Monday, December 23, 2013

Diplomats Like Hillary Clinton Too "Think-Tanky"

James Rosen, chief Washington correspondent for Fox News, writes this about Hillary Clinton in the January 2014 edition of The Washingtonian magazine:
More than 150 years have passed since a Secretary of State ascended to the presidency. There’s just something elitist—a little too think-tanky—about diplomats for ordinary folks’ tastes. When Obama handed Clinton the office after he kayoed her in the 2008 Democratic primary, though, he allowed her a dignified hand up from the canvas. It was understood that by enhancing her global stature and keeping her on the front pages, Obama was also positioning her as frontrunner to succeed him. But five years later, the office looks less than ever like a steppingstone to the presidency.
Even without having been the US's top diplomat as Secretary of State, Clinton has had close connections to a variety of think tanks.  She recently spoke at the Center for American Progress's (CAP) 10th anniversary event, and she recently won the Chatham House Prize 2013.  For the CAP event, the think tank reportedly promised corporate donors a chance to meet Hillary Clinton in return for a $250,000 donation.

Earlier this year, Hillary Clinton gave her final speech as a diplomat at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).  And in November, Hillary Clinton spoke about early childhood development in China and the US at the Brookings Institution.

NY Police Commissioner to Join CFR

Here is what Reuters is reporting:

New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly will join a prestigious foreign policy think-tank based in New York when he steps down later this month as the longest serving commissioner in NYPD history.
Kelly will become a visiting fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, the group said in a statement Monday. 

Kelly's work at CFR will complement a contract he signed earlier this month to give highly-paid speeches with Greater Talent Network, whose roster of former law enforcement officials includes Louis Freeh, former head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Mr. Kelly is already somewhat familiar with the think tank.  For example, he spoke there in 2009 at this event on the Post 9/11 NYPD.

Here is what The Village Voice has to say:
The think tank has always been very, very kind to Kelly; in a 2009 forum on the post 9/11 NYPD, board member James D. Zirin called him a "visionary", credited him with reducing violent crime, and declared, "No police commissioner in our history has been as qualified as Ray Kelly at the time he took office." The same year, an "expert brief" put out by the CFR called the NYPD a "counterterrorism model," adding, "The counterterrorism program the NYPD developed gave new meaning to the phrase, 'think globally, act locally.' It has become the most global of local police forces."
Here is the press release from CFR about Kelly joining the think tank.  It says that at the think tank Kelly will focus on counterterrorism, cybersecurity, and other national security issues.

CFR was recently ranked as the 6th best think tank in the world and 3rd best think tank in the US by the annual University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings.  CFR was also ranked as the 7th best think tank in the world for international economic policy.

Think Tankers on Think Tanks

Last month, Think Tank Watch reported about a Wilson Center event on Wilson Center scholar Andrew Selee's new book entitled "What Should Think Tanks Do?"

Here are some of Think Tank Watch's favorite quotes from that event:

Andrew Selee: Vice President for Programs and Senior Advisor to the Mexico Institute, Wilson Center:
  • "Brookings could easily coast on its reputation, but doesn't."
  • "The more strategic think tanks are the more impact they have."
  • "Resources are probably the main thing that think tanks spend the most time worrying about."

Anne-Marie Slaughter: President and CEO, New America Foundation (NAF):
  • "Only in Washington is 'What Should Think Tanks Do?' considered an airplane book."
  • "Think tanks play a critical translation role between academia and government."
  • "Think tanks really know how to get ideas implanted into the policy process."
  • "New America Foundation (NAF) is like a tech-lab, we have 40 coders looks like Silicon Valley."
  • "NAF is not diverse enough (in terms of race) is an issue we'll be focusing on."

James McGann: Director, Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program, University of Pennsylvania:
  • "Think tanks as a human resource function for government is becoming a global phenomenon."
  • "The 9/11 Commission was populated by think tankers."
  • "Most countries do not rely on think tanks as much as the US does."
  • "Think tanks have to be market-oriented."
  • "Thinks tanks generally have a greater gender diversity than racial diversity."
  • "Think tanks are a risky business.  They can only survive one or two bad leaders and then they tank."

Steven Bennett: Vice President and COO, Brookings Institution:
  • "Brookings must remain on the cutting edge, even if it 100 years old."
  • "Brookings has tried to be as nimble and dynamic as a small think tank."
  • "Think tanks feed government important analysis."
  • "Brookings has branched out beyond the federal government and Washington, we've stepped into the state and local realm."
  • "Think tanks have to be in the business of re-invention."
  • "To be a nimble think tanks it helps to have unrestricted capital."
  • "On diversity Brookings needs to do a better job...we are lousy on racial diversity."
  • "Brookings is now investing a lot in communications."
  • "Funding is very time-consuming."
  • "If you ask a Republican what our political affiliation is they will say Brookings is liberal; if you ask a Democrat, they will say that we are middle-of-the-road."

Lawrence McDonald: Vice President for Communications and Policy Outreach, Center for Global Development (CGD):
  • "CGD has been successful because our leader is a women." 
  • "At CGD [our staffers] skew female and skew young."
  • "There is a big problem with partisanship at many think tanks."
  • "At CGD we have two vice presidents who support different political parties."
  • "CGD has too many people from the World Bank, including me."
You can watch the full Wilson Center event here.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Think Tank Quickies (#100)

  • Which think tanks are shaping Chinese policymaking?
  • Erdogan's "propagandist" think tanks.
  • How do policy actors assess Southern think tanks?
  • Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) to speak about Ukraine at Atlantic Council on Dec. 19.
  • Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL): Some senators vying for presidency in the future "afraid of Heritage Foundation force."
  • MSNBC's Chris Hayes clashes with conservative think tanker from Employment Policies Institute.
  • Director General of UAE think tank ECSSR promotes new book in full-page Washington Post ad.
  • Hudson Institute event: The US and Saudi Arabia alliance on the rocks?
  • Think tank director at Institute of Public Affairs appointed to Australian Human Rights Commission.
  • Charles Kenny of CGD: The case for sending America's unemployed abroad.

CNAS Featured in "Getting Rich in Washington" Series

The Washington Post has an ongoing series called "Insiders' Game: Getting Rich in the New Washington," and the latest article by Greg Jaffe features Novitas CEO [and former Mission Essential Personnel, LLC (MEP) CEO] Chris Taylor and how he won a $3.5 million contract with US Special Operations Command.

One think tank is mentioned in the article: The Center for a New American Security (CNAS).  Here is the excerpt:
Taylor also spent $100,000 to sponsor a fifth- anniversary party in January 2012 for the Center for a New American Security, a defense think tank. Senators, ambassadors and a former defense secretary came to the W Hotel overlooking the White House and listened as the Joint Chiefs chairman, Gen. Martin Dempsey, sang “Happy Birthday” to CNAS in his warbling Irish tenor.
The best moment for Taylor, though, came at the beginning of the night, when the crowd was still waiting for the ballroom to open. Ashton Carter, the Pentagon’s second-highest-ranking civilian, descended the stairs with his handlers. Carter, who had been Taylor’s adviser at Harvard, wrapped an arm around his shoulder. In a room full of 400 of Washington’s most-influential national security officials, Carter gripped the back of Taylor’s head, pulling him close. “Great to see you,” he said. A photographer captured the embrace.

Here is a press release from MEP announcing that it was sponsoring a CNAS event in 2011.  Here is a transcript from that conference with former CNAS CEO Nate Fick giving a shout-out to Chris Taylor.

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.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Most Powerful Think Tankers in Defense

More than a dozen think tankers have made the 2013 Defense News list of the 100 Most Influential People in US Defense.

Here are the think tankers who made the list, along with their rank:

14. Andrew Marshall: Director, DoD Office of Net Assessment (DoD's internal think tank)
34. Robert Work: CEO, Center for a New American Security (CNAS)
51. Michele Flournoy/Kurt Campbell: Co-founders of CNAS
57. John Hamre: President & CEO, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)
63. Thomas Donilon: Distinguished Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations (CFR)
69. Andrew Krepinevich: President, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA)
73. Gordon Adams: Distinguished Fellow, Stimson Center
74. Todd Harrison: Senior Fellow, CSBA
75. Richard Danzig: Chairman, CNAS
77. Rudy deLeon: Senior VP, National VP, National Security & International Policy, Center for American Progress (CAP).
79. David Berteau: Director, CSIS's National Security Program on Industry and Resources
85. Barry Blechman: Co-founder, Stimson Center
86. Christopher Preble: Vice President, Defense and Foreign Policy Studies, Cato Institute
88. Loren Thompson: COO, Lexington Institute
90. Fred Kempe: President & CEO, Atlantic Council
95. Peter Singer/Michael O'Hanlon: Senior Fellows, Brookings Institution
96. Larry Korb: Senior Fellow, CAP
97. Mackenzie Eaglen: Senior Fellow, Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies, American Enterprise Institute (AEI)

Here is an explanation about the list from Defense News.

Fred Kempe, President & CEO of Atlantic Council (#90 on the list), noted that 25 board members of his think tank made the list.

CAP Offered Access to Clinton for $250,000

Here is what The Hill newspaper is reporting today:
The liberal Center for American Progress (CAP) this year promised corporate donors a chance to meet Hillary Rodham Clinton in return for a $250,000 donation, documents obtained by The Hill show.
The meeting never happened, though Clinton spoke at the anniversary gala at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium that was cited on the solicitation.
“None of the patrons were able to meet with Secretary Clinton but our board and trustees did meet with her at the event,” said Andrea Purse, a CAP spokeswoman.
 The documents ask prospective donors to contribute to CAP’s “Progressive Party,” which was held Oct. 24 to honor the group’s 10th anniversary. Donors who gave at least $250,000 — earning “patron” status — were told they would have a chance to meet Clinton.
“Patrons will also have the opportunity to meet the special guest speaker,” the document says, referring to the former secretary of State.
Purse said Clinton’s appearance added to the excitement for the 10th anniversary party and boosted attendance. 
“It was our largest party ever,” Purse said. 
The think tank’s offer of access to Clinton, the leading Democratic contender for the White House in 2016, highlights how CAP has blurred the line between think tank and party appendage since opening in Washington in 2003.
Critics say CAP’s business backing should call into question the think tank’s research, and have questioned whether some initiatives were pursued at the behest of donors. CAP rejects the pay-for-play accusations.

Here is a Muckety map of CAP funders and John Podesta clients from his former lobbying firm, the Podesta Group.  Here is more about John Podesta's lobbying firm and CAP via The Washington Free Beacon.

Here is another Free Beacon article titled "Center for America-Iran Progress."

Here is another article from this week titled "Center for American Progress Uses Drag Queens to Promote ObamaCare."

Here is more from Think Tank Watch on CAP's 10th anniversary celebration.

On Friday (Dec. 13), the Center for American Progress released a list of its 2013 business donors.

Center for American Progress (CAP), which has close ties to the Obama Administration, 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.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Can the Lottery End a Think Tank's Rein?

Last year, Think Tank Watch wrote a short piece about how a think tank like the Brookings Institution can be dethroned from the top of the think tank rankings.

The University of Pennsylvania ranked Brookings as the #1 think tank in the most recent rankings, and likely will do so in the upcoming rankings which will be released January 22, 2014 in Washington, DC and New York.

With the US buzzing about the Mega Millions jackpot, currently estimated at $636 million, Think Tank Watch starting thinking about another scenario where a think tank like Brookings could lose its top slot.

If the think tank has an office pool for the lottery, and all the people at the think tank chip in and win, they could get a lump sum payment of $341 million.  According to the most recently available IRS report, Brookings has 554 employees.  If every single employee plays and divides that cash, they would each get approximately $615,000.

If a large number of employees decide to stop working there due to their winnings, one could conceivably see a catastrophic brain drain at that think tank, or any other think tank in a similar situation.

On the other hand, since Brookings is trying to raise $600 million for its Second Century Campaign, perhaps it can solicit donations from a new pool of newly flush individuals and do some intense hiring.

Think Tank Watch will have to do an investigation on policies at think tanks in terms of having on "office pool" for a lottery...

What think tank would you start if you won the lottery?

Think Tank Quickies (#99)

  • On Mexican think tanks.
  • Brookings scholar Bruce Katz advises local leaders to think past Washington as government town. 
  • Brookings fellow Justin Wolfers hired by New York Times for new FiveThirtyEight-esque vertical.
  • Brookings scholar Homi Kharas only think tanker to be named to's Leading Global Thinkers of 2013 list.
  • Heritage Foundation: "Farm bill giveaways for underwear, flatulence, and manure."
  • Urban Institute interactive map: How Washington, DC has changed over the years.
  • Center for American Progress plays down role of donors.
  • Lawfare blog at Brookings releases "Inside NSA" podcast.
  • Lowy Institute recommends books of the year. [Also parts 2, 3, and 4.]
  • Interactive tool from Brookings tracking partisanship in the US House.

Monday, December 16, 2013

CAP Reveals Business Donors

The liberal think tank Center for American Progress has unveiled a list of its corporate donors for 2013.  Huffington Post was the first to publish the most recent list.  [A list from CAP can also be found here.]

Earlier in the year Ken Silverstein published details in The Nation about CAP's corporate donors.

Here is more from Huffington Post:
In May, The Nation magazine published details about CAP's corporate backing. CAP officials argued to The Nation then that a list of corporate donors included inaccuracies, an argument those officials also made to HuffPost, which obtained a similar internal list of corporate backers. CAP would not explain how the list was inaccurate or what an accurate list looked like. In March, HuffPost disclosed the extent of CAP's foundation funding, but did not obtain a full list of philanthropic donors.
Pressure on the group to release its corporate donor list became too great, leading to Friday's disclosure -- just days after it was reported that CAP founder John Podesta was moving to the White House. A CAP spokesperson said that the group's board voted in October to begin disclosing corporate donors this year and to start naming individual and foundation donors next year.
The list provided by the CAP official does not include several companies that appeared on an earlier list. Such firms appear to have been targets for potential donations that were not reeled in. The companies gave a minimum of $10,000 each for a total of roughly 6 percent of CAP's $40 million budget.
  • Here is how The Washington Post reacts to CAP's donors list.
  • Here is what The New York Times has to say.
  • Here is what The Daily Caller has to say.
  • Here are comments from The Washington Free Beacon.
  • Here are comments from Politico.
  • Comments from Breitbart.
  • Comments from Daily Kos.
  • Firedoglake asks if CAP is the new Third Way. 
More details to follow...

AEI Wooing Dalai Lama for Happiness Campaign

Roll Call recently had a very interesting piece about American Enterprise Institute (AEI) President Arthur Brooks.  One of the more intriguing tidbits from the article is the fact that the think tank head traveled to India this year to try to convince the Dalai Lama to participate in the think tank's upcoming happiness campaign.  Here is an excerpt:
In August, Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint was traveling through GOP-friendly districts, urging Congress to defund Obamacare. In April, DeMint’s counterpart at a rival conservative think tank was visiting the Dalai Lama.
“I went to set up the collaboration in his monastery in Dharamsala, India,” Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, said in a recent interview with CQ Roll Call. “I meditated for half a day in his monastery and met with him in the afternoon.”
In his downtown Washington, D.C., office, wearing a black blazer with a checkered pocket square, slim-fit jeans and argyle socks, Brooks paused and smiled, as if relishing the audacity of it all: a conservative figurehead traversing a continent to convince the Buddhist spiritual leader to participate in an upcoming AEI campaign about “human flourishing and happiness.”
Over the weekend, The New York Times carried an op-ed by Brooks titled "A Formula for Happiness.Here is a video of Brooks speaking about happiness.

In a recent Wall Street Journal piece, Brooks said that happiness and giving are strongly correlated.  Here is a 2012 piece from Brooks titled "Does a Country's Economic Prosperity Lead to Happiness?Here is a 2011 piece by Brooks titled "The Debt Ceiling and the Pursuit of Happiness.Here is a 2010 piece from Brooks titled "The Secret to Human Happiness is Earned Success."

Here is Brooks speaking about "The Secret of Happiness" at The Murphy Institute at Tulane University.

Here is reaction to Brooks' weekend op-ed from David Callahan at Demos.

Sen. Mike Lee recently spoke at AEI at an event titled "Tax reform, the family, and the pursuit of happiness."

AEI's W.H. Brady Scholar Charles Murray wrote a book in 1988 titled "In Pursuit: Of Happiness and Good Government," which was released this year in a new edition by the Liberty Fund.

Arthur Brooks is the author of the book "Gross National Happiness: Why Happiness Matters for America - and How We Can Get More of It."

Friday, December 13, 2013

War: Speaker Boehner vs. Heritage

Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is at war with the Heritage Foundation's lobbying arm, Heritage Action for America.

This week, Rep. Boehner lashed out at conservative groups such as Heritage Action for opposing the current budget plan "without evening knowing its details."

Added Boehner: "They're using our members, and they're using the American people for their own goals.  This is ridiculous."

Dan Holler, a spokesman for Heritage Action, rejected Speaker Boehner's charge that outside groups such as his have lost credibility by opposing the latest budget deal, reported the Washington Post.  [Interestingly, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) has been shielded from the conservative anger.]

This morning, Heritage Action CEO Mike Needham went on MSNBC's The Daily Run Down and said that Speaker Boehner is picking a fight with outside conservative groups (such as Heritage Action) to clear the way for immigration reform.  Mr. Needham added that Speaker Boehner is "being absurd."

Mr. Needham went on to compare Heritage Action to companies like iTunes and Napster, which upended the music industry.  "I think we're the iTunes of politics."

In related news, Paul Miller, the Executive Director of the Republican Study Committee (RSC), was fired for reportedly sharing confidential details about Republican policy/tactics (such as budget plans) to groups such as Heritage Action.

Has Heritage Action sparked a civil war within the Republican Party?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

NAF & SAIS Collaborate on South Asia Website

Here is what a press release says:
The New America Foundation (NAF) and the Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School for Advanced International Studies (SAIS) have partnered to create the South Asia Channel, a website that aims to be home to the best analysis about Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. This initiative is the result of close collaboration between the National Security Program at NAF and the South Asia Program at SAIS. 
The new South Asia Channel is housed on – widely regarded as the most innovative and thoughtful web site devoted to foreign affairs in the English-speaking world.

New America Foundation (NAF) was recently ranked as the 32nd best think tank in the United States by the University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings.  It was also ranked as the 8th best think tank in the world in terms of think tanks with the most innovative policy ideas/proposals.

Cato's Plan to Cut Debt $3T Over 10 Years

The libertarian Cato Institute recently had an ad in the Roll Call newspaper titled "On Spending: No Sacred Cows," which summarizes a plan that balances the budget and reduces the US's debt burden by cutting more than $3 trillion over 10 years.

Here are the 10 categories where Cato wants the savings to come from:

CORPORATE WELFARE | Farm aid distorts agriculture, harms the environment, and nearly all goes to well-off businesses. Energy subsidies have been disastrous — from a $500 million loss on Solyndra to $700 million wasted on a clean coal project in Mississippi. Phasing out farm and energy subsidies would save $160 billion.
PRIVATIZATION | President Obama has suggested privatizing the Tennessee Valley Authority. TVA and other businesses may “no longer require federal participation,” his budget noted, which would “help put the nation on a sustainable fiscal path.” Other candidates for privatization include Amtrak, the Corps of Engineers, federal dams, airport screening, and air traffic control — which would save at least $110 billion.
INTELLIGENCE BUDGET | The budgets of the CIA, NSA, and other intelligence agencies have become bloated with spending on vast and often invasive data collection efforts and armadas of drone aircraft. Cutting intelligence spending by one quarter would save $110 billion.
DRUG WAR | The war on drugs wastes a huge amount of resources in our police and justice systems. It also harms civil liberties, foments violence, and does little to curb drug use. Ending the federal drug war and returning drug policy to the states where it belongs would save $110 billion.
SOCIAL SECURITY | Social Security has huge unfunded obligations, and it causes ongoing damage by reducing personal savings and harming labor markets. Meanwhile, spending on federal disability programs has soared as the number of recipients has multiplied. America should move to a system of personal accounts for retirement and disability, but meanwhile we would save $640 billion by indexing initial benefits to prices, modestly raising the retirement age, and trimming the disability rolls by one quarter.
SUBSIDIES FOR THE STATES | Washington runs more than 1,100 aid-to-state programs. They are hugely bureaucratic and stifle state and local innovation. Phasing out federal subsidies for K-12 schools would save $180 billion and free states to improve the quality of their own education systems.
SUBSIDIES FOR INDIVIDUALS | The government’s vast array of individual aid programs would be better handled by state and local governments and private charities. Programs such as food stamps should be turned over to the states. Phasing out federal food stamp subsidies over 10 years would save $400 billion.
MILITARY OVERREACH | The Constitution envisioned a military to “provide for the common defense” of the United States, not one that serves as the world’s policeman. Congress should reduce overseas military commitments, avoid foreign wars, and create a leaner force structure. Making reforms to meet the budget caps for 2014 and beyond could save at least $200 billion.
MEDICARE | Medicare spending is the largest factor pushing the budget into crisis. Raising premiums and increasing cost-sharing would save $330 billion. Policymakers should also restructure the program by directing payments to enrollees, not insurers or providers. That would generate greater choice, spur innovation, and improve access to care.
MEDICAID | Medicaid’s open-ended matching grants to the states have led to huge cost growth, but not better health care. Congress should give each state a fixed amount of funding and free them to experiment with better ways of providing care for the needy. Limiting annual growth in the block grant to five percent would save $760 billion.

AEI Head Working to Transform Republican Party

Roll Call's Emma Dumain just wrote an fascinating piece on American Enterprise Institute (AEI) President Arthur Brooks and how he wants to lead a revolution to transform the Republican Party of the 21st Century.

Here are some of my favorite excerpts:

  • In April, [Heritage Foundation President Jim] DeMint’s counterpart at a rival conservative think tank was visiting the Dalai Lama.  “I went to set up the collaboration in his monastery in Dharamsala, India,” Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, said in a recent interview with CQ Roll Call. “I meditated for half a day in his monastery and met with him in the afternoon.”  Brooks paused and smiled, as if relishing the audacity of it all: a conservative figurehead traversing a continent to convince the Buddhist spiritual leader to participate in an upcoming AEI campaign about “human flourishing and happiness.”
  • In his former life, Brooks was an academic, writing books and teaching courses on the virtues of the free-enterprise system, for which he calls himself a “warrior”; before that, he was a professional French horn player with a renowned orchestra in Barcelona.
  • Since Jan. 1, 2009, Brooks has helmed the AEI, a prestigious powerhouse of conservative intellectualism, where he wants to lead a revolution to transform the Republican Party of the 21st century.
  • Brooks, who is actually registered as a political independent, said he he has a 10-year goal of making free enterprise a “settled issue” in America, “like civil rights are today.”
  • Brooks and his AEI colleagues make frequent trips to Capitol Hill for meetings, presentations and congressional hearings. He said he has forged relationships with influential House GOP lawmakers who “get” his message. Brooks referred to many of them by their first names: Eric, as in Majority Leader Cantor, for example, or Paul, as in Budget Chairman Ryan.  That familiarity might not extend itself in the reverse, however — at least not yet. In conversations with CQ Roll Call, many prominent House Republicans and their aides said the name “Arthur Brooks” was familiar but didn’t evoke any strong feelings other than that he and the AEI continued to do good work.
  • As part of her effort to make the GOP more palatable to women in an election year, [Rep. Renee] Ellmers (R-NC), Chairwomen of the Republican Women's Policy Committee (RWPC) arranged for the AEI to be a partner of the RWPC beginning in early 2014. The think tank will meet regularly with the committee, offering targeted policy analyses, messaging strategies and polling data.
  • Brooks also could have an “in” with influential congressional Republicans whose relationship with the Heritage Foundation has soured, due in part to the aggressive tactics of its advocacy arm, Heritage Action for America.
  • Brooks conceded that Heritage is “creating conflict” on the Hill, but he stressed that he was a yearly donor and a great admirer of the think tank’s work.

AEI was recently ranked as the 20th best think tank in the world by the annual University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings.  It was also ranked as the 7th best think tank in the United States, and the 3rd best think tank in the world in terms of domestic economic policy.  It was also ranked 3rd best think tank in the world for social policy, and 4th best think tank in the world for energy and resource policy.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

CAP Founder Tapped for Key White House Post

John Podesta, the founder of the liberal Center for American Progress (CAP), has been tapped by President Barack Obama to be his Counselor.  Podesta will be stepping down from his roles at CAP as he makes the transition back to the White House.

Podesta is currently the Chair of CAP and the Center for American Progress Action Fund (CAPAF), the think tank's lobbying arm.  Prior to founding the influential think tank in 2003, he served as White House Chief of Staff to President Bill Clinton. 

As Think Tank Watch recently reported, Podesta just started a new think tank housed within CAP called the Washington Center for Equitable Growth (CEG).  He is currently the Chair of that think tank, which has a Steering Committee that includes former top Obama adviser Melody Barnes, and Alan Blinder, former Vice Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.  Here is CEG's new website.

Here is what CAP President Neera Tanden had to say about Podesta joining the White House.

Center for American Progress (CAP), which has close ties to the Obama Administration, 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 Quickies (#98)

  • 10th Anniversary Saban Forum at Brookings features remarks by President Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Secretary of State John Kerry.
  • Scholar Norm Ornstein at conservative AEI pins Congressional dysfunction squarely on GOP.
  • NAF scholar Thomas Ricks: "A smaller military is better."
  • Flashback: Nelson Mandela at Brookings in 2005.
  • An updated view of the Kochs and the Cato Institute, via Muckety.
  • Muckety: "Think tanks are hardly quaking in their boots" about Elizabeth Warren.
  • Think tank network plotted "coordinated assault" on Medicaid, Education, and Workers' Rights?
  • Survey: Context and think tanks.
  • Hoover Institution linked to spy case.
  • Washington Post's Timothy Lee: "Hey New America Foundation, I know you're trying to be clever, but "In the Tank" is an unfortunate name for a think tank blog."

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Heritage Action Against Ryan-Murray Budget Deal

Heritage Action for America, the lobbying arm of the think tank Heritage Foundation, has come out against the emerging budget deal between Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA).

Here is what the group said in a press release:
"Heritage Action cannot support a budget deal that would increase spending in the near-term for promises of woefully inadequate long-term reductions. While imperfect, the sequester has proven to be an effective tool in forcing Congress to reduce discretionary spending, and a gimmicky, spend-now-cut-later deal will take our nation in the wrong direction."
Heritage Action recently said that it wants senators to vote "no" on Janet Yellen to become the next Chairwoman of the US Federal Reserve.

In related Heritage Action news, it was recently disclosed that Google gave money to Heritage Action, although it did not reveal how much.  Google also gave money to Heritage Action's adversary, the Center for American Progress Action Fund (CAPAF), the lobbying arm of the think tank Center for American Progress (CAP).

Eyeing 2016, Rubio Speaks at London Think Tank

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who many think has aspirations to become US president one day, traveled to England last week to deliver a major policy address at the Chatham House, an influential think tank based in London.

A video recording and a transcript of the event can be viewed here.  The Washington Post says that Rubio went to London and the think tank to "burnish his foreign policy credentials and establish gravitas on the world stage ahead of a possible 2016 presidential run."

As Think Tank Watch previously reported, Hillary Clinton recently won the Chatham House Prize 2013.  She was in London to accept the prize in October.

Chatham House was recently ranked as the 2nd best think tank in the world, and was ranked as the top non-US think tank in the world by the annual University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings.  The think tank is considered the 2nd best think tank in the world for security and international affairs, after the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

Brookings Launches New Fiscal/Monetary Center

Last week the Brookings Institution announced the establishment of the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy, which will focus on the roles and interplay between fiscal and monetary policy.  The new Center will be housed within the Economic Studies program at Brookings.

Wall Street Journal columnist David Wessel has been tapped to serve as the Center's founding director.  Mr. Wessel will receive the title of Senior Fellow. 

The creation of the Center was made possible by a donation from Brookings Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees Glenn Hutchins, whose $10 million grant from The Hutchins Family Foundation will underwrite the Center's operational activities during the first five years of the Center.  The $10 million will also provide "ongoing endowment support," according to a press release.

Mr. Hutchins is serving as Chair of the Brookings' Second Century Campaign to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the think tank in 2016.  As part of that campaign, Brookings' goal is to raise $600 million by then.

Here is what Bloomberg had to say about the new Center.  Here is what The Wall Street Journal had to say.  The WSJ notes that Wessel will leave the Journal is January to join Brookings, although he will continue to contribute to the newspaper regularly.  Here is a collection of Tweets of what various reporters are saying about the annoucement.

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

USIP Holding "Peace Games" on Syria

The United States Institute of Peace (USIP) in holding an inaugural "PeaceGame" this week at the think tank's headquarters to try to "chart the best possible peace for Syria."  The FP Group is co-hosting the event.

Here is more about the Game from a press release:
Participants in the inaugural PeaceGame will begin with a discussion of potential scenarios for peace in Syria and the steps and conditions necessary to achieve it. Throughout the day and a half-long Game, participants will assume roles representing different stakeholders in the Syrian war.  They will explore four scenarios representing different phases of a peace process: Achieving a Near-Term Political Solution; Pacification; Transformation and Institutionalization; and Stabilization.
The event, scheduled for December 9 and 10, is being webcast live hereHere is a detailed agenda for the Game, which is open to credentialed press.

Here are the participants:
  • Peter Ackerman
  • Henri Barkey
  • Esther Brimmer
  • Daniel Brumberg
  • Ambassador Maura Connelly
  • Paula Dobriansky
  • Andrew Exum
  • Nelson Ford
  • Ambassador Edward “Skip” Gnehm
  • Karen House
  • Lise Howard
  • Steven Heydemann 
  • Ambassador James Jeffrey
  • Murhaf Jouejati
  • Ambassador Ted Kattouf
  • Mark Katz
  • Kemal Kirisci
  • Steven Koltai
  • Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer
  • George Lopez
  • Kristin Lord
  • Colum Lynch
  • Firas Maksad
  • Robert Malley
  • Sharon Morris
  • Robert Mosbacher, Jr.
  • Ambassador George Moose
  • Mouaz Moustafa
  • Manal Omar
  • Carina Perelli
  • Kenneth Pollack
  • Ambassador Mitchell Reiss
  • David Rothkopf
  • Paul Saunders
  • Mark Schneider
  • Jeremy Shapiro
  • Randa Slim
  • Julianne Smith
  • Andrew Tabler
  • Ambassador William B. Taylor
  • James Traub
  • Casimir Yost

USIP says that this event launches a twice-yearly, global joint-planning exercise to bring together principals from public and private sectors to game out alternative futures for some of the world's most volatile and important regions.

Here is a Foreign Policy article on the simulation titled "What Does War Gaming for Peace Look Like."

In related news, USIP has conducted the first in a series of "PeaceTech Camps" in Iraq, an initiative that connects technologists who are skilled at low-cost, easy-to-use technologies with civil society organizations that work on a range of problems within Iraq.

USIP was recently ranked as the 18th best think tank in the US by the University of Pennsylvania annual think tank rankings.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Third Way Sparks War in Democratic Party

A single op-ed in The Wall Street Journal penned by Jon Cowan, President of the think tank Third Way, and Jim Kessler, Senior Vice President for Policy at the think tank, has sparked a war within the Democratic Party.

The op-ed, titled "Economic Populism Is a Dead End for Democrats," essentially said that that the Democratic Party should not embrace the economic populism of people such as New York Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

Sen. Warren shot back, sending a letter asking the six largest US banks to disclose their donations to think tanks, saying that not doing so threatens the credibility and research of those policy groups.  Then a media explosion ensued.

A group of lawmakers started getting criticized by progressive groups (such as, Social Security Works, Progressive United, and Progressive Change Campaign Committee) for their connections to Third Way.  Reportedly, none have parted ways with Third Way, yet.  Here is what Progressive Change Campaign Committee is saying.

As the New York Times pointed out, the liberal blog Daily Kos announced that it would endorse and raise money only for candidates who promised not to join Third Way.

Here is a collection of some articles/op-eds that have been written since then:
  • In the Huffington Post, Jason Linkins called Third Way a "supposed" think tank.
  • In the Huffington Post, Richard Eskow: "The Democrats' 'Third Way' Quarrel Could Change Your Future."
  • Salon's headline: "The Wall Street Journal's Pathetic Attack on Elizabeth Warren."
  • Demos: "Third Way's Astonishingly Weak Argument Against Progressive Populism."
  • CAP's ThinkProgress trashes the Third Way piece.
  • National Catholic Reporter weighs in on Third Way debate.
  • Matthew Yglesias in Slate: "Third Way published a banal and contentless op-ed," and says "Third Way is jam-packed with finance guys from the investment banking and private equity worlds.
  • The Nation: "GOP Donors and K Streeet Fuel Third Way's Advice for the Democratic Party."
  • Ezra Klein: "How think tanks became derp tanks."
  • Felix Salmon in Reuters: "The more think tanks become beholden to vested interests, the less useful they become," and "2-and-20 crowd (i.e., hedge funds) driving think tanks."
  • Elizabeth Warren fires back at Third Way on Social Security.
  • Members of Congress stand by Third Way.
  • Third Way shares consultant with group spending big to defeat Third Way Co-Chairs.
  • Rush Limbaugh on Warren vs. Third Way.
  • The Nation: "What Third Way Reveals About the Beltway."
  • Paul Krugman in NYT: "Third Way wrote a remarkably self-destructive op-ed."
  • David Weigel: "The progressives' distaste for Third Way is as old as the organization itself." 
  • Third Way Co-Founder explains op-ed criticizing Sen. Warren. 
  • Third Way head admits Sen. Warren scares them.
  • Daily Kos: "Who do we thank for 'Populism Rising' - Sen. Warren or the Third Way?"
  • Third Way Senior Vice President admits majority of think tank's funding comes from Wall Street.
  • Democrat running for Congress: "I would not consider myself a Third Way type of candidate."
  • Here is what MSNBC's Rachel Maddow has to say (video). 
  • Center for American Progress President Neera Tanded bashes Third Way.

Third Way was recently called "Wall Street on the Potomac" by William Black, an Associate Professor at the University of Missouri, Kansas City.

The think tank has a large number of Members of Congress as Honorary Co-Chairs.

Third Way, founded in 2005, did not make the most recent list of top think tanks put together by the University of Pennsylvania.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Think Tank Quickies (#97)

  • Political influence/orientation of think tanks in the UK.
  • CAP & Heritage find common ground on sequestration.
  • AEI President Arthur Brooks says you should donate more to think tanks.
  • Cato Institute: Risk of terrorism at historic low.
  • USTR Michael Froman meets to discuss trade with think tankers from Brookings Institution, Center for American Progress, Atlantic Council, Third Way, Wilson Center, and NDN.
  • Former USITC Chairman Daniel Pearson joins Cato as a Senior Fellow in Trade Policy Studies.
  • Atlantic Council hosts Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.
  • Wilson Center's Mexico Institute convenes high-level innovation forum with US & Mexico policymakers.
  • Bipartisan Policy Center's Director of Immigration Policy, Rebecca Tallent, tapped by House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to work on immigration reform.
  • RAND Corp: The think tank that "controls" America?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

President Obama to Join Think Tank?

Last week it was reported by the Washington Post that President Barack Obama and his family may stay in Washington, DC once his tenure ends in January 2017.  The main reason, according to the article, would be to allow their younger daughter to graduate from Sidwell Friends School.

The article speculates that he could work at one of the local law schools, but there is no mention of Mr. Obama tying up with a think tank.  So what are the chances that President Obama will affiliate himself with one (or more) of the 394 think tanks in Washington, DC?  Which one could he join?

As Think Tank Watch reported earlier this week, President Obama is giving a speech today at the liberal Center for American Progress (CAP), a pro-Obama think tank.  Center for New American Security (CNAS) also has close ties to the Obama Administration, and so does the Brookings Institution.  In fact, President Obama is speaking at Brookings' Saban Forum this weekend.

But the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) might be a likelier bet, considering the fact that more US presidents have been or currently are affiliated with CFR than any other think tank in the world.  Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post on President Obama possibly joining CFR.  [An interesting fact is that Chelsea Clinton is a member of CFR.]

Of course, President Obama could also go his own entrepreneurial route and open up his own think tank just like Richard Nixon and many recent Members of Congress.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

IRS Move Could Restrict Think Tank Politicking

The Obama Administration last week moved to limit the role that certain non-profit groups play in politics, a move that could severely limit the role that the lobbying arm of think tanks can play in elections.
The proposal by the Treasury Department and the IRS would curtail a broad array of campaign activities by tax-exempt organizations set up under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code. Such groups currently face few clear-cut rules regarding their campaign activities, other than that they can't exist "primarily" to influence elections.
Tuesday's proposal would better define what types of activities are considered political and which are not, for the purposes of determining whether a nonprofit is primarily focused on influencing campaigns.
The process of completing the new regulations will be highly controversial and could take months, officials from the Treasury Department said. New rules will likely not be in place until after the 2014 elections.
Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post on the lobbying arms of think tanks, which operate as 501(c)(4) organizations.  Think tanks with advocacy (i.e., lobbying) arms include:
  • Heritage Foundation: Heritage Action for America
  • Center for American Progress: Center for American Progress Action Fund
  • Competitive Enterprise Institute: Freedom Action
  • Open Society Foundations: Open Society Policy Center
Here is more about the proposed rules from the National Law Review.  Here is guidance from the Treasury Department.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Launching: Search Engine for Think Tank Policy

A new site is launching which will essentially act as a targeted search engine for think tank policy.  The site, called Find Policy, aims to provide a one-stop-shop for better search results for finding think tank policy than broad-based searches from search engines such as Yahoo, Google, and Bing.

Currently, the site is focusing on "four- and five-star research organizations" - in other words, the major think tanks such as the Brookings Institution, Cato Institute, Center for American Progress (CAP), American Enterprise Institute (AEI), Heritage Foundation, New America Foundation (NAF), RAND Corp., Urban Institute, and others.

Criteria for selection can be found here.  It includes think tanks that are freely accessible, politically diverse, sizable, active, and have professional recognition.

There are also specific categories in which one can search, such as those related to climate, economy, development, foreign policy, and health.  The site also offers additional engines for finding policy from around the world, including in Africa, China, the Eurozone, Latin & Central America, South Asia, and the United Kingdom.

The initiator of the site is consultant and think tank expert Hans Gutbrod, and the site is connected to On Think Tank Lab, a collection of ventures by people that are interested in innovative approaches to policy research.

Mr. Gutbrod tells Think Tank Watch that the venture grew out of a number of conversations with a variety of people, and that a number of friends and colleagues have provided input on the launch.

Here is a FAQ about Find Policy, and here is its blog.  Here is the team behind Find Policy.

President Obama to Speak at CAP

President Barack Obama is scheduled to deliver remarks on the economy at the liberal think tank Center for American Progress (CAP) on Wednesday (Dec. 4).

Today (Dec. 2) Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy will deliver remarks at CAP on US-China clean air and climate cooperation.

Also today, the Center for American Progress Action Fund (CAPAF), the lobbying arm of CAP, will co-host an event in Georgetown with high-profile opponents of the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline, including billionaire Tom Steyer.  The event is titled "NextGen Climate Action Summit - Can Keystone Pass the President's Climate Test?"

CAP recently celebrated its 10th anniversary with a myriad of powerful Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State John Kerry, and former Vice President Al Gore.

Center for American Progress (CAP), which has close ties to the Obama Administration, 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.

Update: Here is the webcast of President Obama's speech at CAP.  At the beginning of the speech, President Obama said that over the past 10 years, CAP has done "incredible work" to shape the debate over expanding opportunity for all Americans.  "I could not be more grateful to CAP not only for giving me good policy ideas but also for giving me a lot of staff," said Obama.

Think Tank Quickies (#96)

  • Brookings collaborating with the Commerce Department to help metropolitan economies.
  • Think tanks duel over easing sequestration.
  • The Fisher recipe for successful think tanks, via Alejandro Chafuen.
  • Salon: Heritage appalled when guys with MBAs take over.  Calls Heritage a "very large email list and activist PAC/pressure group."
  • New Republic: "A 31-Year-Old is Tearing Apart the Heritage Foundation."
  • Cato ad in Roll Call calls for $3 trillion in government cuts over 10 years.
  • Banner in front of Brookings to announce launch of $600 million Second Century Campaign.
  • Head of conservative think tank berates cyclist who reports van illegally parked in bike lane.
  • Singapore think tanks signs MOU with Brookings India.
  • Democratic think tank covers up missing cash?