Think Tanks in Transition

Do their donors exert too much influence?


Once viewed as independent producers of innovative policy solutions, think tanks are facing new questions about donor influence over their work. Critics argue that wealthy benefactors or corporate interests are unduly influencing some think tanks’ policy positions. Think tanks deny the charge and say their relationships with donors are appropriate and help them advance their mission. Meanwhile, the marketplace for new ideas is growing, with consultants, advocacy groups, charities and bloggers all turning out policy positions. The increasing competition is forcing think tanks to move beyond their traditional role as cloistered hives of intellectual activity into functions more akin to public relations and advocacy. They also are adopting digital-age tools such as podcasts and interactive maps to improve the chances that busy policymakers with shrinking ...

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