Thursday, January 18, 2018

Think Tank Quickies (#297)

  • Do think tank experts who do forecasting get it wrong all the time?
  • Gar Alperovitz: Centrist think tanks won't save our cities.
  • Trump nominates Kathleen Hartnett, formerly at conservative think tank Texas Public Policy Foundation, for top environmental post.
  • Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX), Lisa Monaco, and IBM President/CEO Ginni Rometty to chair Aspen Institute's Cyber Strategy Group.
  • National Law Review: Think tanks often look to FARA's "academic exemption" to avoid registration. 
  • Think tanker Shawn Brimley passes away.
  • Corry Bliss's super PAC's partner, a "nonprofit think tank" that he also runs, the American Action Network, provided $30 million in TV ads to push the GOP tax cuts. 
  • Stockholm-based "fact tank" Gapminder has a mission to show how economics, not geography, dictates lifestyle.
  • Full-page ad from R Street Institute in Wall Street Journal. 
  • Inside the offices of Jigsaw, an elite think tank created by Google where employees sample food from around the world and take naps in rooms named Narnia and Mordor.

Think Tank Tweet of the Week: Trump & Think Tanks

The tweet of the week comes from Stephen Taylor, a former fellow at the Manning Centre in Canada.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Think Tank Quickies (#296)

  • Tax think tanks are having a moment.
  • Vice President Mike Pence gives remarks at Hudson Institute's Herman Kahn Award Dinner.
  • Victor Cha of CSIS finally nominated to be US Ambassador to South Korea.
  • FAIR: Think tank-addicted media turn to regime change enthusiasts for Iran protest commentary.
  • Debate in Vegas convened by Brookings and the Charles Koch Institute.
  • Police report says former Putin aide who came to DC to attend Wilson Center fundraiser drank heavily before his body was found.
  • Aspen Institute selects Dan Portenfield, the president of Franklin & Marshall College, as its new leader to replace Walter Isaacson.
  • On Jan. 8, Charles Murray will celebrate his 75th birthday and retire as W.H. Brady Scholar, shifting to an emeritus role at AEI.
  •  Well-respected China hawk Randall Schriver, who runs a think tank called Project 2049 Institute, to become assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific affairs.

Think Tank GMF Gathers All-Star Team to Fight Russia

The Washington, DC-based German Marshall Fund (GMF) is housing an initiative that consists of an all-star team of national security experts and former government officials that is working to help defend against what it says are Russian attempts to undermine democracy.

Here is more about the effort from GMF:

The Alliance for Securing Democracy, a bipartisan, transatlantic initiative housed at The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF), will develop comprehensive strategies to defend against, deter, and raise the costs on Russian and other state actors’ efforts to undermine democracy and democratic institutions. The Alliance will work to publicly document and expose Vladimir Putin’s ongoing efforts to subvert democracy in the United States and Europe.
The Alliance will forge partnerships across the Atlantic with political leaders, policymakers, like-minded institutions, and technical experts to address the urgent need to secure our democracies, create a common understanding of the techniques used to undermine democracies, and share lessons learned about effective defensive and deterrent strategies. Enlisting leading transatlantic experts on cyber security, disinformation, illicit finance, Russian influence operations, and other relevant areas, the Alliance will develop strategies for making democracies more resilient against future meddling and better able to counter Russian efforts to use the subversion of democracy as a weapon. The Alliance will bring together experts across these areas and work with the private sector and civil society to develop and employ strategies to strengthen and secure our democracies.
Finally, it will analyze emerging technological and societal trends to identify areas of vulnerability to the eventual challenge from other state and nongovernmental actors who may attempt to replicate these tactics. By analyzing what Russia is doing today, the project will develop a shared playbook with recommendations for democratic leaders about how democracy can be better safeguarded tomorrow.

GMF says that the Alliance for Securing Democracy is currently funded by a group of American private individuals and small family foundations from across the political spectrum, but it does not list any specific funding sources.

The Advisory Council is an all-star team that includes:

  • Michael Chertoff
  • Toomas Ilves
  • David Kramer
  • Bill Kristol
  • Michael Morell 
  • Michael McFaul
  • Mike Rogers
  • Kori Schake
  • Julie Smith
  • Jim Stavridis
  • Jake Sullivan
  • Nicole Wong

Laura Rosenberger is the director of the Alliance for Securing Democracy as well as a senior fellow at GMF.  Before joining the think tank she was a foreign policy advisor for Hillary for America.  Other staffers include Jamie Fly, David Salvo, Bret Schafer, and Brittany Beaulieu.

The Alliance for Security Democracy's blog can be found here.  Its "Disinformation Dashboards" can be found here.

Advisory Council members recently wrote a piece for The Washington Post entitled "Russian Cyberattacks Never Stopped," in which they cite the work of Alliance for Securing Democracy.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

CNAS Names Victoria Nuland as New CEO

The Center for a New American Security (CNAS) has new leadership.  Here is more from the defense-oriented think tank:

The Center for a New American Security (CNAS) Board of Directors has selected Victoria Nuland, the former U.S. Ambassador to NATO and former Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, as the Center’s new Chief Executive Officer. In addition, Robert O. Work, former Deputy Secretary of Defense and former CNAS CEO, will rejoin CNAS as Senior Counselor for Defense.
As CEO, Ambassador Nuland will lead CNAS’ efforts to develop bold, innovative, and bipartisan solutions to the most pressing national security and defense issues. She succeeds Michèle Flournoy, who will join the Center’s board of directors and co-direct CNAS’ Next Generation National Security Leaders Fellowship. She will work with Richard Fontaine, who remains the organization’s president.

Victoria Nuland also used to be a Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution.  Her husband, Robert Kagan, is a Senior Fellow with the Project on International Order and Strategy in the Foreign Policy Program at Brookings.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) praised the Nuland news, saying she is a "top-notch diplomat and foreign policy leader" and looks forward to her leadership at the think tank.  Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said he has known Nuland for years and she is an "excellent" choice to lead the think tank.

The Nuland announcement comes after Michele Flournoy, a co-founder of CNAS, stepped down as CEO to form a new strategic advisory firm.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Meet the One-Man Think Tank on North Korea

While most North Korea experts are housed within multimillion-dollar think tank buildings or universities with hundreds of millions of dollars in endowment funds, there is a one-man "think tank" who gets just as much attention (if not more) than the top Korea scholars at those institutions.  Here is more from Anna Fifield of The Washington Post:

But Michael Madden has become, as he puts it, an “accidental expert” on the men, and the occasional woman, who run the world’s most isolated country. From his couch in a dark basement here, Madden operates the website North Korea Leadership Watch, documenting the appearances — and the telling absences — of Kim and the people around him.
“This regime is the longest-lasting totalitarian system for a reason,” said Madden, an idiosyncratic 37-year-old who has an encyclopedic knowledge of the North Korean elite.
He’s prone to rattling off their family trees or minutiae about their educations or jobs — such as the previous positions held by the current director of the agricultural affairs department of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea.
“Sure, there is a powerful strongman around which the system vests its attention and affection, but the strongman still needs subordinates who ensure that the trains launch on time,” he said. “So it is important we know some things about these subordinates, however expendable they might be.”
Through his website, which is now hosted by the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University, and through his work for government agencies and contractors, Madden has been keeping tabs on the people at the top of the Kim regime for almost a decade.

Loyal readers of Think Tank Watch may recall that Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) was once called a "one-man think tank" by Politico.

We have previously reported that North Korea has been reaching out to US think tanks to understand President Donald Trump.  Moreover, some think tankers have been trying to secretly broker a peace deal with North Korea.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Co-Founder of Liberal Think Tank IPS Dies

Marcus Raskin, the co-founder of liberal think tank Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) has died.  Here is more from the New York Times.

Marcus Raskin, who channeled his discontent as a young aide in the Kennedy administration into helping found the Institute for Policy Studies, a progressive think tank that became an abundant source of research about nuclear disarmament, the Vietnam War, economic inequality, civil rights and national security, died on Dec. 24 in Washington.  He was 83.
Mr. Raskin and Richard J. Barnet started the institute in 1963, fiercely devoted to maintaining its independence by refusing to accept government funding.  "We also had extraordinary conceit," Mr. Raskin told The New York Times in 1983.  "We were going to speak truth to power."
With its seminars and research, the institute tapped into a changing national mood: The optimism of President John F. Kennedy's New Frontier had yielded to an increasing disillusionment over the government's conduct of the Vietnam War.  Mr. Raskin helped position the institute at the center of the growing antiwar movement.
In 1967, he and Arthur Waskow, a senior fellow at the institute, wrote a "A Call to Resist Illegitimate Authority," a manifesto that urged young men to refuse to participate in war.

The obituary goes on to note that Mr. Raskin played a role in the revelation of the Pentagon Papers, the classified study that unmasked the decision making that had led the US into the Vietnam War.

It says that in 1970, Daniel Ellsberg, the "disillusioned analyst for the RAND Corporation who had drafted the study," gave Mr. Raskin and Mr. Barnet a copy of a part of it.  They then passed it on to the New York Times, which later contacted Ellsberg and received the full report.

The article also quotes Sidney Blumenthal, who said that the Heritage Foundation was "modeled directly on IPS."

Friday, December 22, 2017

Think Tank Quickies (#295)

  • Hottest holiday parties on the Hill list includes Heritage and AEI (attendees list).
  • Bill Gates elected foreign academician at top Chinese think tank.
  • Jared Kushner speaks at Brookings Saban Forum. 
  • Is the Trump team using think tanks more by collecting "non-papers" from think tanks?
  • US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks at Wilson Center.
  • Turkey establishes first defense-specific think tank.
  • Heritage Foundation chart: Differences between House and Senate tax reform bill.
  • "Congress's own think tanks - the Joint Committee on Taxation and the Congressional Budget Office." 
  • Fun fact: Think Tank Gallery in downtown Los Angeles.
  • Many think tankers (including R Street Institute's Shoshana Wiessmann, Neera Tanden of CAP, Norm Ornstein of AEI, and Jamie Kirchick of Brookings) at book party hosted by Juleanna Glover and Christopher Reiter in their Kalorama home for Brink Lindsey and Steve Teles' new book.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Carnegie Scholars Launch Two-Year Russia Investigation

Here is more from the Washington Post:

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace is about to launch a two-year analysis of Russia’s activist foreign and military policies, called “The Return of Global Russia: A Reassessment of the Kremlin’s International Agenda.” The project aims to spotlight ways in which the Kremlin’s influence has spread far beyond Russia’s immediate neighbors and is rooted in countries throughout Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Latin America.
The Carnegie project intends to examine the scope of Russia’s activities abroad, which [Andrew] Weiss in an initial analysis co-written by [Paul] Stronski said is designed to “compensate for lackluster socioeconomic conditions at home.”
The project aims to analyze how Russia’s tactics are evolving, identify which operations may be more annoyance than menace and examine which pose major threats to the West.
“We will try to determine where this matters to our interests and where it doesn’t,” Stronski said. “We pose a lot of questions that we don’t have clear answers to yet. Over a two-year period, we want to get a better sense of the economic, security, political and economic threats Russia may pose and come up with policy guidance. We need to not just look backwards, but at how they’re adapting.”

Here is an initial paper about the new project, written by Paul Stronski and Richard Sokolsky.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Reaction to New Heritage Foundation President Floods In

The Heritage Foundation has just announced that Kay Coles James, a member of the think tank's Board of Trustees since 2005, will become Heritage's new president on January 1, 2018.  She will take over that position from Ed Feulner, the founder of the think tank who became the interim president after the ouster of former president Jim DeMint earlier this year (details here). 

Feulner will remain in an advisory role through January 2018 to assistant with the transition.  He will also resume his role as chairman of Heritage's Asian Studies Center and Chung Ju-yung fellow.

Here is more about Kay Coles James from Politico:
James, who is African-American, served as director of the Office of Personnel Management under President George W. Bush and in Ronald Reagan's Department of Health and Human Services. She also served as Virginia's secretary of health and human resources and as a member of the state board of education.
The board of directors sifted through more than 200 résumés before settling on James, who also served on President Donald Trump's transition team.

Politico notes that James was initially interested in joining the Trump Administration but was "blocked."  However, she noted that she will probably be "able to do far more" from her post at Heritage than within the administration.

In October, the Washington Post published an article saying that James, a close ally to Feulner, "has been mentioned by several associates as someone who could serve in a temporary capacity if the board cannot settle on a candidate."

In reaction to the announcement, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said that Heritage made a "brilliant" choice.

Axios says that she led the search committee for the new president and "will be able to represent Heritage's core values."

In a Daily Signal Q&A, James notes that after she became a serious candidate for the position, she stepped down from the search committee and Ed Meese took it over.

Zack Stanton of Politico says that this likely makes Kay Coles James "the most influential black conservative woman in America."

Here is what the Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin has to say about the new selection.

The Christian Post outlines the four things you need to know about Heritage's new president.

NYT headline: "Heritage Foundation Names New President After Turmoil Under DeMint."

Here is a Wall Street Journal editorial on Heritage and the new president.

While the announcement has so far received lots of praise, some have not been so positive.  For example, Tariq Nasheed, a film producer and media personality, said that "Heritage, a think tank that puts out white supremacist propaganda like Black People have lower IQ's, has named its first black female president to mask their anti-black agenda."

Human Rights Campaign says that James worked for a "designated hate group" Family Research Council and "compared LGBTQ people to drug addicts, alcoholics, and adulterers."

Here is a new Tevi Troy piece on the history of presidents' relationships with think tanks.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Wave of Sexual Misconduct Allegations Hits Think Tank Land

The national dialogue on sexual harassment and sexual assault in the workplace is inching closer to think tank land, as a new movement surfaces to document harassment in academia.  Here is more from Metroland Media Group:

They may not be as well known as Harvey Weinstein or Matt Lauer, but across North America there are hundreds of men accused of sexual harassment and assault holding great power over the women in their academic fields.
Women often didn't report the misconduct because they were worried it would end their career in an insulated, precarious industry where they depend on the recommendations of powerful men to get to the next step.
The stories of these women, ranging from grad students to professors, are now collected in a database started by Oregon-based Karen Kelsky, a former tenured professor who now runs an academic consulting business.
She started a survey on Friday and at press time had already received more than 1,000 responses, including a handful that name the University of Toronto and York University.

The hashtag #MeTooPhD is being used to document various stories of harassment and sexual assault in academia.

Think Tank Watch has heard a number of stories over the years about sexual harassment at think tanks, and it would not be surprising if you start seeing prominent think tankers getting fired.

Quartz has recently reported that think tankers are among those in the national security field that have signed a letter saying they have been harassed at work.

In fact, former Portland mayor Sam Adams has just left his job as director of the World Resources Institute (WRI) after allegations that he made sexually inappropriate comments in the workplace.

Also, Jefferson Smith recently resigned less than two weeks after being chosen as executive director of the left-leaning state-level think tank Oregon Center for Public Policy.  The resignation came after the think tank received a letter calling his hiring "damaging and destructive to women."

In related news, The Washington Post recently reported about sexual harassment at TED talks.

In the Chronicle of Higher Education, Becca Rothfeld asks if sexual predators can be good scholars.

Here is a think tankers take on sexual violence from Tally Helfont and Samuel Helmont of the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI).

Monday, December 11, 2017

Think Tank Quickies (#294)

  • Sexual harassment at TED talks (and think tanks)?
  • White House visitor logs: Heritage dropping in on Budget Czar Mick Mulvaney.
  • Nonresident senior fellow at Atlantic Council, Daniel Vajdich, lobbying for Ukrainian energy firm via Yorktown Solutions; files under FARA.
  • Think tanker on White House "background call."
  • Conflict of interest at Indian think tank?
  • Top mainland Chinese think tank sets up shop in Hong Kong with Belt and Road mission.
  • Who is working for Gazprom among European think tanks and consultants?
  • 7 Questions to ask yourself as a think tanker before applying to grad school.
  • CSIS launches new center-wide initiative on humanitarian assistance. 
  • Maxwell School (at Syracuse University) and CSIS partner on executive IR degree.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Chinese Spies Posing as Think Tankers to Acquire Information

Here is what the Associated Press (AP) is reporting:

The head of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency is warning that China is using social networks to try to cultivate sources of information.
Hans-Georg Maassen said in comments released Sunday that his agency is so far aware of 10,000 German citizens targeted by China, in particular politicians and members of government agencies. Using primarily LinkedIn, Maassen said China’s spy agency has established multiple fake profiles to pose as headhunting agencies, consulting firms, think-tanks or researchers.
China has also been using so-called “supply-chain attacks” in cyberspace, whereby they target IT workers and others to find a backdoor into the networks of organizations they’re interested in, Maassen said.

Here is a recent Think Tank Watch post on a Chinese think tank used to recruit a US spy.

Here is a post from 2014 about Chinese hackers targeting Middle East experts at think tanks.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

State Dept. Paying Atlantic Council Nearly $1M for Venezuela Work

The US State Department has strong ties to a number of US think tanks and provides them millions of dollars for various studies and other activities.  Here is a recent example:

A little known bureau of the U.S. State Department is giving nearly $1 million to a Washington think tank to promote peace in Venezuela and start identifying the building blocks for a new democratically run government.
But critics already see it as an effort by State to train the opposition at dialogue that undercuts President Donald Trump’s push to force Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro to restore democracy.
“It’s a waste of taxpayer money,” said one congressional source familiar with the program. “They’ve tried to dialogue repeatedly and it hasn’t worked. It just buys Maduro time.”
The State Department’s Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations paid $900,000 to the Atlantic Council in September with instructions to “promote non-violent conflict resolution” in Venezuela.
The council said the year-long project’s aim is to draw more international attention to the crisis, show the public what Venezuela could look like under new leadership and provide the opposition and other stakeholders the tools needed to work more cohesively together.
But the effort is already generating no small amount of controversy. According to people inside the U.S. government who favor a harder line against Maduro, the Atlantic Council spending is an effort by State to train the opposition to negotiate and prepare for a future if the government collapses while other parts of Trump’s administration have insisted on a sanctions-driven strategy.

The article goes on to note that the Atlantic Council will have two people dedicated to the year-long project, adding that working with local partners, the think tank will conduct research and organize gatherings with those involved in the opposition and other stakeholders.  Among other things, the think tank will also bring leaders to Washington for public events.

The Atlantic Council gets funding from a wide variety of sources, including a number of US government agencies as well as foreign governments.

Read more here:

Read more here:

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Pro-Brexit Think Tank Legatum Under Scrutiny Over Russia Links

Here is more from The Times at the London-based think tank Legatum Institute:
A think tank with close links to Conservative Brexiteers is be reviewed by the head of a parliamentary committee that scrutinises the work of the intelligence agencies.
Concerns have been raised about links between the Legatum Institute and the Brexit department and the background of the think tank’s main financier and founder, Christopher Chandler, a New Zealand-born tycoon who made part of his fortune with his company, Legatum Group, via investments in Russia.
Dominic Grieve, chairman of the intelligence and security committee, told The Sunday Times that he would “scope” the institute as part of preparations for investigation into Russian activities against the UK.

In the latest University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings, Legatum was named as the 82nd best think tank in Western Europe.

The Financial Times reports about a recent "purge" at the think tank (as does Daily Mail).

The think tank has rejected claims that it has links with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Here is what openDemocracy has to say about who is behind Legatum's funding.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Think Tank Quickies (#293)

  • Is the US falling behind in publishing think tank papers?
  • Sam Patten's Committee to Destroy ISIS funded Hudson Institute feasibility study for the breakup of Iraq.
  • At conservative think tanks, the debate over Trump, the Mercers, and the Bannon wing of the party is raging. 
  • Freakonomics: Should we be grateful for the generosity of think tanks and foundations - or suspicious of their motives?
  • FT: China has an elite group of think tank analysts trying to make sense of Trump.
  • Think tank retracts analysis saying GOP tax bill would raise taxes on 1 in 8 filers.
  • Why the push for tax reform has Republicans hating think tanks.
  • State Department is withholding Paris accord documents, so a think tank is suing them.
  • John Boehner: Jim DeMint "ran Heritage into the ground...turned it into some half-assed political operation."
  • Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) agrees with AEI about Magnitsky Act.

Canadian Think Tanks Get Poor Marks for Transparency

Pro-transparency advocate Transparify has just released a new study showing that Canadian think tanks lag behind their US and UK brethren when it comes to funding transparency.

The group rated 14 Canadian think tanks on their levels of online disclosure related to funding, finding that only half of the policy research and advocacy organizations rated are broadly or highly transparent.

Four think tanks (and related organizations), including Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) and International Institute for Sustainable Development, received a top rating of five-starts for being "highly transparent."

Meanwhile, four think tanks were considered "highly opaque" in terms of transparency, including the Fraser Institute, Conference Board of Canada, Montreal Economic Institute, and Pembina Institute.

Here is a Globe and Mail piece on the new report (subscription needed).

The full Transparify report can be found here.  A 2017 Transparify report on UK think tank funding can be found here.  And here is the group's 2016 survey of 200 think tanks in 47 countries.

Transparify was originally funded by George Soros' Open Society Foundations but no longer receives funding from that group.

High-Ranking Chinese Gov't Official Quietly Funding US Think Tanks

Here is more from Foreign Policy:

The Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), located just a short walk from Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C., is one of the top international relations schools in the United States. Its graduates feed into a variety of government agencies, from the State Department to the CIA, and the military. Its China studies program is especially well known; many graduates come away with expert knowledge of the language, culture, and politics of the United States’ most important strategic competitor.
In August, SAIS announced a new endowed professorship in the China Studies department as well as a new research project called the Pacific Community Initiative, which aims to examine “what China’s broader role in Asia and the world means for its neighbors and partners.”
What the SAIS press release did not say is that the money for the new initiatives came in part from the China-United States Exchange Foundation (CUSEF), a Hong Kong-based nonprofit. CUSEF is a registered foreign agent bankrolled by a high-ranking Chinese government official with close ties to a sprawling Chinese Communist Party apparatus that handles influence operations abroad, known as the “united front.”
The China-U.S. Exchange Foundation’s partnership with a premier U.S. academic institution comes amid a Chinese Communist Party push to strengthen its influence over policy debate around the globe. The Chinese government has sought to repress ideas it doesn’t like and to amplify those it does, and its efforts have met with growing success.

The article goes on to note that CUSEF, founded in 2008 by Tung Chee-hwa, a Hong Kong shipping magnate, has cooperated on projects with other prominent US institutions such as the Brookings Institution, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Atlantic Council, Center for American Progress (CAP), East-West Institute, and Carter Center.

Forbes says that Tung Chee-hwa's net worth is around $2.3 billion.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Fmr. Trump Aide Gorka Becomes Paid Lecturer at Heritage

Sebastian Gorka, a former Deputy Assistant to President Donald Trump, has long been affiliated with a number of think tanks, and he has now attached himself with a think tank that has deep ties to the Trump Administration.  Here is more from Daily Beast:

Former White House counterterrorism aide and notorious sidewalk-parker Sebastian Gorka has landed a new professional gig on top of his newly minted Fox News contributorship: Gorka is now a paid lecturer at the Heritage Foundation. John Cooper, a spokesman for the flagship conservative think tank, told The Daily Beast that Gorka has been contracted to give five foreign-policy speeches to “Heritage audiences,” the fourth of which will take place next month. “Dr. Gorka is an independent contractor,” Cooper noted. “He is solely responsible for the content of his speeches and other statements, and his views are not necessarily those of Heritage or any of its personnel.” Gorka recently updated his LinkedIn page to list himself as a Heritage “consultant.” Gorka, who was ousted from the White House in August, recently joined Fox News as a contributor after departing from a super PAC run by right-wing “Pizzagate” conspiracy theorists, which he had joined after his brief White House stint.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post about Gorka's past connections to think tanks.

Here is another Think Tank Watch post on rumors of Gorka and Steve Bannon starting a national security think tank.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Think Tank Quickies (#292)

  • DARPA recruiting from academia (and think tanks?) in bid for fresh thinking.
  • Kevin Warsh of Hoover was on short-list to take over Janet Yellen's position at the Fed.
  • Is the Chinese government recruiting US think tankers to spy on the US?
  • Bradley Smith in Washington Examiner: The Left (Center for Political Accountability and UPenn) again tries to prohibit corporate giving to think tanks.
  • Meet Cato's Andrei Illarionov, former chief economic adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin before resigning in protest.  [Cato calls Putin's government an aggressive authoritarian regime destroying rule of law, violating human rights, and attacking neighbor countries.]
  • Remi Quirion: 10 tips for making think tank voices heard by politicians.
  • PIIE head Adam Posen on what think tanks can do in a post-truth era. 
  • Facing poverty, academics (and think tankers?) turn to sex work and sleeping in cars. 
  • Politico celebrates birthday of R Street Institute President Eli Lehrer.
  • CNAS and 21st Century Fox launch national security film and television series.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Think Tank Working to Unravel More Environmental Rules

Here is more from The Washington Post:

The activists gathered behind closed doors in a Houston hotel meeting room last week had long existed on the political fringe. They’d dismissed the science behind climate change, preached the virtues of fossil fuels and seethed about the Environmental Protection Agency’s power and reach.
They also had been largely ignored by many top federal officials. Until the election of President Trump.
But now, at the private meeting sponsored by a free-market think tank, the Heartland Institute, the activists were both giddy and grumpy. So much of what the Trump administration had done to roll back Obama-era environmental regulations was positive, they agreed, as were the White House’s efforts to promote the oil and gas industry and halt federal action to combat climate change.
And yet, they said, it wasn’t nearly enough.
Heartland officials handed out a three-page “Energy Freedom Scorecard” that evaluated the extent to which Trump and his deputies had delivered on their top policy priorities. As much as they welcome the administration’s efforts, the scorecard made clear that they think the president could do more, much more.

As the article notes, US EPA Administrator Scott Priutt gave a video message to the think tank.  After Priutt was nominated to that position in December, the Heartland Institute issued a press release praising the announcement.

Earlier in the year, the EPA had asked the Heartland Institute to help identify scientists to join the agency's "red team-blue team" effort to debate the science of climate change.

Here is a piece from E&E News about the think tank's close connection to the Trump Administration's EPA.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Think Tank Quickies (#291)

  • Is there bias against female think tankers?
  • Professors (and think tankers?) behaving badly.
  • Quote of the week: Think tanks go to Washington to die.
  • Turkish influence at think tanks.
  • President Trump had dinner with acting president of Heritage Foundation.
  • South Korean President Moon Jae-in receives Atlantic Council's 2017 Global Citizen Award.
  • Fred Burton's think tank problems: The plastic badges scrape my Brooks Brothers ties.
  • CSIS map tracks Iran's missile launches since 1998.
  • Richard Rubin of WSJ: I seem to be accidentally moonlighting as a think tank assignment editor.
  • R Street Institute launching a "think tank drink tank."
  • Simple investing for think tanks. 

Monday, October 30, 2017

Think Tanker Pleads Guilty to Lying to FBI in Russia Probe

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

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

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

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post about Papadopoulos.

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Think Tank Quickies (#290)

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

Monday, October 23, 2017

Think Tanks and Corporations: Fact of the Day

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

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

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

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Flournoy Stepping Down as CEO of CNAS to Start New Firm

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 20, 2017

Heritage Foundation Narrows Down Search for New President

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

New Tank Quickies (#289)

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

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Brookings: Trump Likely Obstructed Justice by Firing FBI Director

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Atlantic Council Trying to Secure Future US Elections

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

Here is more from Reuters:

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

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

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

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

More details will be coming soon.

Think Tank Quickies (#288)

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

Monday, October 9, 2017

DOJ Steps In After Cyber Attack on Hudson Institute

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

Here is more from The Wall Street Journal:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Think Tank Groupthink

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One person even calls think tanks "groupthink tanks."

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

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Has a Think Tank Just Sunk the Tax Reform Bill?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Think Tank Quickies (#287)

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