Friday, October 30, 2015

Think Tank Quickies (#196)

  • In National Review, AEI's Michael Strain lists his favorite quotes that Think Tank Watch aggregated from the Ezra Klein interview with AEI head Arthur Brooks.
  • Map: Right-wing think tanks in the US.
  • Third Way Vice President Lanae Erickson Hatalsky appointed to President's Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Parnterships.
  • Earlier this year, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) joined Third Way as Honorary Senate Co-Chairs, joining Sens. Shaheen, Coons, Carper, and McCaskill.  Reps. Suzan DelBene (D-WA), Scott Peters (D-CA), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) became Honorary House Co-Chairs, joining Reps. Clyburn, Kind, Crowley, and Polis.
  • Under outgoing CEO Michael Grebe, Bradley Foundation has supported an infrastructure of conservative think tanks. 
  • Former USTR official Claire Reade becomes Non-Resident Senior Associate on the Freeman Chair in China Studies at CSIS. 
  • Trying to crack open Congress's confidential think tank after a century of secrecy. 
  • Brookings: Fighting crime with Daylight Savings Time (DST).
  • Petitioning Center for American Progress (CAP) to recognize disability as a demographic.
  • 43 think tanks from 27 countries joined Silk Road Think Tank Network (SiLKS), co-founded by CIRSD and China's Development Research Center (DRC).

Thursday, October 29, 2015

RAND Makes Washingtonian's "Best Places to Work" List

The November 2015 edition of the Washingtonian has its annual list of best places to work, and one think tank made the list: RAND Corporation.  Here is what it says:
The 67-year-old institution is known for its policy research, which often lands in the news.  Employees might study the rise of militant Islam, marijuana legalization, or flood risk in coastal communities.  In 2014, Rand's findings on rates of sexual assault in the military led the Defense Department to announce new initiatives.  Employees of this California-based nonprofit - 380 work out of an office in Pentagon City - say they like doing work that can make a difference.  They also appreciate the flexibility they're given - and the benefits, which include a contribution equaling 5 to 9 percent of salary to their retirement plan.  Perk: To encourage work/life balance, employees are paid an extra 5 percent for every vacation day taken.

It a press release, RAND notes that it actually pays employees more than time-and-a-half ("1.65 times normal salary, to be precise") when they take vacation.  The think tank also notes that it had previously been selected as a "Great Place to Work" by Washingtonian in 2007 and received an honorable mention in 2009.

On the subject of RAND, The Washington Post recently had a piece outlining some of the fascinating history of the think tank and its deep connection to DARPA.

RAND was recently named as the world's 7th best think tank by the annual University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings.  It was ranked as the 6th best think tank in the United States, and the world's second best think tank for defense and national security issues.  It was also ranked as the world's second best education policy think tank, and the world's second best domestic health policy think tank.  Among other things, it was also ranked as having the world's best transdisciplinary research program, and having the world's best policy-oriented public programs.

Rothkopf: Your Bold Think Tanks Idea Means no Government Job

Here is what David Rothkopf says about modern day think tanks in his new TED talk:
...And the other problems came from the fact that in Washington and in many capitals right now, we're in a creativity crisis. In Washington, in think tanks, where people are supposed to be thinking of new ideas, you don't get bold new ideas, because if you offer up a bold new idea, not only are you attacked on Twitter, but you will not get confirmed in a government job. Because we are reactive to the heightened venom of the political debate, you get governments that have an us-versus-them mentality, tiny groups of people making decisions. When you sit in a room with a small group of people making decisions, what do you get? You get groupthink. Everybody has the same worldview, and any view from outside of the group is seen as a threat. That's a danger. You also have processes that become reactive to news cycles. And so the parts of the U.S. government that do foresight, that look forward, that do strategy -- the parts in other governments that do this -- can't do it, because they're reacting to the news cycle. And so we're not looking ahead.

This is not the first time that Rothkopf has taken a swipe at think tanks.  Last year, Think Tank Watch wrote about how Rothkopf thinks that little bold thinking goes on at US think tanks.

And Rothkopf is not the only one making this argument.  For example, Didier Jacobs just wrote a piece in Foreign Policy about groupthink at think tanks.

Mr. Rothkopf, who is CEO and Editor of the FP Group, has a deep connection to a variety of think tanks.  For example, he is a Visiting Scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP), and is on the International Advisory Council of US Institute of Peace (USIP).  He was also on the Advisory Committee of the Center for Global Development (CGD), and he is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Netanyahu's Think Tank Balancing Act: AEI & CAP

When heads of state and foreign leaders come to Washington, it is customary for them these days to do a bit of the think tank circuit.

As Think Tank Watch reported earlier, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanhayu will be coming to the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute (AEI) on November 9 to pick up the 2015 Irving Kristol Award.

But in a new twist, he will also be visiting the liberal Center for American Progress (CAP), a think tank with extremely close ties to the Clintons and the Obama Administration.  Here is more from Foreign Policy:
Call it think tank diplomacy.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is on his way to Washington for a Nov. 9 meeting with President Barack Obama — the first between the two leaders since they engaged in a bruising and protracted feud over the Iran nuclear deal.
Netanyahu has been under pressure to try to repair his battered relationship with Obama and other leading Democrats and raised eyebrows when he scheduled an event at the conservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI) for the same day. Perhaps mindful of the poor optics, Netanyahu has settled on a simple way of trying to defuse the controversy: giving an address to the liberal Center for American Progress, which announced Tuesday that it, too, would host the Israeli leader during his November visit.
The decision to visit the liberal think tank is being welcomed by some pro-Israel Democrats, who have urged Netanyahu to try to strengthen his ties to the American left. Critics of the hard-line leader, though, said they doubted he’d use the address to announce any substantive policy shifts.
Initial liberal complaints about Netanyahu’s upcoming visit emerged when the Israeli government announced that the prime minister would visit AEI the same day as his meeting at the White House. AEI is a prominent conservative think tank in Washington that routinely blasts Obama’s policies and maintains relationships with a wide array of veterans of the George W. Bush administration. In September, it hosted former Vice President Dick Cheney, who said the Iran deal was “madness.”
The center’s decision to host Netanyahu has rankled some employees of the progressive research organization. “I’m not thrilled with the idea of giving Netanyahu a platform, but as long as his ideas are challenged in an open way, I think it’s healthy,” said an employee who works in the center’s network.

The Huffington Post has some pretty in-depth reporting on how CAP was able to land Netanyahu for a policy address.  The general conclusion is that it took a lot of lobbying from the Israeli Embassy as well as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).  Here is more:
As part of the tour, the Israeli government pushed hard for an invite to the Center for American Progress and landed an event at the progressive institution on Nov. 10, the day after Netanyahu has a scheduled meeting with Obama. The embassy's push for the invite, sources familiar with the lobbying said, was joined by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which also applied pressure to CAP to allow Netanyahu to speak.
Some current and former CAP employees were disappointed by the news of Netanyahu’s upcoming visit, which was first floated Tuesday by the Jewish Insider, a newsletter on Jewish politics. Multiple sources confirmed the news to The Huffington Post. (Tanden declined to comment.)
“He’s looking for that progressive validation,” said a former CAP staffer, “and they’re basically validating a guy who race-baited during his election and has disavowed the two-state solution, which is CAP’s own prior work."
 “This is someone who is an enemy of the progressive agenda, who has targeted Israeli human rights organizations throughout his term, and was re-elected on the back of blatant anti-Arab race-baiting,” echoed Matt Duss, who used to work at CAP and now heads the Foundation for Middle East Peace. “The idea that CAP would agree to give him bipartisan cover is really disappointing.”
As part of the effort to restore Netanyahu’s clout with Democrats, the Israeli embassy reached out to Tanden, the president of CAP, requesting the institution host the prime minister during his November trip. AIPAC, which has paid for multiple CAP employees to visit Israel, followed up to pressure the think tank on the request.
CAP’s relationship with AIPAC and its allies is fraught. Three years ago, CAP employed policy analyst Matt Duss, and its publication ThinkProgress employed Ali Gharib and Eli Clifton; all three wrote controversial pieces challenging the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories. Pro-Israel lobbyists pushed hard against CAP, and all three felt the pressure and have since left.
Some former staffers have criticized CAP for not engaging aggressively enough in the Iran debate, a contention those involved in the fight say is simply inaccurate, and doesn't account for both its public statements and behind-the-scenes work. 

Netanyahu is among many of the world's prime ministers and presidents who have recently visited Washington, DC's top think tanks.  For example, on October 27, Indonesian President Joko Widodo spoke at the Brookings Institution.  And earlier this month, South Korean President Park Geun-hye spoke at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

Here is a link to CAP's Netanyahu event on November 10.

Update: Here is what The Washington Free Beacon has to say about Netanyahu speaking at CAP.  And here is what The Nation is saying about the upcoming speech in an piece written by former CAP staffer Ali Gharib entitled "Why Is the Center For American Progress Hosting Benjamin Netanyahu."  It notes that MoveOn has started a petition to disinvite Netanyahu to CAP.  As of this writing, the petition had more than 700 signatures.

Update: Los Angeles Times: CAP should host Netanyahu.

Update: Foreign Policy: "Netanyahu Visit Sparks Internal Backlash at Powerhouse DC Think Tank."  CAP held an all-staff meeting Friday on the Netanyahu speech, and at the end of the meeting, around a dozen CAP employees stood up and delivered an impassioned joint statement criticizing CAP's decision to host Netanyahu.  The article also notes that the Arab American Institute and Jewish Voice for Peace has have issued an open letter to CAP criticizing the think tank for hosting Netanyahu.

Update: US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation is planning to picket outside of CAP's office on Nov. 10.

Update: Washington Post: CAP under fire for hosting Netanyahu.

Update: Jeffrey Goldberg says that Netanyahu should speak at CAP.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Third Way Knows How to Party

The think tank Third Way has just held a huge 10-year anniversary birthday bash, and here is how it celebrated (via Politico):
Third Way held a huge “Party of the Decade” 10th anniversary bash last night at Union Market Dock 5, with White Ford Bronco as its band with a grilled cheese bar, bacon bar, and dumpling bar.  SPOTTED: Stephanie Cutter (on her birthday), Jill Zuckman, “The West Wing’s” Melissa Fitzgerald, Sen. Heidi Heidtkamp, DE Gov. Jack Markell, a host of House Dems (Bera, Kind, Himes, Sinema, Aguilar, Polis, Bustos, Peters), Bill Schneider, Trisha Enright, Ryan McConaghy, and about 600 others.

We should mention that this is not just a one-off day of happiness for the think tank.  Third Way is also known for having  great snacks (and a decent stash of alcohol).

The think tank is certainly living up to one of its mottos: "We don't just sit around and think, in a tank or elsewhere."

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch piece on how libertarian think tanks party.

Of course, foreign policy and defense think tanks, such as the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), also know how to throw a rocking party.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Think Tank Quickies (#195)

  • Think tanks close to the Chinese government calling for a two-child policy.
  • "America's colleges are liberal think tanks."
  • Phebe Novakovic, CEO of General Dynamics, "notably scarce" on the Washington think tank circuit.
  • Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) soon-to-be chief of staff David Hoppe has, like many lobbyists, "moved back and forth between government, think tanks, and K Street."  
  • Think tank R Street Institute: 15 Reasons Why CRS Reports Should be Public.  (One reason is "they cannot freely share their work with peers in academia and think tanks.")
  • Foreign Policy: Qatar boosts outreach to US think tanks.
  • Abdulateef Al-Mulhim: Saudi Arabia doesn't have any proper think tanks.
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) calling for ExxonMobil probe for its funding of certain think tanks.
  • Ryan Lance, CEO of ConocoPhillips on ending ban on crude oil exports: "All the universities, the think tanks have studied it.  It's good for the consumer, it's good for the country, it's good for government."
  • Brookings says end war on medical marijuana research.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Does Think Tank Groupthink Promote War?

This is from a Foreign Policy in Focus piece written by Didier Jacobs:
The U.S. foreign policy establishment — that is, professionals who trained in international affairs and make careers in government, think tanks, and higher education, with revolving doors among the three — plays an outsized role in U.S. foreign policy. But they fail to deliver the multilateral approach that the American public wants. They’re stuck in old schools of thought and groupthink.
The piece goes on to note that think tanks and academia have failed to produce a blueprint for peace.  "I am not aware of any credible plan to achieve comprehensive and sustainable international peace within a generation, nor of any forum to produce such plan."

Didier Jacobs is Special Advisor to the President of Oxfam America, a group that works to finds solutions to poverty and injustice worldwide.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Does the Heritage Foundation Control the Republican Party?

The Heritage Foundation helped force House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to step down from his post, and now it appears that they are providing a platform for ultra-conservative groups like the Tea Party Caucus and Freedom Caucus to plan their next moves.  Here is more from The Washington Post:
Defaulting on the federal debt?  Not a problem.  Shutting the government to defund Planned Parenthood.  So be it.
These were a couple of the take-aways from Wednesday's installment of "Conversations with Conservatives," a monthly luncheon sponsored by the Heritage Foundation (parent company of the House GOP caucus) and catered by Chick-Fil-A, the fast-food chain owned by religious conservatives.  The 10 men on this dais, members of the Freedom Caucus, the Republican Study Committee, the Tea Party Caucus and other conservative factions, might be considered the politburo of the new conservative order in the House.

And while on the topic of the Heritage Foundation, Think Tank Watch should note that Dickinson State's new Heritage Foundation has no relation to the Washington, DC think tank.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Think Tank Event Fail - Syria Edition

Think tank events typically aren't controversial, but when they are, sparks certainly do fly.  Here is the latest example from Josh Rogin of Bloomberg View:

A Washington think tank canceled a congressional forum featuring the first cousin of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad Tuesday after protests from the Syrian opposition. When Assad’s cousin eventually did speak in another location, he defended his family’s regime and called for the U.S. to work with the Syrian government.
Siwar al-Assad, the son of President Assad’s uncle Rifaat and nephew of former President Hafez al-Assad, was scheduled to be part of the 82nd Capitol Hill Conference put on by the Middle East Policy Council, a small Washington think tank. The event was to be held Tuesday at the Rayburn House office building. He was to speak alongside the Washington representative of the Kurdistan Regional Government and Brian Katulis, a senior Middle East fellow for the Center for American Progress.
But when Washington-based representatives for the Syrian opposition found out about the event, they lodged protests with the organizers and also with the office of Democratic Congressman Gerry Connolly of Virginia, who had reserved the room for the event. When Connolly’s office realized he’d be hosting a member of Syria’s first family in the Capitol complex, he cancelled the room reservation.

This reminds Think Tank Watch of another recent event at different think tank that caused quite a stir.  We are, of course, referring to the July 8, 2015 event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) with Nguyen Phu Trong, Vietnam's Secretary General of the Communist Party.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Think Tanks Aren't Going Extint!

Don't worry all you think tankers who have been fretting about the recent doom and gloom predictions about think tanks becoming obsolete.  It still looks like you'll have a job for at least a few more years, well, as long as you evolve.  Here is more from James Jay Carafano of the Heritage Foundation:
“The Think Tank is Dead.” So predicted Michael Tanji a half-decade ago.
Tanji argued that “virtual think tanks,” groups of experts tethered only by common interests and cyber-communications, offered advantages (as well as some disadvantages) over traditional think tanks moored in brick-and-mortar buildings. The next iteration of think tanks—dubbed, inevitably, Think Tank 2.0—would be a mash-up of both cyber and cubicled assemblies of brains.
That, at least, was Tanji’s vision of the future. Yet his virtual tank, the Center for Threat Awareness, stopped publishing less than a year later. As for the brick-and-mortar dinosaurs, they’re still going strong.
That’s not to say that traditional think tanks won’t change. They will. Increasingly, these institutes of research and education will develop sister organizations to apply the legislative expertise and political pressure needed to transform their policy recommendations into enacted law.
Put plainly, the future is bright for brick-and-mortar think tanks—particularly those working on foreign and national security policy. When done right, the independent, nonpartisan think tank can have a strong competitive advantage in the war of ideas.

Much more can be read here.  Mr. Carafano is Vice President at the Heritage Foundation, where he directs research at the think tank's Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Ezra Klein Interview AEI President Arthur Brooks

Following are some of Think Tank Watch's favorite quotes from the recent interview by Ezra Klein of American Enterprise Institute (AEI) Arthur Brooks.

  • Ezra Klein: "Arthur Brooks is a snappy dresser and his think tank really matters...he is now wearing a huge, cool silver watch and big, colorful cuff links.  You are, I think it is fair to say, the nattiest of the think tank executives I know."
  • Arthur Brooks: "Think tanks are an industry that grew out of academia and academia is the dowdiest possible way of making a living."
  • Arthur Brooks: "AEI reached out to me to become a visiting scholar...before that I was actually a donor to AEI.  I was writing checks to AEI even before joining the think tank."
  • Arthur Brooks: "The reason many think tank presidencies haven't ended so well is because nobody knows what the industry standard is supposed to be."
  • Arthur Brooks: "We don't have any corporate positions at fact, we bring in people who don't share our mission precisely to 'murder board' our ideas."
  •  Arthur Brooks: "Half of economists [at AEI] think a carbon tax is good and half think it is should hear them yelling in the hall."
  • Arthur Brooks: "We do 350 events per year [at AEI.]  We invite people who disagree with our view.  We regularly have people from the Center for American Progress (CAP) and give them the podium."
  • Ezra Klein: "And you [AEI] are known for having the best food." 
  • Ezra Klein: "You can find a think tank to justify anything."
  • Ezra Klein: "The think tank world in DC is a very cheap way of buying credibility."
  • Arthur Brooks: "You often hear 'center-right AEI' but there is no qualifier for liberal think tanks like Brookings.  And there is a tendency [by the media] to stick a finger in stuff by the center-right."

When asked what think tank is the most interesting right now (besides AEI), Brooks said there are a lot of interesting ones at the state and local level, and cited the State Policy Network (SPN) and Goldwater Institute.

And since Think Tank Watch tracks all the world's fantasy/made-up think tanks, we should mention that during the interview, Ezra Klein (purposely) invented his own think tank - The Institute for Competitive Freedom.

Update:  Here is a list that AEI's Michael Strain put together in National Review of his favorite quotes from Think Tank Watch's favorite quotes of the Ezra Klein interview of Arthur Brooks.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Airline Lobbyist Dorgan Uses Think Tank Perch to Promote Air Bill

Another day, another lobbyist using a think tank to promote a bill that he lobbies for on behalf of a client.  Here is more from Politico:
Former Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) has been busy this year promoting a plan now under consideration on Capitol Hill that would essentially privatize air-traffic control. He says his role as co-chairman of a think-tank working group convinced him the change is needed. 
What he hasn't mentioned in at least two appearances is that in June he signed on as a paid lobbyist for American Airlines, which is pushing the plan. At least one member of Congress was surprised to find out about Dorgan's lobbying client after meeting with him on the issue as a think-tank representative, according to a person with direct knowledge of the meeting. He also spoke to an aviation summit two weeks ago and said nothing about his lobbying role.

Dorgan, who served in the Senate from 1992 to 2011, drew $10,000 in the second quarter to lobby for American on "air traffic control reform and related issues," according to a lobbying disclosure. 

The think tank that Politico is referring to is the Washington, DC-based Eno Center for Transportation.  The article does not mention this but Dorgan is also a Senior Fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC).

As witnessed from this story and the recent Brookings-Warren spat (here and here), more and more attention these days is being paid to the blurred lines between think tanks, lobbying, and industry-funded studies.

Brookings: Sell the US Postal Service

Here is more from the Washington Post:
...With three Congresses in a row failing to pass legislation to help stabilize its finances, some lawmakers and policy experts have reached the consensus that it’s time for the government to sell the post office.  
This group was limited for a few years to conservatives and Republicans in Congress. But now a Democrat at the centrist Brookings Institution, Washington’s premier academic think tank, is joining the privatization side, arguing in a new paper that Congress’s inaction requires that something be done. Elaine Kamarck says that letting politicians continue to protect the Postal Service from competition is no longer viable.  
“If the USPS were a purely private entity, the changing shape of the marketplace wouldn’t necessarily pose an existential threat,” Kamarck wrote in an essay made public last week, “Delaying the inevitable: Political stalemate and the U.S. Postal Service.”

Elaine Kamarck's paper can be found here.   Ms. Kamarck is a Senior Fellow in the Governance Studies program at Brookings and the Director of the Center for Effective Public Management.  The article notes that she was the "creator and manager" of the Clinton Administration's reinventing government initiative in the 1990s.

Here is a response to the article from the president of the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Congresswoman Blasts Sen. Warren for Axing Brookings Scholar

Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO), who sits on the House Financial Services Committee, has just penned an opinion piece in The Hill where she blasts Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) for her role is forcing a longtime scholar at the Brookings Institution to step down from his position.

Here is an excerpt:
At the end of the day, who will stand up to Elizabeth Warren? She has made the White House demure in their nominee suggestions, she has made academic think tanks dump long-time, respected employees for expressing an opposing view, and she makes House Democrats cower at the mention of her name.  Warren’s brand of intimidation truly is what is wrong with Washington.

Full Think Tank Watch coverage of the Warren-Brookings war can be found here and here.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Korean President to Speak at CSIS

The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) is once again showing its deep connections to Asian governments.

On October 15, Korean President Park Geun-hye will be speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), and Julie Bishop, the Foreign Minister of Australia, just gave a speech at CSIS today.

Over the years, CSIS has hosted a variety of major Asian leaders at its think tank, including Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.  In August, Nguyen Phu Trong, Vietnam's Secretary General of the Communist Party, also gave a speech at CSIS.

Korea, Japan, and Vietnam are among the foreign governments that donate to CSIS.

CSIS was ranked as the world's fourth best think tank in the world by the latest University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings.  It was also ranked as the US's third best think tank (after Brookings and Carnegie Endowment for International Peace).  Moreover, it was rated as the world's top defense and national security think tank.

Update: A variety of scholars from think tanks such as CSIS, Brookings, and Heritage, have attended an October 14 Korean-American Friendship Night with Ms. Park

Gulf-Funded Think Tank Makes Debut in DC

Here is more from Al-Monitor:
A new think tank funded entirely by UAE and Saudi sources makes its Capitol Hill debut Oct. 6 with a Senate hearing on the crisis in Yemen.
The Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington (AGSIW) bills itself as an independent institution dedicated to covering the “social, economic, and political diversity of the Arab Gulf states.” Its executive vice president, former Ambassador to Yemen Stephen Seche, is slated to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
To its credit, the organization acknowledges that its sole sources of funding so far have been a think tank in Abu Dhabi and the Saudi Embassy in Washington, though it is looking for private sector support “to further diversify funding.” The organization received $2.6 million in contributions last year, according to tax records.
The donations are raising eyebrows following reports in The New York Times and elsewhere that the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and other countries are seeking to buy influence at prestigious US think thanks such as the Brookings Institution, the Atlantic Council and the Center for Strategic and International Studies. And a recent Huffington Post profile of UAE Ambassador to Washington Yousef Al Otaiba linked the diplomat to former US Ambassador to Egypt Frank Wisner, who serves as chairman of the Arab Gulf States Institute’s board. Wisner is now a paid consultant for Saudi lobbyist Squire Patton Boggs, although he’s only registered as working on Kosovo issues.
The institute is the brainchild of Egyptian academic Abdel Monem Said Aly, a staunch defender of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Said Aly’s role as founding director and honorary chairman has raised concerns that the institute may shy away from criticizing the Gulf states’ autocratic governments and human rights abuses.

The homepage for the think tank can be found here.  And here is a list of its board of directors.

Here is a recent Think Tank Watch piece about the UAE heavily funding US think tanks.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Think Tank Quickies (#194)

  • Russian hacks peppering think tanks.
  • Readers react to thinking on think tanks series in the Washington Post.
  • James McGann: Think tanks need to innovate or die.
  • Jane Harman in WPost: Are think tanks too partisan?
  • Ellen Laipson of Stimson: Why our demand for instant results hurts think tanks.
  • Jessica Matthews of CEIP: Why think tanks should embrace "new media."
  • USTR official Wendy Cutler becomes VP of Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI).
  • Newt Gingrich a "political consultant for conservative think tanks."
  • Joe Lieberman working on projects related to foreign policy and defense for such conservative think tanks as AEI and Hudson.
  • Jane Smiley's new book "Golden Age" tells all about think tanks.
  • Jason Stahl (Salon) on Elizabeth Warren: Why her war with a corporate-friendly think tank matters.
  • How USAID's secret think tank funding hurts the poor; and most Australian think tanks keep their funding secret, according to new data.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Think Tank Does Not Win Think Tank Softball League Championships

As readers of Think Tank Watch may know, there is something called the Think Tank Softball League (TTSL), in which a variety of think tanks participate.  However, this year, a think tank did not even win the championship title.  Here is more from Politico:
Per AEI’s Michael Pratt: “FERC defeated the defending champs AEI 13-7 in the Think Tank Softball League Championships in a game under the lights in a field by Pentagon City. Congrats to the winning team - over 40 teams are part of the league.”

FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, is a pretty wonky-sounding name, but it still ain't no think tank.

Last year, American Enterprise Institute (AEI) did win the title, defeating the Roosevelt Institute's Roosevelt Rough Riders 17-15 in an extra-inning game.

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.

Think Tanks Getting Big Money to Repeal US Oil Export Ban

Another day, another think tank getting paid millions of dollars to write a study that supports a particular interest.

The latest example comes from the oil industry, which has spent big bucks on think tanks in an attempt to support the repeal of the US ban on petroleum exports.  Here is more from The New York Times:
Think tanks have been a critical part of the repeal effort, with prominent centers like the Brookings Institution and the American Enterprise Institute issuing reports or sending scholars to Capitol Hill endorsing the move. These same organizations have taken large donations — in some instances exceeding $1 million a year, as was the case for Brookings — in combined contributions from industry donors. 
Thomas J. Duesterberg, co-author of one Aspen Institute report — funded in part by the American Petroleum Institute, ConocoPhillips, Continental Resources, Exxon Mobil and Pioneer Natural Resources — concluded that repealing the ban would create about 630,000 jobs within five years. He said the industry funding had no impact on his findings. But it was obvious to him why the industry helped finance his project.  
“Part of the way you make an argument these days, is to provide some solid economic grounding for your arguments,” Mr. Duesterberg said.

This new NYT report comes as the venerable Brookings Institution just forced the resignation of a long-time scholar over a spat about an industry-funded paper he wrote.

Here is a recent Think Tank Watch piece on Exxon's generous donations to think tanks over the years.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Are Think Tanks Obsolete?

Amanda Bennett, a contributing columnist for The Washington Post, has a new piece out entitled "Are Think Tanks Obsolete?"  Here are some excerpts:

If we think about Washington the way we think about Detroit, then the organizations that line Massachusetts Avenue are like the capital’s factories. Only in D.C.s case, the buildings are think tanks and what are chugging out the doors are ideas, not automobiles. 
With their multimillion-dollar budgets, thousands of employees and access to power, its tempting to think of think tanks as juggernauts impregnably dominating their market, just as we once saw the automobile industry. 
But what if the opposite is true? What if think tanks today are more like the Detroit of the 1990s than of the 1950s? What if they, too, are facing existential threats they dont quite understand and arent very well prepared to deal with? In fact, what if the think-tank establishment is like a whole host of other industries — including newspapers and television — that are struggling against forces beyond their control? What if bloggers, YouTube, sound bites, social media, TED talks, metrics, changing business models and even rogue players who create their own narratives represent the same menace to think tanks as they do to mainstream media? What if the upstarts are to think tanks what Datsun, Toyota and Hyundai were to Ford, GM and Chrysler: small, fast, annoying competitors, easy to ignore, disrespected by the establishment — and ultimately very effective guerrilla warriors?

The piece goes on to list a variety of challenges that think tanks face, including gridlock in the US government which makes it harder to get their ideas heard, and TED talks.  The full piece can be read here.

Think Tank Watch has long written about the challenges think tanks face in order to avoid becoming obsolete.  In fact, a 2012 Think Tank Watch post with the same title (Are Think Tanks Obsolete?) can be found here.  And from a Think Tank Quickies: Are Think Tanks in Canada Obsolete?

Friday, October 2, 2015

Think Tank Quickies (#193)

  • Foreign Affairs: China's think tank trouble
  • The Diplomat: The rise of Asia's think tanks.
  • New Republic flashback: "Meet the Think Tank Scholars Who Are Also Beltway Lobbyists."
  • Brookings President Strobe Talbott attends China State Dinner at the White House.
  • Bruce Bartlett: "Washington think tanks are a cesspool of corruption." 
  • Brookings scholar & former Fed Chair Ben Bernanke pens new, 600-page memoir.
  • How Stephen Harper and his think tank colleagues have transformed Canada.
  • Atlas Network brings us "Think Tank Shark Tank" competition.
  • CSIS maps Iran nuclear deal timeline to 2026.
  • New RAND study on the effectiveness of China's submarine fleet.
  • Deep think tank thought of the day via Dan Kaszeta: They are call "think tanks," not "know tanks."

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Politico Fills in Juicy Tidbits in Warren-Brookings War

A new Politico story has some fresh details that haven't yet been mentioned in previous reporting (here and here) on the Brookings Institution attack by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).  Here is more:
All it took was an hour of damaging Twitter comments and press attention, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren had claimed another prize.
News broke at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday that the liberal Massachusetts firebrand was blasting Brookings Institution scholar Robert Litan because a mutual-fund company paid for his research criticizing an Obama administration proposal to regulate the industry. By 9:30 a.m., Litan — an economist and former adviser to President Bill Clinton — was out.
That,despite indications from Brookings’ senior management just the night before that it would all blow over.
“I had no indication until the end that I would be asked to leave,” Litan told POLITICO on Wednesday. “I’d be reprimanded.”
Litan’s departure is already prompting backlash among some economists and rival think tankers, who say Warren’s crusade and Brookings’ response could have a chilling effect on research.
“This is McCarthyism of the left," said Hal Singer, a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute and co-author of the research Warren criticized. “What Warren is doing is suppressing scholars [who] speak independently through her threats.”

Here is a Hill newspaper story entitled "Ousted Brookings Economist Lashes Back at Warren."

The only conclusion Think Tank Watch has from the this weeks events is that Brookings will not be inviting Elizabeth Warren over for any events anytime soon...

Update: The Washington Examiner interviewed Dr. Litan, who was quoted as saying that he thought he had resolved months ago any concerns that Brookings had over an industry-funded study he did.

Dr. Litan said he was contacted this week by a "high-ranking individual" at Brookings (who he declined to name) who told him that there was "a lot of distress over the whole situation."

The article also quotes Kevin Hassett, Litan's think tank friend over at the conservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI), who said that Brookings' reaction was unfortunate.  He said that Litan was part of a "dwindling minority of serious scholars at Brookings unafraid to stand by conclusions that irritated liberals."

Added Hassett: "This makes Brookings look like the Elizabeth Warren Rapid Response Team.  It's chilling to see him go."

Update2: Politico has a new quote from Public Citizen's Bart Naylor: "The shill game where Wall Street Pays for ersatz studies under the banner of prestigious universities and think tanks must end."

Also, Slate notes that financial services firms have set up their own think tanks to produce studies of interest.

And as Wall Street Journal is reporting, several Democratic economists have come to the defense of Dr. Litan, including Bowman Cutter of the Roosevelt Institute.

Here is National Review's take on the whole Warren-Brookings incident.

Update3: Here is a piece by L. Gordon Crovitz in WSJ entitled "In the Tank for Elizabeth Warren," with the subheading "Brookings has been mugged by the reality of progressive animus for dissenting views."

Here is a piece by Jason Stahl (in Salon) entitled "Elizabeth Warren's Giant Leap to the Left: Why Her War With a Corporate-Friendly Think Tank Matters."

Some say it was unfortunate that Brookings didn't require Mr. Litan's resignation last summer.  (In response to a Strobe Talbott piece in WSJ, saying that Warren had nothing to do with Litan's exit.)

Here is the New York times piece "Is Money Corrupting Research?" which mentions that Warren-Brookings incident.

And here is the Daily Caller on "Why Warren's Witch-Hunt Won't Work."