Thursday, October 31, 2019

Think Tank CEI Lobbying to Weaken Dishwasher Regulations

Who knew that think tanks have become dishwasher lobbyists?

Here is more from the New York Times:
The Washington-based Competitive Enterprise Institute, a group that disputes that climate change is a problem, has promoted the effort to roll back dishwasher regulations, filing a petition that directly prompted the dishwasher review. As a nonprofit organization, the Competitive Enterprise Institute isn’t required to disclose its donors, though a recent gala organized by the institute showed that the institute counts among its donors groups that have long been aligned with fossil fuel interests.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) has deep ties to the Trump Administration and has been extremely influential the past couple of years in helping roll back various US regulations.

Here is a recent Think Tank Watch post about Google defending its funding of the think tank. Here is more about CEI's donors.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Paul Ryan Launches New Think Tank

Here is more from The Hill:

Former Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Monday launched a nonprofit organization that will focus on his legislative priorities during his two decades in Congress: fighting poverty, boosting economic opportunity and promoting “evidence-based” reforms on issues like welfare, foster care and criminal justice.
The American Idea Foundation, which will have offices in his hometown of Janesville, Wis., will partner with community organizations, academics and lawmakers. Ryan will serve as president of the 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

Here is a link to the American Idea Foundation website.

Roll Call notes that Ryan has funded his new think tank largely through his political action committee (PAC).

The Washington Examiner notes that the think tank plans to partner with other think tanks to address poverty, drug addiction, education, upward mobility, and other reforms Ryan worked on in Washington.

In September, Ryan joined the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) as a Distinguished Visiting Fellow.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Milken Institute Influencing Treasury on Taxes, May Profit From It

Here is more from the New York Times:

In the 1980s, Michael Milken embodied Wall Street greed. A swashbuckling financier, he was charged with playing a central role in a vast insider-trading scheme and was sent to prison for violating federal securities and tax laws. He was an inspiration for the Gordon Gekko character in the film “Wall Street.”
Mr. Milken has spent the intervening decades trying to rehabilitate his reputation through an influential nonprofit think tank, the Milken Institute, devoted to initiatives “that advance prosperity.”
These days, the Milken Institute is a leading proponent of a new federal tax break that was intended to coax wealthy investors to plow money into distressed communities known as “opportunity zones.” The institute’s leaders have helped push senior officials in the Trump administration to make the tax incentive more generous, even though it is under fire for being slanted toward the wealthy.
Mr. Milken, it turns out, is in a position to personally gain from some of the changes that his institute has urged the Trump administration to enact. In one case, the Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, directly intervened in a way that benefited Mr. Milken, his longtime friend.

Think Tank Watch recently reported that the Milken Institute is opening a Washington, DC branch that will be the closest think tank to the White House.  The Times reports that Milken's family spent more than $85 million to buy three buildings opposite the White House and Treasury Department for the DC office.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Think Tank Quickies (#363)

  • US State Dept. now requiring Chinese diplomats to notify US authorities before meetings at US research institutions. 
  • Vice President Mike Pence headlines first-ever Heritage Honors gala; Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivers remarks at Heritage Foundation.
  • The Koch Foundation is influencing foreign policy with think tanks.
  • Think tank CEI compiles decades worth of dire climate predictions.
  • Inside Aspen Institute's Executive Seminar: the mountain retreat for the liberal elite.
  • Washingtonian piece on Open Markets Institute. 
  • Leslie Gelb, former president of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), dies.
  • LSE IDEAS event: Think tanks and their role in the age of digital and political disruption. 
  • Think tank writer temporarily suspended by Twitter because of Turkish troll campaign?
  • Hybrid Analytica: Pro-Kremlin expert propaganda in Russia, Europe, and the US - a case study of think tanks and universities.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

JPMorgan Chase Starts New Policy Center in DC

Here is more from Fortune:
JPMorgan today is announcing several major steps to encourage second-chance hiring for those with criminal records. The bank is officially "banning the box"—removing all questions about criminal records from its job applications. It will steer more than $7 million toward organizations that provide job- and life-skills training to the formerly incarcerated. The bank is also launching a new “policy center,” a think tank of sorts that will design and advocate for regulatory changes around certain economic issues. Its first agenda item: reforming rules that effectively bar former felons from employment, in finance and elsewhere.

The new think tank, JPMorgan Chase PolicyCenter (website here), will be run by Heather Higginbottom, a former US Deputy Secretary of State under President Barack Obama.  She is also a founder and former executive director of national security think tank American Security Project (ASP).

In 2015, JPMorgan launched a think tank (JPMorgan Chase Institute) dedicated to delivering data-rich analysis and expert insights for the public good.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Inside Stephen Miller's Secret Think Tank

Here is more from Axios:
Stephen Miller "was running a sort of secret immigration think tank out of the West Wing," the N.Y. Times' Julie Davis and Mike Shear report in "Border Wars: Inside Trump's Assault on Immigration," out Tuesday.

An excerpt from the book says that the group, which usually met on Fridays, was part of "a quiet but methodical effort...to seize control of the machinery of government and use it to make good on the president's immigration agenda."

As Think Tank Watch has previously noted, Miller is likely the largest consumer of think tank reports in the entire White House.

Here is a previous post about another internal White House think tank in the Trump era.

Monday, October 21, 2019

New Report Documents UAE's Deep Ties to Think Tanks

The Center for International Policy's (CIP) Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative (FITI) has published a new report showing the United Arab Emirates' (UAE) deep connection to US think tanks.

Among other things, the report found that UAE foreign agents had contacted 200 congressional offices, 18 think tanks, and most mainstream media outlets in 2018. Those 18 think tanks were contacted a total of 85 different times last year (and that is just contacts that were reported).

The top five think tanks most contacted by UAE foreign agents were:
  1. Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP): 18
  2. Middle East Institute (MEI): 14
  3. Center for American Progress (CAP): 11
  4. American Enterprise Institute (AEI): 10
  5. Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS): 5

The report says that UAE foreign agents "directed their efforts towards some of the most prominent and influential think tanks in D.C. and towards experts at think tanks the UAE was directly or indirectly funding."  In turn, the report added, "UAE foreign agents often help to distribute the work of these experts at think tanks the UAE is funding."

Over the past year, there has also been a significant effort to track Saudi influence at US think tanks.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Fake Tinder Profiles Used by NATO Think Tank to Test Ranks

Here is more from EURACTIV:

When NATO’s Centre for Strategic Communication in Riga discovered how easy it was to dupe its soldiers online, it has started looking for ways of countering false information, which comes, in large part, from Russia.
On Tinder, a popular dating app, some even communicated with a woman, sending pictures of themselves in uniform. One evening, two soldiers even arranged to meet the virtual woman. They both left their post for her, a move which proved to be a mistake.
The website for soldiers and the Tinder profile was tested by a group of men and women in a low-rise building in Riga, in NATO’s Centre for Strategic Communication, which is supported by Germany.
Janis Sarts, who previously worked for the Latvian defence ministry, is now leading a group of 50 people in the NATO centre, which analyses disinformation campaigns, also called ‘Fake News’.

Here is the website for the NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence (NATO StratCom COE), which became functional in January 2014.

The think tank has run a similar operation using Facebook and Instagram.

A number of foreign governments have been using fake LinkedIn profiles (including fake think tank experts) to lure legitimate think tankers and others into spying for them.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Think Tank Quickies (#362)

  • Think tanks give support for President Trump impeachment probe. 
  • Len Blavatnik and the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).
  • Center for Public Integrity: Inside the shadowy think tank pushing to kick 3.1 million people off food stamps.
  • American Prospect: Washington's "freedom promoting" think tanks that ignore Jamal Khashoggi's murder.
  • Think tanks behind the climate denial movement.
  • Bruce Bartlett: Right-wing think tanks no longer deny climate change, but they argue that the free market will fix it. 
  • Jared Yates Sexton: "The Republican Party used to get its principles and strategies from DC think tanks.  Now it comes from 4chan, 8chan..."
  • Parnell Palme McGuinness: Think tanks and the death of the power of ideas.
  • India's External Affairs Minister Jaishankar's 7-day, 7-think tank blitz in DC.
  • Energy think tank accuses Conservatives in Canada of misusing their research in ad.
  • Robbie Jaeger: "Think tank is a polite way of saying a group of insiders and elites are going to start of 501c3/4 (often funded by 1%ers) and use back channel communications and funds to concoct narratives that coordinate and manipulate public perception.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Lobby Shop Will Help Congo With Outreach to Think Tanks

Here is more from Politico:
The Republic of the Congo has hired Michael Sullivan and Kimberly West of the Ashcroft Law Firm to lobby Congress and the Trump administration, work on "media outreach and strategy" and seek the support of thought leaders and think tanks, according to a Justice Department filing. Former Attorney General John Ashcroft, the firm's founder, hasn't registered to do any work for the country. The contract is worth $75,000 a month.

Foreign governments (as well as individuals and corporations) often pay think tanks both directly and indirectly (through lobbying firms, law firms, and consulting firms) to influence their work and help shape policy and perceptions.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Bulgaria Charges Think Tanker With Spying for Russia

Here is more from Reuters:

A Bulgarian investigation into alleged espionage involving Russian non-governmental organizations is not intended to influence relations with Moscow, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said on Wednesday.
Prosecutors charged the head of a Bulgarian non-governmental organization (NGO) on Tuesday with spying for Russia as part of a scheme they said aimed to draw Bulgaria away from its Western allies and towards Moscow.
Prosecutors said Nikolai Malinov, 50, head of the National Russophile Movement, had worked for the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, run mainly by former foreign intelligence officials, and also for another Russian NGO, the Double-Headed Eagle, since 2010.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch piece on the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies (RISS), a think tank that has been accused of trying to sway the 2016 US presidential election.  Malinov has been accused of accepting payments for transferring Bulgarian state secrets to RISS.

Among other things, Mr. Malinov was also accused of planning to create internet sites, a TV channel, an influential think tank, and a political party to encourage Bulgarians to form more positive views of Russia.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Goulard Gets Tripped Up With Connection to US Think Tank

Here is more from the New York Times:

The French nominee for a top European Union job was rejected by the European Parliament on Thursday, a stinging defeat for President Emmanuel Macron, who has been criticized for bypassing the continental legislature, even as his power has been growing within the bloc.
Sylvie Goulard, a former minister under Mr. Macron and a longtime member of the European Parliament, was rejected after grueling hearings at the hands of her former colleagues.
During her nomination hearings, other lawmakers also questioned the lucrative consulting work that she did for the Los Angeles-based Berggruen Institute, a research organization founded by the billionaire German-American investor Nicolas Berggruen, while she served in the European Parliament from 2013 to 2016. 

The Associated Press reports that Goulard was paid around $11,000 per month for her work at Berggruen.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post of the Berggruen Institute.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Think Tank Quickies (#361)

  • Brookings releases new style guide with updates to racial and ethnic terms.
  • Buttigieg's white-paper cites a few think tanks, including CAP and Third Way.
  • Lee Fang: Think tank CSIS celebrates climate strike with ritzy event funded by BP.
  • Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse: Amazon should stop funding climate denying think tanks like CEI.
  • Andrea Baertl on think tanks and the private sector.
  • Pic: Working at the Urban Institute.
  • Modi's foreign minister's son sent to head newly opened DC branch of Indian think tank Observer Research Foundation (ORF).
  • Hewlett Foundation: Can African think tanks help strengthen gov't use of data and evidence?
  • ExxonMobil funding Democratic think tank Progressive Policy Institute (PPI).
  • ThinkProgress was always doomed?
  • Pic: Exclusive footage of scenes at certain Washington think tank over firing of John Bolton.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Google Defends Funding of Climate Change-Denying Think Tanks

Here is more from The Verge:

Google makes “substantial” donations to climate change-denying Washington think tanks, according to a new report from The Guardian on Friday. The revelation comes only a few weeks after Google announced its support for political action to fix the climate crisis.
Google contributes to conservative political organizations and lobbies that are in support of regulatory efforts that benefit the company. Defending the donations to organizations like the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) that were cited in the report, Google said that it might not endorse every policy position of an organization when it makes a contribution.
“We’re hardly alone among companies that contribute to organisations while strongly disagreeing with them on climate policy,” a Google spokesperson told The Verge.
According to people at Google, The Guardian said that people at the company said that it makes these donations in hopes of influencing conservative lawmakers and pushing forward a deregulatory agenda, something that has become ever more important in recent months as Congress works to craft data privacy legislation.

Google funding is very important to many think tanks, and policy shops will often go out of their way to defend the search giant's contributions.

Update: Over 100 mothers and babies have blockaded Google's offices by staging a mass feed-in over their donations to climate deniers.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Volker Resigns as Head of McCain Institute

Here is more from Politico:

Kurt Volker, the president’s former special envoy to Ukraine, has stepped down from yet another post, his executive directorship of the McCain Institute, amid the fallout from House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry.
Volker resigned from his role at the State Department a little over a week ago, and his resignation as the head of the D.C.-based think tank came days after he appeared as Democrats’ first witness in their widening impeachment probe, turning over damaging text messages that appeared to undermine President Donald Trump’s claims that he did not seek to pressure Ukraine into investigating his political opponents.
In a statement released Monday announcing his departure, Volker specifically referenced the growing Ukraine scandal and the ensuing media frenzy. 
“Today, I informed ASU President Crow and Mrs. McCain that I believe the recent media focus on my work as U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations risks becoming a distraction from the accomplishments and continued growth of the Institute, and therefore I am stepping down as Executive Director of the McCain Institute for International Leadership,” he said, referring to the wife of the late Sen. John McCain, for whom the think tank was founded, and the president of Arizona State University, which is a partner of the institute. 

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post on Volker and the McCain Institute.

According to CNN, Volker told staff at the Institute last week that he had no plans to resign.

In a statement, Cindy McCain said the executive committee of the trustees has asked Fran Townsend to serve as trustee representative of the think tank to coordinate the transition to a new executive director.  In the meantime, Nick Rasmussen has been asked by ASU leadership to serve as acting executive director.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Atlantic Council Gets Tangled in Impeachment Probe

Here is an excerpt from Breitbart:

A staffer for Rep. Adam Schiff's House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence took a trip to Ukraine last month sponsored and organized by the Atlantic Council think tank.
The Atlantic Council is funded by and routinely works in partnership with Burisma, the natural gas company at the center of allegations regarding Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.
The Schiff staffer, Thomas Eager, is also currently one of 19 fellows at the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Congressional Fellowship, a bipartisan program that says it “educates congressional staff on current events in the Eurasia region.”
Eager’s trip to Ukraine last month was part of the fellowship program and included nine other House employees. The bi-partisan visit, from August 24 to August 31, was billed as a “Ukraine Study Trip,” and culminated in a meeting with former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.
The dates of the pre-planned trip are instructive. Eager’s visit to Ukraine sponsored by the Burisma-funded Atlantic Council began 12 days after the so-called whistleblower officially filed his August 12 complaint about President Donald Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Kurt Volker, who has just resigned as the Trump Administration's special representative for Ukraine, is a senior advisor at the Atlantic Council and also heads the McCain Institute.

Max Blumenthal says that the Atlantic Council has become a "clearinghouse for legal corruption."

Update (from Brietbart): "Impeachment star witness William Taylor has has long relationship with Burisma-backed think tank." 

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Ex-California Gov. & China Launch Think Tank to Fight Climate Change

Here is more from Bloomberg:

Two of President Donald Trump’s biggest foils are teaming up on an issue he loves to scoff at: climate change.
Former California Governor Jerry Brown and China’s chief climate official, Xie Zhenhua, are launching a think tank to push policymakers on both sides of the Pacific to jointly develop better ways to cut greenhouse gases. A key part of the effort, based at the University of California, Berkeley, is trying to block Trump’s plan to roll back vehicle emissions standards.
Brown, a Democrat, said one of his goals for the initiative, called the California-China Climate Institute, is to push China to toughen its own vehicle emissions standards. The move, he said, would make it “very likely” that automakers continue to make low-emission vehicles even if Trump succeeds in rolling back American standards.
The initiative at Berkeley will work with government agencies in California and China, as well as the Institute of Climate Change and Sustainable Development at Tsinghua University in Beijing.

Here is a link to the think tank's new website.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Think Tank Quickies (#360)

  • Suspected North Korean cyber campaign targets think tanks. 
  • John Bolton slams Trump's North Korea policy at think tank CSIS.
  • Brookings among the think tanks receiving Chinese money.
  • It must be said (get the think tank's name right). 
  • Jeet Heer: In an age of policy boldness, think tanks have become timid.
  • The Nation: How far-right operatives manufactured the "crisis" of free speech with think tanks.
  • Chinese Embassy working with consultants to embrace think tanks.
  • Rocky Mountain Institute offers prize to encourage engineers to build a more efficient air conditioner.
  • ReFED: A think tank that works to reduce food waste.
  • Data & Society Research Institute: "A think/do tank in New York City dedicated to addressing social, technical, ethical, legal, and policy issues that are emerging because of data-centric technological development.”