Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Sen. Warren Ejects Longtime Scholar from Brookings

It was reported earlier today that Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) was attacking the Brookings Institution for an industry-funded study that one of its scholars co-authored.

Now, the Boston Globe is reporting that the scholar, Robert Litan, has "abruptly cut ties" with Brookings, a think tank he has been affiliated with for around 40 years.   Here is what Litan said:
“I think the Warren letter has created discomfort at Brookings,” said Robert Litan in a telephone interview with the Globe. “I don’t want to make people there feel any more uncomfortable than needed.”

And here is what a Brookings spokesman had to say about the whole incident:
David Nassar, a Brookings spokesman, said that Litan violated a Brookings policy by touting his Brookings affiliation when he gave testimony on his study before Congress. He said that the study “was not connected with Brookings in any way.”

The Hill newspaper notes that Litan has been "forced out" of the think tank, saying he is formally submitting his resignation Tuesday afternoon.

Sen. Warren's letter to Brookings, which is addressed to its President, Strobe Talbott, can be found here.  A press release of that letter can be found here.

Was Brookings scholar Jane Dokko calling out Dr. Litan's paper before today's blow-up?

As seen from another of today's Think Tank Watch stories, Brookings scholars seem to like to complain about other Brookings scholars.

Update: A Washington Post story says that Brookings was seeking a resignation from Dr. Litan, and in return, Dr. Litan complied.  Here is our favorite line from that story:
Her [Warren's] complaint pointed to a relatively new form of influence peddling in the nation's capital, with industry groups and even foreign governments paying think tanks and scholars for research papers that support lobbying goals.

The article also raises an interesting point:
Brookings's action Tuesday could have implications for industry lobbyists who advise clients to fund think tank research to influence policymakers.
Scholars have opened private consultancies, attracting fees from corporate sponsors at least in part because their studies could enjoy the Brookings imprimatur.
Litan, for instance, works with a firm called Economists Incorporated, where his bio describes him as a "non-resident senior fellow" at Brookings.

Here is even more from yet another Washington Post piece on the Warren-Brookings war.  Our favorite lines:
[This incident] could have a chilling effect on scholars who have been perfectly fine letting companies that finance their research review it before publication.
 Brookings is as much a pillar of the Democratic establishment as any institution in Washington.  That President Strobe Talbott moved so quickly to oust Litan underscores just how terrified DC elites from both parties are right now about the rise of pitchfork populism.

Here is a Vox piece entitled "Elizabeth Warren Exposed a Shocking Instance of How Money Corrupts DC Think Tanks."

Think Tank Watch is aware of numerous think tank scholars at a wide variety of think tanks who run their own consulting firms, blurring the line between true scholarly work and work simply for the benefit of a corporate patron.

Sen. Warren Questions Independence of Brookings Institution

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) does not seem to be too happy with the Brookings Institution this week.  Here is more from the Washington Post:
Sen. Elizabeth Warren today takes her ongoing crusade against the outsized influence of the financial services industry to one of Washington's most respected think tanks.  The Massachusetts Democrat is questioning the independence of the Brookings Institution and one of its longtime scholars over a study that criticizes a proposed regulation aimed at reining in conflicts of interest among retirement advisors.
Post reporter Tom Hamburger obtained letters that Warren sent this week to Brookings and the Labor Department.  The Massachusetts Democrat blasts a report by non-resident scholar, Robert Litan, which predicted high costs for a measure backed strongly by progressives, consumer groups and President Obama.
Citing the $85,000 combined fee that Litan and a co-author received from the leading investment firm, Warren calls their report "highly compensated and editorially compromised work on behalf of an industry player seeking a specific conclusion."
Litan, who held senior positions in Bill Clinton's administration, confirmed that the outline for his study was reviewed by its sole sponsor, The Capital Group, which offered some comments.  The investment firm has more than $1.4 trillion under management in its American Funds and other products.  The company, like others handling retirement investment assets, has made opposition to Labor's rule one of its top priorities.
The scholar forcefully rejects Warren's criticism, arguing that he disclosed the funding arrangement repeatedly, including in July testimony before a congressional committee on which Warren sits.  He stressed that the funding did not influence hid study or its conclusions.
But Litan acknowledges one mistake: His testimony overlooked a relatively new Brookings rule prohibiting non-resident scholars - who are generally not paid by the institution - from associating their congressional testimony with the think tank.

Sen. Warren is now demanding more information from Brookings, including information about the think tank's rules for scholarship and congressional testimony.

This news comes as Brookings has faced increased questions about donor impact on its research.

Here is additional reporting on the Brookings-Warren sparring from the Boston Globe.  It notes that a Wall Street Journal op-ed on Litan's research on the Brookings website has a disclaimer about the funding by Capital Group.

It Sen. Warren getting revenge on Brookings for slamming her student loan proposal in 2013?

Think Tank Watch should note that this is not the first time that Sen. Warren has lashed out at think tanks.  Back in 2013, she sent a letter to the US's six largest banks asking them to disclose their donations to think tanks, saying that not doing so threatens the credibility and research of those policy groups.

We should also note that Sen. Warren seems to be taking a liking to none another than the libertarian think tank Cato Institute these days.  She has been quoting Cato and went to the think tank this month to participate in a panel discussion.  Is she angling for a post-Senate job in think tank land?

Stay tuned for more on the Warren-Brookings fight...

Brookings Scholar Blasts Brookings Scholar

Think tank colleagues are usually a cordial and harmonious bunch.  They typically praise each others work (at least in public) or at least don't bash it.

But that was not the case this week when prolific think tanker Justin Wolfers, a Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, lashed out at Michael O'Hanlon, a well-known security and defense scholar at Brookings, for writing about a subject he admittedly is not an expert in: vaccines and autism.

Following are the Tweets that Wolfers wrote:

Here is the paper in question that O'Hanlon wrote on autism/vaccines.  In it, he notes that he is the parent of a child on the autism spectrum, but also says he is not a scientist in the field of biology or medicine.

So, should a think tank scholar to able to publish pieces on subjects that they are not experts in?

It seems that Wolfers does not worry an ounce about upsetting Brookings or his colleagues, probably because he is affiliated with numerous other think tanks - including five of the top 10 economic think tanks.

But, just for a littler entertainment, Think Tank Watch would love to see Wolfers and O'Hanlon settle the score at the Brookings Fight Club.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Women Leadership Positions Rise at CFR & CNAS, Fall at CSIS

If you are a women looking to make a career out of think tanks, you may want to pick your think tank carefully.

Women have been increasing their ranks in leadership positions at some of the US's top think tanks, but others have seen a decline in top spots for women in recent years.

Micah Zenko and Amelia Mae Wolf of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) have outlined recent findings in a piece in Foreign Policy entitled "Leaning From Behind":
Data gathered from publicly available sources - on what we subjectively considered the top US think tanks working on foreign policy issues four years ago - reveals that women now comprise 24 percent of people working in policy-related positions and 33 percent of total leadership staff.  The prevalence of women in these nine think tanks has increased by less than 1 percent annually in the past four years.
For this analysis, "policy-related" positions were classified as leadership roles (directors, presidents, and fellows) within departments focused on foreign policy, and "total leadership staff" included senior positions in non-policy roles such as human resources, development, and communications, which play an essential role in developing and implementing think tank programs.

The authors go on to say, among other things, that foreign policy and national security communities are "missing out on a wealth of expertise that could provide alternative thinking and policy options" by not hiring enough women.

Also noted is the idea that women are better for preventing war and corruption, and help with the economic competitiveness of a country:
The inclusion of women is proven to have enormous benefits for national security and foreign policy. The International Peace Institute found that women’s participation in peace negotiations, whether holding seats at the negotiating table or as political leaders, benefits the longevity of a peace agreement, making it 20 percent more likely to last at least two years and 35 percent more likely to last 15. This is particularly relevant for the United States, which will have spent an estimated $4-6 trillion on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and is engaged in a $9.9 million per-day open-ended air war against the Islamic State. Other studies have found that a higher number of women in senior government positions is correlated with lower levels of corruption and economic competitiveness of a country.

The authors call on senior administrators at think tanks to make it a priority to increase the percentage of female experts to 50 percent.

They cite the "women and foreign policy" programs at several think tanks as positive developments, and say that males are "empowered to influence change" by refusing to speak on all-male panels (something that FP Group CEO/Editor David Rothkopf has done), or responding to media/speaking requests with suggestions for alternative female speakers.

Based on the data that Think Tank Watch has reviewed, the Council on Foreign Relations is the first major foreign policy think tank to have at least 50% of its leadership roles given to women.

Interestingly, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) was the only think tank in the study that had a decline in policy-related leadership positions given to women.  Overall leadership positions held by women at CSIS remained stagnant from 2011 to 2015.

The Stimson Center was the only think tank in the study that had a decline of women in leadership positions (overall) from 2011 to 2015.

A chart comparing women's representation at major foreign policy think tanks from 2011 vs. 2015 can be found here.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post on women in think tanks.

Did the Heritage Foundation Destroy Boehner's Career?

As Think Tank Watch has noted in the past, Heritage Action for America, the lobbying arm of the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation, has been trying to oust House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) for quite awhile.  Heritage finally got its way, with Boehner announcing his resignation today.

Heritage Action even issued a statement today saying that Boehner "has stood in the way of conservative policy solutions."

Rep. Boehner did not go quietly, however, having lashed out at the Heritage Foundation on several occasions.

In recent years, speaking Boehner found himself cozying up to the more middle-of-the road conservative outfit American Enterprise Institute (AEI), which is not as dominated by Tea Party operatives as the Heritage Foundation.

So, will Boehner join think tank land?  When former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) decided to leave Congress, he bypassed the think tank world and instead took a lucrative job at Moelis.

As a think tank figurehead, Boehner could pull in between $150,000 to $250,000 per year, but he would not be able to rake in the big bucks unless he becomes president of one of the major conservative think tanks.

Think Tank Quickies (#192)

  • Think tanks checking Donald Trump claims.
  • Pandora founder Tim Westergren comes to AEI to discuss the future of the music industry (postponed). 
  • Vice President and Senior Counselor of Heritage Foundation John Von Kannon dies.
  • Brookings FP: What is next after the end of the Middle East peace process?  FP's David Kenner: A lot of think tank roundtables.
  • Barry Ritholtz: Has the word "think tank" become the world's greatest misnomer?
  • New eye-popping RAND report on income of anethesiologists.
  • Deep think tank thought of the day via Aidan Milliff: "If a think tank does bad, there should be a process for demotion to just 'tank.'"
  • Think tank Center for Security Policy defends arrest of Muslim high school student Ahmed Mohamed for bringing homemade clock to school.
  • The advantages to working in Washington, DC: think tank food.
  • Drawing of a think tank by Cecilia Ahern.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Netanyahu to Receive Prestigious AEI Award

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be visiting the United States in November, and besides meeting with President Barack Obama, he will also be making a stop in think tank land to pick up a reward from a conservative think tanks.

The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) has just announced that Mr. Netanyahu will receive the 2015 Irving Kristol Award on November 9 in Washington, DC.  The annual award is considered the think tank's highest honor, and is given to individuals who have "made exceptional practical and intellectual contributions to improve government policy, social welfare, or political understanding."

The winner, selected by AEI's Council of Academic Advisors, was established in 2002 in honor of AEI Senior Fellow Irving Kristol.  It replaced the think tank's Francis Boyer Award, which had been awarded annually for the previous 25 years.

The think tank's Council of Academic Advisors is chaired by Yale Law School Professor George Priest.  The other 15 people on the Council are: Alan Auerbach, Eliot Cohen, Eugene Fama, Martin Feldstein, Aaron Friedberg, Robert George, Eric Hanushek, Glenn Hubbard, Walter Russell Mead, John Palmer, Mark Pauly, Sam Peltzman, Jeremy Rabkin, Harvey Rosen, and Richard Zeckhauser.

Previous recipients of the award include Arthur Burns, Dick Cheney, Gerald Ford, Alan Greenspan, Henry Kissinger, Ronald Reagan, Paul Ryan, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas.

The award ceremony will be held at the National Building Museum.

Congressional Testimony by Think Tanker Forces Funding Disclosures

Here is what the conservative Free Beacon is reporting about the liberal-leaning Brookings Institution:
The Brookings Institution, one of the country’s top left-leaning think tanks, has for the first time admitted to Congress that it receives millions of dollars every year from foreign governments, including Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, according to official disclosure forms obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
The disclosure of these figures comes as a result of a recently implemented federal law mandating that those who testify before Congress reveal any potential conflicts created as a result of funding by foreign entities.
The disclosure form, which is presented to Congress before an individual testifies, reveals that Brookings received nearly $15 million from the Embassy of Qatar between 2013 and 2015. Brookings also maintains a facility in the Qatari capital of Doha, where Hamas is known to operate freely.
The think tank received another $1,920,000 from the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates between those same years.
These disclosures came as a result of a Sept. 17 congressional hearing at which Suzanne Maloney, a Brookings senior fellow, offered testimony on Iran’s relationship with the terrorist group Hezbollah.
The forms further reveal that, in addition to the millions in foreign donations, Brookings has received federal grants.
Both the foreign donations and federal grants “were for independent research and analysis related to an number of subject matters,” according to Maloney. A “portion” of these funds may have been “related to the hearing,” which discussed the ways in which Hezbollah stands to profit from Iran in the wake of the recent nuclear deal.
When questioned about the foreign donations by the New York Times last year, Martin Indyk, a Brookings scholar who has also worked with the Obama administration, defended the practice and maintained that it does not bias his views.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post on the new congressional rules on think tank funding disclosure.  Think Tank Watch has predicted that fewer think tankers will be testifying before Congress so they do not have to disclose the sources of their funds.

In fiscal year 2014, Brookings said it received 58% of its funding from grants, 37% from "contributions and endowments," and 5% from publications and "miscellaneous."

Out of the grants that Brookings receives, 28% are from foundations, 9% from foreign governments, 7% from corporations, 6% from individuals, 6% from "other," and 2% from the US government.

Here is a historical look from the Washington Post about the Brookings' funding.  And here is a Washington Post piece on how donors may have an impact on the research agenda at the world's #1 think tank.

Think Tank Watch should point out that it is already common knowledge that Brookings was receiving millions of dollars from these foreign governments and others.

Also, as we previously noted, investigative reporter Brooke Williams, who helped write the influential New York Times piece last year titled "Foreign Powers Buy Influence at Think Tanks," created a website earlier this year where one can search and explore foreign government contributions to think tanks.  That site (thinktankdonors.org) can be found here.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Heritage Foundation Event Draws Powerful Presidential Hopefuls

On September 18 the lobbying arm of the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation held its Heritage Action Presidential Forum at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, South Carolina, drawing the majority of the top Republican presidential contenders for 2016.

The Heritage Action for America super-PAC said it was hosting 10 of the 16 major candidates at the forum: Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Carly Fiorina, Chris Christie, Rand Paul, Rick Santorum, and Bobby Jindal.  Donald Trump's campaign, however, canceled his appearance there due to what they say was a "business transaction."

The forum also featured South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint (who heads the Heritage Foundation), and Heritage Action CEO Michael Needham.

The big story coming out of the event was that Carly Fiorina received a positive reception.  Some reported that Ted Cruz AND Carly Fiorina "ruled" the event.

The New York Times describes Heritage Action as the "political arm of Heritage Foundation, founded in 1973 and transformed in recent years from a staid policy incubator to an organizing engine fueled by the Tea Party movement."

Here is a recent Think Tank Watch post on Carly Fiorina's favorite think tanks.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Meet Harvard's New Think Tank Search

Harvard University has a new Google custom search for 590 think tanks and research centers, allowing users to more easily check policy proposals of hundreds of think tanks in mere seconds.

Here is how Harvard defines a "think tank" for the search:
For the purposes of this search, think tanks are defined as institutions affiliated with universities, governments, advocacy groups, foundations, non-governmental organizations, and businesses that generate public policy research, analysis, and activity. Inclusion is based upon the relevancy of subject area to HKS coursework and scholarship, the availability of the think tank’s research in full-text on the website, and the think tank’s reputation and influence upon policy making. The list represents a mixture of partisan and non-partisan think tanks.

A list of the US think tanks in the search can be found here.  A list of the non-US think tanks can be found here.

The site Find Policy also allows users to search think tank policy, albeit in a slightly different way.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Carly Fiorina's Quiet Adventures in Think Tank Land

Carly Fiorina, the 2016 Republican presidential candidate who got rave reviews at yesterday's presidential debate, has had an under-the-radar relationship with a handful of think tanks.

For example, the former Chairman and CEO of Hewlett-Packard has been a Senior Adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

Among other things, she was tapped to be a member of CSIS's Executive Council on Development.  Earlier this year she gave a speech at CSIS for the "Smart Women, Smart Power" initiative.  In 2013 she gave a speech at the think tank at a forum on innovation for government effectiveness.

Of course, CSIS is not the only think tank that Carly Fiorina has a connection to.  Earlier this year, Fiorina gave a keynote address at the annual dinner of the conservative think tank Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI).

Ms. Fiorina was also the Chair of the Board of Directors of Technology Policy Institute (TPI), a Washington, DC-based think tank focusing on the economics of innovation and technological change.

Following are a few things that other think tanks have put said about Fiorina:

  • Here is what the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) has put together on the foreign policy positions of Carly Fiorina.
  • Marc Thiessen of American Enterprise Institute (AEI) writes how Carly Fiorina is on the rise.
  • The Heritage Foundation said earlier this year that no other potential 2016 GOP candidate was tougher on Hillary Clinton than Carly Fiorina at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).
  • Brookings Institution scholar John Hudak has said that Fiorina probably has more potential as a vice presidential candidate, and could possibly be tapped as Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

Think Tank Watch prediction: After yesterday's performance, don't be surprised if Fiorina starts making her way around the think tank circuit more regularly.

Obama's Iran Victory Through Group That Funds Think Tanks

President Obama's victory in Congress over the nuclear deal with Iran came from a variety of sources, including one little-known action group that funds a variety of think tanks.  Here is more from The Wall Street Journal:
Early in its campaign, the White House partnered with a range of liberal action groups, veterans organizations and Christian affiliates to bolster its efforts to pressure Congress. A key player was the San Francisco-based Ploughshares Fund, according to U.S. officials. Ploughshares has spent more than $7 million in the past four years funding think tanks, media organizations and activist groups focused on championing diplomacy with Iran.
A week before the deal was reached, Ploughshares organized for the White House a conference call for around 100 activist groups to strategize how to promote the Iran deal. Two members of the White House’s Office of Public Engagement took part.

Here are the funding priorities of Ploughshares Fund.  The group has noted that it funds think tanks such as Brookings Institution and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP), as well as Cato Institute, Center for American Progress (CAP), Atlantic Council, New America Foundation (NAF), Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), and EastWest Institute.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Meet the Most Powerful Think Tankers of 2015

Politico Magazine has just released its annual list of the most interesting thinkers, doers, and visionaries who are transforming American politics in 2015.  And it is no surprise that several think tankers are on the list, including:
  • Charles Murray, the W.H. Brady Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), is on the list for being "the rule breaker."
  • Heather Boushey, a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress (CAP) and Executive Director/Chief Economist at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, is on the list for being a "campaigner for families."
  • Ramesh Ponnuru, a Visiting Fellow at AEI, is on the list with his wife April Ponnuru for being "the conservative ideas power couple."
  • Oren Cass, Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, is on the list for being "the conservative poverty crusader."
  • Joseph Stiglitz, Senior Fellow and Chief Economist at the Roosevelt Institute, is on the list for "calling foul on economic inequality."
  • Timothy Carney, a Visiting Fellow at AEI and Veronique de Rugy, a Senior Research Fellow at the Mercatus Center, are on the list for "helping put the Export-Import Bank at the center of a big political fight."
  • Lanhee Chen, a Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution is on the list for being "the GOP's most-courted ideas adviser."

Although, he is not technically a think tanker, we would be remiss to point out that that Raj Chetty, an economist at Harvard and Stanford, also made the list.  His bio in the Politico piece points out that he "has become one of Hillary Clinton's ideas men" on inequality issues, and Clinton cited his research in a talk at the Center for American Progress in March..

Shocking Twist to Heritage Foundaton Email "Hack"

Did the Heritage Foundation try to cover up an accidental leak of internal information by saying it was really a hack attack?

It was reported earlier this month that the conservative think tank giant Heritage Foundation had an unauthorized data breach in which donor information and emails were stolen.

However, an Internet security and privacy site specializing in data breaches is now saying that there was no hack attack.  Rather, the think tank reportedly backed up an email archive to a public Amazon server.

That site, Databreaches.net, notes that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) likely will not go after the think tank for unreasonable data security because that agency does not have the authority under Section 5 of the FTC Act to go after non-profits.

Meanwhile, reporters have been having a field day pouring through the vast amounts of juicy emails that have been acquired.

Lee Fang of The Intercept has just written a piece entitled "Emails Show Ties Between Heritage Foundation and Lockheed Martin," showing the intense lobbying that the defense contractor did of the think tank.  Here is an excerpt:
When the Pentagon decided in 2009 to cut funding for Lockheed Martin’s F-22 Raptor fighter jet — a weapons system with cost overruns in the billions of dollars that has rarely seen combat — the Heritage Foundation fought tooth and nail to restore taxpayer money for the planes.
Heritage depicted its support for the F-22 as a matter of vital national security. But what the public didn’t know is that Lockheed Martin, a corporate donor to the conservative think tank, met with Heritage officials on nearly a monthly basis to discuss the F-22 and other defense industry priorities.
Internal emails leaked online show at least 15 meetings in 2008 and 2009 between officials at Heritage and Lockheed Martin, including one with Bill Inglee, who at the time served as a senior lobbyist at Lockheed Martin.
The emails also suggest that Heritage continued courting Lockheed Martin for donations, listing the company repeatedly in Excel spreadsheets used to collect pledges from past donors. Lockheed Martin gave $40,000 to Heritage in 2008, bringing its total contribution to $341,000, according to those documents.
Emails show that the Heritage Foundation’s fundraising staff worked closely with Mackenzie Eaglen, a researcher at the think tank who authored several reports calling for restoring F-22 funding. According to Heritage’s internal weekly calendar, Eaglen was scheduled to participate in “a Lockheed Martin think tank delegation to visit their fifth-generation fighter production facilities in Fort Worth, TX” in April 2009.
James Jay Carafano, the vice president of Heritage’s Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy, met several times with Lockheed Martin executives, even traveling to Marietta, Georgia, where the F-22 is produced, to participate in a “Lockheed Martin Tour of F-22 Programs.”

The website Gawker has also written a piece on the Heritage Foundation leak.  Here are some excerpts from that:
The [Heritage Foundation] file, which has since been deleted, is a Microsoft Outlook backup folder that appears to have been associated with an assistant director at Heritage named Steve DeBuhr, who belongs to the foundation’s “major gifts team” and handles donor relations in the Midwest. In that capacity, he received regularly updated “call reports” containing detailed dossiers on current and potential donors as well as DeBuhr’s and other development officers’ various interactions with those donors throughout the country.
 Between 2008 and 2009, Heritage raised approximately $135,000,000 in tax-deductible donations from private charities and individuals, according to publicly available tax filings. One of those individuals was a Pennsylvania businessman named Robert W. Ellis, who between 1994 and 2008 gave 40 gifts totaling nearly $250,000 to the foundation. DeBuhr’s records indicate Ellis’s development officer, a Heritage employee named Jeffrey Trimbath, met Ellis in person at least seven times between July 2008 and June 2009. In notes taken after those meetings, Trimbath characterized what he took to be Ellis’s views toward Muslims and liberals.

The Intercept article goes on note that corporations frequently donate to think tanks that share their policy agenda, and cites the example of Corinthian Colleges and Alpha Natural Resources.  [Here is a recent Think Tank Watch piece on Exxon's donations to think tanks.]

The Heritage Foundation was ranked as the world's 17th best think tank by the most recent University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings.  It was also ranked as the 9th best think tank in the United States, the world's 15 best transparency and good governance think tank, the world's 26th best managed think tank, and the world's 10th best think tank in terms of external relations and public engagement.

Oh, it was also ranked as the world's 10th best think tank in terms of best use of the Internet.  Yup, we agree with that one.

Stay tuned for more...

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Chinese Think Tank Helping Restart North Korea Nuclear Talks

This is from Reuters:
A Chinese government-backed think-tank will host a forum with officials from six countries involved in stalled talks on North Korea's banned nuclear weapons program, the Foreign Ministry said on Monday, in China's latest push to resume discussions.
Numerous efforts to restart the six-party talks have failed after negotiations collapsed following the last round in 2008. At the time, North Korea declared the deal void, after refusing inspections to verify compliance. 
Academics and experts from China, the United States, Russia, South Korea, Japan and North Korea will attend the Beijing event, hosted by the China Institute of International Studies think-tank, on Friday and Saturday.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi will address the gathering, the Foreign Ministry said in a short notice on its website, without saying who else will attend.

According to the latest University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings, the China Institute of International Studies (CIIS) is ranked as the world's 36th best think tank.  It is ranked as the third best think tank among the countries of China, India, Korea, and Japan.

This summer, CIIS and Brookings held a closed-door session in Washington, DC on US-China relations.

Technically, CIIS is the think tank of China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  It was founded in 1956 under the name Institute of International Relations, and eventually became CIIS in 1986.  Its current president is Su Ge.

In related think tank news on China, it has just been reported that this month will mark the first time that representatives from top security think tanks in both the US and China will make public exchanges at the International Security Conference in Beijing.

Here is a recent Think Tank Watch piece on a US think tank's use of satellite photographs of islands being developed by China and how they could sour the upcoming US visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Think Tank Quickies (#191)

  • China's rise alarming US think tanks.
  • Search think funding around the world (including US) at Foundation Maps, via Foundation Center.
  • Prominent healthcare economist Deborah Freund joins RAND. 
  • Spencer Ackerman: "Just once I want a DC think tank report to say plainly, 'This research is not designed to be true.  It is designed to be useful.'"
  • Indian think tanks in the military field.
  • Brookings: Is al-Bahgdadi the new bin Laden?
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) does libertarian Cato on Sept. 16.
  • State Dept. and White House interact regularly with think tanks; intel community not so much. 
  • "Higher education providers" like think tanks are booming.
  • Partisan think tanks/researchers prone to produce results that confirm their own political leanings.

Glenn Greenwald Has Some Harsh Words for Brookings

In one of his recent pieces, journalist Glenn Greenwald, who became widely known for his reporting on classified documents disclosed by Edward Snowden, attacked Hillary Clinton and her choice of venue (the Brookings Institution) for her recent speech on Iran.  Here is more:
Leading Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton this morning delivered a foreign policy speech at the Brookings Institution in Washington. By itself, the choice of the venue was revealing.
Brookings served as Ground Zero for centrist think tank advocacy of the Iraq War, which Clinton (along with potential rival Joe Biden) notoriously and vehemently advocated. Brookings’ two leading “scholar”-stars — Kenneth Pollack and Michael O’Hanlon — spent all of 2002 and 2003 insisting that invading Iraq was wise and just, and spent the years after that assuring Americans that the “victorious” war and subsequent occupation were going really well... 
Since then, O’Hanlon in particular has advocated for increased military force in more countries than one can count. That’s not surprising: Brookings is funded in part by one of the Democratic Party’s favorite billionaires, Haim Saban, who is a dual citizen of the U.S. and Israel and once said of himself: “I’m a one-issue guy, and my issue is Israel.” Pollack advocated for the attack on Iraq while he was “Director of Research of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy.” Saban became the Democratic Party’s largest fundraiser — even paying $7 million for the new DNC building — and is now a very substantial funder of Hillary Clinton’s campaign...
So the hawkish Brookings is the prism through which Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy worldview can be best understood. The think tank is filled with former advisers to both Bill and Hillary Clinton, and would certainly provide numerous top-level foreign policy officials in any Hillary Clinton administration. As she put it today at the start: “There are a lot of long-time friends and colleagues who perch here at Brookings.”

In the piece, Greenwald links to a Think Tank Watch story about the Saban Center at Brookings.  Here is a 2007 from Mother Jones entitled "Glenn Greenwald Will Not Be Hired by Brookings Anytime Soon."

This is not the first time that Mr. Greenwald has had harsh words for Brookings.  Awhile back he said that the think tank "demands servile journalism."  More generally, as Think Tank Watch recently noted, he said that some of the planet's worst people are housed at think tanks (without singling out any one think tank).

That leaves us wondering if Glenn Greenwald likes any think tanks.

In related think tank/Iran news, a variety of other Iran-related speeches/talks were given at think tanks, including former Vice President Dick Cheney's talk at the American Enterprise Institute (which faced several protest incidents), and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) who spoke at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP).

Monday, September 14, 2015

Will CSIS's New Satellite Intel on China Dampen Xi Visit?

New satellite imagery taken for the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) has the potential to dampen the mood of the upcoming visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping.  Here is more from The Washington Post.
China appears to be taking new steps to lay down airfields on two reefs in a disputed area of the South China Sea on the eve of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Sept. 24 arrival in Washington for a state visit.
Commercial satellite photos taken Tuesday for the Center for Strategic and International Studies show that China is flattening, rolling and putting gravel on an area the size of a military runway on Subi Reef, a once-submerged shoal that Beijing has built up into an area suitable for a military base. The flattened area is about 200 feet wide and nearly 1.4 miles long but is expected to grow and be covered with asphalt, say China experts who have examined the satellite photos.
The new construction seems certain to strain the meeting between Xi and President Obama, whose national security adviser, Susan E. Rice, was recently in Beijing. The United States has urged China to stop work in the region, and Beijing said in August that it would halt reclamation. But the satellite photos show that construction continues.
While the Tuesday commercial satellite photos were taken for CSIS, a separate Sept. 3 satellite photo posted on the Diplomat news Web site Thursday evening showed the same developments.

The satellite photos were taken for the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) as CSIS.  That program has just announced that current director Dr. Mira Rapp-Hooper is leaving that program and the new director of AMTI will be Gregory Poling.  Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post describing the background of the AMTI program.

Here is what CSIS has to say on decoding China's maritime decision-making.  Here is CSIS's "Island Tracker" where you can explore China's island-building prowess.  Here is the think tank's latest analysis on the island building by China.

In related Asia news at CSIS, the think tank has just announced the launch of a bipartisan commission to develop a comprehensive economic strategy for the United States to pursue vital US interests in the Asia-Pacific region.  The Asia Economic Strategy Commission (AESC) will be chaired by Ambassador Charlene Barshefsky, Evan Greenberg, and Gov. Jon Huntsman.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Do Republican Think Tanks Need a Facelift?

Here are Think Tank Watch's favorite excerpts from a new piece by Chris Ladd in the Houston Chronicle entitled "Rebuilding the GOP: Think Tanks":

  • If politics is a sausage-factory, then think tanks are the grinder. In a city starved for glamour there may be no less glamorous job. The best ones function as hives of bright minds, relied on by political leaders to deliver the research, drafting, advocacy, and analysis on which successful legislation is constructed.
  • Go the 1:12 mark in that famous Schoolhouse Rock video posted here. That’s the point in the process in which think tanks have perhaps their most important role. Armed with what seems like a great idea – school buses should stop at railroad crossings – it is time for our noble representative to draft a bill. It sounds easy. It is not.
  • In short, to draft legislation that will successfully navigate its way toward adoption and also be effective on the ground, more often than not you need help from smart, savvy people who share your interest in the outcome.  That leaves Congressmen to rely on think tanks, interest groups, or to an increasing extent, industry lobbyists. As Republican think tanks become more intensely ideological, bent on orthodoxy in nearly every case regardless how absurd the result, representatives are forced to lean more and more on lobbyists for advice and research.
  •  One can still occasionally glimpse flashes of insight from mainstream Republican think tanks, but on the whole they remain loyal to dogma over discovery. What happened to David Frum and Bruce Bartlett when they expressed independent insights remains a warning to anyone who might step out of line. The best advice a Republican policy maker can get from a mainstream think tank today would come from the American Enterprise Institute.
  • No “think tank” is worthy of the name if it is blocked by political considerations from even considering vital, empirically-proven realities. Having an ideological focus is often central to a think tank’s mission. However, if that ideology focus fails to yield to discoveries, then the organization becomes a source of dangerous distortions.

Chris Ladd is a Republican precinct committeeman who also works in the software industry.

Exxon Has Spent $30+ Million on Think Tanks?

Corporations are the glue that keep most large think tanks intact, as a whole spending hundreds of millions of dollars each year for think tank studies and access to scholars.  One specific example is ExxonMobil Corporation, which has reportedly spent tens of millions of dollars on think tanks over the past few decades.  Here is more from a Herald & Tribune op-ed:
...for decades thereafter, the company [Exxon] nevertheless spent $30 million on think tanks and researchers...

According to The Huffington Post, in 2014 alone Exxon spent $1.9 million on 15 think tanks, advocacy groups, and trade associations.  Here is a list from around 2005 of the various think tanks that Exxon was funding.  Think tanks on that list include Cato Institute, Heritage Foundation, Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), Hoover Institution, and Hudson Institute.

Exxon's corporate website does not list the think tanks it currently funds but says that it "provides support to a variety of think tanks, trade associations and coalitions in order to promote informed dialogue and sound policy on matters pertinent to its interests."  Today, Exxon funds think tanks such as the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) and the Brookings Institution.  [Chevron is also a donor to those two think tanks.]

Other think tanks that have received Exxon money include: Resources for the Future (RFF), New America Foundation (NAF), and Center for a New American Security (CNAS).

In 2007, it was reported that Exxon had been funding the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute (AEI).  At that time, AEI was sending letters to scientists offering them up to $10,000 to critique findings in a climate report from the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

It is also important to remember that in 2009, Exxon head Rex Tillerson came to the Wilson Center in Washington, DC to announce for the first time that Exxon was supporting a carbon tax.

Here is more about big oil companies' funding of think tanks.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post on the Bipartisan Policy Center's (BPC) connection to Exxon.

Exxon has also given large amounts to colleges and universities, often considered the largest competitors to think tanks.

In related news, a recent New York Times piece entitled "Emails Reveal Academic Ties In a Food War" outlines the large sums of money that Monsato has given to academics.  That piece does not mention Monsanto's funding of think tanks, but it is public knowledge that Monsato has donated to think tanks like the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and Hudson Institute.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Think Tank Quickies (#190)

  • JHU Professor Daniel Schlozman: Leading Democratic think tanks have moved left on economics.
  • Foreign policy debates "usually confined to the ivory tower corners of Washington think tanks and government agencies."
  • At the largest 250 US companies, Catholic groups have submitted 12 environment-related shareholder proposals this year, according to Proxymonitor.org, a website sponsored by Manhattan Institute's Center for Legal Policy.
  • Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND): Think tank studies conclude that lifting the oil export ban will add jobs, boost GDP, and lower gas prices.
  • Andrea Torniella: Pope Francis's message misunderstood and badly presented by US think tanks.
  • What makes a great city for think tanks? 
  • 10 ways for a think tank to raise its profile and become and international player.
  • Tea Party voters at odds with Beltway think tanks. 
  • Sabrina De Santiago of Sen. Tom Udall's (D-NM) office leaving to become director of government affairs for Center for American Progress (CAP). 
  • A few think tanks/think tankers to follow on Twitter, via Bloomberg Business.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

UAE Ambassador Heavily Funding US Think Tanks

This is from a Huffington Post story entitled "His Town" which says that UAE Ambassador to the United States Yousef Al Otaiba is the "most charming man in Washington."  The article, among other things, notes how he has been funding a variety of powerful think tanks:
Since Otaiba’s arrival, the UAE has made sizeable donations to a wide range of think tanks and policy centers, including the Center for American Progress, the Aspen Institute, the EastWest Institute and the Center for Strategic and International Studies—all institutions populated by former and soon-to-be-again government officials who formulate foreign policy conventional wisdom.
The Pentagon meeting Otaiba attended, which caught the attention of The Washington Post’s defense reporter, was organized by John Hamre, the CEO of CSIS.  This year, a UAE-based research institute also partnered with the Saudi Embassy in D.C. to launch the Arab Gulf States Institute, a think tank that has hired numerous recent administration officials as scholars and fellows (Otaiba's mentor, Wisner, serves as chairman of the board).

Otaiba is not the only ambassador of a foreign country to embrace US think tanks.  As Think Tank Watch has previously reported, the French Ambassador to the US loves hosting think tankers for parties at his residence.  But, the French Ambassador may not be as "charming" as the UAE Ambassador.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Star Economist Peter Orszag Re-Joining Brookings

The Brookings Institution has just announced that Peter Orszag, former Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under President Obama, is rejoining the Economic Studies Program at Brookings as a Nonresident Senior Fellow effective September 8, 2015.  Here is more about his past history at the think tank:
Prior to leading CBO, Orszag served as the Joseph A. Pechman Senior Fellow and Deputy Director of Economic Studies [at Brookings], was the first director of The Hamilton Project, was director of the Retirement Security Project, and was a Co-Director of the Brookings-Urban Tax Policy Center.
Before his time at Brookings, Orszag served in the Clinton Administration, where he was Special Assistant to the President for Economic Policy, and prior to that a staff economist and then Senior Advisor and Senior Economist at the President’s Council of Economic Advisers.

Orszag also has affiliations with other think tanks.  For example, he currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE).  In the past, he has served as a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).

A couple months ago, Brookings announced that it has scooped up another all-star economist in Douglas Elmendorf, who has also re-joined Brookings after a stint in the Obama Administration as Director of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

Prostestors Interfere With Cheney Speech at AEI

Typically, at ones home think tank, a speaker can find a sympathetic crowd.  But that is often not the case with controversial figures such as former Vice President Dick Cheney.  Mr. Cheney, who is affiliated with the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), faced a rather hostile protester as he was giving an Iran speech there.  Here is more:
Protesters briefly interrupted former Vice President Dick Cheney’s speech at the American Enterprise Institute on Tuesday asking, “Why should we be listening to you?” They also told Cheney that he’s a “war criminal.”
Cheney was giving an anti-Iran nuclear deal speech, where he said the deal will have “catastrophic” consequences and put the U.S. at the direct risk of nuclear devastation.
“My generation wants peace, not war,” one protester yelled at Cheney.
While the protesters were escorted out, Cheney stood on stage, smirked, and said “thank you very much” before continuing on.

Although the article above uses the plural "protesters," only one protester can be seen on videos shot during the outburst at the conservative think tank.  A short video of the protester can be found here.  A longer video can be found here.

The Hill newspaper notes that the woman protester was escorted out of the room after a brief scuffle in which a security guard "seemed to try to wrench away" a banner she was holding.  The Hill also notes that the protester appeared to be aligned with the activist group CodePink, which was protesting Cheney outside of the think tank earlier in the morning.

The protests certainly added some excitement to usually-calm think tank land, in which the most exciting thing to usually happen is a moderator berating an audience member for being too long-winded.

Think Tank Watch wonders if there will be any protesters at Brookings, which is hosting both Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Hillary Clinton this week at separate events for a discussion on Iran.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Think Tank Quickies (#189)

  • Miley Cyrus opened up VMA's with an "Instagram Think Tank" that helps her decide what to post.
  • Hillary Clinton inquired about think tanker Steve Clemons of NAF.
  • Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visits CAP to address strengthening of child nutrition programs.
  • The New Republic and CAP host policy forum on future of climate change with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough.
  • Bharath Gopalaswamy named Director of Atlantic Council's South Asia Center.
  • Wilson Center on the future of 3D printing.
  • CNAS Senior Fellow Ely Ratner named Deputy National Security Advisor to VP Joe Biden. 
  • Loren DeJonge Schulman, former Senior Advisor to the National Security Advisor, named CNAS Leon E. Panetta Senior Fellow and Deputy Director of Studies.
  • Amb. William Taylor named EVP at USIP.
  • Libertarian think tank R Street study: US gov't agencies missed 1,400 of 2,684 regulatory deadlines.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

New Ed Policy Think Tank Opens With DC Office

A new education policy think tank has just opened its doors with a focus on pre-K through high school.  Here is more from Education Week:
Stanford educated heavy-hitter Linda Darling-Hammond has launched a new think tank intended to bring evidence into education policy.
The Palo Alto, California-based Learning Policy Institute launched this week with 30 researchers and a board including some big education names, such as Henry Louis Gates Jr., the director of Harvard University's W.E.B. DuBois Institute for African and African American Research, and Kris Gutierrez, a language, literacy and culture professor at the University of California, Berkeley.
The institute has some $5 million in initial funding and support from The Atlantic Philanthropies, S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Sandler Foundation, the Stuart Foundation, and also the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, which also provides support for Education Week coverage of deeper learning issues.

The article notes that the Learning Policy Institute will be based in Palo Alto, California but will also have a Washington office.  That office is located in Dupont Circle, near the heart of "think tank row."

Topics that the new think tank will focus on include early childhood learning, educator quality, college and career readiness, school organization and design, and school funding and management.

According to the latest University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings, the world's top five education policy think tanks are:
  1. Urban Institute (US)
  2. RAND Corporation (US)
  3. Brookings Institution (US)
  4. Cato Institute (US)
  5. National Institute for Educational Policy Research (Japan)

A full list of LPI's Board of Directors, leadership, staff, and senior fellows can be found here.

Stolen: Donor & Email Information From Heritage Foundation

It was the best of times and the worst of times.  The conservative think tank Heritage Foundation announced this week that it has received a $2.7 million gift.  Then, a day later, it announced that it had an unauthorized data breach in which donor information and emails were stolen.  Here is more from Politico:
The Heritage Foundation suffered a data breach this week in which intruders swiped sensitive emails and donor information, the right-wing think tank confirmed Wednesday.
The breach occurred at the same time that the foundation’s multimedia news organization, the Daily Signal, has criticized the Obama administration and federal agencies such as the Office of Personnel Management over lax cybersecurity. One article in July was headlined “How Obama’s Poor Judgment Led to the Chinese Hack of OPM.”
Any information dating back six years would preclude the arrival of former Sen. Jim DeMint as president of Heritage, and predate the existence of Heritage Action, the Foundation’s advocacy arm. Heritage’s review thus far has found no evidence of credit card or bank information being breached.

Politico notes that some of the stolen data may have recently been appearing on the Internet.  The article notes that in 2012, then-House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers (R-MI) said tanks were "juicy targets" for foreign intelligence services and were "under constant cyber espionage assault."  The article also notes that Heritage has been the target of cyberattacks before.

Politico also notess that earlier this year, the think tank Urban Institute disclosed to charitable organizations that its National Center for Charitable Statistics, a system for filing taxes, had been breached and around 600,000 to 700,000 organizations were affected.  Here is more on the Urban Institute hack from a previous Think Tank Watch post.

Here is a statement on the data breach from the Heritage Foundation.  It says that the breach was of data that was six years old and on an external server.

Currently, the Heritage Foundation has 12 different "membership" levels.  The lowest level is the "basic member" one for $25, and the highest is the "founder" level at $100,000.

For those conservatives not phased by the data breach, don't forget that Heritage now accepts donations with Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discovery.

During the past few years, it has been publicly (and privately) disclosed that nearly every major US think tank has been hacked.  Besides attacks on Heritage and Urban Institute, 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).

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Heritage Scores $2.7 Million Gift for Family/Marriage Promotion

The conservative think tank Heritage Foundation has just received a $2.7 million gift from Ms. Betty A. Anderlink.  Here is more from Heritage:
Betty A. Anderlik of Clearwater, Fl. has made a $2.7 million gift to The Heritage Foundation, the prominent Washington, D.C., think tank announced today.
The gift is being made to support Heritage's efforts to design and promote public policies that "place marriage and the family at the center of civil society," as Heritage describes its efforts, and increase opportunity for all Americans. 
In recognition of her support, a fellowship will be established at Heritage in honor of Mrs. Anderlik and her late husband. The title of Joseph C. and Elizabeth A. Anderlik Fellow will go to the Vice President of Heritage’s Institute for Family, Opportunity and Culture. As the current Vice President of the Institute, Jennifer A. Marshall works to promote and defend a vibrant civil society with both a national and international audience. The Institute for Family, Opportunity and Culture performs both independent and integrated analysis in order to promote a stronger civil society.

David Callahan of Inside Philanthropy has just written a piece in response to the gift, entitled "Who Gives to Conservative Think Tanks?"  Mr. Callahan says that American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and Cato Institute draw lots of support from the finance community, including many New Yorkers, but Heritage is "definitely a think tank of traditional heartland conservatives."

Mr. Callahan notes that the Heritage gift is meant to honor Mrs. Anderlik's late husband Joseph Anderlink, who was a successful executive at a civil engineering firm.  [More specifically, he was a vice president of engineering at Bonestroo Rosene Anderlik and Associates.]  In 2010 Mrs. Anderlik gave the same amount ($2.7 million) to Iowa State University to create an endowed engineering professorship.

While $2.7 million is a large amount, it is small change compared to a couple of previous gifts that Heritage Foundation has recently received.  Earlier this year the think tank received an "eight-digit" gift from a retired radiologist and several members of her family.  And in 2013, Heritage Foundation received $26 million from the family of the late Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis.

To put these gifts into perspective, in 2013, the Heritage Foundation received contributions and grants totaling around $102 million.  In 2012, it received  around $78 million.

WSJ Reminds Writers How to Cite Political Leanings of Think Tanks

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) has just sent out a reminder to its writers on how to address various style and substance issues, including how to address the political leanings of think tanks.  Here is more:
"A reminder in this political season that we should be careful to classify the political leanings of the think tanks we mention in articles.  As noted in 2009, the designations 'liberal,' 'conservative,' and 'libertarian' are appropriate.  'Progressive' isn't.  If there is any doubt about what to call a think tank, double check with the Washington bureau."

In 2009, WSJ said it should "endeavor to classify the political leanings" of the think tanks its mentions in articles, to give readers a "reliable signpost."  The newspaper noted that the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), a liberal think tank, had recently been called "progressive" in a recent article.  WSJ said the word progressive is "a label some groups prefer because, after all, who doesn't like to be considered progressive?"  Here is more of what the WSJ said at that time:
It isn’t always easy to nail down the slant, if any, of individual think tanks. The conservative, liberal and libertarian designations as listed on Wikipedia are fairly reliable, but not infallible. The site also lists “centrist” groups, which we don’t consider a meaningful label, especially because some of those called centrist on the list are openly affiliated with political parties. Nonpartisan, if accurate, is better than “centrist.”  If other labeling is elusive, we can at least try to describe the think tank’s financing when it is appropriate: union-funded, or lawyer-funded,etc...

Think Tank watch is currently in the process of making a chart of dozens of think tanks and their political orientation compared to other think tanks.

In the meantime, one decent grouping of think tanks by political ideology can be found in this study by Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR).  But, according to WSJ standards, many of the ideological groupings would not pass editorial muster.  For example, Brookings is listed as "centrist" when in reality, it is left-leaning.  And the Cato Institute is listed as "center-right" when a more accurate description is libertarian.

By the way, WSJ is not the only media outlet that is thinking about think tank ideology.  For example, in 2011, NPR said it often does a lousy job in identifying the background of think tanks.  And inevitably, some think tanks, such as the Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE), fight to have their ideology as obfuscated as possible.

Here is an article from 2011 entitled "Calculating The Ideologies of Powerful Think Tanks."  Among other things, it contains a list of the 20 most cited think tanks and where they stand on the political spectrum.  Here is another list of think tanks by ideology, including Canadian think tanks.

Another interesting question: Is there media bias against certain types of think tanks?

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

US Military Cutting Down on Outside Think Tanks

The US Army recently issued a press release suggesting that paying outside think tanks millions of dollars for projects that can be done just as good in-house is silly.  Here is more from the release:
And, for the first time, the school is getting Army money to do it, Betros said. "So instead of the Army spending millions to hire external think tanks, we're doing IRPs that allow us to funnel some of that money back into the Army." 
Students do research projects every year, he said. But they've been more or less individually driven, he said, meaning the students choose subjects they're interested in.
"We decided to make the Army War College as relevant as possible to the larger Army, so we found research topics that were of most interest to the chief of staff of the Army."
Former Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno approved the five current research projects, which in fact, aligned with his priorities, Betros said.

The US military gives tens of millions of dollars each year to a variety of think tanks.  One example is RAND Corporation, a think tank that received $34.7 million from the US Army in fiscal year 2014, $39.9 million from the US Air Force, and $64.9 million from the US Secretary of Defense and other national security agencies.

Think Tank Quickies (#188)

  • Thomas Pritzker appointed Chairman of CSIS's Board of Trustees; succeeds former senator Sam Nunn, who will remain as Chairman Emeritus.
  • Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint gives keynote at Jackson Hole summit.
  • Professor attacks African think tanks as "tanks that do not think."
  • Is Bangalore the next think tank hub?
  • Cato "goes off the rails" on health policy?
  • Sri Lanka made hundreds of contacts with US think tanks in 2014.
  • Emanuel Pastreich: Think tanks suffer from a number of shortcomings.
  • Bruce Jones named VP and Director of Foreign Policy at Brookings; Hamilton Project at Brookings appoints Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach as new director.
  • Rexon Ryu, former Chief of Staff to former DefSec Chuck Hagel, joins Carnegie as Senior Advisor.
  • CSIS hires Olga Oliker from RAND to replace Andy Kuchins who will head Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service; Kuchins will be a Non-Resident Senior Fellow at CSIS.
  •  Two leading US think tanks (CEIP and Stimson) say that Pakistan will have 350+ nuclear weapons in a decade.