Friday, March 30, 2012

GM Pulls Money From Think Tank

The Guardian reports that after a 20-year relationship, General Motors is pulling its funding from Heartland Institute, a conservative/libertarian think tank based in Chicago, Illinois that is known for its skepticism about climate change.

Says The Guardian:
The funding cut – just $15,000 a year – is small beer for the institute, which has a multi-million dollar turnover, largely from a single anonymous donor. But it is a blow to the standing of the think tank and to the leading role it plays as an advocate of climate change skepticism.
The pullout comes after leaked documents revealed that Heartland Institute received funds from various corporations, including GM, that are publicly committed to "social responsibility."

Here is one of the leaked documents that shows Heartland Institute's 2012 fundraising plan.  The rest of the leaked documents can be found here.

What Think Tank Would You Start If You Won the Lottery?

If you won the Mega Millions lottery jackpot, now at $640 million, and assuming you took the lump sum payment option (leaving you with around $462 million), what type of think tank would you start?

Personally, I would start a think tank related to food and dining.  I'm not aware of any think tanks dedicated specifically to food/dining (at least in the DC-area), but there certainly are some interesting food-related ones around.  For example, The Center for Genomic Gastronomy.

The Colorado-based Sterling Rice Group (SRG) has been described as a "foodie think tank," although it calls itself an advertising agency.  Here is a link to its predictions for food trends in 2013.

The closest thing in Washington may be something called Keep Food Legal, a libertarian-oriented non-profit run by Baylen Linnekin which advocates for the right of every American to "grow, raise, produce, buy, sell, cook, and eat the foods of their own choosing."

And of course there is El Bulli, once rated as the top restaurant in the world before it closed, which will re-open as a "gastronomic think tank" in 2014.

Cool Think Tank Event of the Week: Wine & Trade

Although not "technically" a think tank event, this one gets my vote for coolest event of the week:

Today (March 30), the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) will hold a panel discussion titled "World Wine Trade Group: How a Strategic Industry/Government Trade Negotiation Partnership Has Contributed to Record Exports of U.S. Wine."

Panelists include:

  • Robert Koch, President of the Wine Institute
  • Jim Murphy, former Assistant United States Trade Representative (USTR)
  • *Doherty, Senior Director of the USTR
  • Jim Clawson, Co-founder of JBC International and Robert Kalik, Partner at Kalik | Lewin LLC.

The event, to be held at the SAIS Kenney Auditorium (1740 Mass. Ave.), includes a wine tasting after the event.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

New Trend: Pop-Up Think Tanks

A pop-up think tank called POPse claims to be the "world's first pop-up social enterprise think tank."  It launched on May 9, 2011 and disbanded May 13, 2011.  In other words, it existed for five days.

Here is a video about POPse:

LHBS, which bills itself as an "interdisciplinary strategic think tank," started a pop-up think tank in Salzburg, Austria.

Even museums and corporations are following the trend.  Last year, the Guggenheim Museum and BMW launched its first BMW Guggenheim Lab which was described like this:
A minimalist open-air structure designed by Tokyo-based Atelier Bow-Wow is a pop-up think tank, event space, and pavilion that will offer free movie screenings, lectures, and workshops relating to the theme of “Confronting Comfort.”
The Lab calls itself a "mobile laboratory traveling around the world to inspire innovative ideas for urban life."

How long will it take for pop-up fatigue to set in?

Will Think Tanks of the Future Be All Online?

Will any of the big, powerful think tanks (Brookings, Heritage, etc...) ever move from "bricks and mortar" establishments to all online?  Is the trend shifting towards online think tanks such as the aptly named Online Think Tank?

Moving online is not just a US trend.  In 2011, the Danish newspaper Information Avis launched a public, online think tank called 100dage.  The goal is to provide citizen-made solutions of the most pressing challenges of the country.  In other words, it is crowd-sourcing to help solve problems.

100dage has been called a "pop-up think tank."

Which Think Tank is the Most Union-Backed?

Which US think tank has the deepest connection to labor unions?  That would probably be Economic Policy Institute (EPI).

Here are some excerpts from an article about EPI written by Steven Pearlstein of the Washington Post.
And it’s not just lefty protesters who turn to EPI for data on wages, income and unemployment. So does just about every economist and economics reporter in the country, whether they agree with EPI’s liberal policy prescriptions or not.
With a staff of fewer than 40 and an operating budget of $7 million, EPI now punches well above its weight in Washington, in part by drawing on a network of contributing academics and regional economic think tanks.
EPI has not only been an incubator for data and ideas, but talent as well. Its alumni include Jared Bernstein, the telegenic former economic adviser in the Obama White House; Dean Baker and Eileen Appelbaum of the Center for Economic Policy Research; Michael Ettlinger and Heather Boucher at the Center for American Progress; and Thea Lee, policy director at the AFL-CIO.
EPI doesn’t hide its close ties to organized labor. Unions provide about a quarter of EPI’s funding, with the rest coming mostly from grants from mainstream foundations such as Ford, Rockefeller, Pew, and Anne E. Casey. Ten of the nation’s top labor leaders serve on its board and help set the research agenda.

German Think Tank Booted Out of UAE

AP reports:
A think tank with links to German Chancellor Angela Merkel's party said Thursday it is shutting its office in Abu Dhabi after officials there ordered that it end its activities in the United Arab Emirates.
The Konrad Adenauer Foundation's chairman, Hans-Gert Poettering, said no "comprehensible reasons" were given for the decision, which he described as unexpected and sudden.
The organization was one of several pro-democracy and human rights groups targeted in a separate recent crackdown by the Egyptian government, an episode that strained relations with Berlin.
The think tank that was kicked out of the UAE, Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS), says that its offices abroad are in charge of more than 200 projects in more than 120 countries.  Its English page says that 96.8% of its funds come from public remittances, while 2.7% are derived from admission charges and miscellaneous revenues.  In addition, private revenues account for another 0.5% of its funds.

Here is a bit more on KAS's problems in Egypt:
Late last year, prosecutors in Egypt said the foundation [KAS] and 16 other groups from the United States and elsewhere were operating without licenses and seized documents from them in raids.
They charged 43 Egyptian and foreign staff at the non-governmental organizations with receiving illegal foreign funding. Their trial is ongoing. Two staff of the German foundation have left Egypt.
It is also worth checking out the Director of National Intelligence's (DNI) Open Source Center's German Think Tank Guide, which includes information about KAS.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Think Tanks vs. Political Intelligence Firms

How are think tanks different from political intelligence firms, a $100+ million industry getting lots of attention since the introduction of the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act?

This article in Pensions & Investments describes it like this:
Unlike more traditional policy researchers and think tanks, political intelligence firms do less analysis and more direct information gathering to address investors' specific concerns. Their staffs have backgrounds that typically include stints on Capitol Hill or at federal agencies like the Federal Reserve or Treasury Department that give both an insider's perspective and access.

On Think Tanks, FARA, and Foreign Lobbying

Do US think tanks who house foreign fellows (or visiting scholars) working with foreign governments/entities have to register with the Department of Justice (DOJ) under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA)?

According to FARA officials I spoke with, the answer is "complicated."  But yes, in certain circumstances, registration may be required.  That said, they were not aware, at least in recent times, when a think tank, foreign fellow, or related think tank associate has actually registered under FARA.

Its always fun to take a peak at FARA's Semi-Annual Report to Congress to see who is registering.

Which Think Tanks Do Spies Like?

Former Chief of the FBI's Washington Field Office, Ray Mislock, has said that there are more foreign spies in Washington, DC than in any other city in the world.  There are also more think tanks in Washington (393) than any other city in the world.

US think tanks house lots of former spies, foreign spies seek to gain access to think tanks, and spies attend various think tank events.

Spies tend to frequent foreign affairs and security events, although not exclusively.  Talks (and think tanks) related to or dealing with China, Iran, Russia, security, and nuclear weapons, among other topics, are attractive to many spies.

As was reported in 2010, a member from a Russian spy ring had applied to jobs at the New America Foundation (NAF) and Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP).

James Robbins, a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council (AFPC), described in a Washington Times article how he was targeted by the same spy.  Here is how Mr. Robbins describes his encounter:
On June 9, I spoke on a panel on Iran at an event hosted by the DC World Affairs Council. At the reception afterward, I spoke to a number of people, including Mr. Semenko. He said he was interested in seeing if there were any opportunities working with the American Foreign Policy Council, the organization I was representing at the event. He said he was from the Russian Far East and spoke Chinese in addition to English and his native tongue. He had recently started writing a blog on China's economy. Because AFPC has a special interest in Russia and China policy, I said I would pass his card along to the higher-ups in the organization and if there were any positions, they would be in touch. From Mr. Semenko's point of view, it was mission accomplished - he had an in.
At the end of the article, Mr. Robbins asks: "More interesting is the question of how many other foreign covert operatives are active in Washington and what impact they are having on national policy, both outside and within government."

That same spy was reportedly an intern for four months at the World Affairs Council.

Here is Steve Clemons' (New America Foundation) account of meeting the Russian spy.

A different Russian spy, Cynthia Murphy, apparently got very "close" to a US Cabinet member.

She is different from Anna Chapman, who was considered the "honeypot" of that spy ring.  (Photos here.)
Here is also a video of a recent photo shoot she had in Moscow.

Back it 2008, a former Russian spy claimed that Strobe Talbott (who runs Brookings) was a source of intelligence information and classified him as a "special unofficial contact."

It late 2011 it was reported that a Russian spy was attending various think tank events in the UK, including events at the Chatham House and the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS).  UK's Security Service apparently warned that "think tanks such as IISS would be attended by many people of interest to the Russian intelligence service."

Rand Corporation, the #5 think tank in the US, has plenty of former spies, although I have not seen an official count.

The global risk firm Stratfor, which has been described as the "Mini-CIA" and "Shadow CIA," is often described in the media as a "geopolitical think tank" or a "security think tank," but I think that description is used to attract readers and not for its accuracy.

Here is an interesting article in the Washington Times about the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR), a think tank which is said to be the "spy arm" of China.

Also, here is a very interesting (and unclassified) profile of CICIR from the Director of National Intelligence's (DNI) Open Source Center.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Think Tank Ratings on Yelp & Google

The user review site Yelp has several think tank reviews

There is also a review of Brookings Institutions's cafeteria (open to the public), which has been rated by 11 people so far and has received 3 out of 5 stars.  My favorite line from the reviews so far is this one from 2009:
 "Just like its politics, the cafeteria is middle of the road..."
Google (via Google Maps) also has several reviews of think tanks, including one for Cato (4 out of 5 stars from 18 reviews).

Center for American Progress (CAP) currently has a rating of 3.5 out of 5 stars from 9 reviews.

Map: Global Distribution of Think Tanks

This map is from from the Economist magazine.  While a bit old, it still gives a good picture of the global distribution of think tanks.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Think Tanks & Dysfunction - A UK Perspective

In The Guardian, Michael Harris, senior associate at the National Endowment for Science, Technology, and the Arts, and the New Economics Foundation (NEF), suggests that think tanks can lead to dysfunction in policymaking:
...Think tanks have contributed to this dysfunction. The UK has gained an international reputation for being rather creative and innovative in policy, but perhaps there's been too much innovation, leaving frontline practitioners feeling increasingly managed, measured, policed and pushed around. Thinktanks were originally created to professionalise policy-related research and analysis, and to make policy easier to implement and give it more impact; the irony is that they might have inadvertently served to de-professionalise policy by helping to distance it from the frontline of practise.

How Much Influence Do The Koch Brothers Have on Think Tanks?

This Politico article titled "Think Tanks Still Look For Koch Cash" details the influence that the Koch brothers have in various conservative think tanks.
Heritage Foundation spokesman Jim Weidman said the Kochs’ donations have amounted to 1 percent of their income...The Heritage Foundation received at least $843,571 from a Koch-run charitable foundation in 2008 and 2009, according to federal tax filings.
Jim Spiegelman, spokesman of the nonpartisan research group Aspen Institute, said there are “prominent differences” between Cato and his organization. He pointed to the fact that the Koch brother involved with the Cato Institute is Charles, whereas David is a trustee of the Aspen Institute, and he said his group is “definitively nonpartisan, so the idea that Mr. Koch would seek to influence our work is a really nonissue.”
“We value the support of the Charles G. Koch Foundation, and it has been instrumental in enabling [the Mercatus Center] to support dozens of graduate students in the Department of Economics at George Mason University,” said Carrie Conko, vice president for communications at the center, which accepted at least $1.6 million from the Koch foundations in 2008, tax filings show. 
And several groups that have received Koch cash refused entirely to comment on the matter, including the Manhattan Institute and the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which did not respond to requests for comment about the Cato flap.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Connection Between Lobbyists & Think Tanks

This First Street Research Group article written by Laurie Bennett titled "Lobbyists, Think Tanks and the Revolving Door" has a nice chart of registered lobbyists with connections to think tank boards.

At the end of the article you can click on three other articles she wrote on the think tank/lobbying connection, including one on think tank scholars and their lobbying ties.

Ms. Bennett is a co-founder of Muckety, a website that uses interactive maps to show relationships between people, businesses, and organizations.  It has a "think tank" section which has some interesting maps, including this one titled "American Enterprise Institute: Safe House for Bush Alumni."

Also, here is a Salon article titled "How Bahrain Works Washington" written by Ken Silverstein that shows the importance of think tanks to lobbyists.
Now lobbyists (for foreign and domestic clients) seek to advance their clients’ interests in Washington through other means: making contributions to think tanks and universities; funding bilateral business associations that focus on trade issues while advocating, directly or indirectly, for enhanced political ties...As one Washington lobbyist told me, “Access lobbying is dead. Congress is gridlocked so meetings on the Hill are useless. Now it’s all about perception and molding public opinion. That’s why so many lobby firms have become integrated, and do so much work on the PR side.”

Monday, March 12, 2012

Are Think Tanks Obsolete?

How relevant or important or useful or influential are think tanks?  Of course, the definition of those terms shapes the answer.

Here is an interesting article in the Winter 2009 Middle East Quarterly written by Hannah Elka Meyers titled "Does Israel Need Think Tanks?"  It argues that Israel's think tanks lack influence for several reasons.
"Much of the reason for the Israeli think tank sector's weak influence lies in Israel's political structure. Like parliaments in many European states, Israel's Knesset offers fewer points of access for outside policy advice than does either the U.S. Congress or the executive branch...In addition, Israel's proportional electoral system discourages the election of officials interested in new, independent policy ideas....Funding also limits the influence of Israeli institutes in comparison to their American counterparts."
Assuming traditional think tanks are useful/influential, why should we pay more attention to them then to say, TED talks, or to new-model think tanks, such as "New Think Tank," a crowdsourcing think tank launching June 1, 2012. 

Google has recently launched a new "think tank" called Solve for X, where "the curious can go to hear and discuss radical technology ideas for solving global problems."  In October 2010, Google launched Google Ideas, another type of think tank, based in its New York office.

If those are the new models, will traditional think tanks die out?  How can traditional think tanks stay relevant?

Think Tank CEO/President Salaries

The following compensation information is from the National Journal's biennial salary survey, based on IRS information available as of March 30, 2010, covering the calendar years that fell between 2007 and 2009.  "Compensation" refers to base salary, bonuses, and some additional taxable income.  The compensation is ordered from highest to lowest.  Please note that some of these people are now longer with their respective organizations or in the same position.

  • Ed Feulner (Heritage Foundation): $947,999
  • Walter Isaacson (Aspen Institute): $705,711
  • Christopher Demuth (AEI): $675,000
  • James Thomson (Rand): $549,047
  • Jessica Matthews (CEIP): $480,320
  • Richard Haass (CFR): $448,000
  • Craig Kennedy (German Marshall Fund): $450,000
  • Edward Crane (Cato Institute): $438,750
  • John Hamre (CSIS): $414,327
  • Strobe Talbott (Brookings): $412,500
  • Robert Reischauer (Urban Institute): $346,286
  • Jason Grumet (Bipartisan Policy Center): $332,555
  • John Podesta (CAP): $244,904
  • Ted Halstead (New America Foundation): $86,771

Based on my own research, here is the salary for other heads of think tanks that weren't listed in the National Journal (2009/2010 figures; as with the above list, some of these people are no longer with the organization or in the same position):

  • Richard Haass (CFR): $889,098 (base salary)
  • James Poterba (NBER): $525,615 (base salary)
  • Lee Hamilton (Wilson Center): $368,750 (base salary; in 2009 he also received a $100,000 bonus)
  • Merrick Carey (Lexington Institute): $359,000 (base salary)
  • Frederick Kempe (Atlantic Council): $355,000 (base salary)
  • C. Fred Bergsten (PIIE): $252,035 (base salary)
  • Herbert London (Hudson): $235,000 (base salary)
  • Ellen Laipson (Stimson Center): $221,662 (base salary)
  • Stephen Flynn (CNP): $216,346 (base salary)
  • Lawrence Mishel (EPI): $212,290 (base salary)
  • Jonathan Cowan (Third Way): $210,120 (base salary)
  • Nathaniel Fick (CNAS): $186,748 (base salary)
  • John Cavanagh (IPS): $78,205 (base salary)

According to Simply Hired, the average think tank salary is $56,000.  According to Salary List, the average think tank salary is $47,136.  According to Indeed, the average think tank salary is $66,000.  It appears, however, that many of those calculations are not very accurate due to the algorithms used to define "think tank."

The NonProfit Times had an article in its February 2012 edition outlining the recent NonProfit Times/Bluewater Solutions Nonprofit Organizations Salary & Benefits Report.  [Most think tanks are considered non-profits.]

That survey notes that the average non-profit CEO base salary in 2011 was $110,599.  The average bonus for non-profit CEOs was 5 percent of base salary.

As a comparison, the President of the United States gets $400,000 per year and the Vice President gets $230,700 per year.

As another comparison, rank-and-file members of the House and Senate get $174,000 per year.

According to, the median salary for a typical lobbyist in the US is $98,875.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Trend: Women Running Think Tanks

David Callahan writes on the Policy Shop blog at Demos in an article titled "Women Leaders at Progressive Think Tanks," that in the past year women have taken the helm at four national think tanks:
  • Janice Nittoli at the Century Foundation
  • Neera Tanden at Center for American Progress (CAP)
  • Felicia Wong at the Roosevelt Institute
  • Sarah Rosen Wartell at Urban Institute
Mr. Callahan notes that think tank leadership has traditionally been a "male-dominated sector."  Will the trend continue?

Also worth reading is this Foreign Policy article by Michael Zenko titled "City of Men," which looked at the gender breakdown of ten prominent foreign policy think tanks.
"After crunching the numbers, which were culled from their publicly available rosters, I found that women constituted only 21 percent of the policy-related positions (154 of 723) and only 29 percent of the total leadership staff (250 of 874). The Center for Strategic & International Studies and Center for American Progress boasted the highest percentages of women in policy-related roles (28 percent), and the Stimson Center had the highest total percentage of women in all positions (50 percent)."

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.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

What Really Goes On All Day at a Think Tank?

Katy Waldman of Slate asks "What really happens inside all of those think tanks?" in a March 7, 2012 article titled "Life in the Tank."

Writes Waldman:
"Lots of reading and writing, with occasional breaks for coffee. Think tank employees pore over studies, articles, and history books and issue policy briefs and reports on a bevy of topics. In global-oriented institutes such as AEI, scholars focuses on specific hotspots like the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa. Think tank workers must cultivate an extensive network of connections, so coffees, lunches, and meetings also eat up a large part of a scholar’s day. There are also plenty of TV appearances and phone interviews. Like college professors, think tank scholars are always traveling to conferences and joining in panels."
Also interesting:
"Life at a think tank tends to be stratified: There are the scholars, and then there’s everybody else. The former are treated very well, because they purvey the ideas and analysis that fuel the think tank’s operations. At the Carnegie Endowment, scholars get to stretch out in large offices. Senior fellows at Cato are paid salaries of about $160,000."

Which Think Tanks Have the Greatest Impact on Public Policy?

Based on the latest statistics, here is the top 15 list:
  1. Amnesty International
  2. Brookings
  3. Human Rights Watch
  4. Transparency International
  5. RAND Corporation
  6. Council on Foreign Relations (CFR)
  7. Chatham House
  8. Cato Institute
  9. Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS)
  10. Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE)
  11. International Crisis Group (ICG)
  12. Bruegel
  13. American Enterprise Institute (AEI)
  14. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP)
  15. Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)

Are Think Tanks Becoming Too Political?

The Hudson Institute held on event on February 16, 2012 titled "Are Think Tanks Becoming Too Political."

The four panelists were:
  • Michael Franc, Heritage Foundation Vice President for Government Studies
  • Will Marshall, President & Founder of Progressive Policy Institute (PPI)
  • Neera Tanden, President of the Center for American Progress (CAP)
  • Tevi Troy, Hudson Institute Senior Fellow, and Health Policy Advisor to Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign
The moderator was Christopher DeMuth, Hudson Institute Distinguished Fellow and former President of American Enterprise Institute (AEI).

The 120-minute C-Span recorded video can be watched here.

For more discussion, check out Tevi Troy's article in National Journal titled "Devaluing The Think Tank."  Also check out this article written by Emily Badger for Miller-McCune.

Top 10 Think Tanks In The World

Based on the latest statistics, Brookings Institution is considered the world's top think tank.  Of course, no survey is perfect and the results should be taken with a grain of salt.  Some have said that this particular survey (which is considered the most comprehensive in the world) is US-centric.  The theory is that because so many think tanks are American, the respondents were disproportionately American.
  1. Brookings (US)
  2. Chatham House (UK)
  3. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (US)
  4. Council on Foreign Relations (US)
  5. Center for Strategic & International Studies (US)
  6. RAND Corporation (US)
  7. Amnesty International (UK)
  8. Transparency International (Germany)
  9. International Crisis Group (Belgium)
  10. Peterson Institute for International Economics (US)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Think Tank Map

This is a map produced by FAS.research titled "Think Tanks - Network Analysis." 

FAS.research says that the image shows a selection of US think tanks and their affiliated institutions. Red represents conservative think tanks and their affiliates. Blue represents liberal think tanks and their affiliates. Purple indicates that the institution is linked to both conservative and liberal think tanks.

Click here to see a full-size image.  Brookings and AEI dominate the map.  Interestingly, it shows Brookings as a "conservative" think tank.

Which States Have The Most Think Tanks?

Washington, DC is clearly the think tank capital of the world, with 393.  Following is the top ten list, according to the latest statistics.  You can find the statistics for all of the states in that report.
  1. Washington, DC: 393
  2. Massachusetts: 176
  3. California: 170
  4. New York: 144
  5. Virginia: 106
  6. Illinois: 55
  7. Maryland: 49
  8. Texas: 47
  9. Connecticut: 46
  10. Pennsylvania: 41

Which Countries Have The Most Think Tanks?

The US has the most think tanks (1815; 27.7%) of any country in the world, based on the latest statistics.
  1. US: 1815
  2. China: 425
  3. India: 292
  4. UK: 286
  5. Germany: 194
  6. France: 176
  7. Argentina: 137
  8. Russia: 112
  9. Japan: 103
  10. Canada: 97

How Many Think Tanks Are In The World?

Based on the latest statistics, there are 6,545 think tanks in the world:
  • 1,912 in North America (30%)
  • 1,795 in Europe (27%)
  • 1,198 in Asia (18%)
  • 722 in Latin America & the Caribbean (11%)
  • 550 in Africa (8.4%)
  • 329 in Middle East & North Africa (5%)
  • 39 in Oceania (0.6%)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

What is the Best Food Experience at a Think Tank?

Let's be honest, think tanks are not restaurants and are not exactly culinary powerhouses.  Nevertheless, many of them serve food (breakfast, lunches, buffets, snacks, receptions, cocktails).

For many years, AEI has been known for its cookies which are (or at least were) made in-house.  In the past, AEI has had an Election Watch Series ($60 fee; so far this year, I've only seen unpaid ones) which included smoked salmon and ultra-tasty scrambled eggs.  Regular AEI events consistently provide tea, coffee, and Poland Spring water.

Back in 2008, Ruth Samuelson of the Washington City Paper wrote about think tank cuisine.  In that article, she explores eating at AEI, Brookings, and Reason.

Although I couldn't attend, on May 18, 2009 the Center for American Progress (CAP) held an event titled "Food Matters with Mark Bittman and Jose Andres" in which a Jose Andres-made Spanish "bento" was apparently served.

Blogger/reporter Spencer Ackerman argues that you can "fairly decently" judge a think tank's influence by the quality of its lunch.

The most impressive recent event I attended was at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP) which included a post-discussion reception with lamb chops, shrimp, crab cakes, and an open bar.

But let us not forget the food poisoning incident in 2007 in which scores of people got sick at CEIP.  Wrote the Washington Post's Al Kamen:
A lot of heavyweights in the development world attended a Nov. 30 luncheon roundtable at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace to discuss the relationship between climate change and development.
The list at the event, sponsored by the U.N. Development Program, featured World Bank chief Robert Zoellick; Kemal Dervish, the head of the UNDP; and former senator Tim Wirth, now president of the U.N. Foundation and moderator Gregg Easterbrook.
A few days later, attendees got this e-mail from David Yang, who coordinated the event. "I have learned to my dismay that some people became ill with stomach problems over the weekend after lunching" at the event. He advised that local health officials are investigating. (None of the featured speakers took ill, but a large percentage of the 170 folks attending did, we understand.) "As part of their investigation, the public-health authorities would like to survey as many of those who became ill as possible," he wrote, adding that anyone wishing to be surveyed should let him know.
Preliminary culprit appears to be the pasta salad, we're told, but nothing is for sure.

What is your best (or worst) food experience at a think tank?  Has anyone else noticed a decline in quality/quantity of food at think tanks since the recession hit?

Also, I've put up what I believe to be the first-ever poll on think tank food.  Please vote to see the latest results.  Polling ends at the end of the year.  [I could only choose four think tanks.]

On Rating Think Tanks

In recent times, there have been two ways to rank think tanks:

1) By nominations from people knowledgeable about think tanks:  The University of Pennsylvania Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program's 2011 Global Go To Think Tank Index Rankings; this is updated annually; Dr. James McGann, author of the report, wrote an article about the 2011 report in the Diplomatic Courier.

2) By citations in the media:  Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting, or FAIR; the last survey was conducted in 2008.

Forbes' Jeff Bercovici speculates that the FAIR think tank citation survey is no longer around because citations for think tanks have been in decline.

The Center for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) has this interesting memo from September 2009 on the cost effectiveness of the most widely cited think tanks.

As David Roodman of Center for Global Development (CGD) has pointed out, there is no perfect ranking for think tanks.

The site On Think Tanks has points out several critiques of the Global Go To Think Tank Index Rankings and has links to other critiques.

How else can we rank think tanks?  By Google/Yahoo/Bing hits?  By TV appearances of scholars?  By think tank affiliates going into the current Administration?  By number of times scholars testify before Congress?  By number of events held?  By budget?

Cato Watch: Will Cato Institute Collapse?

On March 2, 2012, the Washington Post reported how the billionaire Koch brothers are seeking greater control over the Cato Institute:
The billionaire Koch brothers, whose outsized political spending has become an issue in the 2012 elections, are attempting to take control of a prominent Washington think tank in a move that would expand their influence in conservative politics, according to court records and interviews.  Charles and David Koch, owners of a Wichita-based conglomerate that ranks as one of the largest private corporations in the world, filed a lawsuit this week in Kansas seeking an option to increase their 50 percent control of the Cato Institute.
Cato was most recently divided between four shareholders: the two Koch brothers, Crane and former Cato chairman William Niskanen.  The lawsuit centers on the fate of the shares owned by Niskanen, who died in October. The Koch brothers contend that they have the option to buy Niskanen’s shares, but no offer has been made to them, according to the lawsuit. The shares now belong to Niskanen’s widow, Kathryn Washburn.  
Cato’s board chairman, Bob Levy, said in an interview that the Koch brothers, who have the power to appoint half of the board, have been choosing “Koch operatives” for members, with an eye to push Cato toward support of the Republican Party.  “None of the new directors, with the exception of one, has a reputation as a libertarian,” Levy said. “There are a lot of murky areas between actively supporting candidates and what Cato does now, which is working on issues.”  Cato scholars often differ with Republicans, holding an noninterventionist foreign policy, for example, and more liberal positions on immigration, same-sex marriage and several other social issues.
As the New York Times explains:
Since Cato was formed, the Kochs have donated about $30 million, officials said, but the bulk came in its first decade; by last year, the Kochs gave no money at all.  But the brothers still wield significant influence over Cato’s governance because of its unusual structure, which created four “shareholder” seats, each with shares of capital stock bought for a dollar each. The Kochs have used their shareholder positions to name seven employees and associates to the 16-member board.

Slate also has an interesting article on the subject titled, "Cato Goes to War."  It mentions the new Facebook page Save Cato, which is worth a peak.

Ezra Klein of the Washington Post also has an interesting article on why he likes Cato over Heritage.