The Brookings Institution, already facing years of reputational damage from its funding sources, is facing another huge hit as the think tank's president, John Allen, announced on Sunday that he is resigning amid an FBI foreign lobbying probe.
Allen's resignation letter can be read here. The news comes six days after a court filing revealed evidence that Allen had secretly lobbied on behalf of Qatar, a country that has donated millions of dollars to Brookings over the years.
Here is more from the Washington Post:
Allen offered a “false version of events” when describing the nature of his work in Qatar while talking with law enforcement officials in 2020, the FBI said. When subpoenaed by a grand jury, law enforcement officials added, Allen did not produce email messages that were relevant to the case.
Allen met with senior Qatari leaders in 2017, when he was a part-time senior fellow at Brookings. According to law enforcement, Allen used his Brookings email address to communicate with Trump administration officials, including Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, who was White House national security adviser at the time.
Ted Gayer remains as acting president of Brookings, although he is scheduled to leave this summer to run the Niskanen Center. Thus, Brookings will need to find a new president or acting president in the coming weeks. Allen had been making around $1 million a year as president of the think tank.
The Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft notes that Allen's alleged use of Brookings' resources to conduct his work for Qatar "raises questions about Brookings' lucrative relationship with Qatar and the ethical implications of maintaining close ties to a foreign government."
In a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, Rep. Jack Bergman (R-MI) is pushing for an investigation into Brookings.
Here is a new Vox explainer about the whole scandal. It notes that the small changes that Brookings undertook the past few years regarding foreign donors after being called out multiple times in the media are "[accomplishments that] will now likely be lost to this unfolding investigation."
Joe Cirincione, a prolific think tanker, said the Brookings debacle "is just a small part of the general corruption and degrading of DC think tanks." He added: "Once proud, independent academic institutions, they are now dominated by corporations and government, issuing mediocre reports that serve their interests."