The Funding Dilemma: Are National Security Think Tanks Being Influenced by Their Mega Donors?

September 13, 2016 - San Francisco, CA - - This was going to be a short but odd column. Though no longer short, it steps quite a bit outside our normal brand of journo, so we ask the reader’s forbearance as they approach the piece, as it’s not really for general consumption.

What we have been referring to for quite some time, but not always using the same identifiers, as the DC scene [shorthand really for the New York, Baltimore, Washington DC, Philadelphia/Boston megalopolis] is in many ways the locus of establishment/globalist intellectualism.

We by no means intend to imply that some sort of inky conspiracy is at work here. Given the area’s physical proximity to the American seat of government it seems entirely natural for policy houses to spring up like daisies around the District’s celestial radiance [ahemmmm], a simple function of geography and demographics.

In assessing this alignment, there is an obvious but generic cause for concern, the revolving door syndrome, meaning that as politicians and their coterie of aides, researchers and the like cycle in, and especially out of the huge federal bureaucracy [this includes both legislative houses] there is a natural tendency for them to land in any one of hundreds of think tank/policy house, entities created [many of which have a 501c3 or c4 IRS status] to further the political interests represented by the leadership of these enterprises.

This is a totally natural extension of, and actually an important expression of the bed-rock principle of democratic pluralism, wherein the various “special interests” [non pejorative in this case] as represented by these organizations, seek to influence governmental policy going forward.

The idea here [and one with which we are in full alignment] is that the best policies will accrue through a head-on collision of ideas. The public is well served by this process as is the case with genuine free market capitalism, in which equal entre [rather than equality of outcome] is guaranteed to all and may the best ideas win.

In this way a citizen can contribute, often tax free, to these institutions thus joining in the larger political discussion which is a constant as government devises new policies or proposes changes to preexisting ones.

For example if you are concerned that the Second Amendment is being threatened one can join the NRA/ILA and help fund opposition to the gun grabbers of the left.

All of this is well and good but recently we have noted a defect creeping into this system, which we will explain in due course, but first it requires a bit of context.

In the modern era, let’s arbitrarily designate it as from the beginning of the 20th century onward, presidential contests have featured two primary opponents, one from either party.

So far this is unremarkable, as long as one is cognizant of the fact that historically, both parties and hence both candidates have been part of the larger “establishment” which has a bottom line below what might be customarily imagined.

At the most elemental level, even outstripping ideology is that this political neural network considers itself the true and sole voice of American politics, and as we have learned over the last 15 months or so, outsiders such as Donald Trump are resisted with a mad-dog fervor that we on the alt-right, wish was reserved for our natural ideological opponents, the “unholy alliance” or those represented by coalition of convenience between the Marxist left and the Muslim Brotherhood influenced American Islamists.

Perhaps this is the most important lesson to learn from this electoral cycle, that generally speaking the “conservative” right - and its various wonk factoriess – would rather see a Hillary presidency than having to deal with the political uncertainties that a Trump victory might generate.

This remains a concern primarily for one reason; the GOP is quite used to the idea of losing…understandable since it long ago gave up the idea of actually defeating the Marxist Dems.

Sorry boys and girls we were born at night…but not last night.

Though at first blush this might makes absolutely no sense to casual observers and those outside the system, might we suggest that probing a little deeper as to how the “real” DC actually works might be in order.

The key is access, plain and simple.

In DC even the losing party has reserved for it a few seats at the table and though it has not been apparent recently [actually distinctly the opposite] the possibility of being able to affect legislation in the ancient time-honored tradition of “log-rolling,” where the Dems might grant certain concessions to GOPers on policy matters to ensure passage of a bill or when the appearance of “bipartisanship” might be deemed more important than the continued existence of every “I” and “T” in a piece of legislation.

The GOP losers and their coterie of think tank types seem to be very unhappy with at least the prospect of no longer being invited to some of the swell Georgetown parties where they get to hobnob with those who really call the shots, should the GOP candidate pull this amazing feat off.

This mindset even extends to “conservative” periodicals [think National Review and the Weakly Standard] who demand that they alone will control our idea machine.

It is for this reason that these publications, “conservative” talking heads and important legacy “conservative” websites have so bitterly opposed the Trump candidacy, with old guard political geezers such as Karl Rove having spent upwards of $100 M simply to keep outsider Trump “where he belongs,” on the outside looking in.

This dynamic now hopefully understood we turn to the sector of the DC establishment think tanks that represent our world, loosely advocates of whatever currently constitutes “conservative” foreign and national security policy initiatives.

We absolutely refuse to mention names here, as we have great admiration for all of these folks in general, having had the honor of working in some small way with a few of them and seeing how much good work that they have accomplished as well as the learned intellectual initiatives they have in the past brought forth.

That said, over the last year and especially over the last six months since Trump captured the GOP nomination [utterly crushing 16 professional – read establishment - politicians, some quite brilliant in their own right and yes Ted Cruz, despite claims to the contrary, is a member of the political establishment, even if most everyone hates him…for good reason] some very odd things coming out of heretofore rock solid anti-jihadist policy houses.

Again we will not mention specific policy positions for obvious reasons, but in general we have seen a definite softening of positions which we might have thought were non-negotiable positions within our community.

We believe there is a reason for this straying from former or at least implied Gospel…funding.

Keeping large think tanks afloat, when you give it some thought, is quite expensive given that those who run them are generally very talented people who, within reason could command commensurately high compensation packages within the DC power structure. Sure they might have to become lobbyists for corporate defense giants like Boeing or General Dynamics, but the bucks are out there and of course that is reflected in base level income expectations by our little coterie of “stars.”

These same institutions, regardless of their size still have to make payroll to retain the services of other talented insider professionals as well as cover the often tremendous cost of travel, creating publications and studies and the general expenses involved in the type of outreach required to affect policy decisions.

But those kind of bucks just don’t magically appear and to our knowledge none of these entities are funded by “mom and pop” $100 contributions…mom and pop most likely being totally unaware even of their existence, or worse, not giving a flying fig.

So the burden, such as it is, falls upon the broad shoulders of a relatively few “conservative” philanthropists…again here…unnamed…those who know…know, and that’s how we prefer to keep it.

Now here, as Shakespeare said is “the rub.”

These philanthropic individuals are accustomed to having some, often a lot, of strings attached to their largesse.

They might have pet projects or particular areas of emphasis or concern which they want to see reflected by whatever institution they are funding, which of course is entirely their right, after all it’s their money.

But the Trump candidacy threatens this arrangement, at least theoretically, because we see no evidence of any intent, should the candidate triumph in November, to overturn this particular apple cart.

But “our” establishment remains genuinely spooked, with the “tail” and “dog” analogy squarely in mind.

We are uneasy about what we are seeing, silly ideas being introduced and increasingly championed, positions which represent what we perceive to be the wishes of the mega funders as winnowed through the foggy lens of a sense of misplaced self interest within our intellectual infrastructure.

In our minds this looms as a huge problem as these organizations are risking the reputations that took such considerable time and effort to establish in the first place.

May we be so bold as to suggest that those who fall within confines of what we have described above, to immediately cease and desist with the “never Trump” horse shit, dispense with the “counter-jihad lite approach,” suck it up, admit you got your asses handed to you [hell it happens, man up] and get with the program.

A Hillary presidency could well mean the end of this republic and we absolutely know that would represent anathema to all concerned. The time is short, we do have a genuine chance to win this sucker [poor Hillary is melting] and it’s about time we all started pulling in the same direction.

Go Trump, crush the Marist left…let’s fight later, we then can all meet at the bar and compare battle scars when the dust finally settles.

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