In a recent series of articles, The New York Times detailed how nonprofit think tanks are rife with conflicts of interest.
The Times reported how corporations made charitable donations to certain think tanks, which then happened to undertake studies that benefited those corporations. The Times also reported how associates of think tanks worked simultaneously for corporations affected by their studies. One scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, for example, wrote articles and testified in front of Congress urging the rejection of increased regulation of the internet – without revealing that he was also a paid consultant for Verizon and its trade organization. Another scholar at the American Enterprise Institute testified before Congressional committees in favor of increased military spending – while simultaneously serving as a paid lobbyist for Pentagon suppliers. The list goes on, and on.
But The Times missed the bigger story: the fundamental problem with the think tank industry itself. Many of the best-known think tanks are charities in name only. They have no mission beyond helping persuade the public and bully the government into accepting policies promoted by the think tanks’ founders and boards. Continue reading