Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Brookings Poaches Talent from Heritage

The brain drain continues at the Heritage Foundation.

The Brookings Institution announced last week that that Heritage Foundation economist Stuart Butler would be joining the Economic Studies program of the think tank starting September 3, 2014.

What is fascinating is that Butler spent 35 years at the conservative Heritage Foundation and it now headed to the left-of-center Brookings, a chief "rival" of Heritage.

The transition to Brookings may be a bit of a shock for Butler.  As InTheCapital points out, a 2011 study looking at donations from think tankers from 2003 to 2010, showed that 97.6% of those from Brookings donating to political parties donated to Democrats.  A whopping 0.0% percent from Heritage donated to Democrats.

Here is more from InTheCapital on the big career move:
One has to wonder if Butler had a little change of ideological heart to make such a dramatic career change. Then again, the Heritage Foundation isn't exactly what is was when Butler first joined the team all those decades ago. Since former Senator Jim DeMint took over in 2013, the direction of the think tank has shifted to be more sympathetic to populist Tea Party political causes rather than the pro-business Republican establishment. DeMint's penchant for preferring political games to heady academic pursuits has resulted in a loss of respect for the Heritage Foundation on Capitol Hill.
Therefore it doesn't seem all that surprising that Butler, who had a hand in crafting the intellectual conservative message that formed the backbone of the Reagan Administration, would rather leave the political games of the Heritage Foundation behind to continue to pursue his policy work at an institution like Brookings, which is more divested from Capitol Hill.

Butler, who joined Heritage in 1979 when it was still relatively obscure, currently directs the think tank's Center for Policy Innovation (CPI), an entity that former Heritage president Ed Feulner called a "think tank within a think tank."

Butler told The Wall Street Journal last week that he was attracted to Brookings "by the idea of working at a place that is not monolithic in its approach to public policy."

Butler is one of many scholars from the Heritage Foundation who has fled the think tank since Jim DeMint took over as president last year.

The WSJ reports that Brookings Vice President Ted Gayer said Mr. Butler will help "diversify" Brookings, which has had a reputation of a left-of-center think tank.  To be sure, Brookings has both liberal and conservative scholars.