Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Think Tank Quickies (#345)

  • China cultivating a network of EU think tanks to promote Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). 
  • Andrew Marshall, RAND researcher who founded DoD's "internal think tank," dies.
  • The world's think tank dilemma, by Yoichi Funabashi.
  • MEI event: The role of think tanks in shaping Middle East policy.
  • The detrimental effects of experts (including think tankers) on politics in autocratic regimes in the Middle East.
  • Public policy think tank SynergyNet to close after 17 years from lack of funds and unfavorable environment in Hong Kong.
  • Think tank CEI calls on NBC to stop blacking out climate skeptics.
  • US think tank leaders urge China to release Canadian researcher, citing threat to ties.
  • Women, gender, and think tanks. 
  • Will the secretive 45 Club be a conduit for Trump alumni to get think tank jobs?

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Scholars Try to Block Kirstjen Nielsen from Think Tank Post

Here is more from Vox:

Kirstjen Nielsen is out of a job. Now some scholars want to make sure she doesn’t get a new one — at least, not anywhere near them.
A handful of scholars and media figures have signed a petition, written on Monday by George Washington University political scientist Henry Farrell, vowing not to “associate myself in any way” with any think tank or university department that employs the homeland security secretary, who resigned on Sunday.
It’s pretty typical for former administration officials to take jobs in the American intelligentsia: Two former Trump allies have landed at Harvard alone. But Farrell and his allies think Nielsen shouldn’t get this kind of soft landing in the intellectual class. The harsh immigration policies she instituted — most infamously the “zero tolerance” policy that led to thousands of family separations at the border — are, in their view, morally intolerable.

Here is a link to the petition, which has around 200 signatories so far.  Dr. Henry Farrell, who started the petition, is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).

Here is a recent piece by Charles Pierce of Esquire entitled "Kirstjen Nielsen Will Have a Book Deal and a Think Tank Job Before You Can Say 'Kids in Cages.'"

Monday, April 15, 2019

FBI Blocking Chinese Think Tankers From Entering US?

Here is more from the New York Times:

In the four decades since China and the United States normalized relations, Washington has generally welcomed Chinese scholars and researchers to America, even when Beijing has been less open to reciprocal visits. Republican and Democratic administrations have operated on the assumption that the national interest was well served by exposing Chinese academics to American values.
Now, that door appears to be closing, with the two nations ramping up their strategic rivalry and each regarding academic visitors from the other with greater suspicion — of espionage, commercial theft and political meddling.
The F.B.I. has mounted a counterintelligence operation that aims to bar Chinese academics from the United States if they are suspected of having links to Chinese intelligence agencies. As many as 30 Chinese professors in the social sciences, heads of academic institutes, and experts who help explain government policies have had their visas to the United States canceled in the past year, or put on administrative review, according to Chinese academics and their American counterparts.

According to the latest think tank count from the University of Pennsylvania, the United States has 1,871 think tanks, India has 509, and China has 507.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Bernie Sanders Gets Angry at Liberal Think Tank CAP

Here is more from the New York Times:

Senator Bernie Sanders, in a rare and forceful rebuke by a presidential candidate of an influential party ally, has accused a liberal think tank of undermining Democrats’ chances of taking back the White House in 2020 by “using its resources to smear” him and other contenders pushing progressive policies.
Mr. Sanders’s criticism of the Center for American Progress, delivered on Saturday in a letter obtained by The New York Times, reflects a simmering ideological battle within the Democratic Party and threatens to reopen wounds from the 2016 primary between him and Hillary Clinton’s allies. The letter airs criticisms shared among his supporters: That the think tank, which has close ties to Mrs. Clinton and the Democratic Party establishment, is beholden to corporate donors and has worked to quash a leftward shift in the party led partly by Mr. Sanders.
Mr. Sanders sent the letter days after a website run by the action fund, ThinkProgress, suggested that his attacks on income inequality were hypocritical in light of his growing personal wealth.

The Sanders-CAP feud seems to be escalating.  And here is more from The Hill.

Here is a link to Sanders speaking at CAP's Ideas Conference in 2018 where he thanked CAP for the "important work" it has done over the years.

In 2017, Sanders was not invited to CAP's Ideas Conference.

Update: The New York Times has a major piece on Neera Tanden and CAP, which among other things, quotes her mother, Maya Tanden.  [The Washington Post has a new piece on how her mom became "collateral damage."]  NYT notes that CAP and its sister political arm have a $60 million combined annual budget and 320 staff members.

It says that money to the think tank from the personal foundation of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg surged to $665,000 in 2018 from $15,000 in 2017.  And from 2016 through 2018, CAP accepted nearly $2.5 million from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to fund its National Security and International Policy Initiative.

Among other things, Tanden, whose salary was $397,000 in 2018, reportedly punched Faiz Shakir, the former editor of the think tank's ThinkProgress website.  He is now managing Sen. Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign.

Can a think tank president be "too online."

Here is a piece about Benjamin Edwards, professional artist and husband of Neera Tanden.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Think Tank Quickies (#344)

  • Next100: A pop-up think tank for the next generation of policy leaders.
  • Stability in think tank rankings, but are they an elitist bunch?
  • Microsoft says it has found another Russian operation targeting prominent think tanks. 
  • Richard Fontaine named CEO of CNAS.
  • Antiquities Coalition: A think tank fighting stolen art and antiquities.
  • AEI holds secretive Republican gathering at Sea Island Resort in Georgia with VP Pence, Mike Pompeo, and Jared Kushner. 
  • Little-known think tank (Niskanen Center) becomes brain trust of "Never Trumpism."
  • Ben Freeman: DC think tanks receive millions from authoritarian governments to shape foreign policy in their favor.
  • The Onion: Brookings report says fax machines still pretty impressive.
  • New French think tank: L'Observatoire de l'Ethique Publique.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Google Employees Demanded Removal of Heritage President From New AI Council

Here is more from CNN:

Google has shuttered its new artificial intelligence ethics council, a little more than a week after announcing it and days after a swarm of employees demanded the removal of the president of a conservative think tank from the group.
In a statement Thursday, Google told CNN Business that it has "become clear that in the current environment" the Advanced Technology External Advisory Council "can't function" as the company wanted.
"So we're ending the council and going back to the drawing board. We'll continue to be responsible in our work on the important issues that AI raises, and will find different ways of getting outside opinions on these topics," Google said.
The decision, which was first reported by Vox Media, came in the wake of nearly 2,400 Google employees signing a post on the website Medium demanding the company remove Kay Coles James — president of conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation — from the council. Published Monday by a group of employees calling itself Googlers Against Transphobia, the post said that by adding James to the group, Google was "making clear that its version of 'ethics' values proximity to power over the wellbeing of trans people, other LGBTQ people, and immigrants."
Heritage has openly opposed LGBT rights. And the group of Google employees pointed out several recent Twitter posts in which James criticized proposed federal legislation such as the Equality Act, which aims to halt discrimination based on gender identity, sex and sexual orientation. On Twitter, James called the bill "anything but equality" and said it would "open every female bathroom and sports team to biological males."

In response, Kay Coles James penned an opinion piece saying that she had been treated with "hostility."

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Japanese Government Funding More Japan Chairs at Think Tanks

Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) is making an intense push to fund more Japan Chairs at think tanks in the US and Europe as is seeks to influence Western allies.

In March, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) announced the establishment of a new full-time Senior Fellow for Japanese Studies who will be based at the think tank's London headquarters.  The position, which has not yet been filled (job ad here), was created through a multi-million dollar donation from the government of Japan.

In the United States, the Hudson Institute is also launching a Japan Chair, with President Donald Trump's former National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster to be the new chair.

Some of the people spotted in attendance at a launch event for Hudson's Japan Chair, according to Politico, include:
H.R. McMaster, Ken Weinstein, Matt Pottinger, Patrick Cronin, Mike Pillsbury, Scooter Libby, Jim Carafano, Leslie Schweitzer, Francesca Craig, Dave Lawler, Zeke Miller, Josh Rogin, Halley Toosi and Steve Herman.

In 2018, after being pushed out of the Trump Administration, McMaster returned to Stanford's Hoover Institution.  McMaster had his first stint at Hoover in 2002 as a national security affairs fellow and then served as a visiting fellow from 2003 to 2017.

He has also been a Consulting Senior Fellow at IISS.  Conservatives launched numerous attacks (see here, here, and here) for his affiliation with the UK-based think tank.  Dr. Patrick Cronin, who holds Hudson's Asia-Pacific Security Chair, formerly served as Director of Studies at IISS.  Cronin recently left the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) to join Hudson.

The largest and most influential Japan Chair is at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).  It is run by Dr. Michael Green, former Senior Director for Asia at the National Security Council (NSC).

In 2018, Hudson hosted more than 115 events in Washington, DC, including a major China speech by Vice President Mike Pence.  Hudson also says its experts penned 446 op-eds in major newspapers in 2018.

Last year, Hudson had total revenues of $17.5 million.  Of that, 40% came from individuals, 30% from foundations, 12% from corporations, 11% from endowment distributions, and 7% from governments.

Besides the government of Japan, other Japanese donors to Hudson include: All Nippon Airways (ANA), The Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership, Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), Mitsui Corporation, and Hitachi.

Non-Japanese donors to the think tank include the Government of Denmark, MacArthur Foundation, Microsoft, Rupert Murdoch, Northrop Grumman, Oracle, Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO), Boeing, and Ford Motor.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

White House Working on Secret Health Care Plan With 3 Think Tanks

Here is more from the Washington Examiner:

The White House is quietly working on a healthcare policy proposal to replace the Affordable Care Act, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the matter.
While it is not clear how far along the process is, work on a proposal has been going on for months. The effort appears to belie criticism that Trump's decision to restart the debate on healthcare, an issue Democrats used to their advantage in the 2018 midterms, was an error committed without forethought.
The analyst said the administration has been “having conversations” on healthcare policy and has reached out to numerous think tanks, including the Heritage Foundation, the Mercatus Center, and the Hoover Institute.

And in related healthcare news, Scott Gottlieb, the Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), recently announced that he would be returning to his old think tank, American Enterprise Institute (AEI).  He reportedly plans to focus on drug prices and will commute to Washington, DC around six days per month.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Sanctioned Russian Oligarch's Think Tank Might Come to US

Here is more from ThinkProgress:

A Berlin-based think tank founded and chaired by sanctioned Russian oligarch Vladimir Yakunin is exploring the possibility of opening an office in the United States, a spokesperson for the group told ThinkProgress.
Jean-Christophe Bas, the current CEO of Yakunin’s Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute (DOC) think tank, said that he’s considering opening a “liaison office” in New York. The office “would be liaising with the United Nations,” as well as with international groups like the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Bas said.
Yakunin has been on the U.S. sanctions list since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014, identified as a key player in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin. The oligarch has long been a member of Putin’s inner circle, and was closely involved in the early networks used to cement Putin’s power.
Yakunin helped found the DOC, and is currently chairman of its supervisory board.
The DOC claims to be independently funded, but German media reported that Yakunin planned to give tens of millions of dollars to the DOC to help fund its operations. [Olga] Shorina wrote that “Yakunin reportedly has invested $28 million of his personal wealth in the think tank over five years, but the organization has no official record of its income and expenses.”

Here is a link to the think tank's website, and here is a link to its 2017 annual report.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Dems Seek Answers on Heritage Foundation Law Clerk Training

Here is more from Bloomberg Law:

Six Democratic senators want to know if law clerks participating in a conservative organization’s training program violated the judicial codes of conduct.
The Heritage Foundation, which held the training program in February, has advocated for “repealing reproductive rights; dismantling affirmative action policies; limiting voting rights; and restrictive immigration policies,” the Judiciary Committee members said in a letter to James Duff, the director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.
The organization has touted its role in helping President Donald Trump select nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The anonymously-funded program originally made participants pledge their secrecy and promise not to use their training for purposes contrary to the interests of the Heritage Foundation, the senators said.
It also held a session about immigration law on the same day that the foundation released a report concerning its immigration agenda, the letter said.
The senators asked whether any current or future judge or judicial employee asked the office for advice about attending that program, and what conclusion the office reached if they did. 
The letter cited guidance that the office issued after the program, which listed situations in which attending certain events could violate judicial codes of conduct.
Concerns are raised when the event sponsor engages in contentious debates over public policy and the program is funded by unknown sources, according to that guidance.

In response to the letter from the US senators, Heritage Foundation's John Malcolm issued this response, which denies any wrong-doing.

Here is more about the think tank's Federal Clerkship Training Academy.  And here is what the New York Times had to say about it.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Think Tank Quickies (#343)

  • Outgoing AEI President Arthur Brooks joins Washington Post opinions section as a columnist.
  • Brookings hosts launch of 2019 think tank rankings.
  • The now-defunct Office of Technology assessment, operated as a think tank for Congress, tasked with studying science and technology issues.
  • CSIS launches Stephenson Ocean Security Project (SOS).
  • CSIS flags increase in number of Chinese fishing vessels in Spratlys
  • Global Times: China-US think tanks can promote resilient engagement. 
  • Brookings scholar Benjamin Wittes meeting quietly with NYT reporters over Mueller probe.
  • Jamie Bartlett of Demos reflects on think tanks.
  • The Bank of International Settlements: the "central bankers' think tank."
  • Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence: A public health think tank.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Think Tank Founded by Bernie Sanders' Wife Shutting Down

Here is more from the Associated Press:

The Sanders Institute, a think tank founded by Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ wife and son, is shutting down, at least for now, amid criticism that the nonprofit has blurred the lines between family, fundraising and campaigning.
The Vermont-based institute has stopped accepting donations and plans to suspend all operations by the end of May “so there could not even be an appearance of impropriety,” Jane Sanders told The Associated Press.
The unexpected move by the institute’s board of directors comes as Bernie Sanders, a leading candidate for the 2020 Democratic nomination, prepares for a wave of intense scrutiny into his political network and his family’s role in its operation.
The institute was founded to promote liberal policies less than two years ago by Sanders’ family with the backing of pro-Sanders celebrities and advocates— though Sanders himself had no formal role. While it operates at a fraction of the scale of the Clinton Foundation, it has accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars during its brief existence and has declined to disclose its donors.
Jane Sanders, who also serves as a chief adviser to her husband’s presidential campaign, is not compensated for her role at the institute. Her son, David Driscoll, is paid $100,000 a year as co-founder and executive director. Driscoll previously was an executive for Nike and the Vermont snowboarding firm Burton, but had no previous nonprofit experience, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Here is a link to the Sanders Institute.  Here is a press release from the think tank about its suspension of operations during the 2020 presidential elections.  Here is a press release from the launch of the Sanders Institute.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Georgetown Launches Think Tank on Emerging Tech

Here is more from the Washington Post:

Georgetown University announced Thursday the launch of a think tank focused on how technological advances in fields such as artificial intelligence are influencing national and international security.
Backed by a $55 million grant from a private funding group, the Center for Security and Emerging Technology will be based in the university’s Walsh School of Foreign Service.
The center’s director, Jason Matheny, was director of federal Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity from 2015 to 2018 and has participated in government initiatives related to artificial intelligence.
“There’s huge demand for policy analysis but very little supply,” Matheny said. The center, to be based near the Capitol, aims to change that. It will start with a staff of about 15, with plans to expand to 35.
The grant, from the San Francisco-based Open Philanthropy Project, is primarily funded by Silicon Valley entrepreneur Dustin Moskovitz and his wife, Cari Tuna. Moskovitz was a co-founder of Facebook. Forbes estimates his net worth at more than $10 billion.

Here is a link to the new think tank, whose acronym is CSET.

Think Tank Watch estimates that fewer than a half-dozen think tanks are started, on average, each year in Washington, DC.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Russian Hackers Targeted US Think Tanks in Europe

Here is more from CNN:

A hacking group that is thought to be linked to Russian military intelligence targeted the European offices of two American think tanks, Microsoft revealed late Tuesday.
Fancy Bear, the same hacking group that is believed to be behind some of the 2016 hacking of the Democratic National Committee, targeted The Aspen Institute and The German Marshall Fund of the United States, Microsoft said. The German Council on Foreign Relations was also targeted.
The attacks on the three high-profile think tanks took place between September and December 2018, according to Microsoft. The company didn't say whether the attackers were successful but said that it quickly notified the organizations that they were being targeted and helped them secure their systems. 
Andrew Kolb, a spokesperson for The German Marshall Fund — which receives funding from the United States, Germany and other governments — told CNN Business that it didn't appear that its systems had been compromised as a result of the hacking attempt.
The fund's president, Karen Donfried, suggested in a statement that the organization may have been targeted because its work has included supporting efforts to combat alleged attempts by Russia and other nations to "undermine democracy and democratic institutions."

Every major think tank in the United States has been hit with cyber attacks over the past few years, and many major think tanks outside of the US have also been targets.

In December, it was reported that the Lowy Institute in Australia was targeted by Chinese hackers.

And currently, the UK's Institute for Statecraft has a message on its homepage saying that "all content has been temporarily removed from this site, pending an investigation into the theft of data from the Institute for Statecraft and its programme, the Integrity Initiative."

The think tank added that initial findings indicate that the theft was part of "a campaign to undermine the work of the Integrity Initiative in researching, publicising and countering the threat to European democracies from disinformation and other forms of hybrid warfare."

Thursday, January 31, 2019

2019 Think Tank Rankings - Cheat Sheet

The University of Pennsylvania has just released its annual think tank rankings today - the 12th version of its extensive rankings of the world's think tanks.

As always, it is no surprise that the Brookings Institution remains the world's #1 think tank, particularly since they were the ones who recently published a book by the UPenn professor who runs the rankings (more on that here).


Top Think Tank Worldwide (US & Non-US):
  1. Brookings Institution
  2. French Institute of International Relations (IFRI)
  3. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  4. Bruegel
  5. Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)
  6. Fundacao Getulio Vargas
  7. Chatham House
  8. Heritage Foundation
  9. RAND Corporation
  10. International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS)
  
Top Think Tanks in the US:
  1. Brookings Institution
  2. CSIS
  3. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  4. Heritage
  5. Wilson Center
  6. RAND Corp.
  7. Peterson Institute for International Economics
  8. Center for American Progress
  9. Urban Institute
  10. Atlantic Council

Top Think Tanks in Mexico and Canada:
  1. Fraser Institute
  2. Consejo Mexicano de Asuntos Internacionales (COMEXI)
  3. Institute for Research on Public Policy (IRPP)
  4. Mexico Evalua Centro de Analisis de Politicas Publicas & CIDAC
  5. Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI)

Top Think Tanks in Central and South America:
  1. Fundacao Getulia Vargas
  2. Fedesarrollo
  3. Centro Brasileiro de Relacoes Internacionais (CEBRI)
  4. Consejo Argentino para las Relaciones Internacionales (CARI)
  5. Centro de Implementacion de Politicas Publicas para la Equidad y el Crecimiento (CIPPEC)

Top Think Tanks in Sub-Saharan Africa:
  1. Botswana Institute for Development Policy Analysis (BIDPA) 
  2. African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD)
  3. IMANI Center for Policy and Education
  4. African Center for Economic Transformation (ACET)
  5. Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA)

Top Think Tanks in Central Asia:
  1. Center for Economic and Social Development (CESD)
  2. Kazakhstan Institute for Strategic Studies
  3. Caucasus Institute for Peace, Democracy and Development (CIPDD)
  4. Caucuses Research Resource Center (CRRC)
  5. Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU)

Top Think Tanks in China, Japan, India, and South Korea:
  1. Korea Development Institute (KDI)
  2. Japan Institute of International Affairs (JIIA)
  3. Korea Institute for International Economic Policy (KIEP)
  4. Observer Research Foundation (ORF)
  5. China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR)

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

Top Think Tanks in Central and Eastern Europe:
  1. Center for Social and Economic Research (CASE)
  2. Razumkov Centre
  3. EUROPEUM Institute for European Policy 
  4. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Moscow Center
  5. Centre for Liberal Strategies (CLS)

Top Think Tanks in Western Europe:
  1. French Institute of International Relations (IFRI)
  2. Bruegel
  3. Chatham House
  4. International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS)
  5. Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS)

Top Think Tanks in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA):
  1. Center for Strategic Studies (CSS)
  2. Institute for National Security Studies (INSS)
  3. Carnegie Middle East Center
  4. Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies (ACPSS)
  5. Al Jazeera Cenre for Studies (AJCS)

Top Defense and National Security Think Tanks:
  1. Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)
  2. International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS)
  3. RAND Corporation
  4. Brookings Institution
  5. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

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

Top Education Policy Think Tanks:
  1. National Institute for Education Policy Research
  2. Urban Institute
  3. Brookings
  4. RAND Corp.
  5. Center for Education Policy, SRI International

Top Energy and Resource Policy Think Tanks:
  1. James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy
  2. Institute of Energy Economics
  3. Oxford Institute for Energy Studies
  4. Korea Energy Economics Institute
  5. Center for Science of Environment, Resources and Energy

Top Environment Policy Think Tanks:
  1. Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research
  2. Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI)
  3. World Resources Institute
  4. Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES)
  5. Third Generation Environmentalism (E3G)

Top Foreign Policy and International Affairs Think Tanks:
  1. French Institute of International Relations
  2. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace 
  3. Brookings
  4. Chatham House
  5. CSIS

Top Domestic Health Policy Think Tanks:
  1. Cambridge Centre for Health Services Research
  2. Bloomberg School of Public Health Research Centers
  3. Health and Global Policy Institute
  4. RAND Corp.
  5. Philips Center for Health and Well-Being

Top Global Health Policy Think Tanks:
  1. Cambridge Centre for Health Services Research
  2. Bloomberg School of Public Health Research Centers
  3. CSIS
  4. Health and Global Policy Institute (HGPI)
  5. Chatham House, Centre on Global Health Security

Top International Economics Think Tanks:
  1. PIIE
  2. Bruegel
  3. Brookings
  4. Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies
  5. Korea Institute for Economic Policy

Top Science and Technology Think Tanks:
  1. Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF)
  2. Max Planck Institutes
  3. Science Policy Research Unit
  4. Institute for Future Engineering; FKA Institute for Future Technology
  5. RAND Corp.

Top Social Policy Think Tanks:
  1. Urban Institute
  2. Center for Social and Economic Research (CASE)
  3. Brookings
  4. Fraser Institute
  5. Fundacao Getulio Vargas

Best For-Profit Think Tanks:
  1. McKinsey Global Institute
  2. Nomura Research Institute
  3. A.T. Kearney Global Business Policy Center 
  4. Boston Consulting Group (BCG)
  5. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC)
Best Government-Affiliated Think Tanks:
  1. Development Research Group, World Bank
  2. Asian Development Bank Institute
  3. Congressional Research Service (CRS)
  4. East-West Center (EWC)
  5. German Development Institute (DIE)

Here is a look at the cheat sheet for the 2018 rankings, and here is a look at the cheat sheet for the 2017 rankings, compiled by Think Tank Watch.

Remember, you may want to be careful about reading too much into these rankings, which have numerous flaws and biases. 

According to the report, the world now has a whopping 8,162 think tanks, with 1,871 of those in the United States, 509 in India, and 507 in China.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Think Tank Quickies (#342)

  • Former Congressman Carlos Curbelo joins Colombia University's energy think tank.
  • Madam C.J. Walker's mansion to become think tank for women of color entrepreneurs.
  • Twitter thread: How the think tank-journalism connection works.
  • Arnold Vonk: Think tanks need to invest in their legitimacy.
  • Institute for the Study of War: Increasing number of Russian military convoys are moving toward the border between Crimea and Ukrainian-held territory.
  • Ben Friedman tracks how think tanks repackage ideas.
  • Pedro da Costa joins EPI as its new communications director.
  • Should think tanks get free access to academic paywalls?
  • Jamie Whyte leaves IEA and won't miss the "who funds you" tweets.
  • ProPublica: Many undisclosed Trump appointees worked at Heritage.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Think Tank CAP Will No Longer Accept Funds From UAE

Here is what The Guardian is reporting:

The Center for American Progress, one of the most prominent liberal think tanks in Washington, will no longer accept funding from the United Arab Emirates, the Guardian has learned.
The group said it is parting ways with what it views to be anti-democratic governments across the globe, seeking to distinguish itself from the authoritarian regimes with which Donald Trump’s administration has developed a close rapport.
“With a rising undemocratic tide around the world, and serious questions about which side of that struggle our own president stands on, it seemed clear that all Americans should take extra steps and leave no doubt where they stand,” a CAP spokesperson told the Guardian.

CAP recently fired two staffers suspected of being involved in a leaking an email exchange that staffers thought reflected improper influence by the UAE within the think tank.

Think tanks are now being pressured to sign a "democracy pledge" to accept funding only from fellow democracies.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Manafort Ally Had Close Ties to Think Tanks

Here is more from The Atlantic:

[Paul Manafort] grew reliant on Konstantin Kilimnik, a Soviet-born native who could render idiomatic English and translate the cultural nuances of the region that might elude outsiders. Manafort would describe him to others in his office as “my Russian brain.” For a decade, Kilimnik was a fixture in Manafort’s meetings with the region’s leading politicians and oligarchs.
After so much time spent in close quarters, the relationship between the two became trusting and deep. By 2011, Kilimnik had taken over Manafort’s office in Kiev. This made Kilimnik the primary interface for Manafort’s lone client, a corrupt clique of former gangsters that ruled Ukraine under the banner of their political organization, the Party of Regions.
With his access and his ability to trade information, he built an impressive network. His rolodex came to include reporters from big international news organizations, including The New York Times, as well as denizens of Washington think tanks and diplomats. They would describe him as “user-friendly”—unusually smart, almost always available, and able to perfectly express complex thoughts in English.

The office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller recently confirmed that Kilimnik is the focus on a grand jury investigation.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

AEI Taps Robert Doar as New President

The conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute (AEI) has announced that Robert Doar will be its new president.

Here is more from AEI:
Robert Doar, the Morgridge Fellow in Poverty Studies at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), has been chosen by the AEI Board of Trustees to be the Institute’s 12th president. He will succeed Arthur C. Brooks on July 1, 2019. Brooks, who has been AEI’s president since January 1, 2009, announced last March his decision to step down from the position.
Before joining AEI in 2014, Doar was commissioner of New York City’s Human Resources Administration, where he administered 12 public assistance programs. Programs included cash welfare, food assistance, public health insurance, home care for the elderly and disabled, energy assistance, child support enforcement services, adult protective services and domestic violence assistance, and help for people living with HIV/AIDS. In New York City, Doar oversaw a 25 percent reduction in the city’s cash welfare caseload. Before that role, Doar was New York State commissioner of social services, where he helped make New York a model for the implementation of welfare reform.

Doar's full biography can be found here.

Here is what the Washington Post has to say about the new appointment:
Doar is a mild-mannered Republican known for his conservative bent on policy, and has worked closely with Brooks and Ryan in recent years. His career has been marked by his stints working for moderates like former New York governor George E. Pataki (R) and then-independent New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.
While AEI has been an informal farm team for the Trump administration, Doar said he does not want the think tank to be seen as a booster or critic of the president’s agenda.
Doar noted that he looks forward to working on initiatives with more liberal think tanks such as the Brookings Institution, in the spirit of collaboration and finding solutions to policy matters that have long vexed Congress and presidents, such as poverty.

Here is what The NonProfit Times had to say:
The Washington, D.C.-based think tank reported $75 million in total revenue for the Fiscal Year Ending June 2017, with net assets of $304 million.
AEI’s announcement did not indicate a salary for the incoming president. As president, Brooks earned total compensation of $1.11 million, including base compensation of $874,647, according to AEI’s Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Form 990 for the year ending June 2017. As resident fellow, Doar earned total compensation of $216,235, including base compensation of $185,400.

The Washington Examiner says that in choosing Doar, it is putting poverty-fighting at the heart of conservatism.

There had been much speculation that former House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) would become the next president of the AEI.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Think Tank Quickies (#341)

  • Brett McGurk, the former anti-ISIS special envoy, is joining Carnegie Endowment for International Peace as a non-resident senior fellow in its Middle East Program.
  • A history of think tanks - 12 things you should know.
  • The age of the permanent think tank intern.
  • Foundation for Law & International Affairs (FLIA), an "educational, academic, and consultative think tank."
  • RAND: An interactive look at the US-China military scorecard.
  • Suspected North Korean cyber-espionage group using Chrome to spy on think tanks?
  • Husband of New York Times' Washington bureau chief Elisabeth Bumiller (Steve Weisman), is the Vice President of think tank PIIE.
  • ADB Institute: The four Rs to look for in think tanks. 
  • UAE gave Center for American Progress (CAP) between $500,000 to $999,000 in 2017.
  • Pic: Think tank conference rooms becoming more popular at corporations.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Hudson Official Quits After Learning of Donation from Putin-Linked Billionaire

Here is more from the New York Post:

Chaos has erupted at a conservative think tank after it was revealed that one of its new donors is Len Blavatnik, the Ukrainian-born billionaire who owns the Warner Music record label.
Charles Davidson — the founder of the Hudson Institute’s Kleptocracy Initiative, a group dedicated to exposing threats by authoritarian regimes to US democracy — said he quit as its executive director upon learning that the Hudson Institute had accepted a $50,000 donation from Blavatnik.
Russian kleptocracy has entered the donor pool of Hudson Institute,” Davidson said in an exclusive interview with The Post. “Blavatnik is precisely what the Kleptocracy Initiative is fighting against — the influence of Putin’s oligarchs on America’s political system and society — and the importation of corrupt Russian business practices and values.”

Think tank donations have come under intense scrutiny in recent years, an many influential think tanks have been rocked by pay-for-play schemes involving foreign money.

A piece that recently appeared in the Washington Post has called on think tanks to sign a "democracy pledge" to accept funding only from democracies.

Interestingly, Hudson says that it "does not seek or accept financial contributions from non-democratic foreign governments or groups or individuals acting on their behalf."

Friday, January 18, 2019

Think Tanks Pressured to Take "Democracy Pledge"

This piece appeared in the Washington Post and was penned by Thorsten Benner, co-founder and director of the Global Public Policy Institute of Berlin:

The murder of Jamal Khashoggi has put the spotlight on think tanks and universities receiving funding from the Saudi regime. Under pressure by media reports, a few think tanks, such as the Brookings Institution, the Center for International Studies and the Middle East Institute, have decided to return Saudi money. Top universities such as Harvard, MIT and Georgetown have so far gotten away with their ties to the Saudi regime without confronting much public scrutiny. This makes it clear that most will act only when a questionable source of funding blows up in their faces.
Saudi funding is just the tip of the iceberg. Money from authoritarian governments is flowing into scholarship, not only from the Persian Gulf but also from the likes of China and Turkey. If leading think tanks and universities want to regain their credibility, they need to change course and commit to a “democracy pledge” to accept funding only from democracies.
The work of think tanks and universities is premised on independence, integrity and the search for truth. They are part of the very fabric of liberal democracy and embody the values of open societies. They stand for everything authoritarians despise: open debate, independent judgment, freedom of thought and freedom of speech. If think tanks and universities sell their brands to authoritarians, that has a corrosive effect not just on their own credibility. It also erodes their role as trustworthy pillars of liberal democracy.
It is high time for top universities and think tanks to change course and sign a democracy pledge to accept funding only from fellow democracies (i.e., countries classified as “free” in the Freedom House index). Some think tanks, such as the Hudson Institute and the German Marshall Fund of the United States, already subscribe to such a policy.

Since many of the US's top think tanks continue to heavily rely on foreign money, it is fairly unlikely that any of them will commit to the pledge.  That said, there will likely be more pressure and more internal debate within think tanks to do so in the years ahead as think tanks continue to lose credibility due to funding sources.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Think Tank CAP Fires Two Staffers Amid Leak Investigation

Here is more from The Intercept:

The Center for American Progress fired two staffers suspected of being involved in leaking an email exchange that staffers thought reflected improper influence by the United Arab Emirates within the think tank, according to three sources with knowledge of the shake-up. Both staffers were investigated for leaking the contents of an internal email exchange to The Intercept, but neither of the former employees was The Intercept’s source.
One of those fired, Ken Gude, was a senior national security staffer. He worked at CAP since 2003 and previously served as the progressive think tank’s chief of staff.
A CAP spokesperson acknowledged two employees were fired as a result of the leak investigation, but said that the leak was not the reason they were fired: “We are not going to discuss internal personnel matters, but no one was fired at CAP for leaking or whistleblowing.” Internally, however, multiple members of CAP leadership have used the leak as the leading rationale for the firings in multiple settings, sources said.
At issue was an internal debate over how to frame CAP’s response to the murder of Washington Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi, who was dismembered by Saudi Arabian officials inside the nation’s consulate in Istanbul on October 2.
The initial draft of the CAP’s statement condemned the killing and Saudi Arabia’s role in it, calling for specific consequences. Brian Katulis, a Gulf expert at CAP, objected to the specific consequences proposed in an email exchange with other national security staffers, according to sources who described the contents of the thread to The Intercept. 
The UAE, Saudi Arabia’s closest ally, is one of the top donors to the think tank. Katulis is close with the UAE’s ambassador in Washington, Yousef Al Otaiba.
 Katulis is CAP’s link to Otaiba. As The Intercept has previously reported, Katulis worked with the diplomat to help organize UAE-sponsored trips to the wealthy Gulf country for American think tank experts, according to emails purloined from Otaiba’s Hotmail inbox.

The Center for American Progress (CAP) has experienced lots of drama the past couple years.  In April, the think tank was bashed for its response to sexual harassment claims. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Think Tank Quickies (#340)

  • Pic: Ireland's Minister of Finance in Brookings bookstore.
  • Caroline Baxter on a "think tank Christmas."
  • Two think tanks, two very different interpretations of data on harm reduction.
  • Liberal think tank CAP donated $200,000 to conservative think tank AEI. 
  • Eli Lee: DC, a land populated by ornery semi-humanoid creatures called "wonks" who live in giant tanks.
  • US pistachios, think tanks, and sanctions against Iran.
  • Nikki Haley receives Hudson Institute's 2018 Global Leadership Award.
  • Pic: Banksy's Think Tank.
  • Government's leading space think tank (Center for Space Policy and Strategy) had a very busy year.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Think Tank: Trump's Team Had 100+ Contacts With Russia-linked Operatives

An updated report from the liberal Center for American Progress's (CAP) Moscow Project shows that the Trump campaign and transition team had more than 100 contacts with Russian-linked officials.

The Moscow Project has put together a comprehensive chronological list of contacts that have been discovered to date and the "lies Trump's campaign, transition, and White House told to hide them."

Here is more about the Moscow Project:
The Moscow Project is an initiative of the Center for American Progress Action Fund dedicated to analyzing the facts behind Trump’s collusion with Russia and communicating the findings to the public. The Moscow Project’s team employs a multi-disciplinary approach towards its work, leveraging a unique combination of experience and expertise gained on Capitol Hill, at the State Department, and in private industry to examine this complex and sprawling series of events stretching back decades.

The co-founder and director of the Moscow Project is Max Bergmann, who is a senior fellow at CAP, where he focuses on European security and US-Russia policy.  Bergmann served in the State Department of the Obama Administration.

Here is USA Today's story on the updated Moscow Project report.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

AEI Is the Noma of Think Tank Dining Experiences

The conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute (AEI) tends to have better meals than most think tanks in and around Washington, DC.

In fact, it just made the New York Times food section:

At the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington, employees are treated daily to an elaborate buffet with appropriately white-shoe fare like prime rib, crab cakes and housemade beignets.
The prime rib and beignets at the American Enterprise Institute may seem inevitable for a research group that extols the rewards of a free market, but there also less fancy choices like deli meats and eggs. “I wouldn’t call it elaborate,” a company spokeswoman said. “I would call it everyday food.”
Rosemary Newsome, 22, a development intern, is thrilled with the spread. “I do kind of joke that now that I have this, I can’t go back to anything less,” she said.

Back in 2016, the Washingtonian said that AEI has one of the best lunches in Washington.

Scoring free food at think tanks has become so popular that it has even spawned the so-called "Panel Crasher," who years ago was documenting his hunt for free food at think tanks.

Know of any think tanks with better food than AEI?  Please send your tips and opinions to Think Tank Watch.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Jamal Khashoggi Wanted to Start a Washington Think Tank

Here is more from the Washington Post:

Even in exile, [Jamal] Khashoggi remained loyal to Saudi Arabia and reluctant to sever ties to the royal court. In September 2017, at the same time he was embarking on a new role as opinion columnist for The Washington Post, he was pursuing up to $2 million in funding from the Saudi government for a think tank that he proposed to run in Washington, according to documents reviewed by the paper that appear to be part of a proposal he submitted to the Saudi ministry of information.

Here is reaction from the think tank community about taking Saudi money.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Hackers Tried to Infiltrate German Think Tanks

Here is more from Bloomberg:

Hackers have released private data linked to Chancellor Angela Merkel and hundreds of other German politicians in the biggest data dump of its kind in the country.
Hackers tried to infiltrate computers of think tanks associated with the governing CDU and SPD parties in 2017. A year earlier, scammers set up a fake server in Latvia to flood German lawmakers with phishing emails.

Germany has 225 think tanks.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Think Tank Quickies (#339)

  • Pic: China beefing up its think tank game (half-page ad in Wall Street Journal).
  • Only-in-DC: Think tanker approached on Metro by someone who says "I loved your working paper on how to build a think tank."
  • CFR holds Council of Councils 11th Regional Conference.
  • Adam Smith Institute has removed passages from its website which promise donors meetings with politicians and government officials.
  • Jonathan Schanzer: "I'm a wonk at a think tank.  Turkish media say I'm an international man of mystery."
  • FT: Think tanks are having an existential crisis.
  • Stacey Abrams joins board of Center for American Progress.
  • Atlantic Council: NATO must prepare to counter a rapid Russia invasion in Europe.
  • RUSI: China is driving use of armed drones in Mideast.
  • Niskanen Center draws up plan for a new Republican Party.

Friday, January 4, 2019

DC Think Tanks Face New Rules for Serving Food & Drinks

Those who attend think tank events in Washington, DC may notice something a little different with drink stations this year.

As of Jan. 1, 2019, think tanks in DC will need to follow new rules which require the use of compostable and/or reusable straws and stirrers when serving food or beverages.

Fines for violations of the ban on single-use plastic straws and stirrers will begin on July 1, 2019.

A foam ban took effect on Jan. 1, 2016, and a compostable and recyclable food service ware requirement began on Jan. 1, 2017.

Hopefully the new requirements won't cause any fights at think tanks (see video here).

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Think Tank Funded Through Online Platform Patreon

Here is more from The Economist:

Matt Bruenig funded the People’s Policy Project, a left-wing think-tank, through Patreon in 2017. Mr Bruenig already had a large audience before Patreon, with 130,000 followers on Twitter, garnered largely from arguing about the left-wing American politician Bernie Sanders. But now his ideas—expressed through radical papers, such as one on a wealth fund—have a larger audience. And his army of patrons suggests that there is an appetite, at least among younger types, for more radical left-wing proposals in America: with 1,700 patrons Mr Bruenig raises around $9,200 each month.

Here is a link to the People's Policy Project (3P) website, which notes that the think tank is supported by over 1,800 small donors pledging between $5 to $15 per month.  It uses Patreon as well as the ActBlue platform to raise funds.

Matt Bruenig, 3P's president, previously worked as a lawyer at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

He was also a policy analyst at the think tank Demos, where he was fired after sparring with Neera Tanden, the head of the Center for American Progress (CAP).

Vox has noted that Demos is smaller and more left-wing than CAP.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Mysterious Russian Money Flowing to Think Tanks?

Here is more from the Washington Post:

...The party, then known as the National Front and now called the National Rally, was having difficulty securing credit from traditional French banks. Le Pen accused the banks of discrimination for refusing to offer a loan. 
In search of money from a non-French bank, party officials turned to Jean-Luc Schaffhauser, a member of the European Parliament elected as part of Le Pen’s party bloc.
Through what he described as work on a French-Russian development-bank project in 2004 or 2005, Schaffhauser said he met a Russian businessman and member of parliament named Alexander Babakov, who in 2012 became the Kremlin’s special envoy for Russian organizations abroad.
Schaffhauser, for his part, said he received 140,000 euros, or about $181,000 at the time, for brokering the loan. His fee was deposited in what he described as a family foundation. He said people close to Babakov, the Russian member of parliament and special envoy, also discussed investing in his think tank.

WaPo notes that the German Marshall Fund's Alliance for Securing Democracy has conducted a study of the loan along with Washington think tank C4ADS.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Think Tank Quickies (#338)

  • Chinese government arrests China analyst at International Crisis Group.
  • Chinese hackers eavesdropping on think tanks in Europe.
  • Mapping the Atlas Network.
  • Former Hudson Institute president Herbert London passes away.
  • Bruegel: How think tanks can make themselves heard in an information-rich world.
  • RAND partnering with WestEd, Council of Chief State School Officers, and Transforming Education on new US Dept. of Education project.
  • Japanese Embassy hosts Atlantic Council board dinner (cuisine made from embassy chef); outgoing Chairman James Jones gives remarks.
  • Roger Robinson, President and CEO of RWR Advisory Group, co-founded Prague Security Studies Institute (PSSI), a think tank dedicated to international security policy.
  • Harvard: How to moderate panel discussions. 
  • Twitter thread by Dany Bahar: Life in a think tank vs. academia.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Chinese Tycoon Sought Influence From Washington Think Tanks

Here is more from the New York Times:

He struck billions of dollars’ worth of deals in Russia, Eastern Europe and Africa. He sought business with war-torn places like Chad and with international pariahs like North Korea.
Ye Jianming, a fast-rising Chinese oil tycoon, ventured to places only the most politically connected Chinese companies dared to go. But what he wanted was access to the corridors of power in Washington — and he set out to get it.
Soon, he was meeting with the family of Joseph R. Biden Jr., who was then the vice president. He dined with R. James Woolsey Jr., a former Central Intelligence Agency director and later a senior adviser to President Trump. He bestowed lavish funding on universities and think tanks with direct access to top Washington leaders, looking for the benefits access can bring. He asked one former American security official: If he bought oil fields in Syria, could the former official persuade the American military not to bomb them?
To build influence, Mr. Ye turned to Vuk Jeremic, a Serbian diplomat and former president of the United Nations General Assembly whom CEFC hired as a consultant, and Mr. Ho, a former Hong Kong official. CEFC also donated at least $350,000 to the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, a politically connected think tank, according to court testimony. The think tank counts Robert C. McFarlane, the Reagan-era national security adviser, as its president and Mr. Woolsey, a Clinton-era C.I.A. director, as its co-chairman

A link to the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security (IAGS) can be found here.  IAGS projects include the United States Energy Security Council, the Global Forum on Energy Security, the Technology and Rare Earth Metals Center (TREM), the Set America Free Coalition, and the Mobility Choice Coalition.

In related news, it was recently reported that Huawei paid the Brookings Institution to write favorable reports.

A group of China specialists recently released a report saying that China is trying to influence US think tanks.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Iran Targets US Think Tanks

Here is more from Associates Press:

As U.S. President Donald Trump re-imposed harsh economic sanctions on Iran last month, hackers scrambled to break into personal emails of American officials tasked with enforcing them, The Associated Press has found — another sign of how deeply cyberespionage is embedded into the fabric of US-Iranian relations.

The AP drew on data gathered by the London-based cybersecurity group Certfa to track how a hacking group often nicknamed Charming Kitten spent the past month trying to break into the private emails of more than a dozen U.S. Treasury officials. Also on the hackers’ hit list: high-profile defenders, detractors and enforcers of the nuclear deal struck between Washington and Tehran, as well as Arab atomic scientists, Iranian civil society figures and D.C. think tank employees.
[One] Charming Kitten target was an intern working for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington think tank that has been one of the Iran deal’s fiercest critics. How the intern — whose email isn’t public and whose name appears nowhere on the organization’s website — crossed the hackers’ radar is not clear.

Every major US think tank has faced various cyber attacks and hacking attempts from foreign government entities.  Many non-US think tanks have also been targeted by state actors.