Think Tanks

Mixing Advocacy, Scholarly Research and Journalism: Can the New America Foundation Square the Circle?

In the spring semester of 2008, I was a fellow researching a paper on think tank ethics ("The Perils of Non-Profit Journalism") at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government's Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy. I was thus pleased when the New America Foundation's President, Steve Coll, spoke at the Shorenstein Center on March 11, 2008, and expressed his commitment to high ethical standards for journalists, researchers and other think tank staff.

New America Foundation logoThe New America Foundation is a Washington, DC based think tank that has pioneered the introduction of journalism to the traditional think tank mix of advocacy and research. A two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, Steve Coll is the former Managing Editor of the Washington Post and spent 20 years at the Post as a reporter and editor. Currently, in addition to serving as New America's President, Mr. Coll writes a column for The New Yorker magazine. Launched in 1999, the New America Foundation currently employs more than 100 individuals and has an annual budget of over $10 million. Its Chairman of the Board is Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google, Inc.

Rethinking Think Tanks

"Fueled by tax-deductible donations and an explosion in philanthropic assets, think tanks have dramatically grown in size and influence during the past 100 years," writes J.H. Snider, himself a think tank fellow. "U.S. think tanks increased in number from eight in 1910 to 98 in 1960 and 1,106 in 2006. ...

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Obama's Idea Factory

Michael Scherer takes a look at the Center for American Progress (CAP), which has become "the most influential independent organization in Obama's nascent Washington." Scherer notes that CAP was founded just five years ago by John Podesta as a deliberate attempt to imitate the previous success of conservative

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Johns Hopkins Make Reports Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

KazakhstanAs part of a broader public relations and lobbying push, Kazakhstan's government paid Johns Hopkins University to author three reports about the country. The arrangement was brokered through APCO Worldwide, Kazakhstan's Washington DC lobbying firm.

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A Flood of Evidence

A damaged highway in WisconsinNext week, I will moderate a panel titled "Beyond the Phony 'Debate': Government Science and the Climate Crisis" in Washington, DC. In case I needed any proof that the climate is important, last month's flooding in the Midwest gave me a personal look at what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was talking about last year when it warned of "an increased chance of intense precipitation and flooding due to the greater water-holding capacity of a warmer atmosphere."

The photograph at right shows a road not far from my home in Portage, Wisconsin that was damaged during the floods. In Sauk County, just a few miles from where I live, officials estimated that 95 percent of the roads were damaged. The seven states where the flooding occurred are still trying to assess the cost of the disaster, but it is already clear that the damages will run into billions of dollars.

In Lake Delton, about 20 miles from Portage, the water broke through a dam, causing the entire lake (600 million gallons of water) to drain into the Wisconsin River, washing away several homes in its path. The Wisconsin River passes through Portage. Like other local residents, I spent some time at the levee, gawking at the rising waters and watching for bits of other people's homes as they floated downstream.

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