Sunday, April 30, 2017

Next President of Heritage Foundation: Steve Bannon?

With Jim DeMint being forced out as head of the Heritage Foundation, there is lots of speculation about a possible long-term replacement.  Here is one possibility being floated:

Will blistering populist Steve Bannon replace fiery conservative Sen. Jim DeMint as the next president of the Heritage Foundation? Heritage Action CEO Michael Needham won't say.
Asked by Chris Wallace whether Heritage would be Bannon's "safety net as he's forced out of the White House," Needham demurred on "Fox News Sunday." "I can tell you," Needham replied, "there's a lot of speculation in the room and in the media that never misses a chance to divide and attack conservatives."
With that non-answer, speculation over the fate of Heritage Foundation will no doubt reach a new fever pitch. News of DeMint's ouster has already sent shockwaves throughout the think tank and reverberations through right wing circles in Washington, D.C.
Bannon has a close relationship with Heritage board member Rebekah Mercer, the wealthy daughter of a conservative hedge fund manager. Together they helped reshape the conservative political field, backing Trump when others wouldn't. Now they might be preparing to remodel the conservative ivory tower.

Here is more on Rebekah Mercer's ties to think tank land.  She has peppered conservative think tanks with tens of millions of dollars over the past several years.

Rumors were that Mr. Bannon had launched his own internal think tank within the White House, but some say that the think tank never really got off the ground.

With Bannon losing power within the White House, Rebekah Mercer (who has given millions to Breitbart News) urging him not to quit, and never having gotten a chance to run his own think tank, it is certainly conceivable that Mercer could be trying to orchestrate a Bannon move to Heritage.

Mercer is currently embroiled in a huge Internal Revenue Service (IRS) fight over billions of dollars, and having Bannon at Heritage could help in that battle.

In related news, Sebastian Gorka, a prolific think tanker who apparently served on Bannon's internal think tank, reportedly will be moving to a federal agency (and there is still a chance he could join Heritage).

Interestingly, in the past, Gorka has been funded by Thomas Saunders III, the current Chairman of the Heritage Foundation.

Update: Conservative lawmakers are now rallying to support Jim DeMint, and have released a letter praising him.  The letter is co-written by Mark Walker (R-NC) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT).

Update II: Daniel Drezner, a longtime think tank watcher, suggests that Mike Needham would become the next president of the Heritage Foundation.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Heritage Foundation Collapsing After DeMint Ousted

After the shocking news that Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint is being forced out of the influential think tank, things are starting to get ugly.

Now, Philip Wegmann of the Washington Examiner is reporting a major shakeup at Heritage.  Here is more:
Jim DeMint just got capped and the right wing is still reeling. Since news broke that the Heritage president was getting sacked, many DeMint loyalists have started cleaning out their desks, the entire staff remains officially in the dark, and one board member has already resigned in protest.

The board member who has resigned is Todd Herrick, and more may soon leave the 22-member board.

Here is more information about the Jim DeMint purge.

John Hart has a new piece for Forbes on the "political assassination" of DeMint.

Think Tank Watch prediction: DeMint will start his own competing think tank with staffers who leave with him and get initial funding from board members who resign in solidarity.

Stay tuned to Think Tank Watch for the latest updates on the Heritage Foundation chaos.  We will be posting several times each day on the latest developments.

Coup at Heritage Foundation Brings Down Leader

A coup engineered by powerful voices on the Heritage Foundation's Board of Trustees has led to a decision to fire Jim DeMint as the think tank's president, just 100 days into the new Trump Administration that Heritage has helped advise and staff.  Here is more from The New York Times:

The anticipated shake-up, which was confirmed by two people with knowledge of the fraught internal dynamics, comes at an inopportune time for the group, with several major pieces of conservative legislation on the agenda in Congress. The budget, a tax overhaul and health care are all issues that Heritage has tried to influence, with varying degrees of success.
Mr. DeMint’s abrupt ouster, described by people as a “coup” against him, was the result of a larger debate among conservative donors who fund the group. One of its board members is Rebekah Mercer, a reclusive donor who has helped propel the White House chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, in his effort to dismantle aspects of the political establishment.
Ms. Mercer was described by people with knowledge of the events as helping drive the effort toward a shake-up. Another person close to the discussions, who asked not to be identified, said that Mr. DeMint was not seen as sufficiently pro-Trump by some members of the board.
A likely candidate to take over, said one person with knowledge of the situation, is Edwin J. Feulner, a former president of Heritage who has worked closely with the Trump administration.
Under President Barack Obama’s administration, Heritage shifted to become more engaged in direct political combat. After decades of producing mountains of high-fiber white papers, the think tank became more defined by a political arm that sought to hold Republican lawmakers accountable rather than just supplying them with the raw materials for legislation.
But to some Heritage board members, this shift toward activism represented a disturbing drift from the organization’s core mission as a research institution, according to two senior aides to Republican lawmakers close to Heritage and a longtime conservative public relations strategist. To these board members, the research suffered.

Politico offers some additional details, saying that some board members of the think tank think that DeMint brought in too many Senate allies and made the think tank "too bombastic and political."

Politico also notes that DeMint had been in contract negotiations, which are expected to be cut short.  DeMint, whose contract expires at the end of 2017, makes around $1.1 million per year as head of the think tank.

Politico also notes that "a handful" of staffers close to DeMint, who came over from the Senate with him, are expected to leave the think tank in what some say is a "purge."

This news has been a surprise to many, including to those within the think tank who had no idea any of this was happening under the surface.

According to the Washington Examiner, the Heritage board will meet again on Tuesday to decide the final outcome of DeMint.  Here is more:
When the board asked DeMint to step down last weekend, the fiery conservative refused and has tried lobbying board members to keep his job. If he doesn't go quietly into the dark, the board can vote him out as soon as Tuesday when they convene in Washington, D.C.

Another Washington Examiner piece says that when some junior staffers heard on the news after reading Politico, they "broke down in tears."  They also report that DeMint lost his job "in large part for crossing" Heritage Action CEO Mike Needham.  Here is more on that:
While Needham helped bring DeMint to Heritage in 2013, their relationship began to fray during the presidential election. It reached a breaking point, two separate sources confirmed, after DeMint suggested making major changes to Heritage Action or abolishing it altogether.

WND says that Heritage "is going establishment again," and notes that the think tank's board "leans heavily toward big money establishment conservatism."

Sean Davis, co-founder of The Federalist, says that DeMint transformed Heritage from "a white paper factory to an influential powerhouse."

Daniel Shuman notes that in his four years as Heritage president, DeMint earned 22.8 times the amount that a US senator did (not counting severance and benefits).

Friday, April 28, 2017

New America Scholar Named "2017 Tech Titan" by Washingtonian

The May edition of the Washingtonian has its 2017 list of "Tech Titans" - top technology talent in the Washington, DC area - and think tanker Kevin Bankston has made the list.

Mr. Bankston, a digital-rights lawyer, is the Director of the Open Technology Institute (OTI) at New America, a Washington think tank.  The Washingtonian notes that Mr. Bankston is studying policy ramifications in areas such as encryption, online surveillance, and net neutrality.

Here is Mr. Bankston's think tank biography, and here is a link to OTI.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

AEI Scholar Tried to Hide Trump Attacks to Snag White House Job

Here is more from The Washington Post:

Leading up to the 2016 presidential election, Andrew Bowen, like many scholars in Washington, predicted Hillary Clinton would surely win.
Bowen, then a global fellow in the Middle East Program at the Wilson Center, wrote a weekly column in Arab News, an English-language outlet based in Saudi Arabia. In his columns before the election, Bowen frequently criticized Donald Trump, denouncing his temper and xenophobic remarks and calling him “a man not often suited to the responsibilities of the presidency.”
Like many others, Bowen was shocked on Nov. 8. But within days, his tone changed, calling for a “new beginning” under President Trump.
Now, months later, Arab News says that Bowen requested that it delete his earlier, pre-election columns, stating he needed “to be cleared” for a possible job with the Trump administration’s State Department.
Arab News initially refused to take down the articles, and fired back — publicly. In an unapologetic post on its website, Arab News announced Tuesday it would be discontinuing Bowen’s column, explaining Bowen’s request and blasting it as “unprofessional journalistically, particularly given that there were no factual errors or libelous comments that require a redaction or correction.”

Here is what Foreign Policy has to say about  this incident.  As Think Tank Watch previously noted, any attacks on Trump by think tankers have made it nearly impossible for them to get jobs in the Trump Administration.

Bowen was reportedly recommended for the State Department post by Brian Hook, co-founder of the John Hay Initiative, a group of former Mitt Romney foreign policy advisors.

Andrew Bowen is now a Visiting Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), focusing on the Middle East.  His biography says that he concurrently advises Greenmantle (an economic/geopolitical advisory firm) and writes a weekly column for Al Arabiya English.

He was previously a Global Fellow at the Wilson Center and Senior Fellow and Director of Middle East for the Center for the National Interest.

Think Tank Quickies (#267)

  • Will Jared Kushner get eaten by the think tank "Blob."
  • Foundations, which pay out at least 5% of their total assets each year to maintain their tax-exempt status, to drop think tank funding over "mission-related investments" (MRIs)?
  • Libertarian think tank Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) urges Trump to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement.
  • University of Maryland professor prohibiting students from citing Heritage and Cato?
  • Todd Park, former US Chief Technology Officer, joins Board of Directors at New America.
  • A metaphor for beautifully-researched think tank policy papers in the Trump era.
  • The billion-dollar game designer who joined a DC think tank.
  • New report: Innovation in think tanks.
  • Third Way and Cato Institute scholars talk marijuana.
  • Andrew Selee of Wilson Center selected as President of Migration Policy Institute (MPI).
  • Tony Abbott appointed as director of new think tank to promote western civilization.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

German Think Tanks Hit By Cyber Attacks Ahead of Elections

Think tanks both in the US and elsewhere continue to be big targets for cyber attackers trying to steal information or influence election outcomes.

Here is more from Reuters:
Two foundations tied to Germany’s ruling coalition parties were attacked by the same cyber spy group that targeted the campaign of French presidential favorite Emmanuel Macron, a leading cyber security expert said on Tuesday.
The group, dubbed "Pawn Storm" by security firm Trend Micro, used email phishing tricks and attempted to install malware at think tanks tied to Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party and coalition partner, the Social Democratic Party (SPD), Feike Hacquebord said.
Hacquebord and other experts said the attacks, which took place in March and April, suggest Pawn Storm is seeking to influence the national elections in the two European Union powerhouses.
Pawn Storm set up a fake computer server located based in Germany at to mount email phishing attacks against the CDU party's Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS) and a server located in the Ukraine at to target the SPD's Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES).

As Think Tank Watch has widely documented, cyber attacks on think tanks are becoming more prevalent, and nearly every major think tank has faced multiple attacks.

Protestors Try to Shut Down Heritage Foundation

The typically calm world of think tanks received a bit of excitement yesterday after a mob of protestors stormed the Heritage Foundation, an influential conservative think tank with close ties to President Donald Trump.

Here is more from the Washington Examiner:
Around 200 protestors flooded into Heritage's Capitol Hill headquarters an hour before noon Tuesday, screaming that they were going to shut down the think tank. While opposition to Trump's budget was the headline of the demonstration, they didn't let that stifle their creativity. "Our solution to pollution is the people's revolution," they chanted before switching over to the more succinct, but no less vague, cadence of "water not walls."
Regardless of the mixed messaging, the bottom line was simple. They swarmed into Heritage because they didn't like the ideas the think tank produced. And instead of trying to help reach consensus with traditional protest, they tried intimidating the opposition.
The flash anarchy strategy appears to be organized by an organization called the People's Action Institute. And while that group certainly has great passion they demonstrated very little endurance. They were in and out in less than 20 minutes.
That was just long enough for the whole stunt to ironically backfire. Heritage ran a full court press on the protest. They posted a live stream of the protest, used the event to plug a policy paper, and their staffers offered a dozen snarky takes on Twitter. The Daily Signal (where I used to work) will no doubt flood the zone with coverage.

Here is what Brietbart had to say on the incident, including pictures from inside and outside the think tank.  Here are a few videos of the event from The Federalist.

Here are some statements from the Heritage Foundation about the incident.

Protests inside of think tanks are extremely rare, and the only recent parallel that Think Tank Watch remembers is from last year when violence erupted on "Think Tank Row" as Turkey's President was speaking at the Brookings Institution.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Putin's Think Tank Planned US Election Attack?

Here is what Reuters is reporting:

A Russian government think tank controlled by Vladimir Putin developed a plan to swing the 2016 U.S. presidential election to Donald Trump and undermine voters’ faith in the American electoral system, three current and four former U.S. officials told Reuters.
They described two confidential documents from the think tank as providing the framework and rationale for what U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded was an intensive effort by Russia to interfere with the Nov. 8 election. U.S. intelligence officials acquired the documents, which were prepared by the Moscow-based Russian Institute for Strategic Studies [], after the election.
The institute is run by retired senior Russian foreign intelligence officials appointed by Putin’s office.
The first Russian institute document was a strategy paper written last June that circulated at the highest levels of the Russian government but was not addressed to any specific individuals.
It recommended the Kremlin launch a propaganda campaign on social media and Russian state-backed global news outlets to encourage U.S. voters to elect a president who would take a softer line toward Russia than the administration of then-President Barack Obama, the seven officials said.

Russia, however, is denying the Reuters report that RISS drew up a plan to sway the US election.

The New York Times is reporting that RISS is known in Russia as a "semiretirement refuge" for former intelligence officers.

Leonid Bershidsky says that many are "seriously overestimating" the power of the think tank.  He notes that until 2009 it was part of the SVR, Russia's intelligence service.

According to the University of Pennsylvania, Russia has 122 think tanks.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Think Tank Quickies (#266)

  • Former AEI President Christopher DeMuth (now a Distinguished Fellow at Hudson Institute) in defense of think tanks. 
  • CIA Director Mike Pompeo speaks at CSIS.
  • In 2016 Steve Bannon made $500,000+ from companies and think tanks linked to Republican donor Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah. 
  • Waterloo (Canada) think tanks pay the most for top scholars.
  • Hillary's billionaire friend (Haim Saban) a lover of think tanks.
  • Smith Richardson Foundation's annual Strategy and Policy Fellows grant helps support the think tank community by supporting a rising generation of policy thinkers. 
  • Education Secretary Betsy DeVos does Brookings. 
  • Think tanker (Alison Percich of WINEP) goes on Washington Post's Date Lab and scores.
  • Scholarly sting operation shines spotlight on "predatory" scientific journals; is bad science plaguing think tank research?
  • Third Way adding a dozen Democratic lawmakers as honorary co-chairs.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Think Tanks vs. CIA

Do think tanks do better work than the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)?

Here is more from the Weekly Standard:
All the big issues surrounding the CIA—about the basic competencies of how it does its work operationally and analytically—are difficult for outsiders to assess, of course, even the more intrepid in the congressional intelligence committees and the executive branch. One operational success—the right "walk-in" or volunteer in just the right place—can paper over the doubts, which, in any case, tend to evanesce quickly behind the protective barrier of classified information. Were the CIA's routine Cold War operations, for the most part, so much busy work? Has the vast majority of Langley's classified analytical products been less insightful than the unclassified work of Washington's better think tanks? It didn't really matter if the agency could provide, now and then, eye-popping information against our number-one threat.

Think Tank Watch should note that think tanks, both in the US and overseas, are full of former people from the intelligence community.

Brookings even started its own mini-CIA a few years ago, and new CIA Director Mike Pompeo just spoke at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

Another big question: Do consultancies do better work than think tanks?

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Consultancies Running Laps Around Think Tanks

Competition can crush their slower-moving brethren, and that is the existential problem that think tanks are now facing as hard-hitting consultancies and banks flood the ideas market.

Here is more from Dan Drezner in the Washington Post:
Anybody who works in Washington knows that think tanks play an important role in advising the government on policy. For most bureaucrats, anything past two weeks is long term. Because experts at think tanks have fewer real-time deadlines, they specialize in the strategic thinking that many Cabinet agencies cannot do. Over the years, think tanks have had a hand in conceiving the Reagan administration’s first-term governing strategy, the expansion of NATO and the post-2006 surge in Iraq.
One organization in particular has dramatically increased its influence over the past decade. Foreign policy professionals respect its work more than that of the Heritage Foundation or the Center for American Progress. Its reach is so great that it has advised numerous foreign governments on their environmental policies. British officials relied on it when considering reforms of the National Health Service. Saudi Arabia’s ambitious economic reform program had its origins in one of the group’s reports. Its alumni are littered throughout the federal government.
The policy shop in question is McKinsey, a global — and highly profitable — consulting firm.
In the foreign policy community, think tanks are widely viewed as the traditional brokers in the marketplace of ideas. But this is changing. Whether based in investment banks like Goldman Sachs, management consultancies like McKinsey or political risk firms like the Eurasia Group, private-sector institutions have started to act like policy knowledge brokers. Consultants have been key advisers to the government for decades, but recent trends have caused their star to rise at the same time that traditional think tanks face new challenges. The University of Pennsylvania’s annual think tank report has stressed “the fierce competition think tanks are facing from consulting firms” in recent years. As the Trump White House searches for actionable foreign policy ideas, and as Jared Kushner looks to the private sector to inform his White House Office of American Innovation, do not be surprised if they turn to McKinsey more than Brookings or the Council on Foreign Relations.

Drezner correctly notes that think tanks have taken a huge hit over the years because of various conflicts of interest and pay-to-play schemes.  It is now rare to find an unbiased, credible think tank.

Here is a recent Think Tank Watch piece about the "death" of think tanks.

Here is a "cheat sheet" of the University of Pennsylvania's annual think tank rankings list, which includes a category for the "best for-profit think tanks" such as Mckinsey (more about them here) and Boston Consulting Group.

Feds Turning to Heritage Report to See if Job Will Survive Cuts

Just as Greeks used to go to the Oracle of Delphi to have their questions answered, federal employees are turning to a modern-day Pythia in a think tank report to have their most pressing question answered: "Will I have a job tomorrow?"

Due to promised cuts in the federal government by the Trump Administration, many people who work in the executive branch are nervously wondering whether or not they will have a job when they wake up.  To divine insights, they are reading a wonky report from the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank with close ties to the Trump Administration, that may provide some answers.

Here is more from The Washington Post:
Some people are tweaking their résumés or thinking about retirement. But most are waiting to see whether the news from the White House really is as bad as they fear and if so, whether Congress will come to the rescue. For now, they are reading the tea leaves on cable television. And they are poring over the recommendations of the conservative Heritage Foundation, which the administration is leaning on for guidance.
Heritage’s list contains several agencies targeted not just for downsizing but elimination, including one that provides financial assistance to rural businesses, the International Trade Administration, and the Legal Services Corporation.
To the president and his supporters who see a bloated bureaucracy with lots of duplication and rules that choke jobs, the budget cuts are a necessary first step to make government run more efficiently.

The above-mentioned Heritage report that everyone is poring over, "Blueprint for Reform: A Comprehensive Policy Agenda for a New Administration in 2017," can be found here.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch piece on that report, which may be 2017's most influential think tank document, along with this one, also from Heritage.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Think Tank Quickies (#265)

  • Trump Administration alienating Asia-related think tanks and Asia experts at those think tanks, says David Steinberg.
  • RIP David Rockefeller (1915-2017), who served on the board of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and as chairman of the board at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), a think tank where he was the longest-serving member (joined in 1941).
  • Fat cats using think tanks to buy credibility?
  • House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) has dozens of friends in the think tank world, says Politico. 
  • Half a dozen Trump transition officials and administration advisers attended Heartland Institute's climate change conference. 
  • Brian Katulis, a Senior Fellow at CAP, met with the Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia in February.
  • New RAND Corp. study on "zero-day" exploits says two dozen companies selling or renting exploits to the US and its allies.
  • Kesher Israel in DC is "filled" with political operatives and think tank employees who value thought-provoking sermons and classes.
  • Ben Nimmo studies RT for the Atlantic Council. 
  • Oath Keepers suggests Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) exploiting refugee crisis for its own gain.

White House Internal Think Tank a Fake Think Tank?

The Strategic Initiatives Group (SIG), an internal White House think tank started by Steve Bannon, never actually existed, according to the White House.

Here is more from Jonathan Easley of The Hill:
The White House is downplaying the importance of an internal policy shop that was once believed to be the brainchild and power center of chief strategist Stephen Bannon, saying the Strategic Initiatives Group (SIG) never even existed.
That appears to contradict media reports and the claims of at least one White House staffer who previously said that he was a member of the SIG. 
The group — described in scores of media reports as an internal think tank launched by Bannon, chief of staff Reince Priebus and senior adviser Jared Kushner — would be irrelevant now even if it had formed, a White House aide said.
Any need there may have been for the internal policy shop, which critics have described as an attempt by Bannon to promote his own agenda, is moot now that President Trump has tapped Kushner to run the Office of American Innovation (OAI), which is charged with government modernization, according to multiple White House officials.

"I've never known [SIG] to exist,” said a White House aide. “There was a lot of speculation about this early, but it was never officially rolled out and if anything, the OAI is an evolution and realization of some of these initial ideas.”

A second White House official said the SIG was “always informal” and has since “morphed to the new group,” the OAI.

A third White House official echoed that sentiment but said it’s possible that Bannon could still use the SIG for his own projects.

Here is Think Tank Watch's previous piece on the Strategic Initiatives Group.  And here is our recent piece on the Office of American Innovation.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

NSC Being Staffed by Traditional Think Tankers

Fear not you think tankers who have dreamed of working in the Trump Administration.  Some White House offices and agencies are relying heavily on think tank scholars as they quickly work to beef up their skeleton staff.

Here is more from Josh Rogin of The Washington Post:
National security adviser H.R. McMaster is continuing to fill out his national security staff with conservative foreign policy experts from the establishment think-tank world, preferring them to the military intelligence types favored by his predecessor, retired Gen. Michael T. Flynn.
Two White House officials confirmed that McMaster has offered the post of senior director for South and Central Asia to Lisa Curtis, a well-known conservative expert and senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation. Curtis has accepted the offer and is going through the entry process now. Curtis has been a leading voice on the GOP side of the South Asia expert community for decades, having worked at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as an adviser to the State Department during the George W. Bush administration and as an analyst with the CIA.
Officials also confirmed that Fiona Hill, a Brookings Institution scholar and traditional GOP Russia hawk, will be senior director for Russia and Europe, a newly combined directorate that brings both regions under one chain of command. 

Here is more about Fiona Hill being tapped for the Trump Administration.

According to an internal list compiled by Think Tank Watch, there have been more than 50 think tank experts who have either worked on the Trump transition team or gone into the Trump Administration.

Trump Looking to Buy Hotel Across From CSIS

President Donald Trump may not actually be looking to buy up "Think Tank Row," but he is looking to buy a hotel across from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a top defense and foreign relations think tank located in the heart of Washington, DC.

Here is more from The Washington Post:
President Trump’s company is actively seeking to open a second Washington hotel as part of a planned nationwide expansion, potentially creating another venue where he stands to benefit financially from customers doing business in the nation’s capital.
Representatives of the Trump Organization, now run by the president’s adult sons, have inquired in recent months about converting one of several boutique, medium-sized hotels in upscale neighborhoods in and near downtown and reopening it under the company’s new Scion brand.
Eric Danziger, chief executive of the Trump Organization’s hotel division, more recently toured the 199-room Beacon Hotel, at 1615 Rhode Island Ave. NW, with an interest in converting the property to a Scion, according to a real estate executive who was not authorized to discuss the Trump Organization’s interest and spoke on the condition of anonymity. No agreement was reached.

The Beacon Hotel is directly across from CSIS, whose address is 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW.  There is no word yet as to what the think tank would think of a new Trump neighbor.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Amid Tarnished Image Rubenstein Gives Brookings $20 Million Boost

Billionaire David Rubenstein has just injected $20 million into the Brookings Institution.  Here is more from a press release:
Brookings Institution President Strobe Talbott announced today the establishment of the David M. Rubenstein Fellowships. As part of the Institution’s strategic plan for its second century, which includes a key goal of advancing diversity in its scholarly community, Brookings will appoint outstanding early-and mid-career scholars and experts from the United States and abroad. The work of the Rubenstein Fellows will significantly augment and diversify the independent policy research and analysis of Brookings’s more than 100 resident scholars. The first class of Rubenstein Fellows will take up their positions at Brookings by September 2017.
This new program is made possible by a generous multi-million dollar gift from David M. Rubenstein, co-chair of the Brookings Board of Trustees, and co-founder and co-chief executive officer of the Carlyle Group.
Following a rigorous and competitive application process, the Rubenstein Fellows will be appointed for two-year terms in one or more of Brookings’s five research programs.

Although the press release does not mention the exact amount of the donation, other entities have reported that Rubenstein gave $15 million for the new fellowship program and $5 million to the think tank's foreign policy department.

Inside Philanthropy writes about the new donation, saying that it is "hard to see think tanks overseen by corporate leaders and heavily funded by business as truly impartial."  It also notes that it is one of the biggest gifts made to a think tank in recent years.

Anyone interesting in applying for the fellowship can do so here (salary is commensurate with experience).

In 2014, billionaire Daniel D'Aniello (also from the Carlyle Group) gave the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) $20 million.

In 2013, the Heritage Foundation received a $26 million gift from the family of the late  Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

President Trump Negotiating Deal to Join Brookings After Presidency

Think Tank Watch has learned that President Donald Trump is in negotiations with top officials at the liberal Brookings Institution to pave the way for an eventual position at the think tank.

A senior Brookings official, who requested anonymity due to fear of upsetting Mr. Trump, tells Think Tank Watch that Trump would like to establish the first billion-dollar chair at a think tank.  His desire, according to the official, is to establish a new entity within Brookings called the "Center for the Art of Trump Negotiating Tactics."

Mr. Trump apparently is also trying to get Brookings to change its name to "Trump Institution," saying that Brookings has lost a lot of its prestige and goodwill after a series of scandals the past few years (see here).

The eventual goal, according to a top White House official, is for Trump to buy the adjacent American Enterprise Institute (AEI) building and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP) building and turn in into one large think tank-themed hotel.

A Brookings spokesman would not comment on the specifics of negotiations, but said that he would welcome Mr. Trump joining Brookings as it "would seriously bolster its image" which has "been in steady decline in recent years."