Monday, April 15, 2013

Mysterious "Think Tank Crasher" Hunts for Free Food

Think tanking has just gotten a little bit more intriguing in Washington, DC due to "The Panel Crasher" - an anonymous blogger who is documenting his quest to get free meals at think tanks.

Here is what the Washington City Paper is reporting:
How much free food can one man eat? That's the challenge faced by  pseudonymous blogger Panel Crasher, who's been trying to eat as much as he can at Washington think-tank events since being laid off earlier this year.
The Panel Crasher, who wouldn't reveal his name in an interview with City Desk, lost his job at a nonprofit, in part, he suspects, because of sequestration. He's going to graduate school in the fall, but until then he's trying to hit as many food spreads as he can—and blog about Washington's panel subculture along the way.
His first attempt to score food, at a Family Research Council panel on birth rates, ended in disaster when he showed up a few minutes late, only to find everything but the condiments eaten. That inspired him to get to panels early, but not too early, in case event staff started wondering why he was hanging around.
Getting the most from a crowded panel schedule means knowing which think tanks will have the best food. The stingiest offerings, he says, comes from the New America Foundation.  "It'd be at noon or 12:30 and they'd have a cookie for everyone," he says. "If that."
The best food so far has come from the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute, which is hardly conservative when it comes to its spreads. AEI staffers foiled his attempts to document the food, but it was worth it, since the think tank offers a full lunch buffet—even shrimp, the crasher points out.
The crasher says his blog has been popular with former colleagues familiar with using panel events for networking. But that rising popularity doesn't make the slog much easier—he's committed to staying at each panel for the whole event, rather than just making off with the food.
For anyone hoping to follow in his thrifty footsteps, the crasher has some tips on making the most of think tank food: "liberal use of napkins," using two plates, if you can handle it. "Don't be afraid to get seconds," he says. "I mean, they're there."

Here is what DCist is reporting on The Panel Crasher.

Here is how The Panel Crasher describes himself:
"Former Hill staffer and K Street nonprofit associate. Future grad student. Recently unemployed sequestration victim with lots of time, little money, and an unhealthy knowledge of DC's think tanks, Hill receptions, and speaker series. They can kick me out of the club, but they cant stop me from crashing their free events, eating their free food, totally ignoring their discussions, and then anonymously making fun of them on the internet. It's basically like Wedding Crashers, minus all the sex and partying...OR IS IT???"

So far, The Panel Crasher has documented visits to Family Research Council, Center for American Progress (CAP), and American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where he was caught taking pictures of the food by one of the interns.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post on the best food experience at think tanks.

Washington is not new to event "crashers."  Tareq and Michaele Salahi (now divorced), who crashed a White House State Dinner to honor India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, are probably the most memorable party crashers in recent memory.