Thursday, December 12, 2013

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.