Monday, February 27, 2023

FBI Searched Mike Pence's Think Tank

The FBI searched the the offices of a think tank affiliated with former Vice President Mike Pence but did not find any classified documents. 

Here is more from the Wall Street Journal:

The Federal Bureau of Investigation on Friday searched the office of a think tank affiliated with former Vice President Mike Pence and found no materials with classified markings, a Pence adviser said.

The search at the Washington office of the think tank, Advancing American Freedom, lasted several hours and came a week after the FBI discovered a sensitive document at the former vice president's Indiana home. Last month, lawyers for Mr. Pence discovered classified documents at his Indiana home and turned them over to the National Archives, saying they had been “inadvertently boxed and transported” to his residence.  

While Friday’s search yielded no new documents bearing classified markings, the FBI did remove a binder containing three documents that had previously been redacted, Pence adviser Devin O’Malley said.


The FBI searched President Biden's think tank last year and small a small number of classified material.

Friday, February 24, 2023

Think Tank PPI Sets up "New Ukraine Project" from Kyiv

Here is more from the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI):

Russia’s illegal invasion and brutal occupation of Ukraine will soon enter its second year. The Progressive Policy Institute is marking the occasion by launching a New Ukraine Project to report on the war, its impact on everyday life in Ukraine, and its wider implications for peace and international security.

Directing the project from Kyiv is Tamar Jacoby, a prominent journalist, author, and thought leader widely respected for her work on immigration, the struggles of working class Americans, and public school reform. In addition to her dispatches from the front lines of the conflict, her work will focus on the social, economic, and political reconstruction of Ukraine, as it seeks to take its place in Europe’s free and democratic community.


This is the third major international project for PPI, with PPI Brussels established in 2018, and the Project on Center-Left Renewal based in the UK, established in Jan. 2023. 

Earlier this month, the McCain Institute launched the Ukraine Business Alliance, which will bring people together from government and the business community to strategize public-private partnerships to support Ukraine.

Thursday, February 23, 2023

MAGA Building Its Own "Think Tank Row"

Allies of former President Donald Trump have been quietly scooping up real estate on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC to house a number of entities linked to the think tank Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI).

Whether you call it "Patriot's Row," "MAGA Row," "Maga Mall," or "Think Tank Row East," CPI and related entities will continue to be an influential force in helping support the Freedom Caucus in the US Congress.

Here is more from Grid:

Months before Republicans took back the House last fall, high-profile MAGA activists were preparing a power move: dropping tens of millions of dollars on a real-estate-buying spree to create “an expansive campus of buildings” in the heart of the nation’s capital and to operate an exclusive, luxe retreat on Maryland’s Eastern Shore where right-wing activists and lawmakers can hunt wildlife, play tennis and devise ways to “save this country from the leftist onslaught.”

Though former president Donald Trump’s own political future is in doubt, the Conservative Partnership Institute, whose leaders include ex-Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows, Trump elections lawyer Cleta Mitchell and former Tea Party senator Jim DeMint, is pursuing an aggressive expansion. The group appears to be quietly buying up properties, often in off-market transactions, Grid has found — apparently using a network of anonymous shell companies registered in Delaware to conduct the purchases.

In all, Grid traced nine D.C. properties purchased in the past 14 months by seven LLCs sporting bland monikers like Clear Plains, Hudson and Newpoint. A CPI executive is listed on paperwork for the entities, and the locations of most of the property purchases correspond with CPI’s “Patriot’s Row” plans. CPI bought Camp Rydin, which comprises 2,200 acres near Cambridge, Maryland, for over $7 million, apparently using the entity “Federal Investors, LLC,” the purchaser listed on state property records.


Here is a previous Think Tank Watch piece about CPI's buying spree in DC.

Update: Here is a Washington Post piece on MAGA Row.  It notes, among other things, that Jim DeMint is getting a compensation package from CPI of $542,000, and Meadows is getting $559,000.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Heritage Foundation Gets $25 Million Gift

The Heritage Foundation has just received a $25 million gift from the Diana Davis Spencer Foundation, one of the largest gifts in the think tank's 50-year history.  It will be doled out in $5 million increments from 2023-2027.

Heritage said that the gift will go towards the think tank's long-term policy goals, including "countering the threat of communist China, holding Big Tech accountable, and others that support Heritage's mission to formulate and promote public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense."

Here is more from Heritage on the background of the gift:

Shelby Cullom Davis and Kathryn Wasserman Davis, prominent American investors and philanthropists, became Heritage donors in 1979. Shelby served on the Board of Trustees from 1979-1992, including many years as chairman. Kathryn then served as an honorary trustee from 1994-2013.

The Davis family legacy continues through their daughter Diana Davis Spencer, who has devoted her life to cementing America’s founding principles in our country’s institutions as an activist, journalist, and philanthropic leader.

DDSF is now led by Abby Spencer Moffat, who currently serves as a Heritage trustee.


Earlier this month. the Brookings Institution received a $25 million grant, the largest in the think tank's 100+ year history.

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Pair of Think Tankers Rise in the Biden Administration

Two long-time think tankers have been tapped for new top positions within the Biden Administration.  Here is more from the New York Times:

President Biden has selected Lael Brainard, the vice chair of the Federal Reserve, to direct the National Economic Council, according to people familiar with the decision.

He is also expected to tap Jared Bernstein, a longtime member of his inner circle dating back to Mr. Biden’s tenure as vice president, to be the next chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. Mr. Bernstein is currently a member of the council.

[Bernstein] has spent most of his career not in academia, but in Washington think tanks, with a longtime focus on economic inequality and on policies meant to lift wages and living standards for American workers.

He worked 16 years at the liberal, pro-labor Economic Policy Institute before Mr. Biden hired him to be the chief economist for the vice president when Mr. Biden and President Barack Obama took office in 2009. In announcing his departure, E.P.I. officials called Mr. Bernstein “a tireless advocate for middle- and low-income families and for greater equity in the U.S. economy.”


Brainard was a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution from 2001 to 2009.  Her husband, Kurt Campbell, co-founded the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) and has been affiliated with a number of other think tanks.

Meanwhile, former Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) has joined the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) as a distinguished visiting fellow for public policy.

Monday, February 13, 2023

Think Tank Quickies (#465)

  • Raymond Struyk has coined the term new right think tanks (NRTT).
  • US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen speaks at CSIS.
  • Zachary Keck predicts that think tanks will begin merging into media outlets via Substack newsletters to increase funding.
  • Cost to build RAND Corp.'s headquarters in Santa Monica, CA in 2004: $100 million.
  • Masayoshi Son is the founder and chairperson of the think tank Renewable Energy Institute (REI).
  • Michael Pillsbury has joined the Heritage Foundation as a senior fellow for China Strategy, where he'll work with the new House Select Committee on China and contribute to the think tank's 2025 Presidential Transition Project.  He previously spent at years at the Hudson Institute.
  • Sarah Ladislaw, Managing Director of the Rocky Mountain Institute and former scholar at CSIS, is joining the NSC as special assistant to the president and the senior director for climate change and energy.
  • Heritage Foundation President Kevin Roberts and Alliance Defending Freedom CEO Kristen Waggoner hosted a welcome event for new members of the 118th Congress at the Capitol Hill Club.
  • Working at ThinkProgress, a liberal think tank blog, brought Matt Yglesias "closer to rising Democratic Party leaders."
  • On Jan. 13, a week after the US insurrection, the Ed Uihlein Family Foundation donated $500,000 to the Center for Security Policy, whose founder and chairman Frank Gaffney has downplayed the events of Jan. 6.  It also gave $50,000 to the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation.

Friday, February 10, 2023

New Think Tank Lands in Guam

Here is more from Pacific Daily News:

A new Guam-based think tank led by former congressman Robert Underwood has partnered with the University of Guam’s Richard Flores Taitano Micronesian Area Research Center to promote independent research on geopolitical developments in Micronesia and the Pacific.

On its website, Pacific Center for Island Security calls itself an “action-oriented research institute” that “aims to ensure that islands and islanders themselves have a voice amongst the cacophony that is geopolitical posturing.”

Led by Underwood, who serves as board chairman, the organization’s advisory council includes former presidents of island nations and a Pacific Islands Studies professor at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa.


Think Tank Watch believes that the Pacific Center for Island Security (PCIS) is the only Guam-based think tank currently in existence.

According to the final University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings, published in 2021, the Maldives has 6 think tanks, Fiji has 4 think tanks, Papua New Guinea has 2, and Samoa and Vanuatu each have 1.

Thursday, February 9, 2023

Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) Marrying a Think Tanker

Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) is now engaged to Elaine Kamarck, a Senior Fellow in Governance Studies and Founding Director of the Center for Effective Public Management at the Brookings Institution.

They are reportedly planning to get married later this year.  The two have apparently known each other for many years and the pair recently reconnected.

Here is Kamarck's Brookings biography, which, among other things, notes that she was one of the founders of the New Democrat movement that helped elect Bill Clinton president.

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Hunter Biden Wanted Office at Father's Think Tank

Here is more from The Washington Free Beacon:

Hunter Biden tried to secure an office at his father Joe Biden's think tank, where the president kept classified documents, emails from the first son's abandoned laptop show.

Joe Biden's talent agent, Craig Gering, emailed Hunter Biden in April 2016 to discuss the vice president's plans for the following year, including the establishment of the Penn Biden Center, a Washington, D.C., think tank affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania. Gering wrote that the university's D.C. office "will be expanded to house a DC office for VP Biden (and Mike, Hunter, and Steve?)," an apparent reference to future Penn Biden Center officials Michael Carpenter and Steve Ricchetti.

Hunter Biden said he hoped the plan would come to fruition.

"That's the way I would like it to see it shake out," he said in an April 25, 2016, response to Gering. "BUT please keep this very confidential between us because nothing has been set in stone."


Meanwhile, the Free Beacon is reporting that China, Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Turkey have donated millions of dollars into the University of Delaware since the school launched the Biden Institute, President Biden's domestic policy think tank that is led by his sister, Valerie Biden Owens.

The Biden Institute has employed some of Biden's top aides and political allies.

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Brookings Scores Largest Grant in Think Tank's 100+ Year History

Here is more from a Brookings press release:

The Brookings Institution announced today that the Center for Universal Education (CUE) in the Global Economy and Development program has received a $24 million grant, the largest in Brookings’s history, from the LEGO Foundation for a period of four years to support CUE’s strategic vision focused on holistic education, locally-defined priorities, and deep collaboration with partners.


The grant, which is so big that it is even larger than the entire annual budget of dozens of think tanks in Washington, DC, was awarded on CUE's 20-year anniversary.  Here is more about the grant and CUE's 10-year vision.

Monday, February 6, 2023

McCain Institute Launching Ukraine Business Alliance

Here is more from the think tank:

The McCain Institute at Arizona State University today hosted the Prosecutor General of Ukraine Andriy Kostin and the Ambassador-At-Large for Global Criminal Justice at the U.S. Department of State Beth Van Schaack for a meeting of the McCain Institute’s newly formed Ukraine Business Alliance.

The McCain Institute’s Ukraine Business Alliance convenes executives from American technology and defense companies (including Palantir Technologies, Microsoft and Amazon Web Services), senior U.S. and Ukrainian government and military leaders, and foreign policy experts to strategize innovative public-private partnerships to support Ukraine.


The McCain Institute says that the Ukraine Business Alliance will meet meet regularly throughout the year to help support Ukraine's war effort and reconstruction.  The think tank will also conduct periodic fact-finding missions.

Here is a picture from the meeting.

Donors to the McCain Institute include many who can benefit from the efforts of the Ukraine Business Alliance, including BP, Chevron, Cisco Systems, DHL, FedEx Corp., Hilton, Microsoft Corp., Raytheon, SpaceX, and Verizon.

Friday, February 3, 2023

Former Congressman Calls for Think Tank Transparency

Former Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) just penned a piece for Newsweek calling for greater think tank transparency when it comes to foreign influence.  Here are some excerpts:

There is currently no way for members of Congress to discern which think tanks are funded by foreign governments—making think tanks effective vehicles for foreign funders to shape U.S. policy right under our noses. There exists a widespread belief that think tanks are exempt from FARA disclosure requirements. While that belief is mistaken, FARA is unlikely to be an effective tool to promote transparency around think tank funding.

To tackle this pressing issue, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Rep. Jack Bergman (R-Mich.) have introduced legislation to require a greater degree of transparency around the foreign funding of think tanks and other public policy-focused nonprofit entities, so that the public and government officials can know about any foreign influence behind research or policy recommendations. The Think Tank Transparency Act would mandate that nonprofits engaged in influencing U.S. policy or public opinion promptly disclose all funds that they receive from foreign entities, as well as all contracts and agreements they enter into with foreign entities. Those nonprofits would have to disclose their funding and contracts to the Department of Justice—which will make such disclosures available for immediate public inspection—within 90 days.


Among other things, Zeldin notes that since 2020, the Stimson Center has actively lobbied against the Homeland and Cyber Threat Act (H.R. 1607), legislation to help those who are victims of foreign hacking activity. 

Zeldin says that the think tank has had "an unusually close working relationship" with Qatar in recent years.  "It received at least $600,000 from Qatar in 2019, and the Qataris appear to be the sole funder of the Stimson Center's "Just Security 2020" program, which works on issues related to cyberattacks.

Thursday, February 2, 2023

Former Brookings President Won't Face Charges

With all the news about the FBI searching President Joe Biden's think tank, one may have forgotten that former Brookings Institution president John Allen was under FBI investigation after being accused on secretly lobbying for the government of Qatar.

Here are the latest developments from the New York Times:

The Justice Department has informed John R. Allen, a retired four-star Marine general, that federal prosecutors have closed an investigation into whether he secretly lobbied for the government of Qatar and that no criminal charges will be brought against him in the case, according to a statement by General Allen’s lawyer.

The investigation of General Allen became public in June, when an F.B.I. agent’s application to search his electronic communications was unsealed, possibly by accident. Days after the revelations, General Allen resigned as president of the Brookings Institution, a left-leaning think tank in Washington.


It wasn't immediately clear if Allen will return to Brookings, which had already been facing years of reputational damage from its funding sources.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

FBI Searched Biden's Think Tank

If you didn't know about the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement, you probably do now.  Here is the latest from the New York Times:

The Federal Bureau of Investigation searched a think tank founded by President Biden in mid-November after his aides discovered a small cache of classified documents there earlier that month, according to two people familiar with the situation.

It is not clear if the previously undisclosed search, which was done with the cooperation of Mr. Biden’s lawyers after the first batch was discovered, turned up any additional files dating from Mr. Biden’s eight years as vice president.

The F.B.I. search of the think tank, the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement, was reported earlier by CBS News.


Meanwhile, Associated Press has a piece highlighting how the classified documents probe has pushed Biden's think tank into the spotlight.  And here is a similar piece from the Wall Street Journal.

Here is a piece from The Pennsylvania Daily Star entitled "Most Politicians' Think Tanks Heavy on Research Output, in Contrast to Penn Biden Center."

The Heritage Foundation's The Daily Signal has a piece entitled "Special Counsel Should Expand Probe to Penn Biden Center's China Ties."

The Washington Free Beacon has a piece entitled "Biden Think Tank That Housed Classified Docs Also Hosted Event That Pushed Greater Engagement With China."

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch piece on House Republicans demanding information from Biden's think tank.

Here is a Newsweek fact-check piece asking "Is Penn Biden Center 'China-funded' as Donald Trump Claims?"

The Daily Pennsylvanian is reporting that the House Committee on Foreign Affairs sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken requesting information about his role at Biden's think tank.