News Release

Examining the Center for American Progress

The New York Times has had a pair of stories in recent days on the Center for American Progress: “Bernie Sanders Accuses Liberal Think Tank of Smearing Progressive Candidates” and “The Rematch: Bernie Sanders vs. a Clinton Loyalist,” which states: “The Center for American Progress and its sister political arm, with a $60 million combined annual budget and 320 staff members, have played an outsize role in the Democratic Party for nearly two decades. Founded in 2003 by top advisers to Bill and Hillary Clinton, the organization has sought to rebrand itself as a brain trust for the anti-Trump resistance.

“Its donor rolls overlap substantially with those of the Clintons’ campaigns and foundation. The think tank has taken in millions from interests often criticized by liberals, including Wall Street financiers, big banks, Silicon Valley titans, foreign governments, defense contractors and the health care industry. Individual donors can ask to remain anonymous. …

“From 2016 through last year, the center accepted nearly $2.5 million from the United Arab Emirates to fund its National Security and International Policy initiative, according to previously unreported internal budget documents. …

“Internal criticism of the Emirati donations leaked into the news media, prompting an in-house investigation that led to the firing of two staff members. One of them, Ken Gude, a longtime executive, is working with a lawyer on a wrongful dismissal lawsuit.

“In November 2015, after Ms. Tanden invited Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to a question-and-answer session at the center, a dozen staff members stood during an all-staff meeting and read a statement of protest. ‘Our goal is to promote humanity and shut down oppression and genocide and terrorism. Bringing in another head of state with a record of oppression would further push our mission away,’ it read in part.

“In an email Ms. Tanden sent on the day of the Netanyahu visit … released by WikiLeaks, she told the think tank’s founder, John D. Podesta, that the ‘far left hates me’ for hosting Mr. Netanyahu, but the invitation ‘may have sealed the deal with a new board member.’ Ms. Tanden was wooing Mr. [Jonathan] Lavine, a pro-Israel philanthropist.”

ZAID JILANI, [in D.C.] areo64 at gmail.com, @ZaidJilani
Jilani writes about political polarization for UC Berkeley Greater Good Science Center and co-hosts “Extremely Offline,” a podcast “about better conversations between political tribes.” Jilani is blogging on the 2020 election at 2020watch.org.

He used to work at CAP and just wrote the piece “Constructive criticism of the Center for American Progress has helped make it more transparent and responsive over time” which states: “While I worked at the institution from 2009-2012, most of its donors were kept secret. However, following investigations by journalist Ken Silverstein, the think tank decided to disclose most of its donors.

“Similarly, I wrote several articles based off of presumably hacked and leaked emails from the inbox of the Ambassador from the United Arab Emirates that showed that the UAE was both financing CAP and using its senior staff to lobby the Trump administration and influence Washington policy. After a series of articles noting these ties, CAP eventually decided to end its financial relationship with the UAE, as was reported earlier this year.”

See piece by Silverstein from 2013 for The Nation: “The Secret Donors Behind the Center for American Progress and Other Think Tanks.”