Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Think Tank Dating Scene is Very Wonky

How does a typical think tanker have enough time to find love after reading hundreds of pages of congressional documents and the latest economic reports while rushing to meetings at the White House and State Department?  One word: Tinder.

The sharp-eyed Kevin Carty, a Program Associate with the Open Markets Program at the think tank New America, found a profile from one think tanker who is looking for love on the dating app Tinder:

And here is one more wonky Tinder quote for you.

Are more high-level think tankers using The League app to find dates?

If anyone else sees any thing tanker profiles on Tinder, please let us know!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Conservative Think Tanks Get Bashed in New Transparency Report

A new report by Transparify shows that the conservative think tanks American Enterprise Institute (AEI), Hudson Institution, and Hoover Institute all got the ultra-low rating of one-star for being "highly opaque" in terms of their funding sources.

However, the Heritage Foundation, the US's most well-known conservative think tank, received the much higher rating of "broadly transparent," (four stars) along with its center-left cohort the Brookings Institution.  Other think tanks that are "broadly transparent" include Atlantic Council, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Center for a New American Security (CNAS), Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), and Center for American Progress (CAP).

The Wilson Center, Stimson Center, and Center for Global Development (CGD) are among the major US think tanks that received the highest ranking of five stars ("highly transparent").

Transparify rates the extent to which think tanks publicly disclose through their website where their funding comes from.  The average transparency score among US think tanks is 3.3 stars, up from just 2.1 stars in 2013.  The Transparify survey rated 200 think tanks in 47 countries.

Transparify is funded by the Think Tank Fund, a program of the Open Society Foundations which is funded by billionaire George Soros.  Ironically, in the Transparify report, Open Society Foundations got the worst score of any "think tank," with zero stars.

The full report can be found here.

Update: After the data for the Transparify report was collected, the Hudson Institute became a 4-star think tank due to its funding disclosures in its 2015 annual report.  Among the $100,000+ donors to Hudson include: 21st Century Fox, Dow Jones, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, PhRMA, Sarah Scaife Foundation, and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the US.  Other donors to Hudson include AT&T, BHP Billiton, State Farm, United Parcel Service (UPS), Wendy's Corporation, Chevron, and Exxon Mobil.

Here is an article in iNews by Cahal Milmo about the new Transparify report entitled "Leading Think Tanks 'Influencing Public Policy Without Disclosing Donors.'"

Think Tank Quickies (#226)

  • Brexit means that many UK think tanks will lose access to key funding sources?
  • Brookings looking to turn itself into more of a digital publisher; plays with Lego's.
  • Think tankers don't get Trump.  Can their advice change him? (via S.V. Date of HuffPo).
  • Ben Scott of New America: Think tanks should become incubators of civic entrepreneurship.
  • Nevsun Resources (with Eritrea ops) giving $100,000+ to Atlantic Council to promote Eritrea?
  • AEI President Arthur Brooks on how his think tank is working to improve Washington.
  • Think tanks and tax status: A note on 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) tax categories. (Alex Chance)
  • The role of think tanks: A reply to critics (via Jeremy Sammut)
  • How a 1962 Michael Polanyi essay on research funding inspires donations to think tanks.
  • AEI event: The world according to Star Wars.
  • Tokyo Gov. Yoichi Masuzoe, who just spoke at CSIS, quits amid outcry on spending.

Monday, June 27, 2016

WPost on Heritage Foundation's Daily Signal

The Washington Post has a new story on the Daily Signal, a news website founded in 2014 and published by the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation.  Here is more:
Last summer, shortly after the first Republican presidential debate, the editors of the Daily Signal made a decision. Although its digital-only staff of 25 reporters and editors works less than two miles from the White House, they wouldn’t write about the presidential campaign — not at all.
An odd call, perhaps, but then again, the Daily Signal is not your run-of-the-mill news operation.
First off, it is funded by, and housed within, the Heritage Foundation, the conservative think tank whose president is former Republican senator (and tea party leader) Jim DeMint.
[Editor in Chief Robert] Bluey’s office boasts a large soft-focus poster of Ronald Reagan, and the newsroom lacks the clutter and clatter — and fast-food wrappers — of most places where journalists toil. Clean, quiet and well-appointed, it feels more like a law office or, well, a foundation — except for an impressive new video studio due to debut this summer.
Is it indeed a news operation, or a way for Heritage to do strategic communication in a new and effective way? The editorial insiders insist that it is very much the former.
Former CBS investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson is a regular contributor. And when Facebook executives met with conservative news organizations to soothe fears about charges of anti-conservative bias, Bluey was among them. A few weeks later, Bluey was first to report a story about Facebook’s plans for anti-bias training.
So far, though, the two-year-old site has no credentials to cover Congress, which are granted by the Standing Committee of Correspondents. Bluey thinks the prerequisites for getting them may be pretty challenging for the Signal, at least right now. What’s required includes diverse funding sources and no affiliation with (or location within) an advocacy organization.

The article goes on to note that the Signal is trying to diversify its funding by asking readers to subscribe, noting that with an annual budget of $1.3 million, the site gets about 2 million unique visitors a month.

The Editor in Chief, Robert Bluey, noted that sometimes people at the Heritage Foundation, including President Jim DeMint, offer ideas for Daily Signal.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post on the Daily Signal.

Friday, June 24, 2016

DNC Hackers Also Targeting Think Tanks

It seems that foreign intelligence agencies want to tap into the mind on Hillary Clinton's top advisors.  To do so, they are breaking into computer systems of think tanks that have employees who have close ties to the Clintons.

The latest example: Hackers who targeted the Democratic National Committee (DNC) have also been going after US think tanks.  Here is more from Bloomberg Politics:
The Russian hackers who hit the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign burrowed much further into the U.S. political system, sweeping in law firms, lobbyists, consultants, foundations and the policy groups known as think tanks, according to a person familiar with investigations of the attacks.
Almost 4,000 Google accounts were targeted in an elaborate “spear phishing” campaign -- intended to trick users into providing access so that information could be gleaned from personal and organizational accounts -- from October through mid-May, according to the person, who asked not to be identified discussing confidential information.
Among the policy groups targeted was the Center for American Progress (CAP), which has ties to Clinton and the Obama administration. “We are constantly reviewing our security and operations to prevent and thwart unauthorized activity,” Liz Bartolomeo, a spokeswoman for the center, said in an e-mailed statement. “We have reviewed our systems and we believe our security measures have prevented unwanted access to our systems.”

As Think Tank Watch has previously reported, several influential think tankers, including CAP President Neera Tanden, sit on the DNC policy committee that is helping Democrats draft their policy platform for the upcoming elections.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Attorney General Demanding Docs From Think Tanks in Exxon Probe

Here is more from The Daily Caller:
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey is now the latest state prosecutor to start investigating conservative groups with supposed ties to ExxonMobil, after she issued a subpoena for 40 years of internal company documents and communications with a handful of think tanks.
Healey’s office subpoenaed Exxon as part of a multi-state effort among liberal attorneys general to investigate Exxon for allegedly trying to cover up global warming science. Healey charges that the oil giant lied to shareholders and consumers about the risks of global warming in its communications and shareholder filings, according to a copy of the subpoena obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation.
 Healey demands decades worth or records from prominent conservative think tanks, including the Heritage Foundation and activist group Americans for Prosperity, and also from smaller, lesser known state-based right-leaning groups, such as Boston’s Beacon Hill Institute and the Acton Institute.

In April, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) said that the attorney general of the US Virgin Islands is demanding to see records of the think tank's donors and activities involving climate policy.

Naomi Oreskes, professor at Harvard and co-author of a history of climate skepticism called Merchants of Doubt, said that the history of climate denial can be traced back to a think tank called the George C. Marshall Institute.  That think tank, which was established in 1984, was founded by a former tobacco industry consultant.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Does Trump Want to Destroy Think Tanks?

For months and months, think tanks were not a target for Donald Trump, but now, some think tanks are fretting after the Trump campaign suggested that a main source of funding for think tanks should be severely limited.  Ironically, the suggestion came from Stephen Moore, a top economic advisor to Trump who happens to work at the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation.

Under Mr. Moore's plan, which calls for higher taxes on rich people who donate to non-profits (i.e., think tanks), many of the very donors who give to his think tank (and many others) will likely reduce their donations to Washington's powerful policy organizations.  After all, Heritage is one of the many think tanks that receives funds from billionaire donors.

Here is more from a recent Hill piece:
Moore said the policy challenge would be writing law that distinguishes between genuine charities, like churches and the Salvation Army, and those that should be subject to taxes.
“The question is: Could you make a distinction between a church, homeless shelter, soup kitchen versus the Brookings Institution?” he said, referring to the nonpartisan think tank. Moore’s employer, the Heritage Foundation, is a conservative think tank.

Our guess is that Moore does not mind shooting himself (and his think tank cohorts) in the foot because if Trump becomes president, he would likely leave think tank land after being given a plum job in the Trump Administration.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Think Tank Quickies (#225)

  • Why DC think tanks can't figure out Trump, via Boston Globe. 
  • Link to essay by Robert Kagan (of Brookings) causes hell for NYT editor Jonathan Weisman.
  • CSIS's strong ties to Vietnam, via Greg Rushford (5/23/16).
  • Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Alphabet, Inc., stepping down as New America board chair but remains as chairman emeritus; Reihan Salam and Jonathan Soros appointed as board chairs.
  • Hoover Institution's Golden State poll.
  • Center for a New American Security launches drone website called Proliferated Drones.
  • CNAS brings in three new board members: Leanne Caret (Boeing), Thomas Campbell (DC Capital Partners), and Michael Sonnenfeldt (MUUS & Company).
  • RAND Corporation appoints Shira Efron as Special Advisor on Israel.
  • POGO report says think tanks still not registering with FARA.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

History and Reputation of the McKinsey Global Institute

This in an excerpt from the book "The Firm: The Story of McKinsey and Its Secret Influence":
Despite some missteps, [Frederick] Gluck also grasped that the firm had to do a better job publicizing its accomplishments.  Under his direction, in 1990 the firm launched the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), an independent research operation with the goal of developing "substantive points of view on the critical issues" faced by McKinsey clients.  Even in a world overflowing with economic think tanks, McKinsey brought a unique perspective to the table: The firm's understanding of actual company economics and industry structures gave specificity to its work.  "What's different about MGI is the unique access we have to information that doesn't show up in statistics that we can use responsibly to inform research," said Diana Farrell, head of MGI from 2001 to 2008, when she left to join the Obama Administration.
MGI has been successful in giving the firm a quasi-academic glow that's yet another in the long list of the ways it is differentiated from the competition.  The institute's work on productivity in the early 1990s is widely regarded as groundbreaking in economic circles.  Later work on global capital market developments, the US healthcare system, and energy productivity continues to give McKinsey a voice in conversations to which its competitors are not invited.  But it has also given an outlet to the firms' recurring eruptions of arrogance.  When the institute paid significant sums to lure Nobel laureate Robert Solow and other leading economists to its board, then-chairman Ted Hall reportedly professed the belief that the institute itself was doing Nobel-quality work instead of merely buying Nobel-quality window dressing.

According to rankings by the University of Pennsylvania (which takes money from the think tanks it ranks), McKinsey Global Institute is ranked as the best for-profit think tank in the world.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

DNC Policy Being Influenced by Powerful Think Tankers

With the 2016 presidential elections in full-swing, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) has been meeting to hammer out the Democratic policies that they hope will help defeat Donald Trump.  A policy committee has been set up that includes six members appointed by Hillary Clinton, five members by Bernie Sanders, and four members appointed by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), who is head of the DNC.

Clinton has appointed Neera Tanden, the President of the Center for American Progress (CAP) as a member.  She also appointed Carol Browner, the former Director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy, who is now a Distinguished Senior Fellow at CAP.  Another Clinton appointee is Wendy Sherman, former Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs.  Sherman is a Senior Fellow at Harvard's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Think Tank Quickies (#224)

  • Heritage Foundation unveils new resource (Federal Budget in Pictures) in fight for fiscal responsibility.
  • Heritage names Becky Norton Dunlop its Ronald Reagan Distinguished Fellow, succeeding former US Attorney General Edwin Meese, who remains as Ronald Reagan Distinguished Fellow Emeritus.
  • Heritage holds annual leadership conference in Amelia Island, Florida.
  • Promotions: Michael Strain becomes Director of Economic Policy Studies at AEI; Kevin Hassett becomes the first Director of Domestic Policy Research.
  • Patrick Honohan, former Governor of the Central Bank of Ireland, joins PIIE as Nonresident Senior Fellow.
  • CSIS assists former Defense Secretaries (Harold Brown, William Cohen, and Leon Panetta - all on the think tank's Board of Trustees) with letter in support of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
  • CSIS establishes the Lillan and Robert D. Stuart Jr. Center in Euro-Atlantic and Northern European Studies; Heather Conley to be inaugural director.
  • CSIS promotes two women (Melissa Dalton and Lisa Sawyer) to Senior Fellow level.
  • Center for American Progress (CAP) hosts NASA astronaut Cady Coleman and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack; hosts summit with City of Cleveland.
  • Frederic Hof, former State Department Special Adviser for Transition in Syria, named Director of Atlantic Council's Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.
  • Atlantic Council launches US-India Trade Initiative.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Panama Papers: Think Tankers Working to Safeguard Tax Havens

A group deeply connected to conservative and libertarian think tanks has been working to safeguard tax havens around the world, according to recently obtained "Panama Papers" that the Washington Post has received.  Here is more:
The Center for Freedom and Prosperity promised to persuade Congress, members of the George W. Bush administration and key policymakers to protect the players of the offshore world, where hundreds of thousands of shell companies had been created, often to hide money and evade taxes.
To reach out to American officials and fund its U.S. operations, the center said it needed an infusion of cash for an eight-month campaign: at least $247,000.  “We hope you can support this effort with a donation,” the center wrote in a document sent to Mossack Fonseca, the law firm at the heart of an international financial scandal known as the Panama Papers.
Led by two U.S. citizens — one an economist, the other a tax expert for a Republican congressman — the center met again and again with government officials and members of the offshore industry around the world, while issuing hundreds of funding pleas and peddling its connections to Washington’s power brokers.
The directors of the center, Mitchell and Andrew F. Quinlan, two longtime anti-tax advocates, declined to reveal the identities of their donors, which they said is a common practice in the nonprofit world.
The man at the helm of the Center for Freedom and Prosperity, Andrew Quinlan, 53, is a former Republican congressional staffer who worked out of his home in Alexandria and spends much of his time on the road. Dan Mitchell, 57, is a widely known economist who worked for the Bush/Quayle transition team in 1988 and a leading tax expert at the Cato Institute, a libertarian Washington think tank. The two met in 1981 while undergrads and fraternity brothers at the University of Georgia.
Quinlan and Mitchell launched the center in October 2000. It is made up of two parts, the center itself, which is set up as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization “created to lobby lawmakers in favor of market liberalization,” according to the group’s marketing materials. The second part is called the Center for Freedom and Prosperity Foundation, which is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization set up to educate the public, lawmakers and the media on “the benefits of limited government” and “the need for competitive markets.”
Quinlan is listed in the center’s tax filings as president, Mitchell as its chairman. Two other board members are named — economist Veronique de Rugy, a co-founder of the center, and a man who died in 2014, John Blundell. Only Quinlan is listed as drawing a salary. His compensation has ranged from $122,000 to $23,000 in 2014, the last year of publicly available tax filings.

The article goes on to note that the Center for Freedom and Prosperity (CF&P) Foundation  received $119,000 out of funds raised by a financial services company in Virginia.  That firm was founded by Richard W. Rahn, a former Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute, the libertarian think tank where co-founder Daniel Mitchell works as a Senior Fellow.

CF&P Board Member Veronique de Rugy is a Senior Research Fellow at the libertarian Mercatus Center housed within George Mason University.  She used to be a Resident Fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI).  The other Board Member listed in tax documents, the late John Blundell, was Director General and Ralph Harris Fellow at the London-based think tank Institute of Economic Affairs.

Friday, June 10, 2016

New "Mini Cato Institute" Launches

Washington, DC welcomes its newest think tank to the mix, the Defense Priorities Foundation, whose main goal is to promote foreign policy that includes a greater reluctance to assert military force.  It other words, it is basically the Cato Institute of defense, a libertarian shop that dislikes costly wars.

Here is more from Politico:
Sen. Rand Paul's vision of a less militaristic foreign policy got little traction in the GOP primaries, but some of his key backers are joining forces with associates of billionaire Charles Koch in a fresh effort to steer Washington away from interventions in overseas wars.

They’re launching a think tank, the Defense Priorities Foundation, that seeks to elevate national security policies that are decidedly out of the mainstream of Republican — and even some Democratic — foreign policy thinking, featuring a significantly greater reluctance to assert military force or even impose sanctions on nations such as North Korea. The related Defense Priorities Initiative, meanwhile, is designed as the organization's advocacy arm, which will seek to lobby Congress.
Among the architects of the nonprofit are William Ruger, a Navy Reserve officer who is the vice president for research and policy at the Charles Koch Institute. The institute is backed by the billionaire businessman and donor, who along with his brother David has poured millions into conservative political causes that champion lower taxes and lighter regulations.
The think tank is also the brainchild of several acolytes of Paul, the Kentucky Republican who rose to prominence criticizing American military operations in the Middle East and the expanding use of armed drones in particular.
The group's communications director, Eleanor May, was the national press secretary for Paul's presidential campaign. Paul's office declined a request to comment for this story.
The think tank has also enlisted some of D.C.'s leading libertarian foreign policy thinkers and several conservative pundits, as well as a retired Army officer and Afghanistan veteran, Daniel Davis, who was perhaps the most famous military whistleblower of the past generation.
A spokesperson for the Charles Koch Institute told POLITICO that the institute and the Charles Koch Foundation are not providing financial support to the new think tank...

The article goes on to note that Christopher Preble, Vice President for Defense and Foreign Policy Studies at Cato, is a senior adviser at the new think tank.  Doug Bandow, a former special assistant to Ronald Reagan, and a Cato Senior Fellow, is also a "recruit" to the new think tank, according to Politico.  And Charles (Chuck) Peña, former Director of Defense Policy Studies at Cato, is a Foreign Policy Fellow and Scholar at the new think tank.  [It also notes notes that Koch has been a major backer of Cato.]

Edward King, who most recently served as Chief Operating Officer for Concerned American Voters, a pro-Rand Paul Super PAC, is listed as the President and Founder of the new think tank.

Unlike Cato, however, Defense Priorities Foundation will have a lobbying arm called the Defense Priorities Initiative.  That will allow it to officially lobby the US Congress and others, much like the Heritage Foundation, which has a sister lobbying arm called Heritage Action.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Could Atlantic Council Chairman Jon Huntsman be Trump's VP?

Rumors continue to swirl around who will be Donald Trump's vice presidential pick, and some have even floated the idea that a think tanker could be in the running.

Huffington Post recently said that Jon Huntsman is on Trump's short list as a VP candidate.  Huntsman, who is the Chairman of the think tank Atlantic Council, said back in February that he could support Trump if he is nominated.

Huntsman has been eager to try to impact the thinking of the next president, releasing in April a "policy playbook for America's next president."  He released that "playbook" along with Joe Lieberman, both co-chairs of the group No Labels.

Huntsman, who was a 2012 presidential candidate, may not be the only think tank head being considered by Trump.  Another possibility is former Sen. Jim DeMint, who some speculate is also in the running for VP.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Indian Prime Minister Has Powwow With US Think Tank Bigwigs

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is visiting the United States, and with the US elections dominating the news cycle, he decided to have a meeting with top US think tank heads to discuss the elections, among other things.

Those in attendance included:
  • Neera Tanden, President and CEO of Center for American Progress (CAP)
  • Strobe Talbott, President of the Brookings Institution
  • William Burns, President of Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP)
  • Kurt Campbell, Co-Founder and former CEO of Center for a New American Security (CNAS)
  • Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR)
  • Jon Huntsman, Chairman of the Atlantic Council
  • Kenneth Weinstein, Chairman and CEO of the Hudson Institute
  • Nancy Lindborg, President of the United States Institute of Peace (USIP)
  • Michael Dimock, President of Pew Research Center

Others "think tanks" reportedly represented at the meeting include Center for the National Interest (CNI), Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), and Global Energy Capital (GEC) - which is not actually a think tank.

Here is a picture of the think tankers talking to Modi around a large table.

Many of those think tank heads present at the meeting have advised the presidential candidates and are providing policy advice to them.  Moreover, some will likely serve in the next Administration at very high levels.

Foreign heads of state rarely have convened such a high-level meeting strictly with think tank heads on US soil, making the meeting quite rare.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Think Tank Quickies (#223)

  • Arne Duncan, President Obama's former Education Secretary, joins Brookings.
  • Smithsonian's National Zoo has its own Think Tank with some brilliant scholars.
  • For Republicans, does Donald Trump mean four more years of working at a think tank?
  • Top Chinese think tanker (He Fang of CASS) under fire from watchdog over "hostile views" toward Mao Zedong.
  • Think tanks should pitch Trump best idea. 
  • Time for Black think tanks.
  • Board of Trustees at CSIS decides to make public the rules that guide the think tank.
  • "Slanted" CSIS report showcases Saudi influence on US think tanks?
  • Micah Zenko: Wisest words one can say working at a think tank is "I don't know."  Most meaningful thing is to then highlight smarter folks who do know.
  • Fun think tank fact of the day: Ted Halstead, founding president of New America, started the think tank when he was only 30.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Think Tank Featured in ISIS Propaganda Mag

The inaugural issue of Dabiq, the English language propaganda magazine that Islamic State (ISIS) produces, features none other than a Washington think tank scholar giving a speech at a think tank.

Business Insider (BI) notes that on page 32, there is a picture of Douglas Ollivant, a Senior Fellow at the think tank New America.  In that photo, Mr. Ollivant is speaking at the libertarian Cato Institute (event here).  Next to the photo is a quote from an article that Mr. Ollivant wrote with New America Fellow Brian Fishman in 2014.

When asked by BI if he was worried about being on ISIS's radar, Ollivant said he isn't worried.  "I live in Washington, DC.  If ISIS ever comes to DC, I doubt I'm on their top ten."

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post on how think tanks view ISIS.

Here is a previous post on how think tanks are helping in the fight against ISIS.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post on the fact that Osama bin Laden was quite fond of think tanks.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

New Rules May Lead to Fewer Paid Think Tankers, More Interns

New Obama Administration overtime work rules are causing a huge stir at think tanks as they scramble to understand the implications on their wonky workforce.

The new rules require employers to pay time-and-a-half overtime pay to most salaries workers making less than $47,476 a year.

Here is more from Dan Drezner:
It is not just New York publishing houses and Hollywood film studios that are affected. There is no exemption for nonprofit organizations. According to the Labor Department’s website, “the proposed rule may impact non-profit organizations having an annual dollar volume of sales or business done of at least $500,000.” Indeed, I violated my own rule of not acting like a reporter and actually queried some of D.C.’s indigenous think tanks to see if it would cover them. Bruce Jones, vice president and director of the foreign policy program at the Brookings Institution, confirmed to me that that the new rules were a “big issue” and that Brookings “will be covered by this but not quite clear yet how extensively.”
Throughout the think tanks and policy shops that litter Washington, there exists a veritable army of research assistants scurrying around performing a hundred thankless tasks, from organizing panels to managing schedules to processing reimbursements to proof-reading working papers to making sure the questioner at a panel aired by C-SPAN knows how to operate the microphone. They are uber-competent and adroit at managing the fragile egos of their bosses and bosses’ bosses. I know many outstanding experts in international relations who got their start by working as assistants at the Council on Foreign Relations or RAND or AEI. And I guarantee you that most of them worked more than 40 hours a week.
What will the effect of the new overtime rule be on this unrecognized army of research assistants who make the Ideas Industry function? Scheiber quotes one person in his story suggesting that there might be “a wink-and-nod approach” in which assistants ‘volunteer’ to work late without reporting it as overtime. That is certainly a possibility, which would mean not much of a shift from the status quo.
My fear, however, is that some think tanks might respond to this rule by hiring fewer paid assistants and offering more unpaid internships instead. A few talented research assistants might thrive under these new rules, but the real winners would be those undergraduates, postgraduates and graduate students who can afford such unpaid internships as a way to get their foot into the door of the Ideas Industry. And as aggrieved as research assistants might feel, there are even more serious problems with the intern economy.

As Think Tank Watch has reported, the average think tank salary has been calculated to be around $47,136 to $66,000.

Think Tank Quickies (#222)

  • Think tanker Justin Wolfers: Not convinced that Brookings/Wilson Center new $1 million game "Fiscal Ship" is fiscally responsible.
  • SecDef Ash Carter-commissioned study on military transgender ban released by RAND Corp.
  • Ghost Fleet, book by think tankers August Cole and P.W. Singer, sparked debate inside Pentagon.
  • Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) has a new website. 
  • Global think tank leaders grade the world's performance and prospects for 2016.
  • Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) does AEI amid speculation of 3rd party run.
  • Carl Meacham, formerly at CSIS, joins Uber; Michael Matera replaces him as Americas Program Director. (Manhattan Institute scholar Jason Meyer writes book about Uber.)
  • Hunter College partnering with Brookings for a series of talks.
  • Hudson Institute head Ken Weinstein in Japan visiting Diet members.
  • Think tank (CEI) seeks damages over "unlawful" climate subpoena.
  • Cato suppressing research that contradicts their dogma?