Thursday, September 28, 2017

Chelsea Clinton Funneled $11 Million to Friend's Think Tank?

Here is more from The Daily Caller:

A company whose president is “best friends” with Chelsea Clinton received more than $11 million in contracts over the last decade from a highly secretive Department of Defense think tank, but to date, the group lacks official federal approval to handle classified materials, according to sensitive documents TheDCNF was allowed to review.
Jacqueline Newmyer, the president of a company called the Long Term Strategy Group, has over the last 10 years received numerous Defense Department contracts from a secretive think tank called Office of Net Assessment.
The Office of Net Assessment is so sensitive, the specialized think tank is housed in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and reports directly to the secretary.
To date, the Long Term Strategy Group has received $11.2 million in contracts, according to USAspending,gov, a government database of federal contracts.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post on the Office of Net Assessment.   Here is a link to the Long Term Strategy Group (LTSG).

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Think Tank Quickies (#285)

  • Brookings/AEI joint event: One nation after Trump. 
  • Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center study: Lowest possible corporate tax rate is 26%.
  • Migration Policy Institute (MPI): The role of think tanks in times of a migration crisis.
  • Flashback from Tom Medvetz: Think tanks and the rise of savvy policy entrepreneurs.
  • First paper to investigate relationship between think tanks and economic policy empirically.
  • Former Obama Administration official Monique Dorsainvil will join Facebook and be a liaison to third-party groups, including think tanks. 
  • Investigative journalist fired over Trump/Scaramucci looking for think tank job?
  • Ben Nimmo's work (at Atlantic Council) on bots and influence operations among a number of initiatives cropping up at think tanks. 
  • NPR's Peter Overby: Who controls think tanks?  Shift in funding highlights changes in industry.
  • WonkComms: Five things we learned about think tank events.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

North Korea Reaching Out to US Think Tanks to Understand Trump

North Korea finds President Donald Trump's thinking on the country so confusing that it is now reaching out to think tank scholars with close ties to the Trump Administration to try to understand his policy.  Here is more from the Washington Post:

North Korean government officials have been quietly trying to arrange talks with Republican-linked analysts in Washington, in an apparent attempt to make sense of President Trump and his confusing messages to Kim Jong Un’s regime.
...To get a better understanding of American intentions, in the absence of official diplomatic talks with the U.S. government, North Korea’s mission to the United Nations invited Bruce Klingner, a former CIA analyst who is now the Heritage Foundation’s top expert on North Korea, to visit Pyongyang for meetings.
Trump has close ties to Heritage, a conservative think tank that has influenced the president on everything from travel restrictions to defense spending, but no personal connection to Klingner.
“They’re on a new binge of reaching out to American scholars and ex-officials,” said Klingner, who declined the North Korean invitation. “While such meetings are useful, if the regime wants to send a clear message, it should reach out directly to the U.S. government.”
North Korean intermediaries have also approached Douglas Paal, who served as an Asia expert on the National Security Council under presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and is now vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
They wanted Paal to arrange talks between North Korean officials and American experts with Republican ties in a neutral location such as Switzerland. He also declined the North Korean request.
[Evans] Revere attended a multilateral meeting with North Korean officials in the picturesque Swiss village of Glion earlier this month, together with Ralph Cossa, chairman of the Pacific Forum of the Center for Strategic and International Studies and another frequent interlocutor with Pyongyang’s representatives. 
The meeting is an annual event organized by the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, a government-linked think tank. But it took on extra significance this year due to the sudden rise in tensions between North Korea and the United States.

In a recent interview, Bruce Klingner said that he attended a meeting with North Korean officials in June but later turned down an invitation to visit Pyongyang.

South Korea's president has also been reaching out to US think tanks in order to help him understand the current administration's thinking on Korea policy.

While a handful of think tank scholars are secretly trying to broker a peace deal with North Korea, some conservative think tanks are preparing studies on war with North Korea.

Think Tank Panels - A Humorous Look

In his book The Beltway Bible, Eliot Nelson has a section in which he humorously describes think tank panels:

Ubiquitous sight inside the Beltway.  Navel gazing is one of D.C.'s most beloved pastimes, and it's no surprise that every week the city plays hosts to dozens - if not hundreds - of panels where its bottomless well of experts gather to impress each other.  Truly, these things are no less common a sight in the nation's capital that black Lincoln Navigators with tinted windows.
Panelists pontificate on roundtables dedicated to the challenges of updating the tax code in the age of hashtags, they ponder the future of dog-grooming regulatory regimes at the Brookings Institution, and they convene at the National Press Club and discuss the challenges restless leg syndrome poses to think tanks in the post-MySpace environment.  Most panel titles follow a similar blueprint, with a catchy statement or question followed by a description of the event - something along the lines of, "Right Tighty, Lefty Loosey?  Examining Knobs in the 21st Century" or "You Say, 'Potato,' I Say, 'Where's the Lactation Room?'  Updating OSHA Regulations for Today's Working Parents."
Though this theory has not been confirmed, it's entirely possible that panels are just excuses for people to have photos of themselves taken while striking a thoughtful pose behind a folding table.  Those things make for great Twitter bio photos, especially for people who don't have a TV appearance from which they can take a still from.

Check out all our past posts on think tank events (such as this one and this one), as Think Tank Watch has documented all the fun, fails, and follies of think tank events over the past years.  Here is more on Washington think tank events.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Think Tank Quickies (#284)

  • Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture: Fashion world's equivalent of a think tank.
  • VOA: Russia accused of funding anti-EU think tanks in the West.
  • "A writer for Christian think tanks." 
  • Flashback from Tom Medvetz: Think tanks as an emergent field. 
  • Flashback from Urban Institute: Managing think tanks (via Raymond Struyk).
  • Did you know that HuffPost has a "think tanks" section?  (AP too!)
  • Mind & Life Think Tank Grant.
  • World Food Programme (WFP) has a long-standing partnership with think tanks.
  • Book: Think  Tanks - The Brain Trusts of US Foreign Policy (by Kudilay Yado Arin).
  • HowStuffWorks: How think tanks work.
  • Flashback: Gates Foundation, Hewlett Foundation and others pledge $30 million to African think tanks.

Media Leaving Readers Clueless on Think Tanks They Cite?

According to Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), the media often does a poor job of balancing (and explaining) think tank sources used in stories and articles.  Here is a recent example from a new FAIR piece entitled "NYT Lets Think Tank Funded by Gov't and Arms Industry Claim Huge US Military Budget Isn't Huge Enough":

The New York Times (9/18/17) gave an enormous platform to a hawkish think tank that is funded by the US government and by top weapons corporations, letting it absurdly claim, without any pushback, that the gargantuan US military—by far the largest in the world—has been “underfunded.”
The nearly 700-word article quoted three people, only one of whom was not an elected official. Not a single person or organization that opposes the Defense Department budget expansion was cited in the story.
The lone non-official voice quoted by the Times was Anthony H. Cordesman (incorrectly identified as Anthony N. Cordesman), a national security analyst at the influential, bellicose think tank the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
The Times gave no background information about Cordesman, failing to disclose that—as his CSIS bio clearly notes—he previously served as McCain’s national security assistant, and that he formerly worked for the Pentagon, the State Department and NATO. (He was even awarded the Pentagon’s distinguished service medal.)
Cordesman’s notoriously pro-war employer CSIS, which in January boasted of being “named the world’s number one Defense and National Security think tank for the sixth year in a row,” also just so happens to be generously funded by the governments of the US and its military allies, along with leading corporations in the arms industry (Extra!, 10/16)—although the New York Times left that out of its report as well.
CSIS states clearly on its website that the think tank’s top corporate donors include the most influential weapons companies, such as Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Boeing and General Dynamics. Another significant contributor is Raytheon.
All of these military technology contractors stand to profit directly from an expanded Department of Defense budget.
Fossil fuel companies Chevron, ExxonMobil and Saudi Aramco are likewise some of the biggest donors to CSIS. These corporations also will likely profit from an expanded Pentagon budget, given that the US military is the world’s largest consumer of oil.
Top government donors to CSIS, moreover, include the United States and its close allies the United Arab Emirates, Japan and Taiwan, which coordinate with the US military. The UAE is also the second-largest customer for US arms.

Harvard has put out an excellent tip sheet that can help journalists (and others) who are citing think tanks and think tank scholars.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Former Brookings Scholar Booted from Singapore for Covert Activities

Here is what the New York Times recently reported:

Singapore has ordered the expulsion of a noted American academic for what it said was his covert effort to influence Singapore's foreign policy on behalf of an unnamed foreign government.
The academic, Huang Jing, was accused of passing "privileged information" to senior Singapore officials with the intent of affecting their decisions.  He was quickly removed from his position as the Lee Foundation professor on United States-China relations at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.
"He did this in collaboration with foreign intelligence agents," the Singapore Ministry of Home Affairs said in a statement on Friday that announced the order.  "This amounts to subversion and foreign interference in Singapore's domestic politics."
Mr. Huang has held posts at the Brookings Institution, Stanford University and Harvard University.  Some view his academic writings as pro-Chinese.

Here is a link to the biography page of Huang Jing when he was at Brookings, where he was a Senior Fellow in the Foreign Policy Studies program.  His past writings at the liberal-leaning think tank can be found here.

Korean President Meets With Think Tanks to Discuss North Korea

Here is what the Korean press is reporting:

Earlier in the day, [South Korean President Moon Jae-in] met with heads of leading U.S. think tanks, including Richard Haass, a former U.S. diplomat and currently the head of the Council on Foreign Relations, and discussed the North Korea issue.

Others at that meeting include Kevin Rudd (President of the Asia Society Policy Institute) and Thomas Byrne (President of the Korea Society).

But CFR head Richard Haass seems to be a favorite of Moon, who also met with Haass in June and asked for help "conveying a positive message about developing the South Korea-US alliance" to the US government and public.

Bannon & Gorka to Start National Security Think Tank?

Here is what the Daily Beast is reporting:

Multiple sources with knowledge of their conversations tell The Daily Beast that [Steve] Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist who [Sebastian] Gorka reported to both at Breitbart News and subsequently in the Trump administration, has been talking to Gorka over the past couple weeks about potentially starting a new national-security and foreign-policy initiative together. Such a group, which is in the embryonic planning stages, would champion the same clash-of-civilizations and pro-Trump, nationalist worldview that both men share.
One source said that such a project, which could take the form of a think tank or advocacy organization, would very likely have the blessing and financial backing of the Mercer family, the pro-Trump Republican mega-donors who have long worked and partnered with Bannon. The Mercers also co-own Bannon’s media flagship, Breitbart.
Bannon and Gorka worked closely together at the Strategic Initiatives Group, an internal White House “think tank,” early in the Trump presidency. Initially conceived as an informational apparatus to brief the president and staff on key policy issues, SIG was quickly seen by some in the White House as a rogue attempt to circumvent the National Security Council. It was soon disbanded, leaving Gorka without a clear portfolio of White House responsibilities, and working primarily as a Bannon aide.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post about the White House's now-defunct Strategic Initiatives Group, as well as Gorka's deep ties to think tanks.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Think Tank Quickies (#283)

  • Breitbart attacks: "H.R. McMaster served 11 years on think tank (IISS) financed by Boeing, which inked billions in Iran deal." (IISS to Trump: Stop "adversarial atmosphere" with Iran).
  • Boston Globe: Think tank of Trump era?  Message boards.
  • BRICS think tanks agree to enhance exchanges.
  • OpenCanada: Africa boasts many credible/quality think tanks but not often acknowledged.
  • The Intercept: US-backed think tanks target Latin America.
  • RAND: American workplace is physical/emotionally taxing.
  • Libro Vaquero, Mexico's best-selling magazine, teams up with think tank to fight corruption.
  • Rep. Keith Ellison: We need more progressive think tanks.
  • Think tank CEI accepting Bitcoin donations.
  • RAND's summer reading list for Congress.
  • Cato: 40 ways the world is getting better every day.
  • WINEP hires ex-WSJ reporter Jay Solomon for North Korea project.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Climate-Change-Skeptical Think Tank Stacking Deck at EPA?

A handful of small but influential think tanks continue to play a major role in the Trump Administration as it continues to staff up and fill various government boards and commissions.

Here is more from The Washington Post:

People who have questioned aspects of mainstream climate research appear on a list of 132 possible candidates for positions on EPA’s influential Science Advisory Board, which the agency has opened for public comment until September 28. The board currently has 47 members, but 15 have terms ending in September and could be replaced by some of the candidates.
Several of the candidates are affiliated with the Heartland Institute, an Illinois-based conservative think tank with a long history of questioning various aspects of climate change science. E&E News reported that it had suggested a number of the names.
“We applaud any effort by Administrator Pruitt to bring qualified non-alarmist scientists onto the EPA’s advisory boards,” Heartland spokesman Jim Lakely told the publication.
One Heartland-affiliated scientist who is now a candidate for the EPA board is meteorologist Joseph D’Aleo, a co-founder of the Weather Channel and currently chief forecaster with WeatherBELL Analytics LLC. D’Aleo was one of 13 scientists who submitted an amicus brief in litigation over the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, challenging the agency’s science, including its key finding that atmospheric carbon dioxide, by driving climate change, endangers human health and welfare.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post about the Heartland Institute.

Update: Here is a new E&E News post which says that the EPA asked the Heartland Institute for experts who question climate science.

Monday, September 18, 2017

AEI Scholar Becomes Head of White House CEA

It is now official.  Kevin Hassett, a long-time scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), has been confirmed as Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA).

Shortly after President Donald Trump announced his intent to nominate Hassett to head the CEA, Michael Strain, Director of Economic Policy Studies and Resident Scholar at AEI, said that Hassett would be a great choice as chief economist to the president.  Strain has also praised the confirmation.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post about Hassett.  Here is more about Hassett from CNN.

A handful of AEI scholars served on Trump's transition team and have gone into the Trump Administration, but the Heritage Foundation still dominates in terms of connections to the White House.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Think Tank Quickies (#282)

  • Game of Thrones think tank talk draws largest crowd ever at Cato.
  • How a little-known US libertarian think tank is remaking Latin American politics.
  • Ghanaian think tanks accused of pursuing personal interests.
  • Think tanks gather in Morocco to tap Arab economic growth.
  • US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks at AEI. 
  • Pic: "Think tanks" section at Waterstones.
  • Are think tank news sites just creating more content for elites who already read lots of news?
  • Third Way's VP in a punk band.
  • Politico 50 (2017) has a number of think tankers.
  • Govs. Kasich and Hickenlooper discuss healthcare markets at Center for American Progress.
  • Mother Jones: Don't blame liberal foreign policy on think tanks (and accompanying Vox piece).

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Think Tanks Preparing Studies on War With North Korea

Laura Rozen, a diplomatic correspondent at Al-Monitor, says that conservative think tanks aligned with President Donald Trump are "quietly preparing studies on the aftermath of war with North Korea."

Here is a thread from Twitter (via Ben Norton):

Another tweet says that she is "not entirely sure" which think tanks are preparing the studies, but "got the impression [they] might be linked up with" the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) and its affiliates.

ISW is a Washington, DC-based think tank founded in 2007 by Kimberly Kagan, a strong supporter of the controversial "surge" strategy in Iraq.

Think Tank Watch should note that a number of conservative think tanks track and write reports about North Korea, including the Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute (AEI).  [A number of liberal think tanks also track North Korea, including the Brookings Institution and Center for American Progress.]

Here is a recent Think Tank Watch piece about the role some think tankers are playing behind-the-scenes to negotiate peace with North Korea.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Think Tank Quickies (#281)

  • Inside RAND Corp's impressive art collection.
  • Meet the artist whose job is to creatively synthesize think tank conversations.
  • New Saudi think tank (Center for Strategic Development) is hiring.
  • Andrew Schwartz of CSIS featured in Politico's "Birthday of the Day."
  • CSIS conducted year-long study to lay out a comprehensive strategy toward Russia.
  • Japan expert Michael Auslin leaves AEI and joins Hoover.
  • Trump's EPA enlists controversial think tank (Heartland Inst.) to find climate experts to argue with mainstream scientists; obscure right-wing think tank fueling Trump's war on renewables.
  • CNAS launches Artificial Intelligence and Global Security Initiative.
  • Acton Institute lecture series: "Think tanks, Politics, and the Casualties in the War of Ideas," with James McGann. 
  • Olin Wethington, a non-resident fellow at the Atlantic Council, is the leading contender for the nomination of assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs. 
  • Jon Huntsman, Chairman of Atlantic Council, gets nod for ambassador to Russia; will Victor Cha of CSIS become ambassador to South Korea?
  • New book by Christopher James Rastrick: Think Tanks in the US and EU - The Role of Policy Institutes in Washington and Brussels.