Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Think Tank Quickies (#322)

  • Norm Ornstein of conservative AEI: Rep. Devin Nunes should be expelled from Congress.
  • Flashback: SCOTUS Justice Clarence Thomas broke law by not disclosing his wife's $700k think tank salary.
  • IISS's new Armed Conflict Survey 2018.
  • Think tanks: When too much policy analysis is barely enough.
  • Transparify's 2018 think tank transparency report.
  • RAND Corp. on Russian propaganda model.
  • Moton Fellows visit Heritage Foundation.
  • US think tanks lobbying to secure US-UK trade deal?
  • Swedish think tank Timbro publishes first global index of the sharing economy.
  • ComRes study on think tank impartiality and influence.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Cato Institute Paid for Sen. Rand Paul Trip to Russia

Here is more from the New York Times:

Mr. [Rand] Paul was the only lawmaker on the trip, which was financed by the Cato Institute, a leading libertarian research organization in Washington.  He was accompanied by Peter Goettler, Cato's president and chief executive, and Don Huffines, a Texas state senator who was chairman of Mr. Paul's presidential campaign in the state.

Here is more about the trip and Cato's thoughts on Russia:

On Russia, the Cato Institute encourages policymakers to coordinate with leaders in Moscow on issues like nonproliferation and ending the Syrian civil war. Its policy handbook also advocates for replacing current American sanctions on Russia with ones that aim to impede the modernization of Russia's military.
Khristine Brookes, a spokeswoman from the Cato Institute, said that it did not set up the meetings with any of the Russian government officials, but it did set up meetings with other non-government organizations and booked sight-seeing trips.

Here is what the think tank's policy handbook says about US relations with Russia.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Heritage Action to Pour Millions Into 2018 Elections

Here is more from the Wall Street Journal:

Heritage Action for America, a political sister organization of the Heritage Foundation, has spent years getting Republicans riled up in policy fights. Now the group is trying something new: getting GOP lawmakers elected.
Founded in 2010, Heritage Action spent its early years stirring controversy as it pushed GOP leaders and lawmakers to take a more combative approach in negotiations with former President Barack Obama, a Democrat. But with President Donald Trump, a Republican, in office, the group is recalibrating its strategy and, for the first time, is getting significantly involved in congressional elections.
“The tactics have to change when you [Republicans] have the House, the Senate and the White House,” Tim Chapman, executive director of Heritage Action, said in an interview Monday.
“We have got a very good apparatus built for stopping bad legislation and for holding people accountable. We’re not quite as effective as we’d like to be at passing good pieces of legislation,” he said.
To change that, Heritage Action plans to spend $2.5 million, starting in early September, to help Republicans win in 14 congressional districts. The group plans to use its money on direct mail and digital ads promoting its view of how the tax law passed by Republicans last December is benefiting voters there. Additional money raised could be used on television ads, said the group’s vice president, Jessica Anderson.
The hope is that the campaign efforts will create allies on Capitol Hill and give Heritage Action ways to reward lawmakers, not just criticize them when the group views their voting records as not conservative enough. 

In related news, Heritage action has created a "pro-Kavanaugh activist toolkit to secure the Supreme Court for decades to come," according to Right Wing Watch.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Think Tank Quickies (#321)

  • RAND Corp. selected to help oversee national effort to increase funding for research on gun violence.
  • New Canadian think tank aims to provide First Nations perspectives.
  • US-backed think tanks target Latin America.
  • Top Turkish officials meeting with US think tanks; top Indian official meets think tankers.
  • RIP Frank Carlucci, longtime RAND Corp. trustee, adviser, and donor.
  • Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY) smears immigration think tank (Center for Immigration Studies, or CIS) as hate group.
  • R Street Institute: We said "think" tank not "steal" tank.
  • Ron Paul Liberty Report: The weapons makers and the "think tanks" they fund.
  • Derek Mitchell becomes new president of National Democratic Institute (NDI).
  • List of tax policy experts at think tanks.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Crackdown on Chinese Think Tank Unirule

Here is more from the China Digital Times:
On Tuesday, one of China’s last remaining liberal think-tanks, Unirule, was evicted from its Beijing offices. The leasing company even went as far as to weld the office doors shut, temporarily imprisoning the employees in an act that serves as a fitting metaphor for the increasing restrictions on political discourse under Xi Jinping.
Founded in 1993 by liberal economist Mao Yushi, Unirule has a history of disagreement with the CCP. In 2009 it successfully fought for the suspension of a legal amendment that would have expanded government land control. In 2012, Mao won the Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty from the U.S.-based Cato Institute, a free-market think-tank.

Here is more from the South China Morning Post:
In January last year, online censors shut down its website and deleted the social media accounts of several of its [Unirule's] members. Four months later, the institute was barred from holding an academic seminar during the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, with staff members arriving at their former office one morning to find the front door locked and the lift button to their floor disabled.
Unirule moved to its current address inside a gated residential community in the west of Beijing in October after being forced to vacate an office building in the city’s downtown area.
The organisation, like other liberal academics and opinion leaders, has been under increased pressure since President Xi Jinping came to power in late 2012 and began his programme of tightening controls on ideology and clamping down on dissent.

In related news, the New York Times has reported that Xu Zhangrun, a law professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing, "took a big risk" when he "delivered the fiercest denunciation yet from a Chinese academic of Mr. Xi's hard-line policies."  Professor Xu reportedly wrote an essay that appeared on the website of Unirule.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Pompeo & Mattis Using Hoover Institution to Rebel Against Trump?

Here is more from a Politico piece entitled "On Cleanup Duty After Trump Diplomatic Blowups":

President Donald Trump’s top national security and foreign policy leaders declared their allegiance Tuesday to the global order that U.S. diplomacy fashioned and reinforced over the decades — just a week after Trump upended that order in Helsinki.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis completed two days of meetings with Australia's foreign and defense ministers at the Hoover Institution, a citadel of the foreign policy elite that’s become increasingly dismayed by Trump’s repeated slams at NATO, widening trade war and last week’s private meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
A top aide to Mattis said the choice to hold this week's meetings at Hoover, where many foreign policy and national security veterans of Republican and Democratic administrations are in residence, was made months ago and was not intended to send any signal beyond that both the United States and Australia are Pacific powers.
The Hoover Institution was founded in 1919 by future President Herbert Hoover, who played a leading role in the American reconstruction of war Europe after both world wars. The think tank is a repository for some of the most exhaustive records on Nazi propaganda and the Cold War and has served as an intellectual incubator for some of the top diplomats and national security leaders over the years.
Working just a few steps from where Mattis and Pompeo held their meetings, for example, are leading GOP figures such as George Shultz, Ronald Reagan's secretary of state, and Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser and secretary of state under George W. Bush. Its visiting research fellows over the years have included former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and, most recently, retired Army Lt. Gen H.R. McMaster, who served as Trump's national security adviser until earlier this year. McMaster was among the Trump administration's toughest critics of Russia.

The article goes on to note that Michael McFaul, who is on a list on names of people that the Russian government wants to question in connection to unspecified criminal allegations, is also a Hoover scholar.  Here is Hoover's statement supporting McFaul.

Here is a livestream of the July 24 Mattis/Pompeo event at Hoover.

The think tank recently held an event to promote former CIA and NSA director Michael Hayden's new book "The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies."

Here is Think Tank Watch's recent piece about H.R. McMaster returning to Hoover.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Historians Quit UVA Think Tank After Hiring of Ex-Trump Aide

Here is more from HuffPost:

Two distinguished historians at the University of Virginia have resigned from its public policy center following the school’s recent hiring of a former aide to President Donald Trump, a decision that has also spurred protests among students and faculty.
William I. Hitchcock and Melvyn P. Leffler announced their departures from the Miller Center of Public Affairs on Monday to protest Marc Short, Trump’s former legislative affairs director, receiving a paid fellowship at the think tank that also studies the presidency. The professors blasted Short’s fellowship as running counter to the center’s values.
“By associating himself with an administration that shows no respect for truth, he has contributed to the erosion of civil discourse and democratic norms that are essential to democratic governance and that are central to the mission of the Miller Center,” read a letter shared by Hitchcock on Twitter.
William Antholis, the center’s director and CEO, said in a statement he was saddened by their departure but that Short’s appointment would help promote the think tank’s goals.

From 2004-2014, Mr. Antholis was managing director of the Brookings Institution, a think tank that has been embroiled in various controversies for years.  Here is a statement from Antholis.

A National Review piece entitled "A Baseless Attack on Marc Short" is on the UVA think tank's website.  Slate says the two professors were right to leave.

Politico asks if the UVA drama is a warning to Trump officials looking for new gigs, including at think tanks.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Think Tank Quickies (#320)

  • Average US/UK think tank report now 42.5 pages?
  • Pic: Junckermania at CSIS (via Politico's Doug Palmer).
  • Nahal Toosi of Politico: "Dear People Who Run Think Tanks: Your panel discussions would get more attention (and actually be of greater quality) if you rely more on moderators who aren't afraid to ask hard questions.  Like reporters."
  • Cato's biennial Milton Freedman Prize for Advancing Liberty dinner honoring Ladies in White.
  • What transpires behind curtains in Washington think tanks about Kashmir?
  • Robert Reich in South Korea at invitation of the government's major economic think tank.
  • World Resources Institute (WRI) Africa opens.
  • RAND research: Truth Decay; RAND publications in Arabic.
  • American academics helping whitewash former KGB agent Vladimir Yakunin's think tank?
  • Timothy Lee: It's surprising how little think tank work there is on self-driving cars.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

AEI President Calls for "Politics Cleanse"

American Enterprise Institute (AEI) President Arthur Brooks is calling for a "politics cleanse" in a new op-ed in the New York Times.  Here is an excerpt:

Have you felt less popular lately than you once were? Are people avoiding you? Are your party invitations getting lost in the mail? Maybe it’s your breath.
Or, just maybe, it’s because you can’t stop talking about politics.
What to do? Start with a politics cleanse: For two weeks — maybe over your August vacation — resolve not to read, watch or listen to anything about politics. Don’t discuss politics with anyone. When you find yourself thinking about politics, distract yourself with something else. (I listen to Bach cantatas, but that’s not for everybody.) This is hard to do, of course, but not impossible. You just have to plan ahead and stand firm. Think of it as ideological veganism. On the one hand, your friends will think you’re a little wacky. On the other hand, you’ll feel superior to them.

Think Tank Watch should note that Arthur Brooks is stepping down from his think tank perch next summer.  Some say that House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), who is retiring from Congress, would be the "perfect fit" to succeed Brooks.  The job, which pays around $1 million, would give Ryan nearly five times what he makes now.

Pay-to-Play Scheme Rocks UK Think Tank IEA

Here is more from The Guardian about the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), a UK-based think tank established in 1955 by admirers of the free-market economist Friedrich Hayek:

A rightwing thinktank has been offering potential US donors access to government ministers and civil servants as it raises cash for research to support the free-trade deals demanded by hardline Brexiters, according to an investigation.
The director of the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) was secretly recorded telling an undercover reporter that funders could get to know ministers on first-name terms and that his organisation was in “the Brexit influencing game”.
Mark Littlewood claimed the IEA could make introductions to ministers and said the thinktank’s trade expert knew Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, David Davis and Liam Fox well.
The IEA chief was also recorded suggesting potential US donors could fund and shape “substantial content” of research commissioned by the thinktank and that its findings would always support the argument for free-trade deals.
The investigation, undertaken in May and June, also revealed the thinktank had already provided access to a minister for a US organisation.

Here is more coverage from various sources:
  • Think tank faces double investigation after 'cash for access' claims (The Guardian).
  • Institute of Economic Affairs think tank 'offered access to ministers' (The Times).
  • A hard Brexit think tank told a potential donor it could influence its research reports in exchange for funding (Unearthed). 
  • Labor demands investigation into right-wing think tank over accusations it offered 'access to ministers' (Independent)
  • Revealed: BP and gambling interests fund secretive free market think tank (Ecologist).
  • Revealed: How the Uk's powerful right-wing think tanks and Conservative MP's work together (openDemocracy UK
  • Revealed: IEA think tank bosses' £4.6 million for Tories (The Red Roar). 
  • Casino owners donated to IEA after think tank's pro-gambling report (The Guardian).
  • The IEA's "Brexit-influencing game" shows think tanks are open to abuse (NewStatesman). 
  • IEA think tank faces registration as a lobbyist as government tsar opens investigation (Third Sector).
  • Jersey Finance paid for IEA report rubbishing 'hotbeds of tax evasion' claims (The Guardian). 
  • Channel Island banks fund IEA research defending tax havens (Unearthed).
  • IEA think tank unveils pro-gambling report after being funded by casino industry players (Casino Guardian).
  • Institute of Economic Affairs says it has 'no apology' to make over newspaper claims (Third Sector).
  • Institute of Economic Affairs defends 'cash for access' (BBC)
  • The Daily Devil's Dictionary: Think Tanks Provide "Access" (Fair Observer). 
  • Why it's time for the Institute of Economic Affairs to be pulled off air (Left Foot Forward).

Here you can watch the undercover video that exposed all of this.

Here is IEA's formal response, via Mark Littlewood.

Here is a Twitter thread where IEA's news editor Kate Andrews defends her think tank.

The IEA example is one of numerous pay-to-play schemes at think tanks that has come to light over the past several years.

Stay tuned for more updates soon...

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Influential Texas Think Tank Goes National

Here is more from ThinkProgress:

The Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF), a conservative think tank and advocacy group, emerged as a political force in the Lone Star State more than a decade ago. While its influence was largely contained to Texas for many years, TPPF has found an eager audience in the White House and is now flexing its muscle on the national stage.
Founded almost 30 years ago, TPPF is a Koch-funded research and advocacy group that touts itself as a defender of liberty and free enterprise. By no means a strictly libertarian group, the group also attracts widespread support from social conservatives, counting former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) as two of its most prominent allies.  [Sen. Ted Cruz joined the organization as a senior fellow in March 2010 where he helped launch the Center for Tenth Amendment Studies. In 2012, Cruz won election to the U.S. Senate.]
From the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) to the Department of Energy (DOE), former TPPF officials are now filling top roles in the Trump administration and are working to promote pro-fossil fuel and anti-environment policies at the national level.
The Trump administration, in fact, has already turned into a revolving door for TPPF officials. At least eight TPPF senior staff members have joined or were recruited by the administration. One former TPPF employee has already served two stints in the Department of Energy under Perry’s leadership and another foundation employee returned to TPPF after a brief stint in President Donald Trump’s State Department.
Through its advocacy of far-right policy positions and its fundraising prowess, TPPF has joined the Heritage Foundation and other well-established national think tanks as the go-to policy shops for the president and his band of ultra-conservatives.  In recent years, TPPF started co-branding reports and conferences with the Heritage Foundation and other high-profile groups associated with the State Policy Network (SPN) that added to its clout.
The Texas Public Policy Foundation was founded in 1989 by James Leininger, a Christian conservative who became extremely wealthy by selling hospital beds. By the early 1990s, he emerged as one of Texas’ top political donors, spending millions on conservative candidates.

Here is another ThinkProgress piece on TPPF.
Here is a link to the website of the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Think Tank Quickies (#319)

  • Lydia Dennett of POGO: Foreign influence laws (i.e., FARA) may apply to think tank activity.
  • Government-backed think tank warns of potential "financial panic" in China, a leaked report revealed.
  • Did alleged Russian agent Maria Butina, who attending American University, attend think tank events in Washington, DC?
  • Brookings scholar Jung Pak, a former CIA analyst, buys $2.2 million home in Chevy Chase.
  • Center for International Policy (CIP) launches Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative.
  • Some science journals (and think tanks?) that claim to peer review papers do not do so.
  • Computer algorithms can test the dodginess of published reports?
  • Slate: Conservative think tanker accidentally argues that single-payer could save Americans $2 trillion.
  • RAND Corp. develops IT solutions to enable the transition to unassigned office space. 
  • Largest inauguration in think tank history (via WiiSE)?

Monday, July 30, 2018

More Brevity Needed in Think Tank Papers?

Think Tank Watch has read countless think tank papers over 100 pages long and would be happy to do so never again.  Should think tank reports be shorter?  Here is more from the Wall Street Journal about published economic papers being too long:

A backlash is building against inflation—the kind showing up in economics journals.
The average length of a published economics paper has more than tripled over the past four decades, and some academics are sick of wading through them. At this year’s American Economics Association conference, Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor David Autor compared a 94-page working paper about the minimum wage to “being bludgeoned to death with a Nerf bat” and started a Twitter hashtag, #ThePaperIsTooDamnedLong.
“It was a very good paper,” Mr. Autor said in a later interview, but it set him off because it represented the “logorrhea of our current state of scholarship.”
Let’s get to the point: Economists want economists to talk less. The AEA announced last year it would launch a journal dedicated to publishing only concise papers, at least by economists’ standards—nothing longer than 6,000 words, or about 15 double-spaced pages. 
Between 1970 and 2017, the average length of papers published in five top-ranked economics journals swelled from 16 pages to 50 pages, according to an analysis by University of California, Berkeley economists Stefano DellaVigna and David Card. 

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post entitled "Does Anyone Actually Read Think Tank Reports?"

Here is Stephanie Evergreen on why no one is readying your report.

Tom Hashemi says that a forthcoming study will show that the average length of a think tank report in the UK and US is 42.5 pages.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

H.R. McMaster Returns to Hoover Institution

Here is more from the Wall Street Journal:

H.R. McMaster, pushed out in April as President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, is joining Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, where he hopes to develop bipartisan national security ideas.
Mr. McMaster, who struggled to retain influence in the fractious White House, said, as a senior fellow, he hopes his work can influence national security policy as the U.S. works to combat rising threats from rivals such as Russia and China.
While working at Hoover, Mr. McMaster said he also is planning to write a book. But those looking for a tell-all tale of West Wing intrigue are likely to be disappointed. Mr. McMaster said he plans to write a substantive book about national security.
Mr. McMaster first worked at Hoover in 2002 as a national security affairs fellow and then served as a visiting fellow from 2003 to 2017. He will now become the Fouad and Michelle Ajami Senior Fellow, a post commemorating the Middle East scholar who was friends with Mr. McMaster.

It was already expected that McMaster would return to think tank land.  Here is a Think Tank Watch post about conservatives attacking McMaster for his previous think tank work.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

US Think Tank Facilitated Russian Spy Meeting with Gov't Officials?

Here is more from Reuters:

Maria Butina, accused in the United States of spying for Russia, had wider high-level contacts in Washington than previously known, taking part in 2015 meetings between a visiting Russian official and two senior U.S. officials.
The meetings, disclosed by several people familiar with the sessions and a report prepared by a Washington think tank that arranged them, involved Stanley Fischer, then Federal Reserve vice chairman, and Nathan Sheets, then Treasury undersecretary for international affairs.
Butina traveled to the United States in April 2015 with Alexander Torshin, then the Russian Central Bank deputy governor, and they took part in separate meetings with Fischer and Sheets to discuss U.S.-Russian economic relations during Democratic former President Barack Obama’s administration. 
The meetings with Fischer and Sheets were arranged by the Center for the National Interest, a Washington foreign policy think tank that is supportive of efforts to improve U.S.-Russia relations. Paul Saunders, its executive director, in December 2016 urged then President-elect Donald Trump to ease tensions with Russia. In articles in its magazine, The National Interest, members of the think tank have also warned of the costs to the United States of confronting Russia or getting involved in Eurasian conflicts.
The meetings were documented in a Center for the National Interest report seen by Reuters that outlined its Russia-related activities from 2013 to 2015. The report described the meetings as helping bring together “leading figures from the financial institutions of the United States and Russia.”
Saunders, the think tank’s executive director, said Torshin spoke at an April 2015 event about the Russian banking system and Butina attended as Torshin’s interpreter. Saunders said people at the organization cannot recall details of Torshin’s presentation. 

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch piece about the Center for the National Interest (CNI) hosting Donald Trump.

Here is a ProPublica piece entitled "Why Russian Spies Really Like American Universities."

Update from Politico on July 26: Spotted at the Center for the National Interest’s annual Distinguished Service Award Dinner honoring Secretary of Defense James Mattis last night at the Four Seasons Hotel: Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), Ret. Gen. Charles Boyd, Dimitri Simes, Paul Saunders, Dov Zakheim, Drew Gruff, Grover Norquist, Samah Norquist David Norquist, Suhail Khan, Jacob Heilbrunn and Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Think Tank Quickies (#318)

  • Evaluating increases in think tank executive compensation, by Ignacio Delcavoli.
  • What does a think tank have to do with your life? (via Rich Larsen, President of Utah-based Sutherland Inst.)
  • Think tanks stress importance of college completion.
  • Russia's Sputnik: DC think tank experts paid to play by companies, foreign states (interviewing Max Blumenthal).
  • Iowa county to hold public "think tanks."
  • John Bolton's new NSC chief of staff worked at Center for Security Policy.
  • "My mom just asked me if working at a think tank means I get a thinking cap.  'Does it have a propellor on top?'"
  • Are you single, taken, or a think tank?
  • Cato scholar: "There oughta be a German word for when cable news covers a complex area of policy wonkery but interviews a person who clearly has no knowledge of the subject and just Googled it before the hit." 
  • Dinesh D'Souza, formerly a fellow at AEI and Hoover, pardoned by President Trump.

Friday, July 6, 2018

How Heritage Stocked Trump's Government

Here are our favorite excerpts from a New York Times Magazine piece by Jonathan Mahler about how the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation has staffed the Trump Administration:


On staffing the Trump Administration:
The Trump team may not have been prepared to staff the government, but the Heritage Foundation was. In the summer of 2014, a year before Trump even declared his candidacy, the right-wing think tank had started assembling a 3,000-name searchable database of trusted movement conservatives from around the country who were eager to serve in a post-Obama government. The initiative was called the Project to Restore America, a dog-whistle appeal to the so-called silent majority that foreshadowed Trump’s own campaign slogan.

On Trump and Heritage being an unlikely match:
In some ways, Trump and Heritage were an unlikely match. Trump had no personal connection to the think tank and had fared poorly on a “Presidential Platform Review” from its sister lobbying shop, Heritage Action for America, which essentially concluded that he wasn’t even a conservative.

On helping each other:
And yet Heritage and Trump were uniquely positioned to help each other. Much like Trump’s, Heritage’s constituency is equal parts donor class and populist base. Its $80 million annual budget depends on six-figure donations from rich Republicans like Rebekah Mercer, whose family foundation has reportedly given Heritage $500,000 a year since 2013. But it also relies on a network of 500,000 small donors, Heritage “members” whom it bombards with millions of pieces of direct mail every year. The Heritage Foundation is a marketing company, a branding agency — it sells its own Heritage neckties, embroidered with miniature versions of its Liberty Bell logo — and a policy shop rolled into one. But above all, Heritage is a networking group.

On victory for Heritage:
Today it is clear that for all the chaos and churn of the current administration, Heritage has achieved a huge strategic victory. Those who worked on the project estimate that hundreds of the people the think tank put forward landed jobs, in just about every government agency. Heritage’s recommendations included some of the most prominent members of Trump’s cabinet: Scott Pruitt, Betsy DeVos (whose in-laws endowed Heritage’s Richard and Helen DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society), Mick Mulvaney, Rick Perry, Jeff Sessions and many more. Dozens of Heritage employees and alumni also joined the Trump administration — at last count 66 of them, according to Heritage, with two more still awaiting Senate confirmation. It is a kind of critical mass that Heritage had been working toward for nearly a half-century.

On the five ideologies of Heritage:
[Heritage co-founded Ed] Feulner packaged his fledgling think tank’s ideology into five basic principles: free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional values and a strong national defense. 

Heritage avoids never-Trump:
In March 2016, the Republican establishment stepped up its effort to stop Trump. More than 100 Republican national-security experts signed an open letter publicly committing to fight his election, calling him a “racketeer” and denouncing his dishonesty and “admiration for foreign dictators.” A number of the signatories were fellows of conservative think tanks; none were affiliated with Heritage at the time. Heritage treated Trump as it would any other candidate, giving his campaign staff more than a dozen briefings and sending them off with decks of cards bearing Heritage policy proposals and market-tested “power phrases.”

On what Heritage staffers ate during election night:
On election night, Heritage turned its first floor over to a viewing party with an open bar, chicken wings and red, white and blue cupcakes.

On Heritage staffing the Trump Administration:
Heritage helped place countless others, from staff assistants to cabinet secretaries. In some cases, DeMint intervened directly, calling Pence to argue for Mick Mulvaney, a former congressman whose political career DeMint helped start years earlier in South Carolina. Mulvaney is now the director of the Office of Management and Budget, and as this article went to press, he was serving out the remaining time in a stint as the acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau...

On current Heritage-Trump relations:
The president and his favorite think tank continue to draw closer. Administration officials speak regularly at Heritage and give frequent interviews to The Daily Signal. In April, Pruitt and Attorney General Jeff Sessions were both scheduled to speak at a Heritage donor conference in Palm Beach, Fla. (Sessions, under fire from the president because of the Russia investigation, dropped out.)

On the Trump-Heritage revolving door:
Churn is a central feature of this administration, even for its unofficial staffing agency. Paul Winfree, a Heritage economist who helped draft Trump’s first budget, is back at the think tank. So are Stephen Moore, who worked on the Trump tax cuts; David Kreutzer, who played a key role in dissolving a White House working group that was studying the monetary costs associated with climate-warming carbon dioxide; and Hans von Spakovsky, who helped run the now-defunct voter-fraud commission...

Here is a recent Think Tank Watch piece about big changes that have taken place recently at the Heritage Foundation.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Dark Cloud Lingers Over Think Tank New America

The Washingtonian's Rachel Cohen has a new piece entitled "A Think Tank's Troubles" about huge problems at New America.  Here are some of Think Tank Watch's favorite excerpts:


On New America President/CEO Anne-Marie Slaughter's thinking about think tank funding:
According to a recording of the meeting, she [Anne-Marie Slaughter] said that while she recognized that the standard in journalism was never to show sources what you were writing, New America’s “norm can’t be that. We’re an organization that develops relationships with funders. And you know, these are not just black boxes; they’re people. Google is a person, the Ford Foundation—these are people. . . . And particularly when they give you money, which is really a nice thing . . . basic courtesy I think requires—if you know something really bad, you say, ‘Here’s a heads-up.’ ”

On New America's past and present:
Founded at the height of the Nasdaq boom, New America was meant to be an antidote to other Washington think tanks—a young, nimble provocateur that would dispense with convention and birth fresh ideas. Nearly two decades later, the organization, which now employs more than 250 people, is casting about for relevance in a hyper-partisan era, according to interviews with more than three dozen current and former staffers, many of whom wanted anonymity for fear of retribution in the tight-knit DC policymaking community. In a way, it’s a symbol of an entire Washington industry—policymaking—that’s under pressure to fund itself without making ideological or ethical sacrifices. If the Open Markets episode became a public-relations debacle, it also alienated a swath of the organization and exposed how much New America has outgrown its earliest ambitions.

On a shift in New America funding:
After 2009, however, the think tank began landing US government contracts, including millions of dollars’ worth of work from the State Department and the US Agency for International Development to help develop covert wireless networks for dissidents in Iran, Syria, Libya, and Cuba. Given that the organization had long prided itself on not being another Beltway bandit feeding off federal agencies, this shift disturbed some who worried that it signaled mission drift.  “I think government dollars automatically change the character of an institution,” says the Atlantic’s Steve Clemons, one of New America’s first employees. “I was opposed completely, entirely, 9,000 percent. It dumbs down institutions, whether people want to believe it does or not.”

On funding tension at the think tank:
Fix the Debt was an enormous publicity generator for New America and was among its biggest moneymakers. The majority of its funders, though, were Republicans, including Wall Street tycoon Pete Peterson. And that caused liberals in the organization to blanch at its association with the right. Board member Bernard Schwartz, a major liberal donor who backed both the economic-growth program and nearly all of the fellows program, became so uncomfortable that he cut ties with the think tank. Eventually, Fix the Debt and its parent program parted ways with New America, too.

On New America's new office:
One of Slaughter’s first orders of business was moving New America from its modest downtown headquarters to a building a block from the White House. The space had all the amenities of a DC power player: a wrap-around roof deck with views of the Mall, trendy teal accents, and sleek design. The upgrade of 20,000 square feet raised some eyebrows internally, but Slaughter stressed that the extra space was essential. “It embodies who we are and where we want to go and inspires us to get there,” she declared.

On criticizing donors:
Five months into Slaughter’s tenure, a New America policy analyst published a blog post criticizing a partnership between Comcast and an online-education website. Despite objections from New America program directors, according to an e-mail, Slaughter allowed a senior VP at Comcast to write a defensive and self-congratulatory response in the think tank’s weekly newsletter.  Employees would get another portrait the next year when a New America fellow named Steve LeVine was reporting an exposé on Sakti3, a battery company. Its CEO called Slaughter to broach the idea of funding New America but also voiced concerns about LeVine’s reporting. Afterward, Slaughter went to LeVine’s editor to relay the CEO’s objections. As word of the conversation spread, staff felt that a line had been crossed. Slaughter apologized to LeVine for interfering with the story.

On Slaughter's political alliances:
Slaughter’s political alliances also became news, in silly as well as serious ways. In 2015, four months after Donald Trump decided to run for President, Slaughter and a colleague met Ivanka Trump at an event in DC. After chatting, Trump asked the women for their shoe sizes so she could send each a pair of boots from her fashion line. They obliged, and when the boots showed up in the mail, Slaughter and her colleague took them home.  A year later, just before the election, WikiLeaks released e-mails revealing that Slaughter had been collaborating informally with Hillary Clinton’s campaign. The e-mail traffic showed Slaughter trying to persuade New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman that the uproar around Clinton’s private e-mail use was overblown and that “everyone” Slaughter knew at State also used private e-mail.  As it was, stories were circulating that their boss was gunning for a post in a Clinton White House and grooming their think tank for Hillary’s presidency. Since Slaughter took over, more than a dozen former Obama administration appointees have joined the ranks. A couple, including Cecilia Muñoz, Obama’s top domestic-policy adviser, are among New America’s VPs.

On New America's annual retreats:
Phil Longman, who worked at New America for 18 years until last summer when he departed with Lynn, says you could see the organization watering down its unorthodox brand through its annual retreats. They used to be “freeform” gatherings attended by staff and board members, “punctuated by highly competitive rounds of touch football and also a fair amount of drinking,” he says. “But starting about ten years ago, these fellows retreats gave way to highly formal, scripted sessions in which fellows, if they were allowed to talk at all, were asked to put on dog-and-pony shows for would-be donors. The most original and iconoclastic thinkers were generally left off the program because, well, their ideas were ‘unfundable.’ Eventually, if you weren’t ‘fundable,’ you were gone.”

On New America's financial woes:
In particular, some worried about the organization’s financial footing.  For one thing, New America had beefed up its administrative teams, adding staff in fundraising and other areas and expanding the organization’s central bureaucracy, a turnaround from its lean beginnings. The number of staffers earning more than $100,000 in reportable compensation jumped from 29 in 2014 to 49 by 2016, according to tax filings. Slaughter earned $535,000 in 2015, her salary increasing 27 percent a year later to $677,000. (The president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a think tank with comparable revenues, took home $242,000 in 2016.)  There was also the cost of the upscale new DC headquarters. According to financial audits, New America reported rent expenses of $1.3 million in 2014, the last full year it was in its old building, while rent expenses for the new space amounted to $3.3 million in 2016.  Program directors were being asked to hand over more money toward fixed costs. “The culture has really shifted in major ways over the last five years, from a place where the center supports the programs to one where the programs support the center,” says Sascha Meinrath, a former New America vice president who led its tech-policy program from 2008 to 2014.  According to internal budget documents, as the organization laid out its 2017 budget, it was seeing red. Revenues had been jumping, from $14 million in 2008 to $38 million by 2016, according to its public tax filings. But so had expenses. Going into 2017, New America was privately forecasting that expenses would badly exceed revenue, leading to a projected drop of $11 million in net assets. Not helping matters was that the organization has no endowment.

On a think tank book launch:
Slaughter also pointed to a forthcoming book by one of its then fellows, Franklin Foer. World Without Mind: The Existential Threat of Big Tech argues that Silicon Valley poses a threat to civil society.  The invocation took Foer by surprise. A few months earlier, as he’d been preparing for the book’s release, he’d sensed the think tank was backing away from it. First, he says, the organization informed him that his New York book event would no longer be primarily hosted by New America and that the viewpoints represented on the panel would need to be “balanced.” Foer had attended many other New America book events and knew “balance” was not a typical requirement for what are mainly celebratory events for fellows. Still, he agreed to the conditions. “But after the fact,” he says, “I learned that the development officer, Meredith [Hanley], had a meeting where she freaked out about the prospect of my book causing blowback for New America from Google and was putting pressure on the fellows program to try to somehow dampen their association with it.”
On hiring a management consultant:
That month, the think tank’s board hired a management consultant named Jon Huggett to interview nearly 40 people affiliated with the organization. He found that most employees he spoke to felt confident about the organization’s intellectual independence and that Lynn’s departure wasn’t seen as due to funder pressure. “Barry behaved rationally, for himself,” said one. In the end, Slaughter retained the backing of the board—one of its co-chairs at the time suggested in a letter to staff that Lynn had used New America as a scapegoat to advance his own interests.

On the future of New America:
Some still feel anxious about the think tank’s finances and future. The organization has had four CFOs in the past five years, and there was an abrupt leadership shake-up on the board last November. While New America has had continued success raising restricted funds for program-specific initiatives, like most nonprofits it has a harder time raising unrestricted dollars. In 2016, an internal committee was tasked with reviewing the organization’s finances, out of recognition, they said, that winning more program grants does not necessarily leave enough money to cover the organization’s fixed costs. Their recommendations to the board included growing more policy programs as well as increasing New America’s corporate-donor pipeline by 30 to 40 prospects annually. (In 2017, 8 percent of funding came from big business.) While the committee noted that the organization was staying afloat thus far by increasing board support and netting big gifts, this was “not a long-term strategy.”

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post documenting all the happenings and reaction related to New America's Google incident.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Atlantic Council to Hold Russia Event to Counterbalance Trump-Putin Meeting

The Washington, DC-based think tank Atlantic Council, which heavily supports US-Europe ties and NATO, is working furiously to counter what is sees as the threat from Russia.

Here is more from Axios

On the same day that President Trump is in Helsinki to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, legislators from Western nations will be in Washington for a meeting, sponsored by the Atlantic Council, to discuss the Russian threat and the challenges posed by social media and disinformation.
The state of play: "Pulling at the Strings: The Kremlin’s Interference in Elections," will feature Sens. Mark Warner and Marco Rubio, with members of parliament from the U.K., Canada, Eastern Europe and elsewhere.
  • Warner, who approached the Atlantic Council with the idea, wants to send a message to Russia (and also to social media companies) that the West is unified in standing against the threat posed by Russian disinformation and interference. 
  • The conference will begin with a private roundtable for members of Congress and members of parliament; followed by a press conference with Warner, Rubio, and members of parliament; then a fireside chat with the senators; and will conclude with a public panel discussion.

The Trump-Putin summit is scheduled for July 16 in Helsinki, Finland.

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

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Think Tank Quickies (#317)

  • GMU chief: Donor gifts didn't meet standards; Mercatus Center "violated" principles of academic freedom.
  • Several think tankers on the board of directors of Diplomacy Center Foundation.
  • Do university and think tank rankings favor science over the arts?  Either way, China is rising.
  • James Wan: Four big challenges facing African think tanks.
  • Wonkblog: "They're the think tank pushing for welfare work requirements.  Republicans say they're experts.  Economists call it 'junk science.'"
  • Andrew Quinn, chief speechwriter for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), was formerly Director of the Office of the President at AEI. 
  • Jim Baker, a top FBI lawyer who was reassigned in late 2017 after being linked to a journalist who wrote about the "Trump dossier," is reportedly looking to join Brookings.
  • Amb. Kathleen Stephens becomes KEI's new President and CEO, effective Sept. 1, 2018.
  • OMB Director Mick Mulvaney headlines CEI's annual dinner and reception June 18.
  • Kirk Wagar, a Distinguished Dellow at Atlantic Council and former US Ambassador to Singapore under Obama, hired by Mercury as a co-chairman of the firm.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Former Army General Using Think Tank Perch to Defend NATO

Here is more from the Washington Post:

U.S. commanders are worried that if they had to head off a conflict with Russia, the most powerful military in the world could get stuck in a traffic jam.
“We have to be able to move as fast or faster than Russia in order to be an effective deterrent,” said Ben Hodges, the U.S. Army’s former top general in Europe.
Since retiring in December, Hodges has devoted himself to raising the alarm from his perch at the Washington-based Center for European Policy Analysis, and he successfully pushed to get troop-mobility issues on the agenda of a NATO summit in Brussels next month. The United States and NATO, Hodges said, need to be able to “mass enough capability in place so that Russia doesn’t make a terrible miscalculation.”

Here is the link to the website of the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA), and here is a link to the biography of Ben Hodges.

Around sixty percent of CEPA's funding comes from corporations and NGOs, 32% comes from individuals, and 8% comes from the US government.

Past donors have included: US Department of Defense, US Department of State, US Mission to NATO, US Naval Postgraduate School, NATO Public Diplomacy Division, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, BAE Systems, FireEye, Bell Helicopter, Textron Systems, Chevron, Cheniere, National Endowment for Democracy (NED), and United States Institute of Peace (USIP).

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Does David Koch's Retirement Mean Less Powerful Conservative Think Tanks?

Here is more from the Washington Post:

David Koch, one of two billionaire brothers whose powerful conservative network transformed Republican politics, is retiring from business and political life because of declining health, potentially testing the staying power of an organization that was already changing in dramatic ways.
Charles Koch announced in a letter to employees of Koch Industries on Tuesday that his brother’s health had deteriorated since a hospitalization last summer. He was not specific about the illness, though his brother is a cancer survivor. David Koch will retire from his family’s conglomerate and step down as chairman of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation.
According to an official bio, he has pledged or contributed more than $1.3 billion to assist various causes, including educational, arts and cultural institutions and public policy organizations. The money has come through personal gifts and the David H. Koch Foundation.
His representatives say he has provided more than $300 million in additional charitable support, beyond the $1.3 billion, for other causes — including help for victims of Hurricane Harvey last year.
But while the Koch name is on a lot of buildings, David Koch is best known for wading heavily into politics. In 1980, he was the Libertarian Party’s nominee for vice president. His ticket, with Ed Clark, received just 1 percent of the popular vote. Ronald Reagan won.
Several of the ideas Koch ran on that year, then seen as fringe, have subsequently become GOP orthodoxy. And the investments that the Kochs have made to build up think tanks, including the Cato Institute, and promote libertarian-leaning scholars at universities are an important part of the story of how the right moved their way.

Here is a Politico article on the think tanks tied to the Koch brothers.

Here is one of many previous Think Tank Watch posts about the Koch brothers' connection to think tanks.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Big Changes at Heritage Foundation and Its Lobbying Arm

Heritage Action, the sister lobbying arm of the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation, recently announced that Tim Chapman has become the organization's new executive director.

Here is a brief biography from Heritage:
Prior to serving as Heritage Action’s chief operating officer, Chapman served as chief of staff to Heritage Foundation President Ed J. Feulner, Ph.D. In this position, he advised Dr. Feulner on public policy matters and activities of the conservative movement. He also managed Dr. Feulner’s office staff and Heritage’s day-to-day operations. Chapman also held multiple positions in the United States Senate.

In April, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) hired Heritage Action CEO Mike Needham as his new chief of staff.

Dan Holler, a founding staffer at Heritage Action, recently left Heritage to become Rubio's deputy chief of staff.

Dan Ziegler left Heritage Action in March to become director of the Republican Study Committee (RSC).

In other Heritage news, the chairman of the think tank's board of directors, Thomas Saunders III, announced that he will step down from his position.  He will be succeeded by current vice chairman Barb Van-Andel Gaby.

Also, Heritage just opened the $15 million E.W. Richardson Building to house its interns.

Here is a recent opinion piece from the Washington Examiner entitled "Conservative Heritage Action Loses Its Fangs." 

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Think Tank Quickies (#316)

  • New Stimson Center study: US has spent $2.8 trillion since 9/11 to fight terrorism. 
  • CAP President Neera Tanden censored work?
  • Dr. Tim Huelskamp of conservative Heartland Institute: How think tanks measure success.
  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lays out Iran demands at Heritage Foundation speech.
  • Heritage President Kay Coles James explains the thinking behind one of Washington's most powerful think tanks. 
  • On Think Tanks launches Open Think Tank Directory (OTTD) with public information from more than 2,680 think tanks and related organizations.
  • Modi, Putin agree on economic ties between Indian think tank, Russian ministry.
  • Global ad, tech execs launching new think tank in Cannes. 
  • New York Times magazine on "Russia hands," including a number of think tankers. 
  • Only 17% of UK adults trust think tanks. 
  • EU Special Envoy to Afghanistan Roland Kobia visits Washington think tanks.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Think Tankers Paid to Spy for Foreign Governments?

A private platform that scores of think tankers use to earn extra cash is reportedly being investigated by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.  While the platform promoted itself as an "expert network," reporting indicates that it was also involved in intelligence collection.

Here is more from the Daily Beast:

In the fall of 2016, Donald Trump Jr. and other key aides to the future president reportedly met in Trump Tower with Joel Zamel, the founder of a company called Wikistrat.
Wikistrat bills itself as a “crowdsourced” geopolitical analysis firm based in Washington, D.C. But interviews with current and former employees and documents reviewed by The Daily Beast tell a different story: that the vast majority of Wikistrat’s clients were foreign governments; that Wikistrat is, for all intents and purposes, an Israeli firm; and that the company’s work was not just limited to analysis. It also engaged in intelligence collection.
Robert Mueller’s office is investigating Wikistrat and Zamel, according to The Wall Street Journal, as the special counsel’s probe expands into Middle Eastern governments’ attempts to influence American politics.
Publicly, Wikistrat touts its crowdsourcing interface it has described as “Wikipedia meets Facebook” to develop reports for clients. The documents also highlight Wikistrat’s heavy reliance on “gamification”—applying game design features to encourage user engagement—to solicit information from sources. Former Wikistrat employees say its founder viewed himself as the Mark Zuckerberg of the national-security world.
But despite the firm’s purported commitment to “transparent, open-source methodologies,” the documents provided to The Daily Beast show something different: that the company exploits “in country… informants” as sources
Wikistrat’s “About” page includes mention of “on-the-ground collection.”
And according to internal Wikistrat documents marked “highly confidential and sensitive material,” 74 percent of the firm’s revenue came from clients that were foreign governments.


A list of "experts" that use the platform to earn extra cash (including academics and think tankers) can be found here.  Wikistrat currently says that it has more than 5,000 subject-matter experts using the platform.

Here is Think Tank Watch's previous story about Wikistrat.

Here is a recent Think Tank Watch story about an annual think tank event that attracts a large number of spies.

Here is our recent story entitled "When Think Tanking Becomes Illegal."

Monday, June 4, 2018

Spies and Arms Dealers Abound at IISS Annual Event

Here are some juicy tidbits from Reuters, in a piece entitled "The Singapore Hotel Where Top Brass, Dealers and Spies Rub Shoulders":

For the region’s military officers, diplomats, weapons manufacturers and spies, there are few livelier places than the lobby of Singapore’s Shangri-La hotel around mid-year.
Here, beneath pillared ceilings and chandeliers, they gather for an annual informal bash - called the Shangri-La Dialogue - organized by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies
Retired Western and Asian intelligence figures spend the best part of three days loitering here; a civilian-suited Vietnamese military officer introduces himself to a U.S. naval counterpart while a cadre of Chinese PLA staff walk briskly past. A Laotian military representative practices his golf swing as a gaggle of barefoot teenagers pad past from the swimming pool, towelling themselves down and apparently oblivious to the swirl of strategic tension. 
While the IISS scholars organized a variety of panels covering regional flashpoints and trends and diplomats arranged formal bilateral meetings for their defense ministers, the siderooms, bars and cafes are even busier as more discreet business is done and information traded. 
Regional military attaches say the event is a legendary recruitment spot, as officers and diplomats are tapped by business or academia - and sometimes more shadowy enterprises. One delegate said Singapore’s status as a leading financial hub helps. 
According to rumor, operatives from various friendly Western and Asian intelligence agencies hold a parallel gathering in another hotel, to exchange information. That has never been verified.
As well as the IISS, the sponsors of the Shangri-La Dialogue include major Western defense firms, including Boeing, Airbus, BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon - in part a reflection of gradually rising regional defense budgets.

Here is a link to IISS's Shangri-La Dialogue (SLD), which took place June 1-3 in Singapore.  Here is a link to the agenda.  Besides the ones mentioned above, other sponsors included Singapore Technologies Engineering, Booz Allen Hamilton, and the Asahi Shimbun.

Here is a bit more background of the Shangri-La Dialogue.  Why is it so important?  Here is a bit about how the event, which draws a huge security presence, impacts traffic.

Last year, there was quite a bit of tension after India pulled out of the SLD over an apparent snub from the organizers, precipitating the need for a team from IISS to visit India and smooth things over.

Here is a piece from The Telegraph entitled "Cambridge Spy Seminars Hit by Whispers of Russian Links as Three Intelligence Experts Resign," about the Cambridge Intelligence Seminar (CIS), an academic forum on the Western spy world.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Think Tank Quickies (#315)

  • Tired of winning: DC think tanks, NYC magazines, and the search for public intellect.
  • Indian think tank India Foundation accused of plagiarism.
  • 70 years of innovation at RAND.
  • Andrew Haldenby on integrity, independence, and think tanks.
  • Raw data on American attitudes toward think tanks.
  • CAP holds 15th anniversary Ideas Conference in 2018.
  • Former VP Joe Biden does Brookings.
  • British think tank: Give $13,500 to Millenials. 
  • Andrea Baertl Helguero: Factors that affect a think tank's credibility.
  • Women's Media Center (WMC) database of women experts; database of women in STEM; Women Also Know Stuff scholar search.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Koch Placing Young Professionals in Conservative Think Tanks

Think Tank Watch noticed this little tidbit from HuffPost:

The Charles Koch Institute has an “associates program” that places young professionals in conservative think tanks and pays an average of $41,000 per year. The Leadership Institute, a conservative youth organization, offers interns free accommodation, free food, an $825-per-month stipend and a $200 “book allowance.”

Here is more about the 10-month Koch Associate Program, which has 90+ partner organizations, including the Acton Institute, American Enterprise Institute (AEI), Cato Institute, Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), Heritage Foundation and Mercatus Center.

On June 26, the above-mentioned Leadership Institute is hosting the "Think Tank Opportunity Workshop."  Here is more about that event, which costs $50 (or $30 if you register before June 20):
Conservative think tanks fuel new ideas, promote conservative principles in the public policy process, and challenge and defeat the policies of the left. They are most successful when staffed by talented conservatives, enthusiastic about research and analysis in the public policy process.
At the Think Tank Opportunity Workshop, expert faculty will teach you how think tanks operate from the inside and what you can do to successfully find and build a career in major research organizations across Washington D.C. and beyond.
Whether you are new to your career, hoping to shape public policy, or considering how you can transition into a think tank, this workshop will help you succeed.
You will learn to:
  • Understand the careers available in think tanks
  • Find your specialty and build a reputation as an expert
  • Research and compose policy documents
  • Communicate your research to decision-makers
  • Use your research to lobby and to influence public policy

Here is our recent post about intern pay at think tanks.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Are Democratic-Leaning Think Tanks Less Likely to Pay Interns?

Here is more from HuffPost, in an article entitled "The Right-Wing Millennial Machine," which says that conservatives are building up an "army of fired-up young people" by offering them salaries:

Nathan’s experience is emblematic of a growing concern on the left: For a movement that wants to reach young people, low-income workers and people of color, progressive organizations and candidates don’t offer many paid opportunities.
“This is why we see attrition in the movement,” said Maggie Thompson, executive director of Generation Progress, the youth arm of the liberal think tank Center for American Progress (which pays its interns, incidentally).
For decades, internships, fellowships and paid travel to conferences have acted like a tractor beam, drawing young people into political movements and holding them long enough to become researchers, strategists and candidates. But the funding to support those kinds of programs hasn’t kept up with the economic realities of the young people who today’s progressives are trying to reach.
[Carlos Vera, the executive director of Pay Our Interns, a watchdog group] has been calling nonprofits and think tanks and asking them [if they pay their interns.] So far he’s found the same pattern: The Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute and Americans for Prosperity pay their interns. The Progressive Policy Institute, Let America Vote and the Human Rights Campaign don’t.
New America offers course credits to its interns, which means they may actually be paying to work. (Following the publication of this article, New America contacted HuffPost and said it is rolling out paid internships for its interns in the future.)

Here is Think Tank Watch's guide to think tank salaries.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Polish Think Tank Chief Refused Entry into Russia

Here is more from Radio Poland:

The Polish foreign ministry on Tuesday called in Moscow’s ambassador to Warsaw after the head of a Polish think tank was refused entry to Russia.
The Polish authorities have demanded an explanation from Russian ambassador Sergei Andreyev, Poland’s PAP news agency reported.
Polish foreign ministry spokesman Artur Lompart said Andreyev had “promised that such explanations would be furnished."
Lompart said the head of the government-funded Polish Institute of International Affairs, Sławomir Dębski, was not allowed into Russia on Monday.

Here is a link to the Polish Institute of International Affairs (PISM), which was established by an act of the Polish parliament in 1996.

The director of PISM is appointed by the prime minister for a five-year term, following consultation with the minister of foreign affairs.

Here is a link to the biography of Mr. Slawomir Debski.

Poland has recently been submitting proposals to welcome a permanent deployment of US troops to the country.  Those proposals have reportedly been sent to a few "main" US think tanks.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Think Tank Quickies (#314)

  • $1.8 million in campaign budget to get sanctions lifted from a Russian gas firm earmarked for think tank experts.
  • Heritage Foundation holds largest gathering of think tanks in North America.
  • Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) co-produced defense supplier report with CSIS.
  • Marines tap Potomac Institute for Policy Studies to explore new warfare capabilities.
  • Artists and novelists invited to think tanks to help interpret research results? 
  • EPA's Scott Pruitt prioritizing giving speeches to certain think tanks; Pruitt's plan for climate change debates: ask conservative think tanks.
  • RAND experts discuss the challenges of trying to predict the future.
  • Think tankers make Politico Playbook Power List of Woman to Watch.
  • Center for American Progress and Aspen Institute are clients of Raben Group. 
  • Nassim Nicholas Taleb: A think tank fellow had the discipline to overcome my insults to his profession while reviewing my book.

When Think Tanking Becomes Illegal

When most people think of think tanks, they may picture soporific talks on the minutiae of energy policy or foreign affairs, men in suits pontificating about esoteric executive branch regulations, or 100-page policy proposals to update the Merchant Marine Act of 1920.

While all that exists, a much darker side lies just under the surface, one that involves PR gurus, lobbyists, foreign governments, spy agencies, embassies, corporations, trade associations, political hacks, shady consultants, and various categories of movers and shakers all trying to gather information and influence ideas and the thousands of scholars that live in and around Washington.

Here is a recent example from Reuters:

A Maryland man has pleaded guilty to charges that he failed to register as a foreign agent in connection with lobbying work he did for the Pakistani government in an effort to shape U.S. foreign policy, the Justice Department said on Monday.
The newly unsealed case against Nisar Ahmed Chaudhry, a Pakistani national and U.S. permanent resident, marks a rare instance in which the Justice Department has pursued a prosecution under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which requires people who lobby on behalf of foreign governments or political parties to register with the United States.
In Chaudhry’s case, filed April 19 and unsealed on Monday, the government said he worked to influence U.S. officials on foreign policies toward Pakistan from 2012 through 2018 without disclosing it.
The Justice Department said he represented that his activities were merely educational and not affiliated with Pakistan’s government when he met with think tank scholars and current and former U.S. government officials, including U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents who interviewed Chaudhry when he returned to the United States from travels to Pakistan. 

Here is what the US Justice Department said:
Chaudhry interacted on a routine basis with representatives of the Government of Pakistan, at their Embassy in Washington, D.C. and consular office in New York City.  Chaudhry also interacted with numerous institutes, foundations and organizations operating in and around Washington, D.C., commonly referred to as "think tanks," that played a role in shaping and influencing U.S. foreign policy.  Chaudhry organized roundtable discussions in Washington, D.C. and Maryland metropolitan areas between his American government and think tank contacts and visiting Pakistan government officials to influence United States foreign policy in a direction favorable to Pakistan’s interests.   Chaudhry cultivated contacts within these entities and the U.S. government in order to obtain in-depth information regarding the U.S. government's policies towards Pakistan.  Chaudhry then sought to neutralize unfavorable views of Pakistan held by current and former U.S. government officials by employing certain methods of discussion with these individuals during personal interactions with them and/or by controlling and manipulating discussion at the roundtable events he organized or attended.
In order to be more effective in obtaining information of interest to Pakistan, and to gain a strategic advantage in acquiring information that might not otherwise be divulged to official representatives of the Government of Pakistan, Chaudhry falsely represented that his activities were solely educational in nature and not affiliated with the Pakistan government.  These representations were made not only to American think tank scholars, but also to current and former U.S. government officials, including U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents who interviewed Chaudhry upon entry into the United States from his travels to Pakistan.
According to his plea agreement, Chaudhry regularly traveled to Pakistan to brief high-level Pakistan government officials on information obtained from his American government and think tank contacts.

It has not been publicly disclosed which think tanks Chaudhry frequented, but a link from the Embassy of Pakistan shows that the government of Pakistan has embraced a number of think tanks, including the Heritage Foundation, United States Institute of Peace (USIP), Atlantic Council, Wilson Center, New America, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), and Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Even with all of those interactions, US-Pakistan relations have taken a nosedive in recent months.  Most recently, the US and Pakistani governments formally imposed mutual curbs on the travel and movements of each other's diplomats.  Now, Pakistani diplomats and their families cannot travel more than 25 miles from Washington without prior permission.  In other words, they are essentially stuck riding the think tank circuit in DC and nearby environs.  The good news?  There are about 500 think tanks to choose from.

Here is a recent Think Tank Watch piece about fake think tanking.