Thursday, September 30, 2021

Think Tank Chief Quits After Violently Attacking Wife

Here is more from Politico:

Jerry Taylor, the co-founder and president of the Niskanen Center, recently resigned from the Washington, D.C.-based think tank after being charged with violently attacking his wife, according to court records obtained by POLITICO.

Taylor, who previously had been a longtime top official of the Cato Institute, was arrested in early June on a misdemeanor charge of assault and battery of a family member in Arlington, Va.

 He denies the accusations, but says he pleaded guilty in exchange for the charges being dismissed as long as he successfully completes a domestic violence and substance abuse prevention program.


According to Politico, the board at Niskanen was made aware of the incident in early September and immediately put Taylor on administrative leave.  He resigned on September 6.  Taylor co-founded Niskanen in 2014.

Joseph Coon, a co-founder of Niskanen, is now the interim president of the think tank.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Food & Beverage Companies Funding Think Tanks

The Atlantic Council has the usual donor mix of large defense corporations, technology companies, and foreign governments that a typical major think tank would have.

But over the years it has had an eclectic mix of food and beverage donors, including Starbucks (which gave $100,000 - $250,000 in 2018), Total Wine & More (which gave $100,000 to $250,000), Cafe Milano ($50,000 - $100,000), Chobani ($25,000 - $50,000), Coca-Cola, and Nestle.

An Atlantic Council spokesperson tells Think Tank Watch that the Cafe Milano donation is related to Franco Nuschese, who is a board director of the Atlantic Council and provides in-kind support with the use of his restaurant for leadership dinners and other private events. 


The donation from Total Wine is related to the think tank's former International Advisory Board member David Trone, who stepped down from that position when he was elected to the US Congress.  


The contribution from Chobani, according to an Atlantic Council spokesman, was in relation to the Global Citizen Awards when Atlantic Council honored Chobani CEO Hamdi Ulukaya for his commitment to philanthropy and helping refugees. 


A number of other food-related entities contribute to think tanks.  One example is the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which is a donor to the Brookings InstitutionPepsiCo, another Brookings donor, also gives to other think tanks like the Aspen Institute and the Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE).


Pernod Ricard, a worldwide producer of wines and spirits, in a donor to the Wilson CenterMcDonald's Corp. is a donor to the Aspen Institute.  And Japan's Kikkoman Foods, a soy sauce producer, is a donor to PIIE.


Besides the Atlantic Council, Coca-Cola gives to other policy shops such as the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).  Other donors to CSIS include Kikkoman and Kellogg's.

To be sure, donations to think tank land from the food and beverage industry are nothing new.  Joseph Coors of the Coors Brewing Company was a founding member and primary funder of the Heritage Foundation in its early years.

And at least up until the COVID pandemic, food (notably the humble think tank cookie) was the fuel that kept think tankers motivated and helped attract think tank event attendees to the thousands of talks that took place every year.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Pandemic Changes DC Think Tank Landscape

The COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the think tank landscape in Washington, DC, altering the way think tanks operate and leaving many to question whether a physical think tank space is even needed.

Here is more from the Wall Street Journal:

The 61-square-mile U.S. capital relies heavily on the federal government as its biggest employer—and officials have signaled that remote work is here to stay. That effect is trickling down to the legion of businesses in the government’s orbit, with some federal contractors, lobbyists and think tanks offering similar flexibility.

Still unknown is how many of D.C’s workers, in the government and beyond, will be back full-time after the pandemic.

The glad-handing, Capitol Hill visits and long lunches of K Street have no virtual equivalent. Some policy shops—including the 450-employee Brookings Institution—have said they want their employees living in the Washington metropolitan area. That has prompted some workers to quit, one former employee said.

A Brookings spokeswoman said the institution’s collaborative environment greatly benefits from in-person interactions, and added that Brookings is exploring accommodating employees who want to live farther afield.

[Then there is think tanker Ben Freeman.]  One unknown is that his employer, the Center for International Policy, left its office space during the pandemic and decided to become “a think tank without walls” for the foreseeable future, Mr. Freeman said.


Here is a recent Think Tank Watch post on private salons replacing think tank events.

Think tankers and think event attendees are eagerly awaiting the opening of some think tanks so that they can begin sinking their teeth into those much-loved think tank cookies.

Monday, September 27, 2021

Think Tank Quickies (#427)

  • Former chair of the House Armed Services Committee Mac Thornberry has joined RAND Corporation as an adjunct senior fellow. 
  • Rebekah Koffler: US "experts" who created Afghanistan mess (including think tankers), should be fired for malpractice.
  • Heritage Action is launching an $860,000 digital ad campaign opposing Democrats' proposed inclusion of language from H.R. 3 in the reconciliation package as a pay-for. 
  • Human resources at RAND Corp. approved the relationship between two of RAND's employees that eventually led to marriage.
  • Is the UAE buying silence at US think tanks?
  • Israeli, Bahraini think tanks to cooperate on setting up network in Persian Gulf area.
  • Trumpies now doing think tanking.
  • Oregon think tank sues to block state legislative staff union.
  • New think tank for debt collection issues in California.
  • IBM Center for the Business of Government: "An independent business think tank that focuses on management issues in the US federal government."

Friday, September 24, 2021

Military Contractor CACI Funding Pro-War Think Tank

With the US withdraw of troops from Afghanistan, there have been numerous pieces written about how a number of think tanks over the years have taken donations from defense contractors while promoting the benefits of war in certain countries.

Here is the latest example, from Sarah Lazare of In These Times:

On August 12, the military contractor CACI International Inc. told its investors that the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan is hurting its profits. The same contractor is also funding a think tank that is concurrently arguing against the withdrawal. This case is worth examining both because it is routine, and because it highlights the venality of our expert”-military contractor feedback loop, in which private companies use think tanks to rally support for wars they’ll profit from.

CACI International is listed as a corporate sponsor” of the Institute for Study of War, which describes itself as a non-partisan, non-profit, public policy research organization.” Dr. Warren Phillips, lead director of CACI International, is on the board of the think tank. (Other funders include General Dynamics and Microsoft.)

In an August 20 paper, the think tank argued that Russia, China, Iran, and Turkey are weighing how to take advantage of the United States’ hurried withdrawal.”  Jack Keane, a retired four star general and board member of the Institute for Study of War, meanwhile, has been on a cable news blitz arguing against the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Kimberly Kagan, founder and president of the Institute for the Study of War, told Fox News on August 17 that the U.S. withdrawal could cause Afghanistan to become the second school of jihadism.”


Separately, Eli Clifton has outlined other think tanks that CACI has funded, including the Center for Security Policy (CSP).

Meanwhile, former think tanker Mattathias Schwartz wrote a piece for Business Insider entitled "I spent 5 Years Inside DC's Foreign Policy 'Blob.' Here's why the experts keep getting us into unwinnable wars in Afghanistan.

Here is a quote from that piece: "What I didn't do was actually go to Iraq or Afghanistan. Instead, I ate free buffet lunches, collected business cards, and mainlined off-the-record propaganda that both of America's long-running wars were worthy undertakings, steered by capable hands."

Here is another quote:  "Into one end of the Blob goes the money — gifts from corporations, wealthy individuals, and, in some cases, foreign governments. Out the other end comes white papers, books, op-ed articles, salaries, fellowships, and panel discussions."

Monday, September 20, 2021

Intelligence Contract Funneled to CSIS

Here is more from The Intercept:

In 2018, when the government awarded a massive $769 million contract to Alion Science and Technology, a defense contractor, the company promised that the money would go to “cutting edge” intelligence and technological solutions “that directly support the warfighter.”

The Alion contract supports work from the Remote Sensing Center, an intelligence hub that assists the military with ground, maritime, and airborne intelligence. Much of the work, records show, went to subcontractors such as Venntel, a firm that hoovers up location data from smartphones, and Leidos, a technology firm that services a variety of weapons systems and intelligence agencies.

But part of the money embedded in that contract also flowed to the nation’s foremost hawkish think tanks, which routinely advocate for higher Pentagon budgets and a greater projection of America’s military force.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies, or CSIS, and the Pacific Forum are just two of the independent research institutes that were given parts of the $769 million to Alion Science as subcontractors. (The others — the Russia Research Network Limited, Center for Advanced China Research, and Center for European Policy Analysis — are less prominent.) The indirect funding, channeled through a contract meant for advancing the government’s warfighting ability, is unusual among the many Pentagon grants that flow to research institutes.


The Intercept quotes Jack Poulson, the founder of watchdog group Tech Inquiry, as saying that the commingling of projects appeared to be "blurring the lines between think tanks and intelligence contractors." 

The article also notes that the Hudson Institute received nearly $400,000 from a Pentagon contract to produce a report on aircraft defense.  It also says that the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) has received more than $1 million in funding from the Pentagon.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Carnegie Names Tino Cuéllar as New President

Dr. Mariano-Florentino “Tino” Cuéllar, Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court, has been named as Carnegie Endowment for International Peace's 10th president in its 111-year history. 

He served in both the Clinton and Obama administrations.   Previously he was the Stanley Morrison Professor at Stanford Law School and Director of Stanford University’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies.

He replaces William Burns, who stepped down earlier this year to become Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the Biden Administration.  Burns had been president of the think tank since 2014.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Think Tank Quickies (#426)

  • US Navy keeps closer watch on Chinese submarines, says Beijing-based think tank South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative (SCSPI).
  • Analysts with Stanford University's Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC) using AI tools from Orbital Insight to track Iranian nuclear site.
  • MIT predicted in 1972 that society will collapse this century. New research shows we're on schedule.
  • How money politics runs behind US think tanks' approach to Taiwan.
  • India's homegrown think tanks are booming, influencing debate and policy. 
  • Scottish Centre on European Relations is ending its activities.
  • Daily Beast: A dark money think tank analyst working for Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin's office and campaign urges violence against law enforcement on social media.
  • Why we need more African think tanks to study the US.
  • The Lown Institute: "A nonpartisan health care think tank based in Boston."
  • Pic: Atlantic Council's summer social.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Backlash Fiece as Carnegie Hosts Former Trump Official

Here is more from Politico:

The most D.C. of mini-scandals is happening right now: A think tank is hosting a book event for a former Trump administration national security official who tweeted support for those questioning the 2020 election results.

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has invited ELBRIDGE COLBY, author of “The Strategy of Denial,” to join a Sept. 15 panel to discuss his work and U.S. policy toward China.

The backlash has been fierce. “I continue to be disappointed in how the foreign policy community polices its own on a number of fronts, but particularly when it comes to attacks on democracy in the United States. We can do better,” tweeted LOREN DEJONGE SCHULMAN, a former NSC official in the Obama administration.


Here is a recent Think Tank Watch post on Colby leading the conservative effort to prepare for a US war with China.

Colby is co-founder and principal at The Marathon Initiative, which calls itself a think tank.  He has held several positions at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), most recently as Director of the Defense Program, where he led the think tank's work on defense issues.

He is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS).

Thursday, September 9, 2021

American Generals Cashed in at Think Tanks After Afghanistan

Here is more from the Washington Post:

[US Generals] including Stanley McChrystal, who sought and supervised the 2009 American troop surge — have thrived in the private sector since leaving the war. They have amassed influence within businesses, at universities and in think tanks, in some cases selling their experience in a conflict that killed an estimated 176,000 people, cost the United States more than $2 trillion and concluded with the restoration of Taliban rule.

Last year, retired Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., who commanded American forces in Afghanistan in 2013 and 2014, joined the board of Lockheed Martin, the Pentagon's biggest defense contractor. Retired Gen. John R. Allen, who preceded him in Afghanistan, is president of the Brookings Institution, which has received as much as $1.5 million over the last three years from Northrop Grumman, another defense giant.


Writer Adam Johnson notes that every couple of years the Washington Post and New York Times write an investigative piece "explicitly saying or heavily implying that foreign policy think tanks are laundromats for weapons contractors then 5 minutes later they institutionally memory hole it and go back to treating them as neutral sources."

Monday, September 6, 2021

Private Salons Replacing Think Tank Talks?

With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to put the kibosh on most in-person think tank events, people have started to turn to private salons or "smarty parties" to get their in-person intellectual stimulation.

Here is more from the New York Times:

Across the country individuals and companies are staging their own salons. They may resemble cocktail parties or seminars or networking events — and some are sponsored, as the SoHo salon was, by St. Germain liqueur (the brand also conceived and co-hosted the event). But they are distinguished from those other events in one important way: all participants are expected to partake in communal, meaty conversations while having fun at the same time.

Historically, salons have become popular after dark periods, said Jesse Browner, author of the 2003 book “The Duchess Who Wouldn’t Sit Down: An Informal History of Hospitality.” One of the very first salons, hosted in Paris by a marquess named Catherine de Vivonne, happened in the early 1600s after a period of religious warfare.


There have always been private salons taking place in Washington, DC and elsewhere, but there now seems to be a proliferation as such gatherings as people try to break the monotony of Zoom fatigue and working from home and seek deeper human interaction.