Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Wife of Bernie Sanders Launches Think Tank

Think tanks may be losing credibility, but they are gaining in numbers.  Here is more on the latest think tank being formed, from USA Today:

A team of Berniecrats, including Jane O’Meara Sanders, launched a nonprofit, educational organization today that aims to “revitalize democracy” with progressive policies to address economic, environmental, racial and social justice issues.
“The Sanders Institute” is one of the organizations that Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said last year would be created to help raise awareness of “enormous crises” facing Americans after he ended his bid for the Democratic nomination. His wife Jane is one of the 11 founding fellows who will direct the organization. Bernie Sanders will have no role in leading the institute.
The Sanders Institute has an office in Burlington and three staff members, but the fellows are participating as volunteers. Jane Sanders said she and the senator have contributed $25,000 of their personal funds to help cover startup costs of about $125,000, and they intend to be ongoing contributors. "Our Revolution" the political spinoff organization from the Sanders campaign, has provided the rest in seed money, which will be repaid as the nonprofit begins raising money for its work, she said.
Other founding fellows include high-profile advisers and supporters from the Sanders campaign. They are Robert Reich, who served as President Bill Clinton’s labor secretary; Vermont author and environmentalist Bill McKibben; actor Danny Glover; Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii; economist Stephanie Kelton; Ben Jealous, former NAACP president and chief executive officer and now a gubernatorial candidate in Maryland; author and civil rights activist Cornel West; Former Ohio state senator Nina Turner; economist Jeffrey Sachs; and entertainer and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte.

The new Sanders Institute website can be found here.  Salon says that the Institute will function as a hybrid between a think tank and an educational center.

The Sanders Institute is not the only think tank connected to a sitting US senator.  Another example is the McCain Institute for International Leadership, connected to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Think Tank Quickies (#274)

  • US-Colombia Business Partnership and Atlantic Council hold reception and dinner at Library of Congress for Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.
  • David Horowitz Freedom Center not a think tank, it's a "battle tank."
  • UAE and its ambassador to the US, Yousef al-Otaiba, have close ties to small, pro-Israel DC think tank FDD. 
  • David Reaboi: Over the next few weeks, you will be slammed by op-eds and propaganda from Qatari-funded think tanks like Brookings.
  • A trial lawyers think tank. 
  • Former Bush official John Bailey joins AEI as Visiting Fellow. 
  • Former top Obama official Denis McDonough joins Carnegie's Technology and International Affairs Program as a Senior Fellow. 
  • Jake Sullivan, former advisor to Biden and Clinton, joins Carnegie's Geoeconomics and Strategy Program as a Senior Fellow.
  • Carnegie Endowment for International Peace establishes Tata Chair for Strategic Affairs.
  • Carnegie Europe announces that Tomáš Valášek is its new director.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Conservative Think Tank Coming to UW-Madison?

Here is more from the Superior Telegram:
Thursday, the Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee allocated $3 million in state funds in an unprecedented move to use taxpayer money to fund a partisan, conservative think tank at UW-Madison called the Tommy G. Thompson Center on Public Leadership.
Speaker Robin Vos stated in media accounts that this Center was designed to counter "left-leaning" research organizations and "liberal thinking" on campus.
A board of exclusively conservative Republican political appointees — without a single Democrat — would control the think tank.
According to press accounts, UW political science professor and former Thompson staffer, Ryan Owens, who has received funding from the conservative Bradley Foundation, is vying to lead the center. A significant portion, $500,000, must be used to pay speakers for engagements at other UW campuses.
UW-Madison currently has its own public policy school, the world-renowned Lafollette School of Public Affairs, which receives $600,000 of public funds annually. The Tommy G. Thompson Center will receive $1.5 million annually over the next two years, with more to come from the private sector.

Many seem to be up in arms about the think tank...

Think tanks housed within universities are quite common, the most popular being the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

Here is an Inside Higher Ed article on the challenges that university-affiliated think tanks have been facing.

Monday, June 5, 2017

New Report Shows Extent of Taypayer Funding of Brookings

A new study shows the extent that US taxpayers are helping fund the liberal-leaning Brookings Institution, a think tank that consistently collects more than $100 million a year in donations from corporations, foundations, and others.

Here is more from Capital Research Center:
Did you know you’re funding the well-heeled scholars at the Brookings Institution, a hoary D.C. think tank? A new report by OpenTheBooks.com, a database that tracks government grants, has uncovered millions of taxpayer dollars going to the Brookings Institution—and the findings are troubling.
Brookings was founded to be a government watchdog in Washington, D.C. Its motto is “Quality. Independence. Impact.” In reality, it has become the leading center-left think tank, and we’re all paying for it, to the tune of $19.5 million in public grants since 2008.
While there is no evidence that Brookings has violated the law, it’s certainly compromised its independence. OpenTheBooks CEO Andrew Andrezejewski puts it bluntly: “An organization loses all credibility to hold government accountable when the government becomes a donor.” Andrezejewski points to Brookings’ public policy studies as the most egregious example of its illusory independence. Brookings accepted $1.8 million from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) for “humanitarian” causes. In 2016, Brookings published a white paper espousing the value of USAID public/private partnerships—without disclosing its obvious conflict of interest with the Agency.

Adam Andrzejewski, founder and CEO of OpenTheBooks.com (which conducted the study), says that Brookings "does not resemble a think tank, but a jukebox - add a little coin and Brookings will play your tune, if the price is right."  Here is more from Mr. Andrzejewski:
Since 2008, Brookings amassed nearly $20 million in contracts and grants from 50 agencies – including the Obama Administration’s Office of the President. Despite assets of $496 million (IRS990, FY2014), our OpenTheBooks.com audit shows it was not enough. Brookings instituted an aggressive strategy to pursue federal business over the past nine-years.

Among other things, Mr. Andrzejewski notes that when Brookings published a 2016 white paper touting the veracity of US Agency for International Development (USAID) public/private partnerships, it failed to disclose that USAID was a donor to Brookings.

US government agencies that have recently donated to Brookings include: Food and Drug Administration (FDA), US Central Command, US Department of Treasury, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), Social Security Administration (SSA), USAID, US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), US Department of the Navy, US Coast Guard, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), US Department of the Air Force, and the US Department of the Army.

More details (including raw data) about the US government funding of Brookings can be found here.

The reputation of Brookings (as well as other think tanks) was severely damaged last year after the New York Times exposed a number of pay-for-play schemes at think tanks.

To be sure, a number of think tanks receive money from the US government, including the RAND Corporation, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Atlantic Council, and many more.

Friday, June 2, 2017

The Think Tank That Destroyed the Paris Climate Agreement

A little-known US think tank has played an outsized role in encouraging the Trump Administration to pull out of the Paris climate agreement.

Here is more from Axios:
The non-profit Competitive Enterprise Institute played a big role in rallying outside conservative groups.  An administration source says CEI was "the energy" and "enabled the issue to stay high profile in the White House for months."  CEI marshaled a coalition letter of influential outside groups, and helped generate the letter from the 22 Republican senators — including Mitch McConnell — that gave Trump crucial ammo.

Myron Ebell, Director of Global Warming and International Environmental Policy at CEI, and the leader of Trump's transition team for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), recently said that the Trump Administration is moving too slowly to unravel climate change regulations.

Ebell correctly noted that Trump would pull out of the deal before the official announcement was made.  Here is CEI's statement commending Trump on pulling out of the agreement.

Here is a CEI statement on why the Paris agreement "is all pain and no gain" for Americans.

Here are some more tidbits about CEI's influence from The Daily Caller:

In early May, the heads of 44 free market groups sent a letter to Trump, urging him to withdraw from the agreement.  The coalition was led by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI).
In May, CEI launched an online petition and ad campaign to remind Trump of his campaign promise to withdraw from the Paris accord, and AEA circulated another petition calling for Trump to withdraw from the agreement.
CEI senior fellows Chris Horner and Marlo Lewis published a report detailing the legal risks of remaining in the accord.  CEI’s Myron Ebell, who headed Trump’s EPA transition team, was also public about his opposition to the Paris agreement.

CEI has also been a big defender of EPA chief Scott Pruitt, and was among the groups that supported his nomination.

According to the latest publicly available Internal Revenue Service (IRS) records, CEI has 33 employees, annual revenue of around $7.4 million, and net assets of around $2.4 million.

In related news, the president of the conservative think tank Heartland Institute was among those invited to the White House climate announcement.

In more related news, the Heritage Foundation says that it impacted Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Think Tank Quickies (#273)

  • Zbigniew Brzezinski, Counselor and Trustee at CSIS and co-founder of the Trilateral Commission, passes away
  • AEI head Arthur Brooks proposes a new think tank: James Bond Institute. 
  • Should we be able to sue think tanks for malicious misrepresentation?
  • Camille Busette joins Brookings to lead Race, Place, and Economic Mobility Initiative.
  • Third Way think tank obtained leaked copy of Trump's budget.
  • Andrew Bacevich destroys new Brookings report on national security strategy of the US: "The document is at once pretentious, proudly nonpartisan, and utterly vacuous."
  • Gary Bourgeault: Think tank (RethinkX) misses it concerning oil and self-driving cars.
  • 20 most influential think tankers on Twitter (methodology appears deeply flawed...).
  • Corporate taxes get the think tank treatment.
  • Think tank or fake tank, via Till Bruckner.
  • Pic: What a former leading think tank president (Jim DeMint) does with his free time.