Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Russian Hackers Targeting Conservative Think Tanks

Here is more from Reuters:

Hackers linked to Russia’s government tried to target the websites of two right-wing U.S. think-tanks, suggesting they were broadening their attacks in the build-up to November elections, Microsoft said.
The software giant said it thwarted the attempts last week by taking control of sites that hackers had designed to mimic the pages of The International Republican Institute and The Hudson Institute. Users were redirected to fake addresses where they were asked to enter usernames and passwords. 
The International Republican Institute has a roster of high-profile Republican board members, including Senator John McCain of Arizona who has criticized U.S. President Donald Trump’s interactions with Russia, and Moscow’s rights record.
The Hudson Institute, another conservative group, has hosted discussions on topics including cybersecurity, according to Microsoft. It has also examined the rise of kleptocracy, especially in Russia and has been critical of the Russian government, the New York Times reported.

Hudson President and CEO Kenneth Weinstein has been tweeting about the attack, noting that the think tank's Kleptocracy Initiative got them targeted by Russia's GRU:

Here is more on the attacks from Microsoft.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post about how a Mueller probe witness was linked to shady payments to the Hudson Institute.

Several Trump Administration staffers have come from Hudson.

The Chinese government reportedly crashed Hudson's website last year.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Think Tank Quickies (#323)

  • China sets up "think tank alliance" to help it battle US in trade war.
  • Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) under investigation.
  • UAE lobbying US/UK via think tanks? (via Spinwatch)
  • Political journalists way too close to think tanks?
  • US think tanks influencing Brexit?
  • Are think tanks as brainy as they sound? 
  • Building effective think tanks, via Vedanta Dhamija. 
  • CJR: "This gives men, who dominate the top spots in think tanks...an advantage."
  • Nepal-India think tank summit held July 31.
  • Prospect think tank awards 2018.

Friday, August 17, 2018

New Entity to Launch 10+ New Think Tank-Related Websites

A new Paris-based entity called Think-Tanks'Media is rolling out the first of what it says could be around a dozen new websites related to think tanks.  Possible future sites include:

  • Think-Tanks’Blog ( dedicated to the social media publications of the think-tanks )
  • Think-Tanks’Team ( a repertoire of think-tankers )
  • Think-Tanks’Jobs ( to present the job offers of the think-tanks )
  • Think-Tanks’Solutions ( focusing on think-tank lobbying and think-tank diplomacy )
  • Think-Tanks’Fund ( to connect think-tanks to donors )
  • Think-Tanks’App ( to harness the potential of think-tankers )
  • Think-Tanks’Shop ( to sell briefing notes to political leaders )
  • Think-Tanks’Market ( to offer opinion polls concerning think-tank proposals )
  • Think-Tanks’Lawyer ( to highlight the legislative impact think-tanks can have )
  • Think-Tanks’Foundation ( to promote, via a foundation, the sustainable development of the think-tank land ).

Think-Tanks'Media says its goal is to "give you an overview of the daily work of more than 2,000 think tanks across the world, and to introduce you to best of it."

In fact, it has already launched Think-Tanks'Guide, which aims to be the most comprehensive and up-to-date think tank directory.  Additionally, it has launched Think-Tanks'Work, a search engine of think tank reports.

Stay tuned for more...

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Think Tank Using Data from Spy Agency, Predictive Analytics Firm

Many think tanks are getting more sophisticated in the tools they use in data collection, research, and analysis.  Some are even partnering with US spy agencies for various reports and projects.

Here is one example from a prominent Washington think tank:
We’ve [Predata] helped global organizations anticipate the risk of violence by militant groups, multinational corporations anticipate the risk posed by government regulatory actions and global macro hedge funds gain evidence for asset positions, and to anticipate the risk of large market moves.
Recently, Predata used its platform to predict a major appreciation in the Japanese yen one week before it happened. Using Predata anticipatory signals, the think tank CSIS correctly predicted the last seven ballistic missile test launches by North Korea. We also helped a global energy company’s public affairs team anticipate a major reputational risk to their brand.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) recently announced a renewed partnership with Predata providing its global geopolitical risk signals to help Beyond Parallel's experts (at CSIS) assess Korean unification prospects and related geopolitical issues.

CSIS notes that Beyond Parallel's funding comes from the think tank's Korea Chair, as well as the Brzezinski Institute of of Geostrategy, The Korea Foundation, and the UniKorea Foundation.

CSIS also says that it has partnered with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) to use unclassified geospatial imagery and data to produce "new, timely, and accurate reporting on the North Korean economy and society, infrastructure, and border activities."

In related news, it was recently reported that South Korea is the country spending the most to influence Washington.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Think Tank Quickies (#322)

  • Norm Ornstein of conservative AEI: Rep. Devin Nunes should be expelled from Congress.
  • Flashback: SCOTUS Justice Clarence Thomas broke law by not disclosing his wife's $700k think tank salary.
  • IISS's new Armed Conflict Survey 2018.
  • Think tanks: When too much policy analysis is barely enough.
  • Transparify's 2018 think tank transparency report.
  • RAND Corp. on Russian propaganda model.
  • Moton Fellows visit Heritage Foundation.
  • US think tanks lobbying to secure US-UK trade deal?
  • Swedish think tank Timbro publishes first global index of the sharing economy.
  • ComRes study on think tank impartiality and influence.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Cato Institute Paid for Sen. Rand Paul Trip to Russia

Here is more from the New York Times:

Mr. [Rand] Paul was the only lawmaker on the trip, which was financed by the Cato Institute, a leading libertarian research organization in Washington.  He was accompanied by Peter Goettler, Cato's president and chief executive, and Don Huffines, a Texas state senator who was chairman of Mr. Paul's presidential campaign in the state.

Here is more about the trip and Cato's thoughts on Russia:

On Russia, the Cato Institute encourages policymakers to coordinate with leaders in Moscow on issues like nonproliferation and ending the Syrian civil war. Its policy handbook also advocates for replacing current American sanctions on Russia with ones that aim to impede the modernization of Russia's military.
Khristine Brookes, a spokeswoman from the Cato Institute, said that it did not set up the meetings with any of the Russian government officials, but it did set up meetings with other non-government organizations and booked sight-seeing trips.

Here is what the think tank's policy handbook says about US relations with Russia.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Heritage Action to Pour Millions Into 2018 Elections

Here is more from the Wall Street Journal:

Heritage Action for America, a political sister organization of the Heritage Foundation, has spent years getting Republicans riled up in policy fights. Now the group is trying something new: getting GOP lawmakers elected.
Founded in 2010, Heritage Action spent its early years stirring controversy as it pushed GOP leaders and lawmakers to take a more combative approach in negotiations with former President Barack Obama, a Democrat. But with President Donald Trump, a Republican, in office, the group is recalibrating its strategy and, for the first time, is getting significantly involved in congressional elections.
“The tactics have to change when you [Republicans] have the House, the Senate and the White House,” Tim Chapman, executive director of Heritage Action, said in an interview Monday.
“We have got a very good apparatus built for stopping bad legislation and for holding people accountable. We’re not quite as effective as we’d like to be at passing good pieces of legislation,” he said.
To change that, Heritage Action plans to spend $2.5 million, starting in early September, to help Republicans win in 14 congressional districts. The group plans to use its money on direct mail and digital ads promoting its view of how the tax law passed by Republicans last December is benefiting voters there. Additional money raised could be used on television ads, said the group’s vice president, Jessica Anderson.
The hope is that the campaign efforts will create allies on Capitol Hill and give Heritage Action ways to reward lawmakers, not just criticize them when the group views their voting records as not conservative enough. 

In related news, Heritage Action has created a "pro-Kavanaugh activist toolkit to secure the Supreme Court for decades to come," according to Right Wing Watch.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Think Tank Quickies (#321)

  • RAND Corp. selected to help oversee national effort to increase funding for research on gun violence.
  • New Canadian think tank aims to provide First Nations perspectives.
  • US-backed think tanks target Latin America.
  • Top Turkish officials meeting with US think tanks; top Indian official meets think tankers.
  • RIP Frank Carlucci, longtime RAND Corp. trustee, adviser, and donor.
  • Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY) smears immigration think tank (Center for Immigration Studies, or CIS) as hate group.
  • R Street Institute: We said "think" tank not "steal" tank.
  • Ron Paul Liberty Report: The weapons makers and the "think tanks" they fund.
  • Derek Mitchell becomes new president of National Democratic Institute (NDI).
  • List of tax policy experts at think tanks.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Crackdown on Chinese Think Tank Unirule

Here is more from the China Digital Times:
On Tuesday, one of China’s last remaining liberal think-tanks, Unirule, was evicted from its Beijing offices. The leasing company even went as far as to weld the office doors shut, temporarily imprisoning the employees in an act that serves as a fitting metaphor for the increasing restrictions on political discourse under Xi Jinping.
Founded in 1993 by liberal economist Mao Yushi, Unirule has a history of disagreement with the CCP. In 2009 it successfully fought for the suspension of a legal amendment that would have expanded government land control. In 2012, Mao won the Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty from the U.S.-based Cato Institute, a free-market think-tank.

Here is more from the South China Morning Post:
In January last year, online censors shut down its website and deleted the social media accounts of several of its [Unirule's] members. Four months later, the institute was barred from holding an academic seminar during the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, with staff members arriving at their former office one morning to find the front door locked and the lift button to their floor disabled.
Unirule moved to its current address inside a gated residential community in the west of Beijing in October after being forced to vacate an office building in the city’s downtown area.
The organisation, like other liberal academics and opinion leaders, has been under increased pressure since President Xi Jinping came to power in late 2012 and began his programme of tightening controls on ideology and clamping down on dissent.

In related news, the New York Times has reported that Xu Zhangrun, a law professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing, "took a big risk" when he "delivered the fiercest denunciation yet from a Chinese academic of Mr. Xi's hard-line policies."  Professor Xu reportedly wrote an essay that appeared on the website of Unirule.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Pompeo & Mattis Using Hoover Institution to Rebel Against Trump?

Here is more from a Politico piece entitled "On Cleanup Duty After Trump Diplomatic Blowups":

President Donald Trump’s top national security and foreign policy leaders declared their allegiance Tuesday to the global order that U.S. diplomacy fashioned and reinforced over the decades — just a week after Trump upended that order in Helsinki.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis completed two days of meetings with Australia's foreign and defense ministers at the Hoover Institution, a citadel of the foreign policy elite that’s become increasingly dismayed by Trump’s repeated slams at NATO, widening trade war and last week’s private meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
A top aide to Mattis said the choice to hold this week's meetings at Hoover, where many foreign policy and national security veterans of Republican and Democratic administrations are in residence, was made months ago and was not intended to send any signal beyond that both the United States and Australia are Pacific powers.
The Hoover Institution was founded in 1919 by future President Herbert Hoover, who played a leading role in the American reconstruction of war Europe after both world wars. The think tank is a repository for some of the most exhaustive records on Nazi propaganda and the Cold War and has served as an intellectual incubator for some of the top diplomats and national security leaders over the years.
Working just a few steps from where Mattis and Pompeo held their meetings, for example, are leading GOP figures such as George Shultz, Ronald Reagan's secretary of state, and Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser and secretary of state under George W. Bush. Its visiting research fellows over the years have included former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and, most recently, retired Army Lt. Gen H.R. McMaster, who served as Trump's national security adviser until earlier this year. McMaster was among the Trump administration's toughest critics of Russia.

The article goes on to note that Michael McFaul, who is on a list on names of people that the Russian government wants to question in connection to unspecified criminal allegations, is also a Hoover scholar.  Here is Hoover's statement supporting McFaul.

Here is a livestream of the July 24 Mattis/Pompeo event at Hoover.

The think tank recently held an event to promote former CIA and NSA director Michael Hayden's new book "The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies."

Here is Think Tank Watch's recent piece about H.R. McMaster returning to Hoover.

The Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, recently spoke at the Hudson Institute.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Historians Quit UVA Think Tank After Hiring of Ex-Trump Aide

Here is more from HuffPost:

Two distinguished historians at the University of Virginia have resigned from its public policy center following the school’s recent hiring of a former aide to President Donald Trump, a decision that has also spurred protests among students and faculty.
William I. Hitchcock and Melvyn P. Leffler announced their departures from the Miller Center of Public Affairs on Monday to protest Marc Short, Trump’s former legislative affairs director, receiving a paid fellowship at the think tank that also studies the presidency. The professors blasted Short’s fellowship as running counter to the center’s values.
“By associating himself with an administration that shows no respect for truth, he has contributed to the erosion of civil discourse and democratic norms that are essential to democratic governance and that are central to the mission of the Miller Center,” read a letter shared by Hitchcock on Twitter.
William Antholis, the center’s director and CEO, said in a statement he was saddened by their departure but that Short’s appointment would help promote the think tank’s goals.

From 2004-2014, Mr. Antholis was managing director of the Brookings Institution, a think tank that has been embroiled in various controversies for years.  Here is a statement from Antholis.

A National Review piece entitled "A Baseless Attack on Marc Short" is on the UVA think tank's website.  Slate says the two professors were right to leave.

Politico asks if the UVA drama is a warning to Trump officials looking for new gigs, including at think tanks.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Think Tank Quickies (#320)

  • Average US/UK think tank report now 42.5 pages?
  • Pic: Junckermania at CSIS (via Politico's Doug Palmer).
  • Nahal Toosi of Politico: "Dear People Who Run Think Tanks: Your panel discussions would get more attention (and actually be of greater quality) if you rely more on moderators who aren't afraid to ask hard questions.  Like reporters."
  • Cato's biennial Milton Freedman Prize for Advancing Liberty dinner honoring Ladies in White.
  • What transpires behind curtains in Washington think tanks about Kashmir?
  • Robert Reich in South Korea at invitation of the government's major economic think tank.
  • World Resources Institute (WRI) Africa opens.
  • RAND research: Truth Decay; RAND publications in Arabic.
  • American academics helping whitewash former KGB agent Vladimir Yakunin's think tank?
  • Timothy Lee: It's surprising how little think tank work there is on self-driving cars.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

AEI President Calls for "Politics Cleanse"

American Enterprise Institute (AEI) President Arthur Brooks is calling for a "politics cleanse" in a new op-ed in the New York Times.  Here is an excerpt:

Have you felt less popular lately than you once were? Are people avoiding you? Are your party invitations getting lost in the mail? Maybe it’s your breath.
Or, just maybe, it’s because you can’t stop talking about politics.
What to do? Start with a politics cleanse: For two weeks — maybe over your August vacation — resolve not to read, watch or listen to anything about politics. Don’t discuss politics with anyone. When you find yourself thinking about politics, distract yourself with something else. (I listen to Bach cantatas, but that’s not for everybody.) This is hard to do, of course, but not impossible. You just have to plan ahead and stand firm. Think of it as ideological veganism. On the one hand, your friends will think you’re a little wacky. On the other hand, you’ll feel superior to them.

Think Tank Watch should note that Arthur Brooks is stepping down from his think tank perch next summer.  Some say that House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), who is retiring from Congress, would be the "perfect fit" to succeed Brooks.  The job, which pays around $1 million, would give Ryan nearly five times what he makes now.

Pay-to-Play Scheme Rocks UK Think Tank IEA

Here is more from The Guardian about the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), a UK-based think tank established in 1955 by admirers of the free-market economist Friedrich Hayek:

A rightwing thinktank has been offering potential US donors access to government ministers and civil servants as it raises cash for research to support the free-trade deals demanded by hardline Brexiters, according to an investigation.
The director of the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) was secretly recorded telling an undercover reporter that funders could get to know ministers on first-name terms and that his organisation was in “the Brexit influencing game”.
Mark Littlewood claimed the IEA could make introductions to ministers and said the thinktank’s trade expert knew Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, David Davis and Liam Fox well.
The IEA chief was also recorded suggesting potential US donors could fund and shape “substantial content” of research commissioned by the thinktank and that its findings would always support the argument for free-trade deals.
The investigation, undertaken in May and June, also revealed the thinktank had already provided access to a minister for a US organisation.

Here is more coverage from various sources:
  • Think tank faces double investigation after 'cash for access' claims (The Guardian).
  • Institute of Economic Affairs think tank 'offered access to ministers' (The Times).
  • A hard Brexit think tank told a potential donor it could influence its research reports in exchange for funding (Unearthed). 
  • Labor demands investigation into right-wing think tank over accusations it offered 'access to ministers' (Independent)
  • Revealed: BP and gambling interests fund secretive free market think tank (Ecologist).
  • Revealed: How the Uk's powerful right-wing think tanks and Conservative MP's work together (openDemocracy UK
  • Revealed: IEA think tank bosses' £4.6 million for Tories (The Red Roar). 
  • Casino owners donated to IEA after think tank's pro-gambling report (The Guardian).
  • The IEA's "Brexit-influencing game" shows think tanks are open to abuse (NewStatesman). 
  • IEA think tank faces registration as a lobbyist as government tsar opens investigation (Third Sector).
  • Jersey Finance paid for IEA report rubbishing 'hotbeds of tax evasion' claims (The Guardian). 
  • Channel Island banks fund IEA research defending tax havens (Unearthed).
  • IEA think tank unveils pro-gambling report after being funded by casino industry players (Casino Guardian).
  • Institute of Economic Affairs says it has 'no apology' to make over newspaper claims (Third Sector).
  • Institute of Economic Affairs defends 'cash for access' (BBC)
  • The Daily Devil's Dictionary: Think Tanks Provide "Access" (Fair Observer). 
  • Why it's time for the Institute of Economic Affairs to be pulled off air (Left Foot Forward).

Here you can watch the undercover video that exposed all of this.

Here is IEA's formal response, via Mark Littlewood.

Here is a Twitter thread where IEA's news editor Kate Andrews defends her think tank.

The IEA example is one of numerous pay-to-play schemes at think tanks that has come to light over the past several years.

Stay tuned for more updates soon...

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Influential Texas Think Tank Goes National

Here is more from ThinkProgress:

The Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF), a conservative think tank and advocacy group, emerged as a political force in the Lone Star State more than a decade ago. While its influence was largely contained to Texas for many years, TPPF has found an eager audience in the White House and is now flexing its muscle on the national stage.
Founded almost 30 years ago, TPPF is a Koch-funded research and advocacy group that touts itself as a defender of liberty and free enterprise. By no means a strictly libertarian group, the group also attracts widespread support from social conservatives, counting former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) as two of its most prominent allies.  [Sen. Ted Cruz joined the organization as a senior fellow in March 2010 where he helped launch the Center for Tenth Amendment Studies. In 2012, Cruz won election to the U.S. Senate.]
From the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) to the Department of Energy (DOE), former TPPF officials are now filling top roles in the Trump administration and are working to promote pro-fossil fuel and anti-environment policies at the national level.
The Trump administration, in fact, has already turned into a revolving door for TPPF officials. At least eight TPPF senior staff members have joined or were recruited by the administration. One former TPPF employee has already served two stints in the Department of Energy under Perry’s leadership and another foundation employee returned to TPPF after a brief stint in President Donald Trump’s State Department.
Through its advocacy of far-right policy positions and its fundraising prowess, TPPF has joined the Heritage Foundation and other well-established national think tanks as the go-to policy shops for the president and his band of ultra-conservatives.  In recent years, TPPF started co-branding reports and conferences with the Heritage Foundation and other high-profile groups associated with the State Policy Network (SPN) that added to its clout.
The Texas Public Policy Foundation was founded in 1989 by James Leininger, a Christian conservative who became extremely wealthy by selling hospital beds. By the early 1990s, he emerged as one of Texas’ top political donors, spending millions on conservative candidates.

Here is another ThinkProgress piece on TPPF.
Here is a link to the website of the Texas Public Policy Foundation.