Thursday, February 26, 2015

New Libertarian Think Tank Launches in DC

The libertarian think tank scene has just gotten more crowded with the official launch today of the new libertarian think tank The Niskanen Center.

Here is a press release about the launch.  Among other things, it says that the think tank "plans to build momentum and deliver results for libertarian policies in Congress and across the federal government."

The Niskanen Center website says that the think tank was established in 2014.  The think tank is named after the late William (Bill) Niskanen, former Chairman and Chairman Emeritus of the Cato Institute.  Niskanen, who had also worked for the RAND Corporation, passed away in 2011.  [The name was reportedly chosen because Mr. Niskanen was both principled and pragmatic.]

Jerry Taylor is the founder and president of the new think tank.  Previously, Taylor had worked 23 years at the libertarian think tank Cato Institute.  The Vice President is Joe Coon, another former Cato alum.

Several of the analysts at the think tank also have previous think tank experience, such as immigration policy analyst David Bier (formerly of Competitive Enterprise Institute), and foreign/defense policy analyst Matthew Fay (formerly of Cato).

The advisory board consists of a variety of libertarian think tankers and conservative activists, and includes:
  • Terry Anderson, Property and Environment Research Center
  • Lawson Bader, Competitive Enterprise Institute
  • Thomas Beach, Reason Foundation
  • John Cochrane, University of Chicago Booth School of Business
  • Tyler Cowen, Mercatus Center
  • Joseph Lehman, Mackinac Center for Public Policy
  • Eli Lehrer, R Street
  • Brad Lips, Atlas Network
  • Mark Littlewood, Institute of Economic Affairs
  • Alexander McCobin, Students for Liberty
  • Lisa Nelson, American Legislative Exchange Council
  • Grover Norquist, Americans for Tax Reform,
  • Darcy Olsen, Goldwater Institute
  • Tom Palmer, Atlas Network
  • Jon Basil Utley, The American Conservative

Some of the think tanks first publications can be read here.  A Wall Street Journal post about the think tank from January notes that the think tank aims to "influence policy fights" rather than just "author headline-grabbing proposals."  Here is more from that piece:
One of the group’s most provocative proposals centers on an issue rarely viewed as a Republican priority: climate change. The Niskanen Center advocates a tax on carbon emissions that would replace existing environmental regulations. Prominent conservatives have long advocated a carbon tax as a way to let the market determine the cost of burning fossil fuels, but using it as a bargaining chip to limit environmental regulators is relatively new. Mr. Taylor admits this proposal faces little prospect of becoming law in the next Congress, but he said it will help set the stage for the environmental debate in the 2016 presidential race.

Here is what Richard Young has to say about the new think tank.

Here is a Think Tank Watch post from 2012 mentioning the explosion of libertarian think tanks.

Should every new libertarian think tank have its own rap star?  Think Tank Watch on how libertarian think tanks party.

By the way, how is libertarian icon Ron Paul's think tank doing?

Russia's RT Bashes American Think Tanks

Russia's RT has a new piece titled "American Think Tank Policy: Not For Or By The People," written by Phil Butler, a policy and public relations analyst for Russia Today and a partner at the digital marketing firm Pamil Visions PR.

Among other things, the piece takes a strong swipe at Zbigniew Brezezinski, the former US national security adviser who has strong ties to think tanks such as Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and Atlantic Council:
There’s a term that Brzezinski and other think tank brains adhere to, it’s a term the Council on Foreign Relations defines, a central strategic idea known as the “Arc of Crisis.” The concept is essentially an American strategy aimed at surrounding Russia, an ongoing and devastatingly negative fight against a convenient and well known foe.
...Moving forward past the tens of millions funding Washington think tanks, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), and organizations like the Brookings Institution are the playgrounds for the Brzezinskis of the world.

The piece goes on to list seven well-known or well-connected people and their various think tank affiliations.

RT is not exactly known for being super friendly to US think tanks...

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Urban Institute Hacked, Details Kept Under Wraps

Think tank spying and hacking is the new normal.

Here is more from The Hill newspaper about the latest attack on the world's top education policy and social policy think tank:
The TurboTax of the nonprofit world has been hacked.

The Urban Institute, a prominent think tank in Washington, D.C., alerted charitable organizations around the country Tuesday that its system for filing tax forms was breached.

Hackers were able to access usernames, passwords, IP addresses and other account data for nonprofits that use the Urban Institute's National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS) to file their taxes.
An official with the Urban Institute estimated that between 600,000 and 700,000 organizations were affected by the breach. At this point, there is apparently no evidence that tax filings themselves were compromised. There were also no Social Security numbers or credit card information in the system, the official said. 
Hackers repeatedly target D.C. think tanks. Security analysts say there is virtually no major organization or agency in the city that has not faced a breach or hacking attempt of one kind or another, though almost none will confirm the details.

Urban Institute was recently ranked as the US's 20th best think tank by the annual University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings.  It was also ranked as the world's top education policy think tank and the world's top social policy think tank.

Here is what the Huffington Post had to say about the hack.  Here is what the Chronicle of Philanthropy says.

During the past few years, it has been publicly (and privately) disclosed that nearly every major US think tank has been hacked.  Think Tank Watch has documented hacks on think tanks such as the Aspen Institute, Brookings, American Enterprise Institute (AEI), Center for American Progress (CAP), Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), and Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).  Many others have been hit, including the Heritage Foundation.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Breaking: Spy Cables Reveal Think Tank Spying

Recently released spy cables indicate that think tanks were the target of intelligence agency spying.

Al Jazeera, which has just received hundreds of leaked cables from some of the world's top intelligence agencies, reports that South Africa's State Security Agency (SSA) had a deal with Zimbabwe to spy on think tanks.

At this point, it is unclear what type of information they were searching for, and what exact think tanks were spied upon.

More coming...

Monday, February 23, 2015

Japanese Think Tanks in Decline?

This is from a piece originally written in Japanese by Harano Jōji of
In January 2015 the University of Pennsylvania released the 2014 Global Go To Think Tank Report, an influential and comprehensive ranking of 6,618 policy institutes around the world. On the combined US and non-US list, the Japan Institute of International Affairs placed thirteenth and was the highest-placed entry from Asia. The only other Japan-based think tank in the top 100 was the Asian Development Bank Institute, which was ranked twenty-eighth.
While the number of think tanks in Asia has dramatically increased since the turn of the millennium, Japan’s institutes are becoming less active and have lost significant economic clout. Even the JIIA, which focuses principally on foreign policy, is not highly regarded in this category in the University of Pennsylvania’s report, placing only fiftieth in the Top Foreign Policy and International Affairs Think Tanks.
Japanese think tanks tend to have a smaller social role and be less influential than those in Europe and North America. A major reason for this is that many were founded at the instigation of business lobbies or corporations and focus on contributing to these organizations rather than taking a broader outlook and exerting influence in wider politics, economics, diplomacy, and culture. Another factor is that Japan’s bureaucracy has long dominated policy formation and agenda setting. Think tanks are also hemmed in by numerous restrictions on establishment, funding, and taxation.

Here is a previous piece titled "How to Enliven Japan's Foreign Policy Think Tanks."

Canadian think tanks are also said to be in decline.

Think Tank Quickies (#163)

  • CNAS launches new project on implications of a drone-filled world.
  • Cynthia Wagner of AAI Foresight notes that futurist think tanks featured prominently in latest UPenn think tank report.
  • Heritage Foundation urges Britain to leave EU.
  • Hewlett Foundation: Think tanks need core support.
  • President of Liberia addresses USIP on Feb. 26 to discuss Ebola.
  • What happens when a think tank away day last longer than 24 hours, by Richard Darlington.
  • Jack Straw joins "facade" Kazak think tank?
  • YouTube video: Think tanks and why they matter.
  • Chief economist at Heritage can't find a single fact to prove ObamaCare is failing?
  • AEI Resident Scholar Leon Aron confirmed as member of Broadcasting Board of Governors; former Director of Michigan Department of Human Services joins AEI.
  • CAP and AEI host discussion on demographics and democracy; CAP hosts former Defense Secretary William Cohen; Sen. Bob Casey unveils new CAP analysis on income inequality.

Friday, February 20, 2015

CAP's New BFF: Koch Industries!?

Strange bedfellows are afoot in Washington, as one of the world's top liberal think tanks has just joined forces with its archenemy.  Here in more from the New York Times:
Usually bitter adversaries, Koch Industries and the Center for American Progress (CAP) have found at least one thing they can agree on: The nation’s criminal justice system is broken.
Koch Industries, the conglomerate owned by the conservative Koch brothers, and the center, a Washington-based liberal issues group, are coming together to back a new organization called the Coalition for Public Safety. The coalition plans a multimillion-dollar campaign on behalf of emerging proposals to reduce prison populations, overhaul sentencing, reduce recidivism and take on similar initiatives.

Officials at CAP  reportedly spent a considerable amount of time debating the pros and cons of this new partnership.

After all, CAP has labeled the Koch network as being anti-environment, accused them of trying to influence state supreme court races, and bashed them for donating to Heritage Action (CAP's major enemy), among other things.

The Koch brothers have been prolific donors to think tanks, mainly of the libertarian and conservative persuasion.

Here is a press release about the new partnership.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Jeb Bush Lines Up More Think Tankers for Hillary Assault

As presidential jockeying heats up, Jeb Bush continues to beef up his policy advisor team, and he has just announced a group of 20 people who are advising him on foreign policy.  Among those include a variety of think tankers, such as:

  • James Baker, Honorary Chair of the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University; member of CFR
  • Paula Dobriansky, Senior Advisor at Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC); Board Member of Atlantic Council; Board of Advisors at Center for a New American Security (CNAS); member of CFR
  • John Hannah, Senior Fellow, Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD)
  • Stephen Hadley, member, Council on Foreign Relations (CFR)
  • Robert Zoellick, former Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE); member of CFR
  • Kenneth Juster, member, CFR
  • Paul Wolfowitz, Visiting Scholar, AEI; member of CFR
  • George Shultz, Distinguished Fellow, Hoover Institute
  • Meghan O'Sullivan, Adjunct Senior Fellow, CFR
  • Roger Noriega, Visiting Fellow, AEI

The same day he released this list of advisors, Mr. Bush spoke at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, a think tank that was recently named in the University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings as one of the top "Think Tanks to Watch."

Vin Weber, who had helped Mitt Romney arrange think tank meetings in the 2012 presidential race, has also started advising Mr. Bush.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post on Jeb Bush's favorite think tank.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post on the favorite think tanks of the George W. Bush Administration.

On the other side, Hillary Clinton has an army of think tankers ready to fight for her.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Fake Think Tank Set Up by Russia to Project Its Power?

Here is what Business Insider is saying about the "think tank" behind Russia's "infiltration of Europe" reports:
A website for a supposed new think tank called the "Center for Eurasian Strategic Intelligence" (CESI) mysteriously appeared last year. The website claimed to "provide analysis and surveys of political, economic and security processes in Eurasia region".
And so it did. In December it produced a research report showing all of the political parties in Europe that it claimed were under the thumb of Moscow. Unfortunately, a large chunk of its research appeared to have been plagiarised from other sources and its analysis appeared suspiciously superficial.
Anton Shekhovtsov, a blogger and researcher of the European extreme right, looked into the story. What he found was even more interesting than the think tank's incendiary claims.

The think tank listed "William Fowler" as its chairman and chief executive. A Facebook page purportedly belonging to Fowler boasted a picture of a besuited, grey-haired businessman but there was very little information on him otherwise. It turns out that the picture is actually a stock photo with the title "suited old businessman" and "grey hair man glasses", Shekhovtsov says.
The only member of the think tank that appeared to exist at all was Alex Kraus, its supposed chief analyst, who appeared in videos on the site speaking with what is described as a Slavic (but not Russian) accent.
Since Shekhovtsov's investigation the CESI website has been taken down, as has Fowler's Facebook page. Indeed the only evidence of the think tank's existence online appears to be a LinkedIn page here which claims that the company has 11-50 employees but lists none, and a Facebook page that was last updated in December blaming an "attack" for the website going down.

Think Tank Watch is aware of other "fake" think tanks.  For example, some have called Employment Policies Institute a fake think tank, and in 2008 there was the fake think tank called the Harding Institute for Freedom and Democracy that even came with its own fake think tank experts.

As Think Tank Watch has previously reported, there have also been instances of fake think tank documents.

Think Tank Quickies (#162)

  • If you run a think tank and don't have an economist on the payroll, you're an exception.
  • Different think tanks show different views of German-Israel relationship.
  • Brookings scholar Martha Derthick, an authority on Social Security, passes away.
  • Foreign think tankers spied on by NSA? 
  • CSIS Advisor Arnaud de Borchgrave passes away.
  • Think tank publishes report on tanks that think.
  • Free market think tanks: 2015 website and social media presence.
  • Why do Western think tanks draw contradictory conclusions on the Chinese army?
  • Brookings poll: President Obama the worst US president?
  • North Carolina's GOP legislature axing the UNC poverty think tank founded by John Edwards.

NYT on the Influence of CAP Founder John Podesta

The New York Times has a big piece on how John Podesta, the co-founder of the Center for American Progress (CAP), will play a significant role in Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign.  Here is what they say about Podesta and his think tank:
After leaving the White House, Mr. Podesta founded the Center for American Progress, an organization that married policy and politics. “He’s a policy wonk’s policy wonk,” said Sarah Rosen Wartell, a co-founder who added he was also “very much a doer.” Enlisting wealthy donors like George Soros and Herb and Marion Sandler, Mr. Podesta made the center and himself power players in liberal politics.

The article notes that when Podesta become Counselor to President Obama in early 2014, he "came with a strategy" that he and Sarah Rosen Wartell had outlined in a 2010 report about how the president should aggressively use his executive authority.

The report referred to by NYT is CAP report from November 16, 2010 entitled "The Power of the President: Recommendations to Advance Progressive Change."  That report could be one of the most significant think tank reports ever to come out of think tank land.

As Think Tank Watch has noted, CAP will likely become Hillary Clinton's go-to think tank and policy shop.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

New Report: Think Tanks Becoming More Transparent

The transparency organization Transparify has just published its 2015 think tank transparency report showing that a selection of the world's think tanks are becoming more transparent in terms of financial disclosure.

The new report details disclosures of 169 think tanks in 47 countries.

In the US, six think tanks scored the highest rating (5-stars).  Those think tanks are:
  • Center for Global Development (CGD)
  • World Resources Institute (WRI)
  • Pew Research Center
  • Stimson Center
  • Natural Resource Governance Institute
  • Wilson Center

A five-star rating means that donors are disclosed, clearly identifying funding amounts for, and sources of, particular projects.

As with all think tank ratings and rankings, there is lots of self-congratulations.  Here is what the Stimson Center had to say about its transparency.  Here is what Bruegel has to say in a piece entitled "Bruegel's Commitment to Transparency: The Think Tank as Fish Tank, Not Gas Tank."

A few US think tanks scored very low (i.e., 1-star) and were labeled as "highly opaque."  Those think tanks include:
  • American Enterprise Institute (AEI)
  • Earth Institute
  • Hoover Institution
  • Hudson Institute

More specifically, one-star means that the think tank lists some donors, but it is not an exhaustive or systematic list.

Open Society Foundations was the only US "think tank" to score a zero.  Interestingly, Open Society Foundations funds the work of Transparify.

A variety of think tanks are taking notice.  For example, the report notes that the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) has informed Transparify that it will be disclosing all of its donors to 4-star level from February 2015.  Four-stars means that all the think tank's donors above $5,000 are listed in at least four precise funding brackets, with anonymous donors no more than 15%.

A press release about the report from Transparify can be found here.  On Think Tanks has a piece entitled "A Quick and Dirty 'Transparify-like' Assessment of US Think Tanks."

Financial Times picked up on the report, with a piece entitled "British Think-Tanks (sic) 'Less Transparent About Sources of Funding."

The EUobserver has a piece entitled "UK and Hungarian ThinkTanks (sic) Least Transparent in EU."

So, is all this disclosure good or is it essentially meaningless?

Will the think tank transparency movement move toward foundations funding think tanks?

Monday, February 16, 2015

How Powerful Russian Oligarchs Use Think Tanks

Following are some excerpts from a recent New York Times article entitled "Powerful Russians Commanding Park Views," which is part of a series of articles called "Towers of Secrecy."

First is a mention of the Brookings Institution:
In March 2009, a bookish-looking Russian senator stepped to the podium at the Brookings Institution in Washington. The occasion was the inauguration of a new think tank devoted to United States-Russia cooperation on financial and energy security, and the speaker, Andrey Vavilov, had donated money.
Mr. Vavilov was introduced as a brave individual who had toiled for years under adverse circumstances in Russia, a onetime deputy finance minister and former proprietor of an oil company. His talk, delivered in Russian, focused on the intricacies of the energy markets.
Behind the trappings of Brookings and his professorial demeanor, though, were some more ambiguous elements of Mr. Vavilov’s career.

Here is a summary of that event.

There is also a mention of Mr. Vavilov's involvement in another US-based think tank which was used as an attack platform against an alleged enemy:
Now, tensions had escalated to such a degree that Mr. Vavilov wanted the operative, Rinat Akhmetshin, director of a Washington think tank called the International Eurasian Institute, to help derail Mr. [Ashot] Egiazaryan’s application for asylum in the United States.
“I remember there was money in like $100 bills bags,” Mr. Akhmetshin would later testify, recounting how Mr. Vavilov pulled out $70,000 or $80,000 and handed it over — the first payment in a media campaign to discredit Mr. Egiazaryan.
For help, Mr. Akhmetshin turned to Peter Zalmayev, who runs the Eurasia Democracy Initiative, which describes itself as devoted to promoting democracy and the rule of law in former Soviet states.
Mr. Zalmayev later acknowledged in a deposition that he had been paid $100,000 but had not disclosed that he was working at the behest of Mr. Vavilov when he approached groups including the American Jewish Committee and the National Conference on Soviet Jewry. Both ultimately signed anti-Egiazaryan letters to the State Department and the Homeland Security secretary.

Mr. Egiazaryan is a financier and former Russian lawmaker.

The article also mentions that in the early 1990s Mr. Vavilov had been doing a fellowship at the Institute for International Economics (IIE), which is now called the Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE).

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Think Tank Quickies (#161)

  • Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker does Chatham House; blasted for avoiding questions.
  • Brookings has a new foreign policy blog.
  • IISS releases Military Balance 2015; China refutes findings.
  • Transparify to release 2015 financial transparency report on think tanks Feb. 17.
  • Russian think tank that pushed for invasion of Ukraine now calling for invasion of Belarusian leader?
  • Pentagon think tank analysis: Putin has Asperger's syndrome.  Dubious "science"?
  • Anton Tsvetov: How think tanks can make Russia's foreign policy better (in Russian).
  • Think tanker Justin Wolfers says that more running probably isn't bad for you.
  • How Congress's dysfunction has degraded its own in-house think tank.
  • A journalist having trouble covering Canadian politics/economics?  Fraser Institute to the rescue?

Conservative Think Tanks to Kill Obamacare?

Here is what Mother Jones is saying:
The arguments of the plaintiffs in King v. Burwell, the case in front of the Supreme Court of the United States that could potentially undo the Affordable Care Act...
The intention of the plaintiffs isn’t to identify a flaw in the law and fix it but to bring down the entire program of federally mandated (and for income-qualified consumers, subsidized) health insurance coverage. The case appears to have started with a conference sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute where attendees devised legal strategies to bring down the Affordable Care Act. The Competitive Enterprise Institute, distinct from AEI, was one of the conservative think tanks that took up the challenge of this lawsuit, recognizing that removing subsidies from consumers who got their insurance on the federal exchanges because of the recalcitrance of their home states could potentially make the ACA unworkable, deprive millions of health insurance, and force insurance premiums to skyrocket. In other words, CEI and its allies would victimize lower-income consumers, wiping out their insurance coverage in order to gut the law.

Here is what Slate has to say.  And here is some commentary by The Washington Post.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Attack on Linked to Think Tank Attacks

A recent cyber attack on has been linked to a group of Chinese hackers who apparently have also targeted think tanks.  Here is more:
The researchers attributed the hack to a cyberespionage group called Team Codoso, also known as the Sunshop Group, which has a long history of similar "watering hole" style attacks. Researchers at FireEye linked the group to attacks affecting multiple Korean military and strategy think tanks and a Uighur news and discussion site, among others, in 2013.
Here are some more details about the attacks from Invincea.

Think Tankers (And Donors) Lining Up to Support 2016 Candidates

More and more think tankers are quietly working behind the scenes to join 2016 presidential campaigns.

The latest news is that Jeb Bush is considering naming Meghan O'Sullivan, former Deputy National Security Advisor for Iraq and Afghanistan to George W. Bush, as his top foreign policy aide.

Among other things, O'Sullivan is an Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).

In related think tank-2016 presidential news, billionaire media mogul Haim Saban, a large donor to the Brookings Institution, has said he will spend "whatever it takes" to help Hillary Clinton become the next president.  [An Al Jazeera satire piece jokes that Saban has been parading Hillary around Brookings.]

Monday, February 9, 2015

Think Tank Quickies (#160)

  • Atlantic Council launches EconoGraphics, a weekly take on the global economy; Obama "energy czar" Heather Zichal named Senior Fellow to the think tank's new Global Energy Center.
  • Former Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-PA) joins Center for American Progress (CAP) as Senior Fellow; former Times of India Executive Director Gautam Adhikari becomes Senior Fellow.
  • Konrad Yakabuski: Think tanks need to show us the money.
  • SCMP: Free thinking required to win the battle of think tanks in China.
  • Bjorn Lomborg think tank funder revealed as billionaire Paul Singer.
  • William J. Burns begins first day at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; CEIP Moscow Center expands team; former State Dept. intel official joins Carnegie Russia team.
  • CSIS renews Derwin Pereira Indonesia Initiative; think tank forms Project on Chinese Business and Political Economy, with Scott Kennedy as Director.
  • CNAS and NYU School of Law and Security launch Economic Statecraft and National Security Project; CNAS also launches American Leadership Series with Carnegie Council; think tank expands focus on economic issues in national security.
  • Nancy Lindborg officially becomes USIP's fifth president.
  • RAND Corp. announces new Water and Climate Resilience Center (WCRC).

Friday, February 6, 2015

Ukraine Crisis Sparks Brookings War

Brookings seems to have the fighting spirit these days.

First it was the Think Tank Fight Club that started last year at the think tank, and now it seems there is a heated debate among Brookings scholars that is "fracturing" the world's top think tank (NYT words, not ours).

Here is what Peter Baker of The New York Times wrote in a piece titled "Debate on Arming Ukraine Fractures Washington Think Tank":
Ukraine isn’t the only place consumed by civil war thanks to Russia. The venerable Brookings Institution, long one of Washington’s most prestigious research centers, has fractured very publicly this week over Russia as well.
The institution’s president, Strobe Talbott, and one of his scholars, Steven Pifer, joined six other national security figures in a report on Monday calling on the Obama administration to provide arms to Ukraine’s government to help it battle pro-Russian separatists. But ever since, other Brookings scholars have excoriated the idea.
Jeremy Shapiro, a former State Department official now at Brookings, wrote on the institution’s website that arming Ukrainians “will lead only to further violence and instability, and possibly a dangerous confrontation.” Fiona Hill and Clifford Gaddy, two other Brookings scholars, added in The Washington Post that following their boss’s advice would mean that “the Ukrainians won’t be the only ones caught in an escalating military conflict.”

The full story can be read here.  Some have already complained about the NYT headline being too dramatic (indeed, we chose the softer, gentler sounding "war").

Personally, Think Tank Watch thinks that the various sides of the Ukraine argument within Brookings should solve this dispute with an official Brookings Fight Club challenge.

Think Tank to Hold "Defeat Jihad Summit" to Counter WH Summit

The conservative Center for Security Policy is holding a "Defeat Jihad Summit" to compete with the "Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) Summit" being held by the White House on February 18.  Here is more from CSP President and Founder Frank Gaffney:
The international conclave that actually holds promise for being illuminating, fact-based, and consequential is a counterpoint to the official event that will take place exactly a week before:  Its sponsors, including my own Center for Security Policy, have given it a clarifying title: the “Defeat Jihad Summit.”
Like Team Obama’s shindig, this meeting will be by invitation only and feature a number of eminent figures in foreign governments, as well as our own. Unlike the closed-door official function, however, ours will be live-streamed.
Among those participating in the Defeat Jihad Summit will be Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders, Britain’s Lord Malcolm Pearson, former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Pete Hoekstra, Danish free speech advocate Lars Hedegaard, former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy, and roughly three dozen other freedom fighters.

The event will be live-streamed live on Feb. 11 at and

In related news, the Brookings Institution held a CVE discussion this week.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Favorite Think Tank Among Billionaires: AEI?

Think Tank Watch has reported numerous times about billionaires who fund think tanks.  Now, David Callahan of Inside Philanthropy has a new piece titled "Which Washington Think Tank Do Billionaires Love the Most?  And Why?," in which he says that the most popular think tank among the ultra-rich is American Enterprise Institute (AEI).

Here are some excerpts about why these billionaires favor AEI:
One way to understand AEI's ties with the wealthy is that it's the smart conservative think tank in Washington. 
If you're a rich right-winger who made your fortune opening car dealerships in the Sun Belt, you give to the Heritage Foundation, with it's Tea Party leader Jim DeMint and simple black-and-white view of how the world should work (in your favor). 
If you're a wealthy libertarian, with the ideological sophistication of a 15-year-old boy ("Leave me alone!") you give your money to Cato. 
But if you have a Wharton MBA and got wealthy with algorithm-based trading strategies, than AEI is your place, with its brainy president, Arthur Brooks, and a building stocked with Ph.D.s. 
Back in the 1980s, many of America's wealthy had made their money in industry or real estate or retail. A shift toward a knowledge economy has produced an explosion of billionaires who got rich in finance or tech by monetizing their intelligence and Ivy League credentials. That change in how wealth is created helps explain why AEI is doing so well these days.
Heritage and AEI push many of the same positions—e.g., keep taxes on rich people low and make poor people get off their asses—but AEI does so in a more nuanced, sophisticated way. You won't find any Tea Party types floating around the building. (Although you might run into Dick Cheney in the elevator.)
Also, AEI doesn't just have a big brain, it has the stirrings of a heart. Arthur Brooks gets that the right seems oblivious to poverty, wage stagnation, and inequality, and he's been pushing for the institute to come up with conservative-friendly ways to address these problems.

The piece also lists nine billionaires who fund AEI:
  • Philip Anschutz
  • Daniel D'Aniello
  • Richard DeVos
  • Seth Klarman
  • Charles Koch
  • Bruce Kovner
  • Peter Peterson
  • George Roberts
  • Paul Singer 

A list of their descriptions can be found here.  So, do billionaires run AEI?

AEI was just ranked as the best think tank by the University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings for 2014.

It should be noted that the author himself (David Callahan) has worked at various think tanks, and his father was the founder of a think tank on bioethics.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

WPost Blasts WH for Misleading on Think Tank Book on TPP

Glenn Kessler of Washington Post's Fact Checker has called out the Obama Administration for making what is says are false claims from a book by a well-known economic think tank.

The claim?  Well, Glenn Kessler wanted to test the statement being used by the White House that completing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal would increase US exports by $123 billion and help support an additional 650,000 jobs.  Here is more:
The Peterson Institute in 2012 published a book titled “The Trans-Pacific Partnership and Asia-Pacific Integration: A Quantitative Assessment,” by Peter A. Petri, Michael G. Plummer and Fan Zhai. The book does include an estimate that, by 2025, the United States would experience a gain of $77.5 billion in income from TPP, as well as a $124 billion increase in exports. (More on those numbers, which are expressed in 2007 dollars, below.) But nowhere in the book does it says 650,000 jobs would be created.
Asked about the statistic on 650,000 jobs, the White House referred us to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. USTR spokesman Matthew McAlvanah directed us to page 58 of the book. “They do not provide an estimate on jobs,” he acknowledged. “However they do provide a methodology that one could use.”
Essentially, the book suggests that an income gain of $121,000 would be “roughly equivalent to creating an extra job.” So the Obama administration took the figure of $77.5 billion and divided it by $121,000, which yields 640,000. Rounded up, that becomes 650,000.
There’s just one problem: This is the incorrect way to use Petri’s research, especially when officials such as Kerry combine the jobs figure in the same sentence as the income prediction: “The TPP could provide $77 billion a year in real income and support 650,000 new jobs in the US alone.”
 That’s because the calculation on jobs can only be done if one assumes that wages have been frozen and there is no income gain. So it’s completely misleading to suggest there would be both a gain in income and a gain in jobs.
It looks like others at the Washington Post (e.g. David Ignatius) are paying attention to Mr. Kessler's column...

More can be read here.  The Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE) was just ranked as the 15th best think tank in the world by the annual University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings for 2014.  It was also ranked as the 4th best domestic economic policy think tank, and the #1 international economic policy think tank.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Next CBO Director to Hail From Think Tank Land?

With majorities in both the House and Senate, Republicans are said to be considering a wide variety of people to replace Douglas Elmendorf as the next director of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).  Many of those under consideration come from think tanks, including:

  • Donald Marron, Fellow and Director of Economic Policy Initiatives at Urban Institute
  • G. William Hoagland, Senior Vice President, Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC)
  • Alan Viard, Resident Scholar, American Enterprise Institute (AEI)
  • John Cogan, Leonard and Shirley Ely Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution
  • James Capretta, Visiting Fellow, AEI

Elmendorf himself is part of a think tank power couple.  He used to be a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, and his wife Karen Dynan also used to work at Brookings.

In other words, Republicans may be trying to shift the helm of the CBO from being steered by a liberal think tanker to a more conservative think tanker.  [Yes, we know that the Urban Institute is not exactly a bastion of conservative thinking...]

Here is what Charles Blahous (Senior Research Fellow at the Mercatus Center; Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution; and contributor at e21, the economics portal of the Manhattan Institute) has to say about picking the next CBO head.

Does the new CBO Director need to be a Ph.D. or think tanker to be taken seriously?

Monday, February 2, 2015

New Think Tank Report Rocks Biofuel World

A new report by the World Resources Institute (WRI) says that Western governments need to seriously reconsider their reliance on biofuels.  Here is more from the New York Times:
Western governments have made a wrong turn in energy policy by supporting the large-scale conversion of plants into fuel and should reconsider that strategy, according to a new report from a prominent environmental think tank.
Turning plant matter into liquid fuel or electricity is so inefficient that the approach is unlikely ever to supply a substantial fraction of global energy demand, the report found. It added that continuing to pursue this strategy — which has already led to billions of dollars of investment — is likely to use up vast tracts of fertile land that could be devoted to helping feed the world’s growing population.
Some types of biofuels do make environmental sense, the report found, particularly those made from wastes like sawdust, tree trimmings and cornstalks. But their potential is limited, and these fuels should probably be used in airplanes, for which there is no alternative power source that could reduce emissions.

The full WRI paper can be found here, and a WRI blog post about it can be found here.

The University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings just ranked WRI as the 15th best think tank in the United States for 2014.  WRI was also ranked as the world's top environmental think tank.