Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Former Think Tank Exec Gary Palmer Headed to US Congress

Republican Gary Palmer recently won a seat in the US House of Representatives, becoming what we believe to be the first think tank founder to win a Congressional seat.

Mr. Palmer of Georgia founded the Alabama Policy Institute (API) about 25 years ago.  The conservative state think tank supports limited government, free markets, and strong families.  API will be holding its 25th anniversary dinner with Speaker Bobby Jindal on December 4.

API was attacked during Mr. Palmer's campaign because the think tank would not reveal its donors.

Also, another incoming member of Congress has strong ties to the think tank world.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Brookings Video Catches President Obama in a Lie?

Be careful what you say at think tanks, because it may come back to bite you in the future.  Even presidents are not immune.

President Barack Obama has been arguing that MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, who has been singled out in recent days for making controversial comments about the Affordable Care Act (ACA), was not involved in writing the ACA, commonly known as Obamacare.  And President Obama clearly wants to distance himself from Gruber.  Yet a Brookings video shows Mr. Obama saying that he has "stolen ideas" from Gruber "liberally."

The Daily Caller has the video here.  The event, titled "Restoring America's Promise of Opportunity, Prosperity and Growth," took place April 5, 2006, when Obama was a senator from Illinois.

Then-Sen. Obama was on the first panel of that event, and Gruber was on the second panel at that event.  Here is a transcript from the event.

Think Tank Quickies (#152)

  • Think tank law via Peter Singer of NAF (formerly of Brookings): The more boring a think tank event, the more event reminders you will receive.
  • New HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell finds herself in defensive posture, even though in friendly environs of the liberal Center for American Progress (CAP).
  • SCMP: Think tanks with Chinese characteristics won't fully succeed in muzzling scholars.
  • New UCSD think tank to tackle aging issues.
  • Jon Kyl of AEI and Stephen Moore of Heritage pen piece together for WSJ.
  • The word "genocide" made its debut in 674-page "Axis Rule in Occupied Europe" doc by CEIP?
  • CSIS launches Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI).
  • Cato Institute head John Allision promoting new book: "The Leadership Crisis and the Free Market Cure."
  • Professor Elena Lazarou gives classes at LUISS University on the role of think tanks.
  • South-South and Triangular Cooperation: Emerging opportunities for think tanks consultation.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Canadian TV to Examine Role of Think Tanks

The Agenda with Steve Paikin, the current affairs program on TVOntario (TVO), will broadcast a program on November 17 titled "Think Tanks and Policy Planks" which will examine the role think tanks are playing in influencing policy in Canada.

Guests include:
  • Rohinton Medhora: President, Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI)
  • Trish Hennessy: Director, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Jason Clemons, Executive Vice President, Fraser Institute
  • Don Abelson: Professor, Political Science, Western University
  • Tasha Kheiriddin, Colunist/Editor of Editorial Board, National Post
  • Kathleen Monk, Founding Executive Director, Broadbent Institute

We will be watching closely to see if they discuss the state of Canadian think tanks and if Canadian think tanks are truly in decline.

CAP to Hold Annual Policy Conference with Major Dems

Center for American Progress will hold its annual policy conference on November 19.  The event will be streamed live on

Those giving speeches include Democratic heavyweights such as the newly minted Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro, Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), US Ambassador to the United Nations (UN) Samantha Power, California Attorney General Kamala Harris, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), billionaire Tom Steyer, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The event is by invitation only, and will take place from 9am to 4:30pm at the Mayflower in Washington, DC.

Here is what Ezra Klein of Vox had to say about CAP's policy conference.

Last year CAP held its 10th anniversary policy conference, where Hillary Clinton was a featured speaker.  The think tank has close ties to the Clintons and is expected to be one of Hillary Clinton's go-to think tanks as she ramps up for a likely 2016 presidential run.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Diplomat & Think Tank Circuit Fixture Under FBI Investigation

Here is what The Washington Post is reporting:
A veteran State Department diplomat and longtime Pakistan expert is under federal investigation as part of a counterintelligence probe and has had her security clearances withdrawn, according to U.S. officials.
The FBI searched the Northwest Washington home of Robin L. Raphel last month, and her State Department office was also examined and sealed, officials said. Raphel, a fixture in Washington’s diplomatic and think-tank circles, was placed on administrative leave last month, and her contract with the State Department was allowed to expire this week.

Based on a Think Tank Watch investigation, among the think tanks that Raphel frequented include the Middle East Institute (MEI), the Atlantic Council, the Wilson Center, the Stimson Center, and US Institute of Peace (USIP).  A long time ago, she spoke at this Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP) event.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post on the think tanks that spies prefer.  Here is another post about how think tanks abound with former spies.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Carnegie Becomes Latest Think Tank to Disclose Donors

Some of Washington's top think tanks are quietly releasing funding data amid a powerful push by some groups for more transparency.

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP) is the latest think tank to disclose its donor data, after the Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE) quietly released a bunch of updated funding data.

You can be among the first to check out CEIP's 2014 contributors and funders here.  Several entities have given CEIP more than $1 million in 2014, including the Carnegie Corporation of New York, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the UK Department for International Development.

Entities that have given the think tank between $250,000 and $999,999 is FY 2014 include the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the International Development Research Centre (Canadian).

The US Department of Defense, US Department of State, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and the Taipei Economic and Cultural  Representative Office (TECRO) have each given more than $100,000.

Here is CEIP's funding policy statement.  The think tank says that it relies on its endowment (the legacy of Andrew Carnegie's original 1910 gift of $10 million), to provide core funding for its programs.  That endowment covers close to 50 percent of the think tank's annual budget.

More coming soon....

Think Tank Quickies (#151)

  • Truman National Security Project's "secret email" on Iran nuclear talks.
  • Former Brookings Fellow Erica Downs joins Eurasia Group as Senior Analyst on China.
  • Former House member Allen West to be CEO of National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA).
  • SCMP editorial: China needs better think tanks to provide quality advice.
  • CSIS announces new Cyber Security Task Force.
  • Rep. John Delaney (D-MD) highlights think tank support for his infrastructure bill. 
  • LSE Career Blog post: Working in the think tank sector.
  • World Economic Forum (WEF) launches Think Tank Leader Forum.
  • Think tanks bridge research to policy.
  • Paul Saunders of Center for National Interest: The Media's Mistaken Assumptions About Washington Think Tanks.

CSIS Scholar Tapped to be Assistant Secretary of Defense

The White House recently announced that it intends to nominate David Berteau to be the next Assistant Secretary of Defense for Logistics and Materiel Readiness.

Berteau is currently the Senior Vice President and Director of the National Security Program on Industry and Resources at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), one of the world's top defense think tanks.

He joined CSIS full time in 2008, and before that he was a Nonresident Senior Associate at the think tank.

Here is what Defense News had to say.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Peterson Institute Discloses Funding Sources

Amid pressure by various groups to disclose funding sources, the Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE) has quietly released a 10-page document outlining its funders, with details from 2010-2013.

The conclusion is no suprise: PIIE relies heavily on foreign sources of funding.  The document shows that in 2013 the think tank received 43 percent of its funding from non-US sources.

As loyal Think Tank Watch readers are well aware, many current and former foreign government officials are connected to PIIE.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Celebrity Chef Cat Cora Coming to Think Tank Land

On November 13 the think tank New America Foundation (NAF) will be hosting an event with celebrity chef Cat Cora, who will deliver a keynote address on why putting a meal on the table is harder than ever for modern families, and how they can solve it.

This unique event is being put on by NAF's Breadwinning & Caregiving Program, which, among other things, works on work-family balance issues.  Here is a list of the Program's Advisory Council.

A reception will follow the discussion, which is being underwritten by Betty Crocker.  More on Cat Cora can be found here, and here is her homepage.

It will not be the first time that a celebrity chef has come to think tank land.  For example, Jose Andres came to Center for American Progress (CAP) several years ago, and served a Spanish "bento."

Friday, November 7, 2014

Favorite Lines From WPost Piece on Brookings Funding

Now that Think Tank Watch has viewed enough of the Brookings Fight Club video, we'd thought it was finally time to summarize some of the interesting points in the recent Washington Post article on alleged donor influence on research at the Brookings Institution.

Following are our favorite lines from the Washington Post piece, titled "At Fast-Growing Brookings, Donors May Have an Impact on Research Agenda," and written by Tom Hamburger and Alexander Becker.

  • Over the past decade, a new business model has taken hold at Brookings. The Washington institution renowned for impeccable research and its clout as an independent policy architect has in recent years placed an emphasis on expansion and fundraising — giving scholars a bigger role in seeking money from donors and giving donors a voice in Brookings’s research agenda.
  • Lobbyists are increasingly encouraging clients to donate to Brookings and other think tanks as a way of getting researchers to spend time on the issues that donors care about. Lobbyists say they warn clients not to expect that they can dictate research results from an elite think tank such as Brookings but note that they gain a chance to make their case directly to researchers, stay in touch as papers are written and suggest participants in public forums.
  • Its [Brookings] hundreds of scholars — about 150 in-house and 250 who retain nonresident affiliations — occasionally operate as unofficial government envoys who take part in delicate international diplomacy. Others produce definitive works examining Congress, the economy and American society.
  • In the past, Brookings was funded for the most part by no-strings-attached grants from large foundations and individual philanthropists. An endowment, unusual for a Washington think tank, provided steady interest income that supported independent research and insulated scholars from the fundraising side of the organization.  That became problematic. Foundations began to place more restrictions on their grants, part of a challenging new trend facing Brookings and other academic institutions in which donors increasingly specify their expectations as part of what they call “impact philanthropy.”
  • The strategy also led to a lesser reliance on the endowment. Brookings’s annual reports show that, as the organization has grown, income generated by the endowment has declined as a proportion of annual operating revenue — from about one-third a decade ago to 11 percent in 2013.
  • Brookings officials said no single donor provides more than 2.5 percent of the overall budget, limiting the influence that any one funder can have on the institution. Yet a Washington Post review of a few key issue areas found that Brookings’s public seminars, research papers, congressional testimony and op-eds often correspond to the interests of donors.
  • Heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune, who have poured money into school initiatives challenging the power of teachers unions, have joined their ideological allies in giving millions of dollars to support Brookings’s education policy center — whose scholars regularly adopt market-oriented stances­ oWhile the bulk of Brookings’s work focuses on broad policy issues, the institution has on occasion produced reports that address specific requests from individual donors, although officials say such work always serves a broader purpose.n key issues.
  • Energy companies have escalated their giving to Brookings in recent years, and its Energy Security Initiative has built a team of experts made up in large part of individuals with oil and utility industry ties.
  • While the bulk of Brookings’s work focuses on broad policy issues, the institution has on occasion produced reports that address specific requests from individual donors, although officials say such work always serves a broader purpose.
  • Atlanta-area boosters seeking to build a rail line between the city and Macon, for instance, agreed to pay Brookings and contributing researchers $200,000 in 2010 for an economic impact study and received a report forecasting large benefits from the project — a study that Brookings officials later said failed to meet the institution’s standards because it was not properly reviewed.
  • Brookings officials say there are many examples in which the think tank has declined offers to conduct research and cases­ in which donors withdrew their money because they disagreed with Brookings’s activities.  In one instance, Brookings lost funding from a longtime Turkish donor who had objected to an event that included a Kurdish official, said David Nassar, Brookings vice president for communications.
  • Corporations made up 25 percent of Brookings’s donors giving at least $50,000 in 2013, up from 7 percent in 2003, the analysis found. The proportion of donors at that level coming from overseas, including foreign governments and trade associations, rose from 6 percent to 22 percent in that period.
  • Researchers mingle with top-level donors at “Brookings in the Hamptons” and private travel seminars, some to overseas locales, including China, India and the Middle East. Lobbyists from Washington’s premier firms show up regularly, with clients in tow to meet with scholars and institution luminaries.
  • From the outside, said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, it appears that Brookings no longer behaves like the independent academic institution it once was.  Weingarten, who leads one of the country’s two major teachers unions, said she and her predecessors used to be regularly invited guests at Brookings forums on education policy. But now, with the center’s scholars largely taking stands that run counter to the unions’ views, Weingarten said she is rarely on the Brookings invite list.
  • A number of recent Brookings studies have been singled out for criticism by academics and others, some of whom attribute the research results to Brookings’s association with corporate donors and other wealthy interests.

Okay, now back to the Fight Club video...

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Brookings to Open Another Branch in India?

Brookings opened a branch in New Delhi, India less than two years ago, and rumors are already suggesting that Brookings now wants to expand in India by opening a branch in Chennai.

Besides the think tank outpost in India, Brookings has the Brookings Doha Center (BDC) in Qatar.  It also has the Brookings-Tsinghua Center for Public Policy (BTC), a partnership of Brookings and China's Tsinghua University.

And besides its Washington, DC headquarters, Brookings's only other US office is located at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas (and supported by gold mining and casinos).

Think Tank Quickies (#150)

  • Will Brookings expand in India?  Is Chennai branch next...?
  • Growing stink about think tanks, by Alan Tonelson. 
  • Stanford Law School guide to think tank world. 
  • Think tanks face hurdle in answering Xi Jinping's call for "new type of Chinese think tank."
  • Think tanks too optimistic about "zero casualty war."
  • Former Prime Minister of Australia Kevin Rudd to become first president of Asia Society Policy Institute, described as a "new kind of think tank on the rise of Asia."
  • From AICGS at Johns Hopkins: How think tanks think.
  • Do think tanks send too many emails? (Think Tank Watch's answer: yes)
  • Is Russia "buying" Western think tanks and experts?
  • PBS Newshour's former foreign affairs and defense editor now watches wonks push policy in Washington's multitude of think tanks.

As Arctic Melts, Think Tank Rises

Arctic ice melting is causing scientists, businesses, and others to pay much greater attention to the region, and creating a boon for the niche think tank The Arctic Institute (TAI) in Washington, DC.

The Wall Street Journal just wrote an article almost solely on one recently released Arctic Institute report, which said that cargo shipping volume through the Northern Sea Route is rising as Arctic ice melts.

TAI recently announced it has signed a one-year partnership agreement with the High North Center in Bodø, North Norway. TAI will help the Center develop their High North Dialogue Conference, an Arctic-themed conference.

The think tank even has an online store where you can buy the latest copy of Arctic shipping routes, Arctic summer ice extent maps, and Arctic permafrost maps.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Soon-To-Be Youngest Woman in Congress a Think Tanker

Elise Stefanik (R-NY), 30, is expected to win a US House seat tomorrow, making her the youngest woman elected to the House.  And, according to The Washington Post, she has a think tank background:
She had stints with the conservative think tanks Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) and The Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI).

More specifically, she was an undergraduate fellow with FDD.  In other words, she was an intern.  At FPI, she was Director of Communications and External Affairs.  Both FDD and FPI are considered neoconservative think tanks.

Democratic opponent Aaron Woolf has said that every one of her ideas "is a kind of typical conservative think tank  idea from the last 20 years."

1st Rule of Brookings Fight Club: Beat Up Your Intern (or Try)

Think tank watchers may have been too distracted last week by that little Washington Post piece on alleged donor influence on research at Brookings to have noticed the much more significant news coming out of the world's top think tank: The Brookings Fight Club.

First, if you haven't seen the video, watch it here.  What you will find is a gem of a think tank video with Brookings national security intern Ben Bissell (who studies krav maga) fighting his boss Ben Wittes, Senior Fellow in Governance Studies at Brookings and Editor-in-Chief of Lawfare (who studied taekwondo and aikido).  Refereeing the 1st-ever think tank fight club fight match is Managing Editor of Lawfare Wells Bennett, in a bunny suit.

It is one of the only think tank videos in recent memory that is worth watching at least twice, even though we'd like to see a bit more blood spilled next time.  It is certainly much more interesting than a policy fight club.

What has the response been so far to the Brookings Fight Club?  Compared to most policy pieces, it has generally received rave reviews, and even has its own Twitter hashtag: #BrookingsFightClub.

Do you want to see two think tank scholars fight each other in the future?  Send us your ideas to info (at)

Think Tank First: Partnership With an Orchestra

The think tank world seems to be pushing the boundaries these days of what people have traditionally considered to be the role, activities, and partnerships of these once buttoned-down, conservative institutions.

A few weeks ago the Atlantic Council hired a star video game director.  Last week Brookings started the first-ever think tank fight club.  And now, the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), a top British defense and security think tank, has announced the first-ever partnership between a think tank and an orchestra.

Here is more from RUSI:
This will be the first time, perhaps in history, where a think tank and an orchestra have come together creatively to explore their respected fields over the next two years.
The partnership will be inaugurated on 10 November with an evening of music from the Great War. Hallé musicians will perform a programme of musical pieces derived from, and around, the First World War and featuring the music of some of the country’s best loved composers including Ralph Vaughan Williams and George Butterworth.
The event will take place at RUSI’s historic headquarters in Whitehall.
In 2015, RUSI and the Hallé will explore ‘leadership in music and the military’ with Sir Mark Elder and a leading military figure, as well as a stellar concert in October 2015 to mark the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt.

Think Tank Watch wonders if think tanks will start one-upping each other for wilder and wilder partnerships.  Will Brookings Institution partner with Madonna?  Will American Enterprise Institute (AEI) partner with Jay-Z?

RUSI was founded in 1831 by the Duke of Wellington.  It is a British institution but has satellite offices in Doha, Tokyo, and Washington, DC.  Her Majesty the Queen is a Patron of RUSI.  His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent is the President of RUSI.  It is considered the world's oldest think tank.

In the most recent University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings, RUSI was named as the world's 40th best think tank.  It was also named as the world's 8th best defense and national security think tank.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

CSIS Co-Founder David Abshire Dies

David Abshire, co-founder and president emeritus of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) died on October 31 in Alexandria Virginia.  He was 88.

He helped established the think tank in 1962, and interrupted his work there several times to work for various Republican administrations.

Here is more from The Washington Post:
After working at a predecessor to the American Enterprise Institute, he joined retired Navy Adm. Arleigh Burke in founding CSIS. Once associated with Georgetown University, it grew into a think tank whose members include Kissinger and former national security advisers Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft.

Here is a statement from CSIS on Dr. Abshire's death.  Here is a statement from Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN).

CSIS has the Abshire-Inamori Leadership Academy (AILA) to provide rising global leaders with training opportunities in leadership, ethics, and foreign policy.  Dr. Kazuo Inamori was the founder of Kyocera Corporation.

CSIS's other co-founder, Arleigh Burke, died in 1996.  The think tank still has the Burke Chair in Strategy that provides political and military analysis of challenges facing the US and the world.  Anthony Cordesman is the current Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy.

In related news, Bill Taylor, former head of CSIS's International Security Program, recently passed away.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Brookings Targeted by NYT, and Now Washington Post

Being the world's number one think tanks these days is not easy.  Just ask the leadership at Brookings, which was just bashed by the Washington Post for allegedly letting private donors influence its research agenda.

And check out this piece in The Algemeiner titled "Brookings Sells its Soul to Qatar's Terror Agenda (Part Two)."  Part One can be found here.  [Parts 3 and 4 are coming soon.]

Many more details coming soon....[Sorry, we are too distracted watching Brookings scholars beat the #%$! out of each other.]

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Tea Party Queen Michele Bachmann Dream: Think Tank Land

Tea Party conservative Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) is leaving Congress at the end of the year, and all she wants for retirement is to work at a think tank.  Preferably, she wants to work at a foreign policy think tank.  Here is how the Washington Post describes her retirement plans:
Bachmann says the model laid out by former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) in his post-congressional life is a “great example” of what she’d like to do: some time as a talking head, a position at a think tank (preferably having something to do with foreign policy), premium speaking fees and maybe a book or two.

So, which think tank could Bachmann land at?  The most likely is the conservative Heritage Foundation, where she gave one of her last official speeches as a member of Congress earlier this month.  [WPost notes that the audience at the event was primarily made up of a couple dozen interns.  Ouch.]

If she follows former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's think tank path exactly, she will land at the conservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where Gingrich was formerly a Senior Fellow.  She would also end up at Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), where Gingrich was a member of the Terrorism Task Force.  [He is currently not a member of CFR.]

And following exactly in Mr. Gingrich's footsteps will also mean that she needs to start and collapse her own think tank, just like Newt.

Here is a list that Think Tank Watch compiled of various [largely former] Members of Congress and which think tanks they are now affiliated with.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Leadership Change at Carnegie After 18 Year Matthews Run

Wow is that revolving door fast.

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP) has just announced that William Burns, former US Deputy Secretary of State, will become the next president of the think tank effective February 4, 2015.

Jessica Tuchman Matthews will step down at that time after 18 years at the helm of CEIP.  After February 4, Matthews will continue at CEIP as a distinguished fellow, devoting her time to writing.

One reason that Burns is not taking over leadership of the think tank right away?  He will reportedly be consulting on Iran negotiations.

Here is an exit interview with William Burns via Foreign Policy.

Here is the take from The Washington Post, which calls CEIP a "prominent global research think tank."

CEIP was ranked as the world's third best think tank in the most recent University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings.  It was rated as the second best think tank in the United States, after the Brookigs Institution.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Think Tank Quickies (#149)

  • 2003 flashback from RAND: How think tank interact with the military.
  • Exit interview with DoD's Andrew Hunter, who is moving to CSIS to run the think tank's Defense Industrial Initiatives Group.
  • Army builds cyber think tank at West Point.
  • What is a think tank? (via Enrique Mendizabal)
  • How do think tanks shape health policy?
  • Federal government kills valuable dataset, but think tanks step in to recreate it.
  • Scaife-related foundations fund lots of think tanks.
  • Think tank set up for India IPR policy.
  • Think tanks and alcohol policy in the United Kingdom.
  • AEI to women: Stop worrying about roofies.

"ScanBox" Keylogger Targeting Think Tanks

Here is what PCWorld is reporting:

A diversification of targets for a clever keylogging attack suggests that several hacking groups may be using the “ScanBox” framework, which spies on users without installing malicious software.
ScanBox was found in August by the security company Alien Vault on the website of a large industrial company that develops simulation and engineering software for aerospace and manufacturing companies.
PricewaterhouseCoopers wanted to see if ScanBox was more widespread and found it on a more diverse set of websites, including one for the Uyghur community in China, an industrial-related website in Japan, a U.S. think tank and a Korean hospitality site.

PricewaterhouseCoopers says that ScanBox is "particularly dangerous as it does not require malware to be successfully deployed to disk in order to steal information."

Here is a recent Think Tank Watch post about Chinese hackers targeting Middle East scholars at think tanks.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Chinese President Demands Better Think Tanks

Here is what People's Daily Online is reporting:
President Xi Jinping called for a new type of think tank catered for China as the country looks to modernize its governance.
The Leading Group for Overall Reform headed by Xi convened its sixth meeting on Monday, with attendees reviewing a document on strengthening the construction of new think tanks with Chinese characteristics.
Xi said at the meeting that intellectual resources are the most important for a nation, playing a crucial role in governing a country successfully. The more arduous the reform, the more intellectual support is needed, according to a statement issued after the meeting.
Although think tanks in China are developing rapidly and making important contributions to reform and modernization, they have a hard time changing alongside rapid development. Currently, China lacks think tanks with great influence and international reputation, Xi said.
The president said think tanks should be led by the Communist Party of China (CPC) and adhere to correct direction. They should also demonstrate Chinese characteristics and style. Think tanks should also abide by scientific spirit and encourage researchers to make explorations and study. Think tanks should also focus on the overall situation, Xi added.
Think tanks affiliated to all departments, including the Party, the government, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the Army, enterprises, as well as non-governmental think tanks, should be developed in a coordinated way, so that to form a think tank system with clear definitions, features and appropriate scales, the President said.
Xi also called for building a number of think tanks with international reputation and influence, as well as some professional think tanks.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post on Chinese think tanks.  China has 426 think tanks, the most of any country besides the United States, which has a whopping 1,828 think tanks.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Think Tank Trying to Overthrow the Federal Reserve?

The libertarian Cato Institute has just established a new institute whose stated goal is to "challenge the Federal Reserve and the financial regulators in a way they haven't been challenged in 100 years."

The new entity, the Center for Monetary & Financial Alternatives, will focus on development of policy recommendations that will create a more free-market monetary system in the US.

Cato also said that the new Center will explore policy options that include the creation of a private deposit insurance pool for small depositors, as well as measures that would expose the largest financial institutions to a genuine risk of failure, and thereby compel them to either acquire more capital or take fewer risks.

Here is more about the Center:
George Selgin, a Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of Georgia and one of the foremost authorities on banking and monetary theory and history, gave up his academic tenure to join Cato as director of the new center.
Luminaries from the banking policy world who have signed on to the Executive Advisory Council for the new Center include Richard Kovacevich, Chairman Emeritus of Wells Fargo, and George Melloan, former Deputy Editor of the Wall Street Journal.
The Council of Academic Advisors includes two Nobel Laureates in Economics, Thomas J. Sargent, from New York University, and Vernon L. Smith of Chapman University. John B. Taylor, a professor of economics at Stanford, Richard Timberlake, professor emeritus from the University of Georgia, and Guillermo Calvo, a professor of economics at Columbia University, also serve on the council.
James A. Dorn, Vice President for Monetary Studies and the long-time director of Cato’s annual monetary conference, will play a major roll in management of the Center. Mark Calabria, Director of Financial Regulation Studies at Cato, will also move to the new Center. Before joining Cato in 2009, Calabria served six years as a senior staff member of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs.

A full list of advisors, fellows, and adjunct scholars connected to the new Center can be found here.  Cato is throwing a lot of weight and power into the new Center, which will have no less than 40 affiliated advisors/scholars.

The Wall Street Journal says that Cato's new Center boasts some heavy hitters in the economics world.  It notes that the think tank has raised about $9 million from a "number of independent contributors" for the center, enough to fund it for five years.  The Center will reportedly have 10 full-time personnel.

In related news, Cato will be holding its 32nd Annual Monetary Conference on November 6.

The Cato Institute was recently ranked as the 18th best think tank in the world by the annual University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings.  It was also ranked as the 9th best think tank in the US.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Think Tank Quickies (#148)

  • Chinese ramp up spying on Australian think tanks.
  • Think tanks in South Korea blasted for fund misuse.
  • Brookings' Strobe Talbott to be honored by Cleveland Council on World Affairs.
  • Dan Drezner on thinking about think tanks; and five things I now think I think about think tanks.
  • Aspen Institute head: There's no real reason to have think tanks start before 10am.
  • Texas Gov. Rick Perry gives speech at Royal United Services Institute (RUSI).
  • Plagiarism from think tanks costs US senator his degree.
  • Heidi Shierholz, former economist at EPI, becomes Labor Department's chief economist.
  • CSIS launches "Global Sustainability Series" with support from Bechtel Corporation; announces new initiative in partnership with Fortune Magazine called "Smart Women, Smart Power."
  • CNAS announces formation of Defense Strategies and Assessments Program.
  • Andrew Selee of Wilson Center has piece in Time magazine - "Think Tanks: What Are They Good For?" (cites Jerry Seinfeld on think tanks)

Monday, October 13, 2014

Think Tank CAP to be Clinton's Policy Shop

The founder of Center for American Progress (CAP) John Podesta is in an awkward position.  He is currently President Obama's Counselor, but he has also been joining informal meetings of Hillary Clinton advisers who are working on Hillary's presidential bid.

Here is how The Wall Street Journal recently described the situation of CAP, as liberals begin to transition from an Obama era to a possible Hillary era:
He [John Podesta] founded Washington’s major liberal think tank, the Center for American Progress, which is likely to be a pipeline of policy positions and staff for a Clinton presidential bid. Speaking at the 10-year anniversary party for CAP in 2013, with Mr. Podesta beside her on stage, Mrs. Clinton called him the “indispensable man.”

It was recently reported that Podesta will likely be Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman, and CAP President Neera Tanden will likely be an outside informal adviser to Clinton.

Here is a recent Think Tank Watch piece on the Clinton connection to think tanks.

In September 2014, Clinton participated in a CAP roundtable on women's economic security.

Back in 2003, Clinton called John Podesta a "friend" and praised CAP, calling it an "important institution" and a "tremendous force."

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Rep. Wolf Forces DOJ's Hand on FARA Ruling for Think Tanks

The fallout from last month's New York Times piece on foreign government funding of US think continues, with Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) demanding that the US Department of Justice look into whether think tanks are violating federal law by accepting foreign government money without registering as so-called "foreign agents."

Here is the letter, dated October 8, that Rep. Wolf sent to Attorney General Eric Holder.  The letter cites last month's New York Times article on think tank funding, and says that he does not think that think tanks such as Brookings, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), and Center for Global Development (CGD) intentionally sought to circumvent Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) laws or act inappropriately.

Rather, Rep. Wolf said that the DOJ needs to review its guidance and enforcement of FARA to provide clarity on whether funding from foreign government or state-run institutions to US think tanks should be disclosed under the law.  He also called on the DOJ to update its FARA regulations and guidance to help define whether the receipt of this form of foreign government funding would qualify a think tank as a foreign agent.

The New York Times, which broke the story, quotes a Justice Department spokesman of saying that they are aware of Rep. Wolf's letter and are reviewing it.

Here is a Think Tank Watch list of responses to the original New York Times piece on foreign government funding of US think tanks.

Shortly after that NYT piece, Rep. Frank Wolf called on the Brookings Institution to stop accepting money from all foreign governments.

Also in response, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) floated a proposal that would require witnesses that appear before congressional committees, including think tankers, to disclose the amount and source of any money received during the current fiscal year or either of the two previous fiscal years by the witness or an entity the witness has been paid to represent.

More details coming soon...

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Think Tank Quickies (#147)

  • Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson speaks at CSIS.
  • Boston Globe piece bashes Third Way.
  • Boston University votes to remove student think tank.
  • US government should put North America first, says CFR Task Force recommendation.
  • Cato Institute expands its Board of Directors membership.
  • David Goldwyn to chair Atlantic Council's new Energy Advisory Group; Cynthia Quarterman to join Atlantic Council Energy Program as a Distinguished Senior Fellow.
  • Dr. Eliot Cohen, former Counselor of US State Department, joins CNAS as Adjunct Senior Fellow.
  • World Bank President Jim Yong Kim: "World Bank isn't just a think tank, it's a do-tank."
  • Do donors behind think tanks diminish their credibility? (via Curiousmatic)
  • Transparify on the integrity of think tanks.

Friday, October 3, 2014

AEI Wins Think Tank Softball League Championship

The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) is a heavyweight in the think tank world, but it also a powerhouse in a lesser-known area: softball.

AEI's "Right Swing Conspiracy" just won the Think Tank Softball League (TTSL) championship, defeating the Roosevelt Institute's "Roosevelt Rough Riders" 17-15 in an extra-inning game.  It was AEI's first-ever TTSL title.  Here is a picture of the champs.

The TTSL is a summer-time, co-ed think tank league in the Washington, DC area.  The teams are mostly from area think tanks, but also include representation from a number of government agencies and private firms.  There are around 40 teams in the league.

Here is a 2010 list of the different think tanks involved, along with their team names.  Here is an NPR piece from 2008 on the TTSL.

The softball league is so popular that some think tanks, such as AEI and the venerable Brookings Institution,  tout it as a job benefit.

A few newspapers occasionally mention TTSL happenings (although your humble Think Tank Watch may have wider coverage).  [Fun fact: The Washington Post noted in 2011 that Michelle Flournoy, Co-founder and CEO of Center for a New American Security (CNAS), "wasn't the best" softball player in the TTSL.]

Newly Minted Think Tanker Bernanke Can't Get a ReFi

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, who is a scholar at the Brookings Institution, can't refinance his mortgage.  The culprit?  The fact that he recently started working at a think tank.

Bernanke left the Fed and starting working at Brookings on February 3, 2014.  And that job change makes him a steeper credit risk.  Here is more from The New York Times:
An employee of a think tank owns a house in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington. He wants to refinance his mortgage, but the bank won’t give him a loan.
It is perhaps not the most shocking story in the world, but it becomes so when you learn that the think tank employee is Ben S. Bernanke, who was until earlier this year the chairman of the Federal Reserve, charged with setting the course of interest rate policy for the United States economy.
The problem probably boils down to this: Anybody who knows how the world works may know that Ben Bernanke has vast earning potential, and that he is as safe a credit risk as one could imagine. But he just changed jobs a few months ago. And in the thoroughly automated world of mortgage finance, having recently changed jobs makes you a steeper credit risk.

Mr. Bernanke is a Distinguished Fellow in Residence at Brookings.

In more Bernanke news, a federal judge reportedly is not sympathetic with the fact that Bernanke is a busy think tanker.  A judge is forcing him to testify next week at a high-profile trial about the 2008 government bailout of big banks and other financial institutions.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

CSIS Establishes Brzezinski Institute of Geostrategy

The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) recently announced that it has established the Brzezinski Institute of Geostrategy, named after Zbigniew Brzezinski, CSIS Counselor and Trustee.  Its mission will be to examine the interaction of history, geography and strategy, with the goal of developing policy-relevant analysis and recommendations.

CSIS also says that the new Institute "seeks to develop a new generation of strategic policy thinkers at home and abroad."  Here is more:
The launching grant for the Institute came from Rilin Enterprises, Ltd., a global construction and logistics firm based in Hong Kong with offices in New York, Beijing, and Dandong, China. Mr. Wenliang Wang serves as chairman of Rilin Enterprises. Mr. Mark Fung, who serves on the Institute’s Advisory Board, is the firm’s general counsel and in the 1990s was Dr. Brzezinski’s student and then seminar assistant at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
Located in CSIS’s new state-of-the-art headquarters in Washington, D.C., the Institute will carry out a range of dynamic programming, including annual lectures, visiting fellows from around the world, original research by CSIS scholars on geostrategic issues, new publications, and cutting-edge multimedia content. Through this work, the Institute will help to inform today’s policymakers and train tomorrow’s global leaders.

Dr. John Hamre, President, CEO, and Pritzker Chair at CSIS will act as the Institute's director during its first year.

An event was held October 1 to celebrate the establishment of the new Institute, and former Prime Minister of Australia Kevin Rudd gave a keynote address.

Here is a video about the launch of the new Institute.  Here is its new website.  Here is a note from Dr. Hamre.  Here are some projects that the Brzezinski Institute is working on.  Here is a list of the Advisory Board and leadership at the Institute.

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

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Think Tank Quickies (#146)

  • The Fletcher School at Tufts University to hold event on the role of think tanks in foreign policy on October 14.
  • Rory Cooper, former Communications Director at Heritage Foundation and Communications Director for Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), becomes Managing Director at Purple Strategies.
  • LaDonna Pavetti (CBPP) does not agree with Ron Haskins (Brookings) on welfare. (CQWeekly)
  • Republican think tank intellectuals plot 2014 strategy. 
  • CNAS Senior Fellow Colin Kahl named Deputy Assistant to the President and National Security Advisor to Vice President Joe Biden; Israel is not happy.
  • Oxford University review of Andree Selee's book "What Should Think Tanks Do?"
  • CAP blasts Cato Institute for calling Eric Holder "A Modern-Day George Wallace." 
  • Bob Cusack of The Hill: Khorasan Group is "a terrorist organization with a DC think tank-like name."
  • Is America fragmented because it has too many think tanks? 
  • Left-of-center think tank Minnesota 2020 shutting down.

DC's Newest Think Tank: PS21

Meet Project for the Study of the 21st Century, a new think tank that has just opened up shop in Washington, DC.  Here is how it describes itself:
The initial concept is very simple. It will build out a global network of people with a unique range of insights and backgrounds. It will use them to generate content, events, and discussions both on the events of the day and the larger questions of the 21st Century.
In the very short term, that means producing a small number of tightly focused eBooks over the next few months and using them to also generate some great discussions, events and smaller articles.
It should, hopefully, serve the interests of all of those involved. For its membership, it gives new ways to build branding and engage in new conversations with new contacts. For its growing and enthusiastic intern base, it provides the opportunity to get involved in a variety of activities with a range of other contributors and help build an institution from the ground up.

PS21 was incorporated as a UK company on August 28, 2014, and is currently is the process of registering with the UK charity commission.  It also plans to register as a US nonprofit in the coming weeks.

On October 1 the brand new think tank will be holding a reception.  It is also seeking interns.

Washington, DC currently has 395 think tanks, and even more will likely appear by year's end.