Friday, October 31, 2014

Brookings Targeted by NYT, and Now Washington Post

Being the world's number one think tanks these days is not easy.  Just ask the leadership at Brookings, which was just bashed by the Washington Post for allegedly letting private donors influence its research agenda.

And check out this piece in The Algemeiner titled "Brookings Sells its Soul to Qatar's Terror Agenda (Part Two)."  Part One can be found here.  [Parts 3 and 4 are coming soon.]

Many more details coming soon....[Sorry, we are too distracted watching Brookings scholars beat the #%$! out of each other.]

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Tea Party Queen Michele Bachmann Dream: Think Tank Land

Tea Party conservative Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) is leaving Congress at the end of the year, and all she wants for retirement is to work at a think tank.  Preferably, she wants to work at a foreign policy think tank.  Here is how the Washington Post describes her retirement plans:
Bachmann says the model laid out by former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) in his post-congressional life is a “great example” of what she’d like to do: some time as a talking head, a position at a think tank (preferably having something to do with foreign policy), premium speaking fees and maybe a book or two.

So, which think tank could Bachmann land at?  The most likely is the conservative Heritage Foundation, where she gave one of her last official speeches as a member of Congress earlier this month.  [WPost notes that the audience at the event was primarily made up of a couple dozen interns.  Ouch.]

If she follows former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's think tank path exactly, she will land at the conservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where Gingrich was formerly a Senior Fellow.  She would also end up at Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), where Gingrich was a member of the Terrorism Task Force.  [He is currently not a member of CFR.]

And following exactly in Mr. Gingrich's footsteps will also mean that she needs to start and collapse her own think tank, just like Newt.

Here is a list that Think Tank Watch compiled of various [largely former] Members of Congress and which think tanks they are now affiliated with.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Leadership Change at Carnegie After 18 Year Matthews Run

Wow is that revolving door fast.

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP) has just announced that William Burns, former US Deputy Secretary of State, will become the next president of the think tank effective February 4, 2015.

Jessica Tuchman Matthews will step down at that time after 18 years at the helm of CEIP.  After February 4, Matthews will continue at CEIP as a distinguished fellow, devoting her time to writing.

One reason that Burns is not taking over leadership of the think tank right away?  He will reportedly be consulting on Iran negotiations.

Here is an exit interview with William Burns via Foreign Policy.

Here is the take from The Washington Post, which calls CEIP a "prominent global research think tank."

CEIP was ranked as the world's third best think tank in the most recent University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings.  It was rated as the second best think tank in the United States, after the Brookigs Institution.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Think Tank Quickies (#149)

  • 2003 flashback from RAND: How think tank interact with the military.
  • Exit interview with DoD's Andrew Hunter, who is moving to CSIS to run the think tank's Defense Industrial Initiatives Group.
  • Army builds cyber think tank at West Point.
  • What is a think tank? (via Enrique Mendizabal)
  • How do think tanks shape health policy?
  • Federal government kills valuable dataset, but think tanks step in to recreate it.
  • Scaife-related foundations fund lots of think tanks.
  • Think tank set up for India IPR policy.
  • Think tanks and alcohol policy in the United Kingdom.
  • AEI to women: Stop worrying about roofies.

"ScanBox" Keylogger Targeting Think Tanks

Here is what PCWorld is reporting:

A diversification of targets for a clever keylogging attack suggests that several hacking groups may be using the “ScanBox” framework, which spies on users without installing malicious software.
ScanBox was found in August by the security company Alien Vault on the website of a large industrial company that develops simulation and engineering software for aerospace and manufacturing companies.
PricewaterhouseCoopers wanted to see if ScanBox was more widespread and found it on a more diverse set of websites, including one for the Uyghur community in China, an industrial-related website in Japan, a U.S. think tank and a Korean hospitality site.

PricewaterhouseCoopers says that ScanBox is "particularly dangerous as it does not require malware to be successfully deployed to disk in order to steal information."

Here is a recent Think Tank Watch post about Chinese hackers targeting Middle East scholars at think tanks.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Chinese President Demands Better Think Tanks

Here is what People's Daily Online is reporting:
President Xi Jinping called for a new type of think tank catered for China as the country looks to modernize its governance.
The Leading Group for Overall Reform headed by Xi convened its sixth meeting on Monday, with attendees reviewing a document on strengthening the construction of new think tanks with Chinese characteristics.
Xi said at the meeting that intellectual resources are the most important for a nation, playing a crucial role in governing a country successfully. The more arduous the reform, the more intellectual support is needed, according to a statement issued after the meeting.
Although think tanks in China are developing rapidly and making important contributions to reform and modernization, they have a hard time changing alongside rapid development. Currently, China lacks think tanks with great influence and international reputation, Xi said.
The president said think tanks should be led by the Communist Party of China (CPC) and adhere to correct direction. They should also demonstrate Chinese characteristics and style. Think tanks should also abide by scientific spirit and encourage researchers to make explorations and study. Think tanks should also focus on the overall situation, Xi added.
Think tanks affiliated to all departments, including the Party, the government, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the Army, enterprises, as well as non-governmental think tanks, should be developed in a coordinated way, so that to form a think tank system with clear definitions, features and appropriate scales, the President said.
Xi also called for building a number of think tanks with international reputation and influence, as well as some professional think tanks.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post on Chinese think tanks.  China has 426 think tanks, the most of any country besides the United States, which has a whopping 1,828 think tanks.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Think Tank Trying to Overthrow the Federal Reserve?

The libertarian Cato Institute has just established a new institute whose stated goal is to "challenge the Federal Reserve and the financial regulators in a way they haven't been challenged in 100 years."

The new entity, the Center for Monetary & Financial Alternatives, will focus on development of policy recommendations that will create a more free-market monetary system in the US.

Cato also said that the new Center will explore policy options that include the creation of a private deposit insurance pool for small depositors, as well as measures that would expose the largest financial institutions to a genuine risk of failure, and thereby compel them to either acquire more capital or take fewer risks.

Here is more about the Center:
George Selgin, a Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of Georgia and one of the foremost authorities on banking and monetary theory and history, gave up his academic tenure to join Cato as director of the new center.
Luminaries from the banking policy world who have signed on to the Executive Advisory Council for the new Center include Richard Kovacevich, Chairman Emeritus of Wells Fargo, and George Melloan, former Deputy Editor of the Wall Street Journal.
The Council of Academic Advisors includes two Nobel Laureates in Economics, Thomas J. Sargent, from New York University, and Vernon L. Smith of Chapman University. John B. Taylor, a professor of economics at Stanford, Richard Timberlake, professor emeritus from the University of Georgia, and Guillermo Calvo, a professor of economics at Columbia University, also serve on the council.
James A. Dorn, Vice President for Monetary Studies and the long-time director of Cato’s annual monetary conference, will play a major roll in management of the Center. Mark Calabria, Director of Financial Regulation Studies at Cato, will also move to the new Center. Before joining Cato in 2009, Calabria served six years as a senior staff member of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs.

A full list of advisors, fellows, and adjunct scholars connected to the new Center can be found here.  Cato is throwing a lot of weight and power into the new Center, which will have no less than 40 affiliated advisors/scholars.

The Wall Street Journal says that Cato's new Center boasts some heavy hitters in the economics world.  It notes that the think tank has raised about $9 million from a "number of independent contributors" for the center, enough to fund it for five years.  The Center will reportedly have 10 full-time personnel.

In related news, Cato will be holding its 32nd Annual Monetary Conference on November 6.

The Cato Institute was recently ranked as the 18th best think tank in the world by the annual University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings.  It was also ranked as the 9th best think tank in the US.

Harvard Partners With 3 Think Tanks for Congressional Training Program

Harvard's Institute of Politics (IOP) recently announced that it will be partnering with three prominent think tanks - Brookings Institution, American Enterprise Institute (AEI), and Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) - to host the 21st Bipartisan Program for Newly Elected Members of Congress, a biennial conference to prepare new US House members for their congressional duties.

Here is more from IOP:
The IOP hosts the conference every two years to help educate participants, elected in November, on public policy and the day-to-day issues of being a member of Congress. Founded in 1972, the conference has helped educate and prepare almost 700 representatives.
This year, the IOP will work with the Brookings Institution, the American Enterprise Institute, and the Center for Strategic and International Studies, in addition to its previous partner, the Congressional Institute, to design a curriculum for the conference.
The political ideologies of the selected think tanks range from liberal to conservative. The think tanks were chosen to appeal to congressional representatives from both sides of the aisle, according to Christian B. Flynn, director of conferences and special projects at the IOP.

This year's program is scheduled to take place December 2 to December 5 at Harvard's IOP.  The program is by invitation only and is off-the-record and closed to the press.

More about the program can be found here, including a list of attendees and past speakers.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Think Tank Quickies (#148)

  • Chinese ramp up spying on Australian think tanks.
  • Think tanks in South Korea blasted for fund misuse.
  • Brookings' Strobe Talbott to be honored by Cleveland Council on World Affairs.
  • Dan Drezner on thinking about think tanks; and five things I now think I think about think tanks.
  • Aspen Institute head: There's no real reason to have think tanks start before 10am.
  • Texas Gov. Rick Perry gives speech at Royal United Services Institute (RUSI).
  • Plagiarism from think tanks costs US senator his degree.
  • Heidi Shierholz, former economist at EPI, becomes Labor Department's chief economist.
  • CSIS launches "Global Sustainability Series" with support from Bechtel Corporation; announces new initiative in partnership with Fortune Magazine called "Smart Women, Smart Power."
  • CNAS announces formation of Defense Strategies and Assessments Program.
  • Andrew Selee of Wilson Center has piece in Time magazine - "Think Tanks: What Are They Good For?" (cites Jerry Seinfeld on think tanks)

Monday, October 13, 2014

Think Tank CAP to be Clinton's Policy Shop

The founder of Center for American Progress (CAP) John Podesta is in an awkward position.  He is currently President Obama's Counselor, but he has also been joining informal meetings of Hillary Clinton advisers who are working on Hillary's presidential bid.

Here is how The Wall Street Journal recently described the situation of CAP, as liberals begin to transition from an Obama era to a possible Hillary era:
He [John Podesta] founded Washington’s major liberal think tank, the Center for American Progress, which is likely to be a pipeline of policy positions and staff for a Clinton presidential bid. Speaking at the 10-year anniversary party for CAP in 2013, with Mr. Podesta beside her on stage, Mrs. Clinton called him the “indispensable man.”

It was recently reported that Podesta will likely be Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman, and CAP President Neera Tanden will likely be an outside informal adviser to Clinton.

Here is a recent Think Tank Watch piece on the Clinton connection to think tanks.

In September 2014, Clinton participated in a CAP roundtable on women's economic security.

Back in 2003, Clinton called John Podesta a "friend" and praised CAP, calling it an "important institution" and a "tremendous force."

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Rep. Wolf Forces DOJ's Hand on FARA Ruling for Think Tanks

The fallout from last month's New York Times piece on foreign government funding of US think continues, with Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) demanding that the US Department of Justice look into whether think tanks are violating federal law by accepting foreign government money without registering as so-called "foreign agents."

Here is the letter, dated October 8, that Rep. Wolf sent to Attorney General Eric Holder.  The letter cites last month's New York Times article on think tank funding, and says that he does not think that think tanks such as Brookings, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), and Center for Global Development (CGD) intentionally sought to circumvent Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) laws or act inappropriately.

Rather, Rep. Wolf said that the DOJ needs to review its guidance and enforcement of FARA to provide clarity on whether funding from foreign government or state-run institutions to US think tanks should be disclosed under the law.  He also called on the DOJ to update its FARA regulations and guidance to help define whether the receipt of this form of foreign government funding would qualify a think tank as a foreign agent.

The New York Times, which broke the story, quotes a Justice Department spokesman of saying that they are aware of Rep. Wolf's letter and are reviewing it.

Here is a Think Tank Watch list of responses to the original New York Times piece on foreign government funding of US think tanks.

Shortly after that NYT piece, Rep. Frank Wolf called on the Brookings Institution to stop accepting money from all foreign governments.

Also in response, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) 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.

More details coming soon...

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Think Tank Quickies (#147)

  • Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson speaks at CSIS.
  • Boston Globe piece bashes Third Way.
  • Boston University votes to remove student think tank.
  • US government should put North America first, says CFR Task Force recommendation.
  • Cato Institute expands its Board of Directors membership.
  • David Goldwyn to chair Atlantic Council's new Energy Advisory Group; Cynthia Quarterman to join Atlantic Council Energy Program as a Distinguished Senior Fellow.
  • Dr. Eliot Cohen, former Counselor of US State Department, joins CNAS as Adjunct Senior Fellow.
  • World Bank President Jim Yong Kim: "World Bank isn't just a think tank, it's a do-tank."
  • Do donors behind think tanks diminish their credibility? (via Curiousmatic)
  • Transparify on the integrity of think tanks.

Friday, October 3, 2014

AEI Wins Think Tank Softball League Championship

The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) is a heavyweight in the think tank world, but it also a powerhouse in a lesser-known area: softball.

AEI's "Right Swing Conspiracy" just won the Think Tank Softball League (TTSL) championship, defeating the Roosevelt Institute's "Roosevelt Rough Riders" 17-15 in an extra-inning game.  It was AEI's first-ever TTSL title.  Here is a picture of the champs.

The TTSL is a summer-time, co-ed think tank league in the Washington, DC area.  The teams are mostly from area think tanks, but also include representation from a number of government agencies and private firms.  There are around 40 teams in the league.

Here is a 2010 list of the different think tanks involved, along with their team names.  Here is an NPR piece from 2008 on the TTSL.

The softball league is so popular that some think tanks, such as AEI and the venerable Brookings Institution,  tout it as a job benefit.

A few newspapers occasionally mention TTSL happenings (although your humble Think Tank Watch may have wider coverage).  [Fun fact: The Washington Post noted in 2011 that Michelle Flournoy, Co-founder and CEO of Center for a New American Security (CNAS), "wasn't the best" softball player in the TTSL.]

Newly Minted Think Tanker Bernanke Can't Get a ReFi

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, who is a scholar at the Brookings Institution, can't refinance his mortgage.  The culprit?  The fact that he recently started working at a think tank.

Bernanke left the Fed and starting working at Brookings on February 3, 2014.  And that job change makes him a steeper credit risk.  Here is more from The New York Times:
An employee of a think tank owns a house in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington. He wants to refinance his mortgage, but the bank won’t give him a loan.
It is perhaps not the most shocking story in the world, but it becomes so when you learn that the think tank employee is Ben S. Bernanke, who was until earlier this year the chairman of the Federal Reserve, charged with setting the course of interest rate policy for the United States economy.
The problem probably boils down to this: Anybody who knows how the world works may know that Ben Bernanke has vast earning potential, and that he is as safe a credit risk as one could imagine. But he just changed jobs a few months ago. And in the thoroughly automated world of mortgage finance, having recently changed jobs makes you a steeper credit risk.

Mr. Bernanke is a Distinguished Fellow in Residence at Brookings.

In more Bernanke news, a federal judge reportedly is not sympathetic with the fact that Bernanke is a busy think tanker.  A judge is forcing him to testify next week at a high-profile trial about the 2008 government bailout of big banks and other financial institutions.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

CSIS Establishes Brzezinski Institute of Geostrategy

The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) recently announced that it has established the Brzezinski Institute of Geostrategy, named after Zbigniew Brzezinski, CSIS Counselor and Trustee.  Its mission will be to examine the interaction of history, geography and strategy, with the goal of developing policy-relevant analysis and recommendations.

CSIS also says that the new Institute "seeks to develop a new generation of strategic policy thinkers at home and abroad."  Here is more:
The launching grant for the Institute came from Rilin Enterprises, Ltd., a global construction and logistics firm based in Hong Kong with offices in New York, Beijing, and Dandong, China. Mr. Wenliang Wang serves as chairman of Rilin Enterprises. Mr. Mark Fung, who serves on the Institute’s Advisory Board, is the firm’s general counsel and in the 1990s was Dr. Brzezinski’s student and then seminar assistant at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
Located in CSIS’s new state-of-the-art headquarters in Washington, D.C., the Institute will carry out a range of dynamic programming, including annual lectures, visiting fellows from around the world, original research by CSIS scholars on geostrategic issues, new publications, and cutting-edge multimedia content. Through this work, the Institute will help to inform today’s policymakers and train tomorrow’s global leaders.

Dr. John Hamre, President, CEO, and Pritzker Chair at CSIS will act as the Institute's director during its first year.

An event was held October 1 to celebrate the establishment of the new Institute, and former Prime Minister of Australia Kevin Rudd gave a keynote address.

Here is a video about the launch of the new Institute.  Here is its new website.  Here is a note from Dr. Hamre.  Here are some projects that the Brzezinski Institute is working on.  Here is a list of the Advisory Board and leadership at the Institute.

CSIS was recently ranked as the fourth best think tank in the world and the world's best defense and national security think tank by the University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings.