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. ... Despite think tanks' billions of dollars of tax subsidies and considerable power, they have received minimal public scrutiny and are often poorly understood." Think tanks should establish ethical guidelines specifying "what types of lobbying, plagiarism and donor promises will be publicly disclosed or banned," Snider suggests. Think tanks should also be required to disclose their donors, as do "lobbyists and political candidates," and acknowledge "ethical conflicts." In addition, "the media should do a better job covering think tanks," especially around "think tanks' revolving door with government, functioning in orchestrated lobbying campaigns and claiming credit for others' work."