Monday, September 17, 2018

Think Tank Scholar: Left Think Tanks on the Rise

Here is more from Jason Stahl, author of "Right Moves: The Conservative Think Tank in American Political Culture Since 1945":

Starting in the mid-1970s, it became common practice among establishment newspapers to provide positive coverage of conservative think tanks—particularly during Republican administrations. As I explain in my book on the history of conservative think tanks, such stories served a dual purpose. For the think tanks, the stories were essentially press releases that gave them credibility in Washington. For the papers, the stories functioned as a signal of political balance—a sign that conservative intellectuals and policymakers were receiving the same level of exposure as liberal ones.
Through sea changes in the political and media landscape, this trend has persisted. The most recent installment is New York Times Magazine's 7,000-word article on the Heritage Foundation. The heft gives the sense of an exhaustive account, supposedly of Heritage’s ability to stock the Trump administration with its preferred appointees. However, despite all of the spilled ink, the story, as is usually the case, functions primarily as Heritage propaganda, with this central claim left open to question. Most of the sources quoted are from Heritage itself, and these sources are largely taken at face value. Thus, in the end, Heritage gets to tell a story of its own importance while the Times once again gets to show its “balance” by writing a familiar story about the Right.
Today, stories like these are causing fundamental misunderstandings of the current think tank landscape in Washington, D.C.. They inflate the importance of think tanks on the Right and downplay their increasing irrelevancy and sclerotic nature, while leading the public to ignore the more dynamic happenings in think tanks on the Left.

Here is more about Stahl's book on conservative think tanks, which has just come out in paperback.

Paul Manafort Got Help From Wilson Center Scholar?

Here is more from Daily Beast:

An influential American think tank chief helped Paul Manafort advocate for his Russia-friendly Ukrainian client, according to an email Manafort sent that surfaced in federal court filings Friday.
The scholar, Matthew Rojansky, heads the non-partisan Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute, which focuses on American relations with Russia and Ukraine. The Wilson Center, which Congress established 50 years ago, is considered one of Washington’s most influential think tanks.
In an email, Manafort claimed one of its scholars coordinated with him on an op-ed about his client Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Russia Ukrainian strongman who had imprisoned his top political opponent, Yulia Tymoshenko.
Under Rojansky’s leadership, the Kennan Institute has faced turmoil. A host of former Ukrainian alumni of the Center’s programs wrote an open letter in February of this year lambasting Rojansky and calling his organization “an unwitting tool of Russia’s political interference.” 
It noted that the Institute hosted a concert featuring musicians who praised Russia’s annexation of Crimea and gave an award to billionaire Alfa Bank head Petr Aven. The Institute later shuttered its Kyiv office. 
In a statement released in March of this year on the closure of the Institute’s Ukraine office, Wilson Center CEO Jane Harman praised Rojansky’s work.

Here is a link to Matthew Rojansky's work.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Think Tank Quickies (#325)

  • The New Republic: No think tanks dedicated to crafting left-wing foreign policy. 
  • New Google platform for datasets to help think tankers.
  • French government think tanks recommend not to accredit Sputnik, RT journalists.
  • Think tanks should travel in the summer months; CNAS travels with Danish Ambassador.
  • As presidents depart, center-right think tanks face new pressures.
  • A new model for think tank communications. 
  • What does the analysis of a decade of think tank activity reveal about Russian political ruling?
  • Brookings John L. Thornton China Center announces collaboration with Yale's Paul Tsai China Center; Crown Center for Middle East Studies at Brandeis University partners with Brookings.
  • Salam Fayyad, former prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, joins Brookings; CNAS and Brookings announce formation of task force on US policy toward Gaza.
  • London's Tufton Street home to a network of policy think tanks.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Email Prompts Resignation at UVA Think Tank

Here is more from Politico:

A member of the governing council of a University of Virginia think tank resigned after a records request by POLITICO uncovered an email in which he belittled women working at the prestigious public policy center.
Council member Fred W. Scott Jr. said women at the Miller Center “don’t like to be put into groups” unless they involve “Lunch, coffee, Children, etc.” and that “some people just like to stir up trouble” and should not be promoted.
Scott, a member of a prominent family of longtime UVA donors, also wrote: “There are no United White People College Funds or White Students' Alliances or Men Against Drunk Driving. Even at a ‘tolerant university' ... especially there! Women's Initative [sic]. We both support it. Is there a Men's Initiative???”
Scott sent the email to the governing council’s former chairman a year ago, but it wasn’t until the inquiry by POLITICO that he quit and the Miller Center launched an investigation. It’s the latest episode to rock the UVA think tank, which has faced intense pushback over its decision to appoint Marc Short, a former aide to President Donald Trump, to a senior fellow position. It also marks the third departure from the center’s governing council in the last year over allegations involving sexual harassment, the center acknowledged in a statement to POLITICO.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch piece about historians leaving leaving UVA's think tank after hiring a former Trump Administration official.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Brookings Announces Huge Diversity Push at Think Tank

This week, the center-left think tank Brookings Institution announced it will for the first time make its workforce demographic data publicly available on an annual basis.  Here is more from Brookings:

As of July 2018, 52 percent of all 444 full-time Brookings employees were women and 32 percent were people of color.  Among fellows and senior fellows, however, the gender and racial breakdowns were not where we want them to be. Only 34 percent of our fellows were female and just 22 percent of our fellows were people of color.  Diversity among staff in research support positions—including research assistants and analysts—was slightly better. Overall, the highest percentages of women and people of color at Brookings are in operational positions.

Brookings' entire demographic data is available here.  The data show that 68% of Brookings employees are white, 13% are black or African American, 10% are Asian, and 5% are Hispanic or Latino.

As for generational representation, 51% are Millennials (born between 1981-1996), 30% are Generation X (1965-1980), 17% are Baby Boomers (1946-1964), and 2% are in the Silent Generation (1928-1945).

As for the think tank's leadership team (which includes the president, executive vice president, and vice presidents), 75% are white, 17% are Asian, and 8% are black or African American.

As for fellows and senior fellows, 78% are white, 9% are Asian, 8% are black or African American, and 3% are Hispanic or Latino.

In terms of research assistants, research analysts, and research associates, 65% are white, 19% are Asian, 5% are Hispanic or Latino, and 3% are black or African American.

In addition to publishing all the demographics data, Brookings say it is:
  • Convening an Inclusion and Diversity Committee with representation from across the Institution charged with creating a strategic implementation plan.
  • Cultivating relationships with diverse colleges, fellowship programs and associations in order to attract diverse applicant pools for research positions.
  • Examining more ways it can influence the pipeline of future employees by encouraging the pursuit of Ph.D.s in disciplines with the fewest number of women and people of color.

Here is Brookings' Board of Trustees demographics.  Here is a literature review by the think tank's Inclusion and Diversity Committee on the case for diversity at Brookings.

Brookings President John Allen says that since 2015, Brookings has seen a 47% decline in all-male panels at the think tank.

The Brookings moves come after years of negative press the think tank has received related to various pay-to-play schemes.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post on a group highlighting diversity problems at think tanks.

Here is a link to a 2015 event sponsored by the Wilson Center and Urban Institute on promoting diversity at US think tanks.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Think Tank Quickies (#324)

  • Qatar used think tanks to cheat its way to World Cup 2022?
  • Chart: Number of employees at US think tanks making more than $100K.
  • Behind a major think tank's (Aspen Institute) new fund for promising problem solvers.
  • Think tanks fill knowledge gap of politics.
  • Vibe of "Fortune Brainstorm Tech": Think tank in the Rockies. 
  • Brookings grants for productivity studies. 
  • Capitol Hill comes to the Hoover Institution. 
  • Foreign spies at Aspen National Security Forum? 
  • Think tankers need to hustle: The rise of the promotional intellectual. 
  • RAND study: Marines lead all services in binge drinking, sex partners.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Accused Russian Spy Had Closer Ties to Think Tank Than Previously Thought

Here is more from Daily Beast:

When federal prosecutors charged Maria Butina with infiltrating the conservative movement on behalf of the Kremlin, questions began to swirl around a Washington think tank that had published her pro-GOP writing—and hosted then-candidate Donald Trump’s Russia-friendly first foreign-policy speech.
The executive director of the organization, the Center for the National Interest, insisted that its interaction with Butina was “very limited.
But previously unreported emails and direct messages between Butina and officials at the Center show her relationship with the think tank’s president—former Richard Nixon adviser Dimitri Simes—was closer than previously understood. The two didn’t just make plans to have dinner together. According to emails and Twitter DMs reviewed by The Daily Beast, Simes looked to use his connections with Butina and her associate, Russian Central Bank official Alexandr Torshin, to advance the business interests of one of the Center’s most generous donors.
These communications indicate that Simes tried to connect a top benefactor of his organization and one of the most powerful officials in the Kremlin.
The meeting never happened. But if anyone could have pulled it off, it might have been the Moscow-born Simes. A fixture of the D.C. foreign policy establishment, he worked at some of Washington’s most prestigious institutions—including the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and the Nitze School of Advanced International Studies—before being selected by Richard Nixon to lead the Center for National Interest. Simes is widely viewed as one of the Washingtonians with the closest Kremlin connections. And his think tank argues for foreign policy realism, including warmer relations between Washington and Moscow. 

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post about Butina's ties to the Center for the National Interest.

Update: Daily Beat is now reporting that Dimitri Simes had early access to Trump's pro-Russia speech.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

China's Communist Party Funds DC Think Tanks?

Here is more from Bill Gertz of the Washington Free Beacon:

China's Communist Party is intensifying covert influence operations in the United States that include funding Washington think tanks and coercing Chinese Americans, according to a congressional commission report.
The influence operations are conducted by the United Front Work Department, a Central Committee organ that employs tens of thousands of operatives who seek to use both overt and covert operations to promote Communist Party policies.
The Party's United Front strategy includes paying several Washington think tanks with the goal influencing their actions and adopting positions that support Beijing's policies.
The report said the Johns Hopkins School of Advance International Studies, a major foreign policy education and analysis institute, has received funding from Tung Chee-hwa, a vice chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the party group that directs the United Front Work Department and includes a member of the Politburo Standing Committee, the collective dictatorship that rules China.
The funding for Johns Hopkins came from Tung's non-profit group in Hong Kong, the China-U.S. Exchange Foundation, which is a registered Chinese agent.
In addition to Johns Hopkins, other think tanks linked to China and influential in American policy circles include the Brookings Institution, Atlantic Council, Center for American Progress, EastWest Institute, Carter Center, and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post about Tung Chee-hwa.

Here is a recent Think Tank Watch post about a crackdown at Chinese think tank Unirule.

Here is a post entitled "China Daily Recruiting US Think Tankers to Influence China Policy?"

Will President Donald Trump ban Chinese think tanks in the US?

China has been targeting US think tanks doing military research.

Also, Chinese spies have been posing as think tankers to acquire information.

Meanwhile, the Chinese government has been seeking advice from US think tanks about how to deal with Trump.