Wednesday, May 27, 2015

JPMorgan Starts New Think Tank

JPMorgan Chase & Co. has just launched a new think tank called the JPMorgan Chase Institute, dedicated to delivering data-rich analysis and expert insights for the public good.  Here is more from their mission statement:
The mission of the JPMorgan Chase Institute is to help decision makers – policymakers, businesses, and nonprofit leaders – appreciate the scale, granularity, diversity, and interconnectedness of the global economic system and use better facts, real-time data and thoughtful analysis to make smarter decisions to advance global prosperity.

The President and CEO of the think tank is Diana Farrell, who was previously the Global Head of the McKinsey Center for Government.  She also served in the White House as Deputy Director of the National Economic Council (NEC) and Deputy Assistant to the President on Economic Policy from 2009-2011.  Prior to serving in the Obama Administration she was head of the McKinsey Global Institute.

Here is the think tank's inaugural report, entitled "Weathering Volatility: Big Data on the Financial Ups and Downs of U.S. Individuals."

Here is what the International Business Times says about the new think tank:
The institute isn't your typical corporate stab at social responsibility. It has access to a uniquely vast trove of customer data: Chase’s checking and savings accounts. Moored to the largest American bank by assets, the think tank says it can put "the broad spectrum of data within the firm to use for the public good.”
The institute's opening comes as major financial institutions try to burnish public reputations still damaged from the fallout of the financial crisis and subsequent scandals. Just a day before the JPMorgan Chase Institute announced itself to the world, the bank pleaded guilty, with several other firms, to criminal antitrust violations related to foreign exchange rigging.

Here is a press release on the new think tank.  Here is what Fortune has to say.

Corporate think tanks are quite popular in the US and several other countries these days.  A list of the best for-profit (corporate) think tanks can be found here.  Currently, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) is the top for-profit think tank, followed by McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), and Google Ideas.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Osama Bin Laden Loved US Think Tanks

This week the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) released a tranche of documents recovered during the raid of Osama bin Laden's compound.  Among the documents released were 40 think tank and "other studies."

Following is the list of think tank papers that Bin Laden apparently had in his possession:

  • Canadian Institute of Strategic Studies, “African Jihad: Al-Qaeda in Darfur”
  • Carnegie Papers, “Pakistan: The Myth of an Islamist Peril” by Frederic Grare (2006)
  • Carnegie Papers, “Islam, Militarism, and the 2007-2008 Elections in Pakistan” by Frederic Grare (2006)
  • Carnegie Papers, “Pakistan-Afghanistan Relations in the Post-9/11 Era” by Frederic Grare (2006)
  • Chatham House, “Al-Qaeda Five Years On” by Maha Azzam (Sept 2006)
  • Chatham House, “Security, Terrorism and the UK” (July 2005)
  • Heritage Foundation, “The Evolving Al-Qaeda Threat” by James Phillips (17 March 2006)
  • Hudson Institute, “Jihad Ideology in Light of Contemporary Fatwas” by Shmuel Bar (August 2006)
  • Jamestown Foundation, Report on Turkish Arms Industry (June 2008)
  • Jamestown Foundation, Terrorism Focus (issues from 8 Jan 2008, 1 July 2008, 16 July 2008, 23 July 2008, 5 Aug 2008, 2 Sept 2008, 10 Sept 2008, 18 Sept 2008, 24 Sept 2008, 1 Oct 2008, 22 Oct 2008, 30 Oct 2008, 5 Nov 2008, 21 Jan 2009, 19 Feb 2009, 25 Feb 2009)
  • Jamestown Foundation, Terrorism Monitor (issues from 2 Nov 2006, 2 Feb 2007, 7 March 2008, 24 March 2008, 3 Apr 2008, 17 Apr 2008, 1 May 2008, 15 May 2008, 29 May 2008, 12 June 2008, 26 June 2008, 10 July 2008, 25 July 2008, 29 July 2008, 11 Aug 2008, 4 Sept 2008, 22 Sept 2008, 24 Oct 2008, 9 Jan 2009, 10 Feb 2009, 3 March 2009, 7 March 2009, 13 March 2009, 14 Jan 2010, 11 March 2010, 19 March 2010)
  • RAND, Beyond Al-Qaeda (Parts 1 and 2)
  • RAND, Combating Al-Qaeda and the Militant Islamic Threat by Bruce Hoffman
  • RAND, Rethinking Counterinsurgency (2008)
  • RAND, Al-Qaeda: Trends in Terrorism and Future Potentialities by Bruce Hoffman (2003)

Out of the think tank reports, Jamestown Foundation's seemed to have been the most widely read, followed by reports from RAND Corporation (4), Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (3), and Chatham House (2).  Bin Laden had possession of only one think tank paper from each of the following think tanks: Canadian Institute of Strategic Studies, Heritage Foundation, and the Hudson Institute

Bin Laden seems to have been one of the few people actually reading think tank reports...

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Interns and the Revolving Doors of DC Think Tanks

Roll Call's "Hill Navigator" has a new piece that addresses whether think tanks are good places for young people to start a career in Washington, DC.  The piece essentially says yes, but suggests that it is what you make of the internship/job at the think tank that really counts.

Here is the advice given:
  • Do good work. Be the person who takes on any assignment, doesn’t monopolize credit and completes tasks both large and small with care and precision. It is an added bonus if you can demonstrate an enthusiasm for the principles behind the organization. Want some more details on how to ace your internship? Read Roll Call’s free eBook: “Best Intern Ever.”
  • Follow the leader. Looking to make a particular move? Find someone who has come before you who has done so and speak with him or her. See the options previously available and how you might replicate that path. Follow up with a thank you note, preferably handwritten. 
  • Meet everyone, even the interns. It is easy to befriend interns when you are one. Keep in mind that this summer’s interns are next year’s staff assistants. By the time you’re graduating school they might be in a position to recommend you for paying work. Keep in touch. This goes beyond being Facebook friends. Find ways to connect while you are back at school. 
  • Don’t reinvent the wheel. You’ve landed at a think tank that has strong connections and knows how to get its people on Capitol Hill. Many Capitol Hill offices promote from within, and staffers of all stripes tend to look fondly on the first employer that gave them a shot, especially one that helped them land their current position. Hopefully a similar trajectory will be in your future as well.

And if you are searching for a think tank job, you may be happy to hear that think tank salaries are rising.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Think Tank Quickies (#177)

  • Maajid Nawaz, a former Islamist, and co-founder and chairman of think tank Quilliam, does not win a seat in the UK parliament.
  • State Dept. official Nisha Desai Biswal praises CSIS; praises its analysis and policy recommendations.
  • Think tankers on the lobbying "arms race."
  • CFR's Council of Councils holds 4th annual conference to assess the state of global governance; Marco Rubio "shows his prowess" at CFR, via Jennifer Rubin.
  • Why is AEI President Arthur Brooks so good at fundraising?
  • Think tank fundraising email offers "disconcerting glimpse" into how Washington works.
  • DC think tanks make big push for defense reforms.
  • Center for Talent Innovation, a think tank founded by economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett, releases study on ambitions of black women.
  • CQ Weekly profiles CEIP President William Burns in April 20 edition; says he is still advising Obama on talks with Iran.
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders: "Critics of raising the capital gains tax are often paid by corporate think tanks."

A "Dirty Little Secret" of Washington Think Tanks?

Brent Budowsky of the New York Observer just penned a piece entitled "The Stephanopolous Syndrome: 8 Dirty Little Secrets Washington Insiders Don't Want Americans to Know," and one is about think tanks.  Here is an excerpt:
Dirty little secret 7: Almost every day brings forth a major analysis of a front-page issue from a “prestigious think tank.” What we are almost never told is that most of these think tanks receive huge donations from friendly and unfriendly foreign governments, giant foreign and domestic conglomerates, and wealthy political ideologues designed to influence our public debates (and government actions) in ways that are kept secret from voters, viewers and readers.
Several months ago the New York Times published a detailed investigative story listing a number of these think tanks and the sources of their largest donations. When commentaries and analyses are offered by experts who take substantial sums from special interests, shouldn’t we know who pays them to influence us?
Don’t get me wrong. Many think tanks produce high quality work that deserves to gain influence. I would cite the liberal-leaning Center for American Progress and the conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute as often offering superb analysis from different points of view. There are others. But there is also propagandistic work by “experts” paid for by special interests with ulterior motives. I propose this money and these interests should no longer remain a dirty little secret.

Mr. Budowsky formerly served as a policy aide to Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-TX) and legislative director to Rep. Bill Alexander (D-AR).

Monday, May 18, 2015

Are Think Tank Salaries Increasing?

The NonProfit Times recently had a front-page article saying that salaries and benefits are improving as the economy and market conditions foster growth.  So, is your think tank salary increasing?

Here is more:
Nonprofit managers reported awarding average salary increases of 3.13 percent for all staff during 2014, up ever so slightly from 3.11 percent the previous year. Executives saw an average hike of 3.44 percent. Total cash compensation costs as a percentage of the operating budget has typically averaged about 38 percent during the past several years of the study.
The average pay hike for respondents during the past five years of salary surveys is just less than 3 percent. The largest organizations ($50 million or more operating budgets) had the highest average of that time, 3.61 percent, pulled up by a high of 8.27 percent last year. The average increase among other nonprofits of varying sized operating budgets — from less than $500,000 to less than $50 million — ranged from 2.39 percent to 3.84 percent.
The average total cash compensation for chief executive officers has fluctuated during the past five years, ranging from $110,599 (2011) to $122,286 (2013). The average for 2014 was $113,562, slightly less than the five-year average of $114,544. The five-year average tenure for a CEO was 11.3 years with an organization.

Here is a Think Tank Watch update from last year on pay at think tanks.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

New Think Tank Report to Drive 2016 Debate for Democrats

The New York-based think tank Roosevelt Institute has just published a new report that will likely drive the 2016 Democratic debate on the economy, wealth, taxes, jobs and a host of other key issues.

The report, which has 37 policy recommendations, is being unveiled today at an event at the National Press Club in Washington, DC featuring Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The 114-page report, entitled "Rewriting the Rules of the American Economy: An Agenda for Growth and Shared Prosperity," was written by Joseph Stiglitz, Chief Economist of the Roosevelt Institute.

The report was co-authored by four other Roosevelt Institute scholars, and received input from a variety of academic and liberal-leaning think tank scholars, including those from Center for Economic Policy Research (CEPR), Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), Washington Center for Equitable Growth, and Economic Policy Institute (EPI).

The New York Times says that the report will likely influence Hillary Clinton's agenda, and it calls the Roosevelt Institute a "liberal think tank with ties to Mrs. Clinton's economic team."

In the Washington Post, Katrina vanden Heuval says that the report is part of the "emerging populist agenda.  Jim Tankersley of the Washington Post says the report is a "new manifesto for fighting inequality," and calls it "very liberal."

More coming soon...

Monday, May 11, 2015

Think Tank Quickies (#176)

  • Quora: What is it like to work at a think tank?
  • Urban Institute event on 5/14: Promoting diversity in our nation's think tanks; On Think Tanks has new series on women in think tanks.
  • Heritage Foundation to score votes for 2016 presidential elections.
  • Corinthian Colleges secretly funded DC think tanks, including AEI.
  • American think tanks manipulate German politics?  Are think tanks (like lobbying) booming in Germany?
  • Libya drops Qorvis, the PR shop whose goal was to ensure Libya's messages reached think tanks.
  • A think tank queen (Heather McGhee) fighting for a seat at DC's table.
  • UAE gets new think tank: Emirati Institute.
  • Bjorn Lomborg row shows why universities are different from think tanks.
  • On 5/12 President Obama participates in discussion with AEI President Arthur Brooks.
  • Third Way President Jon Cowan celebrates 50th b-day at 14th St. condo in DC.

Monday, May 4, 2015

China Sets Up Think Tank in DC to Counter Other Asian Powers

China has set up a new think tank in the Washington, DC-area to counter the influence of other Asian countries at the nearby think tanks.

The new think tank, which is China's first think tank within the Washington Beltway, will reportedly focus on maritime dispute issues in the South China Sea.  Here is more:
The Institute for China-America Studies’ three staff members work from a small office near Ronald Reagan International Airport. Their mission is to research and conduct exchanges on maritime issues and China-U.S. relations, not to represent the Chinese government, according to its executive director, Nong Hong.
But a hurdle for the new Chinese institute is whether it can establish its independence from the Chinese government, which keeps a tight rein on academic institutions and polices research.
At its inaugural conference last month, China’s ambassador to the U.S., Cui Tiankai, gave a keynote address defending China’s efforts to build artificial islands in the South China Sea.
Set up in Arlington, Va., in November, the institute is registered as a corporation in the state, pending approval as a nonprofit, Ms. Hong said. She said she isn’t a Communist Party member and the think tank would be free to do research critical of Chinese policy, as long as it fits within its research programs. “We want to be an independent nonprofit organization here,” she said.
The think tank is, however, an offshoot of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, a government-affiliated body, which also employs Ms. Hong and plays a prominent role in promoting China’s views on maritime issues.

The article goes on to question whether the new think tank will need to register as a "foreign agent" under the US Justice Department's Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).  Those acting on behalf of a foreign government for political purposes must register, but the article notes that the think tank was established by the Hainan Nanhai Research Foundation, which is registered in China as a private foundation.  But that foundation was set up by the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, the government-backed organization that also employs Ms. Hong, according to the WSJ.

The Economist has also reported about the new think tank, saying that its Chinese government connections "clearly have pull."  It notes that Henry Kissinger spoke at at ICAS conference held April 16 in Washington, DC, and China's Ambassador to the US Cui Tiankai attended that event in person.

The think tank is already looking for bigger offices and plans to add a few more resident fellows in the next few years.  Think Tank Watch noticed that they are now looking for a full-time research fellow.

The new website for ICAS can be found here.  The three staff members are listed here.  The advisory board can be found here.   Its partner institutions can be found here.

The establishment of the new Chinese think tank comes as the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) has been using satellite intel to track the Asian islands dispute.  And the governments of Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and others have been spending heavily on Washington think tanks to support their agenda.

The establishment also comes as the Chinese government has just announced that it is setting up as many as 100 national-level think tanks to try to replicate the US think tanks model.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Bernanke Joins With PIMCO But Stays Full-Time at Brookings

Another day, and another way for former Federal Reserve Chairman to rake in the dough.  This time, it was just announced that he has joined bond giant PIMCO as a senior advisor.  Here is more:
In an interview, Bernanke, who only last week announced he'd signed on to consult for the hedge fund Citadel, said he will restrict his Wall Street advisory roles to just the two firms. He also works at the Brookings Institution.
"I remain full time at Brookings. I am not an employee of either firm. I am an outside senior advisor," Bernanke, 61, told Reuters.
"This is it," he said.  "There won't be anymore. They (Pimco and Citadel) prefer not having me consult too many firms and I personally think working with two firms will be plenty."

Here is a recent Think Tank Watch piece entitled "Think Tank for Show, Wall Street for Dough," highlighting how Bernanke is at Brookings for the prestige but relies on Wall Street for the real money.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Think Tanker Behind New Book on Clinton's Foreign Cash

That new book on foreign government donations to the Clinton Foundation?  Yup, it was written by a think tanker.

More precisely, the book, titled "Clinton Cash," was written by Peter Schweizer, a former fellow at the conservative think tank Hoover Institution.  His past work while at the think tank can be found here.

Here is more on the Hoover Institution by Ade Adenji, who just wrote a piece for Inside Philanthropy entitled "How the Hoover Institution Vacuums Up Big Conservative Bucks":
Like AEI, Hoover might be described as a moderate conservative think tankin contrast, say, to the Heritage Foundation and other policy shops that push a harder line and have been aligned in recent years with the Tea Party. 
Hoover's moderate positioning makes sense, since Herbert Hoover himself was certainly no doctrinaire conservative and even considered being a Democrat at one time. The Hoover Institution's mission includes principles such as "representative government, private enterprise, peace, and personal freedom" and senior fellows at the institution have included Condoleezza Rice, economist Thomas Sowell, and author Shelby Steele.

Hoover, which is housed within Stanford University, was just ranked as the 19th best think tank in the United States by the University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings.  It was also considered the 4th best university-affiliated think tank in the world.

So, will a sole think tanker bring down the entire Clinton campaign?

Here is Think Tank Watch's most recent piece on Hillary Clinton's use of think tanks.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Think Tank Quickies #175

  • How the Hoover Institution vacuums up big conservative bucks.
  • Hawaii and Texas think tanks unite to push back on Planned Parenthood's sex-ed agenda.
  • Brookings holds US-China think tank summit.
  • China's think tanks need to reach out and connect.
  • America's lobbying addiction, via Brookings. 
  • Atlantic Council announces 2015 Leadership Awardees, including country music singer Toby Keith and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani; welcomes inaugural class of Millennium Fellows; Secretary of State John Kerry promotes US trade agenda at Atlantic Council.
  • Should think tanks be required to disclose donors if they produce reports that might be considered political?
  • Anders Borg, Sweden's former Minister of Finance, joins PIIE as Nonresident Senior Fellow.
  • Rebecca Hersman, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), joins CSIS.
  • Todd Cox, former staffer at the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, joins CAP; Jeff Krehely of Human Rights Campaign (HRC) rejoins CAP.
  • New Wilson Center-Gramsci Institute project on the Italian Communist Party and China.
  • Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi confers with policy experts at USIP.
  • RAND: China not a threat to US national security interests in Africa.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Rick Perry Hires Think Tankers Ahead of 2016 Campaign

Former Texas Governor Rick Perry is beefing up his policy team by hiring from think tank land.  Here is more from Bloomberg Politics:
That effort now includes the hiring of the widely respected Avik Roy, a former health care adviser to Mitt Romney and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, who will become RickPAC's senior adviser, the person said. Also coming on board: Abby McCloskey, whose conservative credentials include work as an economic policy program director for American Enterprise Institute, will head Perry’s national policy team. Brett Fetterly, a graduate student at John Hopkins University who studied under former U.S. Ambassador Eric Edelman, will coordinate Perry’s foreign policy shop.
The Manhattan Institute and AEI are two of the most respected think tanks in conservative circles, and these hires will serve in some quarters as validation of Perry’s heft as both a wonk and a candidate. In his first presidential campaign, Perry gave a number of policy speeches, including on energy, the economy, and national security, that were largely overshadowed by the attention to his late entry, rapid rise, and even more rapid collapse.

It should be mentioned that Eric Edelman (mentioned above), is a Distinguished Fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), and has connections to a variety of other think tanks.

Edelman was also an advisor to Mitt Romney for his 2012 presidential run.

Leaked Docs Reveal Morocco's Influence at US Think Tanks

Here is what The Intercept is reporting:
A controversial cache of what appear to be Moroccan diplomatic documents show how the Moroccan government courted [Hillary] Clinton, built a cooperative relationship with the Secretary of State, and orchestrated the use of consultants, think tanks and other “third-party validators” to advance the North African nation’s goals within elite U.S. political circles.
The use of think tanks, business associations, other “third party validators … with unquestionable credibility,” one cable said, relates to the “peculiarity of the American political system.” Think tanks, the cable continued, “have considerable influence” on government officials, especially because so many former officials move in and out of think tank work. Mentioning the State Department as one agency that could be swayed through think tank advocacy, the memo goes on to state, “our work focuses on the most influential think tanks … across the political spectrum.” The memo lists several think tanks such as the Atlantic Council, the Heritage Foundation and the Hudson Institute.

The cable, which can be read here, is written in French.

Fact: Morocco has 33 think tanks according to the 2015 University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Think Tank Naming Fail

A great lesson was hopefully learned by those who are planning to start a think tank: be careful how you name your think tank, because the acronym could be quite embarrassing.

Unfortunately, it is too late for one new think tank.  This week, Pakistan and China announced that they would launch a joint think tank named Research and Development International (RANDI), which is dedicated to research and development of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

"Randi" happens to be Hindi slang for prostitute.  It is also a heterograph of the English word "randy," which means sexually excited.

Austin Powers would have loved this name (see video here), but many were dumbfounded by the think tank's acronym.

Indians heavily ridiculed the name.  The Nation says that Twitter giggled at it.  A variety of Twitter comments on the think tank's acronym can be found here.  And here is a comic about the think tank.

One joke report said that the think tank has been renamed to RANDI-RONA.  Yet another jokester said that the think tank has pivoted to become a branding agency.  Other reports indicate that the name has already been changed to RADI.

Some have also point out that Pakistan once had a think tank called the Pakistan Institute of Strategic Studies, or PISS.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch piece on the longest think tank acronym.  Another long think tank acronym that we've covered can be found here.  And here is another Think Tank Watch piece on how the ISIS acronym was hurting a think tank's reputation.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Think Tank for Show, Wall Street for Dough

They say that in golf one drives for show and putts for dough.  Well, in the policy wonk world, one works at a think tank for show, and Wall Street for dough.

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is the perfect example.  Bernanke joined the Economic Studies program at the Brookings Institution as a Distinguished Fellow in Residence early last year.  [And he just started a new blog at the think tank.]

Bernanke is likely making a low six-digit salary at Brookings, the world's #1-ranked think tank.  Considering that pittance of a salary and the fact that he can't seem to get a refi on his mortgage, he has decided to rake in some real money by joining with hedge fund Citadel.

Since he has been making $250,000+ on many of his speeches, it is likely that Bernanke will pull down seven figures with his new gig.  That will make him one of the wealthiest think tankers around.  Now THAT is how it's done.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Clinton's Policy Team to be Led by CAP Alum

It was recently announced that Hillary Clinton has named three senior policy advisers to lead the development of her agenda for her 2016 presidential campaign.  Leading that team will be Maya Harris, a former Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress (CAP).

Of course, there will be lots of CAP-affiliated people on Clinton's team.  Here is more from Politico:
The three policy leaders will be the official top wonks, but they aren’t the only Clinton advisers with policy backgrounds. John Podesta, the campaign chairman, headed President Barack Obama’s executive action agenda until earlier this year and was the founder of the Center for American Progress. Clinton’s also likely to keep getting informal advice from Neera Tanden, the current president of CAP and a longtime adviser.
And Tony Carrk, the campaign research director, has a background in health care policy, particularly Obamacare. He was the director of the “health care war room” at the CAP Action Fund.

Here is a biography of Maya Harris from CAP.  Ezra Klein of Vox has called Harris "Clinton's most interesting hire yet," and noted that she published only a single paper while at the think tank.  Klein thinks that the paper, titled "Women of Color: A Growing Force in the American Electorate," may prove to be "key to Clinton's 2016 efforts to hold, and even expand, Obama's coalition."

As Think Tank Watch noted, Hillary Clinton recently tested one of her possible vice presidential running mates at CAP.

And while CAP may be Clinton's go-to think tank for ideas and talent, it is not the only think tank she will be relying on.

The Clinton campaign recently said that it relied on a study by the union-backed Economic Policy Institute (EPI) when Clinton said that CEO's make 300 times more than the American worker.  A link to that EPI study, which was authored by Lawrence Mishel and Alyssa Davis, can be found here.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Think Tank Quickies #173

  • Are computers trawling think tank report and Twitter feeds for stocks picks?
  • Think tank a new training ground for Obama's green team. 
  • John Feffer: "My think tank [IPS] doesn't take any government funding, domestic or foreign, and this ensures our independence."  No mention of corporate money...
  • Caixin: China has think tank quantity, but not quality. 
  • Think tanks boosting insurance amid increasing lawsuits? 
  • The Onion on Marco Rubio's birthplace: "A closed-door think tank strategy session in 2010.
  • Third Way: Routine jobs not returning as they used to. 
  • European think tanks CIGI and Chatham House urge new social pact on Internet privacy. 
  • US Gen. Bennet Sacolick interviewing think tankers regarding hostage rescue plans.
  • New Israel Fund is seed-funding think tanks, including Mitvim.
  • Flashback: Rethinking the think tank will a snowball experiment, via Sam Petulla.
  • Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi gives speech at CSIS today.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Annoying Habits of Think Tank Donors

The Wall Street Journal has a new piece entitled "Annoying Habits of Charitable Donors," and Think Tank Watch is aware of many think tank donors who give money to think tanks but make the policy shop's life a complete nightmare.

So, listen up donors, and try to avoid these mistakes:
  • Giving unwanted gifts: No, Brookings does not need your taxidermy collection from 1953.
  • Giving the wrong gifts: No, Heritage does not need your paper mache donkey.
  • Asking for a lot for a little: No, Council on Foreign Relations will not let you have access to all of its scholars for your donation of $19.99.
  • Micromanaging: No, American Enterprise Institute does not want to receive your call every hour insisting on updates about who is attending your sponsored event.
  • Expecting personal favors: No, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace will not write a foreign policy paper for your kid if you start to donate.
  • Making false promises: No, the Center for Strategic and International Studies will not be  happy if you pledge $25 million for a new building and renege on that promise.
  • Restricting gifts: No, Center for American Progress does not like it when you give a huge donation but it should only be used to study the Democrats of northern Borneo.
  • Being a know-it-all: No, Cato Institute does not want to hear you rant about libertarian ideals.

More details about each of these situations can be found here.

Of course, think tank donors are not always at fault.  Think tanks also need to be on their best behavior...

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Many Think Tankers Among 100 Most Influential Economists

A new list of the 100 most influential economic bloggers on Twitter has just been created, and Think Tank Watch has just scoured the list to pull out the most influential think tank economists.  They include (in no particular order):

  • Barry Eichengreen, National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) Research Associate, Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) Research Fellow
  • David Frum, Chairman of Policy Exchange
  • David Wessel, Director, Hutchins Center on Fiscal & Monetary Policy, Brookings institution
  • Dean Baker, Co-director of CEPR
  • Adam Posen, President of Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE)
  • Donald Marron,  Director of Economic Policy Initiatives & Institute Fellow at Urban Institute
  • Douglas Holtz-Eakin, President of the American Action Forum (AAF)
  • James Pethokoukis, Fellow at American Enterprise Institute (AEI)
  • Jared Bernstein, Senior Fellow, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP)
  • Justin Wolfers, Senior Fellow at PIIE and Research Associate at NBER
  • Peter Orszag, Adjunct Senior Fellow at Council on Foreign Relations (CFR)
  • Robert Reich, co-founder of the Economic Policy Institute (EPI)
  • Simon Johnson, Senior Fellow at PIIE and Research Associate at NBER
  • Strobe Talbott, President of Brookings Institution
  • Tyler Cowen, Chairman and General Director of the Mercatus Center
  • Tony Fratto, member of Partners Council at Center for Global Development (CGD)
  • William Easterly, Research Associate at NBER, and Nonresident Senior Fellow at Brookings
  • Will Wilkinson, former Managing Editor of Cato Institute's Cato Unbound
  • Robert Shiller, Research Associate at NBER
  • Paul Romer, Research Associate at NBER; previously worked for the Hoover Institution
  • Mike Konczal, Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute
  • Matthew Klein, previously a Research Associate at CFR
  • Larry Summers, Distinguished Senior Fellow at Center for American Progress (CAP), and Board Chair at CGD
  • Austan Goolsbee, Distinguished Senior Fellow at CAP; Research Associate at NBER
  • Branko Milanovic, External Fellow at CGD, and previously a Senior Associate at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP)
  • Cass Sunstein, Nonresident Senior Fellow at Brookings

Another list of top-ranked economists can be found at IDEAS, a Research Papers in Economics (RePEc) service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post on the rankings of top economic think tanks.

In the most recent University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings, the top 10 domestic economic policy think tanks were:
  1. Brookings
  2. NBER
  3. Adam Smith Institute (ASI)
  4. PIIE
  5. Cato Institute
  6. Bruegel
  7. RAND Corporation
  8. German Institute for Economic Research
  9. Heritage Foundation
  10. CAP
The top 10 international economic policy think tanks were:
  1. PIIE
  2. Brookings
  3. Bruegel
  4. NBER
  5. ASI
  6. RAND Corporation
  7. Chatham House
  8. Institute of World Economy and International Relations
  9. Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)
  10. American Enterprise Institute

Monday, April 13, 2015

CSIS Using Satellite Intel to Track Asian Islands Dispute

The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) recently landed on the front page of The New York Times for satellite images it has analyzed apparently showing that China has been building up land mass in disputed island territories in the South China Sea.  Here is an excerpt:

China has long asserted ownership of the archipelago in the South China Sea known as the Spratly Islands, also claimed by at least three other countries, including the Philippines, an American ally. But the series of detailed photographs taken of Mischief Reef shows the remarkable speed, scale and ambition of China’s effort to literally gain ground in the dispute.
The photographs show that since January, China has been dredging enormous amounts of sand from around the reef and using it to build up land mass — what military analysts at the Pentagon are calling “facts on the water” — hundreds of miles from the Chinese mainland.

Here is China's response to the satellite images, which were taken by DigitalGlobe, a commercial satellite imagery provider, and then analyzed by CSIS.

More specifically, the analysis is being done by CSIS's Asia Transparency Maritime Initiative (AMTI), which the think tank describes as an "interactive, regularly-updated source for information, analysis, and policy exchange on maritime security issues in Asia."  The think tank also says that AMTI was "conceived and designed" by CSIS and takes no position on territorial or maritime claims.

AMTI says that it generally gets its information from news sources and various research institutes and NGOs, but in certain instances it "may be asked to keep the source of a particular piece of information confidential," suggesting that the US or other foreign governments may be providing it with some information.

CSIS receives funding from a variety of governments, including the US government, and governments of Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Singapore, and Vietnam, among others.

A variety of former US government security and intelligence officials are advisors and/or contributors to the program.

AMTI says that the source of its funding is from CSIS's Asia Program, as well as a start-up grant from the think tank's Brzezinski Institute of Geostrategy.  It also says it is soliciting funds from governments in Asia and corporations and foundations.

AMTI's "Island Tracker" can be viewed here.  And here are 18 maps that explain maritime security in Asia.

The NYT also commented about the images in an editorial on April 11.

CSIS was recently ranked as the world's top defense and national security think tank by the 2015 University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Joe Scarborough Lashes Out at Think Tanks

On April 8, former Republican congressman Joe Scarborough unleashed a fury of rage at think tanks in Washington, DC who he says promote ongoing war activities in Afghanistan:
For people in think tanks in Washington, DC who are sitting there and trying to calculate this out, let them go [to Afghanistan].  Let them go over there.  Let their sons and daughters go over there.  When they want to sit and be chicken hawks and talk about how America needs to be all over the world, let them go and let them send their families.  It so easy for someone at the Brookings Institute [sic], not that Brookings would do this, but at a think tank or Heritage or anywhere...they say we need to stay in Afghanistan as long as it takes.

A video can be watched here.  It should be noted that think tanks have also lashed out at Joe Scarborough.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Think Tank Quickies #172

  • Journalist dies at think tank event.
  • Brookings on the impact of Sesame Street around the world.
  • Robert Reich: Think tanks are kissing wealthy posteriors as never before.
  • Russian hackers believed to be behind recent State Department and White House breaches also attacked think tanks.
  • David Callahan: "How objective can [the think tank] PIIE be on global economic policy when most of its funding comes from corporations with a strong financial stake in the issues the institute works on?"
  • Working paper on establishing government think tanks, via Arnaldo Pellini.
  • Lots of think tanks endorsing Comcast deal getting paid to do so?
  • Ayaan Hirsi Ali got rejected from liberal think tanks so started working for AEI.
  • Chris Cillizza called "one man think tank" in high school.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Libya Paying Big Bucks for Outreach to US Think Tanks

The public relations and advertising firm Qorvis MSLGroup has just signed a $1 million contract to provide PR services to the Libyan Embassy in Washington, DC, and part of the contract includes outreach to think tanks.

Here is more from O'Dwyers:
[Quorvis] will work to "open channels of communication" through government relations and organize meetings for Libyan officials, according to its contract.
Outreach is slated with reporters and US officials to ensure Libya's messages reach the White House, media, think tanks and Capitol Hill.
Qorvis will develop messages, forge a rapid response team and provide regular briefings on conditions in Libya.
The firm is in line for $50K retainers for the first three months and $100K payments for the following nine months. Monthly expenses are capped at $12,500.

Qorvis MSLGroup, which is owned by Publicis, works with a variety of other foreign governments, including the Bahrian, Sri Lanka, the British Embassy, Fiji, Cyprus, Saudi Arabia, and the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq.

PR firms and lobbying firms often reach out to think tanks in order to influence the narrative of current issues, business concerns, and other purposes.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Think Tank Quickies (#171)

  • Carly Fiorina speaks at CSIS, and so does World Bank President Jim Yong Kim (again).
  • Second African Think Tank Summit starts in Addis Ababa. 
  • AEI economist John Makin dies; "broke barrier of being a serious academic who went to the think tank world."
  • Heritage Foundation hires former DIA Director David Shedd as Visiting Distinguished Fellow; hires two from Capitol Hill for economic posts; hosts former Mexican President Vicente Fox.
  • AEI's Danielle Pletka discusses collaboration within think tank community.
  • NSC official Philip Gordon joins CFR as Senior Fellow; new hub for CFR events.
  • Colonel Mark Cancian (USMC, Ret.) joins CSIS's International Security Program.
  • Former White House assistant Shilpa Phadke joins CAP as Senior Director of Women's Initiatives.
  • Atlantic Council holds 3rd annual Student Cyber Policy Competition; honors Afghan President Ashraf Ghani; hires Senior Director of Pew Charitable Trusts, John Haederle.
  • Wilson Center's new Polar Initiative to be headed by David Biette.
  • CNAS launches The NextWare Sessions to provide method for improved cybersecurity collaboration.
  • AEI says don't be a bachelor.

Monday, April 6, 2015

An Analysis of Some DC Think Tanks

This is an excerpt from a piece just written by Llewellyn King, the Executive Producer and Host of White House Chronicle and columnist for Hearst-NYT Syndicate:
Among Washington think tanks, we know what to expect from the Brookings Institution: earnest, slightly left-of-center analysis of major issues. Likewise, we know that the Center for Strategic and International Studies will do the same job with a right-of-center shading, and a greater emphasis on defense and geopolitics.
What the tanks provide is support for political and policy views; detailed argument in favor of a known point of view. By and large, the verdict is in before the trial has begun.
There a few exceptions, house contrarians. The most notable is Norman Ornstein, who goes his own way at the conservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI). Ornstein, hugely respected as an analyst and historian of Congress, often expresses opinions in articles and books which seem to be wildly at odds with the orthodoxy of AEI.
A less-celebrated role of the thinks tanks is as resting places for the political elite when their party is out of power. Former U.N. ambassador John Bolton, rumored to be favored as a future Republican secretary of state, is hosted at AEI. National Security Adviser Susan Rice was comfortable at Brookings between service in the Clinton and he Obama administrations. At any time, dozens of possible office holders reside at the Washington think tanks, building reputations and waiting.

Mr. King notes that he may be transforming the Boston Global Forum (BGF) into a think tank. BGF is led by former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis and Nguyen Anh Tuan.  He calls the would-be think tank "East Coat tony and very energetic," but notes that funding at this point is still uncertain.

For the record, Massachusetts already has 176 think tanks, the most of any state/federal district except Washington, DC, which has a whopping 396 think tanks and counting.

Think Tank Quote of the Week: Real Housewives of Atlanta

The think tank quote of the week comes from Jennifer Lind-Westbrook, a contributing writer of BuddyTV, who explained the brain trusts of the reality TV show The Real Housewives of Atlanta:
When the ladies aren't fighting, they spend a whole lot of time discussing each other's ass-ets. Porsha and Demetria put their ample bottoms to the test in a twerk-off, and while Porsha may have more junk in the trunk -- Kandi's words, not mine -- Demetria has a leg up in knowing how to shake what her mama gave her. I have to say, these ladies are in no risk of being recruited by any think tanks in the near future.

Talking about Atlanta, the US state of Georgia has 29 think tanks (the country of Georgia only has 14), so there are certainly plenty of opportunities for any of the housewife stars to start a new think tank career...

Friday, April 3, 2015

US Gov't Official Touts US Think Tanks

Does America have the world's best think tanks?  According to the United States government it (probably) does.

At a National Bureau of Asian Research (NBR) roundtable discussion today, Daniel Russel, Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said that "the strength of America's academic community and think tanks is envied around the world."

Think Tank Watch will not weigh in on which country has the best think tanks (we don't want to start WWIII this Friday morning, and plus, one can just check out the US-centric UPenn think tank rankings for some "insight"), but we do know that the US has the most think tanks of any country.

As of early 2015, the US had 1,830 think tanks, more than four times the next closest country (China), which has "only" 429 think tanks.  The United Kingdom has the third largest number of think tanks at 287.

Please send Think Tank Watch your thoughts on which country has the best think tanks and why.

Think Tank Quickies (#170)

Fmr. Fed Chair Ben Bernanke Starts Blogging at Brookings

Former US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has started blogging at the Brookings Institution, where he is a Distinguished Fellow in Residence with the think tank's Economic Studies Program.

The blog, which is simply called "Ben Bernanke's Blog," only has a few posts so far but appears quite influential.  The Washington Post says that Bernanke might currently be having the "world's most important blog fight" with former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers on low interest rates.  Here is more on that from Bloomberg.

[Larry Summers is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at competing think tank Center for American Progress (CAP), but he blogs elsewhere.]

Of course, the blog is also getting some pushback.  Here is what Bernanke should blog about.  Forbes has called the new blog "insightful."  NBC News asks if the blog is part of his mission.

Washington Post editorial cartoonist Tom Toles is not impressed, saying that the blog will just be "more background hum as we sleepwalk our way into our already manifest dystopian future."

Here is Bernanke's inaugural post, which states that now he is a civilian again, he can once again comment on economic and financial issues without his words being put under the microscope by Fed watchers.

So will Bernanke's blog be the most popular at Brookings?  According to the think tank's site, he is in competition with 14 other Brookings blogs, and that doesn't include one blog (Lawfare) that is offsite.

In other related Bernanke-think tank news, earlier this week he gave a keynote speech at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP).

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Foreign Contributions to Think Tanks Now Searchable

Investigative reporter Brooke Williams, who helped write the influential New York Times piece last year titled "Foreign Powers Buy Influence at Think Tanks," has just created a new website (currently in beta) where one can search and explore foreign government contributions to think tanks.

This past weekend, Ms. Williams led a team called "Open Think Tanks" which worked to create the new website as part of a hackathon at the MIT Media Lab.  The team will be among those presenting their solutions for reducing institutional corruption at a conference at Harvard Law School later this spring.

According to the new site (, it is the first-ever searchable database of foreign government donations to major think tanks in the United States.  It is important to note that it is not comprehensive as some think tanks do not disclose their donors and some governments to not disclose their grant details.

Here are some more details:
Most of the data comes from the think tanks' voluntary disclosures in their annual reports and on their websites. Some of the data comes from the government itself, via public records requests, while others come from Department of Justice filings under the Foreign Agent Registration Act. In one case, a think tank provided the data by email upon request.
Many records of donations do not include amounts. In most cases, it is also impossible to know exactly when the donation was made.
In other words, this tool shows financial relationships rather than detailed transactions.

Through the site, one can also search so-called "Truth in Testimony" reports filed with congressional committees since January 1, 2015.  In the beginning of this year, new rules went into effect requiring those who testify to disclose whether they (or institution they represent) have received money from foreign governments.

The Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University provided funding for the project.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Politico Buys Think Tank Watch

Think Tank Watch has just been acquired by Politico.  We thank readers for three years of loyalty.  Although not finalized yet, we plan to open a new think tank on think tanks.

Oh, um, April Fools.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Think Tank Quickies (#169)

  • Michael Franc, former staffer to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and former VP of government relations, is new Director of Washington, DC Programs at Hoover Institution.
  • Brookings scholar bashes Atlantic Council for having too many think tank panels with men.
  • More pics of the world's coolest think tank.
  • Prestigious Brookings Papers on Economic Activity (BPEA) commissions paper based on a blog comments from Marginal Revolution.
  • SIPRI: US is a major driver of global expansion in arms trade.
  • Google chief Eric Schmidt speaks at AEI.
  • Democracy Alliance (DA) shifted 2004 elections away from donor giving to sustained investments in think tanks.
  • Sens. Markey, Boxer, and Whitehouse sent letter to 100 energy companies and think tanks asking them to reveal all the scientists they were funding.
  • India extends support to Afghan think tanks for strategic thinking, planning.
  • John de Boer: What are think tanks good for?

Silicon Valley to Open Think Tank in DC

The technology companies of Silicon Valley have ramped up their donations to think tanks in recent years, but today, they are pivoting to a different strategy: opening their very own think tank.

Here is more from Politico:
Silicon Valley bigwigs Sean Parker and Ron Conway are throwing their weight behind a new organization in Washington that will craft centrist proposals to stimulate the economy and press Congress to enact them, according to plans provided to POLITICO.
The Economic Innovation Group is set to launch Tuesday after about 18 months of behind-the-scenes preparation. Principals declined to say how much money is behind it, but people involved say the inclusion of names like Parker and Conway — the first president of Facebook and a legendary startup investor, respectively — give the effort credibility.

The first conversations about the group began at the end of 2012, said co-founder Steve Glickman, and organizers met with Parker at the beginning of 2013. The rest, the founders say, grew “organically.”
The co-founders of the group are Glickman, a California Democrat and former National Economic Council aide in the Obama administration; and John Lettieri, a South Carolina Republican and onetime staffer for former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel.
Other co-founders are: Rebecca Lynn, co-founder of Canvas Venture Fund; Joseph Sanberg, co-founder of and Pt Capital; Dana Settle, co-founder of Greycroft Partners; and Ted Ullyot, investor and first General Counsel of Facebook.

The new think tank, Economic Innovation Group (EIG), says that several politicians have been involved in the startup of the new policy shop, including Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL), Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI), and Rep. Gred Walden (R-OR).

EIG says that "implementation" of their desired policies is what sets them apart from other think tanks in Washington, DC.  Sean Parker expects a few wins in 20 or 30 years.

According to Politico, the think tank plans to release its first white paper on economic issues next month.  That paper is reportedly co-written by Kevin Hassett (of the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute) and Jared Bernstein (of the liberal-leaning think tank Center on Budget and Policy Priorities).

Think Tank Watch noticed, however, that they have already released a draft paper titled "Beneath The Recovery: Obstacles to Growth and Opportunity in the New Economy."

Here is a press release about the think tank and a blog post by the co-founders about why they have launched the think tank.  Here is what TechCrunch says about the new bipartisan think tank.

The think tank's website can be found here.  It includes a list of its leadership.  The think tank is based in Chinatown, at 711 D Street, NW in Washington, DC.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Cato Institute Gets New President & CEO

The libertarian Cato Institute announced today that Peter Goettler, a former Managing Director of Barclays Capital, will become the think tank's new President and CEO effective April 1.  He was approved in a unanimous vote by Cato's Board of Directors on March 28.

Goettler has served on Cato Institute's Board of Directors since last year and he has been a supporter of the think tank for 15 years.  He is also on the board of a large network of libertarian think tanks called Atlas Network.

Current CEO John Allison, who was former Chairman and CEO of BB&T, is retiring after just two and a half years at the helm.  But Allison will continue to serve on Cato's Board of Directors, in addition to acting as Chairman of the Executive Advisory Council for the Center for Monetary and Financial Alternatives.

Here is more from Cato about Allison's tenure:
Under Allison’s leadership, Cato’s financial support has grown by 64 percent, from total revenues of $22.1 million in FY2013 to total revenues of $36.3 million (projected) in FY2015. Allison also played a significant role in launching two new policy centers at Cato: the Center for Monetary and Financial Alternatives, which studies alternatives to today’s financial regulatory regime; and the Center for the Study of Science, which studies the effects of government funding on scientific research.

Here is a bit more about Goettler's background from Bloomberg.  And here is what David Weigel of Bloomberg Politics is saying about the leadership change at Cato.  Weigel notes that Allison was "affable" and "brought Cato to normalcy" during the past couple of years.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch piece on how John Allison came to power at Cato.

It is interesting how Cato is replacing the outgoing head - a former banker - with another former banker.  Perhaps it is because revenues have grown so much of the past two years?