Dear Commons Community,
The New York Times has a featured article today that exposes the Brookings Institution and other “think tanks” as tools of corporations seeking government influence. 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. The article references Senator Elizabeth Warren commenting that “some think tanks engage in “thinly disguised lobbying” to influence lawmakers”. It has been well known that some think tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, and the Manhattan Institute have their own political agendas, the Times focus on The Brookings Institute which was generally seen as non-partisan, broadens the scope of think tank influence peddling. Here is an excerpt:
“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…
Similar arrangements exist at many think tanks. On issues as varied as military sales to foreign countries, international trade, highway management systems and real estate development, think tanks have frequently become vehicles for corporate influence and branding campaigns.”
The article is a well-done and well-documented expose of the role of think tanks in the seamy side of Washington, state, and local politics.