Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Congress Continues Assault on Think Tanks

With think tanks the new whipping boy of Congress, they may have to start hiring lobbyists.

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) has just floated a proposal that would require witnesses that appear before congressional committees, including think tankers, to disclose the amount and source of any money received during the current fiscal year or either of the two previous fiscal years by the witness or an entity the witness has been paid to represent.

Eric Lipton of The New York Times, who first reported the story, said that the proposal came in response to his NYT story on foreign government funding of US think tanks.  Here is more:
Witnesses who appear before the House, under the so-called “Truth in Testimony” rule, are already required to disclose if they or the organization they work for has received financial support from the federal government that relates to the topic they are discussing. But there is no such requirement for donations from foreign governments.
The chairman of the House Rules subcommittee, Representative Rich Nugent, Republican of Florida, and the ranking Democrat, Representative Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, both expressed support for the new requirement, making it more likely that it will be adopted as of next year.

Think tank responses to Rep. Speier's proposal can be found here.

Here is Transparify's statement on Rep. Speier's proposal.

The disclosure proposal comes on the heels of Rep. Frank Wolf's (R-VA) demand to the Brookings Institution that it end the practice of accepting money from all foreign governments.

Here is a fairly large list that Think Tank Watch has put together on various responses to the New York Times report on foreign government funding of US think tanks.

So, will think tanks fight this proposal?  Outside lobbying of internal Congressional procedure is rare but not unheard of.  And there are certainly a lot of former members of Congress at think tanks, so think tanks could use those former lawmakers to fight the proposal instead of hiring outside lobbyists.  Bonus!