Friday, March 9, 2012

The Revolving Door of Think Tanks

US think tanks are full of former Administration officials, and the current Administration is full of former think tankers.  Over the past several years I have kept an informal tally of think tankers who go into the Administration.  Following is a look at the latest tally I have for the Obama Administration.

I define "think tanker" as anyone who has ever worked at a think tank.  Also, please note that this is very informal, as I am not aware of any definitive list that tracks think tankers going into the Administration.

My list includes people who have gone into the Administration (even if they have since left).  It also includes those who have helped on the presidential transition team.  Moreover, it includes those who serve on fairly minor councils/committees/advisory boards in the Administration.  The idea of my list is to see the broad network of think tankers who are involved in different aspects of an Administration.

List of Think Tankers in the Obama Administration:
  • Council on Foreign Relations (CFR): 90+ (this includes "members" of CFR)
  • Brookings Institution: 53+
  • Center for American Progress (CAP): 51+
  • Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS): 37+
  • Center for a New American Security (CNAS): 24+
  • Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP): 8+
  • Cato Institute: 0
Also, now that the Obama Administration is 3+ years old and people have begun leaving in larger quantities, I am in the process of putting together a list of Administration folks who return or enter/return to think tanks.

Also worth checking out is this 47-page State Department report from November 2002 titled "The Role of Think Tanks in US Foreign Policy," which has a section called "Revolving Door" which has a list of some prominent Americans who have served both in government and in think tanks.

Here is a map from Muckety that shows the strong ties that the Atlantic Council has to the Defense Policy Board.  Muckety notes that eight of the Board's 22 members are Atlantic Council directors.  It also notes that no other think tank has as much representation on the board.  CSIS, however, is a close second, with seven connections.

It is important to note that think tanks are not the only "holding tank" for an administration.  The Washingtonian recently reported in its April 2012 edition that the law firm of Zuckerman Spaeder has the highest percentage of partners in the Obama Administration.

It is also no secret that the law firm of Williams & Connolly is deeply connected to the Obama Administration.