Influence Incognito

15 Pages Posted: 28 Mar 2013

See all articles by Brooke Williams

Brooke Williams

Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics

Date Written: March 28, 2013


Forces at work in the nation’s capital are threatening an institution at the heart of how our lives unfold. Long before think tanks became a fixture in Washington, D.C., people were gathering to ponder important issues for the common good. For a very long time, independent research institutions have bridged intellectual gaps between academia, industry and government. But now most think tanks in this country are increasingly dependent on the very system that renders them untrustworthy. They are partnering with corporations that want to shape public policy in favor of their own bottom lines. But unlike lobbying firms, think tanks don’t have to disclose their donors - leaving the public in the dark about private agendas behind laws that significantly impact day-to-day lives. This paper discusses a data-driven, investigative journalism project that is systematically shedding light on corporate donors to think tanks and exploring what they want and what they are getting in return.

Keywords: think tank, institutional corruption, corporation, ethics, lobbying, lobbyist, donor, conflict of interest, scholar, independent research, influence, database, revolving door

Suggested Citation

Williams, Brooke, Influence Incognito (March 28, 2013). Edmond J. Safra Working Papers, No. 3, Available at SSRN: or

Brooke Williams (Contact Author)

Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics ( email )

124 Mount Auburn Street
Suite 520N
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States


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