Wednesday, October 31, 2018

GMF Trying to Make Sure Georgia Stays United With West

Here is more from Axios reporter Dave Lawler:
I'm coming to you from the Republic of Georgia, where I spent the past four days as part of a German Marshall Fund delegation observing Sunday's presidential election and meeting with the leading candidates, the current president, foreign minister, speaker of parliament, and leaders in civil society, the clergy and business. What I saw and heard here will comprise the top half of today's edition.

The German Marshall Fund (GMF) recently held an event entitled "Keeping Georgia's Euroatlantic Future on Track."  GMF Senior Fellow Laura Rosenberger recently spoke about foreign election interference.

Last year, GMF, in partnership with the government of Georgia and the Heritage Foundation, held a conference marking the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the US and Georgia.

In 2012, GMF, in partnership with the Center for Independent Journalism from Romania, organized a study tour to Georgia prior to elections there.

Funding for GMF comes from a number of domestic and foreign entities, including USAID, US State Department, US Defense Department, US Mission to the European Union, NATO, the European Commission, Airbus, BP, Boeing, Daimler, Google, Exxon, Microsoft, and the governments of Germany, Sweden, Norway, Taiwan, Finland, Latvia, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

In related GMF news, Karen Kornbluh will join the think tank as director of its new technology policy program and senior fellow.  She most recently was a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), and served as policy director to Barack Obama in the Senate and was ambassador to the OECD in the Obama Administration.

Also, GMF and Energy Cities just launched an 18-month transatlantic project addressing the role of cities in driving the energy transition.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Conservative Think Tanks Get Mega Millions

They may not have won Powerball of Mega Millions, but a pair of conservative think tanks is getting a huge injection of funds from generous donors.

The Heritage Foundation is getting a $43 million bequest from the estate of Judge Allison and Dorothy Rouse.  It is one of the largest gifts in the think tank's 45-year history.

Heritage is also establishing the Grover M. Hermann Center for the Federal Budget from a separate $5 million grant that coincides with the sunsetting of The Grover Hermann Foundation.

The Hudson Institute is also getting a few million dollars:

Hudson Institute announced the creation of the Ravenel B. Curry III Chair to be held initially by Hudson distinguished fellow Walter Russell Mead for a five-year period. The position is made possible by a $3 million gift to the Institute by Ravenel B. Curry III.
Ravenel Curry III is the managing director and chief investment officer of Eagle Capital Management LLC. He co-founded the investment firm in 1988 with his wife, Elizabeth Curry, who passed away in 2015. Previously, Curry served as a portfolio manager at the Duke Endowment, and as a partner at H.C. Wainwright. He is a member of Hudson Institute’s Chairman’s Advisory Board and is also a trustee of the American Enterprise Institute, the Manhattan Institute, and The New York Historical Society. 

Both Heritage and Hudson have very close ties to the Trump Administration and have played an influential role in terms of policy.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Think Tank Quickies (#332)

  • The Georgetowner cover story: Think tanks - shadow governments in plain site. 
  • Report from Trump's favorite think tank (Heritage Foundation) calls for a larger Navy fleet.
  • WSJ editorial board: A liberal think tank (Tax Policy Center) makes the case for tax deductions for the rich. 
  • Think tank ISIS: Iran was closer to nukes than we thought. 
  • White nationalist Richard Spencer's wife says he repeatedly registered his think tanks to the addresses of female relatives.
  • Nassim Taleb: "Someone sitting in the comfort of a think tank office (with a fridge full of yogurt drinks) dictating what aid people on the ground in Syria should receive in order to satisfy her grand principles."
  • Think tank experts from Sri Lanka visit the US State Department.
  • McCain Institute for International Leadership launches online ad campaign calling for a new generation of "mavericks."
  • Atlantic Council partners with law firm Baker McKenzie to host 2018 Global Diversity & Inclusion Summit.
  • The Palm, a swanky DC restaurant, has a picture of CSIS communications chief Andrew Schwartz on the wall (for eating their often enough).

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Chinese Think Tankers Targeted by DHS

Here is more from the Washington Post:

Alarms over the souring relationship went off in Beijing this year when Department of Homeland Security agents at the San Francisco airport stopped a half-dozen senior Chinese researchers, including some employed by the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations — an influential think tank that answers to China’s intelligence agency. The agents confiscated the researchers’ laptops and phones and demanded their passwords, according to two people familiar with the incident, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive issue.
Outraged Chinese scholars suspected the searches were politically motivated and wrote to the State Department saying they would cancel future trips to the United States, according to a copy of an email from the think tank seen by The Washington Post. (The institute later resumed travel to the United States after receiving State Department assurances.)

The article notes that the Chinese have reached out to long-standing contacts at US think tanks in order to better understand the Trump Administration.  China has even dispatched a number of former government officials for "Track 2" meetings with US think tankers, but those meetings have not been very useful because "Washington's most prominent think tanks are populated by establishment figures who lack close ties to [President] Trump."

Hudson Institute China scholar Jonas Parello-Plesner recently said that CICIR is "an acknowledged part of the Chinese Ministry of State Security: the equivalent of the CIA running a front-end think tank."

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Middle East Think Tanks Adapting to Trump Era

This is from a new piece by Brian Katulis, a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress (CAP):

The waning focus on Iraq is just one of many shifts that have occurred among Washington think-tanks that focus on the Middle East over the past few years – and there are more profound shifts underway during the Trump administration that point to the possibility that overall policy analysis on the Middle East in the next few years may follow the same path as Iraq over the past few years.
In three key ways, Washington think-tanks that focus on the Middle East have shifted during the Trump era – and it’s important to note that some of these shifts were already in motion long before President Trump was elected.
1) A trend towards more policy advocacy rather than putting analysis first.
2) An increasing polarization and lack of dialogue among different views.
3) A growing focus on human rights, democracy, and dignity.
Iraq’s trajectory in the DC policy debate over the past decade may serve as a harbinger of things to come on Middle East policy overall in the next ten years. The declining attention in the broader political and media environment, a less rich and textured policy discussion inside government, and an increasing disinterest in wrestling with the detailed challenges – all of these factors may lead to what ultimate leads to the death of think-tanks analysis on Middle East policy in the coming years.

This prediction comes amid intense scrutiny of Middle East funding at influential US think tanks over the past several weeks.

Here is a recent Think Tank Watch post on the Saudi think tank whisperer.

Friday, October 26, 2018

The Saudi Think Tank Whisperer

Here is more from Politico:

Even as evidence mounted last week that a Saudi Arabian hit squad had murdered and dismembered his friend, Jamal Khashoggi, Washington operative Ali Shihabi took to Twitter to do what he does best: defend the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The global outrage over Khashoggi’s murder has forced many Washington lobbyists and public relations pros to cut ties with the Saudi government. But not Shihabi, a Saudi national who may be the country’s most effective defender in the U.S. capital. Media savvy and politically shrewd, Shihabi has relationships with prominent journalists, Trump administration officials and think tank experts throughout Washington. The Saudi ambassador left Washington earlier this month and reportedly may not return, but it matters less given that many already consider Shihabi, who is close to the Saudi leadership, to be the kingdom’s unofficial envoy.
A former banker and novelist who leads the nonprofit Arabia Foundation — a think tank founded in the belief that the Saudi government was not making an effective case in the U.S. — Shihabi can often be seen on the D.C. circuit, hitting book parties hosted by the likes of the operative-hostess Juleanna Glover and dining at spots like the Monocle and the Four Seasons with such A-list media figures as Fox News host Tucker Carlson. He also hosts off-the-record dinner-discussions in Georgetown for journalists and policymakers.
He describes the foundation as an independent think tank funded by himself and other Saudi businessmen. The foundation doesn’t take Saudi government money, Shihabi says, though he acknowledges that he informed Saudi officials about his plans to establish the foundation, partly to ensure financial support from other Saudis. 

Here is a link to the Arabia Foundation.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post about think tanks weighing whether or not to take Saudi money.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

New Think Tank Funding Model: Charging for "Education Courses"

In a scramble for funding from as many sources as possible, think tanks are borrowing an idea from colleges and universities: charging for educational courses.

As a recent example, the Center for Strategic and International Studies' (CSIS) Aerospace Security Project is offering an "executive education course" from Nov. 7-8.  Here is more:

Understanding National Security Space is a professional development program designed to explore the technical, budgetary, and policy issues in the U.S. national security space enterprise. The course will be led by CSIS’s space security experts with guest lectures from former senior military and civilian space leaders, industry practitioners, and space security scholars.  Participants will have the opportunity to learn and network with other professionals interested in understanding the space domain, the evolution of space policy, and the future of national security space. Participants will take part in lectures and group discussions, culminating in an international space crisis tabletop exercise.
Applicants should have a demonstrated interest in international security, space policy, missile defense, or other related areas.
Designed for working professionals, Understanding National Security Space is held at CSIS’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., over the course of two days.

Tuition for the course, which includes lunches and a cocktail reception, is $3,000 per person (not including transportation or lodging).  CSIS notes that a limited amount of tuition assistance may be available for "outstanding applicants from the not-for-profit sector."

CSIS is not the only think tank offering paid courses.  The libertarian Cato Institute, for example, runs Cato University, which offers 3-day courses on various topics.  A course from Oct. 25-27 in Boston has fees ranging from $695 to $895 per person.  [One can apply for a scholarship for those courses.]

And Brookings Institution, for example, offers various programs through "Brookings Executive Education" (run jointly with Washington University in St Louis) which costs thousands of dollars to attend.  Tuition for its nine-month "Executive Fellowship Program" is $14,500.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Are Think Tanks Causing China to Lose the "Trade War"?

Here is more from the South China Morning Post:

Chinese policymakers have been left searching for answers to the trade war with the US because the domestic think tanks Beijing has called on for guidance have provided “filtered information” to avoid offending supervisors, sources close to the Chinese government and diplomatic observers said.
Beijing’s researchers also have been hamstrung by government restrictions on foreign travel that have limited the ability to devise a suitable response to the aggressive trade moves made by the administration of US President Donald Trump, the sources said.
In the six months since the US slapped punitive 25 per cent tariffs on US$50 billion of goods imported from mainland China, Beijing officials have been frustrated as the think tank experts being consulted for advice on a response only serve their backers’ interests, people involved in the consultations told the South China Morning Post.
In some cases, the experts had done insufficient research on the matter, the people said.
“Although the think tanks are all government-affiliated, their stances vary sharply,” a source said.

The article notes that in order to bolster its US research, the Chinese Ministry of Finance set up an alliance of 20 think tanks in July.  More information about that effort, called the "U.S. Research Think Tank Alliance," can be found here and here.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Think Tank Quickies (#331)

  • Foreign Policy: Is US doing enough to fight Chinese influence at think tanks?
  • AEI chief Arthur Brooks makes appearance in new movie (The Pursuit) coming in spring 2019.
  • Brookings' new State of the Heartland Factbook 2018.
  • Texas think tank seizes its Trump moment.
  • The Nation: US think tanks shift ire from North Korea to South Korea.
  • Think tank funding fact: Carnegie Endowment gives money to CNAS. 
  • North Korea parody site: DPRK prohibits TED talks, citing their general uselessness.
  • USIP hosts Iraqi think tank experts.
  • Security Studies Group (SSG), a "provocative next-generation think tank."
  • Forthcoming report from think tank Henry Jackson Society will show Russia has five times as many spies in Britain now than it did during the Cold War.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Brookings Lobbied for Trump-Backed Foreign Aid Bill

Here is more from the New York Times:

President Trump, seeking to counter China’s growing geopolitical influence, is embracing a major expansion of foreign aid that will bankroll infrastructure projects in Africa, Asia and the Americas — throwing his support behind an initiative he once sought to scuttle.
With little fanfare, Mr. Trump signed a bill a little over a week ago that created a new foreign aid agency — the United States International Development Finance Corporation — and gave it authority to provide $60 billion in loans, loan guarantees and insurance to companies willing to do business in developing nations.
The new $60 billion aid program was tucked into a five-year reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration and its passage was the product of a quiet, bipartisan effort. It included ONE, the Brookings Institution, conservative House members like Mr. Yoho and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. It was led by Ray Washburne, the president of O.P.I.C. and a top Republican fund-raiser from Texas.

Brookings has written extensively about foreign aid and has held numerous events on the topic, including this one on the future of foreign aid.

Friday, October 19, 2018

CFR President: Think Tanks Should Refuse Chinese Money

Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) President Richard Haass has just penned a piece for the Wall Street Journal saying that US think tanks should stop accepting funding from the Chinese government.  Here is more:

Strengthening controls on Chinese investment in the U.S. is also a step in the right direction. Some supply chains may need to be rerouted away from China, although such interdependence is one bulwark against conflict. Universities and think tanks should refuse to accept Chinese government funding. And if the U.S. isn’t to be left behind by Beijing’s major technology push, “Made in China 2025,” the public and private sectors will need to cooperate much more in developing critical fields such as artificial intelligence.

A number of US think tanks receive money from China, including the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), which also gets money from Taiwan.  The Brookings Institution, which has an overseas research center in China (Brookings-Tsinghua Center for Public Policy), receives money from a number of Chinese entities/people.

Haass's statement comes on the heels of a big push to get US think tanks to stop accepting money from Saudi Arabia in light of the alleged murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by a group of Saudis.

Do liberal/progressive think tanks in the US get more Chinese money than libertarian/conservative think tanks?

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Secret Think Tank Program to Train and Influence Law Clerks

Here is more from the New York Times:

The closed-door “training academy” was aimed at a select group: recent law school graduates who had secured prestigious clerkships with federal judges. It was organized by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative group that has played a leading role in moving the courts to the right, and it had some unusual requirements.
“Generous donors,” the application materials said, were making “a significant financial investment in each and every attendee.” In exchange, the future law clerks would be required to promise to keep the program’s teaching materials secret and pledge not to use what they learned “for any purpose contrary to the mission or interest of the Heritage Foundation.
The conservative legal movement has made bold moves before, and it has long cultivated law students and young lawyers, partly to ensure a deep bench of potential judicial nominees. The Heritage Foundation, along with the Federalist Society, helped compile the lists of potential Supreme Court nominees from which President Trump chose his two appointees, Justices Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh. The two groups also helped identify many of the scores of Mr. Trump’s appointees to the lower federal courts.
According to the application materials, Heritage’s unnamed donors were to pay for travel expenses to Washington, hotel rooms and meals during the three-day program. The curriculum would cover, the materials said, “originalism, textualism, habeas corpus, the Bill of Rights and other substantive legal and practical subject matter.” Originalism and textualism are modes of interpreting the Constitution and statutes that are generally but not exclusively associated with conservatives.

A few hours after the New York Times published the article, Heritage announced that it was suspending the program.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Think Tanks Continuing to Weigh Whether to Take Saudi Money

A number of US think tanks have been distancing themselves from Saudi Arabia following the alleged murder of Jamal Khashoggi by a Saudi assassination squad.

The Brookings Institution announced that it would terminate a research grant from Saudi Arabia.  The think tank will also stop taking money from Aramco Services Company "effective immediately."

The Middle East Institute (MEI), which receives money from Aramco, said it will no longer participate in New York museum exhibits and programs funded by Saudi Arabia.  MEI's Board of Governors reportedly will meet next week to make additional decisions about its Saudi funding.

Mr. Alexander Nazaryan of Yahoo News also has some interesting updates about think tank thinking on Saudi money:

The Wilson Center, where Khashoggi has been offered and accepted a position as a fellow, said that in July, it had requested funds from the Saudi government for work on an index of female leaders. “The Saudi Arabian government never confirmed that funds would be forthcoming,” said Wilson spokesman Ryan McKenna in a statement. He added that if it turns out that Khashoggi was indeed murdered by the Saudis, “we will withdraw our pending funding request.”
Not all think tanks are rushing to distance themselves from Saudi Arabia. The Center for Strategic and International Studies told Yahoo News that the think tank “has received funding from the Saudi Arabian government to conduct diplomatic training exercises,” Andrew Schwartz, the organization’s spokesman, said in a statement. “We are following the Jamal Khashoggi story closely and haven’t made any decisions.”
Several think tanks were able to say that they do not accept any Saudi government funding. These included several prominent conservative and libertarian institutions, including the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute and the Cato Institute. The Council on Foreign Relations also said it did not accept funds tied to the Saudi government. 

The announcements come after a number of people started calling for think tanks to disclose their Saudi funding.

Hudson Institute chief Kenneth Weinstein notes that five years ago, the think tank's board of trustees set a policy to refuse funds from non-democratic governments.  "Yes, the policy undoubtedly cost us tens of millions of dollars but it was and is the right thing to do."

Here is a similar story about Saudi funding of think tanks by Emily Tamkin of BuzzFeed News.

To put things into perspective, Daniel Drezner notes that think tanks get relatively little money from Saudi Arabia compared to big consulting firms like McKinsey & Company.

Updates: Here is a map from the Washington Post showing Saudi Arabia's influence in Washington.

In the UK, a member of parliament is being scrutinized over his links to a Saudi think tanks, the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies.

The Washington Institute says it neither solicits nor accepts financial support from any foreign source, relying solely on American donors.

A Washington Post editorial says think tanks and universities must rethink their ties with Saudi Arabia.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

AEI Think Tanker Tom Donnelly Transitions to Being a Woman

Here is more from Josh Rogin of the Washington Post:

Giselle Donnelly is a renowned national security expert, author and conservative think-tank scholar — and even though she’s 65 years old, she was “born” only this year. That’s because Giselle has just recently transitioned to living openly as a trans woman. She is now re-introducing herself to the Washington community she has been a part of her entire adult life.
Giselle came into the world as Thomas Donnelly, the name most of Washington’s foreign policy establishment has known her by over her long career in media, policy and politics. She has now “changed her name and crossed genders,” she told me in an interview.
The conservative national security community in Washington is not known for its enlightened thinking on gender identity. Yet, so far, Giselle said, she has received nothing but support from her bosses at the American Enterprise Institute, where she works as a resident fellow in defense and security studies.
A turning point came five years ago, when, a few months after separating from her first wife, Giselle met a photographer and makeup artist named Elizabeth Taylor. A former naval nuclear instructor, Taylor opened up a beauty shop in Washington called Makeovers that helps trans women find their style. The shop became an important node in a small but growing trans community in D.C., and was featured by the Washington Post in 2015.
Giselle and Beth shared a love of national security, wine, gender fluidity and BDSM.

When one visits the biography of Thomas Donnelly on American Enterprise Institute's (AEI) website, it notes that Thomas "transitioned in October 2018" and has a link to Giselle Donnelly's current bio.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Brookings Terminates Research Grant From Saudi Arabia

The Brookings Institution has become the latest entity to distance itself from Saudi Arabia over the alleged killing of dissident Jamal Khashoggi.

Here is more from the Washington Post:
The Brookings Institution said Friday that it would “terminate” its “sole research grant” from Saudi Arabia, which was earmarked for an analysis of the Saudi think tank sector. “We felt we would be unable to conduct further research with this funding” given the Khashoggi case, Brookings said.

The announcement came after a number of people criticized Washington think tanks for taking Saudi money.

The top of Brookings' homepage currently features a piece by Shadi Hamid entitled "Saudi Arabia is Taunting Trump."  Here is a link to all the center-left think tank's writings on Saudi Arabia.

Brookings receives funding from a large number of foreign governments, including Qatar, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Norway, Taiwan, Australia, Denmark, Finland, European Union (EU), South Korea, Japan, France, Netherlands, and others.

After Think Tank Watch posted that Brookings receives money from Aramco Services Company, a subsidiary of Saudi Aramco which is 100% wholly-owned by the Saudi government, a Brookings spokesperson reached out to tell us it will no longer be accepting funding from Aramco "effective immediately."

In related news, the Middle East Institute (MEI) said it will no longer participate in New York museum exhibits and programs funded by Saudi Arabia.

Here is a previous piece about how a think tank speech could have helped trigger Khashoggi's apparent death.

Here is a piece from Vox entitled "How Saudi Arabia Captured Washington," which discusses Middle East funding of various Washington think tanks.

According to Ben Freeman, who directs the Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative program at the Center for International Policy, registered foreign agents working on behalf of interests in Saudi Arabia contacted congressional representatives, the White House, the media, and figures at influential think tanks more than 2,500 times in 2017 alone.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Think Tank Quickies (#330)

  • The memo that launched 1,000 think tanks.
  • A pocket guide to think tanks that have developed conservative and libertarian policies and principles in health care; Trump recruited from think tanks to fill health care positions.
  • Think tank alums (Zach Graves of R Street and Cato, and Daniel Schuman of Demand Progress) look to build tech expertise for Congress.
  • The think tank (Kohelet Policy Forum) that quietly runs the Knesset in Israel. 
  • Think tanks for everything: "Digital tourism think tank."
  • Zambia's president courts "impartial" think tanks. 
  • Creeping bias in research: negative results are glossed over. 
  • Ben Shapiro's headquarters "has the look of a think tank and the feel of a refurbished doctor's office." 
  • Why academics are creating deepfakes; fall of top US scientists points to ethics gap in research.
  • "Whacky study alleges conspiracy theory linking Moscow to DC think tanks."

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Hudson Institute Becomes Major Anti-China Platform

The Hudson Institute has become the leading platform in the Trump Administration to launch attacks against the Chinese government, gaining influence and attention along the way.

The conservative think tank has just announced that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) will deliver a keynote speech at Hudson examining China's influence on international media, university campuses, think tanks, and the Chinese diaspora.

Rubio will be speaking on Oct. 24 at Hudson.  Here is more:

The Hudson Institute and Freedom House’s Mark Palmer Forum for the Advancement of Democracy invite you to a conference on China’s global challenge to democratic freedom. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) will deliver an introductory keynote speech, followed by three panel discussions bringing together experts and activists to share cutting edge research, analyze recent trends, and consider potential responses.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) under General Secretary Xi Jinping has put enormous financial and political resources into expanding its influence abroad. Xi has elevated the importance of United Front activities, which rely on co-opting the Chinese diaspora and building relationships with Western enablers.

In democracies, CCP influence operations target politicians, business people, academia, the media, and the Chinese diaspora. CCP and Chinese government funding has also intruded into the realm of ideas, influencing think tanks, academia, newspapers, and other media outlets. The CCP, by changing how democracies speak and think about China, is attempting to make “the world safe” for its ongoing efforts to deepen its authoritarianism at home and extend its influence internationally.

The Mark Palmer Forum for the Advancement of Democracy honors the legacy of Ambassador Mark Palmer, long-time Freedom House trustee and vice chairman. The Palmer Forum includes an annual conference with leading policymakers and experts, and programs by human rights defenders and leading digital activists, exploring ways to improve global prospects for strengthening human rights and democracy.

Last week, Vice President Mike Pence used Hudson for an aggressive China policy speech that caused Beijing to lash out against the Trump Administration.

Update: Here is an opinion piece from Hudson's Seth Cropsey entitled "How to Win a Cold War With Beijing."

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Think Tank Role in Jamal Khashoggi Disappearance?

This is from the Washington Post editorial board:

After Donald Trump’s election, Mr. [Jamal] Khashoggi remarked at an event at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy that the kingdom was rightfully nervous about a Trump presidency. This comment apparently angered the Saudi leadership, which hoped to ingratiate itself with the new president. Mr. Khashoggi was told to stop writing and using Twitter.

The above-mentioned event is referring to a November 15, 2016 talk sponsored by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), a Washington, DC-based think tank established in 1985.

Some have reported that WINEP is essentially the think tank of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

Funders of WINEP reportedly include the Smith Richardson Foundation, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Adler Family Foundation, the CMS Foundation, the Lafer Family Foundation, the James and Merryl Tisch Foundation, the Harold and Anna S. Ullian Foundation, and the Etzioni Charitable Foundation.

Update: Have Washington think tanks been silent on Khashoggi because they take so much Saudi money?

Friday, October 5, 2018

Think Tank Quickies (#329)

  • Former Brookings scholar Fiona Hill, Trump's top expert on Russia, quietly shaping tougher sanctions on Russia.
  • The return of Pentagon's Yoda (Andrew Marshall), who led its in-house think tank (Office of Net Assessment).
  • Leading Chinese think tank invites group of former senior US officials and business leaders to Beijing to discuss US-China trade tensions.
  • Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) goes after Twitter for mistakenly barring tweets from right-wing think tank on immigration.
  • US groups raise millions for right-wing UK think tanks?
  • Think tanks and universities have different goals.
  • Think tank that has yet to be named
  • New York leads the US in "hidden debt," according to new report by conservative think tank Truth in Accounting.
  • Vanity Fair: Recipients of DeVos family largesse include Heritage and AEI. 
  • ThinkProgress: Right-wing US think tanks co-author "radical" US-UK free trade deal.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

VP Mike Pence Delivers Major China Speech at Hudson

US Vice President Mike Pence will be delivering a major policy speech today at the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank with close ties to the Trump Administration.

Here is a link to video of the speech, in which attendance is by invitation only.  Previews of the speech can be found here and here.  Axios recently reported that the Trump Administration was planning an administration-wide anti-China campaign.

In June, Hudson scholar Jonas Parello-Plesner published a report on the Chinese Communist Party's "foreign interference operations."

Last year, Chinese cyber attackers allegedly crashed Hudson's website, as the think tank was about to host an event with a Chinese political dissident.  And as Think Tank Watch previously reported, Hudson was recently the target of a cyber attack that allegedly came from Russia.

Here is a previous post about how many think tankers from Hudson and other think tanks have gone into the Trump Administration.

President Donald Trump recently said that Hudson's Michael Pillsbury is the "leading authority on China."  Pillsbury is the director of the Center on Chinese Strategy at the think tank.

Update:  In the speech, Pence made several references to think tanks:
  1. He said China is employing a whole-of-government approach to advance its influence and benefit its interests. It’s employing this power in "more proactive and coercive ways to interfere in the domestic policies and politics" of the United States.  "The Chinese Communist Party is rewarding or coercing American businesses, movie studios, universities, think tanks, scholars, journalists, and local, state, and federal officials," Pence said.
  2. He said China provides generous funding to think tanks and scholars, with the general understanding that they will avoid ideas that the Communist Party finds dangerous or offensive.
  3. He noted that even scholars and groups that avoid Chinese funding are targeted by China, just as the Hudson Institute was last year.
  4. He noted that more scholars are "speaking out forcefully and defending academic freedom," and more universities and think tanks are "mustering the courage" to turn away Beijing's "easy money."  He added that the Trump Administration is confident that "more will join their ranks."

Kurdish Group to Engage More With DC Think Tanks

Here is more from Al-Monitor:

An Iranian Kurdish rebel group is the latest faction to jump on Washington’s anti-Tehran bandwagon.
The Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan, an armed group with communist origins exiled in northern Iraq, registered with the Justice Department late last month as a lobby aiming to “establish solid and durable relations” with the Donald Trump administration. The registration hints at a more public role for a group that has left a digital track record of foreign advocacy on Capitol Hill dating back several years.
Salah Bayaziddi, a Canadian citizen who identifies as a journalist and doctoral candidate in federal filings, will lead the effort on a volunteer basis, writing op-eds, meeting US officials and engaging Washington think tanks. In a September filing with the Justice Department, Komala leader Abdullah Mohtadi said the group “seeks to represent the human rights of Iranian citizens and promotes the democratic representation of minority voices in Iran.” Komala has a track record of insurgent activity against the Iranian government.

These days, nearly every type of foreign entity is engaging with Washington more, which inevitably means that think tanks will see more activity with these foreign entities and likely score big contracts to host events, write reports, and engage with the US government on behalf of those entities.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Chinese Think Tanks Targeting Young Students, Says Germany

This is from a German counterintelligence report:
Chinese think tanks are used for targeting young students, diplomats and business persons. “The think tanks gather sensitive information, not least to prepare cyberattacks, but also to select suitable targets and disguise intelligence activities.”

The full report can be found here, and a 47-page English synopsis can be found here.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Think Tankers Writing for Russian Propaganda Site?

Here is more from the New York Times:

To an untrained eye, USAReally might look like any other fledgling news organization vying for attention in a crowded media landscape. Its website publishes a steady stream of stories on hot-button political issues like race, immigration and income inequality. It has reader polls, a video section and a daily podcast.
But this is no ordinary media start-up. USAReally is based in Moscow and has received funding from the Federal News Agency, a Russian media conglomerate with ties to the Internet Research Agency, the “troll farm” whose employees were indicted by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, for interfering in the 2016 presidential election.
Unlike the Russian trolls of 2016, who posed as Black Lives Matter activists, pro-gun Republicans and other American groups, many of USAReally’s writers use their real names. Several of them also write for a variety of other pro-Kremlin media outlets and think tanks.

Here is a link to USA Really's website.

Arc Digital notes that Walt Garlington, a USA Really author, also writes for "a think tank run by extremist Russian nationalist Alexandr Dugin," referring to a think tank called Katehon.

Think Tank Watch recently noted that fear of Russia connections has hit Washington's think tanks.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Think Tank Quickies (#328)

  • Video: Code Pink activist interrupts Trump official at Hudson Inst. event on Iran. 
  • Express: Putin spooks hacked UK think tank (Henry Jackson Society) 2,400 times.
  • The new Conservative think tank preparing for life after Brexit.
  • Crypto-advocacy comes of age as trade groups and think tanks move on Washington.
  • Foreign lobbying and think tank event hosted by Center for Responsive Politics.
  • Idrees Kahloon: The swampy business of lobbying for foreign governments (via think tanks).
  • Stuff You Should Know: What are think tanks all about?
  • Is there a start-up re-thinking how think tanks work?
  • Think tank gathering Think 20 Summit in Argentina.
  • Brookings brings its young stars to Berlin to debate on engaging China.
  • Rolling Stone piece on think tank liberalism and battle between Bernie Sanders and Jeff Bezos.