Saturday, June 30, 2018

Think Tank Quickies (#317)

  • GMU chief: Donor gifts didn't meet standards; Mercatus Center "violated" principles of academic freedom.
  • Several think tankers on the board of directors of Diplomacy Center Foundation.
  • Do university and think tank rankings favor science over the arts?  Either way, China is rising.
  • James Wan: Four big challenges facing African think tanks.
  • Wonkblog: "They're the think tank pushing for welfare work requirements.  Republicans say they're experts.  Economists call it 'junk science.'"
  • Andrew Quinn, chief speechwriter for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), was formerly Director of the Office of the President at AEI. 
  • Jim Baker, a top FBI lawyer who was reassigned in late 2017 after being linked to a journalist who wrote about the "Trump dossier," is reportedly looking to join Brookings.
  • Amb. Kathleen Stephens becomes KEI's new President and CEO, effective Sept. 1, 2018.
  • OMB Director Mick Mulvaney headlines CEI's annual dinner and reception June 18.
  • Kirk Wagar, a Distinguished Dellow at Atlantic Council and former US Ambassador to Singapore under Obama, hired by Mercury as a co-chairman of the firm.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Former Army General Using Think Tank Perch to Defend NATO

Here is more from the Washington Post:

U.S. commanders are worried that if they had to head off a conflict with Russia, the most powerful military in the world could get stuck in a traffic jam.
“We have to be able to move as fast or faster than Russia in order to be an effective deterrent,” said Ben Hodges, the U.S. Army’s former top general in Europe.
Since retiring in December, Hodges has devoted himself to raising the alarm from his perch at the Washington-based Center for European Policy Analysis, and he successfully pushed to get troop-mobility issues on the agenda of a NATO summit in Brussels next month. The United States and NATO, Hodges said, need to be able to “mass enough capability in place so that Russia doesn’t make a terrible miscalculation.”

Here is the link to the website of the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA), and here is a link to the biography of Ben Hodges.

Around sixty percent of CEPA's funding comes from corporations and NGOs, 32% comes from individuals, and 8% comes from the US government.

Past donors have included: US Department of Defense, US Department of State, US Mission to NATO, US Naval Postgraduate School, NATO Public Diplomacy Division, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, BAE Systems, FireEye, Bell Helicopter, Textron Systems, Chevron, Cheniere, National Endowment for Democracy (NED), and United States Institute of Peace (USIP).

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Does David Koch's Retirement Mean Less Powerful Conservative Think Tanks?

Here is more from the Washington Post:

David Koch, one of two billionaire brothers whose powerful conservative network transformed Republican politics, is retiring from business and political life because of declining health, potentially testing the staying power of an organization that was already changing in dramatic ways.
Charles Koch announced in a letter to employees of Koch Industries on Tuesday that his brother’s health had deteriorated since a hospitalization last summer. He was not specific about the illness, though his brother is a cancer survivor. David Koch will retire from his family’s conglomerate and step down as chairman of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation.
According to an official bio, he has pledged or contributed more than $1.3 billion to assist various causes, including educational, arts and cultural institutions and public policy organizations. The money has come through personal gifts and the David H. Koch Foundation.
His representatives say he has provided more than $300 million in additional charitable support, beyond the $1.3 billion, for other causes — including help for victims of Hurricane Harvey last year.
But while the Koch name is on a lot of buildings, David Koch is best known for wading heavily into politics. In 1980, he was the Libertarian Party’s nominee for vice president. His ticket, with Ed Clark, received just 1 percent of the popular vote. Ronald Reagan won.
Several of the ideas Koch ran on that year, then seen as fringe, have subsequently become GOP orthodoxy. And the investments that the Kochs have made to build up think tanks, including the Cato Institute, and promote libertarian-leaning scholars at universities are an important part of the story of how the right moved their way.

Here is a Politico article on the think tanks tied to the Koch brothers.

Here is one of many previous Think Tank Watch posts about the Koch brothers' connection to think tanks.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Big Changes at Heritage Foundation and Its Lobbying Arm

Heritage Action, the sister lobbying arm of the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation, recently announced that Tim Chapman has become the organization's new executive director.

Here is a brief biography from Heritage:
Prior to serving as Heritage Action’s chief operating officer, Chapman served as chief of staff to Heritage Foundation President Ed J. Feulner, Ph.D. In this position, he advised Dr. Feulner on public policy matters and activities of the conservative movement. He also managed Dr. Feulner’s office staff and Heritage’s day-to-day operations. Chapman also held multiple positions in the United States Senate.

In April, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) hired Heritage Action CEO Mike Needham as his new chief of staff.

Dan Holler, a founding staffer at Heritage Action, recently left Heritage to become Rubio's deputy chief of staff.

Dan Ziegler left Heritage Action in March to become director of the Republican Study Committee (RSC).

In other Heritage news, the chairman of the think tank's board of directors, Thomas Saunders III, announced that he will step down from his position.  He will be succeeded by current vice chairman Barb Van-Andel Gaby.

Also, Heritage just opened the $15 million E.W. Richardson Building to house its interns.

Here is a recent opinion piece from the Washington Examiner entitled "Conservative Heritage Action Loses Its Fangs." 

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Think Tank Quickies (#316)

  • New Stimson Center study: US has spent $2.8 trillion since 9/11 to fight terrorism. 
  • CAP President Neera Tanden censored work?
  • Dr. Tim Huelskamp of conservative Heartland Institute: How think tanks measure success.
  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lays out Iran demands at Heritage Foundation speech.
  • Heritage President Kay Coles James explains the thinking behind one of Washington's most powerful think tanks. 
  • On Think Tanks launches Open Think Tank Directory (OTTD) with public information from more than 2,680 think tanks and related organizations.
  • Modi, Putin agree on economic ties between Indian think tank, Russian ministry.
  • Global ad, tech execs launching new think tank in Cannes. 
  • New York Times magazine on "Russia hands," including a number of think tankers. 
  • Only 17% of UK adults trust think tanks. 
  • EU Special Envoy to Afghanistan Roland Kobia visits Washington think tanks.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Think Tankers Paid to Spy for Foreign Governments?

A private platform that scores of think tankers use to earn extra cash is reportedly being investigated by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.  While the platform promoted itself as an "expert network," reporting indicates that it was also involved in intelligence collection.

Here is more from the Daily Beast:

In the fall of 2016, Donald Trump Jr. and other key aides to the future president reportedly met in Trump Tower with Joel Zamel, the founder of a company called Wikistrat.
Wikistrat bills itself as a “crowdsourced” geopolitical analysis firm based in Washington, D.C. But interviews with current and former employees and documents reviewed by The Daily Beast tell a different story: that the vast majority of Wikistrat’s clients were foreign governments; that Wikistrat is, for all intents and purposes, an Israeli firm; and that the company’s work was not just limited to analysis. It also engaged in intelligence collection.
Robert Mueller’s office is investigating Wikistrat and Zamel, according to The Wall Street Journal, as the special counsel’s probe expands into Middle Eastern governments’ attempts to influence American politics.
Publicly, Wikistrat touts its crowdsourcing interface it has described as “Wikipedia meets Facebook” to develop reports for clients. The documents also highlight Wikistrat’s heavy reliance on “gamification”—applying game design features to encourage user engagement—to solicit information from sources. Former Wikistrat employees say its founder viewed himself as the Mark Zuckerberg of the national-security world.
But despite the firm’s purported commitment to “transparent, open-source methodologies,” the documents provided to The Daily Beast show something different: that the company exploits “in country… informants” as sources
Wikistrat’s “About” page includes mention of “on-the-ground collection.”
And according to internal Wikistrat documents marked “highly confidential and sensitive material,” 74 percent of the firm’s revenue came from clients that were foreign governments.

A list of "experts" that use the platform to earn extra cash (including academics and think tankers) can be found here.  Wikistrat currently says that it has more than 5,000 subject-matter experts using the platform.

Here is Think Tank Watch's previous story about Wikistrat.

Here is a recent Think Tank Watch story about an annual think tank event that attracts a large number of spies.

Here is our recent story entitled "When Think Tanking Becomes Illegal."

Monday, June 4, 2018

Spies and Arms Dealers Abound at IISS Annual Event

Here are some juicy tidbits from Reuters, in a piece entitled "The Singapore Hotel Where Top Brass, Dealers and Spies Rub Shoulders":

For the region’s military officers, diplomats, weapons manufacturers and spies, there are few livelier places than the lobby of Singapore’s Shangri-La hotel around mid-year.
Here, beneath pillared ceilings and chandeliers, they gather for an annual informal bash - called the Shangri-La Dialogue - organized by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies
Retired Western and Asian intelligence figures spend the best part of three days loitering here; a civilian-suited Vietnamese military officer introduces himself to a U.S. naval counterpart while a cadre of Chinese PLA staff walk briskly past. A Laotian military representative practices his golf swing as a gaggle of barefoot teenagers pad past from the swimming pool, towelling themselves down and apparently oblivious to the swirl of strategic tension. 
While the IISS scholars organized a variety of panels covering regional flashpoints and trends and diplomats arranged formal bilateral meetings for their defense ministers, the siderooms, bars and cafes are even busier as more discreet business is done and information traded. 
Regional military attaches say the event is a legendary recruitment spot, as officers and diplomats are tapped by business or academia - and sometimes more shadowy enterprises. One delegate said Singapore’s status as a leading financial hub helps. 
According to rumor, operatives from various friendly Western and Asian intelligence agencies hold a parallel gathering in another hotel, to exchange information. That has never been verified.
As well as the IISS, the sponsors of the Shangri-La Dialogue include major Western defense firms, including Boeing, Airbus, BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon - in part a reflection of gradually rising regional defense budgets.

Here is a link to IISS's Shangri-La Dialogue (SLD), which took place June 1-3 in Singapore.  Here is a link to the agenda.  Besides the ones mentioned above, other sponsors included Singapore Technologies Engineering, Booz Allen Hamilton, and the Asahi Shimbun.

Here is a bit more background of the Shangri-La Dialogue.  Why is it so important?  Here is a bit about how the event, which draws a huge security presence, impacts traffic.

Last year, there was quite a bit of tension after India pulled out of the SLD over an apparent snub from the organizers, precipitating the need for a team from IISS to visit India and smooth things over.

Here is a piece from The Telegraph entitled "Cambridge Spy Seminars Hit by Whispers of Russian Links as Three Intelligence Experts Resign," about the Cambridge Intelligence Seminar (CIS), an academic forum on the Western spy world.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Think Tank Quickies (#315)

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Koch Placing Young Professionals in Conservative Think Tanks

Think Tank Watch noticed this little tidbit from HuffPost:

The Charles Koch Institute has an “associates program” that places young professionals in conservative think tanks and pays an average of $41,000 per year. The Leadership Institute, a conservative youth organization, offers interns free accommodation, free food, an $825-per-month stipend and a $200 “book allowance.”

Here is more about the 10-month Koch Associate Program, which has 90+ partner organizations, including the Acton Institute, American Enterprise Institute (AEI), Cato Institute, Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), Heritage Foundation and Mercatus Center.

On June 26, the above-mentioned Leadership Institute is hosting the "Think Tank Opportunity Workshop."  Here is more about that event, which costs $50 (or $30 if you register before June 20):
Conservative think tanks fuel new ideas, promote conservative principles in the public policy process, and challenge and defeat the policies of the left. They are most successful when staffed by talented conservatives, enthusiastic about research and analysis in the public policy process.
At the Think Tank Opportunity Workshop, expert faculty will teach you how think tanks operate from the inside and what you can do to successfully find and build a career in major research organizations across Washington D.C. and beyond.
Whether you are new to your career, hoping to shape public policy, or considering how you can transition into a think tank, this workshop will help you succeed.
You will learn to:
  • Understand the careers available in think tanks
  • Find your specialty and build a reputation as an expert
  • Research and compose policy documents
  • Communicate your research to decision-makers
  • Use your research to lobby and to influence public policy

Here is our recent post about intern pay at think tanks.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Are Democratic-Leaning Think Tanks Less Likely to Pay Interns?

Here is more from HuffPost, in an article entitled "The Right-Wing Millennial Machine," which says that conservatives are building up an "army of fired-up young people" by offering them salaries:

Nathan’s experience is emblematic of a growing concern on the left: For a movement that wants to reach young people, low-income workers and people of color, progressive organizations and candidates don’t offer many paid opportunities.
“This is why we see attrition in the movement,” said Maggie Thompson, executive director of Generation Progress, the youth arm of the liberal think tank Center for American Progress (which pays its interns, incidentally).
For decades, internships, fellowships and paid travel to conferences have acted like a tractor beam, drawing young people into political movements and holding them long enough to become researchers, strategists and candidates. But the funding to support those kinds of programs hasn’t kept up with the economic realities of the young people who today’s progressives are trying to reach.
[Carlos Vera, the executive director of Pay Our Interns, a watchdog group] has been calling nonprofits and think tanks and asking them [if they pay their interns.] So far he’s found the same pattern: The Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute and Americans for Prosperity pay their interns. The Progressive Policy Institute, Let America Vote and the Human Rights Campaign don’t.
New America offers course credits to its interns, which means they may actually be paying to work. (Following the publication of this article, New America contacted HuffPost and said it is rolling out paid internships for its interns in the future.)

Here is Think Tank Watch's guide to think tank salaries.