Think Tanks in Governance

Considering the role of think tanks in governance, starting with the Libertarian fronts…

Edited for brevity

“The Cato Institute is an American libertarian think tank headquartered in Washington, D.C. It was founded in 1977 by Ed Crane, Murray Rothbard, and Charles Koch,[6] chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Koch Industries.[nb 1] Cato was established to have a focus on public advocacy, media exposure and societal influence.[7] According to the 2020 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report (Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program, University of Pennsylvania), Cato is number 27 in the “Top Think Tanks Worldwide” and number 13 in the “Top Think Tanks in the United States”.[8]

The Cato Institute is libertarian in its political philosophy, and advocates a limited role for government in domestic and foreign affairs as well as a strong protection of civil liberties. This includes support for lowering or abolishing most taxes, opposition to the Federal Reserve system and the Affordable Care Act, the privatization of numerous government agencies and programs including Social Security and the United States Postal Service, demilitarization of the police, and adhering to a non-interventionist foreign policy.

The institute was founded in January 1977 in San Francisco, California;[1] named at the suggestion of Murray Rothbard after Cato’s Letters, a series of British essays penned in the early 18th century by John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon.[9][10]

In 1981, Murray Rothbard was removed from the Cato Institute by the board.[11] The board wanted to move Cato into political policy making. Rothbard thought it should be devoted to scholarship.[12]

Cato relocated to Washington, D.C., in 1981, settling initially in a historic house on Capitol Hill.[13]: 446 The institute moved to its current location on Massachusetts Avenue in 1993. Cato Institute was named the fifth-ranked think tank in the world for 2009 in a study of think tanks by James G. McGann, PhD of the University of Pennsylvania, based on a criterion of excellence in “producing rigorous and relevant research, publications and programs in one or more substantive areas of research”.[14]

By 2011, the Cato Institute had a budget of $39 million and was “one of the largest think tanks in Washington”.

[Cato partner]

The Fraser Institute is a conservative-libertarian Canadian public policy think tank and registered charity.[1][2][3][4][5] The institute is headquartered in Vancouver, with additional offices in Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal, and ties to a global network of 80 think tanks through the Economic Freedom Network.[6] It is a member of the Atlas Network of libertarian policy lobbyists.[7]

According to the January 2020 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report (Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program, University of Pennsylvania), Fraser is number 14 (of 8,200) in the “Top Think Tanks Worldwide” and number 1 in the “Top Think Tanks in Mexico and Canada”

…The Fraser Institute describes itself as “an independent international research and educational organization”,[11] and envisions “a free and prosperous world where individuals benefit from greater choice, competitive markets, and personal responsibility”.[10]

Forbes has referred to the think tank as libertarian.[12] The New York Times has described the institute as libertarian.[13] Langley Times classified it as right-of-centre libertarian

Fraser publishes: Economic Freedom of the World is an annual survey published by the Canadian think tank Fraser Institute.[1] The survey attempts to measure the degree of economic freedom in the world’s nations…

[drawn from the scholarship of Freedom House]

Freedom House is a non-profit, majority U.S. government funded organization in Washington, D.C., that conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom, and human rights.[4] Freedom House was founded in October 1941, and Wendell Willkie and Eleanor Roosevelt served as its first honorary chairpersons.

It describes itself as a “clear voice for democracy and freedom around the world”, although some critics have stated that the organization is biased towards U.S. interests as it is government-funded.[5] The organization was 66% funded by grants from the U.S. government in 2006, a number which has increased to 86% in 2016.[6][7][8]

The organization’s annual Freedom in the World report, which assesses each country’s degree of political freedoms and civil liberties, is frequently cited by political scientists, journalists, and policymakers. Freedom of the Press and Freedom on the Net,[9] which monitor censorship, intimidation and violence against journalists, and public access to information, are among its other signature reports.

……The organization’s leadership was convinced that the spread of democracy would be the best weapon against totalitarian ideologies."[13] Freedom House supported the Marshall Plan and the establishment of NATO.[13] Freedom House also supported the Johnson Administration’s Vietnam War policies…

In 2001 Freedom House had income of around $11 million, increasing to over $26m in 2006.[33] Much of the increase was due to an increase between 2004 and 2005 in US government federal funding, from $12m to $20m.[33] Federal funding fell to around $10m in 2007, but still represented around 80% of Freedom House’s budget.[33] As of 2010, grants awarded from the US government accounted for most of Freedom House’s funding;[33] the grants were not earmarked by the government but allocated through a competitive process.

…Freedom House is a nonprofit organization with approximately 150 staff members worldwide.[34] Headquartered in Washington, D.C., it has field offices in about a dozen countries, including Ukraine, Hungary, Serbia, Jordan, Mexico, and also countries in Central Asia.

Freedom House states that its board of trustees is composed of “business and labor leaders, former senior government officials, scholars, writers, and journalists”. All board members are current residents of the United States. Members of the organization’s board of directors include Kenneth Adelman, Farooq Kathwari, Azar Nafisi, Mark Palmer, P.J. O’Rourke and Lawrence Lessig,[3] while past board-members have included Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Samuel Huntington, Mara Liasson, Otto Reich, Donald Rumsfeld, Whitney North Seymour, Paul Wolfowitz, Steve Forbes and Bayard Rustin.


According to the Freedom House Financial Statement 2016, Freedom House “was substantially funded by grants from the U.S. Government”, with grants from the United States government accounting for approximately 86% of revenue.[8]

Below are the organizations and entities who funded Freedom House in 2016:[8]

  • Government of the United States – $24,813,164 (85.5%)
  • International public agencies – 2,266,949 (7.8%)
  • Corporations and foundations – 1,113,262 (3.8%)
  • Individual contributions – 1,113,262 (2.8%)

In its 2017 and 2018 financial statements, Freedom House once again disclosed that it “was substantially funded by grants from the U.S. Government.” In 2017, the organization received $29,502,776, 90% of its total revenue that year, from the U.S. government…

Since 1972 (1978 in book form), Freedom House publishes an annual report, Freedom in the World, on the degree of democratic freedoms in nations and significant disputed territories around the world… In its 2003 report, for example, the United Kingdom (judged as fully free and democratic) got a perfect score of a “1” in civil liberties and a “1” in political rights, earning it the designation of “free”. Nigeria got a “5” and a “4”, earning it the designation of “partly free”, while North Korea scored the lowest rank of “7-7”, and was thus dubbed “not free”…

In addition to these reports, Freedom House participates in advocacy initiatives, currently focused on North Korea, Africa, and religious freedom. It has offices in a number of countries, where it promotes and assists local human rights workers and non-government organizations…

In May 2001, the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations of the United Nations heard arguments for and against Freedom House. Representatives of Cuba said that the organization is a U.S. foreign policy instrument linked to the CIA and “submitted proof of the politically motivated, interventionist activities the NGO (Freedom House) carried out against their Government”. They also claimed a lack of criticism of U.S. human rights violations in the annual reports…

Key people Chair Michael Chertoff[1]

President Michael J. Abramowitz

Michael J. Abramowitz—“Michael J. Abramowitz is president of Freedom House. Before joining Freedom House in February 2017, he was director of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Levine Institute for Holocaust Education. He led the museum’s genocide prevention efforts and later oversaw its public education programs…” Michael Abramowitz | Freedom House

Press release August 5, 2018

Freedom House: Michael Chertoff to Lead Board of Trustees

“Freedom House today announced that Michael Chertoff, a former Secretary of Homeland Security and former U.S. Court of Appeals judge, and Executive Chairman of the Chertoff Group, will become the new chairman of their Board of Trustees…

“Chertoff will assume the chair’s duties from D. Jeffrey Hirschberg at the Board’s next meeting, on October 17 [2018]… As Executive Chairman of the Chertoff Group, Chertoff provides strategic counsel to enterprise and government leaders on a range of security issues. He previously served as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (2005-2009) and as a Judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (2003-2005) and as Assistant U.S. Attorney General (2001-2003). Earlier in his career, he served as a federal prosecutor, prosecuting cases of political corruption, organized crime, corporate fraud, and terrorism.

“He is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School.

“Freedom House, the United States’ first nonprofit organization dedicated to the defense of democracy worldwide, was founded in 1941. It has tackled many of the major threats to freedom, not only fascism and communism abroad but also problems at home, such as McCarthyism and the Jim Crow system in the American South. It created and annually publishes Freedom in the World, which has served as a barometer for the global health of democracy. With the rise of the internet, it created Freedom on the Net, which tracks the growing efforts by governments to censor and manipulate online content. Freedom House also established the world’s leading emergency assistance program for frontline defenders of democracy, embattled civil society organizations, gay and lesbian activists, and those persecuted for their religious beliefs.” Freedom House: Michael Chertoff to Lead Board of Trustees | Freedom House

Chertoff will assume the chair’s duties from D. Jeffrey Hirschberg…” [Hirschberg resigned Aug 10, 2018]

—if you slip on the veneer of ‘NGO’, it’s down the rabbit hole you go….

D. Jeffrey Hirschberg Appointed to the Broadcasting Board of Governors

November 19, 2002

D. Jeffrey Hirschberg of Bethesda, Md., president of Hirschberg, PC and a consultant to Coudert Brothers (global legal affairs), has been appointed to the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), the bipartisan, nine-member board which supervises all non-military U.S. international broadcasting… Hirschberg fills a vacancy on the BBG that was held by Marc Nathanson of Los Angeles, Calif., from 1992 to 2002.

The BBG is an independent federal agency which supervises all U.S. government-supported non-military international broadcasting, including the Voice of America (VOA), Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), Radio Free Asia (RFA), Radio and TV Mart

[U.S.] House Foreign Affairs Committee Hearing on the Broadcasting Board of Governors, June 26 2013:

“Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, my name is Jeff Hirschberg and I had the pleasure of serving on the Broadcasting Board of Governors [BBG] for eight-and-a-half years, from 2002 to 2010. It was an honor to help advance the interests of an organization of committed and courageous journalists who share a deep and abiding sense of mission… The five BBG organizations –Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, Radio Free Asia, Middle East Broadcasting Networks…and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting… now operate in 61 languages in more than 100 countries on every conceivable media platform. Their broadcast signals, from shortwave to satellite, are the best in the agency’s history. So are the results: BBG audiences are at record levels, now more than 200 million weekly… I would argue that the BBG board represents the type of beneficial public-private partnership public diplomacy studies over the last decade have frequently recommended. While the world is awash in media, people still do not have free access to news and information…

“Because we in the U.S. endorse free flows of information, and there is a First Amendment to our Constitution, we support the right of any state or company to publish or broadcast just about whenever and wherever it likes, including on our domestic airwaves. Yet we have to face what we’re up against…to compete effectively… Former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton was right when she said a couple of years ago that there was an ‘information war’ underway. It is my belief that we will lose that information war unless the U.S. is committed to resourcing our broadcast entities sufficiently to meet the challenge…

“Unlike the United States, none of these countries --Russia, China, Qatar—believes in press freedom as a matter of principle or fundamental right. If they did, they would respect press freedom at home, and none does… Our government should not, in my view, cede any territory on the information battlefield…” [read more]

Guest Speaker

Professional affiliation

Executive Vice President of the Northeast MAGLEV and former Governor of the US Broadcasting Board of Governors

Full Biography

Jeff Hirschberg is the Counsel to the Chairman of The Northeast MAGLEV, a firm focused on high speed transportation. Prior to this, Mr. Hirschberg was a Partner and Managing Director of Washington, D.C.-based Kalorama Partners, serving as Senior Advisor to Ogilvy Government Relations. Hirschberg is a former Governor of the US Broadcasting Board of Governors. D. Jeffrey Hirschberg | Wilson Center

Harvey L. Pitt is the Chief Executive Officer of the Global business consulting firm, Kalorama Partners, LLC, and its law firm affiliate, Kalorama Legal Services, PLLC. Prior to founding the two Kalorama firms, Mr. Pitt served as the twenty-sixth Chairman of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission. In that role, from 2001 until 2003, Mr. Pitt was responsible, among other things , for overseeing the SEC’s response to the market disruptions resulting from the terrorist attacks of 9/11, for creating the SEC’s “real time enforcement” program, and for leading the Commission’s adoption of dozens of rules in response to the corporate and accounting crises generated by the excesses of the 1990s… Former Chairman Pitt served previously with the SEC, from 1968 until 1978, including three years as the Commission’s General Counsel (1975-78). Mr. Pitt is currently a Director of GWU Medical Faculty Associates, Inc., a §501 (c)(3) corporation that provides comprehensive medical care to residents of the greater Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, and serves on its Audit Committee. He is a member of the global Advisory Forum of the CQS Hedge Fund and also serves on the Board of Directors to the offshore funds of Paulson & Co., and its affiliates. He is a member of the Board of Directors of Premier Alliance Group, Inc., and serves on the Audit Committee of the U.S Dream Academy, Inc., a §501(c)(3) nonprofit organization… Millennium Management | Harvey Pitt

—The SEC occupied 3 floors of WTC7
“What was in Building 7?” the hidden story of Building 7: What Was In Building 7?

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