Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Influencers Use Think Tank Titles to Hide Lobbying

Many experts who are affiliated with think tanks often write op-eds, testify before Congress, and produce research while obfuscating the fact that they simultaneously work for or have deep connections to lobbying shops, consulting firms, investment companies, and corporations.

One example was recently outlined in Politico, which notes that former Sen. Phil Gramm, a Visiting Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), recently wrote an op-ed bashing the border adjustment tax (BAT), but failed to mention he is employed by a private equity firm that likely opposes the BAT.

Here is more from Politico:
Gramm’s op-ed doesn’t mention his position at [the private equity firm] Lone Star, noting instead his affiliation with the American Enterprise Institute, a right-leaning think tank. Gramm said no one helped him write the article and he didn’t clear it in advance with his firm, but he did discuss it with a colleague at AEI.
The Koch brothers are major supporters of the think tank and leading opponents of the border adjustment tax. A think tank spokeswoman said its donors don’t influence its research. Gramm said he doesn’t take a salary from AEI.

The think tank world is awash in people who work for (or are affiliated with) think tanks but just use the title for legitimacy while quietly lobbying for (or on behalf of) other entities.

Think Tank Watch knows dozens of examples of influential people who use their think tank titles to promote an idea that supports the work of another job they hold.

Last year the New York Times (NYT) published a series that describes this as well as some of the other chicanery that goes on in the think tank world.

NYT said that it has identified dozens of its own examples of scholars conducting research at think tanks while corporations were paying them to help shape government policy.  "Many of those think tanks readily confer 'nonresident scholar' status on lobbyists, former government officials and others who earn their primary living working for private clients, with few restrictions on such outside work."