Monday, August 12, 2013

The New "Think Tank Industrial Complex"

Bryan Bender of The Boston Globe has a new piece titled "Many D.C. Think Tanks Now Players in Partisan Wars," which says we have arrived in the era of the "think tank industrial complex."  He essentially says that these days think tanks are more concerned with money rather than good ideas.

Here are some highlights:
  • It now is difficult to tell the difference between truly objective advice and high-priced advocacy for political or private profit, according to a Globe review of public and internal documents and interviews with dozens of current and former think tank scholars, management staff, and donors.
  •  “They [think tanks] have evolved into what looks like a business,” said Alan Dye, a Washington attorney who has represented think tanks, including Heritage, for three decades. “A brain trust for sale.”
  • The aggressive politicking is making even some of the think tank’s own scholars uncomfortable, according to a number of insiders who declined to be identified for fear of reprisal.
  • The study found that the newer think tanks are increasingly specialized and “focused on a single issue or area of policy.” A greater share of their funding is also tightly targeted. 
  • Heritage’s lobbying efforts this year have been focused on defeating proposals in Congress backed by think tanks like CAP, such as the extension of unemployment benefits and immigration reform. It has also lobbied against Obama’s nominations for federal judgeships.
  • Some think tanks are resisting the trend, trying to navigate a course through the growing thicket of partisanship and corporate influence. They are finding it hard going.