Monday, April 29, 2024

Third Way's Secret Battle to Stop No Labels

Here is more from NBC:

Once upon a time, before the multimillion-dollar negative campaigns and allegations of running “a conspiracy to commit extortion, voter intimidation, and other criminal behavior,” they were friends. Good friends.

The people who run No Labels and Third Way, two of the most prominent centrist organizations in Washington, had all come up together in the small world of Clinton-era center-left politics.

Nancy Jacobson, an early Bill Clinton hire and the founder of No Labels, helped raise the initial money and secure the necessary political blessings to start Third Way. The think tank was co-founded by Jon Cowan, whom Jacobson viewed as something of a mentee. Cowan, now Third Way's president, even signed the ketubah (the Jewish wedding contract) at Jacobson's wedding to Mark Penn, whose firm conducts No Labels’ polls.

Then came the 2024 election — and No Labels’ decision to try to field a bipartisan “unity ticket” against both President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump, backed by a reported budget of $70 million. Third Way, which may be centrist but is firmly Democratic, viewed this as a misguided, no-hope effort that could only spoil the election for Biden and help to re-elect Trump, with potentially disastrous consequences.


The article notes that No Labels was so incensed by the anti-No Labels campaign that the group lodged a complaint the the US Justice Department, accusing them of violating anti-racketeering laws.

It also says that Third Way lost a board member who sided with No Labels, and its leaders received word from several unhappy donors that they should not expect any more funding.

Friday, April 19, 2024

"Alpha Male" Nick Adams Creating Awkward Moment for Wilson Center Board

Here is more from the Washington Post about conservative political commentator and author Nick Adams:

He [Nick Adams] is a presidential appointee to the board of Washington’s Woodrow Wilson Center, which, according to its website, “provides nonpartisan counsel and insights on global affairs to policymakers.” Donald Trump, who bestowed him with that honor during his last term, has recently made Adams an official campaign surrogate as the former president attempts to regain control of the White House.

At the Wilson Center, Adams is known as a quiet presence, attending board meetings regularly but speaking so little that some people didn’t even know he had an Australian accent. He is an active member, even traveling on a Wilson Center trip to Israel last year, where he participated in a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

There are members of the center’s staff, “especially young women,” who think his presence on the board is an “embarrassment” and “may be also be damaging our reputation,” according to a Wilson Center employee who would speak openly about a current board member only on the condition of anonymity.

After I started making inquiries about Adams with people who worked at the Wilson Center, the director, Mark Green, tried to allay any concerns among the staff about the Alpha Male in their midst.

A lot of politics can be performative, Green told other staffers during a regularly scheduled meeting, according to multiple people present. The center’s official response to my interest in Adams was prim: “Nick is a member of the board in good standing and regularly attends board meetings,” it said in a statement. “Beyond that, the Wilson Center’s policy is to not comment on board members and their activities.”

The Wilson Center may have good reason to want to remain in good standing with Adams. Because the center needs Congress and the president to approve federal funding to support operating costs, he may be its best ally if Trump’s GOP takes control of Washington next year.


Here is a full list of the Wilson Center's board of trustees, and here is Adams' official appointment announcement by Mr. Trump.

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Adani Group to Fund Public Policy Think Tank

Here is more from The Economic Times:

Gautam Adani-led Adani Group plans to set up a think tank that will aid policy thinking in three critical areas - energy transition and climate change, economics and trade, and geopolitics and strategic affairs, according to people familiar with the development, who said the unit might be kicked off as early as May.  The think tank will be called Chintan Research Foundation and will be incubated with an initial funding of ₹100 crore.

The move pitches the infrastructure conglomerate in direct competition with RIL-backed Observer Research Foundation, or ORF, a think tank that took shape in 1990.  ORF, based in New Delhi, has emerged in recent years as one of India's most high-profile think tanks.

In collaboration with the Ministry of External Affairs, ORF organizes the Raisina Dialogue, India's flagship conference on geopolitics and geoeconomics.

Screening and interviews are underway for a chairperson, members of advisory board, and research staff for the foundation, which will be headquartered in New Delhi.  Outposts in Washington and London are part of the plan.


Gautam Adani is currently worth $103 billion, while Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) chairman Mukesh Ambani is worth $113 billion, according to Bloomberg.

Gautam Adani-led Adani Group plans to set up a think tank that will aid policy thinking in three critical areas - energy transition and climate change, economics and trade, and geopolitics and strategic affairs, according to people familiar with the development, who said the unit might be kicked off as early as May. The think tank will be called Chintan Research Foundation and will be incubated with an initial funding of ₹100 crore.


Gautam Adani-led Adani Group plans to set up a think tank that will aid policy thinking in three critical areas - energy transition and climate change, economics and trade, and geopolitics and strategic affairs, according to people familiar with the development, who said the unit might be kicked off as early as May. The think tank will be called Chintan Research Foundation and will be incubated with an initial funding of ₹100 crore.

Gautam Adani-led Adani Group plans to set up a think tank that will aid policy thinking in three critical areas - energy transition and climate change, economics and trade, and geopolitics and strategic affairs, according to people familiar with the development, who said the unit might be kicked off as early as May. The think tank will be called Chintan Research Foundation and will be incubated with an initial funding of ₹100 crore.

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Heritage Foundation Handpicked by NATO Chief for Major Speech

Here is more from CNN:

When NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg visited Washington in January, he gave a speech on the future of NATO at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank that is a bastion of the Republican foreign policy establish in Washington.

The location was handpicked by Stoltenberg’s team, an effort to reach out to Republicans given the possibility of Trump winning in November and amid concerns about his commitment to NATO, explained sources familiar with the planning.

The speech, which emphasized the collective strength of NATO ahead of its 75th anniversary this summer, was well-received, the sources said.

“The logic of doing it at Heritage was not lost on us,” said Victoria Coates, a deputy national security advisor to former President Trump who is now a vice president at the think tank.


Here is a full transcript of the Heritage speech.

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Think Tank Quickes (#496)

  • House Oversight and Accountability Committee Chair James Comer (R-KY) asks NGOs, including Open Markets Institute, New America, and the Center for Digital Democracy, to preserve communications with USTR related to the agency's decision to rethink its digital trade stance.
  • The Hewlett Foundation and Omidyar Network, a pair of left-leaning philanthropies that aim to see a "post-neoliberal" economic consensus, have collectively invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in the think tank American Compass. 
  • The Palantir Foundation for Defense Policies & International Affairs to hold inaugural conference in Washington, DC on May 16.
  • CFR launches RealEcon to reimagine American economic leadership.
  • Liberal watchdog group Accountable.US launches new campaign to target Heritage Foundation's Project 2025. 
  • Quincy Institute on FDD: "Why No One Should Take This Hawkish Think Tank Seriously."
  • Capital Research Center: "A right-wing investigative think tank that has portrayed American Compass as a puppet of progressive philanthropists."
  • The People's Policy Project, a left-wing think tank founded by Matt Bruenig. [The only think tank funded by tiny monthly donations.]
  • CFR tapped Millie Tran, previously at Conde Nast, as vice president and chief digital content officer.
  • Meredith Sumpter, wife of Brookings China scholar Ryan Hass, to become President and CEO of FairVote.

Monday, April 15, 2024

Nikki Haley Joins Hudson Institute

Here is more from a Hudson press release:

Hudson Institute today announced that Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina and US ambassador to the United Nations, will be the next Walter P. Stern Chair.

Hudson inaugurated the Walter P. Stern Chair in 2020 to commemorate the achievements of former Chairman Walter “Wally” Stern, who was instrumental in making Hudson one of Washington’s most respected research organizations.

Haley received Hudson’s Global Leadership Award in 2018.


Hudson had revenues of around $22 million in 2022, with 39% coming from individuals, 38% from foundations, 14% from corporations, and 9% from governments.  

Major donors that give $100,000 or more to the think tank include: All Nippon Airways (ANA), American Petroleum Institute (API), Amway, BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin, META Platforms, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Northrup Grumman, Qualcomm, Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO), and Walmart.

Friday, April 12, 2024

Heritage Foundation Hit With Cyberattack

Here is more from TechCrunch:

Conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation said on Friday that it experienced a cyberattack earlier this week.

A person with knowledge of the cyberattack told TechCrunch that efforts at Heritage were underway to remediate the cyberattack, but said that it wasn’t immediately known what, if any, data was taken.

Politico, which first reported the news of the cyberattack on Friday, cited a Heritage official as saying the organization “shut down its network to prevent any further malicious activity while we investigate the incident.”

The news outlet quoted the Heritage official as saying that the cyberattack likely came from nation-state hackers, but did not provide evidence of the claim.


TechCrunch notes that the Heritage Foundation was hit by a cyberattack in 2015 in which hackers stole internal emails and and the personal information of its donors.

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Little-Known Australian Think Tanker is "The China Whisperer"

Here is s short clip from The Wire China:

Garnaut Global is, in many ways, a typical “strategic consultancy” firm: For decades, former government officials like Pottinger and Garnaut have cashed in by serving as political or regulatory advisors for the private sector. Attempting to read the tea leaves of open-source Chinese Communist Party (CCP) texts, meanwhile, is commonplace in think tanks and academia. But Garnaut has married the two approaches in a kind of Moneyball style, and his clients praise his unique ability to translate deep readings of Marxist ideology into actionable advice.

Garnaut also enjoys special status in the current moment of Western-China relations, because he is one of the men most responsible for bringing the current moment about. Although he was very much a child of the “engagement” era, Garnaut, 49, was one of the first “China watchers” to call foul and argue that a new era was upon us.


The firm was founded by John Garnaut, a former journalist-cum-Australian official.  Garnaut was a Senior Fellow at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI).

Matthew Pottinger, a former US deputy national security advisor, is also a part of the firm.  He is a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution and the Chairman of the China Program at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD).  He's also a Senior Advisor at The Marathon Initiative.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Think Tank Quickies (#495)

  • ECFR launches DC office.
  • TikTok has think tank friends.
  • Trump threatens to kick out "nasty" Australian Ambassador Kevin Rudd, a former PM and think tanker who's been critical of Trump, if he returns to the White House.
  • Ukrainian, British think tanks expose supplies of raw materials to Russia for ammo production.
  • The global elite just gathered at a secretive mini Davos. Meet Global.Minds.
  • Billy Pizer will be the next president and CEO of Resources for the Future (RFF).
  • Rush Doshi and Sue Mi Terry (formerly as the Wilson Center) joined CFR as fellows.
  • Biden Labor Dept. relies on union-funded think tanks to push pro-union agenda.
  • New York think tank taps Martin Kimani, Kenya's outgoing Permanent Representative to the UN, to build bridges of justice.
  • DoD: "Table of Knowledge acts as think tank for Project Convergence Capstone 4."

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Trump's Secret Plan to End the Ukraine War Hatched at Think Tank Event?

Here is more from the Washington Post:

Former president Donald Trump has privately said he could end Russia’s war in Ukraine by pressuring Ukraine to give up some territory, according to people familiar with the plan. Some foreign policy experts said Trump’s idea would reward Russian President Vladimir Putin and condone the violation of internationally recognized borders by force.

Word of Trump’s plan for Ukraine circulated in Washington last November at a meeting at the Heritage Foundation between right-of-center foreign policy figures and a visiting delegation from the European Council on Foreign Relations. Former Trump White House aide Michael Anton described the expected contours of Trump’s peace plan as Ukraine ceding territory in Crimea and Donbas, limiting NATO expansion and enticing Putin to loosen his growing reliance on China, according to multiple people present for the meeting, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe a private discussion.


WaPo notes that James Carafano, a Heritage fellow and senior counselor to the think tank's president, convened the meeting.  Meanwhile, Jeremy Shapiro, head of the Washington office of the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), brought the group's delegation to the November meeting.

Michael Anton is a Senior Fellow at the Claremont Institute.

Monday, April 8, 2024

How a Right-Wing Texas Think Tank Ducked Property Taxes

Here is more from Texas Monthly:

The Texas Public Policy Foundation, a right-wing think tank with ties to the state’s most powerful politicians and political donors, has long lobbied legislators to abolish property taxes. So far, this effort has failed. But TPPF has succeeded in another ambitious goal: ducking its own property taxes.

For the past decade, Texas Monthly has learned, the think tank hasn’t paid a single dollar in taxes on its lavish, limestone-fronted, six-story headquarters, just two blocks from the Capitol in downtown Austin. The building’s appraised value is $18 million. How did TPPF manage this feat? 

Under state law, exemption from property taxes is reserved only for some nonprofit organizations, including orphan-aid groups and animal shelters. A well-funded think tank that promotes the interests of the oil-and-gas industry and undermines support for public schools, among other causes, would not seem to qualify. Indeed, TPPF was twice denied an exemption. But it persisted by appealing to the comptroller’s office, the statewide tax agency.


The article notes that TPPF, which has an annual budget of around $21.5 million and 150 staffers, has so far avoided paying around $3 million in taxes on its headquarters.

TPPF's former CEO, Brooke Rollins, now runs America First Policy Institute (AFPI).  Another former TPPF CEO, Kevin Roberts, now runs the Heritage Foundation.

Friday, April 5, 2024

How Billionaire Megadonors Use Think Tanks

Here is more from CNN:

When Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft jumped into the state’s gubernatorial race last year, the Republican vowed to tackle a slew of culture war issues, promising to fight the “woke politics” of “left-wing” banks and touting how he used his position to enact a regulation targeting those financial firms.

Ashcroft also said candidates shouldn’t focus on issues that let the one percent “force their beliefs on 99 percent of the population.”

While Ashcroft positioned himself as a champion for working class voters, emails obtained by CNN and the progressive watchdog group Documented show that he was steered toward adopting his “anti-woke” investment regulation by a little-known, right-wing think tank with deep ties to conservative billionaires. The communications show that officials with the Foundation for Government Accountability suggested regulatory language to Ashcroft and even wrote an op-ed article that Ashcroft published in a national conservative magazine under his own name. 

The emails not only reveal FGA’s influence over Ashcroft, they offer a snapshot of the group’s growing influence across the country, particularly in red states. And that influence can carry a high cost for workers and taxpayers. 

The group’s communications with Ashcroft...give a rare glimpse into how billionaire megadonors use think tanks like FGA to advance their causes out of public view. Federal tax laws allow such donors to channel millions of dollars anonymously, through nonprofit foundations, to activist organizations that lobby for and work behind the scenes to enact legislation that reflects partisan political goals. 


CNN notes that even though FGA's tax exempt status requires it not to engage in "substantial" lobbying, the group has closely coordinated with a variety of state officials and legislators to advance their causes. 

The Heritage Foundation is one of the many allies of FGA, and it is one of the 100+ coalition partners on Heritage's Project 2025.

FGA, based in Naples, Florida, was founded in 2011 by Tarren Bragdon, a former Maine legislator and past CEO of the free-market think tank Maine Heritage Policy Center.

Major FGA donors include the Sarah Scaife Foundation, the Searle Freedom Trust, Donors Trust, the Ed Uihlein Family Foundation, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, and The 85 Fund, a nonprofit connected to conservative legal activist Leonard Leo.

Thursday, April 4, 2024

Think Tank Quickies (#494)

  • Heritage Foundation raised a record-breaking $150 million in 2023. 
  • Heritage announces formation of National Task Force to Combat Antisemitism.
  • Heritage Foundation's Oversight Project sues DHS for targeting the think tank.
  • Former AEI president Christopher DeMuth becomes Distinguished Fellow at Heritage.
  • Former ODNI Director John Ratcliffe becomes Visiting Fellow at Heritage.
  • What are think tanks thinking about EU defense issues?
  • Event: How can think tanks make themselves heard in the election campaign?
  • Wilson Center launches Indo-Pacific program.
  • Meet Cecilia Rouse, new Brookings president; official announcement from 2023.
  • Brookings appointed Colin Kahl as the Sydney Stein, Jr. Scholar in Foreign Policy.
  • Brookings launches Center for Economic Security and Opportunity.
  • Brookings unveils new website.

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Report Attacking Nippon Steel Tied to Think Tank Pair

In a bid to sink Nippon Steel's acquisition of US Steel, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) recently used a report from a pair of think tankers to urge the White House to investigate Nippon's ties to China.

Brown reportedly raised those concerns based on a report by consultancy Horizon Advisory.  Brown sent Horizon's report to President Biden.

Horizon Advisory was co-founded by two senior fellows at the hawkish think tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD): Nathan Picarsic and Emily de La Bruyere.  

FDD was founded in 2001 by Clifford May, who writes a weekly "Foreign Desk" column for The Washington Times.  Its sister lobbying arm, FDD Action, was founded in 2019.  FDD has close ties to Israel and Gulf Arab states. 

In 2022, Horizon published a report on forced labor risks in China's aluminum sector.  In 2021 it published a pair of reports on China's industrial policy for the automotive sector as well as steel sector.  In 2020 it published a report on the so-called "China Standards 2035" strategy.

This year it published a report on China's dominance in the global solar market, which received praise from a number of anti-China groups, including the Coalition for a Prosperous America (CPA).

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Think Tanks Unearth Efforts by China to Influence US Election

Here is more from the New York Times:

Covert Chinese accounts are masquerading online as American supporters of former President Donald J. Trump, promoting conspiracy theories, stoking domestic divisions and attacking President Biden ahead of the election in November, according to researchers and government officials.

The accounts signal a potential tactical shift in how Beijing aims to influence American politics, with more of a willingness to target specific candidates and parties, including Mr. Biden.

“I’ve never seen anything along those lines at all before,” said Elise Thomas, a senior analyst at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a nonprofit research organization that uncovered a small group of the fake accounts posing as Trump supporters.

Ms. Thomas and other researchers have linked the new activity to a long-running network of accounts connected with the Chinese government known as Spamouflage. Several of the accounts they detailed previously posted pro-Beijing content in Mandarin — only to resurface in recent months under the guise of real Americans writing in English.

In a separate project, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a research organization in Washington, identified 170 inauthentic pages and accounts on Facebook that have also pushed anti-American messages, including pointed attacks on Mr. Biden.


The Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) is a London-based think tank specializing in combating alleged online disinformation.  Here is its recent report on Spamouflage.

The Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) is a Washington, DC-based think tank focusing on national security and foreign policy.