Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Two Think Tanks Targeted by Pro-Israel Group for Improper PPP Loan

Here is more from Politico:

The Middle East Institute plans to settle a lawsuit alleging the think tank obtained a pandemic relief loan under the Paycheck Protection Program for which it was not actually eligible, according to court filings unsealed last week (h/t our Kyle Cheney). The Zionist Advocacy Center, a litigious pro-Israel advocacy group run by attorney David Abrams, brought a qui tam, or whistleblower, complaint in December 2021 under the False Claims Act to challenge a $359,000 PPP loan MEI received earlier that year.

MEI isn’t the only firm facing consequences for PPP’s political prohibition. In December, PR firm MikeWorldWide, run by Democratic fundraiser Michael Kempner agreed to pay back $2.3 million in PPP loans that it was ineligible for due to being a registered foreign agent. The Institute for Policy Studies reached a deal in June to pay more than $500,000 to settle a lawsuit that was also brought by TZAC alleging fraudulent receipt of a PPP loan.

The Institute for Policy Studies has long been critical of Israel, while MEI has received funding in recent years from the governments of the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Libya, according to disclosures — all of whom, with the exception of the UAE and Bahrain, still have no diplomatic relations with Israel.


The Zionist Advocacy Center (TZAC) has historically challenged the tax exempt status or federal funding to nonprofits and other organizations that have done charitable work with Palestinians, notes Politico.

Friday, January 19, 2024

Think Tank Run by Former Obama Official to Lead $1 Billion Hydrogen Effort

Here is more from Politico:

The Department of Energy announced a consortium Wednesday to set up a hydrogen purchase program as the U.S. increasingly looks to the fuel to slash greenhouse gas emissions economy-wide.

DOE says the program authorized by the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure law is meant to spur production at seven proposed U.S. hydrogen hubs announced in October.

EFI Foundation, a think tank run by former Obama administration DOE Secretary Ernie Moniz, is leading the effort alongside market intelligence firm S&P Global, financial exchange operator Intercontinental Exchange, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Energy Initiative and law firm Dentons.


EFI Foundation build on the work of Energy Futures Initiative (EFI), established in 2017 by former US Energy Secretary Ernie Moniz.

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Top Indian Think Tank Banned from Receiving Foreign Donations

Here is more from AFP:

A leading Indian think tank confirmed Wednesday it had been banned from taking foreign funding, the latest organisation among foreign charities, rights watchdogs and others similarly targeted after criticising the government.

The Centre for Policy Research (CPR) is one of the country's most highly regarded public policy forums.

Its staffers are prominent talking heads and columnists who have been rare dissenting voices in the media on sensitive political issues, including national security policy and governance in the restive territory of Kashmir.

The home ministry had already provisionally suspended the CPR's licence to receive foreign donations after raids in 2022 by the tax department, severely curtailing its operations.


AFP notes that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the US State Department were among CPR's prominent foreign donors.

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Think Tank Quickies (#489)

  • Ukraine's Zelensky makes appeal to US think tanks.
  • Tony Blair think tank revenue hit $140 million.
  • Politico: "There was a secretive meeting at the Heritage Foundation that reportedly included allies of Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban."
  • Myron Ebell, a leading climate change denier for 2+ decades, is set to retire from think tank CEI.
  • Eric Schmidt's think tank, Special Competitive Studies Project (SCSP), urges moonshot chase to keep US ahead.
  • Heritage Foundation using questionnaire to test the ideology of potential recruits for the next Republican presidential administration.
  • OpenAI's Sam Altman confronted board member Helen Toner, a director of CSET, for co-writing a paper that seemingly criticized OpenAI for "stoking the flames of AI hype."
  • House Republican Conference invited Capitol Hill staffers to a briefing with the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI).
  • Thomas Spoehr, previously director of the Heritage Foundation's Center for National Defense, is now a senior adviser at CSIS.
  • "The list of former high CIA officers now affiliated to GU/CSIS is indeed impressive."  [GU referring to Georgetown University.]

Monday, January 15, 2024

Billionaire Bill Ackman Starting New Think Tank to Probe Higher Ed

Here is more from Bloomberg:

Bill Ackman slammed the performance of Harvard University’s endowment and said he’s forming a think tank to continue his scrutiny of US education in a wide-ranging interview Friday on CNBC.

To continue his scrutiny of antisemitism and diversity, equity and inclusion policies on US campuses, Ackman plans to form a team that will go “after these issues in a very aggressive way,” he said.

With his new think tank, Ackman is poised to deploy familiar tactics on unfamiliar targets. At Pershing Square Capital Management, he used a scorched-earth approach to activist investing that resulted in both big wins and shattering losses.

“It’s going to be a think-and-do tank,” he said. “We’re going to study these issues and come up with solutions to problems, and we’re going to implement them.”

Ackman has a personal net worth of $2.5 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. 


No word yet on the name of the new think tank, but Ackman has said that he plans to rent additional space for the new entity and hire a CEO and board of directors.

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Think Tanks Need Deeper Bench of China Experts, Says New Report

The national security think tank MITRE Corp. warns in a new report that more China experts are needed at think tanks.  Here is more from the Washington Times:

Intelligence agencies should also do more to track Chinese global influence campaigns, the report said.

The spy agencies also lack the expertise and language capabilities needed for improved targeting of intelligence efforts against China, MITRE analysts said. The lack of personnel with deep expertise on China is faced by both analysts and clandestine operators.

Currently, education and think tank programs devoted to China are expanding in the United States but the report said it will take time to build a deep bench of China experts.


MITRE Corp. was founded in Massachusetts in 1958 as a military think tank spun off from the MIT Lincoln Laboratory.  It has been described as a "government-linked Skunk Works."

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

VCs Working With Think Tanks to Help Fund Defense-Tech Companies

Here is more from Eric Lipton of the New York Times:

More than a dozen [venture capitalists], assisted by think tanks and other nonprofits that get funding from venture capital groups, have been pushing Congress and the Defense Department to accelerate spending with defense-tech companies, or to make policy changes that make it easier for them to get Pentagon money.

Many of the venture capitalists keep ties to Washington.  [Mark] Esper is co-chairman of a commission set up by the Atlantic Council that is studying ways to accelerate the Pentagon’s embrace of new technology. The Atlantic Council staff set up a series of 70 briefings for Pentagon and congressional officials to promote their ideas.

The staff director of the report, Stephen Rodriguez, is an executive at a defense venture capital firm. He also serves as an adviser to Applied Intuition, a software startup and military contractor that helped fund and promote the report. Funding for the Atlantic Council report also came from several other venture-backed defense startups and Mr. Philippone’s Snowpoint Ventures.


Relatedly, it has become quite common for consulting firms, public relations (PR) firms, and lobbying shops to use think tanks to promote reports that benefit their clients.

Tuesday, January 2, 2024

New 2024 Trend: Think Tank Tasting Menus?

Here is more from Axios:

A pioneering "nonprofit fine dining restaurant" M. Frances is opening near Union Market this spring from The LEE Initiative.

Why it matters: Think tanks and tasting menus rarely coexist — the founders are touting the restaurant as "the first of its kind in America" — and the place has lofty goals to create solutions for the many issues independent restaurants face.

Catch up fast: Kentucky-based celebrity chef Edward Lee (who's also behind D.C.'s Succotash) and industry veteran Lindsey Ofcacek co-founded The LEE [Let's Empower Employment] Initiative in 2017 with the goal of creating programs to make the hospitality industry more diverse, equitable, sustainable, and compassionate.

Zoom in: LEE's mentorship program for women in food and spirits — which includes six months of training and funded externships — inspired the idea for M. Frances.

How it works: The intimate restaurant and cocktail bar aims to recruit top chefs — locally and nationally — to run a yearlong residency program for up-and-coming talents. The collective will create local, seasonal tasting menus throughout the year.

  • Price is TBD, but Ofcacek says, "We're tapping out at $175. We want to be fine dining, not super luxury."

Zoom out: M. Frances is designed to be a live experiment and think tank. The nonprofit is teaming up with schools and big-name sponsors like Chase Sapphire and OpenTable to test best business and employment practices, from fair wage modeling to environmental sustainability.


While this will not be a traditional think tank, Think Tank Watch would rather visit this than most of the 400+ "think tanks" currently in Washington, DC.