Thursday, April 7, 2016

UK Goes Crazy Over Its Funding of US Think Tank

Some in the United Kingdom are not very happy that taxpayer money is going to fund a fairly well-off think tank based in Washington, DC - the Center for Global Development (CGD).  Here is more from the Daily Mail:

It is one of the richest countries on Earth, yet millions of pounds of British taxpayers’ money is being sent to fund aid organisations in the US, The Mail on Sunday can reveal. 
One Washington think-tank, the Center for Global Development (CGD), received £5.9 million – yet was so cash-rich that it moved into new £12 million offices complete with a 60-seat ‘ideas lab’.
According to the Department for International Development (DFID) website, Washington-based CGD has received nearly £6 million since November 2011 for ‘global development, research-based aid, food security, global health, technology and anti-corruption cases’.
While CGD is an internationally recognised and respected think- tank that focuses on ‘rigorous independent research’ into how to make aid more effective and reducing global poverty, it appears to have few qualms about spending money on its own highly paid bosses and moved into new offices at the end of 2013.

The most recent publicly available tax records show that the organisation’s president, Nancy Birdsall, received a £300,000 salary in 2014 while chief operating officer Todd Moss (who writes thrillers in his spare time) was paid £200,000.
Birdsall lives in a £1.1 million home in the Washington suburbs with her lawyer husband David. She recently announced she was stepping down as president and has hired a firm of top Californian headhunters to find her replacement.
Moss is a former US State Department official who served under President George W. Bush. Moss balances his work with CGD with writing airport thrillers involving a character called Judd Ryker, who works in the State Department’s ‘Crisis Reaction Unit’ and becomes embroiled in adventures in Africa and Latin America.
The CGD’s new headquarters occupies the 33,000 sq ft fifth floor of a modern office in one of Washington’s most prestigious areas.
The offices cost £9 million to buy, with a further £3 million spent on fixtures and fittings, including a ‘multi-media lab’ and 170-seat conference hall. Lawrence MacDonald, CGD’s then vice-president of communications, sought to head off criticism of the office purchase in a blog post that said: ‘Sometimes the thriftiest thing to do is buy your own place.’
He said the millions ploughed into the building were available because the charity, which has around 50 US-based staff, had accumulated ‘a modest reserve fund’.
Staff at CGD – which also has offices in London’s exclusive Pimlico area – are encouraged to have fun. During President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address in January, they had a ‘bingo’ night complete with drinks and pizza. The winner was the first to cross off a card filled with words commonly used by the President, such as ‘terrorism’, ‘immigrations’ and ‘poverty’.
In an email, a CGD spokesman said: ‘The funding we receive from DFID supports our independent academic research. None of the funding we received from them was used to buy our offices.
‘The support from DFID funds specific programmes of work including research into how wealthy countries can make aid money more effective, strengthening education systems and strengthening global health, food security, anti-corruption and technology policies.’

The UK is not the only one funding CGD.  Other funders include the governments of Australia and Canada, as well as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Ford Foundation, Johnson & Johnson, Omidyar Network, The Rockefeller Foundation, UBS, William & Flora Hewlett Foundation, and many others.