Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Brookings Alum Starts as VP Biden's Chief Economist

Benjamin Harris, who previously worked as Policy Director at the Brookings Institution's Hamilton Project, is starting this week as Vice President Joe Biden's chief economist.  His work can be read here.

Vice President Biden has tapped his chief economist from the think tank world in the past, namely Jared Bernstein, who came from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) and now works as a Senior Fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP).

In related news, Karen Aderson, the Managing Director of The Hamilton Project, is launching an independent consulting firm called KLA Strategies.  Kriston McIntosh will be the new Managing Director.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post on The Hamilton Project and the heavy-hitters that are affiliated with it, including former Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Think Tank Quickies (#156)

  • Government borrowing more ideas from private sector, think tanks?
  • Think tanks: Why aren't millenials spending?  They're broke.
  • A "fake" Eurasian strategy think tank?
  • AEI President = new spiritual guru?  Pens "abundance without attachment."
  • Ben Judah suggests investigative piece on think tank "consulting" policies, says former oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky planning to build a new think tank.
  • New think tank head Allen West already caught plagiarizing?
  • Pic: AEI holiday party at Per Se.
  • Heritage Foundation promotes Jack Spencer to serve as VP for the Institute of Economic Freedom and Opportunity, as Derrick Morgan returns to Capitol Hill after 4-year Heritage stint.
  • Citigroup Global Chief Economist William Buiter joins CFR as Senior Fellow; CFR releases 7th annual Preventive Priorities Survey, with ISIS a top priority.
  • CFR honors Kissinger critic.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Think Tank-Connected Duo Make Big Money Moves

Capital Business has a piece out today on a Maryland-based firm called Enlightenment Capital that is making some big money moves, and the co-founders happen to have ties to the think tank world.

One co-founder of the $80 million fund is Devin Talbott, the son of Brookings President Strobe Talbott.  The other co-founder is Pierre Chao, a former Senior Fellow and Director of Defense-Industrial Initiatives at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).  He joined the defense-oriented think tank in 2003.

Talbott is on the Advisory Board of the Aspen Security Group, and is a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).

Interestingly, the advisors to the firm read like an advisory board at a high-level Washington think tank.

Here is more about what Enlightenment Capital does.

Carnegie Scholar Blocked From Entering Egypt

On Friday (Dec. 12) Michele Dunne, a Senior Associate in the Carnegie Middle East Program, was refused entry into Egypt.  Here is a statement from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP):
Egyptian authorities refused to allow Michele Dunne, senior associate in the Carnegie Middle East Program, to enter Egypt on December 12, 2014. She was held for six hours at Cairo’s airport before being put on a plane to Frankfurt. Dunne was traveling to Cairo to speak at a conference organized by the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs.

Condemning the Egyptian authorities’ decision, Carnegie President Jessica T. Mathews said, “Michele Dunne is a scholar of unimpeachable integrity who has devoted her professional life to analyzing Egyptian politics and improving U.S.-Egyptian relations. She is enormously respected throughout the Middle East, as well as in the United States and Europe, for the rigor and fairness of her work.”

Marwan Muasher, vice president for studies for Carnegie’s Middle East Program, added, “We are deeply disappointed by the Egyptian government’s action, which undermines the important need for open dialogue about the difficult challenges facing Egyptians today and further isolates Egypt from the international community.”

Dunne’s research focuses on political and economic change in Arab countries, particularly Egypt, as well as U.S. policy in the Middle East. She was previously a Middle East specialist at the U.S. Department of State, where she served in assignments that included the National Security Council, the Secretary’s Policy Planning Staff, and the U.S. embassy in Cairo.  

It is the first time a Carnegie scholar has been denied entry into Egypt.

The New York Times notes that Ms. Dunne is critical of the government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi.  Much of her work can be read here.

She was also the Founding Director of Atlantic Council's Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Google Drops Sponsorship for Conservative Think Tank

This is from CQ:
In 2013 Google sponsored a lavish dessert buffet for those attending the Competitive Enterprise Institute's (CEI) annual dinner in Washington.  The libertarian group had defended Google from charges that its dominant position in the Internet search market violated antitrust laws.  Still, Google took flak from environmentalists - and from many of its own employees - because CEI also opposes environmental regulations and government actions to stop climate change.  Google didn't sponsor the think tank's 2014 dinner.

A link to CEI can be found here.

Think Tank Quickies (#155)

  • Atlantic Council announces new Art of Future Warfare (AFW) project; VP Biden headlines the think tank's Energy and Economic Summit in Istanbul, Turkey; has new Global Energy Center.
  • How DC became irrelevant, by Bruce Katz of Brookings.
  • Meet Jerry Brito, head of the new think tank Coin Center.
  • CNAS: To end hacking, US must make China pay.
  • Heritage Action losing grip on the Hill.
  • Turkcell and Turkish Infomatics Foundation partner with Brookings.
  • Think tankers visiting Austin to grill Gov. Rick Perry on a variety of topics for 2016 run.
  • Think tanks in UAE playing key role as country seeks to become the world's most innovative state.
  • Constance Berry Newman, former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, becomes Nonresident Senior Fellow at Atlantic Council's Africa Center.
  • Ed Rogers, fmr. Deputy Assistant to President George H.W. Bush, joins CNAS Board of Advisors.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

New Report Shows Think Tanking is Big Business

Santa has delivered a nice present to think tank land.

A new report released by today by Transparify shows that the US's 21 top think tanks broke the billion-dollar spending barrier in 2013, highlighting how massive the think tank industry has become.

Here is more from Transparify:
The 21 think tanks in the sample collectively spent over one billion dollars in 2013, probably for the first time in history, and employed a total of 7,333 people, including part-time employees. Their total net assets grew 8% to USD 2.65 billion.
Many individual think tanks in the U.S. are larger than the entire sector in most other countries of the world. The median think tank in our sample had a revenue of USD 39m, expenditures of USD 32m, held assets worth USD 87m, and had 211 employees.

The full report can be read here.  And some cool visualizations can be found here.

According to the new report, the ten largest think tanks by expenditure in 2013 are:
  1. RAND: $275 million
  2. Brookings: $97 million
  3. Heritage: $82 million
  4. Urban Institute: $75 million
  5. Council on Foreign Relations: $62 million
  6. World Resources Institute: $48 million
  7. German Marshall Fund: $38 million
  8. National Bureau of Economic Research: $36 million
  9. Center for American Progress: $34 million
  10. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace: $33 million

According to the report, the ten largest think tanks by assets in 2013 are:
  1. Brookings: $404 million
  2. Council on Foreign Relations: $377 million
  3. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace: $275 million
  4. RAND: $239 million
  5. AEI: $178 million
  6. German Marshall Fund: $176 million
  7. Heritage: $154 million
  8. Urban Institute: $120 million
  9. National Bureau of Economic Research: $102 million
  10. Wilson Center: $98 million

The report also has a section that compares revenue from 2012 to 2013.  It shows that several think tanks had more than a 25% drop in revenue during that one-year period, including the Peterson Institute for International Economics (-27%), Council on Foreign Relations (-28%), Cato Institute (-34), and Center for Global Development, which had a 50% decline in revenue.

Think tanks that had more than a 25% increase in revenue from 2012 to 2013 include: New America Foundation (+29%), German Marshall Fund (+41%), Atlantic Council and Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (both at +45%).

But as Transparify points out, it is important to note that year-to-year revenue changes may be the result of fluctuations, such as inflow or draw-down of multi-year funding.  Thus, one should take single-year revenue increases and decreases with a grain of salt.

The report also includes a nice chart of the ten largest think tanks by number of employees.

Here is more from Nonprofit Quarterly (NPQ).

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Senate CIA Report to Harm CIA Relationship With Think Tanks?

Here is more from the Washington Post:
The CIA’s operational activities go together with a less publicly notorious, but arguably more effective community of analysts. These analysts are often loosely involved in broader networks of relationships with policy experts in academia and think tanks (many of them political scientists). Most of the work of the CIA is in analyzing information that is relevant to U.S. interests, and ever more of the information that is useful to the intelligence community is “open source” or publicly available, rather than clandestine. The CIA, like other government agencies, has only limited resources, and often supplements its internal expertise with frequent outreach to academic and non-academic experts who might have useful things to say. Finally, the CIA needs to recruit highly skilled analysts, who often have a lot of specialized experience, and could typically earn much more money in the private sector.

The article argues that the recently released Senate CIA torture report will impact the CIA's relationship with the think tank community, and says that academics (and think tankers) will be less likely to want to talk to or with the CIA.  [For the record, Think Tank Watch does not think this will be the case, and the CIA will still rely heavily on think tank reports.]

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post on former spies who now work at think tanks.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Breaking: Top US Think Tanks Spent $1 Billion in 2013

Think tanking is a billion dollar industry with millionaires and billionaires throwing money left and right at powerful policy shops.

Think Tank Watch has just learned that top US think tanks spent (and received) more than $1 billion in 2013.  Transparify, which has compiled the data, will publish a report this Thursday.

More coming soon...

Think Tanks Most Followed by World Leaders

How influential are think tanks to the world's 647 heads of state and government and ministers of foreign affairs?

Twiplomacy has just released a study on the Twitter habits of world leaders, and it includes a list of which Twitter feeds are most heavily followed by them.  Think Tank Watch went through the list and found which think tanks are most followed by these top leaders.  Here is the conclusion:

  1. Council on Foreign Relations (CFR): 57
  2. Chatham House: 40
  3. European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR): 30
  4. Atlantic Council: 28
  5. Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS): 25
  6. Brookings Foreign Policy (FP): 25
  7. International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS): 24
  8. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP): 23
  9. Brookings Institution: 22
  10. RAND Corp: 19
  11. German Marshall Fund (GMF): 19
  12. US Institute of Peace (USIP): 17
  13. Carnegie Europe: 14

Please note that the list does not include individuals at think tanks, some of which scored very high (even higher than many top think tanks).

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Onion Invents "Father-in-Law" Think Tank

News satire organization The Onion has invented a new think tank - a Washington, DC-based think tank of fathers-in-law.  The think tank, however, was not given a name.  Here is what The Onion is reporting:
In its most sweeping policy statement to date, a Washington-based think tank of leading fathers-in-law issued a comprehensive single-sentence solution to the nation’s immigration, unemployment, and crime problems Tuesday. “All you gotta do is round ’em up and send ’em back,” read the one-line report, which the interdisciplinary team of middle-aged men affirmed would resolve all three difficult issues if the government was not, as long-term observational data suggested, blinded by political correctness. “Simple as that.” The new report from the father-in-law think tank comes on the heels of last year’s five-word white paper on how to handle unrest in the African-American community.

This is not the first time that The Onion has invented a think tank.  Last year, Think Tank Watch reported on another think tank it invented: the Westchester Institute for Ethics and the Human Person.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Gov. Perry Using Think Tanks for 2016 Presidential Run

Here is what recent reporting is saying about Texas Governor Rick Perry, who may run for president in 2016:
Perry is logging hours in a downtown office building, engaging in lengthy, informal policy discussions with experts, mostly from conservative think tanks.

Last Monday, he discussed health care policy with a group including Joseph Antos, the Wilson H. Taylor Scholar in Health Care and Retirement Policy at the American Enterprise Institute.
Antos said the freewheeling session lasted about four hours, and was "a good starting point" for a discussion focused on the principles of health policy. But he said he had no sense of specific policy proposals Perry might ultimately choose to advance. "We have no clue whatsoever about that, and it was none of our business, frankly," he said. "We did not discuss what happens the day after tomorrow."
Of the governor, Antos said: "He was actively engaged the entire time. He asked good questions. This is a man who is genuinely interested in what we’re doing in health policy, and genuinely concerned."
Other participants included Michael Cannon, director of health policy studies at the Cato Institute; Avik Roy, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and the opinion editor at Forbes; and Thomas Miller, a resident fellow at AEI who studies alternatives to the Affordable Care Act.
"Sometimes you meet with the principle and their advisers, and they're mostly selling you on what they're thinking and what they already have," Miller said. "The governor showed that it was a real conversation. It was an extended period of time with no fuss, no frills, no filters."

In August, Gov. Perry gave a major policy speech at the Heritage Foundation.

Former Senator Jim Talent Joins AEI

With the acquisition of yet another former Members of Congress, the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute (AEI) is becoming the go-to think tank for former GOP legislative talent.

AEI announced this week that former Senator Jim Talent (R-MO) is joining the think tank as a Senior Fellow and will serve as Director of the National Security 2020 project, a new program from AEI's Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies.

Last year Talent, who is 2007 joined the Heritage Foundation as a Distinguished Fellow specializing in military affairs and conservative solutions to poverty, wrote a report with former Sen. Jon Kyl, now a Visiting Fellow at AEI, titled "A Strong and Focused National Security Strategy."

Last year, Kyl joined AEI along with former Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT). 

Will Eric Cantor become the next former congressman to join AEI?

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Think Tank Quickies (#154)

  • Court case pushed by Cato could leave uninsured out in the cold?
  • South Asian think tank summit begins.
  • Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has built his own mini-think tank of policy experts. 
  • AEI has redesigned its website; Michael Strain named Deputy Director of Economic Policy Studies; Thomas Stossel, MD joins AEI as Visiting Scholar for health care policy.
  • Flashback: Historicizing the conservative think tank.
  • CNAS largely funded by defense contractors.
  • How to think about "think" tanks by Miles Corak.
  • CFR launches online education hub for teaching and learning about foreign policy.
  • Jan Sokolovsky asks: Do major think tanks violate US law? 
  • RAND Corp. announces collaboration with Lawrence Livermore National Lab on high-performance computing and decisionmaking; James Dobbins and Katherine Kahn receive Distinguished Chairs at RAND.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Rothkopf: Little Bold Thinking Goes On At US Think Tanks

Here is what David Rothkopf is saying in his latest Foreign Policy Piece titled "Dis Town: The Dumbing Down of Smart -- and Washington."
...Far too little bold thinking goes on in the country's think tanks.  It is safer to write an article that doesn't offend than it is to write one that actually breaks new ground.  It is safer to write an article that doesn't offend than it is to write one that actually breaks new ground. The result? Journals that are exercises in reputation management. The bland leading the bland.
In researching my book National Insecurity, I looked at 10 of the most prominent think tanks in Washington over a period of a decade. These organizations produced almost 12,000 events, papers, and research reports over that time. Of these, the vast majority concentrated on just a few topics -- such as the Middle East, the war on terror, and China -- linked closely to whatever was in the headlines at the time. Other areas, deserving of focus but outside the "buzz zone," got much less attention. The areas that got by far the least coverage? Science and technology -- never mind that they are responsible for most of the changes redefining life on the planet and many of the emerging threats with which humanity is grappling.

Mr. Rothkopf, who is CEO and Editor of Foreign Policy magazine, has a deep connection to a variety of think tanks.  For example, he is a Visiting Scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP),and he is on the International Advisory Council of US Institute of Peace (USIP).  He is also on the Advisory Committee of the Center for Global Development (CGD).

USAID's Nancy Lindborg Named as President of USIP

The US Institute of Peace (USIP) recently announced that Nancy Lindborg will become the new president of the think tank.  She will officially start on February 2, 2015.  In the meantime, Ambassador Bill Taylor will continue to serve as Acting President.  He previously served as Special Coordinator for Middle East Transitions in the State Department, and was US Ambassador to Ukraine.

Lindborg, the current Assistant Administrator of the US Agency for International Development's (USAID) Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance, will replace former congressman Jim Marshall, who left the think tank in January.  Since then, Kristin Lord had been serving as acting president for much of the time, but she left on October 3, 2014 to head the NGO IREX.

Here is more about USIP:
Created by an act of Congress in 1984, the U.S. Institute of Peace is a Congressionally-funded, independent, nonpartisan institution whose mission is to prevent, mitigate and resolve violent conflicts around the world. USIP fulfills this mission by engaging directly in conflict zones and providing analysis, education, and resources to those working for peace. The Institute’s staff of nearly 350 work in Washington and in some of the world’s most volatile regions, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Sudan and South Sudan.

A biography of Lindborg can be found here.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Liberal Think Tanks Taking Over National Security Policy?

From Defense One:
...A tight network of well more than 1,000 national-security-minded progressives—mostly in their 20s, 30s, and 40s—has succeeded in infiltrating the U.S. foreign policy machine. The group of wonks is loosely connected by two center-left organizations that sprang up in the mid-2000s—the Truman National Security Project and the Center for a New American Security—as well as organizations such as the Center for American Progress, the National Security Network, and Third Way. Like the conservative groups they sought to emulate, they have cultivated a farm league that has groomed and handpicked individuals for key leadership posts at the Pentagon, the State Department, and Capitol Hill.

More can be found here.  It is from earlier in the year, but still an interesting read...

And for some more updated news, CNAS CEO Michele Flournoy has reportedly pulled herself out of the running to replace Chuck Hagel as the head of the Defense Department.  More can be read here.  Guess the idea that Hagel could become the new CEO of CNAS is a bust...

Although Flournoy is out, a variety of other CNAS-connected folks could still snag the SecDef spot.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Think Tank Quickies (#153)

  • Billionaire Peter Peterson announces new $200 million think tank: Peterson Center on Healthcare.
  • Jeb Bush's education think tank: Foundation for Excellence in Education.
  • Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) speaks about missile defense at AEI on November 19.
  • Free-market think tank NCPA back in sex scandal spotlight with lawsuit.
  • Canadian think tank ideology: Top 25 Canadian think tanks ranked by Twitter followers.
  • Manhattan Institute scholar: Democratic think tank (CAP) published a chart that would "get laughed out of Econ 101."
  • Manila think tank rebrands as Albert Del Rosario Institute and partners with CSIS.
  • Brookings guest scholar and former Member of Congress Bill Frenzel dies.
  • Former DoD official Daniel Chiu named Deputy Director of Atlantic Council's Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security.
  • Ilan Goldenberg, former Chief of Staff to Special Envoy for Israel-Palestinian Negotiations and Iran Team Chief of OSD-Policy, named CNAS Middle East Security Program Director.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Will Chuck Hagel Head Another Think Tank?

Could there be a big think tank head swap in the cards?

With the announcement that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is stepping down from his post, word on the street is that Michele Flournoy, the co-founder and CEO of Center for a New American Security (CNAS), is among those that could be tapped by President Obama for the SecDef position.

Hagel is the former Chairman of Atlantic Council, a think tank that is now chaired by Jon Hunstman.  With that post already taken, it may be a perfect swap if Flournoy moves to head DoD and Hagel becomes CEO of CNAS.

After all, Hagel is not devoted to just one think tank.  For example, during the June 27, 2007 official launch of CNAS, then-Senator Hagel delivered a keynote address for the think tank.

Hagel also has close ties to the defense-oriented think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), where Flournoy used to work.  Hagel delivered the keynote address last year at CSIS's Global Security Forum.  [And CSIS head John Hamre's name has been floated as a possible Hagel replacement.]

In May, Hagel spoke about NATO expansion and European Security at the Wilson Center, and he has previously spoken at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) a number of times.

Robert Work, the current Deputy Secretary of Defense, and a former CEO of CNAS, is another name being floated as a potential Hagel replacement.  So is CNAS co-founder Kurt Campbell and CNAS board member Richard Danzig (who is also Vice Chair of the Board of Rand Corp.).

Ashton Carter, another name being floated for the top DoD spot, is a member of CFR and has spoken a variety of times at CNAS.

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."