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Prestigious Think Tank Says It’s Not Pandering to Corporate Donors

August 8, 2016, 4:13 PM UTC
CIA Director John Brennan at the Brookings Institution
Photograph by Anadolu Agency — Getty Images

The New York Times published an investigative piece that purports to pull the veil off think tanks’ financial ties with corporate interests. Relying on internal memos and correspondence, New York Times’ journalists Eric Lipton and Brooke Williams point the finger especially at the Brookings Institution and its cozy relationship to corporate donors.

The Brookings Institution, a major think tank based in Washington, hit back with a post on Medium today. “We are proud of our scholars, their work, and our partnership with our donors,” the post reads. It argued that the New York Times “cherry picked phrases” and “fundamentally misrepresents our mission” and how the think tank operates. It reads:

Mr. Lipton and Ms. Williams make a sweeping allegation that, in return for donations, Brookings promotes the business interests of certain corporations. They assert that the line between researchers and lobbyists has “at times” been blurred. That is not the case at Brookings: the line is always clear, hard, and recognized by our scholars, our institution, and our donors.

The reporters’ attempt to buttress their thesis with cherry-picked phrases lifted from thousands of pages of internal — often informal or draft — documents, using them out of context. They also ignore a large body of evidence we made available to them demonstrating that the projects in question were developed in ways that hewed to our institutional standards of scholarly independence.

The target of the Times piece is Brookings’s Metropolitan Policy Program, whose purpose is to advance the public good and improve public policy. It does so by helping local economies grow, innovate and create jobs. For 20 years, Metro has helped dozens of cities across the United States and beyond. The success of the program depends on building networks of stakeholders at the local level. This means working with elected officials, civic leaders, philanthropies, and corporations.

Check out the entire Brookings’ response here on Medium.