think tank is dead.

The Week: The suspicious firing of a Google critic.

Till Bruckner of Transparify: How funder pressures can torpedo the credibility of research.

Barry Lynn doubles down on anti-monopoly crusade after being fired from New America.