Sunday, September 30, 2018

Middle East Think Tank Feud Deepens

Here is more from Politico:

The legal battle between SAPRAC, a Washington lobbying firm closely aligned with Saudi Arabia, and the Institute for Gulf Affairs, a think tank, has escalated since the think tank sued SAPRAC this summer. The suit alleged that Salman Al-Ansari, who runs SAPRAC, smeared Ali Al-Ahmed, one of the think tank’s experts, by calling him a terrorist in an interview with a blogger. SAPRAC’s lawyers filed a motion to dismiss the suit. The institute’s lawyers have responded by filing a legal motion of their own on Tuesday, including an affidavit signed by Al-Ahmed in which he reports living “in constant fear of being attacked, especially by people who sympathize with Saudi Arabia who will take Al-Ansari’s word as truth.”
Al-Ahmed also claims he’s been blackballed by reporters who used to interview him. “Specifically, a significant number of media outlets have stopped inviting me to appear, and those that had recorded interviews with me, such as BBC and NPR, chose not to air them after Al-Ansari made these statements,” he writes in the affidavit. “Additionally, the political newspaper called The Hill has ignored my request to become a contributing writer.” SAPRAC didn’t responded to a request for comment.

Here is a link to the Institute for Gulf Affairs' (IGA) website, and here is a link to Ali Al-Ahmed's biography.  IGA is based in Washington, DC.

Friday, September 28, 2018

New Gender Scorecard: Too Many Men at Think Tanks

Women in International Security (WIIS) has just released its new 2018 scorecard on gender in Washington, DC think tanks and the conclusion is no surprise: men dominate DC think tanks.  Here is more from a WIIS press release:

Think tanks in DC continue to be staffed and managed primarily by men with only three of  22 institutions having an equal number of men and women on staff, a report released today by Women In International Security (WIIS) has found.
The WIIS Gender Scorecard presents data with regard to the gender balance of 22 major thinks tanks that work on foreign policy and national and international security issues in the DC area. The scorecard reviews think tanks along four main axes: 1) percentage of women leading think tanks; 2) percentage of women experts; 3) percentage of women in governing bodies; 4) and number of think tanks with significant commitment to gender and/or women’s programming.

Here are some of the significant findings:
  • Heads of top DC think tanks: 68 percent men
  • Average percentage of experts in DC think tanks by gender: 73 percent men
  • Average percentage of Governing Board members in think tanks: 78 percent men
  • Think tanks with significant gender programming: 1 out of 22 

According to WIIS, the three think tanks that have gender parity at the expert staff level are the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), Stimson Center, and US Institute of Peace (USIP).

Here is the full gender scorecard.

As Think Tank Watch recently reported, the Brookings Institution just announced a huge diversity push within the think tank.

Update:  Emma Ashford of the Cato Institute notes that the WIIS data is much less reliable for smaller think tanks, where one female expert can make a big difference.  "In this study, I represent 9% of Cato's foreign policy staff.  Compare to the Atlantic Council, where each woman is only 0.44% of all policy staff."

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Think Tank Chief Placed on Leave of Absence Over Kavanaugh Comments

Here is more from the Washington Post:

Conservative legal commentator Ed Whelan has offered to resign from his position as president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in the wake of tweets — since deleted — suggesting that Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh’s accuser may have mistaken the jurist for someone else.
Whelan’s offer was not accepted by the board of the Washington-based center, which decided instead to place him on a leave of absence following the tweets, which he has since described as “appalling and inexcusable.”
The board of the conservative think tank — which offers commentary on the courts, religion, abortion and other issues — announced its decision in a statement Sunday that described Whelan as having led the organization “with integrity and excellence for many years.”
Whelan’s claims on Twitter on Thursday suggesting that Christine Blasey Ford might have been assaulted by someone other than Kavanaugh, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, set off immediate controversy. He subsequently deleted the tweets and apologized.

Here is a link to the Ethics & Public Policy Center (EPPC), which was founded in 1976 by Dr. Ernest Lefever.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Think Tank Quickies (#327)

  • House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) to AEI or Heritage?
  • Koch-funded think tank Mercatus Center pretending it's not part of George Mason U.
  • David Brooks: Expertise is not at think tanks but among those who have local knowledge.
  • Think tankers to attend Summer Davos Forum in China.
  • Centre for Human Security Studies (CHSS) opens in India.
  • Kiwi professor (Anne-Marie Brady) whose work exposed China's influence in New Zealand and whose home was burglarized, had presented her paper at US think tank.
  • Clemson University's International Center for Automotive Research: "An industry technology center and think tank that BMW helped create in 2006."
  • Outspoken Putin critic Bill Browder spoke over Skype to the Atlantic Council.
  • IKEA's think tank envisions self-driving cars as rooms on wheels.
  • Huawei was the biggest corporate sponsor of overseas travel for the country's politicians from 2010 to this year, according to an independent analysis by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, a think tank based in Canberra.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Think Tank of the Week: "Center for Advanced Bullshit Studies"

From news satire organization The Onion:

Revealing that the “you aren’t going to fucking believe this” metrics were currently measuring off the goddamn charts, experts at the Center for Advanced Bullshit Studies published a report Monday that this week’s all hell breaking loose was projected to be 30 percent more insane than last week’s complete shitshow. “All of our reports are projecting tomorrow’s Total Fucking Pandemonium Magnitude at three times more bonkers than what it was a few days ago,” said Director Adrienne Morehead, who confirmed that this week will be at least 60 percent more of a batshit fucking insane circus compared to last week’s batshit fucking insane circus. “We are currently looking at a seven-week high on the ‘Jesus Christ Not That’ and the ‘Fuck This Shit’ charts. People need to be prepared for at least a doubling of recent ‘Fucking Nightmare Levels,’ because if our measurements are correct, the ‘Everything’s Going To Shit’ ratio is a whopping 179 percent higher than it was this time last year.” At press time, sources confirmed, “Oh, fuck, here we fucking go.”

Think Tank Watch has documented various examples of The Onion creating new think tanks.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Fear of Russia Connections Hits Think Tank Land

Here is one anecdote from Politico:

Even young Americans in Washington who fraternize too much with Russians can face career consequences. One think-tanker with a security clearance said he recently came to trust an American underling less because the underling participates in too many Russian-sponsored cultural exchanges for his liking.

Here is a recent Think Tank Watch piece on the shadowy (and now-defunct) think tank, Center for the Study of Former Soviet Socialist Republics (CXSSR), linked to Paul Manafort.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Shadowy Think Tank Linked to Manfort Disappears

Here is more from Daily Beast:

A shadowy think tank that Paul Manafort boasted about directing featured one of the libertarian movement’s most prominent foreign policy voices—who told The Daily Beast he didn’t know the now-convicted fraudster was involved.
The think tank, which appears to no longer exist, typifies the way savvy lobbyists can covertly introduce and amplify voices backing their clients—a strategy that’s especially valuable when those clients are tough to defend.
But while it’s not unusual for lobbyists to turn to K Street to gin up support for their clients, it is extraordinary for them to manufacture entire institutions—which is just what Manafort’s group reportedly did.
The Guardian reported in April that Manafort’s then-business partner, Alan Friedman, started a “fake think tank” called the Center for the Study of Former Soviet Socialist Republics (CXSSR) to push narratives that supported his then-client, former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. People affiliated with the think tank say they don’t share the assessment that it was fake, and one said he received a monthly stipend for his work.
The think tank’s website no longer works. But archived internet pages show Doug Bandow, currently a scholar with the libertarian Cato Institute, was listed as its only “senior scholar” going back to 2012. A few other names come and go from the archived masthead, some of them with virtually nonexistent online footprints. 

Here is a previous post on how Manafort may have gotten help from a Wilson Center scholar.  Did Manafort work with scholars from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) to help Vladimir Putin?

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Think Tank Quickies (#326)

  • Visa, Mastercard block donations to David Horowitz think tank. 
  • CSIS: Within US foreign affairs think tanks, there is currently no mechanism to examine the link between organizational performance and diversity.
  • James O'Brien: I'm beginning to think that the only circumstances in which the "research" of "think tanks" should get reported as "news" is when their findings contradict their previously stated opinions.
  • How China's tightened control over think tanks is impacting its foreign affairs.
  • Inside the progressive think tank that really runs Canada. 
  • Kathmandu Post: Strengthening think tanks.
  • US think tanks continue to grow.
  • Simon Cowan: Should think tanks be forced to disclose their funders?
  • Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, a former Brookings trustee, in hot water.
  • Pic: AEI President Arthur Brooks beheads David Brooks.
  • Women to watch at RAND Corporation.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

NPR Blasted for Over-Using Right-Wing Think Tankers

Here is more from Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR):

When it comes to seeking “expert” opinions on events for its reports, NPR often looks to a trusted roster of think-tank sources. In a study of NPR’s Morning Edition from February to July 2018, FAIR found that sources from left-of-center think tanks were underrepresented, with right-leaning think tank sources appearing almost twice as often.
Out of 129 episodes aired Monday through Friday over the course of six months, researchers and fellows representing think tanks were quoted 144 times. Centrist think tanks were most commonly heard on Morning Edition, with 63 interview (44 percent of citations). Fifty-one (35 percent) of the show’s interviews were with conservative or center-right groups, while 28 (19 percent) involved progressive or center-left groups.
Of the 63 right-leaning interviews, we characterized 37 as featuring representatives from conservative groups—e.g., the Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute—while 14 categorized as center-right, like the Cato Institute and Foreign Policy Research Institute. The 28 left-of-center interviews broke down into 16 from center-left think tanks (e.g., Prison Policy Initiative and Center on Global Energy Policy) and 12 with progressives like the Women’s Refugee Commission and the  MLK Research and Education Institute. (Center-left think tanks were distinguished from progressive think tanks largely on the basis of their corporate underwriting.) The contrast between Morning Edition’s use of clearly conservative and clearly progressive think tanks was stark: Analysts from the former appeared more than three times as often as interviewees from the latter.
FAIR has noted (e.g., Extra!, 7/13) that the funding think tanks receive from corporations, wealthy foundations and governments often shapes the agendas they push. NPR’s own Ethics Handbook employs a cautionary tone regarding the sourcing of think tanks. It stresses NPR reporters’ responsibility to be aware of such organizations’ conflicts of interest...
Contrary to its code of ethics, NPR rarely if ever discloses the financial supporters of think tanks. For example, one of its most-cited think tanks, the conservative Center for Strategic and International Studies, receives funding from weapons manufacturers like Boeing and Lockheed Martin. This was not mentioned during a segment (7/13/18) on arms control negotiations between Russia and the US, even though NPR cited two different representatives from the think tank.

Think Tank Watch's favorite line from the FAIR piece:  "Representatives from two think tanks—the pro-seafood Lobster Institute and the Rich Earth Institute, which promotes turning urine into fertilizer—could not be placed on the political spectrum."

Harvard has put out an excellent tip sheet for citing think tanks.

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.