Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Larry Summers Using CAP to Win Fed Nomination?

Last week the liberal think tank Center for American Progress (CAP) announced that former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers is co-chairing a new CAP group called the Commission on Inclusive Prosperity, focused on developing solutions to spur middle class growth.

Summers, a Distinguished Senior Fellow at CAP, is reportedly very eager to become the next Chairman of the US Federal Reserve.  Summers is also a Member of the Board of Directors of the Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE).

The Commission plans to meet a few times during the next year.  Its first meeting was held on July 24, 2013 in Washington, DC.

CAP, which has extremely deep ties to the Obama Administration, says the new group is tasked to produce a "robust set of policy proposals to establish sustainable and inclusive prosperity over the long term in developed economies, with a specific focus on creating good middle-class jobs."

Members of the Inclusive Prosperity Commission include:
  • Larry Summers, Co-Chair – Former Secretary of the Treasury during the Clinton administration and President Obama’s Director of the National Economic Council from 2009 to 2011. He is currently the Charles W. Eliot University Professor and President Emeritus at Harvard University.
  • Ed Balls, Co-Chair – First elected in 2005, Ed Balls currently serves as the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer and as a Labour Member of Parliament for Morley and Outwood. He previously served as chief economic adviser to the HM Treasury from 1997 to 2004. Ed has been a teaching fellow in the Department of Economics at Harvard University and a columnist for the Financial Times, Guardian, New Statesman, and Tribune.
  • E.J. Dionne, Jr. – E.J. Dionne is a Senior Fellow at The Brookings Institution and a Washington Post columnist. At Brookings, he researches and writes on a range of issues that include elections; polling; the role of media in politics; and the role of religion in public life. His most recent book is titled, Our Divided Political Heart: The Battle for the American Idea in an Age of Discontent.
  • Ezekiel (Zeke) J. Emanuel – Ezekiel J. Emanuel is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and the vice provost for global initiatives, the Diane S. Levy and Robert M. Levy University Professor, and chair of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania.
  • Jennifer M. Granholm – Jennifer Granholm served as Governor of Michigan from 2002 to 2008. As Governor, she worked to diversify the state’s economy, strengthen its auto industry, preserve the manufacturing sector and focus on clean energy. She is currently a Distinguished Practitioner of Law and Public Policy at UC Berkeley’s School of Law and Goldman School of Public Policy.
  • Mary Kay Henry – Mary Kay Henry serves as International President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the fastest-growing union in North America, with 2.1 million workers in healthcare, public and property services. She was unanimously elected President in 2010 and became the first woman to lead SEIU.
  • Glenn Hutchins – Glenn Hutchins is co-founder of Silver Lake, which is one of the world’s largest firms investing in technology and technology-enabled businesses. Hutchins served President Clinton in both the transition and the White House as a special advisor on economic and health-care policy. He is also a director of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and Vice Chairman of the Brookings Institution.
  • Lawrence F. Katz – Lawrence Katz is the Elisabeth Allison Professor of Economics at Harvard University and a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research. His research focuses on issues in labor economics and the economics of social problems.
  • Chris Keates – Chris Keates is general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT). Chris held a number of elected offices within the NASUWT prior to joining the staff of the Union in 1998 when she was appointed an Assistant Secretary with responsibility for coordinating the development and implementation of Union policy. NASUWT is the largest teachers’ union in the UK and is one of the ten largest affiliated to the TUC.
  • Edward Montgomery – Edward Montgomery has served as the Dean of the Georgetown Public Policy Institute (GPPI) since 2010. Prior to joining GPPI he served on President Obama’s Auto Task Force as Executive Director of the White House Council for Auto Communities and Workers. From 2003 to 2008 he served as the Dean of the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences at the University of Maryland where he had been on the Economics Department faculty since 1990. He also worked in the Clinton administration as Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor.
  • Pär Nuder – Pär Nuder served as the Minister of Finance of Sweden from 2004-2006. Prior to that he served as Minister of Culture, Minister for Policy Coordination and served as State Secretary and Chief of Staff to Prime Minister Göran Persson. He is currently a Senior Director of Albright Stonebridge Group, a global strategy firm, where he advises clients on global financial trends and provides strategic advice to clients entering the European market.
  • John Podesta – John Podesta is Chair of the Center for American Progress and the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Prior to founding the Center in 2003, Podesta served as White House chief of staff to President Clinton. Podesta also served as co-chair of President Barack Obama’s transition.
  • Steve Rattner – Steve Rattner is Chairman of Willett Advisors LLC, the investment arm for New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s personal and philanthropic assets. Previously, he served as Counselor to the Secretary of the Treasury and led the Obama Administration’s successful effort to restructure the automobile industry. He was a co-founding principal of the Quadrangle Group, a global private equity firm specializing in the media and communications industries. Mr. Rattner spent two decades as an investment banker at Lehman Brothers, Morgan Stanley, and Lazard Freres & Co., where he became Deputy Chairman and Deputy Chief Executive Officer.
  • Judith Rodin – Judith Rodin is the President of the Rockefeller Foundation. She previously served as president of the University of Pennsylvania and provost of Yale University. Dr. Rodin serves as a member of the board for several leading corporations and non-profits including Citigroup, AMR Corporation, Comcast, and the White House Council for Community Solutions.
  • David Sainsbury – David Sainsbury is the Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, a Labour Party Member of the House of Lords, and the author of Progressive Capitalism: How to Achieve Economic Growth, Liberty, and Social Justice. He has served as the Chairman of Sainsbury’s and was the UK Minister for Science and Innovation from 1998 to 2006.
  • Olaf Scholz – Olaf Scholz has served as Mayor of Hamburg, Germany since March 2011. Scholz is a long-time Social Democratic Party (SPD) politician and from 2002 to 2004, he served as General Secretary of the SPD during the government of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder.
  • Neera Tanden – Neera Tanden is the President of the Center for American Progress and Counselor to the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Tanden has served in both the Obama and Clinton administrations, was the director of domestic policy for the Obama-Biden campaign, and policy director for the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign.
  • John Van Reenen – John Van Reenen is a Professor in the Department of Economics at the London School of Economics and serves as Director of the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics. John also serves on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Industrial Economics.

Here is what The Guardian is writing about the new Commission.  Here is what co-chair Ed Balls wrote for the Huffington Post about the Commission.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post on how a former Brookings Institution scholar could choose the next Federal Reserve Chairman.

Center for American Progress (CAP) was recently ranked as the 30th best think tank in the world by the annual University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings.  It was ranked as the 11th best think tank in the US.  It was also ranked as the 2nd best think tank in the world in terms of best use of the Internet or social media.

Venezuela Sets Up Think Tank to Study Chavez's Ideas

Here is what the Wall Street Journal is reporting:
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, still smarting from the death of his predecessor and mentor Hugo Chávez this year, is taking the latter's "Bolivarian Revolution" to a new level, setting up an institute for advanced study of the ideas of the nation's late socialist firebrand.
Mr. Maduro, who has called himself the political "son" of Mr. Chávez and claimed that his mentor's spirit appeared to him in the form of a bird, signed a decree creating the "institute for the advanced studies of the thinking of the Supreme Commander Hugo Rafael Chávez Frias," according to the government's daily legislative review published Tuesday.

Such a long think tank name will create the tricky challenge of creating a cool acronym.  Any ideas?  Taking just the first letter of each word, the acronym for the Institute for the Advanced Studies of the Thinking of the Supreme Commander Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias would be IFTASOTTOTSCHRCF.  By dropping some of the minor words it can be shortened to IASTSCHRCF.

They are going to need a think tank just to study how to create a short acronym for the think tank.

Of the 6,603 think tanks in the world, there are 721 think tanks in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to the latest rankings by the University of Pennsylvania.  That report also says that Venezuela has 17 think tanks.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Brookings Scholar Named Middle East Peace Envoy

Martin Indyk, Vice President and Director of Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institution, has been named by Secretary of State John Kerry as Middle East Peace Envoy.  Indyk is the former US Ambassador to Israel.

Amb. Indyk was the Founding Director of the Saban Center for Middle East Peace Policy at Brookings.  Tamara Cofman Wittnes is the current Director of that Center, which was launched in May 2002.

Amb. Indyk is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).  He was previously Founding Executive Director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP).

Much of Indyk's writing and research at Brookings can be found here.

Here is a press release from Brookings about Amb. Indyk being named US Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations.  It says that Indyk will assume his new post effective immediately and will be taking a leave of absence from Brookings.

Ted Piccone, currently Deputy Director of the Foreign Policy Program, will serve as Acting Vice President and Director in the interim.

The Brookings Institution was recently ranked as the best think tank in the world by the annual University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Fmr. Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson Joins BPC

The Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) announced this week that former Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) and former Governor of Wisconsin Tommy Thompson is joining the think tank as a Senior Fellow.

According to a BPC press release, he will join BPC's Health Project with former U.S. Senate Majority Leaders Tom Daschle and Bill Frist, former Senator Pete V. Domenici, and former CBO and OMB Director Dr. Alice Rivlin.

In that same press release, BPC says that its Health Project issued a report in April on health care cost containment, and Gov. Thompson will work closely with the co-chairs and report authors to implement its recommendations.

Gov. Thompson, a Republican, was briefly a candidate for the US presidential election in 2008, withdrawing from the race before the primaries.

BPC, which formally launched in 2007, was founded by four former Senate Majority Leaders: Howard Baker (R-TN), Tom Daschle (D-SD), Bob Dole (R-KS), and George Mitchell (D-ME).

Think Tank Quickies #73

  • Brookings announces new trustees, including Obama's former "car czar" Steven Rattner.
  • Leadership challenges at think tanks.
  • Chinese think tank says Japan trying to become a major military power. 
  • Joint CSIS-McAfee study: Cybercrime costs estimated at $100 billion.
  • Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI) makes an appearance at PIIE for the 4th time.
  • A "real" think tank?  The Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. 
  • FFF/UNDP: Arab think tank directory
  • US think tanks meet to scuttle polls in Zimbabwe?
  • CSIS hosts Vietnam's President Truong Tan Sang.
  • Former Treasury official and China expert David Dollar heads to Brookings.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Heritage Becomes "Handful" for GOP

Here is what The Wall Street Journal is reporting:
For four decades, the Heritage Foundation was a stately think tank that sought to define conservative thinking for Republicans.
Now, in one of the more significant transformations in the capital's intellectual firmament, it has become an activist political operation trying to alter the course of conservative thinking. It now challenges establishment Republican leaders as much as it informs them, making waves in the process.
Here is what the article says about the think tank's lobbying arm, Heritage Action:
Heritage Action says it has 61,000 donors but doesn't disclose sources of its funding. It raised $5.9 million in 2012, according to figures provided by the group, a significant uptick from 2011 but still a sliver of the $82 million its parent organization raised. A number of prominent conservatives sit on the Heritage Foundation board, including billionaires Steve Forbes and Richard Mellon Scaife.
Unlike Club for Growth, a small-government advocacy group that built its reputation by wading into GOP primaries to knock off incumbent Republicans it sees as insufficiently conservative, Heritage Action seeks primarily to influence legislation. The group has recruited 5,000 local activists, known as "sentinels," in 160 key congressional districts and claims an email list of 400,000 supporters. Hundreds of those activists dial in to weekly Monday night conference calls run from the fourth floor of the foundation's headquarters, where they are often warned about coming legislation frequently authored by House Republicans.
Aides rank each member of Congress based on his or her votes on key measures, alerting supporters about each important roll-call vote.
The Heritage Foundation was recently ranked as the 18th best think tank in the world by the annual University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings.  It was rated the 9th best think tank in the US.  It was also rated as the #1 think tank in the world in terms of best use of social media and the Internet.  Heritage was also rated as the 10th best think tank in the world in terms of most significant impact on public policy.

Treasury's #2 to Join Think Tank

Neal Wolin, the Deputy Treasury Secretary, reportedly will step down next month and is planning to take a post with a "not-yet determined think tank" as he "mulls other options" outside government, according to the Washington Post.

Will he follow in his former boss's footsteps and join the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR)?  In February 2013 former Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner joined CFR as a Distinguished Fellow.  Stay tuned...

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Think Tank Quickies #72

  • NAF's Open Technology Institute (OTI) launches "Drone U."
  • Saudis, Qataris, and Kuwaitis have a headlock on much of the foreign policy coming out of think tanks?
  • CAP rebrands youth outreach program; Campus Progress to be renamed Generation Progress.
  • Henry Kissinger "brought down the house" when he alluded to Hillary Clinton's future presidential possibilities at Atlantic Council's black-tie gala in May 2013.
  • Guide to libertarian movies from Cato's David Boaz. 
  • How think tanks work: analyzing budgets. 
  • AEI's Arthur Books and James Pethokoukis involved in the "makings of a Republican equivalent of the DLC." 
  • CAP hosts Vice President Joe Biden on July 18 to discuss US policy towards Asia-Pacific region.
  • Wilson Center's Ross Johnson on US-sponsored broadcasts to other countries.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

CAP's Larry Summers Lobbying to be Next Fed Chair

Larry Summers, former Treasury Secretary under the Clinton Administration and White House economic advisor under President Obama, is reportedly very eager to become the next Federal Reserve Chairman.

On December 17, 2012, Summers was named as a Senior Distinguished Fellow at the liberal think tank Center for American Progress (CAP).

Summers is also a Member of the Board of Directors at the Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE).

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post titled "Will the Next Fed Chair Come From Think Tank Land?"

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post titled "Fmr. Brookings Scholar to Pick the Next Fed Chair?"

This Free Beacon article notes that CAP has a history of attacking Larry Summers.

Center for American Progress (CAP) was recently ranked as the 30th best think tank in the world by the annual University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings.  It was ranked as the 11th best think tank in the US.  It was also ranked as the 2nd best think tank in the world in terms of best use of the Internet or social media.

Think Tank Offers Cash Prize for EU Exit Plan

Here is what AFP is reporting:
A British think-tank on Tuesday launched a competition for the best plan to leave the EU -- offering a prize of 100,000 euros ($131,000) instead of in pounds. 
The right-leaning Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) said it wanted to find a credible blueprint in case voters backed a so-called "Brexit" in a referendum. 
Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to renegotiate Britain's relationship with the European Union and then hold a referendum in 2017. 
Judges for the competition include former British finance minister Nigel Lawson and David Starkey, the historian and television broadcaster.
 Philip Booth, editorial and programme director of the IEA, said the aim of the competition was to find a "serious and credible plan (or alternative plans) for Britain to leave the EU should that be the chosen option at the referendum." 
The prize is open to individuals, groups or institutions. 
The first prize is 100,000 euros, with second and third prizes of 10,000 euros and 5,000 euros. 
There is also a special prize of 5,000 euros for the best entry from an individual aged 30 or under. 
Britain is not a member of the 17-nation European single currency but the think-tank said it had decided to offer the prize in euros.

Here is a link to IEA's website.  Here is a link to the think tank's "Brexit Prize."

IEA was founded in 1955 and calls itself "UK's original free-market think tank."  IEA was recently ranked as the 49th best think tank in the world by the annual University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Prospect Magazine Praises Work of US Think Tanks

More information is being published about Prospect magazine's annual think tank awards, which Think Tank Watch has previously written about.

In a blog post, Prospect magazine highlights several US think tanks, including the Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE), Brookings Institution, and Third Way, which won the North American think tank of the year award:
In the US, the Peterson Institute was considered immensely impressive, with extensive access and influence on US policy. However, one judge suggested that, now the first signs of economic recovery are appearing in the US, it is not certain that the Peterson has lifted its gaze from the financial crisis to questions of growth.
The Brookings Institution report, “The Thistle and the Drone,” explored the relations between central governments and tribal societies on their periphery—germane now that the Afghan and US governments have decided to negotiate with the Taliban. For this and other work, the judges felt that Brookings was the  runner-up in the category.
But the winner of this year’s North American Think Tank Award was Third Way. A newcomer to the US think tank scene, founded in 2005 and still small, Third Way has had influence on the Obama team and was quick to home in on the plight of low to middle-income families and the difficulties they face in times of economic stagnation. The judges credited Third Way with making a real impact on debate in the centre ground of American politics, an arena which has seemed vanishingly small in recent years. They felt it was an organisation charged with a sense of urgency; one described their output as “really sexy,” while another commented: “I like the bottom-up approach, and signs of innovation in a crowded and very rich think tank scene.”
Prospect magazine had this to say about publications by think tanks not based in the UK:
This award covers publications by think tanks not based in the UK. The US-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace was commended by judges for its report, “Iran’s Nuclear Odyssey: Costs and Risks.” This was described as “original and interesting” for its suggestion that the only possible solution is a peaceful diplomatic settlement with Iran. The international community, the report noted, might do well to offer Iran advanced solar technology—its potential solar capacity is 13-times greater than its total domestic need.
The Cato Institute, also based in the US, caught the eye of the judges for its recent book on the legalisation of drugs, The Fire Next Door. The book maintains that the US’s prohibition of narcotics has empowered the drug cartels in Mexico with disastrous effects. The only solution now, it argued, is to legalise drugs. The judges were impressed by the book’s thoroughness and the intellectual flexibility that it suggested.
However, the International Publication of the Year category was won by Carnegie Europe, the European arm of the Carnegie Endowment, for its report “Press Freedom in Turkey.” This was a thorough and prescient examination of the control exerted on journalists by Ankara. The report was impressive and timely, given the demonstrations in Gezi Park and Taksim Square.

The Prospect think tank awards are now in their 13th year.

The judges of this year's think tank awards were: Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty and Chancellor of Oxford Brookes University; Bill Emmott, former Editor of the Economist; Richard Lambert, Chancellor of Warwick University, former Editor of the Financial Times and member of the Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee; David Lammy, Labour MP for Tottenham; Bronwen Maddox, Editor of Prospect; and David Willetts, Conservative MP for Havant and Minister of State for Universities and Science.

Think Tank Quickies #71

  • Arab think tank claim role in influencing policymaking.
  • Interview with Dr. Debapriya Bhattacharya, convener of Southern Voice, a consortium of 48 think tanks located in the Global South.
  • Thinking about tanking.
  • Third Way's Jonathan Cowan on think tanks.
  • US think tanks and the Af-Pak policy. 
  • Indian think tanks afraid of calling China a threat?
  • CIGI's Fred Kuntz on communications and impact metrics for think tanks.
  • CGD's Nancy Birdstall on CGD's new quantitative measures to rank think tanks.
  • Joshua Foust: Google interns are paid more than most think tank fellows.
  • Former Treasury Secretary Geithner sells $995K (asking price) home in Bethesda to move back to NY home (tried to sell it for $1.6 million several years ago) for his new post at CFR.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

CSIS Facilitating US-China Cyber Talks

A recent Politico story on US-China cybersecurity talks notes that the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) has "worked to facilitate bilateral talks with key Chinese leaders over the past eight months."

James Lewis, Director and Senior Fellow of the Technology and Public Policy Program at CSIS, testified on July 9 before the House Energy & Commerce Committee at a hearing on cyber espionage and theft of US intellectual property and technology.

His testimony can be read here.  It notes that CSIS and McAfee are undertaking a study on how to estimate the cost of all malicious cyber activity, including the theft of intellectual property.

CSIS has the Freeman Chair in China Studies which is chaired by Christopher Johnson, a former senior China analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Since 2009, CSIS and China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR) have held seven formal meetings on cybersecurity called "Track 2 Sino-U.S. Cybersecurity Dialogue."  The latest talks were held in December 2012 through CSIS's Technology and Public Policy Program.

Mr. Johnson and Matthew Goodman of CSIS recently wrote a piece on the US-China Strategic & Economic Dialogue (S&ED).

CSIS is one of many US think tanks that has reportedly been targeted by Chinese cyber spies.

CSIS was recently ranked as the best think tank in the world for security and international affairs by the University of Pennsylvania annual think tank rankings.  It was also ranked as the 5th best think tank in the world.

CSIS Preparing Move to New Headquarters

The move is in sight for the #1 think tank in the world for security and international affairs.  The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) will apparently be moving to its new headquarters at 1616 Rhode Island Ave, NW, Washington, DC during the month of September.

CSIS purchased the 15,394-square-foot development site off Scott Circle in 2007.  Cassidy & Pinkard arranged the sale of the site, which is five blocks north of the White House.  The seller of the site at that time was Gould Property.  Public records show that the land was purchased for just under $31.5 million.

A 2011 CSIS press release noted that construction of the new building is expected to cost approximately $100 million.

Here are some more details, including renderings of the new building and a map of the new location.

Based on the promo images and renderings, it looks like it will be pretty snazzy...

And I don't doubt that the new CSIS will have the best think tank cafeteria in town.

WPost's Kamen Bashes "Dull" Think Tank Papers

Here is what Al Kamen of the Washington Post had to say about Members of Congress and think tank papers:
Some former members of Congress write measured op-eds and dull think-tank papers outlining the problems facing America and their possible solutions.
Instead of penning a dime-a-dozen white paper, former senator Byron Dorgan chose a more entertaining format for sounding the alarm about the vulnerabilities of the nation’s electrical system with a fast-paced new novel, “Gridlock.”

Interestingly, former Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) is a Senior Fellow at the think tank Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC).

The Nation just noted that Dorgan, along with former Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS), recently released an "energy blueprint" via BPC's Strategic Energy Policy Initiative.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post on former Members of Congress who now work at think tanks.  As of our last count, BPC has 16 Members of Congress affiliated with the think tank.

BPC Influencing Safety Standards in Bangladesh?

Lee Fang of The Nation has just penned a piece on the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) and how it was paid by large US retailers to release a study related to safety in Bangladesh that apparently is favorable to those retailers.  Of course, think tanks taking corporate money and writing favorable reports for those donors is standard operating procedure.  Nevertheless, it is an interesting read...

Says Mr. Fang:
Following a series of tragedies in Bangladesh garment plants that claimed the lives of more than 1,100 in Dhaka and 112 in Tazreen, Western retailers have come under pressure to improve working conditions in their factories. In May, more than seventy companies signed on to a legally binding plan, the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. It has been largely welcomed by labor rights NGOs for ensuring international inspectors into facilities, greater contractor transparency and for a requirement that retailers fund necessary safety upgrades at garment factories.
But Walmart, Target, J.C. Penney, Gap, Sears and the largest federation of US-based retailers balked, claiming the recent accord would increase their liability. On Wednesday at 10 am, the dissenting retailers are poised to unveil a rival plan, one already panned by critics as a smokescreen designed to help them skirt responsibility for fixing their factory “deathtraps.”
To release their rival accord, called the Global Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, the US retailers turned to George Mitchell (D-ME) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME), along with the Bipartisan Policy Center, a group affiliated with both former senators. The decision to release the plan through an independent, bipartisan think tank may have been made to boost the plan’s credibility. In a letter to inform European counterparts that they would not be meeting to discuss safety plans, Mitchell and Snowe presented their involvement in the rival agreement as neutral brokers. “Under the auspices of the Bipartisan Policy Center, we are independently facilitating a robust and principled dialogue among leading garment retailers and brands as they work to achieve consensus on a single, unified safety plan designed to improve worker conditions in Bangladesh garment factories,” the senators wrote in their June 25 message to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
The Bipartisan Policy Center, however, has significant financial ties to the retailers they are assisting.
In its most recently published annual report, the Bipartisan Policy Center notes that the law firm Alston & Bird, one of Walmart’s many registered lobbying firms, is among the organization’s corporate donors. Earlier this year, former Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) registered as one of Walmart’s representatives through the firm. Alston & Bird also represents the National Retail Federation, a trade group that counts many of the nation’s leading retailers as members.
Others affiliated with the Bipartisan Policy Center work for the retailers involved in the rival accord. The Bipartisan Policy Center’s “Democracy Project” advisors include former Senator Don Nickles (R-OK), who is now a lobbyist for Walmart, as well as Don Fierce, founder of Fierce, Isakowitz & Blalock, a firm that helps the Retail Industry Leaders Association influence Congress. The RILA, yet another trade group supporting the alternative labor agreement, is led by a board that includes the CEOs of J.C. Penney and Walmart.
In May, the Bipartisan Policy Center even received direct funding from Walmart to sponsor an immigration policy event.
Walmart’s financial links to the groups associated with the upcoming labor plan are a reminder of the corporation’s extensive political reach, which extends well beyond campaign contributions and other traditional forms of influence. As The Nation reported earlier this year, the company has ramped up efforts to co-opt civil rights groups and other advocacy organizations as they have pushed to expand their presence in urban centers. Walmart has also won highly publicized support from the White House (including a partnership with Michelle Obama and a role in President Barack Obama’s push to hire veterans), while claiming victory on major legislative battles, from defeating sweeping federal labor reforms to credit card swipe fee legislation to the recent law to compel online companies to collect sales tax. At times, Walmart’s aggressive public affairs approach has backfired. In June of last year, a lobbying firm working for Walmart in the Los Angeles area was caught sending a young staffer to pose as a reporter and gather information from labor activists at Walmart-affiliated warehouses.
Here is what Mr. Fang has to say about BPC pushing an "energy blueprint":
The Bipartisan Policy Center, run by a number of lawmakers turned lobbyists, has faced recent criticism for peddling a pro-polluter “energy blueprint” under the guise of neutral policy. My former colleague David Halperin notes that the group has endorsed efforts that boost offshore drilling, drilling on federal lands, horizontal drilling (fracking), and the Keystone XL, all without action on climate change. The Bipartisan Policy Center, Halperin argued, failed to be upfront about more than ten major fossil fuel corporations that provide it with funding, or the many Bipartisan Policy Center leaders working for oil and gas companies through law firm or lobbying gigs. Like the rival Bangladesh agreement, the “energy blueprint” was offered by two former senators, Byron Dorgan and Trent Lott, also through the auspices of the Bipartisan Policy Center. As Public Citizen’s Tyson Slocum blogged in September, both former senators lobby for oil companies: Lott for ExxonMobil and Shell Oil; Dorgan for Noble Energy.
Despite the conflict of interest, DC media breathlessly reported that the Bipartisan Policy Center’s “blueprint for energy legislation” could “gain traction” because “both [Lott and Dorgan] are held in high regard by their former colleagues, and the BPC is a serious player in the energy debate.”

Here is an op-ed by George Mitchell and Olympia Snowe in the Huffington Post on the BPC's Bangladesh worker safety accord.

BPC, which formally launched in 2007, was founded by four former Senate Majority Leaders: Howard Baker (R-TN), Tom Daschle (D-SD), Bob Dole (R-KS), and George Mitchell (D-ME).

BPC's current president is Jason Grumet, an advisor on energy and the environment for the 2008 presidential campaign on then-Sen. Barack Obama.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Former National Security Advisor to Join CFR

The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) announced today that Tom Donilon, former National Security Adviser to President Barack Obama, will join CFR this month as a Distinguished Fellow.  He will be based at CFR's Washington, DC office.

Earlier this year, former Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner also joined CFR as a Distinguished Fellow.  The only other "Distinguished Fellow" at CFR that we are aware of is Nobel Prize-winning economist A. Michael Spence, who is a "Visiting Distinguished Fellow."  The Brookings Institution is probably the king of "Distinguished Fellows."

Donilon is no stranger to think tanks.  He has been a member of the Aspen Strategy Group, a policy program of The Aspen Institute, and has sat on the Board of Trustees of the Brookings Institution.  Moreover, the press release from CFR says that Mr. Donilon became a CFR member nearly two decades ago.

Last month, Leslie Gelb, President Emeritus and Board Senior Fellow at CFR, wrote an op-ed in the Daily Beast titled "Hats Off to Tom Donilon."

Mr. Donilon is one of many former Obama officials who has gone on to join a think tank.  Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post (updated periodically) that talks about the many former Administration officials who have left for think tank land.

CFR was recently ranked as the 6th best think tank in the world by the annual University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings.  It was also ranked as the 3rd best think tank in the US (only behind Brookings and Carnegie Endowment for International Peace) and the 4th best security and international affairs think tank in the world.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Think Tank Spotlight: Egypt

With all the recent unrest in Egypt, Think Tank Watch wanted to delve into the think tank scene in Egypt.  Using the most recent University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings, here is what we found:
  • Egypt has 34 think tanks, the second largest number in the Middle East behind Israel, which has 54.
  • The highest ranked Egyptian think tank in terms of non-US think tanks is Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies (ACPSS), which is ranked #66.
  • Interestingly, the same study ranks ACPSS as the 50th best think tank in the world.  (Yes, we are just as puzzled as you are).
  • ACPSS is ranked as the 5th best think tank in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).
  • Egypt has other think tanks on the "top think tanks in MENA" list, including: Egyptian Center for Economic Studies (#12 and #22; again we are puzzled), Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs (#23), Center of Arab Women for Training and Research (#24), Economic Research Forum (#30), Ibn Khaldoun Center for Development Studies (#32), The Information and Decision Support Center, or IDSC (#35), and the Institute for Future Studies (#37).

IDSC, the Egyptian Cabinet's think tank, appears to be pretty active in the Egyptian think tank scene.  A couple years ago IDSC invited the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago to conduct a workshop on the management of think tanks and research projects.  In 2008, the IDSC held an Egyptian-German think tank conference.  In 2009, IDSC held a two-day international conference on the role of think tank in developing countries.

Here is an article titled on Egyptian think tank life after Mubarak.

Think Tank Quickies #70

  • CCIEE holds two-day Global Think Tank Summit in Beijing.
  • The rise of university-based free market think tanks.
  • Who pays for think tanks?
  • Andrew Weiss, a former RAND official, joins CEIP as Vice President for Studies.
  • CAP launches new website to explain why courts matter and urge action on judiciary vacancies.
  • CAP Chairman John Podesta joins Global Ocean Commission.
  • Atlantic Council names new fellow on Caucuses, Balkans, Turkey, and Central Asia.
  • USIP names national winners of peace essay contest on gender and peacebuilding.
  • RAND Corp. launches new Center for Catastrophic Risk Management and Compensation.
  • Texas Gov. Rick Perry to join a think tank?

Monday, July 8, 2013

28 Scholars Blast Claim of ISI Think Tank Infiltration

A group of 28 scholars, journalists, former ambassadors and ex-generals have issued a statement denying that Pakistan's intelligence agency, the ISI, has infiltrated a variety of US think tanks.  That claim was made last week by Dr. Ayesha Siddiqa and was first reported by The Times of India on June 30, 2013.

Think Tank Watch has obtained the letter, which was signed by:
  • Dr. Anatol Lieven
  • Dr. Adil Najam
  • Dr. Andrew Wilder
  • Ms. Safiya Aftab 
  • Dr. Walter Andersen
  • Mr. Peter Bergen
  • Amb. Wendy Chamberlin
  • Dr. Stephen Cohen 
  • Mr. Steve Coll
  • Ms. Sheila Fruman
  • Mr. Ejaz Haider 
  • Mr. Yasser Latif Hamdani 
  • Dr. Emma Hooper  
  • Amb. Tauqir Hussain
  • Mr. Zahid Hussain
  • Dr. Ayesha Jalal
  • Dr. Saba Khattak  
  • Lt. Gen (ret.) Talat Masood  
  • Amb. Cameron Munter 
  • Dr. Paula Newberg 
  • Dr. Rasul Baksh Rais
  • Dr. Paolo Cotta Ramusino
  • Dr. Hasan-Askari Rizvi
  • Dr. Abid Suleri
  • Dr. Marvin Weinbaum 
  • Dr. Anita Weiss
  • Ms. Huma Yusuf  
  • Mr. Mosharraf Zaidi

Here is the previous Think Tank Watch post about the allegations. 

Spies at US think tanks are nothing new.  Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post about spy recruitment at think tanks.  Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post on think tanks that foreign spies seem to prefer.  Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post on former US spies and intelligence people who now work at US think tanks.

While there are 1,823 think tanks in the US, Pakistan has only 19 think tanks, according to the latest University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Pakistan Intelligence Infiltrates US Think Tanks?

Has Pakistan's intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) infiltrated US think tanks?  Here is what The Times of India has to say:
A prominent anti-establishment scholar in Pakistan has caused a flutter in Washington by suggesting that the country's spy outfit Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has infiltrated think tanks in the US capital.
Ayesha Siddiqa, a political commentator and former bureaucrat, whose expose of Pakistan's military-intelligence's stranglehold on the country was chronicled in her book 'Military Inc', shocked regional experts with a tweet on Thursday, relating how a Pakistani diplomat had confided to an American six years ago that the ISI had set up funds to infiltrate DC (Washington) think tanks and ''finally did it.''
"The only problem with this approach is they are sending unqualified people (mostly) to compete with Indians in the US,'' Siddiqa continued, adding, ''non-PhDs'' without any publication record will not be taken seriously in the US capital. She also named Moeed Yusuf, a senior Pakistan expert at the US Institute of Peace and Arif Rafique, an adjunct scholar at the Middle East Institute, in her tweets.
There has indeed been a perceptible increase in Pakistani experts in US think tanks and universities over the past decade, particularly after the country's association with the so-called war on terror, including its reputation as the haven for terrorists. Among the prominent Pakistani scholars in Washington DC are Shuja Nawaz, director of the South Asia Center at Atlantic Council (who incidentally is the brother of former army chief Asif Nawaz Janjua) and several former Pakistani diplomats who have rotated in an out of the city.
Former Pakistan ambassadors to US such as Hussain Haqqani and Maleeha Lodhi have done stints at think tanks, as have former generals-turned-diplomats, notably Jehangir Karamat and Mahmud Ali Durrani. Siddiqa herself served as a visiting scholar at the Johns Hopkins University.
In 2009, Pakistanis helped raise money for a Pakistan studies ''chair'' at the University of Texas in Austin, named after a US Congressman who was a great fan and supporter of the country's role in the 1980s Afghan conflict, although he was disillusioned about the whole affair when he died in 2010.

In 2012 the Atlantic Council of the United States (ACUS) launched an Emerging Leaders of Pakistan (ELP) Fellowship to "support and empower the next generation of Pakistan's civil society leaders."

Spies at US think tanks are nothing new.  Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post about spy recruitment at think tanks.  Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post on think tanks that foreign spies seem to prefer.  Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post on former US spies and intelligence people who now work at US think tanks.

While there are 1,823 think tanks in the US, Pakistan has only 19 think tanks, according to the latest University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Heritage Trying to Oust House Speaker Boehner?

Here is what Roll Call is reporting:
Are the Club for Growth and Heritage Action for America out to depose Speaker John A. Boehner?
Leaders of both conservative advocacy groups stop short of saying so, but they are clearly clamoring for a House Republican leader more closely aligned with their principles.
And they are doing everything they can to steer the House GOP membership in their direction.
Heritage Action CEO Mike Needham told CQ Roll Call there is “a disconnect” between the GOP leadership “and the conservative voters they allegedly represent.”
He said his group is “dying to go into battle alongside leadership” but won’t cede ground on issues that matter to it.
“Leadership’s job is to get to 218,” Needham said. “Our job is to make it impossible for them to get to 218 unless they are doing the right thing.”
Needham said Heritage Action had “very open lines of communication” with members leading up to decisive floor action. And it has built an army of seven D.C. lobbyists, 10 regional coordinators, 5,000 “sentinels” who organize their own grass-roots lobbying, and an email list of about 400,000 supporters in the three years it has been in existence.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post on Heritage Action, the Heritage Foundation's lobbying arm. 

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post on the lobbying arm of think tanks.

The Heritage Foundation was recently ranked as the 18th best think tank in the world by the annual University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings.  It was rated the 9th best think tank in the US.  It was also rated as the #1 think tank in the world in terms of best use of social media and the Internet.  Heritage was also rated as the 10th best think tank in the world in terms of most significant impact on public policy.