Tuesday, December 19, 2023

RAND Corp. Received Millions From Facebook Co-Founder to Influence AI Policy

Here is more from Politico:

The RAND Corporation — a prominent international think tank that has recently been tied to  a growing influence network backed by tech billionaires — played a key role in drafting President Joe Biden’s new executive order on artificial intelligence, according to an AI researcher with knowledge of the order’s drafting and a recording of an internal RAND meeting obtained by POLITICO.

The provisions advanced by RAND in the October executive order included a sweeping set of reporting requirements placed on the most powerful AI systems, ostensibly designed to lessen the technology’s catastrophic risks. Those requirements hew closely to the policy priorities pursued by Open Philanthropy, a group that pumped over $15 million into RAND this year.

Financed by billionaire Facebook co-founder and Asana CEO Dustin Moskovitz and his wife Cari Tuna, Open Philanthropy is a major funder of causes associated with “effective altruism” — an ideology, made famous by disgraced FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried, that emphasizes a data-driven approach to philanthropy.

At RAND, both CEO Jason Matheny and senior information scientist Jeff Alstott are well-known effective altruists, and both men have Biden administration ties: They worked together at both the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Security Council before joining RAND last year.

RAND spokesperson Jeffrey Hiday confirmed that RAND personnel, including Alstott, were involved in drafting the reporting requirements and other parts of the AI executive order.


The article notes that RAND employees having started to raise concerns about the think tank's new association with effective altruism.

Monday, December 11, 2023

Think Tank Quickies (#488)

  • Heritage Foundation paid Ginni Thomas more than $936,000 between 2001 and 2007 (tax filings before 2001 are not available).  Clarence Thomas reported her employment at Heritage in 2011, after left-leaning activists raised questions. 
  • Mexico only has one think tank focused on foreign policy.
  • Conservative Partnership Institute: "The MAGA movement's nerve center."
  • The National Interest: Why is the Heritage Foundation embracing Viktor Orban?
  • Vice President Kamala Harris addressed the CAP IDEAS Conference/20th anniversary celebration at the LINE Hotel.
  • Heritage Foundation reversed its opposition to an Article V convention to endorse Mark Meckler and Convention of States Action (COSA) two days after Mike Johnson became House speaker.
  • "A longtime staple of the liberal Center for American Progress, [Ruy] Teixeira, 71, left last year to take a perch at the American Enterprise Institute, the bastion of pro-market conservatism.  It's an odd place for someone with a social-democratic take on the economy - but a move he said he made because he couldn't stand the cultural climate of liberal think tanks."
  • Heritage is running an ad blasting Senate Republicans for criticizing Sen. Tommy Tuberville's (R-AL) holds on Pentagon nominations.
  • Think tankers arming themselves amid spike in DC violence.
  • Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies: "An independent, non-profit futures think tank founded in 1969."

Friday, December 8, 2023

Trump-Backed Think Tank Raising Huge Sums Before 2024 Election

Trump-aligned think tanks are raising huge sums of money, including massive amounts from anonymous donors.  Here is more from CNN:

A nonprofit that employs numerous Trump administration officials and is laying the groundwork for the former president’s potential second term raised more than $23 million last year – nearly a third of which came from a single anonymous donor, previously unreported tax documents show.

The documents show that America First Policy Institute – a think tank that’s been described as a “White House-in-waiting” and has released a spate of conservative policy proposals – burned through most of the funds it raised, spending $22 million over the course of the year. That included the rental of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort for a fundraising gala that featured a keynote speech by Trump himself.

But AFPI’s windfall has also sparked tensions with Trump’s team, with some advisors concerned the group has been taking in donations that would be better routed to the former president’s campaign or affiliated political action committees, a source familiar with the internal conversations told CNN.

AFPI’s board of directors includes several wealthy GOP donors such as Texas energy magnates Tim Dunn and Cody Campbell, Florida philanthropist Trish Duggan, and Goya Foods CEO Bob Unanue, as well as former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. A new addition to the board in 2022 was Mark Pentecost, a Florida entrepreneur who runs a skincare and nutrition company but does not have as significant a history of political donations. 

The group doesn’t publicly disclose any of its donors. But additional tax documents reviewed by CNN reveal that it received some donations from foundations connected to wealthy businessmen or their estates, including the Jackson Howard Foundation, which gave about $304,000, the Leandro P Rizzuto Foundation, which gave $260,000, the Dunn Foundation, which gave $250,000, and the Herche Family Foundation, which gave $200,000. 


The story quotes an AFPI spokesperson as saying that the think tank has received donations from 44,000 donors since its inception in 2021.  The article also notes that AFPI employed 81 people and had 50 volunteers in 2022.

CEO Brooke Rollins made $550,000 in total compensation last year.

Thursday, December 7, 2023

Russia Blacklists US Think Tank RAND Corp.

Here is more from The Moscow Times:

Russia’s Justice Ministry has added the U.S. global policy think tank RAND Corporation to its list of “undesirable” organizations, banning its activities and putting staff at risk of jail in Russia.

RAND’s designation, dated Dec. 6 on the ministry website, is not accompanied by a statement explaining Moscow’s decision to blacklist the research and development nonprofit.

The California-based RAND Corporation has published extensive research into Russia’s military since Russian troops invaded Ukraine in early 2022.

Organizations labeled “undesirable” must cease all operations inside Russia, and it is illegal for individuals and media outlets in Russia to republish or share their content.

The “undesirable” designation also places the organizations' staff and members at risk of jail time.

Russia introduced its “undesirable” list in 2015 to crack down on foreign NGOs and ban Russians from working with or donating to them.


As Think Tank Watch has reported, A number of other Western think tanks have been blacklisted by Russia in recent years.

Monday, December 4, 2023

CFR Member Charged With Spying for Cuba

Here is more from Reuters:

The United States on Monday charged a former ambassador to Bolivia with spying for Cuba for over 40 years, in what the Justice Department described as one of the highest-reaching and longest-lasting infiltrations of the U.S. government by a foreign agent.

Victor Manuel Rocha, who served as U.S. ambassador to Bolivia from 2000 to 2002, was charged with committing multiple federal crimes including acting as an illegal foreign agent and using a fraudulently obtained passport, the Justice Department said in a statement.


Rocha was a member of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).