Thursday, September 29, 2022

Think Tank Quickies (#453)

  • Think tankers join letter telling the US to arm Ukraine. 
  • Iranian operatives reportedly spying on members of US "think tank" UANI.
  • RAND Corp.'s new CEO Jason Matheny is a "Apocaloptimist."
  • Peer review is in trouble.
  • CDG: How might think tanks make real things happen? Lessons from the creation of the DFC.
  • Max Primorac will lead the Heritage Foundation's Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy.
  • Eilish Zembilci is now a consultant policy analyst for the World Food Program USA and staying on with CSIS's global food security program. 
  • US-based think tank appoints two Nigerian priests as research fellows.
  • Nathan Iyer of the Rocky Mountain Institute worked with US lawmakers to help craft a package of supply chain incentives for the massive Inflation Reduction Act.
  • The idea of diversified portfolios, a key insight of modern financial theory, was formalized by Harry Markowitz of the RAND Corp. in the early 1950s.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Congressional Candidate Started a Think Tank Arguing Against Women's Right to Vote

Here is more from CNN:

A Michigan candidate for the US House backed by former President Donald Trump once railed against giving women the right to vote, arguing that America has “suffered” since women’s suffrage.

John Gibbs, who defeated in the primary an incumbent Republican who had voted to impeach Trump, also made comments in the early 2000s praising an organization trying to repeal the 19th Amendment which also argued that women’s suffrage had made the United States into a “totalitarian state.”

As a student at Stanford University in the early 2000s, Gibbs founded a self-described “think tank” called the Society for the Critique of Feminism that argued women did not “posess (sic) the characteristics necessary to govern,” and said men were smarter than women because they are more likely to “think logically about broad and abstract ideas in order to deduce a suitable conclusion, without relying upon emotional reasoning.”


CNN notes that Gibbs requested the website for the think tank be removed from the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine in 2016, but CNN apparently accessed the old website through a different web tool.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

US: Russia Funneling Political Donations Worldwide Through Think Tanks

Here is more from the New York Times:

Russia has covertly given at least $300 million to political parties, officials and politicians in more than two dozen countries since 2014, and plans to transfer hundreds of millions more, with the goal of exerting political influence and swaying elections, according to a State Department summary of a recent U.S. intelligence review.

The Russians pay in cash, cryptocurrency, electronic funds transfers and lavish gifts, the document said. They move the money through a wide range of institutions to shield the origins of the financing, a practice called using cutouts. Those institutions include foundations, think tanks, organized crime groups, political consultancies, shell companies and Russian state-owned enterprises.

As of last year, the document said, a Russian business figure was trying to use pro-Russian think tanks in Europe to support far-right nationalist parties.


In related news, Russia sanctioned 25 US citizens, including think tank analysts.  One of those on the new list is Daniel Vajdich, a Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council.  

Victoria Clement, a former Wilson Center scholar, was also sanctioned.

Monday, September 26, 2022

Biden Consulting with Think Tankers Amid Democracy Crisis

Think tank experts often provide advise to the US executive branch, but very few are actually called by the US president himself to provide direct advice.  

President Joe Biden, however, has been more receptive to outside voices, and he sometimes convenes leading think tank scholars to help guide his thinking and decisions.

Here is more from the Washington Post:

President Biden paused last week, during one of the busiest stretches of his presidency, for a nearly two-hour private history lesson from a group of academics who raised alarms about the dire condition of democracy at home and abroad.

The conversation during a ferocious lightning storm on Aug. 4 unfolded as a sort of Socratic dialogue between the commander in chief and a select group of scholars, who painted the current moment as among the most perilous in modern history for democratic governance, according to multiple people familiar with the discussions who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe a private meeting.

Michael McFaul, a former U.S. ambassador to Russia under President Barack Obama, briefed Biden with other experts before the Russian invasion of Ukraine and before the president’s 2021 meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva.

McFaul was among a socially distanced group that met to discuss Ukraine in the East Room earlier this year, along with former diplomat Richard Haass, journalist Fareed Zakaria, analyst Ian Bremmer, former National Security Council adviser Fiona Hill and retired Adm. James G. Stavridis, a former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO.


Amb. McFaul is the Director of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University and is also a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution.

Richard Haass in the President of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), and Fiona Hill is a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Stavridis once led the US Navy's premier operational think tank for innovation, Deep Blue.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Think Tank Quickies (#452)

  • In new book, CFR President Richard Haass says US's biggest threat is from within.
  • The Lilly Endowment backs think tanks lobbying against price controls on insulin.
  • Pic: Regulation Journal, 1st published by AEI in 1977 and acquired by the Cato Institute in 1989, is still being sold in bookstores in the US.
  • China's consul general in Belfast bashes ASPI and CSIS, saying they are "not really independent and nonpartisan as they claim."
  • Trump alums Victoria Coates and Erin Walsh joining Heritage Foundation as senior fellow.
  • Former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) is a fellow at the Sanders Institute.
  • New report from Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) shows megaphilanthropy crowding out individual donations.
  • SKDK founding partner Anita Dunn, now a senior advisor at the White House, did consulting work for the lobbying arm of the Center for American Progress (CAP).
  • Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) launching a new research center.
  • Asia Group and Observer Research launch "India Innovates" platform and roundtable series.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Think Tanks Advising Congress Funded by Weapons Industry

Here are the latest details from Stephen Semler, co-founder of the Security Policy Reform Institute (SPRI):

Think tanks are said to be free from the ugly forces that bias in-house policy planning—namely, all the lobbying and campaign cash that encourage members of Congress to make decisions based on parochial interests and not the public’s. The problem is that establishment think tanks are corrupted by the same monied interests members of Congress are. In this case, we’re talking about the arms industry.

Every think tank represented in a House Armed Services Committee hearing to provide expert testimony from January 1, 2020 through September 16, 2022 that disclosed its donors received funding from military contractors (the one that didn’t disclose its donors was the hawkish American Enterprise Institute).


As Ben Freeman of the Quincy Institute has pointed out, AEI has taken money from the military industry by way of its board chair, Daniel D'Aniello, co-founder of the Carlyle Group, which owns several defense contractors.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Is the Lobbying Arm of the Heritage Foundation Destroying the Think Tank?

The Dispatch has an important piece on the latest happenings at the Heritage Foundation:

With the Heritage Foundation’s 50th anniversary approaching, some former employees believe Dr. Kevin Roberts, president of the Heritage Foundation since December 2021, and other senior leaders have lost sight of the think tank’s original mission. Where it used to function as a haven for conservative intellectuals to shape the Republican Party’s agenda, many worry that the institution is attaching itself to a faction of the conservative movement that prioritizes partisanship over policy.

Interviews with more than a dozen current and former employees reveal restrictive workplace practices to keep scholars in line with positions favored by Heritage’s lobbying arm. With Heritage Action’s growing influence has come a wave of staff turnover from the rank-and-file to senior leadership. Fifty-one employees have departed the Heritage Foundation and 73 new employees have joined since January 1, a Heritage spokesperson confirmed. There are 275 staff members on the foundation’s payroll and 30 at Heritage Action as of Tuesday.

Several former employees cited Heritage’s departure from its foundational commitments—without the knowledge or consent of the scholars hired to translate them into policy positions—as their reason for leaving. Others pointed to one-on-one confrontations with the members of the leadership team over the organization’s ideological trajectory. 

Fights over who sets Heritage’s “one-voice policy”—which requires that all staff be publicly aligned on any given issue—have caused much of the friction.


Meanwhile, Josh Rogin, a columnist at the Washington Post has a new piece on the Heritage Foundation entitled "A Conservative Think Tank Turns Away From Reagan and Toward Trump."

Here is a response to Rogin's piece from Blaise Malley, an Associate Editor at The National Interest.

Update: Dan Drezner is now calling Heritage "the Newsweek of think tank."

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Indian Think Tank Raided Over Taxes

Here is more from DNA:

[India's] Income Tax Department is conducting searches at the Delhi-based think-tank Centre of Policy Research. The think tank was once headed by academician Pratap Bhanu Mehta, a prominent critic of the BJP government.

Presently, its governing board is chaired by Meenakshi Gopinath, a political scientist who taught at Jawaharlal Nehru University and was the principal of Lady Shri Ram College in New Delhi. The think tank states it is recognised as a 'not-for-profit society' by the Government of India, and contributions to it are 'tax exempt', according to CPR's website. 


The think tank is known to examine government policy with a critical eye.

Some in India's Congress have slammed the move, saying it was raided at the behest of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah.

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Think Tank Quickies (#451)

  • One-man think tank on global crime and intelligence, Lou Mizell, living in a basement.
  • CSIS hosts president of Guyana.
  • Quincy Institute slams Rep. Nancy Pelosi's trip to Taiwan. 
  • Lobbyist at BHFS partners with think tanks to create "echo chambers of support that reverberate back to key policymakers."
  • Former Colombian President Ivan Duque Marquez joins Wilson Center as Distinguished Fellow.
  • Barry Pavel, who has spent the last decade running the Brent Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council, has joined RAND Corp. as VP and director of the National Security Research Division.
  • Michael O'Hanlon of Brookings: "Can China take Taiwan? Why No One Really Knows."
  • Jaakko Kauko on think tanks and the Academies Act.
  • Pic from Romina Boccia: Onboarding swag at the Cato Institute.
  • "DC think tanks are attempting to assassinate me by writing increasingly stupid things about China that give me an aneurysm."

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Lawsuit Accuses R Street of Pay Discrimination

Here is more from Politico:

A former staffer at the R Street Institute has sued the free-market think tank, claiming that she was paid less than men in the organization who held similar roles before her or who had less experience and was retaliated against and ultimately fired after raising pay equity concerns regarding herself and a direct report, according to court documents.

— According to a complaint filed in May in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, Lauren Rollins joined R Street Institute in 2017 and moved up the ranks in the think tank’s editorial department, eventually serving as associate vice president of research programs. Rollins alleges that even as she accepted promotions and took on more work as the result of departures from the organization which “effectively consolidated the duties of three former Executive Team positions onto” Rollins, she was still paid less than her predecessor in the role.

— In a response filed in July, R Street denied the vast majority of Rollins’ accusations and contended that its “employment decisions, at all relevant times, were based on legitimate non- discriminatory and non-retaliatory reasons and were consistent with applicable principles of law.” R Street is asking that Rollins’ suit be dismissed with prejudice and that the court enter judgment in R Street’s favor, along with attorneys’ fees and costs. Attorneys for neither Rollins nor R Street returned requests for comment.


Last year, R Street Institute sued an employee over side gig work.

Friday, September 2, 2022

CAP Founder John Podesta Will Oversee $370 Billion in Clean Energy Funds

Here is more from the White House:

Today, President Biden announced that John Podesta will serve as Senior Advisor to the President for Clean Energy Innovation and Implementation and Ali Zaidi will be promoted to Assistant to the President and National Climate Advisor. In his new role, Podesta will oversee implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act’s expansive clean energy and climate provisions and will chair the President’s National Climate Task Force in support of this effort. Zaidi will step into the role of National Climate Advisor and will be vice-chair of the National Climate Task Force. Gina McCarthy will depart the White House on September 16.


Mr. Podesta, founder and chair of the Board of Directors of the Center for American Progress (CAP), will reportedly step down from the board immediately.

Podesta had just bought a home in San Diego where he had hoped to retire before Ron Klain, President Biden's chief of staff, called to offer the new position.