Wednesday, May 27, 2015

JPMorgan Starts New Think Tank

JPMorgan Chase & Co. has just launched a new think tank called the JPMorgan Chase Institute, dedicated to delivering data-rich analysis and expert insights for the public good.  Here is more from their mission statement:
The mission of the JPMorgan Chase Institute is to help decision makers – policymakers, businesses, and nonprofit leaders – appreciate the scale, granularity, diversity, and interconnectedness of the global economic system and use better facts, real-time data and thoughtful analysis to make smarter decisions to advance global prosperity.

The President and CEO of the think tank is Diana Farrell, who was previously the Global Head of the McKinsey Center for Government.  She also served in the White House as Deputy Director of the National Economic Council (NEC) and Deputy Assistant to the President on Economic Policy from 2009-2011.  Prior to serving in the Obama Administration she was head of the McKinsey Global Institute.

Here is the think tank's inaugural report, entitled "Weathering Volatility: Big Data on the Financial Ups and Downs of U.S. Individuals."

Here is what the International Business Times says about the new think tank:
The institute isn't your typical corporate stab at social responsibility. It has access to a uniquely vast trove of customer data: Chase’s checking and savings accounts. Moored to the largest American bank by assets, the think tank says it can put "the broad spectrum of data within the firm to use for the public good.”
The institute's opening comes as major financial institutions try to burnish public reputations still damaged from the fallout of the financial crisis and subsequent scandals. Just a day before the JPMorgan Chase Institute announced itself to the world, the bank pleaded guilty, with several other firms, to criminal antitrust violations related to foreign exchange rigging.

Here is a press release on the new think tank.  Here is what Fortune has to say.

JPMorgan Chase is not going blindly into the think tank world.  It has experience in the think tank world, including having a joint project with the Brookings Institution called the Global Cities Initiative (which it has advertised in Politico).

Corporate think tanks are quite popular in the US and several other countries these days.  A list of the best for-profit (corporate) think tanks can be found here.  Currently, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) is the top for-profit think tank, followed by McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), and Google Ideas.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Osama Bin Laden Loved US Think Tanks

This week the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) released a tranche of documents recovered during the raid of Osama bin Laden's compound.  Among the documents released were 40 think tank and "other studies."

Following is the list of think tank papers that Bin Laden apparently had in his possession:

  • Canadian Institute of Strategic Studies, “African Jihad: Al-Qaeda in Darfur”
  • Carnegie Papers, “Pakistan: The Myth of an Islamist Peril” by Frederic Grare (2006)
  • Carnegie Papers, “Islam, Militarism, and the 2007-2008 Elections in Pakistan” by Frederic Grare (2006)
  • Carnegie Papers, “Pakistan-Afghanistan Relations in the Post-9/11 Era” by Frederic Grare (2006)
  • Chatham House, “Al-Qaeda Five Years On” by Maha Azzam (Sept 2006)
  • Chatham House, “Security, Terrorism and the UK” (July 2005)
  • Heritage Foundation, “The Evolving Al-Qaeda Threat” by James Phillips (17 March 2006)
  • Hudson Institute, “Jihad Ideology in Light of Contemporary Fatwas” by Shmuel Bar (August 2006)
  • Jamestown Foundation, Report on Turkish Arms Industry (June 2008)
  • Jamestown Foundation, Terrorism Focus (issues from 8 Jan 2008, 1 July 2008, 16 July 2008, 23 July 2008, 5 Aug 2008, 2 Sept 2008, 10 Sept 2008, 18 Sept 2008, 24 Sept 2008, 1 Oct 2008, 22 Oct 2008, 30 Oct 2008, 5 Nov 2008, 21 Jan 2009, 19 Feb 2009, 25 Feb 2009)
  • Jamestown Foundation, Terrorism Monitor (issues from 2 Nov 2006, 2 Feb 2007, 7 March 2008, 24 March 2008, 3 Apr 2008, 17 Apr 2008, 1 May 2008, 15 May 2008, 29 May 2008, 12 June 2008, 26 June 2008, 10 July 2008, 25 July 2008, 29 July 2008, 11 Aug 2008, 4 Sept 2008, 22 Sept 2008, 24 Oct 2008, 9 Jan 2009, 10 Feb 2009, 3 March 2009, 7 March 2009, 13 March 2009, 14 Jan 2010, 11 March 2010, 19 March 2010)
  • RAND, Beyond Al-Qaeda (Parts 1 and 2)
  • RAND, Combating Al-Qaeda and the Militant Islamic Threat by Bruce Hoffman
  • RAND, Rethinking Counterinsurgency (2008)
  • RAND, Al-Qaeda: Trends in Terrorism and Future Potentialities by Bruce Hoffman (2003)

Out of the think tank reports, Jamestown Foundation's seemed to have been the most widely read, followed by reports from RAND Corporation (4), Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (3), and Chatham House (2).  Bin Laden had possession of only one think tank paper from each of the following think tanks: Canadian Institute of Strategic Studies, Heritage Foundation, and the Hudson Institute

Bin Laden seems to have been one of the few people actually reading think tank reports...

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Interns and the Revolving Doors of DC Think Tanks

Roll Call's "Hill Navigator" has a new piece that addresses whether think tanks are good places for young people to start a career in Washington, DC.  The piece essentially says yes, but suggests that it is what you make of the internship/job at the think tank that really counts.

Here is the advice given:
  • Do good work. Be the person who takes on any assignment, doesn’t monopolize credit and completes tasks both large and small with care and precision. It is an added bonus if you can demonstrate an enthusiasm for the principles behind the organization. Want some more details on how to ace your internship? Read Roll Call’s free eBook: “Best Intern Ever.”
  • Follow the leader. Looking to make a particular move? Find someone who has come before you who has done so and speak with him or her. See the options previously available and how you might replicate that path. Follow up with a thank you note, preferably handwritten. 
  • Meet everyone, even the interns. It is easy to befriend interns when you are one. Keep in mind that this summer’s interns are next year’s staff assistants. By the time you’re graduating school they might be in a position to recommend you for paying work. Keep in touch. This goes beyond being Facebook friends. Find ways to connect while you are back at school. 
  • Don’t reinvent the wheel. You’ve landed at a think tank that has strong connections and knows how to get its people on Capitol Hill. Many Capitol Hill offices promote from within, and staffers of all stripes tend to look fondly on the first employer that gave them a shot, especially one that helped them land their current position. Hopefully a similar trajectory will be in your future as well.

And if you are searching for a think tank job, you may be happy to hear that think tank salaries are rising.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Think Tank Quickies (#177)

  • Maajid Nawaz, a former Islamist, and co-founder and chairman of think tank Quilliam, does not win a seat in the UK parliament.
  • State Dept. official Nisha Desai Biswal praises CSIS; praises its analysis and policy recommendations.
  • Think tankers on the lobbying "arms race."
  • CFR's Council of Councils holds 4th annual conference to assess the state of global governance; Marco Rubio "shows his prowess" at CFR, via Jennifer Rubin.
  • Why is AEI President Arthur Brooks so good at fundraising?
  • Think tank fundraising email offers "disconcerting glimpse" into how Washington works.
  • DC think tanks make big push for defense reforms.
  • Center for Talent Innovation, a think tank founded by economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett, releases study on ambitions of black women.
  • CQ Weekly profiles CEIP President William Burns in April 20 edition; says he is still advising Obama on talks with Iran.
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders: "Critics of raising the capital gains tax are often paid by corporate think tanks."

A "Dirty Little Secret" of Washington Think Tanks?

Brent Budowsky of the New York Observer just penned a piece entitled "The Stephanopolous Syndrome: 8 Dirty Little Secrets Washington Insiders Don't Want Americans to Know," and one is about think tanks.  Here is an excerpt:
Dirty little secret 7: Almost every day brings forth a major analysis of a front-page issue from a “prestigious think tank.” What we are almost never told is that most of these think tanks receive huge donations from friendly and unfriendly foreign governments, giant foreign and domestic conglomerates, and wealthy political ideologues designed to influence our public debates (and government actions) in ways that are kept secret from voters, viewers and readers.
Several months ago the New York Times published a detailed investigative story listing a number of these think tanks and the sources of their largest donations. When commentaries and analyses are offered by experts who take substantial sums from special interests, shouldn’t we know who pays them to influence us?
Don’t get me wrong. Many think tanks produce high quality work that deserves to gain influence. I would cite the liberal-leaning Center for American Progress and the conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute as often offering superb analysis from different points of view. There are others. But there is also propagandistic work by “experts” paid for by special interests with ulterior motives. I propose this money and these interests should no longer remain a dirty little secret.

Mr. Budowsky formerly served as a policy aide to Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-TX) and legislative director to Rep. Bill Alexander (D-AR).

Monday, May 18, 2015

Are Think Tank Salaries Increasing?

The NonProfit Times recently had a front-page article saying that salaries and benefits are improving as the economy and market conditions foster growth.  So, is your think tank salary increasing?

Here is more:
Nonprofit managers reported awarding average salary increases of 3.13 percent for all staff during 2014, up ever so slightly from 3.11 percent the previous year. Executives saw an average hike of 3.44 percent. Total cash compensation costs as a percentage of the operating budget has typically averaged about 38 percent during the past several years of the study.
The average pay hike for respondents during the past five years of salary surveys is just less than 3 percent. The largest organizations ($50 million or more operating budgets) had the highest average of that time, 3.61 percent, pulled up by a high of 8.27 percent last year. The average increase among other nonprofits of varying sized operating budgets — from less than $500,000 to less than $50 million — ranged from 2.39 percent to 3.84 percent.
The average total cash compensation for chief executive officers has fluctuated during the past five years, ranging from $110,599 (2011) to $122,286 (2013). The average for 2014 was $113,562, slightly less than the five-year average of $114,544. The five-year average tenure for a CEO was 11.3 years with an organization.

Here is a Think Tank Watch update from last year on pay at think tanks.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

New Think Tank Report to Drive 2016 Debate for Democrats

The New York-based think tank Roosevelt Institute has just published a new report that will likely drive the 2016 Democratic debate on the economy, wealth, taxes, jobs and a host of other key issues.

The report, which has 37 policy recommendations, is being unveiled today at an event at the National Press Club in Washington, DC featuring Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The 114-page report, entitled "Rewriting the Rules of the American Economy: An Agenda for Growth and Shared Prosperity," was written by Joseph Stiglitz, Chief Economist of the Roosevelt Institute.

The report was co-authored by four other Roosevelt Institute scholars, and received input from a variety of academic and liberal-leaning think tank scholars, including those from Center for Economic Policy Research (CEPR), Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), Washington Center for Equitable Growth, and Economic Policy Institute (EPI).

The New York Times says that the report will likely influence Hillary Clinton's agenda, and it calls the Roosevelt Institute a "liberal think tank with ties to Mrs. Clinton's economic team."

In the Washington Post, Katrina vanden Heuval says that the report is part of the "emerging populist agenda.  Jim Tankersley of the Washington Post says the report is a "new manifesto for fighting inequality," and calls it "very liberal."

More coming soon...

Monday, May 11, 2015

Think Tank Quickies (#176)

  • Quora: What is it like to work at a think tank?
  • Urban Institute event on 5/14: Promoting diversity in our nation's think tanks; On Think Tanks has new series on women in think tanks.
  • Heritage Foundation to score votes for 2016 presidential elections.
  • Corinthian Colleges secretly funded DC think tanks, including AEI.
  • American think tanks manipulate German politics?  Are think tanks (like lobbying) booming in Germany?
  • Libya drops Qorvis, the PR shop whose goal was to ensure Libya's messages reached think tanks.
  • A think tank queen (Heather McGhee) fighting for a seat at DC's table.
  • UAE gets new think tank: Emirati Institute.
  • Bjorn Lomborg row shows why universities are different from think tanks.
  • On 5/12 President Obama participates in discussion with AEI President Arthur Brooks.
  • Third Way President Jon Cowan celebrates 50th b-day at 14th St. condo in DC.

Monday, May 4, 2015

China Sets Up Think Tank in DC to Counter Other Asian Powers

China has set up a new think tank in the Washington, DC-area to counter the influence of other Asian countries at the nearby think tanks.

The new think tank, which is China's first think tank within the Washington Beltway, will reportedly focus on maritime dispute issues in the South China Sea.  Here is more:
The Institute for China-America Studies’ three staff members work from a small office near Ronald Reagan International Airport. Their mission is to research and conduct exchanges on maritime issues and China-U.S. relations, not to represent the Chinese government, according to its executive director, Nong Hong.
But a hurdle for the new Chinese institute is whether it can establish its independence from the Chinese government, which keeps a tight rein on academic institutions and polices research.
At its inaugural conference last month, China’s ambassador to the U.S., Cui Tiankai, gave a keynote address defending China’s efforts to build artificial islands in the South China Sea.
Set up in Arlington, Va., in November, the institute is registered as a corporation in the state, pending approval as a nonprofit, Ms. Hong said. She said she isn’t a Communist Party member and the think tank would be free to do research critical of Chinese policy, as long as it fits within its research programs. “We want to be an independent nonprofit organization here,” she said.
The think tank is, however, an offshoot of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, a government-affiliated body, which also employs Ms. Hong and plays a prominent role in promoting China’s views on maritime issues.

The article goes on to question whether the new think tank will need to register as a "foreign agent" under the US Justice Department's Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).  Those acting on behalf of a foreign government for political purposes must register, but the article notes that the think tank was established by the Hainan Nanhai Research Foundation, which is registered in China as a private foundation.  But that foundation was set up by the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, the government-backed organization that also employs Ms. Hong, according to the WSJ.

The Economist has also reported about the new think tank, saying that its Chinese government connections "clearly have pull."  It notes that Henry Kissinger spoke at at ICAS conference held April 16 in Washington, DC, and China's Ambassador to the US Cui Tiankai attended that event in person.

The think tank is already looking for bigger offices and plans to add a few more resident fellows in the next few years.  Think Tank Watch noticed that they are now looking for a full-time research fellow.

The new website for ICAS can be found here.  The three staff members are listed here.  The advisory board can be found here.   Its partner institutions can be found here.

The establishment of the new Chinese think tank comes as the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) has been using satellite intel to track the Asian islands dispute.  And the governments of Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and others have been spending heavily on Washington think tanks to support their agenda.

The establishment also comes as the Chinese government has just announced that it is setting up as many as 100 national-level think tanks to try to replicate the US think tanks model.