Wednesday, February 26, 2014

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.