Friday, December 22, 2017

Think Tank Quickies (#295)

  • Hottest holiday parties on the Hill list includes Heritage and AEI (attendees list).
  • Bill Gates elected foreign academician at top Chinese think tank.
  • Jared Kushner speaks at Brookings Saban Forum. 
  • Is the Trump team using think tanks more by collecting "non-papers" from think tanks?
  • US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks at Wilson Center.
  • Turkey establishes first defense-specific think tank.
  • Heritage Foundation chart: Differences between House and Senate tax reform bill.
  • "Congress's own think tanks - the Joint Committee on Taxation and the Congressional Budget Office." 
  • Fun fact: Think Tank Gallery in downtown Los Angeles.
  • Many think tankers (including R Street Institute's Shoshana Wiessmann, Neera Tanden of CAP, Norm Ornstein of AEI, and Jamie Kirchick of Brookings) at book party hosted by Juleanna Glover and Christopher Reiter in their Kalorama home for Brink Lindsey and Steve Teles' new book.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Carnegie Scholars Launch Two-Year Russia Investigation

Here is more from the Washington Post:

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace is about to launch a two-year analysis of Russia’s activist foreign and military policies, called “The Return of Global Russia: A Reassessment of the Kremlin’s International Agenda.” The project aims to spotlight ways in which the Kremlin’s influence has spread far beyond Russia’s immediate neighbors and is rooted in countries throughout Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Latin America.
The Carnegie project intends to examine the scope of Russia’s activities abroad, which [Andrew] Weiss in an initial analysis co-written by [Paul] Stronski said is designed to “compensate for lackluster socioeconomic conditions at home.”
The project aims to analyze how Russia’s tactics are evolving, identify which operations may be more annoyance than menace and examine which pose major threats to the West.
“We will try to determine where this matters to our interests and where it doesn’t,” Stronski said. “We pose a lot of questions that we don’t have clear answers to yet. Over a two-year period, we want to get a better sense of the economic, security, political and economic threats Russia may pose and come up with policy guidance. We need to not just look backwards, but at how they’re adapting.”

Here is an initial paper about the new project, written by Paul Stronski and Richard Sokolsky.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Reaction to New Heritage Foundation President Floods In

The Heritage Foundation has just announced that Kay Coles James, a member of the think tank's Board of Trustees since 2005, will become Heritage's new president on January 1, 2018.  She will take over that position from Ed Feulner, the founder of the think tank who became the interim president after the ouster of former president Jim DeMint earlier this year (details here). 

Feulner will remain in an advisory role through January 2018 to assistant with the transition.  He will also resume his role as chairman of Heritage's Asian Studies Center and Chung Ju-yung fellow.

Here is more about Kay Coles James from Politico:
James, who is African-American, served as director of the Office of Personnel Management under President George W. Bush and in Ronald Reagan's Department of Health and Human Services. She also served as Virginia's secretary of health and human resources and as a member of the state board of education.
The board of directors sifted through more than 200 résumés before settling on James, who also served on President Donald Trump's transition team.

Politico notes that James was initially interested in joining the Trump Administration but was "blocked."  However, she noted that she will probably be "able to do far more" from her post at Heritage than within the administration.

In October, the Washington Post published an article saying that James, a close ally to Feulner, "has been mentioned by several associates as someone who could serve in a temporary capacity if the board cannot settle on a candidate."

In reaction to the announcement, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said that Heritage made a "brilliant" choice.

Axios says that she led the search committee for the new president and "will be able to represent Heritage's core values."

In a Daily Signal Q&A, James notes that after she became a serious candidate for the position, she stepped down from the search committee and Ed Meese took it over.

Zack Stanton of Politico says that this likely makes Kay Coles James "the most influential black conservative woman in America."

Here is what the Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin has to say about the new selection.

The Christian Post outlines the four things you need to know about Heritage's new president.

NYT headline: "Heritage Foundation Names New President After Turmoil Under DeMint."

Here is a Wall Street Journal editorial on Heritage and the new president.

While the announcement has so far received lots of praise, some have not been so positive.  For example, Tariq Nasheed, a film producer and media personality, said that "Heritage, a think tank that puts out white supremacist propaganda like Black People have lower IQ's, has named its first black female president to mask their anti-black agenda."

Human Rights Campaign says that James worked for a "designated hate group" Family Research Council and "compared LGBTQ people to drug addicts, alcoholics, and adulterers."

Here is a new Tevi Troy piece on the history of presidents' relationships with think tanks.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Wave of Sexual Misconduct Allegations Hits Think Tank Land

The national dialogue on sexual harassment and sexual assault in the workplace is inching closer to think tank land, as a new movement surfaces to document harassment in academia.  Here is more from Metroland Media Group:

They may not be as well known as Harvey Weinstein or Matt Lauer, but across North America there are hundreds of men accused of sexual harassment and assault holding great power over the women in their academic fields.
Women often didn't report the misconduct because they were worried it would end their career in an insulated, precarious industry where they depend on the recommendations of powerful men to get to the next step.
The stories of these women, ranging from grad students to professors, are now collected in a database started by Oregon-based Karen Kelsky, a former tenured professor who now runs an academic consulting business.
She started a survey on Friday and at press time had already received more than 1,000 responses, including a handful that name the University of Toronto and York University.

The hashtag #MeTooPhD is being used to document various stories of harassment and sexual assault in academia.

Think Tank Watch has heard a number of stories over the years about sexual harassment at think tanks, and it would not be surprising if you start seeing prominent think tankers getting fired.

Quartz has recently reported that think tankers are among those in the national security field that have signed a letter saying they have been harassed at work.

In fact, former Portland mayor Sam Adams has just left his job as director of the World Resources Institute (WRI) after allegations that he made sexually inappropriate comments in the workplace.

Also, Jefferson Smith recently resigned less than two weeks after being chosen as executive director of the left-leaning state-level think tank Oregon Center for Public Policy.  The resignation came after the think tank received a letter calling his hiring "damaging and destructive to women."

In related news, The Washington Post recently reported about sexual harassment at TED talks.

In the Chronicle of Higher Education, Becca Rothfeld asks if sexual predators can be good scholars.

Here is a think tankers take on sexual violence from Tally Helfont and Samuel Helmont of the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI).

Monday, December 11, 2017

Think Tank Quickies (#294)

  • Sexual harassment at TED talks (and think tanks)?
  • White House visitor logs: Heritage dropping in on Budget Czar Mick Mulvaney.
  • Nonresident senior fellow at Atlantic Council, Daniel Vajdich, lobbying for Ukrainian energy firm via Yorktown Solutions; files under FARA.
  • Think tanker on White House "background call."
  • Conflict of interest at Indian think tank?
  • Top mainland Chinese think tank sets up shop in Hong Kong with Belt and Road mission.
  • Who is working for Gazprom among European think tanks and consultants?
  • 7 Questions to ask yourself as a think tanker before applying to grad school.
  • CSIS launches new center-wide initiative on humanitarian assistance. 
  • Maxwell School (at Syracuse University) and CSIS partner on executive IR degree.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Chinese Spies Posing as Think Tankers to Acquire Information

Here is what the Associated Press (AP) is reporting:

The head of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency is warning that China is using social networks to try to cultivate sources of information.
Hans-Georg Maassen said in comments released Sunday that his agency is so far aware of 10,000 German citizens targeted by China, in particular politicians and members of government agencies. Using primarily LinkedIn, Maassen said China’s spy agency has established multiple fake profiles to pose as headhunting agencies, consulting firms, think-tanks or researchers.
China has also been using so-called “supply-chain attacks” in cyberspace, whereby they target IT workers and others to find a backdoor into the networks of organizations they’re interested in, Maassen said.

Here is a recent Think Tank Watch post on a Chinese think tank used to recruit a US spy.

Here is a post from 2014 about Chinese hackers targeting Middle East experts at think tanks.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

State Dept. Paying Atlantic Council Nearly $1M for Venezuela Work

The US State Department has strong ties to a number of US think tanks and provides them millions of dollars for various studies and other activities.  Here is a recent example:

A little known bureau of the U.S. State Department is giving nearly $1 million to a Washington think tank to promote peace in Venezuela and start identifying the building blocks for a new democratically run government.
But critics already see it as an effort by State to train the opposition at dialogue that undercuts President Donald Trump’s push to force Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro to restore democracy.
“It’s a waste of taxpayer money,” said one congressional source familiar with the program. “They’ve tried to dialogue repeatedly and it hasn’t worked. It just buys Maduro time.”
The State Department’s Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations paid $900,000 to the Atlantic Council in September with instructions to “promote non-violent conflict resolution” in Venezuela.
The council said the year-long project’s aim is to draw more international attention to the crisis, show the public what Venezuela could look like under new leadership and provide the opposition and other stakeholders the tools needed to work more cohesively together.
But the effort is already generating no small amount of controversy. According to people inside the U.S. government who favor a harder line against Maduro, the Atlantic Council spending is an effort by State to train the opposition to negotiate and prepare for a future if the government collapses while other parts of Trump’s administration have insisted on a sanctions-driven strategy.

The article goes on to note that the Atlantic Council will have two people dedicated to the year-long project, adding that working with local partners, the think tank will conduct research and organize gatherings with those involved in the opposition and other stakeholders.  Among other things, the think tank will also bring leaders to Washington for public events.

The Atlantic Council gets funding from a wide variety of sources, including a number of US government agencies as well as foreign governments.

Update: Here is the think tank's response to its Venezuela work.

Read more here:

Read more here:

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Pro-Brexit Think Tank Legatum Under Scrutiny Over Russia Links

Here is more from The Times at the London-based think tank Legatum Institute:
A think tank with close links to Conservative Brexiteers is be reviewed by the head of a parliamentary committee that scrutinises the work of the intelligence agencies.
Concerns have been raised about links between the Legatum Institute and the Brexit department and the background of the think tank’s main financier and founder, Christopher Chandler, a New Zealand-born tycoon who made part of his fortune with his company, Legatum Group, via investments in Russia.
Dominic Grieve, chairman of the intelligence and security committee, told The Sunday Times that he would “scope” the institute as part of preparations for investigation into Russian activities against the UK.

In the latest University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings, Legatum was named as the 82nd best think tank in Western Europe.

The Financial Times reports about a recent "purge" at the think tank (as does Daily Mail).

The think tank has rejected claims that it has links with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Here is what openDemocracy has to say about who is behind Legatum's funding.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Think Tank Quickies (#293)

  • Is the US falling behind in publishing think tank papers?
  • Sam Patten's Committee to Destroy ISIS funded Hudson Institute feasibility study for the breakup of Iraq.
  • At conservative think tanks, the debate over Trump, the Mercers, and the Bannon wing of the party is raging. 
  • Freakonomics: Should we be grateful for the generosity of think tanks and foundations - or suspicious of their motives?
  • FT: China has an elite group of think tank analysts trying to make sense of Trump.
  • Think tank retracts analysis saying GOP tax bill would raise taxes on 1 in 8 filers.
  • Why the push for tax reform has Republicans hating think tanks.
  • State Department is withholding Paris accord documents, so a think tank is suing them.
  • John Boehner: Jim DeMint "ran Heritage into the ground...turned it into some half-assed political operation."
  • Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) agrees with AEI about Magnitsky Act.

Canadian Think Tanks Get Poor Marks for Transparency

Pro-transparency advocate Transparify has just released a new study showing that Canadian think tanks lag behind their US and UK brethren when it comes to funding transparency.

The group rated 14 Canadian think tanks on their levels of online disclosure related to funding, finding that only half of the policy research and advocacy organizations rated are broadly or highly transparent.

Four think tanks (and related organizations), including Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) and International Institute for Sustainable Development, received a top rating of five-starts for being "highly transparent."

Meanwhile, four think tanks were considered "highly opaque" in terms of transparency, including the Fraser Institute, Conference Board of Canada, Montreal Economic Institute, and Pembina Institute.

Here is a Globe and Mail piece on the new report (subscription needed).

The full Transparify report can be found here.  A 2017 Transparify report on UK think tank funding can be found here.  And here is the group's 2016 survey of 200 think tanks in 47 countries.

Transparify was originally funded by George Soros' Open Society Foundations but no longer receives funding from that group.

High-Ranking Chinese Gov't Official Quietly Funding US Think Tanks

Here is more from Foreign Policy:

The Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), located just a short walk from Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C., is one of the top international relations schools in the United States. Its graduates feed into a variety of government agencies, from the State Department to the CIA, and the military. Its China studies program is especially well known; many graduates come away with expert knowledge of the language, culture, and politics of the United States’ most important strategic competitor.
In August, SAIS announced a new endowed professorship in the China Studies department as well as a new research project called the Pacific Community Initiative, which aims to examine “what China’s broader role in Asia and the world means for its neighbors and partners.”
What the SAIS press release did not say is that the money for the new initiatives came in part from the China-United States Exchange Foundation (CUSEF), a Hong Kong-based nonprofit. CUSEF is a registered foreign agent bankrolled by a high-ranking Chinese government official with close ties to a sprawling Chinese Communist Party apparatus that handles influence operations abroad, known as the “united front.”
The China-U.S. Exchange Foundation’s partnership with a premier U.S. academic institution comes amid a Chinese Communist Party push to strengthen its influence over policy debate around the globe. The Chinese government has sought to repress ideas it doesn’t like and to amplify those it does, and its efforts have met with growing success.

The article goes on to note that CUSEF, founded in 2008 by Tung Chee-hwa, a Hong Kong shipping magnate, has cooperated on projects with other prominent US institutions such as the Brookings Institution, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Atlantic Council, Center for American Progress (CAP), East-West Institute, and Carter Center.

Forbes says that Tung Chee-hwa's net worth is around $2.3 billion.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Fmr. Trump Aide Gorka Becomes Paid Lecturer at Heritage

Sebastian Gorka, a former Deputy Assistant to President Donald Trump, has long been affiliated with a number of think tanks, and he has now attached himself with a think tank that has deep ties to the Trump Administration.  Here is more from Daily Beast:

Former White House counterterrorism aide and notorious sidewalk-parker Sebastian Gorka has landed a new professional gig on top of his newly minted Fox News contributorship: Gorka is now a paid lecturer at the Heritage Foundation. John Cooper, a spokesman for the flagship conservative think tank, told The Daily Beast that Gorka has been contracted to give five foreign-policy speeches to “Heritage audiences,” the fourth of which will take place next month. “Dr. Gorka is an independent contractor,” Cooper noted. “He is solely responsible for the content of his speeches and other statements, and his views are not necessarily those of Heritage or any of its personnel.” Gorka recently updated his LinkedIn page to list himself as a Heritage “consultant.” Gorka, who was ousted from the White House in August, recently joined Fox News as a contributor after departing from a super PAC run by right-wing “Pizzagate” conspiracy theorists, which he had joined after his brief White House stint.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post about Gorka's past connections to think tanks.

Here is another Think Tank Watch post on rumors of Gorka and Steve Bannon starting a national security think tank.