Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Think Tank Quickies (#356)

  • Jeffrey Epstein gave millions to think tanks?
  • Washingtonian interviews Robert Doar, the new head of AEI; so does WaPo.
  • What is the East-West Center and why are taxpayers giving it $16.7 million a year?
  • What is a think tank, how do they work, and are they a nonprofit?
  • New technology and "old" think tanks.
  • Her think tank helped forge the Texas miracle.
  • Can the new Quincy Institute put a stop to endless war?  Can billionaires buy world peace?
  • Think tanks are hiring sci-fi writers to predict the future.
  • Why have think tanks failed to figure out why infrastructure is so expensive?
  • Polish officials meet leading US think tanks.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Only 9% of Americans Can Name a Think Tank

A new poll from UK-based consultancy We Are Flint that was conducted online by YouGov shows that only 9 percent of Americans can name a think think, and 36% don't know what a think tank is.

Of the half of the population (55%) who claim to know what a think tank is but cannot name one:
  • Close to half associate think tanks with lobbying (46%).
  • Over one third believe think tanks are manipulative (34%).
  • One quarter claim they do backroom deals and are corrupt (28% and 22%).
  • Just 21% say think tanks are innovative.

The Heritage Foundation (5.7%) is the only think tank that more than 5% of the population could name, followed by Brookings Institution (3.9%), Cato Institute (3.0%), RAND Corporation (2.2%), American Enterprise Institute (1.4%), Center for American Progress (1.2%), Hoover Institution (1.1%), and Council on Foreign Relations (0.6%).

Another recent We Are Flint poll found that less than 4% of the UK public can name a think tank.

Watch this video of Americans being asked to try to explain what a think tank is.

Think Tank Watch analysis: 9 percent sounds quite high, and we wonder what the figure would have been if the poll was actually conducted in person rather than online.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Russia Bans Major US Think Tank Atlantic Council

Here is more from the Salt Lake Tribune:

The Russian government has banned a U.S.-based think tank previously headed by Jon Huntsman, a former Utah governor who is now serving as America’s top envoy in Moscow.
The Russian Justice Ministry declared the Atlantic Council as “undesirable,” essentially barring it from working in the country, according to the Russian government-controlled Tass news outlet.
“On July 29, the Russian Justice Ministry has placed the Atlantic Council of the United States on the list of foreign and international nongovernmental organizations, whose activities are declared undesirable on the Russian territory,” the Justice Ministry said.

Here is an official statement from Atlantic Council.

Last year, the Atlantic Council, which supports close US-EU relations and NATO ties (the think tank actually receives funding from NATO), held an event meant as a protest to President Donald Trump's meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Among other things, Atlantic Council is working with Facebook to fight election disinformation.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Pro-Saudi Think Tank Arabia Foundation Shuts Down

Here is more from The National:

The board of the Arabia Foundation, a think tank based in Washington, has decided to shut down operations immediately.
The National was first to report the decision on Tuesday, and was told by a source that the think tank’s board members decided to shut down “due to differences of opinion among its donors".
Later on Tuesday, the institute's founder Ali Shihabi confirmed the news.
“It is with regret that I confirm that the board of directors of the Arabia Foundation decided today to close down the foundation," he tweeted.
"This is due to ongoing differences among our donors that made continued operations difficult.”
The Arabia Foundation was founded in 2017, with a goal of covering Middle East politics and socio-economics, with a particular focus on the Arabian Peninsula.

The Washington Times adds more juicy gossip to the news:
Concurrent to Arabia ceasing operations is a lawsuit filed by Ola Salem by her attorneys, Gerstman Schwartz LLP, alleging sexual harassment and other types of abuse while she was employed by Mr. Shihabi.
The lawsuit alleges slander and defamation, invasion of privacy, intentional emotional distress, sexual harassment, gender discrimination, retaliation and more. Salem even alleges she was prevented from gaining employment after leaving Arabia.

Here is more from the Middle East Eye.
 
After the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a number of think tanks who had been taking Saudi money were pressured to stop accepting those funds, and those with close ties to Saudi Arabia were scrutinized closely.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Think Tank Quickies (#355)

  • 2020 presidential candidate Mike Gravel bashes Brookings.
  • In 2011, Michael Mann took climate change denial think tank to court and now they apologize.
  • Atlantic Council and Wilson Center connected to Brazil's Lava Jato scandal?
  • RAND Corp. researcher Pam Mueller earned more than $215,000 on Jeopardy.
  • Australia Institute shaping Australia. 
  • C4ADS report using Palantir data: How North Korea gets its luxury goods. 
  • Heritage Foundation invited to White House social media summit. 
  • Brookings contacted by lobbyists representing Saudi Arabia (MSL/Qorvis) for meetings.
  • Former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker appointed by Trump to the board of Wilson Center. 
  • Grattan Institute looking for a new leader.
  • The rise and fall of America's "policy entrepreneurs."

Monday, July 29, 2019

Think Tankers Who Signed "Never Trump" Letters Remain Shut Out of Trump Administration

Here is more from the Washington Post:

Two and a half years into President Trump’s tenure, the Republican national security heavyweights blacklisted from his administration for signing a pair of “never Trump” letters in 2016 face a crossroads — remain opposed or support him in 2020.
While some have become prominent figures of the anti-Trump resistance — denouncing him in op-eds and on cable news — others have offered policy advice from outside perches, and a select few have quietly, though mostly unsuccessfully, angled for administration jobs, hopeful that a mea culpa could end their days in purgatory.
“I’m not comfortable with letters anymore,” said Patrick Cronin, head of the Asia-Pacific security program at the Hudson Institute, who signed the first letter, which called Trump “fundamentally dishonest” and “utterly unfitted to the office.” In March 2017, Cronin was forced to withdraw from a new position overseeing a Pentagon think tank after Trump allies blasted his appointment by then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
Of the 149 experts who signed at least one of the two letters warning that Trump was unfit for office — the first published on the War on the Rocks website during the 2016 GOP primaries and the second on the New York Times’s site during the general election campaign — just one has been hired by the Trump administration. James Jeffrey, a Middle East expert who served under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, was named the State Department’s special representative for Syria last summer and in January was given the additional role of special envoy to counter the Islamic State.

A number of think tankers recently divided themselves on China policy, with some supporting President Trump's policies and tactics and others calling for a new strategy.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Think Tankers Help Resurrect Group to Warn Against China's Rise

Here is more from the New York Times:

The Committee on the Present Danger, a long-defunct group that campaigned against the dangers of the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s, has recently been revived with the help of Stephen K. Bannon, the president’s former chief strategist, to warn against the dangers of China.
Once dismissed as xenophobes and fringe elements, the group’s members are finding their views increasingly embraced in President Trump’s Washington, where skepticism and mistrust of China have taken hold. Fear of China has spread across the government, from the White House to Congress to federal agencies, where Beijing’s rise is unquestioningly viewed as an economic and national security threat and the defining challenge of the 21st century.
An increasing number of people in Washington now view the decoupling of the two economies as inevitable — including many of the members of the Committee on the Present Danger. At an inaugural meeting in April, Mr. Bannon, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, and others issued paeans to Ronald Reagan — a former member of the group — and were met with standing ovations as they called for vigilance against China.
The committee’s two earliest iterations, in the 1950s and again in the 1970s, called for an arms buildup to counter the Soviets. The second iteration, formed over a luncheon table at Washington’s Metropolitan Club in 1976, issued documents warning against Soviet expansionism, with titles like “Is America Becoming Number 2?”
The group was briefly active again starting in 2004, this time to warn against the threat of Islamic extremism. The committee’s vice chair, Frank Gaffney, is the founder of the Center for Security Policy, a think tank that argues that mosques and Muslims across America are engaged in a “stealth jihad” to “Islamize” the country by taking advantage of American pluralism and democracy.
The group’s activity largely died down until concern over China rekindled interest.

Other think tankers on the committee include Mark Stokes of Project 2049 Institute, Richard Fisher of the International Assessment and Strategy Center, and Mark Helprin of the Claremont Institute.  Besides Frank Gaffney, others from his think tank on the committee include Clare Lopez, Michael Waller, and Robert McEwen.  A full list of members can be found here.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Think Tankers Divide Themselves on China and Trump

Here is more from Reuters:
Scores of Asia specialists, including former U.S. diplomats and military officers, want President Donald Trump to rethink policies that “treat China as an enemy,” warning the approach could hurt U.S. interests and the global economy, according to a draft open letter reviewed by Reuters on Saturday.
The letter recently appeared in the Washington Post.  Signatories from the think tank world include:

  • James Acton, co-director, Nuclear Policy Program and Jessica T. Mathews Chair, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Andrew Bacevich, co-founder, Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft
  • Jeffrey A. Bader, former senior director for East Asia on National Security Council 2009-2011 and fellow, Brookings Institution
  • C. Fred Bergsten, senior fellow and director emeritus, Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Richard Bush, Chen-Fu and Cecilia Yen Koo Chair in Taiwan Studies, Brookings Institution
  • Toby Dalton, co-director, Nuclear Policy Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Robert Daly, director, Kissinger Institute on China and the U.S., Wilson Center
  • David Dollar, senior fellow, Brookings Institution
  • Robert Einhorn, senior fellow, Brookings Institution; former assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation, 1999-2001
  • David F. Gordon, senior advisor, International Institute of Strategic Studies; former director of Policy Planning at the U.S. State Department, 2007-2009
  • Philip H. Gordon, Mary and David Boies Senior Fellow in U.S. Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations
  • Lee Hamilton, former congressman; former president and director of the Wilson Center
  • Yukon Huang, senior fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Marvin Kalb, nonresident senior fellow, Brookings Institution
  • Charles Kupchan, professor of International Affairs, Georgetown University; senior fellow, Council on Foreign Relations
  • Nicholas Lardy, Anthony M. Solomon Senior Fellow, Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Chung Min Lee, senior fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Cheng Li, director and senior fellow, John L. Thornton China Center, The Brookings Institution
  • Jessica Mathews, distinguished fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Alice Lyman Miller, research fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University
  • Moises Naim, distinguished fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Douglas Paal, distinguished fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Jonathan D. Pollack, nonresident senior fellow, John L. Thornton China Center, Brookings Institution
  • Richard Sokolsky, nonresident senior fellow, Russia and Eurasia Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Graham Webster, coordinating editor, Stanford-New America DigiChina Project

In response, an open letter was written by China scholars who support President Trump's China policy.  Here is more from Free Beacon:

An open letter to President Trump urged the president to stay the course on dealing with the Chinese government, which the letter states is in opposition to the values and strategic interests of the United States.
The letter was written by retired Navy Captain James E. Fanell, a former director of Intelligence and Information Operations for the U.S. Pacific Fleet. The letter is a response to an open letter published by the Washington Post on July 3 titled "China is not an enemy."
Fanell's letter has 130 signatories, including veterans and former U.S. military officials, scholars and professors, think tank members, and other China watchers.

Think tankers who have signed that letter include Ian Easton and Mark Stokes of Project 2049 Institute, Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy, and John Tkacik of the International Assessment and Strategy Center.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Think Tank Quickies (#354)

  • Michael Ledeen: The End of the Think Tank Era.
  • Did Mike Pompeo secretly discuss his presidential ambitions with Sen. Tom Cotton at AEI's annual retreat on Sea Island, Georgia?
  • New York Center for Foreign Policy Affairs (NYCFPA) hires lobbying firm Van Aucker Group. 
  • Director of GWU's Program on Extremism, Lorenzo Vidino, held positions at RAND and USIP; part of "close-knit terrorism research community which includes academic centers and think tanks."
  • NYT talks to Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies (CAST), a military think tank in Russia. 
  • "Carbon transition" think tank The Shift Project says online video causing climate crisis. 
  • Breitbart: Google-funded Heritage Foundation decries "Heavy-Handed" Tech Regulations. 
  • Bryan MacDonald: Dearth of genuine Russia expertise at DC think tanks. 
  • Think tank finds 100 Huawei employees have education/work experience linked to Chinese military or intelligence agencies? 
  • RAND Corp. announces Korea policy chair.
  • Pic: Flood in front of Brookings Institution.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Think Tank CEI Partying Big With Big Donor Money

Here is more from Politico about a recent Competitive Enterprise Institute's (CEI) party to celebrate its 35 years in existence:

The Competitive Enterprise Institute celebrated its 35th anniversary with a “Game of Thrones”-themed dinner at the Marriott Marquis in downtown D.C. Pool report: “Guests were able to take pictures on the Iron Throne, and ‘Red Wedding’ and ‘Wildfire’ cocktails were served into glasses through an ice luge. Author, lecturer and documentary filmmaker Johan Norberg received CEI’s Julian Simon Award, and Pulitzer Prize-winning humorist and author Dave Barry gave the keynote.”
SPOTTED: Fred and Fran Smith, Kathy Kraninger, Andrew Wheeler, C. Boyden Gray, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), Luther Strange, Paul Teller, Jim Neill, Alexa Walker, Dan Huff, Matt Leopold, Mike Rose, Kevin Madden, Gregg Keller, Paul Atkins, Katherine Mangu-Ward, Byron Tau, Mike Bastach, Chris Bedford, Doug Domenech, Lawson Bader, Andrew Grossman, Melissa Holyoak, Syvlie Légère, Emily Domenech and Bridgett Wagner.

After the party, the New York Times wrote a piece about about CEI funders after finding out various donors to the gala.  Here is more:

It’s difficult to figure out who’s funding climate denial, because many of the think tanks that continue to question established climate science are nonprofit groups that aren’t required to disclose their donors. That’s true of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free-market research organization in Washington that disputes that climate change is a problem.
So, the program for a recent gala organized by the institute, which included a list of corporate donors, offered a rare glimpse into the money that makes the work of these think tanks possible.
Among the sponsors for the Game of Thrones-themed gala were groups that have long been aligned with fossil fuel interests, including the Charles Koch Institute and the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers. The fuel and petrochemical group, which lobbies for gasoline producers, pushed to weaken car fuel economy standards, one of the Obama administration’s landmark climate policies.
But the program for the event, obtained by The New York Times and verified by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, also included major corporations, like Google and Amazon, that have made their commitment to addressing climate change a key part of their corporate public relations strategies.

Here is a link to a 20-page pamphlet from the gala, listing the dinner menu, drink menu, and various sponsors for the event, including: Marathon Petroleum, American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, Credit Union National Association, DCI Group, the Heritage Foundation, PhRMA, T-Mobile, Distilled Spirits Council, Amazon, American Beverage Association, Consumer Technology Association, Juul, Syngenta, Verizon, Altria, Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), Phillip Morris International, Uber, AT&T, BNSF Railway, CSX Corporation, National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), Norfolk Southern, and Union Pacific Corporation.

Monday, July 15, 2019

White House Turning to Climate Skeptical Think Tank to Overrule NASA Climate Concerns

Here is more from the Associated Press:

Once a skeptic about climate change, Jim Bridenstine came around to the prevailing view of scientists before he took over as NASA administrator. That evolution did not sit well with a Trump environmental adviser, nor a think-tank analyst he was consulting, according to newly disclosed emails that illustrate how skepticism of global warming has found a beachhead in the Trump White House.
“Puzzling,” says the May 2018 exchange between William Happer, now a member of President Donald Trump’s National Security Council, and Thomas Wysmuller of the Heartland Institute, which disavows manmade climate change. Their exchange calls scientifically established rises in sea levels and temperatures under climate change “part of the nonsense” and urges the NASA head — who was copied in — to “systematically sidestep it.”
It cannot be discerned whether it was Happer or Wysmuller who put that pressure on the new NASA chief. Their exchange is included in emails from 2018 and 2019 that were obtained by the Environmental Defense Fund under the federal Freedom of Information Act and provided to The Associated Press.

The Trump Hotel recently hosted the Heartland Institute's annual climate conference.

Heartland has been working for years to unravel environmental rules. The think tank has also played a major role in staffing various EPA posts within the Trump Administration.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Russian Think Tank With Links to Infamous Troll Farm Says 2 Employees Detained in Libya

Here is more from the Associated Press:

Two people with links to an infamous Russian troll farm have been arrested in Libya, their employer, who has been put on the U.S. sanctions list, said on Friday.
The Foundation for the Protection of Traditional Values said in a statement that its employees, including well-known spin doctor Maxim Shugaley, have been kept in custody in Libya since May. It said that it has been working behind closed doors to secure the men's release.
The obscure think-tank did not explain the charges the men are facing but insisted that its employees did not interfere in any elections in Libya.
Shugaley and the think-tank are connected to the infamous Russian troll farm that featured prominently in the probe by U.S. special investigator Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The think-tank is chaired by Alexander Malkevich who until earlier this year also edited the English-language website USA Really which is part of a media empire reportedly run by Russian President Vladimir Putin's ally Yevgeny Prigozhin. The magnate reportedly finances the Internet Research Agency, better known as the "troll factory."

Here is another recent story about think tanks connected to the Mueller probe.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Papadopoulos Met Mysterious Professor Through Think Tank

Here is more from the Washington Post about George Papadopoulos, a former member of the foreign policy advisory panel to Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign:

At the time, Papadopoulos, a young energy consultant from Chicago, was working for a startup think tank called the London Center for International Law Practice and had just been drafted to be an unpaid foreign policy adviser for the Trump campaign.
On the day after he agreed to join the campaign, Papadopoulos said his boss at the London think tank offered to introduce him to “a very important person” who would be “very useful” in his new position.
This VIP, Papadopoulos wrote in his book “Deep State Target,” was [Josef] Mifsud.
Papadopoulos said he was told by Nagi Idris, the director of the London Center for International Law Practice, that a London attorney affiliated with the think tank named Arvinder Sambei would be setting up a meeting for Papadopoulos and Mifsud at an upcoming conference to be held at Link Campus University in Rome, a private university that was formerly affiliated with the University of Malta.
Sambei is a former government prosecutor in the United Kingdom who had for a time served as a liaison with the U.S. Justice Department on American extradition requests.
Trump allies have seized on her connection to the think tank where Papadopoulos worked as evidence that Mifsud was working with the British government.

The article also notes that Mifsud, who has been affiliated with various think tanks, connected Papadopoulos to a Russian think tank director with ties to the Russian Foreign Ministry and promised to help set up a meeting with the Russian ambassador.

The article also mentions another think tank, noting that CIA's Sherman Kent School for Intelligence Analysis organized a conference with the Gino Germani Institute, an Italian social sciences and strategic studies think tank which was affiliated at the time with Link Campus University.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch piece about Papadopoulos's connection to the Hudson Institute.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Elizabeth Warren's Campaign Relying on More Non-Think Tankers

Here is more from Politico:

The 2020 hopeful has tapped deep into her former world of academia, going well beyond Beltway think tanks.
Behind Elizabeth Warren’s trust-busting, Wall Street-bashing, tax-the-wealthy platform is a brain trust that extends well beyond the Beltway thinkers who often rubber stamp campaign proposals.
Instead, the former Harvard professor and her tight team of policy advisers have waded deeper into the world of academia than is usual in presidential campaigns, according to interviews with more than a dozen people her campaign has consulted and a review of the scholarship underlying her plans.
Leafing through Warren's plans posted on Medium, voters will find links to obscure academic literature from places like the Düsseldorf Institute for Competition Economics, the Upjohn Institute, the Journal of Applied Business and Economics, and the American Journal of Sociology. 

Sen. Warren has not been hesitant to spar with Washington's think tank establishment, including ones from the liberal side of the aisle.  For example, she has been at war with the Brookings Institution for years, and in 2015 she sent a letter to the president of the think tank regarding its numerous financial conflicts of interest.

She has also criticized New America for the firing of one of its employees. The think tank Third Way has bashed Warren over the years but has now started to embrace here.

She has said that think tanks play a "critical role" in shaping policy, but their "credibility is jeopardized when decisions are based on funder preferences."

Before running for the Senate, Warren had considered launching what she called a Center for Middle Class Policy at the liberal think tank Roosevelt Institute, a policy shop that has been giving her lots of love recently.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Meet the World's First Fully Cloud-Operated Policy Think Tank

The think tank world in changing rapidly, with a number of new think tank concepts that are changing the way ideas and policies are shaped and distributed.

The latest example is the Gagra Institute (website here), the world's first digital and fully cloud-operated independent policy think tank.  Gagra says it is based on the concept of an "officeless office."

Gagra was founded in Tbilisi, Georgia in 2018 and focuses largely on European and transatlantic security issues.

Its website lists five experts at the think tank, including Beka Kiria, the founder and former official at Georgia's Ministry of Defense.

Donations to the think tank can be made in cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, and ZCash.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Think Tank Quickies (#353)

  • Australian think tank: Climate change could pose existential threat by 2050.
  • Economist: Can think tanks survive a post-fact world? 
  • Fed Chair Jerome Powell speaks at Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).
  • Iran's Foreign Minister Zavad Zarif to miss his access to think tanks in New York?
  • Mexico's foreign minister calls think tanks "think thanks," and Spanish translation follows.
  • Dr. Lyall Swim: Can think tanks create the inevitable?
  • Hal Brands: America needs to reboot the university programs and think tanks that helped win the Cold War.
  • CAP has proposed the creation of an independent agency at the Dept. of Agriculture dedicated to maintaining competitive markets and protecting farmers from the effects of consolidation and will shop the idea on Capitol Hill.
  • New IRI report: China increasing efforts to shape perceptions through ties with and funding for think tanks. 
  • Cory Booker aide heads to Economic Innovation Group (EIG), a think tank started by early Facebook investor Sean Parker.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Think Tank CAP Selling Its News Site

Here is more from Daily Beast:

ThinkProgress, the flagship news site of the Democratic think tank Center for American Progress, is up for sale. 
Staff were informed on Monday afternoon that the site would be sold off and a CAP official told The Daily Beast that the organization would begin looking for prospective buyers for the website, which has come under severe financial strains during the Trump era.
“Unfortunately, like so many other news outlets that have relied on advertising to fund its work, ThinkProgress has seen a significant drop in revenue in recent years, along with other financial strains. In addition, events over the last few years have underscored the divergent missions of American Progress and ThinkProgress,” said Navin Nayak, executive director of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
Launched 14 years ago during the height of the Bush administration, ThinkProgress made a name for itself over time as an unapologetically progressive source of news and a launching pad for several major progressive luminaries. But the site, which is editorially independent from CAP, has struggled in recent years as advertising revenues have dried up and traffic has dipped.
 ThinkProgress has never been profitable. In the past, it has made up its shortfalls with contributions from CAP and CAP donors. Several ThinkProgress alums told The Daily Beast that they believed that CAP could continue covering the deficit but had concluded that the site was too much of an editorial headache and too big a financial drain for them to rationalize doing so. 
 Despite its troubles, ThinkProgress continues to be a strong draw for progressive readers, with more than 12 million pageviews and 7.5 million unique visitors in June 2019 alone, a CAP official said. 

Last month, it was reported that ThinkProgress had been bleeding money and staff.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Koch and Soros Join Forces in New Think Tank

An unlikely pair of billionaires are joining forces to start a new anti-war think tank called the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft.  Here is more from The Boston Globe, which broke the news:

In one of the most remarkable partnerships in modern American political history, [George] Soros and Charles Koch, the more active of the two [Koch] brothers, are joining to finance a new foreign policy think tank in Washington.  It will promote an approach to the world based on diplomacy and restraint rather than threats, sanctions, and bombings.  This is a radical notion in Washington, where every major think tank promotes some variant of neocon militarism or liberal interventionism.
Since peaceful foreign policy was a founding principle of the United States, it's appropriate that the name of the think tank harken back to history.  It will be called the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, a homage to John Quincy Adams, who in a seminal speech on Independence Day in 1821 declared that the United States "goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy.  She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all.  She is the champion and vindicator only of her own."
The institute plans to open its doors in September and hold an official inauguration later in the autumn.  Its founding donors - Soros's Open Society Foundation and the Charles Koch Foundation - have each contributed half a million dollars to fund its takeoff.  A handful of individual donors have joined to add another $800,000.  By next year the institute hopes to have a $3.5 million budget and a staff of policy experts who will churn out material for use in Congress and in public debates.  Hiring is underway.
It aims to issue four reports before the end of 2019: two offering alternative approaches to the Middle East and East Asia, one on "ending endless war," and one called "democratizing foreign policy."

The piece notes that Trita Parsi, former President of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), is a co-founder of the think tank, along with Suzanne DiMaggio (at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace), Stephen Wertheim (Columbia University), and Andrew Bacevich (Boston University).  The National Interest also notes that journalist Eli Clifton is a co-founder.

Here is what Vox had to say about Washington, DC's newest think tank.  Here is Reason's reaction.  Bill Kristol does not seem to be a big fan.  The Washington Times likens the new think tank to "bringing another U.N. in America's gates."

The think tank's new website can be found here.  It is currently seeking a director of media relations.

Update: "Can this new think tank clean up America's flabby foreign policy?"

Friday, June 28, 2019

Major US Think Tank Websites Blocked in China

Access to a number of US think tank websites is blocked in China, according to an analysis done by Think Tank Watch using the Comparitech database.

Think tanks that are blocked in China include: Brookings Institution, Wilson Center, Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), Cato Institute, and the Hudson Institute.

Ones that are accessible in China include the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Heritage Foundation, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Hoover Institution, Stimson Center, American Enterprise Institute (AEI), Center for Global Development (CGD), and the German Marshall Fund (GMF).

US Vice President Mike Pence postponed a speech planned for June 24 at the Wilson Center (one of the think tanks blocked in China) that was reportedly going to focus on criticizing China's human rights record.  The speech had already been postponed from June 4, the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

The Hudson Institute, another think tank blocked in China, has been a popular anti-China platform in the Trump Administration.  As Think Tank Watch has previously noted, renegade Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui met President Donald Trump's former strategist Stephen Bannon after a Hudson event.

The Center for Global Development was among the think tanks recently chided by China for spreading what it says are "false accusations" against its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), but one can still view CGD's website in China.

Although the US does not block any Chinese think tank websites, it has been blocking Chinese scholars from visiting the US over spying fears.

China has established a think tank presence in the US, helps fund a number of think tanks there, and has various other formal relations with US think tanks.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Minn. Think Tank Official Suspended Over Comments About Somali Refugees

Here is more from the Star Tribune:

Kim Crockett, vice president of a Minnesota think tank, has been placed on an unpaid 30-day disciplinary suspension for comments she made about Somali-Americans in a recent New York Times story examining the resistance to refugee resettlement in St. Cloud.
The article, published Thursday under the headline “ ‘These People Aren’t Coming From Norway’: Refugees in a Minnesota City Face a Backlash,” quoted several anti-immigration activists who are advocating for an increasingly explicit anti-Muslim agenda. Sources sounded off on their fears that the influx of Somali immigrants to the predominantly white region is fundamentally changing the culture.
Crockett, of the Center of the American Experiment, told the reporter that she plans to challenge the resettlement program in court.
On Thursday, the center issued a statement condemning Crockett’s controversial comments.

The Center of the American Experiment is a conservative think tank established in 1990.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Think Tank Quickies (#352)

  • Canadian think tank Mowat Centre soon closing. 
  • Ways the Economist uses to describe workers at think tanks.
  • 21 directors and senior fellows at European think tanks call on Washington to reconsider its approach to JCPOA with Iran.
  • Brendan Duke: "Greatest strength as a think tank staffer: I diligently print out every paper I should read.  Something to improve on: Actually reading those papers."
  • Vox: In the summer of 2006, a conservative think tank held a discussion with government officials, researchers, and...the producers behind 24.
  • Neera Agrawal of cryptocurrency policy think tank Coin Center: My tombstone will read "think tanks are not trade associations." 
  • Researchers at think tank C4ADS have noticed a funny thing happens when Vladimir Putin gets close to a harbor: The GPS of ships moored there go haywire, placing them many miles away on the runways of nearby airports.
  • Republicans' estimates that the Green New Deal would cost $93 trillion are based on a think tank study that doesn't endorse that total.
  • There is an emergent sanctions-industrial complex - a network of government agencies, law firms, technology providers, and think tanks with a vested interest in the unceasing expansion of sanctions programs.
  • Chinese, Russian think tanks establish joint Arctic Research Center.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

New Poll: Less Than 4% of UK Public Can Name a Think Tank

Here is more from London-based communications consultancy We Are Flint, which conducted the survey in partnership with research agency Delineate:

New research shows less than 4% (3.74%) of the UK public can name a think tank. The same research revealed that just 60% of the public say they know what a think tank is, but cannot name one. The Adam Smith Institute (1.44%) is the only think tank that more than 1% of the population can name, followed by the Fabian Society (0.85%), and the Bow Group (0.50%).

In 2018, We Are Flint released a poll showing that only one in two Americans actually knows what a think tank is.  Think Tank Watch should note that both polls were conducted online, a method that some say cannot always be trusted.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Bernie Sanders Blasts Third Way Think Tank

Here is more from MarketWatch:

Bernie Sanders is blasting what he calls “the corporate wing of the Democratic Party,” as centrists are reportedly growing more comfortable with Elizabeth Warren and the Massachusetts senator leads her Vermont counterpart in at least one presidential poll.
Linking to a Politico story titled “Warren emerges as potential compromise nominee,” Sanders tweeted, “The cat is out of the bag. The corporate wing of the Democratic Party is publicly ‘anybody but Bernie.’” Sanders said his agenda including Medicare for All and breaking up big banks “is the real threat to the billionaire class.”
The Politico article quotes a co-founder of centrist think tank Third Way, who is critical of “socialist” narratives in the campaign. “We really like the idea of using government to rectify market failure. And that’s what [Warren’s] about,” said the group’s Matt Bennett. 

Here is what above-mentioned Politico story says about Third Day:
Third Way, which isn’t backing a candidate, famously torpedoed Warren in a widely read 2013 op-ed that exposed the party’s ideological fissures on entitlements. “Nothing would be more disastrous for Democrats” than to adhere to Warren’s brand of economic populism, wrote two of the think tank’s leaders in a piece that drew condemnation from progressives.
Today, however, Third Way is learning to live with Warren even as it embarks on a mission to ensure the Democratic nominee doesn’t stray too far to the left.

Time reported that officials from Third Way were among those at a two-day strategy session about the 2020 elections, debating how to keep Sanders from defining the Democratic Party.

Sanders has also been sparring with other think tanks recently, including the Center for American Progress and Foreign Policy for America.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Could VP's Upcoming Wilson Center Speech Sink a US-China Deal?

Here is more from Bloomberg:

Vice President Mike Pence gave a speech last year that sounded a lot like a new Cold War with China and quickly became one of the most important on Sino-U.S. relations by an American official in recent years. Next Monday, June 24, he’s giving another at the Wilson Center, a talk originally planned for June 4, the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. There’s a risk that an overly hawkish tone just days before the G-20 could cause Beijing to recoil and jeopardize any hope of a substantive leaders’ meeting.

The speech referred to above was given by Pence in October 2018 at the Hudson Institute, a think tank that has become a major anti-China platform.

Update: The speech has been postponed again.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Think Tank Quickies (#351)

  • Hunter Biden has served on the board of a number of think tanks.
  • NATO accepting project proposals from think tanks.
  • New America China scholar Samm Sacks declines invitation due to all-male panel; directory of 500 female China scholars.
  • NYU event: Working in NGOs and think tanks with Nate Schenkkan of Freedom House. 
  • Overheard at a think tank event: "What's your philosophy on where to sit at these events."
  • Speed dating between students and European think tanks. 
  • RAND Corp. ran 4,944 simulations on Pittsburgh's future to help plan for climate change. 
  • Rep. Katie Hill (D-CA) attacks Chris Edwards of the Cato Institute.
  • Dr. Lyall Swim: Can think tanks create the inevitable?
  • Deutser Clarity Institute: "A think tank, idea accelerator, and learning lab."

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Renegade Chinese Billionaire Waging Battle That Touches Pair of Think Tanks

Here is more from Politico:

A billionaire at the center of U.S.-China tensions is waging a mysterious legal battle against two D.C. conservatives over a private espionage deal gone bad. The fight touches on a pair of think tanks, a senator’s widow and the capital’s tight-knit group of China hardliners, adding a new chapter to an international saga that has divided the Trump administration and the president’s external allies.
It began when a firm tied to the billionaire, real estate magnate Guo Wengui [who goes by Miles Kwok in the US], allegedly hired a private intelligence firm to dig up dirt on Chinese nationals — including their bank records, porn habits and any illegitimate children — then sued, saying the firm failed to deliver.
In early 2018, the Guo-linked firm hired Strategic Vision, an obscure company led by Washington-area executive French Wallop, to dig up information on several targets, whom the suit does not name.
In addition to Wallop, J. Michael Waller acted as a representative of Strategic Vision, according to a letter the firm submitted to the court. Waller is a vice president at the far-right Center for Security Policy, a think tank founded by Frank Gaffney, a national security activist known for his conspiratorial hostility to Islam
Guo was introduced to Strategic Vision by Lianchao Han, a dissident activist and visiting fellow at the conservative Hudson Institute.

As Think Tank Watch previously reported, President Donald Trump's former strategist Stephen Bannon met Guo Wengui after a Hudson Institute event was cancelled last year.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Trump Hotel to Host Climate-Denial Think Tank Conference

Here is more from ThinkProgress:

In late July, climate science deniers will descend upon the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. — located right across the street from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) — to attend the Heartland Institute’s annual climate conference. The theme this year is “Best Science, Winning Energy Policies.
When Trump announced in June 2016 that the United States would withdraw from the Paris climate deal, representatives from longtime anti-climate action groups like Koch-funded think tanks the American Energy Alliance, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and the Heritage Foundation were all present in the Rose Garden.
Many of these same think tanks will be attending Heartland‘s conference next month, where speakers will offer up policy ideas “to lead a post-alarmist world in climate realism” as well as discussing “the benefits of ending the Democrats’ war on fossil fuels.”
Heartland’s conference comes as the head of the group, former Republican Kansas Rep. Tim Huelskamp, abruptly stepped down last week, just two years after taking the position, while offering no explanation. The think tank has in recent years faced funding uncertainties, with even ExxonMobil no longer donating to the organization. As head of Heartland, Heulskamp focused on energy policy and promoting coal at the state level as opposed to vocal attacks on climate science as his predecessor Joseph Bast did.
The news of Huelskamp leaving his post comes shortly after another Koch-funded libertarian think tank, the Cato Institute, quietly announced it was disbanding its climate denial program, the Center for the Study of Science. A Cato spokesperson at the time, however, said this didn’t change the organization’s stance on human-caused climate change.

Heartland has been working for years to unravel environmental rules. The think tank has also played a major role in staffing various EPA posts within the Trump Administration.

Friday, June 14, 2019

New Trend: Deepfake Think Tank Scholars

As if the think tank industry didn't already have enough to worry about, now comes a new concern that is sending shivers down the spine of the scholarly world: foreign spies using AI-generated images and posing as think tankers to lure targets.

Here is more from the Associated Press:

Katie Jones sure seemed plugged into Washington’s political scene. The 30-something redhead boasted a job at a top think tank and a who’s-who network of pundits and experts, from the centrist Brookings Institution to the right-wing Heritage Foundation. She was connected to a deputy assistant secretary of state, a senior aide to a senator and the economist Paul Winfree, who is being considered for a seat on the Federal Reserve.
But Katie Jones doesn’t exist, The Associated Press has determined. Instead, the persona was part of a vast army of phantom profiles lurking on the professional networking site LinkedIn. And several experts contacted by the AP said Jones’ profile picture appeared to have been created by a computer program.
Experts who reviewed the Jones profile’s LinkedIn activity say it’s typical of espionage efforts on the professional networking site, whose role as a global Rolodex has made it a powerful magnet for spies.
The Jones profile was first flagged by Keir Giles, a Russia specialist with London’s Chatham House think tank. Giles was recently caught up in an entirely separate espionage operation targeting critics of the Russian antivirus firm Kaspersky Lab. So when he received an invitation from Katie Jones on LinkedIn he was suspicious.
She claimed to have been working for years as a “Russia and Eurasia fellow” at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, but Giles said that, if that were true, “I ought to have heard of her.”
CSIS spokesman Andrew Schwartz told the AP that “no one named Katie Jones works for us.”

Here is a Think Tank Watch piece from 2015 about fake think tanks.  In November 2018, Think Tank Watch noted that hackers had been impersonating US State Department officials in order to attack think tanks.  We also reported on fake Chinese think tank accounts used for spying.  There have also been several instances of people impersonating think tank scholars online.

Here is a 2017 Think Tank Watch story about another fake think tank that had been uncovered.  Here is another 2017 piece about fake think tanks.

Also in 2017, Russians dumped real documents hacked from the Bradley Foundation (which funds a number of think tanks), and added a forged letter indicating that the foundation had made an illegal $150 million donation to the Clinton campaign.

Was the White House's internal think tank a fake think tank?

Other problems that think tanks recently have had to deal with include: a serious spearphishing campaign, Chinese hackers, 2020 presidential candidates plagiarizing their work, China blocking US think tank scholars from entering the country, Russian hackers, pressure over funding sources, the leaking of emails, being targeted by Iran, gender inequality problems, illegal think tanking, and deceptive information operations.

Here is a recent Brookings piece on AI and deepfakes.

On a lighter note, here is a parody video of think tankers from another "fake" think tank: The Institute for the Promotion of War.  However, we tend to prefer the work of the Center for Advanced Bullshit Studies.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Think Tank's Influential Media Unit Bleeding Money, Staff

Here is more from The Daily Beast:

ThinkProgress, the website that is a project of the Democratic Party’s primary think tank, is facing dire financial troubles and bleeding staff, according to primary-source documents viewed by The Daily Beast.
A budget document provided to ThinkProgress management and obtained by The Daily Beast showed that the website was expecting a roughly $3 million gulf between revenue and expenses for 2019. ThinkProgress has never been a revenue generator, and has often made up for its deficits through fundraising efforts and funds from its mothership entity, the Center for American Progress (CAP). But the current outlook is significantly worse than ever before.
According to the document, advertising revenue is projected to fall $350,000 short of what was budgeted this year, and online contributions are expected to fall short by nearly $180,000. The site is projected to have about $64,000 in grant revenue (money derived from donations to CAP and meant for coverage by ThinkProgress) in 2019. That’s roughly $60,000 short of what it had budgeted for the year and roughly $540,000 less than it received in 2018. 
In the face of these falling revenue streams, ThinkProgress has seen payroll drop by 12 percent from its peak level in 2019 and “salary growth” by 5 percent, according to the document. Among those leaving is the site’s managing editor, Tara Culp-Ressler, who announced her departure last week
The numbers paint a grim picture for one of the better-known, unapologetically progressive media platforms. And it has been exacerbated by what a source described as a failure of leadership at CAP to provide answers about “the short- and long-term future of the site.” ThinkProgress is editorially independent from CAP and the accompanying Center for American Progress Action Fund, but operates within its organizational umbrella.
ThinkProgress launched in 2005 and quickly made a name for itself as a liberal-minded blog and sharp critic of the George W. Bush administration. Along the way, it became a launching pad for prominent political and journalism careers. Its former editor in chief, Faiz Shakir, is Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) 2020 campaign manager.

Talking of Sen. Sanders, he has been none too happy with CAP, particularly in recent months.

As Think Tank Watch previously noted, ThinkProgress staff unionized back in 2015.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Think Tank Quickies (#350)

  • New USIP report on extremism in fragile states says war on terror has cost US $5.9 trillion.
  • Trump pulls plug on Fed pic Stephen Moore, a habitué of conservative think tanks.
  • Silicon Valley-funded privacy think tanks fight in DC to unravel state-level consumer privacy protections. 
  • Russian think tanks and foreign policy-making.
  • 2019 ranking of free-market think tanks measured by social media impact.
  • Conservative think tank Hamilton Flourishing launched to help nudge Chattanooga area public policy toward right.
  • Bernie Sanders video: "Check out who funds the think tanks." 
  • Max Blumenthal: US military attack on Venezuela mulled by top Trump advisors and Latin American officials at private meeting at think tank CSIS (attendees list included).
  • The history of women at think tank Chatham House.
  • NYU event: Working at NGOs and think tanks. 
  • Conservative think tanks urge Republicans to oppose Sen. Lamar Alexander's "New Manhattan Project."

Saturday, June 8, 2019

2020 Democrats Lifting Material from Think Tanks

Here is more from Politico:

Twenty-four hours after Joe Biden’s campaign was taken to task for lifting portions of a climate change plan without citation, it’s clear that the former vice president has plenty of company.
A sampling of policy proposals from Biden’s leading rivals suggests the lifting of direct text from academic papers, think tanks or policy institutes — and the cribbing of facts without attribution — is fairly widespread on 2020 campaign websites.

Politicians often rely on think tanks specializing in certain issues for facts and legislative ideas.

People plagiarizing from think tanks and think tanks plagiarizing from others is quite prevalent.  Years ago, CNN's Fareed Zakaria was accused of plagiarizing from think tanks.  Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) was also accused of plagiarizing from various think tanks.

Even think tank CEOs have been accused of plagiarism.  Non-US think tanks have also been accused of plagiarism.

Friday, May 31, 2019

More Details on Papadopoulos's Connection to Think Tanks

Here is more from the Washington Post about George Papadopoulos, a former member of the foreign policy advisory panel to Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign:

Papadopoulos was an agreeable young man who’d often worked alongside Hudson Institute fellow Seth Cropsey. But most offered no response. Cropsey ignored multiple emails and eventually passed me on to the Hudson Institute press office, which offered careful and uninteresting replies.
George [Papadopoulos]...had been quick to pull up articles he’d written with Cropsey (claiming to have done most or all of the writing) and a photo of himself and Cropsey in a meeting with the president of Cyprus, to prove that he had played a crucial role at the Hudson Institute. But I was still waiting to see emails backing up other claims about his career there.

The article also notes that Papadopoulos exchanged emails with Ivan Timofeev of the Russian International Affairs Council, a "prominent Moscow think tank."

Here is a link to the biography of Seth Cropsey, Senior Fellow and Director of the Center for American Seapower at Hudson.

Did Papadopoulos lie about his think tank experience?

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Cato Institute Closes Its Climate Shop

Here is more from E&E News:

The Cato Institute quietly shut down a program that for years sought to raise uncertainty about climate science, leaving the libertarian think tank co-founded by Charles Koch without an office dedicated to global warming.
The move came after Pat Michaels, a climate scientist who rejects mainstream researchers' concerns about rising temperatures, left Cato earlier this year amid disagreements with officials in the organization.
"They informed me that they didn't think their vision of a think tank was in the science business, and so I said, 'OK, bye,'" Michaels said in an interview yesterday. "There had been some controversy going around the building for some time, so things got to a situation where they didn't work out."
A spokeswoman said Cato's shuttering of the Center for the Study of Science does not represent a shift in the institute's position on human-caused climate change. But the think tank moved decisively to close down the science wing that was overseen by Michaels. Ryan Maue, a meteorologist and former adjunct scholar, also left the center.
Cato also is no longer affiliated with Richard Lindzen, an emeritus professor of meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who has long been critical of established climate science. Lindzen was a distinguished fellow at the think tank.

A week ago, Jerry Taylor, President and Co-founder of the think tank Niskanen Center who used to work at Cato, penned a piece entitled "What Changed My Mind About Climate Change?"

As Dr. Janne Korhonen recently pointed out, in the context of climate change, 92% of environmentally skeptical books published between 1972 and 2005 were linked to conservative think tanks.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Think Tank Quickies (#349)

  • A $30,000+ prize for debut non-fiction proposals, open to think tankers.
  • PhRMA spends millions on conservative think tanks.
  • UK thinks tanks being tarnished by secretive right-wingers?
  • New spokesman for Saudi embassy works the think tank circuit.
  • British think tank that counters Russian information operations has been hacked
  • Ilhan Tanir: "I wonder if this new awakening re FARA registration will ever reach to some of Washington's think tanks' lobbying by any other name."
  • On China's investment in think tanks.
  • Talking Galleries: "Think tank for [art] galleries."
  • Pic: Food trucks visit think tanks.
  • Peter Mendelsund turns a homage to "The Magic Mountain" into a clever metafictional send-up of artists' retreats and tech-industry think tanks.

    Tuesday, May 21, 2019

    Top 3 Conservative Think Tanks Collectively Larger than Combined Budget of CRS & CBO

    Here is more from E.J. Fagan:

    Congress is more polarized and has less capacity to process complex information than ever. These trends are related. As Congress cut the budgets of its own internal think tanks – CRS and CBO – it began to rely more heavily on  party-aligned think tanks. This change makes it more difficult for members and leadership to build consensus and solve policy problems for their constituents.
    My work examines the congressional activities of the six largest (by expenditures) party-aligned think tanks. On the right, these include the Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute, and Cato Institute. On the left, they are the Center for American Progress, New America, and Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Collectively, these six institutions have grown to a massive size, while Congress’s internal think tanks, the CBO and CRS, are slowly shrinking. The below figure shows how rapidly these six think tanks have grown since 2001. The three conservative think tanks are collectively larger than the combined budget of the CBO and CRS. The three progressive think tanks, which began the 2000s as tiny blips on the screen, now spend over $100 million collectively.
    As they have grown, these party-aligned think tanks have become more influential in Congressional debates. One way that I measure the changing influence of think tanks over time is to observe how frequently they testify in hearings. The figure below charts the number of witnesses from the six think tanks per hearing against the staff witnesses from the CBO, CRS, and OTA. The two trends are mirror images of each other. When Congress cut the budgets of its analytical organizations in the mid-90s, there was a subsequent explosion in think tank witnesses. While this explosion subsided after the 104th Congress, a new equilibrium was established for much of the late-90s and early 2000s. Finally, the series accelerates again in the mid-2000s, as the analytical organization budgets suffered further cuts.

    E.J. Fagan is a Ph.D. student at the University of Texas at Austin.

    Think Tank Watch should note that the RAND Corporation by itself has a budget that is much larger than the CBO and CRS combined.