Acting as independent arbiters to shape government policy, many
researchers also have corporate roles that are sometimes undisclosed.
An examination of 75 think tanks found an array of researchers who had simultaneously worked as registered lobbyists, members of corporate boards or outside consultants in litigation and regulatory disputes, with only intermittent disclosure of their dual roles.
With their expertise and authority, think tank scholars offer themselves as independent arbiters, playing a vital role in Washington’s political economy. Their imprimatur helps shape government decisions that can be lucrative to corporations.
But the examination identified dozens of examples of scholars conducting research at think tanks while corporations were paying them to help shape government policy. Many think tanks also readily confer “nonresident scholar” status on lobbyists, former government officials and others who earn their primary living working for private clients, with few restrictions on such outside work.