Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Think Tanks Get Into Thanksgiving Spirit

The conservative think tank Heritage Foundation has a selection of six different holiday cards for Thanksgiving.  All of them are related to the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Here are the different ones that you can email friends, family, and others:
  • Let's be thankful our doctor's waiting room doesn't look like the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade...yet.
  • Let's be thankful Michelle Obama isn't regulating our servings of pumpkin pie.
  • Let's be thankful Kathleen Sebelius isn't coaching our football team.
  • Let's be thankful the government doesn't regulate how much we can eat at Thanksgiving dinner.
  • Let's be thankful our liberal cousins will be too embarrassed to bring up Obamacare at dinner this year.
  • Let's be thankful Cyber Monday shopping doesn't happen on (as seen above)
There is also a post on The Foundry, a blog of the Heritage Foundation, titled "The Thanksgiving Menu: Overstuffed with Regulations," which details various regulations that may impact your Thanksgiving meal.  Says the post:

Lest there be any doubts about the extent of the problem, forthwith is just a taste of the regulatory minutiae that control today’s menu:
  • Turkey. Title 9, Part 381.76, of the Code of Federal Regulations directs turkey inspectors on the proper method of examining a frozen bird, to wit: “If a carcass is frozen, it shall be thoroughly thawed before being opened for examination by the inspector. Each carcass, or all parts comprising such carcass, shall be examined by the inspector, except for parts that are not needed for inspection.” 
  • Cranberries. Title 7, Part 929, establishes a “marketing committee” overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to set quotas on the volume of cranberries shipped to handlers from growers in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, Washington, and Long Island, New York. The grower “allotments” help to ensure that the price of cranberries remains artificially high. 
  • Bread/rolls. Title 21, Part 136, requires anything labeled as “bread” in a bakery to weigh one-half pound or more after cooling. To be legally called a “roll,” each unit must weigh less than one-half pound after cooling. 
  • Potatoes. Title 7, Part 51.1546, dictates the proportion of allowable defects among specific grades of spuds. Potatoes graded as “U.S. No. 1” may not exceed the following tolerances at the point of shipping: 5 percent for external defects, 5 percent for internal defects, and not more than a total of 1 percent for potatoes that are frozen or affected by soft rot or wet breakdown. An entirely different set of tolerances apply to U.S. No. 1 potatoes while en route or upon reaching the destination, while similar standards are also set for “commercial” grade potatoes, “U.S. No. 2” potatoes, and “off-size” potatoes. 
  • Green beans. Title 21, Part 155.120, defined green beans and wax beans as “the foods prepared from succulent pods of fresh green bean or wax bean plants conforming to the characteristics of Phaseolus vulgaris L. and Phaseolus coccineus L. The beans shall be one of the following distinct color types: (a) Green; or (b) Wax. The varietal type is either (a) beans having a width not greater than 1 1/2 times the thickness of the bean; or (b) beans having a width greater than 1 1/2 times the thickness of the bean.” 
  • Corn meal (for stuffing). Title 21, Part 137.275, distinguishes yellow corn meal from cleaned white corn meal: “Yellow corn meal conforms to the definition and standard of identity prescribed by §137.250 for white corn meal except that cleaned yellow corn is used instead of cleaned white corn.” 
  • Pecans. Title 7, Part 65, requires “country of origin” labeling for pecans and a variety of other foods. The declaration may not contain abbreviations or flags. However, the adjectival form of the name of a country may be used to identify the country of origin—provided the adjectival form of the name does not appear with other words so as to refer to a kind or species of product.
Other think tanks are also getting in on the Thanksgiving spirit.  Brookings has a post titled "Planes, Trains and Automobiles for Thanksgiving Travel."

Here is AEI's Thanksgiving guide to making conservative arguments liberals can understand.  Here is another one linked from AEI (as well as the Hudson Institute) on the meaning of Thanksgiving Day.

Christopher Leonard of the New America Foundation (NAF) penned this piece for the Washington Post titled "That Turkey on Your Plate Could Use Some More Industry Competition."

Angela Logomasini of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) wrote this piece titled "Disregard Toxic Advice on Turkey Day."

Here is the Cato Institute's take on a happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Heritage Action Urges "No" Vote on Yellen

Here is what The Hill newspaper is reporting:
Janet Yellen’s nomination to take over the Federal Reserve ran into conservative opposition on Monday as the advocacy arm of the Heritage Foundation urged senators to vote against her.
Heritage Action announced Monday that it would include a vote on Yellen’s nomination, which is expected to take place in December, on its congressional scorecard. A vote in favor of Yellen will be rated negatively.
The group argues Yellen has failed to present a plan to wind down the Fed’s massively expanded portfolio and said that is reason for the Senate to block her nomination.
In addition to blasting Fed policy, Heritage Action also criticized the Fed’s expanded role in the wake of the financial crisis and enactment of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law. The regulator offered a massive lifeline to financial institutions during the financial meltdown via a host of emergency loans, and now plays a significant role with other regulators in implementing the landmark financial overhaul.
Here is more from Heritage Action.

The Wall Street Journal originally got the story wrong, incorrectly reporting that Heritage Foundation planned to score the votes.  Indeed, it is Heritage Foundation's lobbying arm, Heritage Action, that is scoring the vote.

Geithner Joins Hamilton Project's Advisory Council

Former Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is building up his resume quickly.  It was recently announced that he would join private equity firm Warburg Pincus, and Think Tank Watch has just learned that he will join the Hamilton Project's Advisory Council.

The Hamilton Project is an economic policy project housed within the Brookings Institution.  In September, Hamilton Project announced a new leadership team.
Here is a full list of others on The Hamilton Project Advisory Council.  Those of the Council include economic/business heavyweights such as:
  • Alan Blinder, former Vice Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve and former member of Clinton's Council of Economic Advisers.
  • Richard Gephardt, former Democratic Congressman representing Missouri.
  • Peter Orszag, former Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
  • Robert Reischauer, former Director of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). 
  • Robert Rubin, former Treasury Secretary.
  • Sheryl Sandberg, CEO of Facebook.
  • Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google.
  • Lawrence Summers, former Treasury Secretary under Clinton and Director of the NEC under President Obama.
  • Laura D'Andrea Tyson, former Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) under Clinton.

Geithner joined the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) earlier this year as a Distinguished Fellow.

Here is what other former Treasury Secretaries have done after leaving that position.  Robert Rubin, another former Treasury Secretary, was one of the founders of the Hamilton Project.  Rubin is also Co-Chairman of CFR.

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

Monday, November 25, 2013

Theft at Small Think Tank Uncovered

Here is what the Washington Post is reporting:
Three years ago, the Progressive Policy Institute realized that a senior manager had quietly used unauthorized checks, credit-card charges and cash withdrawals to drain about $100,000 from the Democratic think tank’s accounts, pushing the nonprofit group to the edge of insolvency, interviews and documents show.

Officials at the institute didn’t call police and didn’t alert donors, said Lindsay Mark Lewis, now executive director of the Washington-based organization. Instead, they took what charity governance specialists call a distressingly common approach for a nonprofit group: They agreed to forgo legal action in exchange for restitution.
“We had an agreement that as long as the payments were made, that we would not pursue anything else,” Lewis said.
The institute declined to publicly identify the manager. Elizabeth Kennedy, who was executive director in 2010, left about the time of the discovery, and the institute’s financial records state that she has since “repaid” tens of thousands of dollars to the institute. She declined to discuss the institute’s loss and, asked whether she had embezzled the money, said, “No comment.”
Since leaving the institute, Kennedy has gone on to work for nonprofit and political groups in Florida, serving as finance director at one, documents and interviews show.
The Progressive Policy Institute, founded in 1989 and incorporated as the Third Way Foundation, describes itself as “an independent, innovative and high-impact D.C.-based think tank” and as “the original ‘idea mill’ for President Bill Clinton’s New Democrats.” It promotes a centrist approach and focuses on energy policy, competitiveness and medical innovation.
One can search for other think tanks that have reported a "significant diversion" of assets here.  PPI's homepage can be found here.

PPI was recently ranked by the University of Pennsylvania annual think tank rankings as the 7th best think tank in the world in terms of think tanks with a political party affiliation.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Think Tank Quickies (#95)

  • Infographic: China's official think tanks.
  • Liberal Bias: "The Heritage Foundation embarrasses itself with numbers...again." 
  • Alyssa Ayres, a top State Dept. official for South and Central Asian Affairs, joins CFR. 
  • Ratan Tata and Takeshi Niinami (CEO of Japan's Lawson Inc.) named to Board of East West Center.
  • Texas Gov. Rick Perry to address conservative Austin think tank Texas Public Policy Foundation.
  • Brookings hosts Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) Director Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn.
  • Hillary Clinton and China's Vice Premier talk early childhood development at Brookings.
  • Video: Sneak peek of CGD's new home; moving day Nov. 20.
  • Challenges think tanks face to leverage policy influence.
  • What do Citigroup and Barclays have in common with the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC)?

CNAS Reshuffles Research Agenda

This week the national security and defense policy-focused think tank Center for a New American Security (CNAS) announced a new research agenda and website.

CNAS introduced seven new/expanded research programs, as follows:

Asia-Pacific Security
Under the leadership of Senior Director Dr. Patrick Cronin and Deputy Director Dr. Ely Ratner, the Asia-Pacific Security program provides cutting-edge analysis and policy recommendations that seek to inform the exercise of U.S. power across the Asia-Pacific region.  Through research, publications and events, including dialogues with officials, public events and expert working groups, the Center’s Asia-Pacific Security program focuses on such issues as the rebalance of America’s strategic priorities and resources to Asia, the effort to account for China’s rise and refashion traditional alliances, and the need to build new partnerships and strengthen multilateral institutions in Asia.

Responsible Defense
Directed by Senior Fellow and Senior Advisor LTG David W. Barno, USA (Ret.) with Senior Fellow Dr. Nora Bensahel, the Responsible Defense team conducts analysis and crafts recommendations for senior policymakers on how to best ensure the nation’s security in a climate of shrinking budgets and changing global threats.  The team also addresses the underlying structural reform necessary to put the Defense Department on a sustainable path and examines the challenges to American’s position of technological dominance in the military arena posed by the diffusion of advanced technology.

Energy, Environment and Security
The Energy, Environment and Security (EES) research program, which is led by Senior Fellow Elizabeth Rosenberg, analyzes the implications of a changing global energy landscape and the national security opportunities and challenges it presents.  From the national security implications of shifting energy market dynamics to the role of a changing natural environment in shaping security considerations, the EES team develops practical strategies to help decision makers anticipate, shape and respond to these security challenges.

Middle East Security
Despite the desire to “rebalance” American foreign and defense policy towards Asia and the departure of U.S. forces from Iraq and (soon) Afghanistan, the Middle East continues to be an important focus of U.S. national security policy.  Given the continued need for U.S. military, diplomatic, and economic engagement with the region, the Middle East Security team, under the direction of Senior Fellow Dr. Colin Kahl, provides in-depth and innovative analysis and solutions to ongoing national security challenges, including Iranian nuclearization, the Syrian conflict, Iraq, and the implications of the democratic movements and unrest sweeping across the region.

Military, Veterans, and Society
The Military, Veterans, and Society (MVS) program addresses the issues facing America’s service members, veterans, and military families. Senior Fellow Phillip Carter leads this unique research program, which focuses on such issues as the long-term trends within the veterans and military population, the future of the All-Volunteer Force, and civil-military relations.  The MVS program provides ideas and recommendations to inform and guide public, private and nonprofit activity supporting the veterans and military community.

Technology and National Security
Senior Fellow Ben FitzGerald heads a growing team exploring the nexus of strategy, technology and business.  The Technology and National Security program offers solutions that take advantage of opportunities and mitigate risks connected to rapid technological development.  The program aims to provide realistic analysis and recommendations to both the public and private sector to guide national security policy and business practices in a manner that best maintains the U.S. technological advantage.

Strategy and Statecraft
In January 2014, CNAS will inaugurate a new Strategy and Statecraft research program, aimed at renewing and elevating the debate on America’s unique role in the world and the best way to defend and promote U.S. national security interests in a smart, sustainable way.  With the foreign policy consensus in the United States crumbling, and with many questioning whether the United States requires a strong, forward-engaged diplomatic, development, and defense posture, this program will help guide analysts and policymakers to the key questions and hard choices that will truly matter in the years ahead.

Here is a recent Think Tank Watch post on the recent shakeup on the CNAS Board of Directors.

In the recently released University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings, CNAS was ranked as the 14th best think tank in the US.  It was also ranked as the 24th best security and international affairs think tank in the world.  It was ranked 25th in the world in terms of think tanks having the most significant impact on public policy.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Paul Ryan Using Think Tanks for Anti-Poverty Push

The Washington Post is reporting that Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) has been "trolling center-right think tanks and intellectuals for ideas to replace the 'bureaucratic, top-down anti-poverty programs' that Ryan blames for 'wrecking families and communities' since Lyndon B. Johnson declared a war on poverty in 1964."

Two think tanks are mentioned in the article: Heritage Foundation and Manhattan Institute (MI).

The article does not describe Paul's embrace of the Heritage Foundation, but notes that the conservative think tank held a day-long anti-poverty forum at the Capitol last week to examine the rise in food stamp dependency since the recession and methods of prison rehabilitation.  Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) have the keynote address at the event.  Here are Mike Lee's comments.

The article also quotes Scott Winship, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a think tank that has been advising Rep. Ryan's staff, according to the article.  The Manhattan Institute for Policy Research is a conservative think tank based In New York.

It was announced last year that the Heritage Foundation and Center for Neighborhood Enterprise (CNE) will partner for an Anti-Poverty Initiative.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post on Paul Ryan and conservative think tanks.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Think Tanks, the "Kochtopus" & Dark Money

Here is what Politico is reporting:
A network of think tanks across the country is quietly pushing the agenda of right-wing groups with funding from Koch brothers-affiliated organizations, a new report alleges. 
The study, by the liberal Center for Media and Democracy, is aimed at the State Policy Network, which describes itself as “dedicated solely to improving the practical effectiveness of independent, nonprofit, market-oriented, state-focused think tanks,” which are operating in all 50 states. The tax-exempt group seeks to “enable these organizations to better educate local citizens, policy makers and opinion leaders about market-oriented alternatives to state and local policy challenges.”
But that’s not the full story, according to the Center for Media and Democracy, which bills itself as a nonprofit watchdog group. CMD alleges that rather than a loose coalition of locally focused think tanks, SPN’s organizations are using “dark money” — a term for money donated for elections without disclosing its source — from conservative and corporate donors like the Koch brothers to push a cookie-cutter conservative agenda at the state level.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post (also via Politico) on the Koch brothers' influence on think tanks.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post on which think tanks billionaires favor, which lists many of the think tanks that the Koch brothers support.

Here is a new and timely Muckety Map with the groups mentioned in the article, including the State Policy Network (SPN) and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).  If you click on the link, you will see many of Muckety's Koch-related stories/maps.

Another Kochtopus map can be found here.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Think Tank Quickies (#94)

  • CSIS and Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University to form partnership.
  • Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to speak at AEI on Nov. 21; Sen. Rubio speaks at AEI Nov. 20.
  • AEI event: Plato vs. Aristotle and the struggle for the soul of Western civilization.
  • US think tanks set minimum requirements for Hill budget talks. 
  • Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG) on non-impartiality of Syria analysts at think tanks. 
  • CAP rolls out red carpet for Goldman Sachs. 
  • Former top Commerce Dept. official Francisco Sanchez to become Nonresident Senior Fellow at Brookings. 
  • Richard Bennett, co-inventor of Wi-Fi and modern Ethernet architecture, joins AEI as a Visiting Fellow. 
  • Marcus Noland named Executive Vice President and Director of Studies at PIIE.
  • Atlantic Council celebrates its new headquarters.

Heritage Action Changes Obamacare Strategy

Here is what Roll Call is reporting:
If you like GOP leadership’s health care plan, so too does the Club for Growth and Heritage Action for America.
The two conservative groups, known better of late for their troublemaker opposition to the Republican leadership’s strategies, are back on board as leadership looks to strike at smaller chunks of Obamacare and highlight Democratic divisions.
What’s changed?
“The shutdown alienated independent voters. You don’t need to look any further than Virginia to see that dynamic play out,” said Brian Walsh, a GOP strategist and former National Republican Senatorial Committee communications director.
“It’s unfortunate that these groups wasted months of messaging and hundreds of thousands of dollars on that failed strategy,” Walsh said. “To their credit, they’re finally seeing the light of political reality. … The way you affect public policy is by winning elections, not by attacking people on your own side.”
Indeed, Heritage Action seemed to acknowledge Tuesday that an election may have to take place before Republicans could actually repeal Obamacare, noting that the lesson of the shutdown was that “red-state Democrats didn’t break.”

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post on Heritage Action and Obamacare.

Heritage Action for America is the lobbying arm of the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

WINEP Gets New, Powerful Board Members

Last week the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) announced six new members to its Board of Advisors:
  • Condoleezza Rice
  • Gen. John Allen
  • Howard Berman
  • Evan Bayh
  • Joseph Lieberman
  • Eliot Cohen

The new board of advisors members, which include three former Members of Congress, join Henry A. Kissinger, Samuel W. Lewis, Edward Luttwak, Michael Mandelbaum, Robert McFarlane, Martin Peretz, Richard Perle, James G. Roche, George P. Shultz, R. James Woolsey, and Mortimer Zuckerman. Members also included the late Warren Christopher, Lawrence Eagleburger, Alexander Haig, and Max Kampelman.

WINEP is a Washington, DC-based think tank established in 1985 that focuses on US foreign policy in the Middle East.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Heritage Action & The Obamacare Fight

Time magazine had a story back in October titled "Loss Leaders" about the recent budget/debt crisis, and described Heritage Action like this:
...More doctrinaire groups began raising money with the explicit goal of pushing Republican policy to the right.  Outfits like Heritage Action for America weren't interested in cutting deals to soothe financial markets.  They wanted to energize the despondent core of true believers.  Working out of drab, fluorescent-lit offices a few blocks and a world away from the gilded suites of the Capitol, Heritage stoked the primal fear of primary challenges in most members of Congress.  It pushed hot-button issues, published rankings to praise the orthodox, and used their clout to punished signs of squishiness.  Ideology, not party strategy, was their passion.
Heritage Action and others paved the way for the ambitious junior Senator  from Texas, Ted Cruz, a slick and silver-tongued rookie who appears to have noticed that Obama once had those same credentials.  In late July, Heritage began promoting a plan backed by Cruz to turn the approaching budget crisis into a roadblock for Obamacare.
Heritage Action is now asking people to share their stories about how Obamacare is hurting them.  Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post on Heritage Action's $550,000 "Defund Obamacare" campaign.  Heritage Action also has posted an Obamacare "Increase Map" where one can see how much more (or less) they will pay for health insurance in their state.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Think Tank Quickies (#93)

  • Atlas Network to host Liberty Forum and Freedom Dinner 2013 in New York Nov. 13-14; includes $25,000 Think Tank Shark Tank competition, and $100,000 winner of Templeton Freedom Award.
  • Iraqi Prime Minister Noori al-Maliki speaks at US Institute of Peace (USIP). 
  • Time Mag: "For a service that has its own in-house think tank designed to study the future and help shape it, the Army has become adept at confirming the wisdom of the status quo."
  • Africa in Focus: A new blog by the Africa Growth Initiative (AGI) at Brookings.
  • Media Matters: "The 7 Worst Arguments in the Heritage Foundation's New Anti-ENDA Report."
  • On the launch of the Think Tank 10 + 10 Partnership Plan to create dialogue between Chinese and African think tanks.
  • Heritage President Jim DeMint fact-checked by WPost's Glenn Kessler.
  • Cato Institute launches HumanProgress website that documents, well, human progress.
  • USIP and Wilson scholar Robin Wright draws a new map of the Middle East.
  • Atlas Networks' think tank MBA.

New Chart-Sharing Tool for Think Tanks

Think Tank Watch recently interviewed Noah Blumental, Founder and CEO of chart-sharing startup SwayWhat.  Following is the interview, with a focus on how think tanks can utilize the site.

Q: When was SwayWhat officially launched?

A: SwayWhat began inviting organizations to join in June of this year and now we have 30 groups posting charts to the site. The idea for SwayWhat came after I experienced an emotionally charged school board meeting after the Sandy Hook shooting tragedy. Angry, worried and frankly, scared, parents were calling for extreme measures like panic buttons and armed principals to protect our children. I knew I disagreed with them, but I couldn’t quickly find any information to support my argument in the minutes before it was my turn to speak. I spoke anyway, but I knew that without any facts my argument fell on deaf ears.

That night I went home and found information showing that the risk of students dying by suicide was about 100 times greater than by school shootings. This made it clear that if we’re going to invest a school’s budget to protect children, then it ought to be for mental well-being, not protecting schools from shooters.

I created a simple chart of this data, with just two bars, and presented it at the next school board meeting. Afterwards we were able to agree that arming the school with guns was not the right use of resources.

Q: How long did it take before think tanks were using the service?

A: Think tanks started using SwayWhat almost immediately, and from across the policy spectrum. We already have about thirty think tanks on board with more coming on every week, including groups like American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, No Labels, and the Institute for Policy Studies. What’s been most exciting is we’re now seeing groups that we haven’t solicited joining and making charts.

Q: How has the outreach to think tanks been like so far?  Has there generally been a positive response.

A: I never would have imagined such a positive response. Almost every single organization I speak with is excited about SwayWhat’s potential and starts to get involved. And they’re excited to spread the word. Every time I pitch a new think tank, it’s because I’ve been recommended to them by a peer. We’re really thankful that it’s been such a smooth ride so far.

Q: Have any think tanks actually approached you about the service?

A: One of the great things about SwayWhat is its ease of use. So think tanks and other organizations don’t necessarily need to approach us about the service—they can just sign up and immediately begin turning their data into charts and graphs, and we’re beginning to see them do this.

Q: I've noticed think tanks such as Heritage, CEPR, and IPS using the site; how do you plan to attract other think tanks to the service?

A: Word is already getting out and we’re seeing think tanks and policy groups sign up without our prior contact. We think contributing to SwayWhat is a no-brainer. We help broaden their exposure by allowing them to create charts and graphs that are easy to consume and share, and which are incredibly effective at making a point. Our early adopters say that the SwayWhat charts they post to Facebook and Twitter get 200 to 400 percent more engagement than other posts.

In addition, for new think tanks just getting started with us, we will help them establish a custom page for their own charts, and we’re constantly highlighting partners’ charts and graphs via social media. In fact, we are about to launch the next phase of our social media strategy, which will greatly increase the exposure of the early adopter organizations joining us now, while we are still so new.

Q: Can anyone add a think tank chart to the site or do you actually have to be from that think tank to do so?

A: Anyone can create any chart they want on the site using our chart-building tool and it is equally easy to upload an image you find on the web. However, users should first confirm with the copyright owner that they have the necessary permissions before uploading any images or content not created using our site. If someone posts or uses an image that they do not own or have permission to use, it may be subject to removal from our website.

Q: Who are your biggest online competitors, and how do you differ from them?

A: At a surface level, people compare us to infographic sites like and infogram, but I would never consider them to be competitors. In fact, we encourage our users to post those infographics and charts to SwayWhat as well.

Other data sites tend to emphasize their own chart-building tools. While we think we have a great and simple tool for making charts we are equally happy seeing charts and infographics posted that were built elsewhere.

Our goal is to be the place where the most important data on the most important topics is found and debated, regardless of where the chart was originally created.

Q: How is SwayWhat financed?  Angel/venture money, self-funded, etc...?

A: Currently SwayWhat is 100% boot-strapped. We have very little overhead and a revenue model that we think can support our operations as we begin attracting more and more traffic. That said, we have big ideas for hiring subject matter experts to act as editors and we need to spread the word not just to hundreds of think tanks, but to millions of individual data consumers, so we may decide venture capital funding makes the most sense. For the foreseeable future however, we do not see ourselves taking venture capital.

Q: Any other comments about how you want think tanks to embrace SwayWhat?

A: We want think tanks and policy institutes to turn to SwayWhat to help them reach new audiences by presenting their information in powerful and compelling charts that are easy to create, consume and share.

Eventually, our goal is that SwayWhat becomes a way of life for everyone trying to make smarter, fact-based decisions. We are completely neutral about who posts what to SwayWhat – we just want the information to be based on fact.

Here is an interview the On Think Tanks recently conducted with SwayWhat.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

John Podesta's New Think Tank on Inequality

Another day in Washington, another think tank.

This time, John Podesta, an advisor to President Barack Obama and Bill and Hillary Clinton, is starting a think tank called Washington Center for Equitable Growth, or WCEG (not be be confused with the Center for Equitable Growth run out of the University of Berkeley) which will investigate the causes and effects of growing income inequality.

The new think tank will be housed within an existing think tank, the Center for American Progress (CAP), a think tank that Podesta founded in 2003.  Podesta is currently the Chairman of CAP and its political arm, the Center for American Progress Action Fund (CAPAF).

Heather Boushey will reportedly become Executive Director of the new think tank.  J. Brad DeLong, an economic blogger, which reportedly move much of his writing to the new think tank.  Podesta will be the think tank's Chairman.

Initial funding for the think tank is reportedly coming from the Sandler Foundation,  a charitable foundation founded in 1991.  Sandler Foundation already supports a variety of other think tanks, including the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) and the Tax Policy Center (TPC).

Want to work at the new think tank?  Here is a job announcement showing that WCEG is looking for economists or senior economists.  Here is a posting seeking an economics blogger.  Here is a posting seeking a data vizualizer/multimedia specialist.

Here is more from The New York Times.  Here is what Brad DeLong has to say about WCEG.

In related news, Matthew Continetti recently wrote a piece in The Washington Free Beacon titled "The Podesta Era" with the subtitle "How the Center for American Progress Conquered America."

Here are some excerpts:
Over the last decade the Center for American Progress, also known as CAP, and its political arm, the CAP Action Fund, have established themselves among the most influential policy and activist organizations in America. CAP has revenues of $34 million. Its alumni occupy positions inside the Obama administration, in media, in business, and in the academy...CAP exerts a pull over the Democratic Party like no other liberal institution. The right has no equivalent.
CAP’s power flows from two sources. The first is structural: John Podesta, CAP’s founder, is an expert at combining the Democratic Party platform with favor trading. He separated the tax-deductible, educational side of his think tank from the tax-exempt, political side. He lined up support from George Soros, from subprime mortgage kingpins Herb and Marion Sandler, from the secret donors behind the Democracy Alliance. He created a Business Alliance that solicited corporate and foreign contributions in exchange for “network-building” and “policy education” and other euphemisms for lobbying. Members of the Business Alliance reportedly include Boeing, GE, Goldman Sachs, Comcast, Walmart, and the Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists of Turkey—you know, the little guys.
Podesta used the CAP Action Fund’s website,, to nudge the mainstream media in an ideological direction. A former lobbyist whose brother still runs the family firm, Podesta harnessed the power generated by the revolving door.

More coming...

Wilson Center Event on New Think Tank Book

On November 13 the Wilson Center will be hosting an event to discuss the launch of Andrew Selee's new book entitled "What Should Think Tanks Do?"  The five speakers at the event include:
  • Andrew Selee: Vice President for Programs and Senior Advisor to the Mexico Institute, Wilson Center.
  • Anne-Marie Slaughter: President and CEO, New America Foundation (NAF).
  • James McGann: Director, Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program, University of Pennsylvania.
  • Steven Bennett: Vice President and COO, Brookings Institution
  • Lawrence McDonald: Vice President for Communications and Policy Outreach, Center for Global Development (CGD).

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post on Dr. Selee's new book, which Think Tank Watch is planning to review.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Think Tank Quickies (#92)

  • German think tanks call for consolidation of Europe's national defense industries.
  • Pentagon's think tank hires "Rumsfeld's Dr. Strangelove." 
  • Brookings' Peter Singer on why it's a bad idea to cut the Pentagon's in-house think tank.
  • CFR co-sponsored the 1st European meeting of the Council of Councils (CoC), a global network of 24 prominent think tanks.
  • From Heritage: 24 charts that show importance of Asia to the US.
  • More than 60% of South Koreans regard Japan as a military threat, according to survey by Asan Institute for Policy Studies, a Seoul-based think tank. 
  • Brookings: Cash for clunkers was a lemon.
  • CSIS releases Global Forecast 2014; SecDef Chuck Hagel speaks at CSIS Global Security Forum 2013.
  • David Ignatius on the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, a think tank for the intelligence community.
  • Brookings has assembled data on how America's metropolitan areas trade.

Brookings' New Chair in Southeast Asia Studies

The Brookings Institution announced on October 25 the establishment of the Lee Kuan Yew Chair in Southeast Asia Studies.  Here is more about the new Chair, including how it was funded:
Ray and Barbara Dalio, Chevron, Hotel Properties Limited, Keppel Group, Robert Ng and Philip Ng, Sembcorp Industries Ltd., Edwin Soeryadjaya, STEngineering, and The Starr Foundation have made generous contributions to the Lee Kuan Yew Chair endowment. Blackstone, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, and State Street have provided critical operating support.
The Lee Kuan Yew Chair will be housed in the expanded Center for East Asia Policy Studies (CEAP), formerly known as the Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies. Ted Piccone, acting vice president and director of Foreign Policy at Brookings, noted that the establishment of the Chair marks an important expansion of Brookings’s engagement with Asia.
CEAP was founded in 1998 as the Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies to promote research and analysis of policy issues facing Northeast Asia and the United States. Recently, it launched the Phillip Knight Chair in Japan Studies and the Chen-Fu and Cecilia Yen Koo Chair in Taiwan Studies. With the establishment of the Lee Kuan Yew Chair it now includes Southeast Asia in its mandate. Under the continued leadership of its director, Richard Bush, CEAP senior fellows and visiting fellows conduct research on the political, economic, and security issues facing East Asia, and sponsor an array of policy-oriented seminars, discussions, and publications, including the monthly Brookings East Asia Commentary.
Lee Kuan Yew served as Prime Minister of Singapore from 1959 to 1990, and remains a member of the Parliament of Singapore. He is also an Honorary Director of the Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE).  Lee Kuan Yew was a major driver behind the establishment of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

The new Southeast Asia position at Brookings was reportedly funded with $3 million, and will be "rotated among academics chosen from the different ASEAN countries, starting with Singapore."

Here is more about how the chair was formed:
Work to launch the new academic position first began in 2010. Brookings Institution vice-president Martin Indyk had approached Mr Lee then to ask for his permission.
Mr Lee reportedly consented to lending his name to the position but said he would not be raising any funds. The bulk of that task was ultimately taken up by Ambassador Chan, who was then Singapore's envoy to the US.
Over the next three years, some US$3 million was raised, evenly split among 13 donors based in the US and Singapore.
Brookings president Strobe Talbott said the post is especially unique because it is the first time the 97-year-old institution has named a chair to honour the achievements of a leader, as opposed to "honouring somebody for giving us the money for the chair."

Brookings recently announced that it is seeking to raise $600 million in its so-called Second Century Campaign to celebrate its 100 years in existence in 2016.

In September, Brookings announced the establishment of the Center for Effective Public Management (CEPM).

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

Monday, November 4, 2013

Shakeup on the CNAS Board

The Center for a New American Security (CNAS) announced major changes today to its Board of Directors.

William Perry and Madeleine Albright have been named Directors Emeriti, and three new people have been named to the Board: Gen. John Allen, Linda Hudson (outgoing President and CEO of BAE Systems), and former Sen. Joseph Lieberman.

Here is how Defense News describes the changes:
The Center for a New American Security (CNAS) quickly has become a top Washington national security think tank. And on Monday morning, it offered the latest glimpse why.
The organization announced it is adding a handful of heavy hitters to its board of directors, including former Marine Corps Gen. John Allen, outgoing BAE Systems CEO Linda Hudson and former Sen. Joseph Lieberman.
The moves give the relatively young think tank further inroads to the Obama administration. Its two board co-chairs are former Obama administration officials, and Allen ran the Afghanistan war under President Barack Obama. Lieberman was more ally than irritant to the White House before he left the Senate, and Hudson worked closely with senior Pentagon leaders as head of BAE.
The Hill newspaper says that the additions "will add to the clout of the centrist defense think tank."

Back in March of this year, former Sen. Lieberman joined the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).  Back in June, Gen. Allen joined the Brookings Institution.

A list of CNAS Board of Directors can be found here.  And here is a press release about the new Board.

In the recently released University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings, CNAS was ranked as the 14th best think tank in the US.  It was also ranked as the 24th best security and international affairs think tank in the world.  It was ranked 25th in the world in terms of think tanks having the most significant impact on public policy.

Rand Paul Plagiarized From Heritage, Cato?

Here is what BuzzFeed in reporting about libertarian Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY):
An entire section of Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s 2013 book Government Bullies was copied wholesale from a 2003 case study by the Heritage Foundation, BuzzFeed has learned. The copied section, 1,318 words, is by far the most significant instance reported so far of Paul borrowing language from other published material.
The new cut-and-paste job follows reports by BuzzFeed, Politico, and MSNBC that Paul had plagiarized speeches either from Wikipedia or news reports. The book was published in August 2013 by Center Street, a division of Hachette Book Group.
In this case, Paul included a link to the Heritage case study in the book’s footnotes, though he made no effort to indicate that not just the source, but the words themselves, had been taken from Heritage.
...In another instance in the book, several sentences appeared similar to a report by a senior fellow at the Cato Institute Mark Moller in the National Wetlands Newsletter. Moller said he had not given anyone permission to reprint any parts of his article.
In the past couple of years there have been several reports of think tankers plagiarizing or lying about their resume, but this is the first instance of a high-level official reportedly plagiarizing from a think tank.

Neither the libertarian Cato Institute nor the conservative Heritage Foundation seem too hot and bothered by the allegations.  Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery?