Monday, February 29, 2016

Hillary's Top Aide Has a Family Think Tank

A new Vanity Fair piece entitled "Hillary's Other Daughter," which is about top Hillary aide Huma Abedin, notes that Ms. Abedin has deep family ties to a think tank.  Here is more:
Abedin was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  Her mother, Saleha Mahmood Abedin, is Pakistani; her late father, Syed Zainul Abedin, was Indian.  Both were intellectuals.  When Abedin was two years old, the family moved to Jidda, Saudi Arabia, where, with the backing of Abdullah Omar Nasseef, then the president of King Abdulaziz University, her father founded the Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs, a think tank, and became the first editor of its Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, which states its mission as "shedding lights" on minority Muslim communities around the world in the ope of "securing the legitimate rights of those communities."  After Syed died, in 1993, his wife succeeded him as director of the institute and editor of the Journal, positions she still holds.
It turns out the Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs is an Abedin family business.  Human was an assistant editor there between 1996 and 2008.  Her brother, Hassan, 45, is a book review editor at the Journal and was a fellow at the Oxtord Center for Islamic Studies, where Nasseef is chairman of the board of trustees.  Huma's sister, Heba, 26, is an assitant editor at the Journal.

The Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs (IMMA) is based in London, England.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Think Tank Institute for Policy Studies is Moving

The liberal think tank Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) will be moving from its current Washington, DC headquarters at 1112 16th Street, NW to a new office at 1301 Connecticut Avenue, NW.

IPS will be on the 6th floor of the new building and will have more than 6,000 square feet of space.

The move will bring the think tank slightly closer to the heart of think tank row, where major players such as the Brookings Institution and Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP) are housed.  American Enterprise Institute (AEI) will also be moving to think tank row shortly.

Besides its DC office, IPS has also has a New England office located in Massachusetts.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Google Says Goodbye to Its Think Tank

Google's think tank Google Ideas is no longer.  Google has relaunched the think tank as an incubator and renamed it Jigsaw.  The goal of the new entity is to invest in and develop tech solutions to geopolitical problems and digital attacks, according to media reports.

Jared Cohen, who has headed Google Ideas since its inception five years ago, will head Jigsaw.

Here is more insight as to why Google dumped its think tank:
Part of the transition of Google to Alphabet Inc. was management's argument that disclosure of the activity of the units of the company would help investors gain insight into how the units work and spend money, beyond its huge search engine unit.
Alphabet has dumped one of the businesses that has the least value to shareholders, its think tank dubbed Google Ideas. It has a new name, Jigsaw, and a new home, far from Alphabet's other businesses, almost all of which are more promising.

Up until its end, Google Ideas was considered to be one of the world's best for-profit think tanks.

Even with the demise of Google Ideas, Google still maintains a deep connection to think tank land and continues to donate to numerous think tanks.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Washingtonian: AEI Has One of the Best Lunches in Washington

The March 2016 edition of the Washingtonian is out with a new piece on the best lunches at US agencies, nonprofits, and schools.

The conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute (AEI) made the list, along with Kramer Middle School, the law firm of WilmerHale, Holton-Arms School, and National Geographic Society.

Here is what is said about AEI:
Salt-crusted beef tenderloin, whiskey-smoked rack of lamb, Kobe beef, and duck are staples for the red-tie crowd at the conservative think tank in downtown DC - and that's just the buffet.  "We try not to get too repetitive," deadpans chef Richard McCreadie, formerly of the Ritz-Carlton, in a Scottish brogue.  The high-end grub comes in handy when VIP panelists stay for lunch and McCreadie has minutes to whip the day's chow-line offering into an elegant sit-down.

The magazine has a picture of an AEI meal of charbroiled Maine lobster with marjoram butter sauce in a tomato concasse.  Posh.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch piece on a think tank's strength being measured by its food.

How Trump Sees Think Tank Land?

Dan Drezner has a new piece in The Washington Post entitled "Grant-writing in the Trump Administration," in which he pretends to write a message to the National Science Foundation (NSF) seeking a grant for research on economic sanctions.

In the parody piece, he argues that his work would be better than that of the think tank Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE).  Here is more:
I want you, the NSF, to give me tremendous amounts of money to research economic sanctions. You should do this because everyone else researching sanctions is stupid. Just so unbelievably dumb.
The Peterson Institute for International Economics is a DC think tank in a funny-looking building that produces nothing but low-class research. I’ve seen how they operate, all they do is say “on the one hand, on the other hand.” Enough with the hands! We don’t need that kind of weak-ass research anymore.
If you give me the money — or, better yet, make the no-talent hacks I talked about in the last paragraph pay for it — I will produce the best, the classiest economic sanctions research you will ever see. There’s gonna be so much great research, you’ll get sick of it all. The research will come in fancy binders. And I will hire only the best people, recruit top-notch graduate students. American graduate students, no foreigners. In fact, I was thinking of starting a Sanctions University...

PIIE was just ranked as the top international economics think tank in the world by the annual University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings.

Here is how Steven Rattner recently described the crowd at PIIE.

Monday, February 22, 2016

New Group Highlighting Diversity Problems at Think Tanks

Watch out all you think tanks who lack gender diversity, because a new group may be writing about you very soon.

We are talking about The Diversity Tank, a new project looking at think tank diversity, and which has started out highlighting the gender diversity (or lack thereof) at top think tanks.

In one of its first posts, The Diversity Tank tweeted a chart looking at gender diversity of "experts" at the top think tanks in the United States.  Here is the raw data.

That chart shows that RAND Corporation leads the pack, with 42% of experts at the think tank being female.  Center for American Progress (CAP) followed RAND, with 40% of its experts being female.  At the bottom of the list was the Cato Institute, with only around 6% of its experts being female.

The Diversity Tank has also tweeted a chart showing the gender diversity among program directors at the top 10 US think tanks.  CAP was #1 with 46% of its program directors being female (RAND has only 29%).  The lowest was Cato, with not a single female program director.  Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP) had the next lowest, with females making up only 13% of its program directors.

The Diversity Tank sent out another recent tweet showing gender diversity on think tank boards.  Of the top 10 US think tanks, the Center for American Progress has 33% of its board consisting of females, the highest of the think tanks.  Close behind is National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) with 32%, CFR with 31%, Wilson Center with 29%, and Heritage Foundation with 27%.  At the bottom of the list was Cato Institute, with only 10% of its board members being female.  CSIS only has 13% of its board members being females.

The Diversity Tank's formation comes as the Obama Administration has proposed new regulations that would require employers with 100 or more workers to disclose how much they pay men and women.

The Diversity Tank tells Think Tank Watch that it started its project due to frustration with the lack of diversity at think tanks.  "It's a huge problem that stems from specific hiring practices that can be changed if there's enough incentive.  The hope is that the more publicity this problem gets, the more incentive there will be to address," says Diversity Tank, which also noted that a much bigger problem at think tanks is lack of racial and class diversity.  Diversity Tanks, however, said that is much harder to measure than gender using publicly available data.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post on women in think tanks, and another on women as think tank heads.  Is the average DC think tank event still five guys in suits?  And do men still dominate the think roles at think tanks?  Here is another Think Tank Watch piece on women leadership roles at think tanks.

We also wonder whether think tanks will continue to be slammed for lack of gender diversity on think tank panels.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

CAP President Passed Secrets to Clinton

Here is more from Politico:
As President Barack Obama's signature health-care reform proposal bogged down in Congress in 2009, Clinton paid close attention.
In a May 26, 2009 email, longtime Clinton adviser Neera Tanden passed on "hush hush" information that the Senate Finance Committee was considering a variant of the so-called "public option" — one or more government-run health-care plans that could exist alongside private ones. Tanden said she was pushing for a "cost trigger" that would allow a public plan if costs went too high.
"All of this is super secret," wrote Tanden, then part of the health care legislative team at the Department of Health and Human Services. Ultimately, no public option was part of the Affordable Care Act passed by Congress in 2010.
Tanden also indicated in the same email exchange that she was ready to make sure Clinton got credit if some of her policy ideas emerged in the final bill.
"Lots of things could fall in the direction of your campaign proposal — a mandate with a smallish version of the exclusion along with a premium cap. That's by no means assured, but if it does break that way, I will try to ensure I'm not the only one who notices (between us, of course)," Tanden wrote.

Neera Tanden, who had very close ties to the Clintons and the Obama Administration, is now the head of the Center for American Progress (CAP).  She recently said that she wants to see a half-female for the next US president.

CAP is said to be the go-to policy shop for Hillary Clinton, and the liberal think tank would likely play a huge role in a Clinton presidency.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Steven Rattner Describes Crowd at Peterson Institute

Here is how Steven Rattner describes the Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE):
A few days ago, I visited the shiny headquarters of the Peterson Institute for International Economics on “think tank row” in Washington — basically, the locker room of the Team Globalization and Free Trade cheering squad.
I was there to take part in a discussion of an old friend’s outstanding book on the subject, Steven R. Weisman’s “The Great Tradeoff: Confronting Moral Conflicts in the Era of Globalization.”
...Then I went rogue and uttered two blasphemous words: “Ross Perot.” He had a point, I said heretically, when he campaigned in 1992 against the landmark North American Free Trade Agreement, saying that it would result in a “giant sucking sound” of jobs headed south to Mexico.
A cool breeze drifted toward me.
As I looked out at my audience, I realized that the room was filled with winners — folks who, from all appearances, earned their livings from intellectual labor. Neither their jobs nor their wages were in jeopardy as countries ranging from Vietnam to Colombia became more competitive with us.

PIIE is certainly one of free trade and globalization's biggest proponents, and it always has been.

While at PIIE (formerly known as the Institute for International Economics), the scholar John Williamson coined the term "Washington Consensus," which is often seen as synonymous with globalization and neoliberalism.

Just last month the think tank came out with a study on the benefits of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and bashed a competing study by Tufts University that did not support its findings.

Heritage Foundation Honors Ryan's Top Staffer, But Disses Budget

Here is more from Jake Sherman of Politico:
The conservative Heritage Foundation is throwing a "reception" to honor Speaker Paul Ryan's chief of staff David Hoppe, even as its lobbying arm tries to derail the House Republican leadership's 2017 budget.
Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint and former president Ed Feulner are listed as the hosts of the Thursday evening event, which is scheduled to be held at the Heritage Foundation's Pennsylvania Avenue headquarters, according to a source familiar with the event.
Hoppe, who joined Ryan's (R-Wis.) staff when he became speaker, is a longtime Capitol Hill hand. He worked for former Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.) — Ryan's political mentor — former Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and former Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.). He also worked as a lobbyist for many years and he was a staffer at the Heritage Foundation.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch piece on Speaker Ryan's deep ties to think tank land.  Here is a Politico piece entitled "Heritage Complicates House GOP's Plans to Break Budget Impasse."

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Think Tank Quickies (#206)

  • A foreign policy debate between Trump and Sanders would probably drive the entire think tank community to invest in Canadian real estate, says Michael Koplow. 
  • Urban Institute weighs in on Marco Rubio's tax plan for president.
  • EPI study: Imports from China by Walmart eliminated/displaced 400,000+ jobs?
  • Eurasia Review: Think tanks often part of the problem, not the solution.
  • Inside the Kanye West think tank.
  • Alejandro Chafuen on the top free-market think tanks in 2015. 
  • Jared Bernstein: "Yo, other DC think tanks - our CBPP nerdlings are better than yours" because they pick up the president's budget in person.
  • Valentine's Day poem on Koch-backed think tanks, via Sean McElwee.
  • Brookings on how to deal with corporate short-termism.
  • Why even the best Russian think tanks struggle to influence foreign policy.
  • New America Foundation (NAF) holds event on Amazon's monopoly.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Could Falling Oil Prices Collapse a Think Tank?

Rapidly falling oil prices are having a ripple effect across the globe, and US think tanks are not immune to the dramatic drop in prices.

Here is an example from the Free Beacon of how oil prices are impacting the venerable think tank Brookings Institution:
The Brookings Institution will not hold its annual Doha energy conference this year amid reports that Qatar and other petroleum-rich countries are cutting spending due to the global oil market collapse.
Brookings, a Washington-based think tank that received nearly $4 million from the Qatar government in 2015, according to disclosure reports, declined to give a reason for why the conference is not being held this year.
“Unfortunately the [Brookings Doha Center] will not be organizing an energy forum in 2016,” said Kais Sharif, program and events manager for the Brookings Doha Center. “However, we are very optimistic that our next forum will take place in March/April 2017 and we will start planning for it in fall.”

The article also notes that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia - two prolific think tank funders - are also planning to tighten their belts due to low oil prices.

Among other think tanks, the UAE gives funding to Atlantic Council, as well as the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Center for American Progress (CAP), and Aspen Institute.

In 2014, the New York Times wrote a piece on foreign governments funding US think  thinks tanks, with a particular focus on Brookings and the funding it receives from Middle East countries.

The good news is that very few think tank rely solely on oil companies or oil-producing countries for funding.  But will oil companies like Exxon continue to throw big money at think tanks?

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Think Tank Third Way Hates Sanders, Loves Clinton

The center-left think tank Third Way and its scholars do not have nice things to say to Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

Just check out some of the recent tweets:

And in an apparent nod to Hillary Clinton, Third Way retweeted this:

Can you guess which side Third Way is on?

But that should be no surprise.  Third Way has a number of Clinton connections.  For example, Third Way co-founder Matt Bennett worked on both of the presidential campaigns of Bill Clinton.

Even though Third Way is careful to label itself simply as a "centrist" think tank, it is widely known that Third Way is first and foremost a Democratic think tank.  Some have labeled it the "Wall Street Wing of the Democratic Party."

In 2013, Third Way sparked at war in the Democratic Party when President Jon Cowan and Senior Vice President for Policy Jim Kessler wrote an op-ed arguing that the Democratic Party should not embrace the economic populism of people such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

Update: The Union for Non-Profit Workers, the DC-based local union of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE) has endorsed Bernie Sanders for president.  The Clinton-backed think tank Center for American Progress (CAP) has just unionized with IFPTE, probably making for some awkward political battles within the think tank.

PIIE Bashes Tufts for Its Competing Trade Study

The pro-traders at Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE) do not seem to like competition when it comes to free trade studies.

In a blog post, PIIE scholar Robert Lawrence defended his think tank's recent study on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), arguing that it is far superior than a Tufts University study on TPP that was just released but had very different findings.

Lawrence argues that the Tufts study, which estimates that TPP would reduce US income by 0.5%, reduce employment by almost half a million jobs, and increase income inequality, has faulty methodology.  Among other things, the PIIE study predicts that TPP would raise real incomes 0.5% by 2030.

Scholar Jared Bernstein, a former top economic adviser to Vice President Joe Biden and Senior Fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBBP), defended the Tufts study at the National Press Club.

The PIIE study, entitled "The Economic Effects of the Trans-Pacific Partnership: New Estimates," was written by Peter Petri and Michael Plummer.  The Tufts study, entitled "Trading Down: Unemployment, Inequality and Other Risks of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement," was written by Jeronim Capaldo and Alex Izurieta, with Jomo Kwame Sundaram.

The Tufts study cites a couple of PIIE studies in its reference section, and likewise, the PIIE study cites a couple of Tufts studies, including the most recent one.

Lawrence has been a Nonresident Senior Fellow at PIIE since 2001, and is the Albert L. Williams Professor of Trade and Investment at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Think Tank Watch is not taking sides, but we predict that both of the predictions in the study will be wrong.

Update:  Here is a piece in Salon entitled "TPP: Written By And For the Rich to Further Enrich Themselves at Our Expense," which blasts the PIIE report on TPP.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Think Tank Quickies (#205)

  • German think tank (Friedrich Naumann Foundation) pulling out of Egypt over restrictions.
  • Peterson Institute (PIIE) releases new book on moral conflicts of globalization.
  • CSIS launches Task Force on Women's and Family Health.
  • Andrew Taylor, Executive Chairman of Enterprise Holdings, joins CSIS Board of Trustees.
  • Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Michael Fuchs joins CAP as Senior Fellow.
  • Former broadcast journalist Michael Golden joins CAP as Senior Fellow; Paul Verkuil, 10th Chairman of the Administrative Conference of the US, joins CAP as Senior Fellow.
  • James Murdoch, CEO of 21st Century Fox, joins CNAS Board of Directors; selects 9 new members to Board of Advisors
  • CNAS announces NextWare Cyber Collaboration Toolkit.
  • Joshua Kurlantzick of CFR: Stop being so mean to China.
  • President of AEI Arthur Brooks: Do more corpse meditation
  • Think tanks and influence by Anna Longhini. 
  • Stephen Cook on the charitable status of some think tanks.
  • More think tanks setting up base in India.
  • How professional translation can help think tanks have a global impact.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Chocolate Milk-Gate & How Not to Roll Out a Think Tank Study

For those thinks tanks who are about to release an important study this year, we only have one piece of advice for you: Do not follow in the footsteps of the University of Maryland.  Here is more from the Washington Post:

The bulletin atop a University of Maryland news release was provocative: “Concussion-related measures improved in high school football players who drank new chocolate milk, U-Md. study shows.”
But an update posted below that finding in late December added a backpedaling caveat rarely seen from a major research university: “This press release refers to study results that are preliminary and have not been subjected to the peer review scientific process.”
The December news release touting a beverage called Fifth Quarter Fresh has become a significant embarrassment in College Park as officials scramble to learn how and why it was published prematurely. The beverage is produced by a small western Maryland company that helped fund the study, through a program based at U-Md. that connects businesses with universities for product-development research.

Universities and think tanks receive corporate funding all the time (including money for corporate-sponsored research), but chocolate milk being good for concussions?  Really?!