Monday, November 30, 2020

President of Liberal Think Tank CAP Tapped as Biden's OMB Chief

Here is more from the Wall Street Journal:

President-elect Joe Biden’s plan to nominate Neera Tanden to head the Office of Management and Budget is already stirring tensions on Capitol Hill, where Republicans say her past comments will threaten her confirmation and undercut the new president’s pledge to calm political waters.

Ms. Tanden, currently the head of the Center for American Progress, a center-left think tank, has become an early lightning rod in Mr. Biden’s rollout of his team in part due to comments she has made on Twitter. She has used the platform to regularly criticize President Trump and Republican lawmakers, including floating allegations involving Russia, while also tussling with the left wing of the Democratic Party.


Fox News notes that Tanden privately trashed him in 2015, saying he would make Hillary Clinton look better by comparison.

Socialist magazine Jacobin says the Tanden pick "even is worse than you thought."

NBC lists five things to know about Neera Tanden.

If Biden gets confirmed by the Senate, it is unclear who would replace who as head of CAP.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Think Tank Quickies (#390)

  • White House bashes think tanks.
  • Atlantic Council launches LGBTI in Foreign Policy Fellowship Program.
  • Webinar: US think tanks in world politics.
  • Cornell event: Think tanks and the PhD.
  • Pic: How US think tanks are feeling after election season.
  • Experts from four international think tanks share thoughts on Biden's transition.
  • IISS event: How spies think.
  • CSIS paid interns "years before" most other think tanks.
  • Think tanks on where the US is headed following the election.
  • Twitt Lists best think tank Twitter accounts.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Japan's Major Outreach to US Think Tanks

The Center for International Policy's (CIP) Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative (FITI) has published a new report on Japan's influence in the US.

The report was fairly narrow in scope, and only analyzed Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) statements from 2019.  It showed, among other things, that 51 different firms served as Japan's registered foreign agents in the US, and there was reported spending of nearly $32 million by Japan on FARA-registered firms.

The report showed that think tanks were contacted at least 476 times in Japan's influence efforts in 2019.  "[With think tanks, there is] little or no information on who was potentially influenced, as 444 of the 476 contacts were unreported by the Okinawa Prefecture DC Office."

Added the report: "More contact definitely took place than what was reported in FARA, with think tanks perhaps even less forthcoming about their donors than FARA-filing forms are about their outreach on behalf of foreign governments, as demonstrated in other FITI reporting."

FITI notes that it previously found that from 2014-2018, Japan contributed close to $5 million to US think tanks as the largest East Asian donor and ranking 11th among all foreign funders.

The report received financial funding through the Charles Koch Foundation and the Open Society Foundations.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Think Tank WRI Receives $100 Million Donation From Bezos

Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos has just given the largest single donation a think tank has ever received, with $100 million going to the World Resources Institute (WRI) based in Washington, DC.

Here is more from the Washington Post:

Jeff Bezos said Monday he is giving $791 million to 16 groups fighting climate change, the first grants from his Earth Fund, saying the money is “just the beginning of my $10 billion commitment to fund scientists, activists, NGOs, and others."

More than half of the donations went to established environmental groups, with $100 million donations each going to the Environmental Defense Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Nature Conservancy, the World Resources Institute and the World Wildlife Fund.

Leaders of the groups receiving funds said they met earlier this year with Bezos and his partner Lauren Sánchez to discuss what they would do with the grants. Bezos has a small team, including from his personal office, helping to figure out how to parcel out the funds, they said. He will likely hire more people to assist with the Earth Fund.

The World Resources Institute, which will receive $100 million over five years, said it will use the money for two major initiatives. This first is to develop a new satellite-powered land-use and carbon-emissions monitoring system to measure the impact of conservation and restoration of forests, grasslands, wetlands and agricultural lands on reducing emissions. The other project will try to spur the electrification of school buses, with a goal of converting more than 450,000 to zero-emissions vehicles by 2030, the organization said.


Here is a press release from WRI, which was established in 1982 with funding from the MacArthur Foundation.

Although not as well known as other think tanks, such as the Brookings Institution and the Heritage Foundation, WRI has fairly hefty annual revenues: $132 million according to the latest disclosure in 2019.

WRI donors include: Asian Development Bank (ADB), Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Cargill Inc., Citi Foundation, FedEx Corp., Ford Foundation, IKEA Foundation, National Geographic Society, PepsiCo, Inc., Google Inc., 3M, eBay, General Motors, Goldman Sachs, Hershey, Mars Inc., Shell, Target, Walt Disney, Pfizer, Bank of America, Microsoft, Shell Foundation, UPS Foundation, Walmart Foundation, USAID, FDA, and US Department of State.  

The governments of Australia, Ireland, UK, Sweden, Poland, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Germany, France, Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands are also donors.

While colleges and universities have received $100+ million gifts, it is the first time any think tank has received that amount.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Dozens of Think Tankers Helping with the Biden Transition

The transition team of Joe Biden has just announced agency review teams to help with the transition of presidential power, and a number of think tankers are helping with the effort.

There are at least 42 people from 16 different think tanks on Biden's agency review teams, including:

  • Ellen Hughes-Cromwick: Third Way
  • Todd Tucker: The Roosevelt Institute
  • Kath Hicks: Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)
  • Susanne Blume: Center for a New American Security (CNAS)
  • Sharon Burke: New America
  • Melissa Dalton: CSIS
  • Andrew Hunter: CSIS
  • Stacie Pettyjohn: RAND Corporation
  • Ely Ratner: CNAS
  • Terri Tanielian: RAND Corporation
  • Christine Wormuth: RAND Corporation
  • Kathryn Alvarez: Aspen Institute
  • Jeremy Konyndyk: Center for Global Development (CGD)
  • Sharon Parrott: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP)
  • Blas Nunez-Neto: RAND Corporation
  • Erika Poethig: Urban Institute
  • Peggy Bailey: CBPP
  • Solomon Greene: Urban Institute
  • Jocelyn Frye: Center for American Progress (CAP)
  • Viv Graubard: New America
  • Jenny Yang: Urban Institute
  • Hady Amr: Brookings Institution
  • Derek Chollet: German Marshall Fund (GMF)
  • Ellison Laskowski: GMF
  • Dana Stroul: Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP)
  • Margaret Taylor: Brookings
  • Kate Kelly: CAP
  • Andy Green: CAP
  • Nancy Lee: CGD
  • Elizabeth Rosenberg: CNAS
  • Kayla Williams: CNAS
  • Bill Baer: Brookings
  • Jung Pak: Brookings
  • Kelly Magsamen: CAP
  • Christine Linke Young: Brookings
  • Kim Leary: Urban Institute
  • Elizabeth Kelley: Urban Institute
  • Brad Setser: Council on Foreign Relations (CFR)
  • Ryan Zamarripa: CAP
  • Jack Smalligan: Urban Institute
  • Margaret Taylor: Brookings
  • Leonardo Martinez: World Resources Institute (WRI) 


Many of these people will eventually go into a Biden Administration, and others will go back to the think tank world and beyond.

The list tilts heavily toward center-left think tanks, although there are a handful of scholars from progressive think tanks.  It is not a shock that none of the major conservative-leaning think tanks, such as the Heritage Foundation, Hudson Institute, Hoover Institution, and American Enterprise Institute (AEI), are on the list.

There is nobody from Atlantic Council or the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on the agency review teams, although a number of scholars from those institutions are on the broader transition team.

A headline from the socialist Jacobin magazine: "Biden is Already Loading His Pentagon Transition Team With Pro-War Think Tank Staffers."

Air Force Magazine's headline: "Biden's DOD Transition Team Taps Think Tanks, Cross-Agency Experience."

In These Times notes that one third of Biden's Pentagon transition team hails from organizations financed by the weapons industry, including think tanks.

Here is a Think Tank Watch post from 2016 about the tectonic shift from liberal-leaning think tanks to conservative ones as Trump was coming into office.  The past four years, the most powerful US think tanks all started with the letter "H."

Fun fact of the day: There is a think tank that studies transitions - Center for Presidential Transition.

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Think Tank Quickies (#389)

  • China's top climate think tanks push for more cuts to coal use and emissions. 
  • Top Biden economic adviser Ben Harris rose through Washington's think tank world.
  • The progressive think tanks favored by Biden's top economic advisor.
  • AFPC chief: Think tanks should disclose foreign funding.
  • Network of nearly 1,300 websites that masquerade as news outlets but are propaganda ordered up by think tanks.
  • The story about German Marshall Fund's (GMF) home in DC.
  • EURACTIV:  Think tanks and ethics - a contradiction in terms?
  • Stanford Daily: Thinks tanks vs. universities.
  • How think tanks and the media shape Australia's foreign policy.
  • Taiwan, Indian think tank sign cooperation deal.
  • Think tanks square off over more gov't oversight of Michigan's charter schools.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

North Korea Targeting Think Tanks

Here is more from ClearanceJobs:

This week, a joint cybersecurity advisory was released by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the U.S. Cyber Command Cyber National Mission Force (CNMF). The advisory warned that a North Korean advanced persistent threat (APT) group known as “Kimsuky” was directed at worldwide targets in an effort to gain intelligence on various topics of interest to the government in Pyongyang.

Its intelligence collection activities have focused on foreign policy and national security issues related to the Korean peninsula, nuclear policy, and sanctions. The main targets have been experts in various fields, think tanks, and South Korean government entities.

North Korea is one of numerous countries that has targeted think tanks in recent years.