Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Bernanke Joins With PIMCO But Stays Full-Time at Brookings

Another day, and another way for former Federal Reserve Chairman to rake in the dough.  This time, it was just announced that he has joined bond giant PIMCO as a senior advisor.  Here is more:
In an interview, Bernanke, who only last week announced he'd signed on to consult for the hedge fund Citadel, said he will restrict his Wall Street advisory roles to just the two firms. He also works at the Brookings Institution.
"I remain full time at Brookings. I am not an employee of either firm. I am an outside senior advisor," Bernanke, 61, told Reuters.
"This is it," he said.  "There won't be anymore. They (Pimco and Citadel) prefer not having me consult too many firms and I personally think working with two firms will be plenty."

Here is a recent Think Tank Watch piece entitled "Think Tank for Show, Wall Street for Dough," highlighting how Bernanke is at Brookings for the prestige but relies on Wall Street for the real money.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Think Tanker Behind New Book on Clinton's Foreign Cash

That new book on foreign government donations to the Clinton Foundation?  Yup, it was written by a think tanker.

More precisely, the book, titled "Clinton Cash," was written by Peter Schweizer, a former fellow at the conservative think tank Hoover Institution.  His past work while at the think tank can be found here.

Here is more on the Hoover Institution by Ade Adenji, who just wrote a piece for Inside Philanthropy entitled "How the Hoover Institution Vacuums Up Big Conservative Bucks":
Like AEI, Hoover might be described as a moderate conservative think tankin contrast, say, to the Heritage Foundation and other policy shops that push a harder line and have been aligned in recent years with the Tea Party. 
Hoover's moderate positioning makes sense, since Herbert Hoover himself was certainly no doctrinaire conservative and even considered being a Democrat at one time. The Hoover Institution's mission includes principles such as "representative government, private enterprise, peace, and personal freedom" and senior fellows at the institution have included Condoleezza Rice, economist Thomas Sowell, and author Shelby Steele.

Hoover, which is housed within Stanford University, was just ranked as the 19th best think tank in the United States by the University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings.  It was also considered the 4th best university-affiliated think tank in the world.

So, will a sole think tanker bring down the entire Clinton campaign?

Here is Think Tank Watch's most recent piece on Hillary Clinton's use of think tanks.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Think Tank Quickies #175

  • How the Hoover Institution vacuums up big conservative bucks.
  • Hawaii and Texas think tanks unite to push back on Planned Parenthood's sex-ed agenda.
  • Brookings holds US-China think tank summit.
  • China's think tanks need to reach out and connect.
  • America's lobbying addiction, via Brookings. 
  • Atlantic Council announces 2015 Leadership Awardees, including country music singer Toby Keith and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani; welcomes inaugural class of Millennium Fellows; Secretary of State John Kerry promotes US trade agenda at Atlantic Council.
  • Should think tanks be required to disclose donors if they produce reports that might be considered political?
  • Anders Borg, Sweden's former Minister of Finance, joins PIIE as Nonresident Senior Fellow.
  • Rebecca Hersman, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), joins CSIS.
  • Todd Cox, former staffer at the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, joins CAP; Jeff Krehely of Human Rights Campaign (HRC) rejoins CAP.
  • New Wilson Center-Gramsci Institute project on the Italian Communist Party and China.
  • Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi confers with policy experts at USIP.
  • RAND: China not a threat to US national security interests in Africa.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Rick Perry Hires Think Tankers Ahead of 2016 Campaign

Former Texas Governor Rick Perry is beefing up his policy team by hiring from think tank land.  Here is more from Bloomberg Politics:
That effort now includes the hiring of the widely respected Avik Roy, a former health care adviser to Mitt Romney and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, who will become RickPAC's senior adviser, the person said. Also coming on board: Abby McCloskey, whose conservative credentials include work as an economic policy program director for American Enterprise Institute, will head Perry’s national policy team. Brett Fetterly, a graduate student at John Hopkins University who studied under former U.S. Ambassador Eric Edelman, will coordinate Perry’s foreign policy shop.
The Manhattan Institute and AEI are two of the most respected think tanks in conservative circles, and these hires will serve in some quarters as validation of Perry’s heft as both a wonk and a candidate. In his first presidential campaign, Perry gave a number of policy speeches, including on energy, the economy, and national security, that were largely overshadowed by the attention to his late entry, rapid rise, and even more rapid collapse.

It should be mentioned that Eric Edelman (mentioned above), is a Distinguished Fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), and has connections to a variety of other think tanks.

Edelman was also an advisor to Mitt Romney for his 2012 presidential run.

Leaked Docs Reveal Morocco's Influence at US Think Tanks

Here is what The Intercept is reporting:
A controversial cache of what appear to be Moroccan diplomatic documents show how the Moroccan government courted [Hillary] Clinton, built a cooperative relationship with the Secretary of State, and orchestrated the use of consultants, think tanks and other “third-party validators” to advance the North African nation’s goals within elite U.S. political circles.
The use of think tanks, business associations, other “third party validators … with unquestionable credibility,” one cable said, relates to the “peculiarity of the American political system.” Think tanks, the cable continued, “have considerable influence” on government officials, especially because so many former officials move in and out of think tank work. Mentioning the State Department as one agency that could be swayed through think tank advocacy, the memo goes on to state, “our work focuses on the most influential think tanks … across the political spectrum.” The memo lists several think tanks such as the Atlantic Council, the Heritage Foundation and the Hudson Institute.

The cable, which can be read here, is written in French.

Fact: Morocco has 33 think tanks according to the 2015 University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Think Tank Naming Fail

A great lesson was hopefully learned by those who are planning to start a think tank: be careful how you name your think tank, because the acronym could be quite embarrassing.

Unfortunately, it is too late for one new think tank.  This week, Pakistan and China announced that they would launch a joint think tank named Research and Development International (RANDI), which is dedicated to research and development of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

"Randi" happens to be Hindi slang for prostitute.  It is also a heterograph of the English word "randy," which means sexually excited.

Austin Powers would have loved this name (see video here), but many were dumbfounded by the think tank's acronym.

Indians heavily ridiculed the name.  The Nation says that Twitter giggled at it.  A variety of Twitter comments on the think tank's acronym can be found here.  And here is a comic about the think tank.

One joke report said that the think tank has been renamed to RANDI-RONA.  Yet another jokester said that the think tank has pivoted to become a branding agency.  Other reports indicate that the name has already been changed to RADI.

Some have also point out that Pakistan once had a think tank called the Pakistan Institute of Strategic Studies, or PISS.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch piece on the longest think tank acronym.  Another long think tank acronym that we've covered can be found here.  And here is another Think Tank Watch piece on how the ISIS acronym was hurting a think tank's reputation.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Think Tank for Show, Wall Street for Dough

They say that in golf one drives for show and putts for dough.  Well, in the policy wonk world, one works at a think tank for show, and Wall Street for dough.

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is the perfect example.  Bernanke joined the Economic Studies program at the Brookings Institution as a Distinguished Fellow in Residence early last year.  [And he just started a new blog at the think tank.]

Bernanke is likely making a low six-digit salary at Brookings, the world's #1-ranked think tank.  Considering that pittance of a salary and the fact that he can't seem to get a refi on his mortgage, he has decided to rake in some real money by joining with hedge fund Citadel.

Since he has been making $250,000+ on many of his speeches, it is likely that Bernanke will pull down seven figures with his new gig.  That will make him one of the wealthiest think tankers around.  Now THAT is how it's done.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Clinton's Policy Team to be Led by CAP Alum

It was recently announced that Hillary Clinton has named three senior policy advisers to lead the development of her agenda for her 2016 presidential campaign.  Leading that team will be Maya Harris, a former Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress (CAP).

Of course, there will be lots of CAP-affiliated people on Clinton's team.  Here is more from Politico:
The three policy leaders will be the official top wonks, but they aren’t the only Clinton advisers with policy backgrounds. John Podesta, the campaign chairman, headed President Barack Obama’s executive action agenda until earlier this year and was the founder of the Center for American Progress. Clinton’s also likely to keep getting informal advice from Neera Tanden, the current president of CAP and a longtime adviser.
And Tony Carrk, the campaign research director, has a background in health care policy, particularly Obamacare. He was the director of the “health care war room” at the CAP Action Fund.

Here is a biography of Maya Harris from CAP.  Ezra Klein of Vox has called Harris "Clinton's most interesting hire yet," and noted that she published only a single paper while at the think tank.  Klein thinks that the paper, titled "Women of Color: A Growing Force in the American Electorate," may prove to be "key to Clinton's 2016 efforts to hold, and even expand, Obama's coalition."

As Think Tank Watch noted, Hillary Clinton recently tested one of her possible vice presidential running mates at CAP.

And while CAP may be Clinton's go-to think tank for ideas and talent, it is not the only think tank she will be relying on.

The Clinton campaign recently said that it relied on a study by the union-backed Economic Policy Institute (EPI) when Clinton said that CEO's make 300 times more than the American worker.  A link to that EPI study, which was authored by Lawrence Mishel and Alyssa Davis, can be found here.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Think Tank Quickies #173

  • Are computers trawling think tank report and Twitter feeds for stocks picks?
  • Think tank a new training ground for Obama's green team. 
  • John Feffer: "My think tank [IPS] doesn't take any government funding, domestic or foreign, and this ensures our independence."  No mention of corporate money...
  • Caixin: China has think tank quantity, but not quality. 
  • Think tanks boosting insurance amid increasing lawsuits? 
  • The Onion on Marco Rubio's birthplace: "A closed-door think tank strategy session in 2010.
  • Third Way: Routine jobs not returning as they used to. 
  • European think tanks CIGI and Chatham House urge new social pact on Internet privacy. 
  • US Gen. Bennet Sacolick interviewing think tankers regarding hostage rescue plans.
  • New Israel Fund is seed-funding think tanks, including Mitvim.
  • Flashback: Rethinking the think tank will a snowball experiment, via Sam Petulla.
  • Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi gives speech at CSIS today.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Annoying Habits of Think Tank Donors

The Wall Street Journal has a new piece entitled "Annoying Habits of Charitable Donors," and Think Tank Watch is aware of many think tank donors who give money to think tanks but make the policy shop's life a complete nightmare.

So, listen up donors, and try to avoid these mistakes:
  • Giving unwanted gifts: No, Brookings does not need your taxidermy collection from 1953.
  • Giving the wrong gifts: No, Heritage does not need your paper mache donkey.
  • Asking for a lot for a little: No, Council on Foreign Relations will not let you have access to all of its scholars for your donation of $19.99.
  • Micromanaging: No, American Enterprise Institute does not want to receive your call every hour insisting on updates about who is attending your sponsored event.
  • Expecting personal favors: No, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace will not write a foreign policy paper for your kid if you start to donate.
  • Making false promises: No, the Center for Strategic and International Studies will not be  happy if you pledge $25 million for a new building and renege on that promise.
  • Restricting gifts: No, Center for American Progress does not like it when you give a huge donation but it should only be used to study the Democrats of northern Borneo.
  • Being a know-it-all: No, Cato Institute does not want to hear you rant about libertarian ideals.

More details about each of these situations can be found here.

Of course, think tank donors are not always at fault.  Think tanks also need to be on their best behavior...

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Many Think Tankers Among 100 Most Influential Economists

A new list of the 100 most influential economic bloggers on Twitter has just been created, and Think Tank Watch has just scoured the list to pull out the most influential think tank economists.  They include (in no particular order):

  • Barry Eichengreen, National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) Research Associate, Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) Research Fellow
  • David Frum, Chairman of Policy Exchange
  • David Wessel, Director, Hutchins Center on Fiscal & Monetary Policy, Brookings institution
  • Dean Baker, Co-director of CEPR
  • Adam Posen, President of Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE)
  • Donald Marron,  Director of Economic Policy Initiatives & Institute Fellow at Urban Institute
  • Douglas Holtz-Eakin, President of the American Action Forum (AAF)
  • James Pethokoukis, Fellow at American Enterprise Institute (AEI)
  • Jared Bernstein, Senior Fellow, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP)
  • Justin Wolfers, Senior Fellow at PIIE and Research Associate at NBER
  • Peter Orszag, Adjunct Senior Fellow at Council on Foreign Relations (CFR)
  • Robert Reich, co-founder of the Economic Policy Institute (EPI)
  • Simon Johnson, Senior Fellow at PIIE and Research Associate at NBER
  • Strobe Talbott, President of Brookings Institution
  • Tyler Cowen, Chairman and General Director of the Mercatus Center
  • Tony Fratto, member of Partners Council at Center for Global Development (CGD)
  • William Easterly, Research Associate at NBER, and Nonresident Senior Fellow at Brookings
  • Will Wilkinson, former Managing Editor of Cato Institute's Cato Unbound
  • Robert Shiller, Research Associate at NBER
  • Paul Romer, Research Associate at NBER; previously worked for the Hoover Institution
  • Mike Konczal, Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute
  • Matthew Klein, previously a Research Associate at CFR
  • Larry Summers, Distinguished Senior Fellow at Center for American Progress (CAP), and Board Chair at CGD
  • Austan Goolsbee, Distinguished Senior Fellow at CAP; Research Associate at NBER
  • Branko Milanovic, External Fellow at CGD, and previously a Senior Associate at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP)
  • Cass Sunstein, Nonresident Senior Fellow at Brookings

Another list of top-ranked economists can be found at IDEAS, a Research Papers in Economics (RePEc) service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post on the rankings of top economic think tanks.

In the most recent University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings, the top 10 domestic economic policy think tanks were:
  1. Brookings
  2. NBER
  3. Adam Smith Institute (ASI)
  4. PIIE
  5. Cato Institute
  6. Bruegel
  7. RAND Corporation
  8. German Institute for Economic Research
  9. Heritage Foundation
  10. CAP
The top 10 international economic policy think tanks were:
  1. PIIE
  2. Brookings
  3. Bruegel
  4. NBER
  5. ASI
  6. RAND Corporation
  7. Chatham House
  8. Institute of World Economy and International Relations
  9. Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)
  10. American Enterprise Institute

Update: The Economist has done its own ranking of economists (using Appinions, a startup that analyzes influence online) and has published its list of the 25 top economists, many of which are think tankers.

Monday, April 13, 2015

CSIS Using Satellite Intel to Track Asian Islands Dispute

The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) recently landed on the front page of The New York Times for satellite images it has analyzed apparently showing that China has been building up land mass in disputed island territories in the South China Sea.  Here is an excerpt:

China has long asserted ownership of the archipelago in the South China Sea known as the Spratly Islands, also claimed by at least three other countries, including the Philippines, an American ally. But the series of detailed photographs taken of Mischief Reef shows the remarkable speed, scale and ambition of China’s effort to literally gain ground in the dispute.
The photographs show that since January, China has been dredging enormous amounts of sand from around the reef and using it to build up land mass — what military analysts at the Pentagon are calling “facts on the water” — hundreds of miles from the Chinese mainland.

Here is China's response to the satellite images, which were taken by DigitalGlobe, a commercial satellite imagery provider, and then analyzed by CSIS.

More specifically, the analysis is being done by CSIS's Asia Transparency Maritime Initiative (AMTI), which the think tank describes as an "interactive, regularly-updated source for information, analysis, and policy exchange on maritime security issues in Asia."  The think tank also says that AMTI was "conceived and designed" by CSIS and takes no position on territorial or maritime claims.

AMTI says that it generally gets its information from news sources and various research institutes and NGOs, but in certain instances it "may be asked to keep the source of a particular piece of information confidential," suggesting that the US or other foreign governments may be providing it with some information.

CSIS receives funding from a variety of governments, including the US government, and governments of Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Singapore, and Vietnam, among others.

A variety of former US government security and intelligence officials are advisors and/or contributors to the program.

AMTI says that the source of its funding is from CSIS's Asia Program, as well as a start-up grant from the think tank's Brzezinski Institute of Geostrategy.  It also says it is soliciting funds from governments in Asia and corporations and foundations.

AMTI's "Island Tracker" can be viewed here.  And here are 18 maps that explain maritime security in Asia.

The NYT also commented about the images in an editorial on April 11.

CSIS was recently ranked as the world's top defense and national security think tank by the 2015 University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Joe Scarborough Lashes Out at Think Tanks

On April 8, former Republican congressman Joe Scarborough unleashed a fury of rage at think tanks in Washington, DC who he says promote ongoing war activities in Afghanistan:
For people in think tanks in Washington, DC who are sitting there and trying to calculate this out, let them go [to Afghanistan].  Let them go over there.  Let their sons and daughters go over there.  When they want to sit and be chicken hawks and talk about how America needs to be all over the world, let them go and let them send their families.  It so easy for someone at the Brookings Institute [sic], not that Brookings would do this, but at a think tank or Heritage or anywhere...they say we need to stay in Afghanistan as long as it takes.

A video can be watched here.  It should be noted that think tanks have also lashed out at Joe Scarborough.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Think Tank Quickies #172

  • Journalist dies at think tank event.
  • Brookings on the impact of Sesame Street around the world.
  • Robert Reich: Think tanks are kissing wealthy posteriors as never before.
  • Russian hackers believed to be behind recent State Department and White House breaches also attacked think tanks.
  • David Callahan: "How objective can [the think tank] PIIE be on global economic policy when most of its funding comes from corporations with a strong financial stake in the issues the institute works on?"
  • Working paper on establishing government think tanks, via Arnaldo Pellini.
  • Lots of think tanks endorsing Comcast deal getting paid to do so?
  • Ayaan Hirsi Ali got rejected from liberal think tanks so started working for AEI.
  • Chris Cillizza called "one man think tank" in high school.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Libya Paying Big Bucks for Outreach to US Think Tanks

The public relations and advertising firm Qorvis MSLGroup has just signed a $1 million contract to provide PR services to the Libyan Embassy in Washington, DC, and part of the contract includes outreach to think tanks.

Here is more from O'Dwyers:
[Quorvis] will work to "open channels of communication" through government relations and organize meetings for Libyan officials, according to its contract.
Outreach is slated with reporters and US officials to ensure Libya's messages reach the White House, media, think tanks and Capitol Hill.
Qorvis will develop messages, forge a rapid response team and provide regular briefings on conditions in Libya.
The firm is in line for $50K retainers for the first three months and $100K payments for the following nine months. Monthly expenses are capped at $12,500.

Qorvis MSLGroup, which is owned by Publicis, works with a variety of other foreign governments, including the Bahrian, Sri Lanka, the British Embassy, Fiji, Cyprus, Saudi Arabia, and the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq.

PR firms and lobbying firms often reach out to think tanks in order to influence the narrative of current issues, business concerns, and other purposes.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Think Tank Quickies (#171)

  • Carly Fiorina speaks at CSIS, and so does World Bank President Jim Yong Kim (again).
  • Second African Think Tank Summit starts in Addis Ababa. 
  • AEI economist John Makin dies; "broke barrier of being a serious academic who went to the think tank world."
  • Heritage Foundation hires former DIA Director David Shedd as Visiting Distinguished Fellow; hires two from Capitol Hill for economic posts; hosts former Mexican President Vicente Fox.
  • AEI's Danielle Pletka discusses collaboration within think tank community.
  • NSC official Philip Gordon joins CFR as Senior Fellow; new hub for CFR events.
  • Colonel Mark Cancian (USMC, Ret.) joins CSIS's International Security Program.
  • Former White House assistant Shilpa Phadke joins CAP as Senior Director of Women's Initiatives.
  • Atlantic Council holds 3rd annual Student Cyber Policy Competition; honors Afghan President Ashraf Ghani; hires Senior Director of Pew Charitable Trusts, John Haederle.
  • Wilson Center's new Polar Initiative to be headed by David Biette.
  • CNAS launches The NextWare Sessions to provide method for improved cybersecurity collaboration.
  • AEI says don't be a bachelor.

Monday, April 6, 2015

An Analysis of Some DC Think Tanks

This is an excerpt from a piece just written by Llewellyn King, the Executive Producer and Host of White House Chronicle and columnist for Hearst-NYT Syndicate:
Among Washington think tanks, we know what to expect from the Brookings Institution: earnest, slightly left-of-center analysis of major issues. Likewise, we know that the Center for Strategic and International Studies will do the same job with a right-of-center shading, and a greater emphasis on defense and geopolitics.
What the tanks provide is support for political and policy views; detailed argument in favor of a known point of view. By and large, the verdict is in before the trial has begun.
There a few exceptions, house contrarians. The most notable is Norman Ornstein, who goes his own way at the conservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI). Ornstein, hugely respected as an analyst and historian of Congress, often expresses opinions in articles and books which seem to be wildly at odds with the orthodoxy of AEI.
A less-celebrated role of the thinks tanks is as resting places for the political elite when their party is out of power. Former U.N. ambassador John Bolton, rumored to be favored as a future Republican secretary of state, is hosted at AEI. National Security Adviser Susan Rice was comfortable at Brookings between service in the Clinton and he Obama administrations. At any time, dozens of possible office holders reside at the Washington think tanks, building reputations and waiting.

Mr. King notes that he may be transforming the Boston Global Forum (BGF) into a think tank. BGF is led by former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis and Nguyen Anh Tuan.  He calls the would-be think tank "East Coat tony and very energetic," but notes that funding at this point is still uncertain.

For the record, Massachusetts already has 176 think tanks, the most of any state/federal district except Washington, DC, which has a whopping 396 think tanks and counting.

Think Tank Quote of the Week: Real Housewives of Atlanta

The think tank quote of the week comes from Jennifer Lind-Westbrook, a contributing writer of BuddyTV, who explained the brain trusts of the reality TV show The Real Housewives of Atlanta:
When the ladies aren't fighting, they spend a whole lot of time discussing each other's ass-ets. Porsha and Demetria put their ample bottoms to the test in a twerk-off, and while Porsha may have more junk in the trunk -- Kandi's words, not mine -- Demetria has a leg up in knowing how to shake what her mama gave her. I have to say, these ladies are in no risk of being recruited by any think tanks in the near future.

Talking about Atlanta, the US state of Georgia has 29 think tanks (the country of Georgia only has 14), so there are certainly plenty of opportunities for any of the housewife stars to start a new think tank career...

Friday, April 3, 2015

US Gov't Official Touts US Think Tanks

Does America have the world's best think tanks?  According to the United States government it (probably) does.

At a National Bureau of Asian Research (NBR) roundtable discussion today, Daniel Russel, Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said that "the strength of America's academic community and think tanks is envied around the world."

Think Tank Watch will not weigh in on which country has the best think tanks (we don't want to start WWIII this Friday morning, and plus, one can just check out the US-centric UPenn think tank rankings for some "insight"), but we do know that the US has the most think tanks of any country.

As of early 2015, the US had 1,830 think tanks, more than four times the next closest country (China), which has "only" 429 think tanks.  The United Kingdom has the third largest number of think tanks at 287.

Please send Think Tank Watch your thoughts on which country has the best think tanks and why.

Think Tank Quickies (#170)

Fmr. Fed Chair Ben Bernanke Starts Blogging at Brookings

Former US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has started blogging at the Brookings Institution, where he is a Distinguished Fellow in Residence with the think tank's Economic Studies Program.

The blog, which is simply called "Ben Bernanke's Blog," only has a few posts so far but appears quite influential.  The Washington Post says that Bernanke might currently be having the "world's most important blog fight" with former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers on low interest rates.  Here is more on that from Bloomberg.

[Larry Summers is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at competing think tank Center for American Progress (CAP), but he blogs elsewhere.]

Of course, the blog is also getting some pushback.  Here is what Bernanke should blog about.  Forbes has called the new blog "insightful."  NBC News asks if the blog is part of his mission.

Washington Post editorial cartoonist Tom Toles is not impressed, saying that the blog will just be "more background hum as we sleepwalk our way into our already manifest dystopian future."

Here is Bernanke's inaugural post, which states that now he is a civilian again, he can once again comment on economic and financial issues without his words being put under the microscope by Fed watchers.

So will Bernanke's blog be the most popular at Brookings?  According to the think tank's site, he is in competition with 14 other Brookings blogs, and that doesn't include one blog (Lawfare) that is offsite.

In other related Bernanke-think tank news, earlier this week he gave a keynote speech at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP).

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Foreign Contributions to Think Tanks Now Searchable

Investigative reporter Brooke Williams, who helped write the influential New York Times piece last year titled "Foreign Powers Buy Influence at Think Tanks," has just created a new website (currently in beta) where one can search and explore foreign government contributions to think tanks.

This past weekend, Ms. Williams led a team called "Open Think Tanks" which worked to create the new website as part of a hackathon at the MIT Media Lab.  The team will be among those presenting their solutions for reducing institutional corruption at a conference at Harvard Law School later this spring.

According to the new site (, it is the first-ever searchable database of foreign government donations to major think tanks in the United States.  It is important to note that it is not comprehensive as some think tanks do not disclose their donors and some governments to not disclose their grant details.

Here are some more details:
Most of the data comes from the think tanks' voluntary disclosures in their annual reports and on their websites. Some of the data comes from the government itself, via public records requests, while others come from Department of Justice filings under the Foreign Agent Registration Act. In one case, a think tank provided the data by email upon request.
Many records of donations do not include amounts. In most cases, it is also impossible to know exactly when the donation was made.
In other words, this tool shows financial relationships rather than detailed transactions.

Through the site, one can also search so-called "Truth in Testimony" reports filed with congressional committees since January 1, 2015.  In the beginning of this year, new rules went into effect requiring those who testify to disclose whether they (or institution they represent) have received money from foreign governments.

The Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University provided funding for the project.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Politico Buys Think Tank Watch

Think Tank Watch has just been acquired by Politico.  We thank readers for three years of loyalty.  Although not finalized yet, we plan to open a new think tank on think tanks.

Oh, um, April Fools.