Thursday, March 23, 2023

Think Tank Quickies (#469)

  • New ASPI report: China trumps US in key technology research. 
  • CSIS's translation project opens window on China's ambitions, fears.
  • Former Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) is launching the Portman Center for Policy Solutions at the University of Cincinnati.
  • India's largest news agency quotes geopolitical experts and think tanks that do not exist?
  • Inside Heritage Foundation's plan for a 2025 GOP administration.
  • Ray Block joins RAND Corp. as inaugural Michael D. Rich Chair for Countering Truth Decay.
  • Former Afghan Ambassador to the US Adela Raz will be a visiting fellow at the Hudson Institute.
  • Tevi Troy, a fellow at BPC, launched 1600 Lessons, an executive-coaching series that builds its lessons around presidential leadership.
  • Urban Ocean Lab: "A think tank for the future of coastal cities."
  • China Aerospace Studies Institute (CASI), a "think tank based out of the Air Force's Air University and the National Defense University that researches Chinese air power."

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

What Think Tank Does Ron DeSantis Love?

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a possible Republican presidential contender, has strong ties to the Claremont Institute, which has been described as "an influential conservative think tank that promotes foreign policy views broadly aligned with Donald Trump's."

In February 2023, DeSantis met with Claremont Institute President Ryan Williams and announced that Claremont, which is based in Upland, California, will expand its state activity to Florida.

The Claremont Institute, which has been called the "nerve center of the American right," praised DeSantis for providing "the first template for any red state in America" through his leadership.

At the think tank's 2021 annual gala, DeSantis was awarded the Claremont Institute's Statesmanship Award.  That was the same year the think tank opened the Claremont Institute's Center for the American Way of Life in Washington, DC.  Its executive director is Arthur Milikh.

In March 2023, DeSantis hosted a roundtable discussion "exposing the diversity, equity, and inclusion scam" in higher education, and participants included Scott Yenor of Claremont.  Yenor, who is Claremont's inaugural senior director of state coalitions, has been described as a "DeSantis-aligned researcher."

Claremont has provided fellowships to a number of prominent figures on the right, including Laura Ingraham, Ben Shapiro, Mark Levin, Mary Kissel, and Mark C. Johnson.  In 2019 it granted a fellowship to Pizzagate conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec.

Meanwhile, Claremont Institute senior fellow John Eastman aided former President Trump in his failed attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results.  In 2019, Trump awarded Claremont with a National Humanities Medal.

Claremont was founded in 1979 by four students of Straussian political theorist Harry Jaffa, a professor emeritus at Claremont McKenna College and the Claremont Graduate University.  The think tank, however, has no affiliation with any of the Claremont Colleges.

The think tank, among other things, publishes the Claremont Review of Books (CRB), a quarterly review of policy and statesmanship.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

The Think Tank Behind the Judicial Overhaul Now Dividing Israel

Here is more from the New York Times:

For years, Kohelet Policy Forum quietly churned out position papers, trying to nudge government policy in a more libertarian direction. Then, starting in January, it became more widely known as one of the principal architects of the judicial overhaul proposal that has plunged Israel into a crisis over the future of its democracy.

If the plan succeeds, it would be a stunning victory not only for the think tank, but also for the people behind it: two guys from Queens.

The first is Moshe Koppel, a 66-year-old mathematics Ph.D. who grew up in New York City and moved to Israel in 1980. He founded Kohelet in 2012 and has been drafting laws and producing conservative and libertarian policy papers with a roster of full- and part-time scholars that now numbers 160.

Kohelet is not required to disclose the names of individual donors, and for years Mr. Koppel has artfully deflected questions about funding.

But one source of money is a second New Yorker: Arthur Dantchik, a 65-year-old multibillionaire who has donated millions to Kohelet, according to people familiar with his philanthropic giving.


Mr. Dantchik has an estimated net worth of $7.2 billion.  It has previously been reported that Jeff Yass, whose estimated net worth is $28.5 billion, is a key donor to the think tank, although people familiar with Yass deny that.

Much of Mr. Dantchik's giving is channeled through the Reston, VA-based Claws Foundation, which lists Dantchik and Yass as two of its directors.  It has given to organizations such as the Cato Institute and Ayn Rand Institute.

Update: On March 24, the Washington Post (WaPo) published its own story about the Kohelet Policy Forum, calling it "little-known" and "secretive."  It notes that Kohelet is Israel's first American-style think tank, employing 160 researchers who court like-minded politicians with free research, bill, and conference invitations.

Soldiers and reservists opposed to Israel's judicial legislation demonstrated outside the think tank's Jerusalem headquarters, blocking the entrance will bags filled with fake cash and rallying under signs read "Kohelet is tearing us apart," according to the WaPo.

The article also notes that Kohelet helped draft the 2018 Nation-State Law, which, among other things, removed Arabic as an official language.

Kohelet also helped rewrite Israeli civic textbooks, removing sections on Palestinian history and emphasizing Israel's Jewish values over democratic ones, according to WaPo.

Kohelet was founded in 2012.

Friday, March 17, 2023

How a Think Tanker Brought the AUKUS Nuclear Sub Deal Together

Two think tankers were extremely influential in putting together the trilateral AUKUS security pact between the US, UK, and Australia.  Here are some more details from the Wall Street Journal about how the deal came together:

In April 2021, Australia’s top intelligence official went to Washington with an extraordinary proposal: the government in Canberra was looking to acquire nuclear-powered submarines.

Andrew Shearer, the director-general of Australia’s office of national intelligence, made the case in a meeting with Kurt Campbell, the White House coordinator for the Indo-Pacific, for sharing the tightly guarded capability. 

Scott Morrison, who was then serving as Australia’s prime minister, tapped Mr. Shearer, a longtime friend of Mr. Campbell’s, to reach out to the new Biden team. 

After the two men had breakfast at the Hay-Adams hotel on April 30, 2021, Mr. Shearer went to Mr. Campbell’s office at the Old Executive Office Building adjoining the White House and made his case in a 30-minute presentation. 


In 2016, Shearer joined the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) as a Senior Advisor on Asia Pacific Security.  He had previously been Director of Studies at the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney.

Campbell, who also used to work at CSIS, co-founder the Center for a New American Security (CNAS).

Companies that will benefit from the deal include General Dynamics, Huntington Ingalls, BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin, Thales, and Rolls-Royce.

General Dynamics, Huntington Ingalls, Lockheed Martin, and BAE Systems are all donor to both CSIS and CNAS.

Lockheed Martin has been a client of The Asia Group, a boutique consulting firm that Campbell founded.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Think Tank Quickies (#468)

  • A number of helpful rules for attending Washington think tank events, via Politico.
  • The Daily Wire: Biden's FCC nominee works for a think tank funded by the telecom giants she was nominated to oversee.
  • New York Post: Left-wing think tank responsible for thousands of fake Russia stories.
  • Howard University opening research center for the DoD focusing on autonomous aircraft.
  • Hot think tank report from RAND Corp.: "Avoiding a Long War."
  • The role think tanks play in the US-Mexico relationship.
  • NYT piece quotes GMF's Bonnie Glaser praising Taiwanese diplomat Hsiao Bi-khim but neglects to disclose that Glaser's employer receives $100k - $999k per year from TECRO.
  • Is ECFR's "Atlas" the first think tank chatbot? 
  • E3G: "An independent climate change think tank with a global outlook."
  • Pic: The shifting narrative of global think tanks.
  • Video: Code Pink interrupts Brookings event.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Think Tank Flashback: WSEG

"Think Tank Flashback" is a new series where Think Tank Watch looks back at now-defunct think tanks.  Starting off is a little-known US government think tank.  Here is a description of this think tank from the National Archives:

The Weapon Systems Evaluation Group (WSEG) was a government think tank organization born in the early days of the newly-created National Military Establishment (NME) that later became the Department of Defense.  The WSEG performed operational research on defense matters from 1948 to 1976.  Very little is publicly known about the WSEG as its records were highly classified and difficult to declassify.  


The National Declassification Center (NDC) has much more information about the think tank.

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

British Think Tanks Pivoting Hard to Tech

Here is more from Politico:

The Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, the government advisory outfit set up by the former Labour Party British prime minister, now has more than 60 people working on tech policy on issues from digital governance to life sciences, artificial intelligence to digital infrastructure.

The institute hit the headlines last month when Blair teamed up with the former Conservative leader and ex-Foreign Secretary William Hague to push a proposal for everyone to be given a digital ID incorporating their passport, driving license, tax records, qualifications and right to work as the cornerstone of a “technology revolution.” 

The center-right think tank Onward, whose former Director Will Tanner is now Sunak’s deputy chief of staff, launched a science and technology "pillar" last August, which will be staffed by three dedicated researchers.

The free market Adam Smith Institute has a new hire working on a policy paper on the safety of artificial intelligence. The Centre for Policy Studies, a stalwart of SW1 policy wonk world which boasts Margaret Thatcher as one of its founders, appointed its first head of tech and innovation last July.


Funding by technology companies to think tanks has also increased exponentially over the years, with many of the major players such as Meta, Amazon Web Services, Google, Zoom, Twitter, and Microsoft donating millions to think tanks (often as part of de facto lobbying efforts).

Monday, March 13, 2023

How One Think Tank is Attracting New Talent

In USA Today, Carol "Rollie" Flynn and Tara Spencer of the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI) explain how a number of staffers have left since the COVID pandemic and what they are doing to retain employees and attract new talent.  Here are some excerpts:

  • The first employee departed in late summer of 2020 and four more had left by mid-2022. The Foreign Policy Research Institute, a nonpartisan think tank in Philadelphia with a dozen full-time staffers, was losing some of our best employees. The departing employees liked working at FPRI and were committed to its mission, but they were being offered significantly higher salaries elsewhere, including from think tanks based in Washington, D.C.
  • In consultation with the staff, the Foreign Policy Research Institute took several bold moves to stem the departures and attract new talent. First, we formalized our work-from-home policy adopted during the pandemic. Employees who could perform their duties remotely were permitted to do so. There were a handful of jobs that required presence in the office, but most of the employees could work from home.
  • Last May, FPRI also added a four-day workweek option. Employees were given the option to work four days a week instead of five, as long as they worked the required 35 hours per week. We also adopted an unscheduled leave policy and stopped tracking vacation, sick days or personal time off. Employees could take leave whenever they wished as long as they let management know in advance and ensured that their duties were either completed or covered by other employees during their absence.
  • The majority of our team members work remotely outside of the Philadelphia area, including internationally. Employees communicate virtually by telephone, web meetings and through cloud-based platforms for brainstorming and project management. To help boost camaraderie and a positive culture, we also began holding two-day in-office retreats for all employees twice each year.


Dissatisfied with the containment strategy of John Foster Dulles and the Eisenhower Administration's foreign policy, Ambassador Robert Strausz-Hupe founded FPRI in 1955 with the support of the University of Pennsylvania and the Smith Richardson Foundation.  In 1957, the think tank began publishing Orbis, a quarterly journal.

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Think Tank Quickies (#467)

  • New MIT research on the spread of retracted research in policy literature.
  • IISS held a closed-door event in Singapore with GCHQ head Sir Jeremy Fleming.
  • Brookings releases nine policy briefs on "great power competition."
  • Tony Abbott joins London-based climate think tank.
  • Cato Institute joins Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the ACLU, and others in backing moves to end qualified immunity. 
  • Boris Johnson does Atlantic Council.
  • GMF Asia runs an Indo-Pacific wargame in Tokyo.
  • Heritage Foundation wants to impeach DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
  • AEI Valentine's Day event on dating trends.
  • Pic: Bookmarks from the Cato Institute.

Friday, March 10, 2023

Niskanen Center the Most Interesting US Think Tank?

Following are some of Think Tank Watch's favorite lines from the Molly Ball piece in Time entitled "Niskanen Center, the Most Interesting Think Tank in American Politics."

In the piece, she notes that Niskanen is a "little-known" think tank that "may be the most interesting institution" in Washington, DC.

  • At Niskanen’s headquarters near Capitol Hill, a small team of wonks is busy cooking up unconventional proposals to address intractable problems. Want to solve climate change? Forget the Green New Deal and focus on building more electric transmission lines. Want to reduce incarceration? Don’t defund the police—give them funding to solve crimes. Want to improve access to health care? Slash outdated regulations to increase the supply of doctors.
  • In the wake of the Trump presidency, old ideological lines have melted away, and new space has opened for strange-bedfellows alliances. The Niskanen Center, a quirky eight-year-old policy shop with roots on the libertarian right, is both vanguard and driver of this underreported trend. Working outside, or between, the partisan silos in which most D.C. advocates are enmeshed, it’s gained a reputation on Capitol Hill for unorthodox policy ideas that can bridge left-right divides.
  • At a time of polarization, Niskanen has become a home for heterodox thinkers from left and right alike. In its D.C. office suite, a former Bernie Sanders campaign staffer is working on proposals to increase access to health-care and disability benefits by simplifying regulations; at the same time, a former staffer at the libertarian Cato Institute is mapping out new ideas for copyright reform. Niskanen’s head of immigration policy is a Republican former national-security lawyer; its head of climate previously worked for an environmental group that was accused of racism for supporting a revenue-neutral Washington state climate initiative. The influential center-left writer Matt Yglesias is a Niskanen fellow; the Times columnist Ezra Klein’s embrace of “supply-side progressivism” echoes many Niskanen ideas.
  • But on Capitol Hill, the Niskanen Center is widely seen as a breath of fresh air. The center’s lobbyists often cold-call congressional offices to explore potential collaboration. They seek to provide objective analysis and high-quality information, not spin.

Here is a 2015 piece from Think Tank Watch about the launch of the Niskanen Center.

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Semafor Slammed for Partnering With Chinese Think Tank

Here is more from Axios:

Semafor, the 5-month-old news startup, is drawing criticism in the U.S. for partnering with a think tank in China that is known to have close ties to the Chinese Communist Party. The group has in the past obscured those ties to Western audiences.

Why it matters: The collaboration is notable because the organization Semafor is partnering with — and its leader — has a track record of misleading Western audiences about its affiliation with the CCP.

What's happening: Semafor last week announced a new initiative called “China and Global Business” to serve as a platform for business leaders to discuss U.S.-China relations.

  • The partnership has been developed with a group called the Center for China and Globalization (CCG). The center's founder and director, Wang Huiyao, sits on the board of Semafor's initiative.
  • Semafor published a blog post Sunday evening with details about the partnership. The platform "will be exclusively underwritten by corporate partnerships with no financial contributions from our local Chinese partners or the Chinese government," CEO Justin Smith wrote. Smith is the former CEO of Bloomberg Media. Under his tenure, Bloomberg struck a partnership with another Chinese think tank that helped the company put on a marquee event in China.


Axios notes that CCG claims to be independent but was founded under the auspices of the Western Returned Scholars Organization.  "That group is directed by the United Front Work Department (UFWD), a bureau of the Chinese Communist Party focused on amplifying support for the party and marginalizing dissent."

Here is what Fox News had to say about Semafor's partnership.

CCG is based in Beijing and was founded by Dr. Henry Huiyao Wang and Dr. Mable Lu Miao in 2008.

Wang dropped out of an event at the Wilson Center back in 2018 after Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) wrote to them about Wang's affiliation with the United Front.

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Think Tank Third Way Warning About Third Party Ticket Spoiling 2024

Here is more from Politico:

A prominent Democratic think tank is raising alarms about a third-party ticket spoiling 2024 for Democrats and landing DONALD TRUMP back in the White House.

A new two-page memo from Third Way, obtained by Playbook, takes aim at the potential “unity ticket” being promoted by the centrist group No Labels. With tens of millions of dollars in financial backing, No Labels’ stated intention is to nominate a moderate alternative to potential extreme major-party nominees as an “insurance policy.”

But Third Way notes that No Labels has been cagey about what scenario would prompt it to move forward, including whether it would stand down if President JOE BIDEN seeks reelection. In any case, the memo argues, a third-party ticket would mainly peel off Democrats, ultimately boosting the former president who tried to steal an election and incited a riot on the Capitol.


A link to the memo can be found here.

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Michael Froman to be Next President of Council on Foreign Relations

The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) has announced that Michael Froman will replace Richard Haass to become the think tank's fifteenth president.

Froman, a former US Trade Representative (USTR) under President Barack Obama, currently serves as vice chairman and president for strategic growth at Mastercard

Froman is also a distinguished fellow at CFR and a former fellow at the German Marshall Fund (GMF).

Here is what Politico reported about the selection process:

CFR’s board unanimously approved of the former trade representative’s appointment in a Tuesday meeting.

But the expectation from six people in CFR’s community (none of them in the search committee) was that a woman would be named to lead the organization or someone who would increase the organization’s gender, racial or ethnic diversity.

MEGHAN O’SULLIVAN was considered for the post but dropped out of contention in part because she had an offer to lead Harvard University's Belfer Center, per someone familiar with the search.

The seven search committee members narrowed down an initial list of 120 nominees to “a diverse group of 27 candidates,” DAVID RUBENSTEIN, the chair of the board of directors, wrote to CFR’s 5,000 members Wednesday morning. 

A search committee member told NatSec Daily that they held countless meetings, either over Zoom or in person, as the 120-person field winnowed. The search committee read packets on each candidate and updated the board on decisions on why someone was kept in or taken out of the process.


Haass has been president of CFR since 2003 and he will be stepping down in June 2023.  His annual salary has recently topped $1.7 million.

Monday, March 6, 2023

Think Tank Quickies (#466)

  • Former Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) is joining the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) as a distinguished visiting fellow for public policy. 
  • Heritage Foundation to host summit celebrating its 50th anniversary.
  • The Heritage Foundation's Project 2025 is seeking to build a database of vetted people to hand over to a 2025 presidential transition.
  • Barbara Slavin has joined the Stimson Center as a distinguished fellow in the Middle East and North Africa program.  She was previously at the Atlantic Council.
  • Researchers at ASPI, a Canberra think tank that gets over half its funding from Australia's Department of Defense, found that a network working within China has used social media to undermine confidence in Australia's government and democracy.
  • What books are China's intellectual elites reading?  Check out recommended books from CICIR.
  • Elon University has a new student-led think tank, Phoenix Policy Institute, showcasing undergraduate research.
  • Feb. 22 webinar for undergraduates interested in working in the think tank sector.
  • Video from 1960s shows founders of the Hudson Institute predicting the 21st century.
  • Daily Caller: State Department funded think tank working to censor Americans.

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.

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Can Think Tanks Save TikTok?

TikTok is hoping that meetings with influential DC groups and officials, including think tanks, will help prevent it from being banned in the US.  Here is more from the New York Times:

Last week, TikTok’s chief executive, Shou Zi Chew, met with several influential think tanks and public interest groups in Washington, sharing details on how his company plans to prevent data on American users from ever leaving the United States. And the company’s lobbyists swarmed the offices of lawmakers who have introduced bills to ban the app, telling them that TikTok can be trusted to protect the information.

In a 24-hour visit to Washington last week, Mr. Chew held four back-to-back 90-minute meetings with think tanks like New America, academics and public interest groups such as Public Knowledge. In the company’s temporary WeWork suites near Capitol Hill, Mr. Chew and Mr. Andersen outlined the promises in Project Texas in a presentation with graphics on how the data is stored in Oracle’s cloud and TikTok’s appointment of a content moderation board and auditors.


Think Tank Watch is pretty sure that TikTok did not meet with the Heritage Foundation, which recently tweeted: "This is your daily reminder to delete TikTok."

Scholars at the think tank have also written several anti-TikTok pieces, including one here and here.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Taiwan's TPP Establishes New Think Tank

Here is more from the Taipei Times:

Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) established the affiliated Taiwan New Homeland Think Tank Association, as well as an internal policy think tank to establish policy suggestions on foreign, defense and internal administration affairs.

Former Taiwan Solidarity Union chairman Shu Chin-chiang, who was expelled over a 2014 visit to China, was tapped as CEO of the New Homeland association.

The think tank is to present a “third force” in Taiwanese politics during the election by consolidating views from different parties and experts, Shu said.

The proposals put forward by the think tank are to reflect major national policies and issues of concern to the people, he said.

[TPP Chairman] Ko Wen-je is to serve as chairman of the New Homeland think tank, with TPP Legislator Jang Chyi-lu and former party secretary-general Hsieh Li-kung serving as vice chairmen.

The think tank includes many former heads of departments under the Taipei City Government and members of other political parties, Hsieh said.


The Taipei Times also notes that Ko will be visiting the US this spring and will make stops at several US think tanks, among other places.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Think Tank Quickies (#464)

  • Shayna Strom to become new president and CEO of Washington Center for Equitable Growth.
  • IISS is searching for a new Director-General and Chief Executive, and has placed full-page ads in the Economist for the post. 
  • Can ChatGPT replace think tanks?
  • The law firm of Torres Trade Law has a new piece entitled "Think Tanks May Need to Rethink FARA Registration."
  • Prime Policy Group will work to recruit "influencers in the US, such as Christian Protestant denominations" and 'key' think tanks to press lawmakers on North Korean issues."
  • The late journalist Blake Hounshell worked at the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies, an Egyptian think tank founded by Saad Eddin Ibrahim, a critic of Hosni Mubarak's regime.
  • Katharine Stevens starts a new think tank, the Center on Child and Family Policy (CCFP).
  • The Vandenberg Coalition, which consists of numerous think tankers and has been described as an "influential coterie of defense hawks," calls on probe of Covid origins.
  • Former Heritage Foundation intern explains why some think tanks have "blood on their hands."
  • Heritage Foundation wants you to delete TikTok.

Monday, January 23, 2023

Trump-Aligned Think Tank Buying Up DC Office Space

Here is more from Axios:

An influential conservative nonprofit led by former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows is buying up millions of dollars worth of office space on Capitol Hill, records show.

Why it matters: The Conservative Partnership Institute is the backbone of a policy and advocacy apparatus aligned with hard-right legislators such as Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.).

Driving the news: CPI completed its most recent purchase early this month: $11.35 million for new space on Pennsylvania Avenue, adjacent to both the Capitol and CPI's headquarters on Independence Avenue, D.C. property records show.

  • That followed multiple purchases last year on Pennsylvania Avenue and ones on nearby 3rd Street SE and C Street SE, each made in the name of a different LLC.
  • Also last year, CPI paid more than $7 million for a 14,000-square-foot lodge on more than 2,000 acres near the Maryland shore, according to property records.

The big picture: Led by Meadows and ex-Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), CPI has incubated or financially supported a number of allied organizations.

Between the lines: CPI leases some of its office space to the House Freedom Caucus' political arms — the House Freedom Fund and House Freedom Action, Federal Election Commission records show.

  • Staffers for HFC members and other conservative legislators routinely travel to CPI's Maryland property, where the group hosts training sessions on topics ranging from communications to congressional procedure to investigative tactics.


CPI was founded in 2017 and its budget went up from $7.1 million in 2020 to $45 million in 2021, according to Axios. 

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch piece about how CPI worked to block Rep. Kevin McCarthy's speaker bid.

Friday, January 20, 2023

House Republicans Demand Information From Biden's Think Tank

House Oversight and Accountability Committee Chairman James Comer (R-KY) is seeking information about who had access to the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy & Global Engagement's Washington, DC office, according to a new Punchbowl News report.  Rep. Comer also wants information on the think tank's sources of funding.

Classified documents where recently discovered at President Biden's former office at the think tank, which is named after President Joe Biden.

Rep. Comer is requesting a list of all Penn Biden Center employees, the names of everyone with keycard access to the think tank, a visitor log of anyone who met with Biden, and "all documents and communications related to the security at the Penn Biden Center," according to Punchbowl.  In a letter, Comer said he wants the information by Feb. 1.

Comer also wants information on documents related to donations from China to the University of Pennsylvania and/or the Penn Biden Center from Jan. 20, 2017 to the present and all Chinese donor information over the same period of time.  He also wants to know how the Penn Biden Center solicited donations.  The University of Pennsylvania runs the Penn Biden Center.

The Penn Biden Center launched in 2017 along with the University of Pennsylvania hiring Biden as a largely ceremonial professor.  Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl had both worked at the Penn Biden Center.

Blinken says he has no knowledge of classified documents taken to the think tank.

Former Penn President Amy Gutmann, who was nominated by Biden as US Ambassador to Germany in 2021, was the one who brought Biden to Penn.

Fox News is reporting that Chinese donors have funneled millions of dollars into the University of Pennsylvania during Biden's presidency.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Atlantic Council Caught Promoting Its Own Foreign Donors on World Stage Without Disclosures

The influential think tank Atlantic Council has been called out yet again for promoting its donors without proper conflict of interest disclosures.

Here is more from Politico:

WHOOPS: “The Atlantic Council's chief executive officer, Fred Kempe, this month lavished praise on the ‘resource-rich, renewables-generating’ United Arab Emirates in a Jan. 14 op-ed for CNBC praising the oil-rich Gulf nation's ‘utopian’ plan to fight climate change,” The Washington Free Beacon’s Chuck Ross writes. “What he failed to mention were the Middle Eastern monarchy's sizable donations—which have in some years topped $1 million—to the Atlantic Council.”

— “In the piece, Kempe celebrated the United Nations' decision to hold its annual climate change summit in Abu Dhabi and praised the UAE’s selection of Sultan Ahmed Al-Jaber, an Emirati government minister and the head of the state-owned Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, to oversee the global summit.”

— “After the Washington Free Beacon contacted the Atlantic Council for comment, CNBC attached a lengthy editor's note to the article noting that ‘the obvious conflict of interest’ was ‘not disclosed’ and that the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company is a major sponsor of the Atlantic Council's annual energy conference.”

— “The UAE embassy in 2021 gave more than $1 million to the Atlantic Council, while the UAE's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation gave between $100,000 and $250,000, according to donor records.” A spokesperson for the think tank called the omission an oversight, telling the Free Beacon it “regret[s] that proper disclosures were not made.”


Mr. Kempe is also scheduled to be on a World Economic Forum (WEF) panel about "how great" Saudi Arabia is, and Quincy Institute scholar Ben Freeman says that it should be disclosed at the panel that Kempe's think tank gets $1+ million every year from the UAE (a Saudi ally) and six-figure checks every year from defense contractors that have made billions of dollars selling arms to Saudi Arabia.

In 2021, Jonathan Guyer wrote a piece about a Saudi expert at Atlantic Council (Kirsten Fontenrose) who "hid" the foreign funding of the think tank when testifying before Congress.  He noted that Atlantic Council has received millions of dollars from Saudi Arabia's biggest boosters.

Here is more about Atlantic Council's recent conflict of interest problems from Eli Clifton.

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

WEF: "The Think Tank World's FIFA"

As the World Economic Forum (WEF), often described as a think tank-like entity, takes place in Davos, Switzerland, Politico has come out with a new piece on the race to succeed the current chairman, Klaus SchwabHere is a brief excerpt:

For 52 years the World Economic Forum has been synonymous with its founder and executive chair Klaus Schwab, whose humble manner belies what many who know him describe as great ambition and boundless energy, even into his mid-80s. 

Schwab has grown WEF’s $6,000 startup capital in 1971 into a $390 million a year business, turning a once sleepy organization into the think tank world’s FIFA.

Schwab turns 85 in March, and it’s an open question whether he will pass the torch at all. Rupert Murdoch hasn’t. Warren Buffet hasn’t. In an era of active aging, why should Schwab?


A number of names were mentioned as possible successors in the article, including Christine Lagarde, Marc Benioff, Peter Maurer, Tony Blair, and Borge Brende.

Update: The Guardian is now reporting that a "mutiny" has erupted among WEF staffers over the role of Klaus Schwab, who is sometimes referred to as "Mr. Davos."