Defense Scholars Caught Lobbying For Contractors

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Saagar Enjeti White House Correspondent
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The New York Times sweeping Aug. 8 report on Think Tank influence in Washington revealed two Defense scholars touting positions beneficial to defense contractors with whom they have financial ties.

The report details how Roger Zakheim, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, routinely pursued research that showed the U.S. should modernize its military hardware. Zakheim simultaneously served as a registered lobbyist for Pentagon suppliers like Northtrop Grumman and BAE systems.

At the Center for Strategic and International Studies, C. Stewart Verdery Jr served as an unpaid senior associate, while he was allowed to host a panel on a specific border security procedure. Verdery touted expansion of an existing government program, which would financially benefit a client paying Verdery nearly $130,000 a year. The client paying Verdery was included on the expert panel, which had a vested financial interest in the position he was advocating.

CSIS acknowledged to TheNYT Verdery’s, “event did not meet our standards of transparency and integrity,” elaborating “This constituted a lapse in oversight from C.S.I.S.”

Bruce Bartlett, a scholar at the Heritage Foundation and CATO institute, explained experts in the defense experts vie for non-resident unpaid spots at think tanks to bolster their sales pitch to potential clients. Barlett elaborated, “Clients prefer it that way,” continuing “They get a chance to have their work done by scholars.”

The report details how nearly 70 unpaid advisors and scholars served at CSIS while also working as consultants to clients in the defense industry. Only seven of the scholars were registered as lobbyists at the time, which may represent other occasions where think tank events or reports were used for client benefit.

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Saagar Enjeti