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The Dirty Business of U.S. ‘Think Tanks’

by Michael Krieger, Liberty Blitzkrieg:

Many of you have already read this past Sunday’s excellent and deeply disturbing article published by the New York Times regarding the shady and inappropriate activities regularly conducted by U.S. “think tanks.” If you haven’t read it yet, I highly suggest you take the time to do so.

It’s important to acknowledge that the U.S. economy has morphed into one gigantic lawless crime scene. An environment in which crony insiders who add zero value to society parasitically feast on the country’s treasure. In the case of so-called “think tanks,” we have organizations receiving copious taxpayer subsidies for the privilege of screwing over the American public.

To understand the topic further, I present you with some excerpts from the article titled, Researchers or Corporate Allies? Think Tanks Blur the Line:

Think tanks, which position themselves as “universities without students,” have power in government policy debates because they are seen as researchers independent of moneyed interests. But in the chase for funds, think tanks are pushing agendas important to corporate donors, at times blurring the line between researchers and lobbyists. And they are doing so while reaping the benefits of their tax-exempt status, sometimes without disclosing their connections to corporate interests.

Thousands of pages of internal memos and confidential correspondence between Brookings and other donors — like JPMorgan Chase, the nation’s largest bank; K.K.R., the global investment firm; Microsoft, the software giant; and Hitachi, the Japanese conglomerate — show that financial support often came with assurances from Brookings that it would provide “donation benefits,” including setting up events featuring corporate executives with government officials, according to documents obtained by The New York Times and the New England Center for Investigative Reporting.

“This is about giant corporations who figured out that by spending, hey, a few tens of millions of dollars, if they can influence outcomes here in Washington, they can make billions of dollars,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, a frequent critic of undisclosed Wall Street donations to think tanks.

Washington has seen a proliferation of think tanks, particularly small institutions with narrow interests tied to specific industries. At the same time, the brand names of the field have experienced explosive growth. Brookings’s annual budget has doubled in the last decade, to $100 million. The American Enterprise Institute is spending at least $80 million on a new headquarters in Washington, not far from where the Center for Strategic and International Studies built a $100 million office tower.

The U.S. economy would be infinitely better if everyone in Washington D.C. blasted off to space in a rocket ship.

The likely conclusions of some think tank reports, documents show, are discussed with donors — or even potential ones — before the research is complete. Drafts of the studies have been shared with donors whose opinions have then helped shape final reports. Donors have outlined how the resulting scholarship will be used as part of broader lobbying efforts. The think tanks also help donors promote their corporate brands, as Brookings does with JPMorgan Chase, whose $15.5 million contribution is the largest by a private corporation in the institution’s history.

Despite these benefits, corporations can write off the donations as charitable contributions. Some tax experts say these arrangements may amount to improper subsidies by taxpayers if think tanks are providing specific services.

People think of think tanks as do-gooders, uncompromised and not bought like others in the political class,” said Bill Goodfellow, the executive director of the Center for International Policy, a Washington-based think tank. “But it’s absurd to suggest that donors don’t have influence. The danger is we in the think tank world are being corrupted in the same way as the political world. And all of us should be worried about it.”

Indeed, “think tanks” represent a key, overlooked player in the never-ending information war being waged against the American public. A war specifically designed to shape public perception in favor of policies that go against our best interests while making a handful of people extremely wealthy.

We strongly believe in our model of seeking solutions to some of our country’s most difficult problems,John J. Hamre, the chief executive at C.S.I.S., said in a written reply to questions. “We gather stakeholders, vet ideas, find areas of agreement and highlight areas of disagreement.”

Emphasis on “stakeholders,” i.e. corporate sponsors. If these think tanks are actually working in the best interests of the country, why is inequality soaring and why has the middle class been destroyed so efficiently?

Yet researchers at think tanks are seeing corporate influence firsthand. Rachel Stohl, a senior associate at the Stimson Center in Washington, said she had been quizzed by potential donors as she tried to raise money for research on the military’s use of armed drones.

“‘Are you going to say drones are bad?’” she recalled one potential financial backer asking. “‘We are not interested in funding something that says drones are bad.’”

The confidential Brookings spreadsheet had an unassuming title: Corporate Overviews Tracking. It listed nearly 90 corporations, from Alcoa to Wells Fargo, providing a glimpse of the vast electronic file that Brookings maintained on donors and prospects, and the benefits it might offer.

The database, along with thousands of pages of emails, solicitations for money and memos on meetings with corporate officials, highlighted Brookings’s practice of assuring that donors would see results from their contributions.

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1 comment to The Dirty Business of U.S. ‘Think Tanks’

  • AgShaman

    When you have the unwashed masses brainwashed and bamboozled into believing ivy league economists, bankstars and other financial vipers are the “smartest guys in the room”….

    You have the impetus for Think Tanks run amuck.

    Just read what Denis Healey said about Rand Corporation.

    The parasites affiliated with these organizations are not just “hacks”, but soul-less creatures to boot

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