Friday, February 28, 2014

Off-Record Think Tank Event Signals Danger of Pacific War

All is not well in the Pacific, and more and more think tanks are starting to fret.

The Washington Post's David Ignatius reveals a frank discussion at a think tank forum in China, organized by the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies and the German Marshall Fund, outlining the danger of war in the Pacific.
The changing political-military map in Asia formed the context for last weekend’s meeting of the Stockholm China Forum, an annual event organized by the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies (SIIS) and the German Marshall Fund (GMF) of the United States (of which I’m a trustee). The not-for-attribution discussions were surprisingly frank on all sides. But they dispelled, at least for me, the hope that China would continue deferring to a powerful United States. Instead, we’re clearly entering a period of greater Chinese assertiveness, especially in maritime issues.
It is a sign of the times that delegates here talk openly about the danger of war in the Pacific.  That's a big change from the tone of similar gatherings just a few years ago, when Chinese officials often tried to reassure foreign experts that a rising China wasn't on a collision course with the United States or regional powers.  Now, in the East and South China seas, the collision seems all too possible.

Here are more details about the Stockholm China Forum, which bills itself as the leading transatlantic dialogue on China.  The forum was established in cooperation with the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2007.

Here are some pictures from the event, including David Ignatius asking a question.  SIIS described the "warm discussions" at the event.  Here is a list of some past participants.

GMF was recently ranked as the 43rd best think tank in the United States by the annual University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings.  SIIS was ranked as the 71st best think tank in the world.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Think Tank Quickies (#112)

  • Guide to the 10 most influential think tanks in China.
  • Vikram Singh, the Pentagon's top official for South and Southeast Asia, to join CAP.
  • Mark Regnerus has a new, sex-shaming think tank: Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture.
  • Harvard Ethics Center fellow conducting research project titled "Survey of the Professional Experiences, Practices, and Ethical Commitments of Think Tank Experts."
  • The Nation: Think tanks "outside the law" on lobbying.
  • Donald Abelson in International Affairs (Chatham House): "Old world, new world: The evolution and influence of foreign affairs think tanks."
  • CFR has launched international initiative titled "Council of Councils" to connect leading foreign policy institutes from around the world.
  • Andrew Selee, author of "What Should Think Tanks Do?" discusses new book at JHU Center for Advanced Government Studies event Feb. 25.
  • Think tanks of all political stripes joining together to ask Obama to get tough on Turkey. 
  • China's think tanks rising in numbers.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Lego Movie Features Think Tank

Think tankers have some new competition in town.  The new Lego movie (officially called "The Lego Movie") apparently features a think tank.

And For $69.99, you can own Lego's "Lord Business' Evil Lair" and build that think tank.  Here is a description from Lego:
Bwahahahaha! Welcome to Lord Business’ Evil Lair! Record his broadcasts in the TV studio and plot how to control the world from the office. Lever open the large door and unleash the Kragle. Trap the Master Builders in the think tank to extract their creativity.

Think tankers have already weighed in, saying that working at a think tank is not exactly as depicted in the movie.

The New Republic thinks the movie is anti-capitalist.  Here is what they say about the think tank in the Lego movie:
Furthermore, corrosive bourgeois sentiment isn’t alone among The Lego Movie’s "targets," if we can even use so serious a term for objects of ridicule in a children’s film. In its trim hundred minutes, the movie manages to assault an impressive array of cultural bull’s eyes, from academic think tanks (literally manifest as the best and the brightest with tubes plugged in their heads, threatened with electroshock if they fail to produce whatever new ideas are demanded of them)...

Are think tanks becoming mainstream?  Perhaps a film solely dedicated to think tanks is in the offing?

The new Lego think tank is not the only imaginary think tank created in recent memory.  As Think Tank Watch reported in 2012, the Washington satire "They Eat Babies, Don't They?" by Christopher Buckley featured a fictitious think tank called Institute for Continuing Conflict.

Think Tank Watch will soon be watching the movie and will report back about the Lego think tank.  Stay tuned...

Power Shift Among Top Conservative Think Tanks?

Which is the go-to conservative think tank in 2014 - American Enterprise Institute (AEI) or Heritage Foundation?

Washington Post conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin argues that AEI has for years been more influential than Heritage, despite reporting to the contrary from The New York Times and others.

Here is Rubin lashing out at recent The New York Times reporting about Heritage and AEI:

The [New York Times] reporter, however, strays off topic to pronounce: “The group [AEI] is seeking to move out of the shadow of the much younger Heritage Foundation, which for years has been more influential and which has increasingly moved to become more of a political than a research organization.” This is pure nonsense.
Indeed, the one part of the story the Times did get right on Monday is the precipitous decline, leading to near-irrelevance, of the Heritage Foundation. It has been subsumed, as we’ve written for months, to the political entity Heritage Action (not the Foundation itself  as the Times states). 
As for the American Enterprise Institute, if you took a poll of conservatives on the Hill and asked which think tank has the most intellectual and policy heft, I suspect AEI would win in a landslide. There is a reason AEI helps staff GOP presidential campaigns and administrations. It is the same reason why AEI scholars are regularly sought after by conservative and mainstream media to opine on policy developments.
The story of the conservative think tank world in the last or so year has been the collapse, tragically so for the conservative movement, of the Heritage Foundation as a respected intellectual heavyweight. But part of that has also been the intellectual dominance of AEI, which, as we have pointed out, is central to a policy revolution on the right that is proactive, reform-minded and focused on upward mobility.

Rubin goes on to suggest that one option for the Heritage Foundation is for it to spin off its lobbing arm, Heritage Action, and kick it out of the think tank's building.

Here is what Rubin has to say about the recent hiring of Stephen Moore by Heritage.

Here is more from Think Tank Watch on recent happenings at AEI.

For what it is worth, AEI was just ranked as the 24th best think tank in the world by the annual University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings.  It was also ranked as the 11th best think tank in the US.  By comparison, Heritage was ranked as the 17th best think tank in the world and the 8th best think tank in the US.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Billionaire Gifts $20 Million to AEI

The conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute (AEI) is on a roll.  In the span of about a week, it has hosted the Dalai Lama at an event on happiness (here are Think Tank Watch's favorite tweets from that event), announced the establishment of the State Farm James Q. Wilson Chair in American Politics and Culture (thanks to a $3 million gift from State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company) and now, it has received a massive gift from a billionaire: $20 million.

Here is more from The Washington Post's Zachary Goldfarb, who broke the story:
Daniel A. D'Aniello, the co-founder and chairman of the Washington-basedprivate-equity giant Carlyle Group, is contributing $20 million to the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute.
The contribution by D'Aniello — set to be announced Tuesday — marks a new foray into policy advocacy by the top Carlyle executive, who has maintained a much lower profile than co-founder David Rubenstein. It also represents the marriage of one of Washington's business titans to one of its top think tanks.
In a recent interview at Carlyle's offices, D'Aniello said that he decided to make the contribution because AEI's philosophy mirrors his own - a way of thinking nurtured in the 1940s and '50s in the coal-mining town of Butler, Pa.
"It's all about freedom, opportunity and enterprise," D'Aniello, 67, said. "Those are the watch words of AEI, so if I would think about my life, I would think about it in just that way."
"With respect to the philosophical statements of AEI, the most important is driving a full understanding of what earned success is and what it can mean to your own happiness and success," D'Aniello said. "It's very disincentivizing to have others take care of your needs."
The contribution comes after years of discussions between D'Aniello, who is vice chairman of AEI's board, and Arthur Brooks, the organization's president.
The two first met at a board meeting of Syracuse University. D'Aniello attended the school, studying business and transportation logistics, and later served on its board. Brooks was a professor at the university before coming to Washington to lead AEI.
As two conservatives active in an academic institution, "we sniffed each other out after about five minutes," Brooks said.

The article notes that AEI will name its new building after D'Aniello before moving in late 2015.  The article also notes that AEI has expanded from 140 staffers in 2009 to 206 today.

Here is the official announcement from AEI, which says that its new headquarters (currently being re-developed at 1785 Massachusetts Ave., NW) will be named the Daniel A. D'Aniello Building.  It is literally next to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP) and the Brookings Institution.

AEI says that the gift marks the launch of the think tank's Campaign for Free Enterprise and American Progress.  You can see renderings of AEI's new headquarters at that site.

Most notably, AEI's new headquarters will have a dining room which will "feature a flexible setup that can accommodate 72 people seated at round tables, and up to 132 people for receptions."  There will also be a state-of-the-art prep kitchen and an execution kitchen.

The renovations to the new headquarters reportedly will cost $50 million, so the $20 million gift is a nice start. Will this mean a proliferation of "think tank row" block parties?

Although the $20 million gift is huge for a think tank, it is not a record.  Last year, Heritage Foundation received a $26 million gift, which is thought to be the largest think tank gift ever.

And in general, the largest think tanks gifts are considered small compared to largest gifts that colleges and universities receive.  For example, this month, billionaire hedge fund manager Kenneth C. Griffin said that he would donate $150 million to Harvard College, the biggest single gift to the college ever.

Here is what Inside Philanthropy says about AEI's $20 million gift in an article titled "Rich Guy Gives $20 Million to Think Tank Defending Rich Guys."

Another conservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation, has seen its stock decline in recent months.  Here is more from a recent New York Times article:
Long known as an incubator for policy ideas and the embodiment of the party establishment, it has become more of a political organization feeding off the rising populism of the Tea Party movement.
In recent months, some of the group’s most prominent scholars have left. Research that seemed to undermine Heritage’s political goals has been squelched, former Heritage officials say. And more and more, the work of policy analysts is tailored for social media.
Mr. DeMint, 62, drawing on his experience in advertising and marketing before he entered politics, has bolstered what he calls his “sales force,” young staff members working for the foundation’s political arm, Heritage Action for America, and the foundation’s media and Internet operations. Mr. DeMint’s main focus this year, he said, will be a media tour promoting his new book, “Falling in Love With America Again,” which comes out next month.

AEI was just ranked as the 24th best think tank in the world by the annual University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings.  It was also ranked as the 11th best think tank in the US.  By comparison, Heritage was ranked as the 17th best think tank in the world and the 8th best think tank in the US.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Think Tank Quickies (#111)

  • Think tank OP-EN wants to drape Burj Khalifa is pseudo-invisibility cloak.
  • What do partisan think tanks seek?
  • "How come big-brained think tankers think they can defeat China, but not Washington politics?"
  • India's think tanks study China's military after failed border talks.
  • Sneak peak at AEI's new project: Free-Market Feminism.
  • Garry Kasparov: "Unlike most western think tanks, Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI) has a good record of challenging authoritarian regimes instead of 'engaging' them."
  • China's leading think tanks outline a revamped energy strategy.
  • Former Quebec Finance Minister to lead new think tank. 
  • Some House Republicans liken Republican Study Committee (RSC) to think tank.
  • Think tanks and the power of networks.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Best Tweets About Dalai Lama Event at AEI

The Dalai Lama was talking happiness this week at the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute (AEI).  Here are Think Tank Watch's favorite tweets from that event:

Here is what The Daily Caller had to say about the AEI event.  Here is what The Washington Post had to say.  Here is what The Wall Street Journal had to say.  Here is what National Review Online had to say.  Here is how Business Insider covered the event.  And a piece from The Daily Beast.

Chris Moody of Yahoo News had some deep insights about the event:
So a French hornist, an economist, a billionaire, a psychologist and the Dalai Lama walk into a conservative think tank…
Actually, this really happened Thursday in Washington, D.C., when the Dalai Lama joined a group of thinkers at the conservative American Enterprise Institute for a forum about “happiness, free enterprise and human flourishing.”
In the audience sat Washington lobbyists, libertarians, conservatives, peace activists and yoga instructors--a truly unusual coalition for a morning policy discussion in the nation's capital city.
Sharing a room with the Dalai Lama and Grover Norquist at the headquarters of the organization that helped start the Iraq War may sound like a surrealist drug trip on the backpacker trail to Dharamshala. But believe it or not, common ground does exist between the red-robed Tibetan holy man and the right-wing wonks who asked him to speak.

The full Dalai Lama event can be viewed here.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Daschle to Chair CAP's Board of Directors

Center for American Progress (CAP), the liberal think tank with extremely close ties to the Obama Administration, announced today that former Sen. Tom Daschle has been named Chair of the Board of Directors at CAP.

Daschle has been a member of the CAP Board of Directors since 2008.  He is also a Distinguished Fellow at the think tank.

In 2007 Daschle, a former Senate Majority Leader, created his own think tank - the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) - along with former Senate Majority Leaders George Mitchell, Bob Dole, and Howard Baker.

That year, Daschle said that Democats are outnumbered by Republicans in terms of think tanks.

John Podesta was the former Chairman of the Board of Directors at CAP, but he left that position after being tapped by President Obama to be the White House Counselor.

Podesta founded CAP as a "think tank of steroids" to help progressive ideas regain power.  When Daschle came to CAP, he called it an "action tank."  Sarah Wartell, the co-founder and former Executive Vice President at CAP, who is now the President of the Urban Institute, had this description of CAP: "Not your grandmother's think tank."

CAP was recently ranked as the 30th best think tank in the US by the annual University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings.  CAP was also ranked as the 10th best think tank in the US.

Are Think Tanks Good at Predicting the Future?

The recent questions raised about the relevancy of university professors brought our attention to a 138-page Stimson Center study from May 2011 titled "Seismic Shift: Understanding Change in the Middle East."

That study, conducted after the start of the so-called Arab Spring, evaluates how different sectors of society (government, universities, think tanks, NGOs, etc...) predicted the prospects for change in the Middle East.

It notes that no academic specialist (i.e., university professor) on the Middle East predicted the timing and extent of the region-wide upheavals of the Arab world that began in December 2010.

The same study, which was cited in Nick Kristof's recent New York Times piece on university professors, notes that "think tank experts generally believed that the long period of authoritarianism in the Arab world was not sustainable, that gradual reforms from the top were not sufficient, and that change would more likely be violent than not.  Few however, knew where, when, and how the change would occur."

Does it even matter that Middle East studies failed to predict the Arab Spring?

Here are the 14 rules for predicting future geopolitical events.

The Stimson Center, founded in 1989, was recently ranked as the 29th best think tank in the United States in the annual University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings.  It was also ranked as the 53rd best think tank in the world for defense and national security affairs.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Think Tank Quickies (#110)

  • New Brookings study: Obamacare will reduce incomes for all except the very poor.
  • SCMP: Hong Kong has "only two good think tanks." 
  • Young think tankers featured in Washington Life Magazine.
  • Free market think tanks: Website and social media presence.
  • The Yomiuri Shimbun on Japan's (and Asia's) best think tank.
  • More MENA think tanks needed. 
  • AEI: A $4 minimum wage can get people back to work. 
  • USTR Michael Froman speaks on trade at Center for American Progress (CAP); EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht speaks at Atlantic Council.
  • Is Saudi Arabia too dependent on management consultants and think tanks?
  • Policy or process? A strategic decision for think tanks.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Kristof: Professors Suck, Think Tankers Rule

Nicholas Kristof's op-ed in the New York Times over the weekend is stirring a massive debate about the relevance of university professors vs. think tankers.

Here are some excerpts:
Some of the smartest thinkers on problems at home and around the world are university professors, but most of them just don’t matter in today’s great debates.
The most stinging dismissal of a point is to say: “That’s academic.” In other words, to be a scholar is, often, to be irrelevant.
There are plenty of exceptions, of course, including in economics, history and some sciences, in professional schools like law and business, and, above all, in schools of public policy; for that matter, we have a law professor in the White House. But, over all, there are, I think, fewer public intellectuals on American university campuses today than a generation ago.
A basic challenge is that Ph.D. programs have fostered a culture that glorifies arcane unintelligibility while disdaining impact and audience. This culture of exclusivity is then transmitted to the next generation through the publish-or-perish tenure process. Rebels are too often crushed or driven away.

The op-ed quotes a few think tanks scholars and studies, including those from New America Foundation (NAF), the Brookings Institution, and the Stimson Center.

Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) President Richard Haass weighed in on Twitter, saying that the upside to the "irrelevance of much work in university social science department's is a larger role of policy-relevant think tanks."

Here is a piece from Alejandro Chafuen titled "Will Think Tanks Become The Universities of the 21st Century?"

The book "Do Think Tanks Matter?," which was reviewed by Think Tank Watch, has a discussion about professors vs. think tankers.

Do universities actually have better scholars than think tanks?

Here is one point of view from an Emory University professor in response to Kristof's piece.  Here is another view from a Georgetown University professor.  Here is the response from a professor at San Jose State University.  Here is what a professor at LaGuardia Community College says.

Susan Marquis, the Dean of Pardee RAND Graduate School at the think tank RAND Corporation, says this: "Pardee RAND Ph.D.'s get real-world work experience and rigorous academics to improve governance."

Here is an On Think Tanks piece on the synergies between universities and think tanks.  Here is more on the difference between think tanks and research universities.

Just as a reference, there are 1,823 think tanks in the United States, and 2,870 4-year colleges in the US.

The debate about universities vs. think tanks continues...

Friday, February 14, 2014

Think Tank Views of Valentine's Day

How do different think tanks celebrate Valentine's Day?  Here is a peak about what various scholars around the think tank circuit are writing:
  • AEI's Karolyn Bowman and Jennifer Marisco: The polls - love and politics.
  • Cato Institute: 5 Valentines for the liberty-lover.
  • Brookings flashback from Justin Wolfers: Valentine's Day and the Economics of Love.
  • Heritage Foundation: How to love on liberty this Valentine's Day.
  • Heritage Foundation: Valentine's day treat - Continued marriage tax penalty.
  • Center for American Progress (CAP): This Valentine's Day, say yes to Congo.
  • New America Foundation (NAF): Send your ex a Valentine.

Obama's Top Econ Advisor Hails From Think Tank Land

This week The Washington Post profiled Jason Furman's life from his time at Harvard as Matt Damon's roomate to recently becoming President Obama's top economist.  Between those two times, Furman was heavily involved in think tank land.  Here is more from the article:
After the [John] Kerry campaign, Furman joined the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and continued to fight against George W. Bush — this time arguing against the president’s plans to partially privatize Social Security, which ultimately failed.
“I remember him wandering around with this laptop at the Center on Budget,” said David Kamin, a research assistant whom Furman later recruited to the White House. “It sort of taught me the power [of] a nerdy guy wielding a laptop.”

The article, however, does not mention Furman's work at the Brookings Institution.  From 2007-2009, Furman was a Senior Fellow and Director of The Hamilton Project at the think tank.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post about Furman picking the new Federal Reserve Chairman.

Interestingly, the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute (AEI) endorsed Furman's nomination to lead the White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA).

Think Tank Quickies (#109)

  • Sheila Bair joins RAND Corps. Board of Trustees.
  • Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew speaks at Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC).
  • Eric Cantor speaks at Brookings. 
  • TrackMaven, maker of software that allows companies to track competitors' marketing efforts, being used by think tanks.
  • For the first five years quantum computer company, D-Wave existed as a think tank focused on research.
  • Study: Two US think tanks on Turkey (CFR and Brookings).
  • "Oops" says think tanks following American Nazi Party.
  • David Frum joins board of directors of UK think tank Policy Exchange.
  • Several think tankers make Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute's (GDI) 2013 global thought leaders list.
  • European Commission unveils new online platform and think tank to support startup community.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Cato Hires Outspoken Chinese Dissident

The libertarian think tank Cato Institute just announced that Xia Yeliang, a former professor of economics at Peking University, has joined Cato's Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity as a Visiting Fellow.

Here is more from Cato:
The move comes after the university dismissed Professor Xia last October due to his outspoken criticism of China’s Communist Party and his advocacy of democracy and human rights.

Here is what The New York Times has to say about the Cato hire.

Yeliang is not the first Chinese dissident to join a US think tank.  As reported last year by Think Tank Watch, Chen Guangcheng, Chinese dissident and legal rights activist, joined The Witherspoon Institute, a conservative think tank.  Here is a Foreign Policy piece on how Chen ended up at the "pro-life, anti-gay think tank."

According to the just released 2014 University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings, the Cato Institute is the 18th best think tank in the world.  It was also ranked as the 9th best think tank in the US.  And it is the #1 libertarian think tank in the world.

It is no surprise that Yeliang ended up at a US think tank, as there are 1,828 to choose from, according to the UPenn think tank survey.  After the US, China has the most number of think tanks, with 426, followed by the UK with 287 think tanks.

Yeliang's first public event at the think tank will take place on February 27, 2014.  It is titled "Chinese Intrusions into American Universities: Consequences for Freedom."

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Profile: Migration Policy Institute

The publication CQ Weekly has a profile in its February 10, 2014 edition on Michael Fix, the new CEO of the Migration Policy Institute (MPI).  Following are some excerpts:
The Migration Policy Institute was started in 2001 from a research arm of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP), a foreign policy think tank.  The organization's co-founders, Demetrios Papademetriou and Kathleen Newland, still work at the institute, as president and director, respectively, but have promoted sneior vice president Michael Fix to a new role as CEO, running the daily operations of the institute.
The institute studies immigration and refugee policies here and abroad.  The State, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security departments fund the organization, as do European governments, including the United Kingdom, Germany, Finland, Spain, Italy, Greece, Norway and the Netherlands.

The profile notes that Fix worked at the Urban Institute, a Washington, DC-based think tank for economic and social policy research, for more than 20 years and directed its immigration research from 1998 to 2004.

Here is a link to MPI's homepage.  Here is a link to its sources of support (i.e., funding).  Donors include: CEIP, Delegation of the European Union to the United States, Government of Canada, Government of Taiwan, Government of Sweden, Urban Institute, US Census Bureau, and the World Bank.

The Main Think Tank Fighting Minimum Wage Hike

The New York Times is reporting that the main think tank fighting a minimum wage hike is run by a public relations firm for the restaurant industry.

Here is more:
Just four blocks from the White House is the headquarters of the Employment Policies Institute, a widely quoted economic research center whose academic reports have repeatedly warned that increasing the minimum wage could be harmful, increasing poverty and unemployment.
But something fundamental goes unsaid in the institute’s reports: The nonprofit group is run by a public relations firm that also represents the restaurant industry, as part of a tightly coordinated effort to defeat the minimum wage increase that the White House and Democrats in Congress have pushed for.
The left has its own prominent groups, like the Center for American Progress and the Economic Policy Institute, whose donors include nearly 20 labor unions, and whose reports, with their own aura of objectivity, consistently conclude that raising the minimum wage makes good economic sense. But none has played such a prominent and multifaceted role in recent months as the conservative Employment Policies Institute.
The Employment Policies Institute, founded two decades ago, is led by the advertising and public relations executive Richard B. Berman, who has made millions of dollars in Washington by taking up the causes of corporate America. He has repeatedly created official-sounding nonprofit groups like the Center for Consumer Freedom that have challenged limits like the ban on indoor smoking and the push to restrict calorie counts in fast foods.
The sign at the entrance is for Berman and Company, as the Employment Policies Institute has no employees of its own. Mr. Berman’s for-profit advertising firm, instead, “bills” the nonprofit institute for the services his employees provide to the institute. This arrangement effectively means that the nonprofit is a moneymaking venture for Mr. Berman, whose advertising firm was paid $1.1 million by the institute in 2012, according to its tax returns, or 44 percent of its total budget, with most of the rest of the money used to buy advertisements.

Employment Policies Institute (EPI) was founded in 1991, and should not be confused with another think tank - the Economic Policy Institute (mentioned in the NYTimes article), which also goes by the acronym EPI.  Employment Policies Institute was not ranked in the recently released University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings.

The Washington Post has recently labeled the Employment Policies Institute a "conservative think tank," and The Wall Street Journal has recently labeled it a "right-wing think tank."

Here is what Slate has to say about Berman and Co. and its "network of 'think tanks.'"

Think Tank Quickies (#108)

  • Former National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley to Chair USIP Board of Directors.
  • Janine Davis, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, has joined CFR as a Senior Fellow.
  • CFR launches interactive guide on child marriage.
  • CEIP launches Europe Program.
  • Richard Rossow joins CSIS as Wadhwani Chair in US-India Policy Studies.
  • Daniel Bahr, former German Federal Minister of Health, joins CAP as Visiting Senior Fellow.
  • CAP launches 2014 Faith and Reproductive Justice Leadership Institute.
  • Atlantic Council's Brent Scowcroft Center names Michael Oren, former Israeli Ambassador to the US, as Ambassador-in-Residence.
  • CNAS hires new experts on strategy, statecraft, security, and Asia-Pacific issues.
  • CNAS announces creation of Task Force on Strategy, Technology and Global Defense Industry.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Dalai Lama Coming to Think Tank Land

Word on the street is that the Dalai Lama is coming to think tank land.  Sources deep inside the think tank world say that he will make an appearance at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) on or around February 20.

The Dalai Lama's public schedule does not list any appearances before February 22.  From Feb. 22-25 he will be giving talks in California.  In early March he will be speaking in Minnesota, and on March 7 he will be at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC.

Here is more about how AEI President Arthur Brooks, the new think tank king of happiness, landed the Dalai Lama at his conservative think tank.

Here is what the Dalai Lama had to say in 2012 during a stop in the US hosted by the Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), a think tank established in 2009 that focuses on the development of ethics and moral purpose in research and education.

Here is more about the launching of Dalai Lama's think tank.

Update: Here is a link to the February 20 event with the Dalai Lama, which will be livestreamed.  The event is titled "Happiness, Free Enterprise, and Human Flourishing."

Heritage Action Now Less Confrontational

Heritage Action, the lobbying arm of the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation, is taking a "gentler" tone these days.  Here is what Politico reports:
When Speaker John Boehner declared in December that conservative groups like Heritage Action for America had “lost all credibility,” Washington was stunned.
For years, the powerful organizations had pushed congressional Republicans further and further to the right, keeping score of every vote — even if a “no” vote meant shutting down the government.
But Heritage Action is now rolling out a less confrontational approach by holding its first-ever Conservative Policy Summit on Monday to celebrate ideas from conservative stars like Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Ted Cruz of Texas, and Rep. Raul Labrador of Idaho on everything from health care to education. It’s a sign that the conservative wing of the party heard Boehner loud and clear. Heritage Action is willing to adapt — but it isn’t going away.
The question: Will a gentler and more proactive Heritage Action pull the same weight on Capitol Hill, where it has often shaped the priorities of House Republicans by trying to block bills, not pass them?

The Heritage Foundation was just ranked as the 17th best think tank in the world by the annual University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings.  It was ranked as the 8th best think tank in the United States.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Think Tank CEO tapped for #2 Slot at Defense Dept.

Today President Barack Obama nominated Robert Work, CEO of the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), to be the Deputy Secretary of Defense.

Here is a statement from CNAS.  It says that Work will remain as CEO of the national security-oriented think tank until he is confirmed by the Senate.  Upon confirmation, Michele Flournoy will serve as Interim CEO until the board at CNAS selects a successor.

Last month, Work and CNAS colleague Shawn Brimley released a report titled "20YY: Preparing for War in the Robotic Age.Here is a summary of that report.  Here is what InformationWeek said about that report.

Chuck Hagel apparently has had problems filling the No. 2 Pentagon slot.  He reportedly gauged the interest of Michele Flournoy, Kurt Campell (who co-founded CNAS with Michele Flournoy) and Kathleen Hicks of CSIS.  They all rejected the position.

CNAS, which has extremely close ties to the Obama Administration, acts both as a talent pool for DoD and as a landing pad for former DoD officials.

If the Brookings Institution is the Shadow Fed, and Mini-CIA, CNAS is the DoD-in-waiting.

In the just-released University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings, CNAS was rated as the 14th best think tank in the United States.

Think Tank's Footprints All Over State of the Union

The Center for American Progress (CAP) and its founder John Podesta provided copious talking points for the State of the 2014 Union (SOTU) address.

But a lesser known fact is that only one think tank made it into the State of the Union fact sheet detailing President Obama's priorities.  That think tank is, of course, CAP.

The section titled "Middle Class Security & Opportunity At Work" has a subtitle that says "Making Progress Through Executive Action," and under that is a paragraph that says "Building a 21st Century Workplace for America's Working Families."  That is where CAP is mentioned:
In spring of 2014, the White House, the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Center for American Progress (CAP), will host a Summit on Working Families to set an agenda for a 21st century workplace to ensure America’s global economic competitiveness in the coming decades. The Summit will make the business and economic cases for policies that support working families; showcase companies doing exemplary work in this space; and highlight model laws and policies from cities and states across the country in areas such as discrimination, flexibility, and paid leave.

If the CAP summit sounds familiar, that is because it was announced last year by the White House.  Here is where CAP said last year about the summit.

In the recently-released University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings, CAP was rated as the 10th best think tank in the United States and the 30th best think tank in the world.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Think Tank Quickies (#107)

  • John Kerry's younger brother Cameron Kerry, former Acting Secretary and General Counsel of the Commerce Department, joins Brookings as a Distinguished Visiting Fellow. 
  • Premier Washington think tanks' (AEI, CSIS, CSBA, and CNAS) "dream defense budget."
  • Pork Magazine: Think tanks don't really help ag.
  • Top free-market think tanks combat the hegemony of the bureaucrats.
  • Brussels Think Tank Dialogue 2014.
  • Ghanian think tank sued.
  • Daily Caller: CAP used position to promote BMW's green credentials.
  • Think tank calls for ban on rich foreigners buying homes in London.
  • AEI announces Robert Doar as inaugural Morgridge Fellow in Poverty Studies.
  • Think tank boss (Foundation for Government Accountability): MSNBC's Rachel Maddow made "unhinged" claims.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

AEI's New Headquarters to Cost $50 Million

As Think Tank Watch has previously noted, the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute (AEI) is moving its headquarters to 1785 Massachusetts Ave., next to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP) and the Brookings Institution.

The cost of the project to turn that location, one of Dupont Circle's most historic buildings, which has been occupied for years by the National Trust for Historic Preservation: $50 million, according to The Current newspaper.

Yes, $50 million sounds like a lot, but it is chump change compared to the whopping $100 million that the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) paid for its new building.

Last month AEI earned formal support from the area's advisory neighborhood commission for its renovation plans.  Dupont Circle commissioners reportedly supported construction and landscaping designs for the think tank's new home, with a unanimous vote on January 8, 2014.

There will be 14 bicycle spaces outside AEI's new headquarters, and AEI will be providing showers inside the building for those who bike to work.

But will AEI compete with CSIS for the fanciest chandelier at a think tank?

Think Tank Watch recently explored the site of the soon-to-be new headquarters, and noticed a massive asbestos removal project taking place in the building.  Grunley Construction Company, Inc. is the firm that is renovating the location.  Grunely says that the construction budget is $40 million, and will continue through August 2015.

1785 Massachusetts Ave., NW was built in 1917, and originally served as a luxury apartment building and home to Andrew Mellon.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Brookings Becomes New Shadow Fed

The rumors can be put to rest.  It is now official.  Brookings has scored one of the hottest people in town - former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.

Brookings officially announced today that Ben Bernanke will join the Economic Studies program as a Distinguished Fellow in Residence, effective February 3, 2014.

The think tank says that Bernanke will be affiliated with the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy, which launched on January 16, 2014 with a $10 million grant from the Hutchins Family Foundation.

The Hutchins Center is directed by David Wessel (who as a reporter used to cover Bernanke), but this does not mean that Bernanke will necessarily report to Wessel, who himself just joined Brookings in December 2013.  Here is what Mr. Wessel says about Bernanke joining the think tank.

BloombergBusinessweek wonders when the Brookings-Bernanke negotiations started:
The lightning-quick naming of Bernanke raises the question of how long ago negotiations with Brookings began. Wessel, whose appointment as director was part of the announcement of the center’s formation on Dec. 4, has a well-known and long-standing relationship with Bernanke. He wrote a 2009 history of the financial crisis called In Fed We Trust: Ben Bernanke’s War on the Great Panic. As the title suggests, it was one of the more positive appraisals of Bernanke’s performance.
Brookings spokeswoman D.J. Nordquist said in an e-mail, “Dr. Bernanke made arrangements with Brookings during the final days of his term at the Federal Reserve.” She said Wessel was in a meeting and not immediately available.

In a press release Brookings notes its strong ties to the Federal Reserve Board:
Brookings has a long history with the Federal Reserve Board. Brookings Board of Trustee members Frederic Delano and Paul Warburg were original members of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors in 1914. Longtime Fed Chairman William McChesney Martin, Jr. (1951-1970) was a member of the Brookings Board of Trustees from 1970-1997. Alice Rivlin and Donald Kohn, both of whom served as Vice Chair of the Federal Reserve, are Senior Fellows in the Economic Studies Program; Edward Gramlich and Nancy Teeters, both Federal Reserve Governors, were Senior Fellows in the Economic Studies. Lael Brainard, currently a nominee for Governor, was a Brookings Vice President. In addition, Former Brookings President Bruce MacLaury (1977-1995) was the President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis (1971-1977).

The Washington Post's Wonkblog says that Bernanke's move to Brookings solidifies the think tank's influence.

Readers of Think Tank Watch already knew last year that Bernanke would probably go to Brookings.

So, how much will Ben Bernanke be paid at his new think tank gig?  Think Tank Watch is keeping quiet on that, but we note that he was making around $200,000 at his Fed Chair position.  Brookings President Strobe Talbott made around $415,000 according to the most recently available public records.

Bernanke is not the only "famous" person to join Brookings in the past few weeks.  In December 2013, Cameron Kerry, younger brother of Secretary of State John Kerry, joined Brookings as a Distinguished Visiting Fellow.  Kerry is the former Acting Secretary and General Counsel of the Department of Commerce.

Here is a Muckety map of Brookings' strong ties to the Fed.

Think Tank Watch prediction: Ben Bernanke helps bring Janet Yellen to Brookings in 2022.