Brookings Institution

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

The Brookings Institution, whose predecessor was founded in 1918 by Robert Brookings, was probably the first think tank in the USA. It was initially seen as a Democrat think-tank, but it has progressively moved to the right -- while simultaneously being more ecumenical in its choice of scholars. This makes it difficult to characterise; unlike most of the conservative and libertarian think-tanks which are openly partisan (despite declaring that they aren't).

On its website the organization traces its origins ..

" 1916, when a group of leading reformers founded the Institute for Government Research (IGR), the first private organization devoted to analyzing public policy issues at the national level. In 1922 and 1924, one of IGR's backers, Robert Somers Brookings (1850-1932), established two supporting sister organizations: the Institute of Economics and a graduate school bearing his name. In 1927, the three groups merged to form the Brookings Institution, thus honoring the businessman from St. Louis whose leadership shaped the earlier organizations."

Initially centrist, the Institution took its first step rightwards during the depression in response to the New Deal. In the 1960s, it was linked to the conservative wing of the Democratic party, backing Keynsian economics.

According to Paul Weyrich, the founder of a few dozen right-religious think-tanks (using Joseph Coors money), the drive to start the Mountain States Legal Foundation and the Heritage Foundation in 1970 was to attempt to create research, policy and legal organisation for the conservatives that could be as influential in Washington DC as the Brookings Institution. [1]

However, from the mid-70s, Brookings began to cement a closer relationship with the Republican party. Since the 1990s it has taken steps further towards the right in parallel with the increasing influence of right-wing think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation.

Current Research Programs

The organisation's work concentrates on these research programs: [1]

  • Economic Studies
  • Foreign Policy Studies
  • Global Economy and Development
  • Governance Studies
  • Metropolitan Policy

It also operates the Center for Public Policy Education and the Brookings Institution Press, which publishes about fifty books a year.

Interestingly, a 1995 Raleigh News Observer article described Brookings as a liberal think tank.[2]

Brookings positions on tobacco issues

In general, the Brookings Institution does not seem to be a pro-tobacco think tank but highlights public health achievements on its website. A list of the U.S. Government's 50 Greatest Endeavors includes a section on reducing disease that cites smoking bans on commercial flights, as well as several Public Health Service acts to reduce heart disease and cancer.

Two 1983 Tobacco Institute state tax plans (for fighting cigarette taxes in Oklahoma and Texas) describe the Brookings Institute as a "major liberal think tank," in general not a complimentary assessment coming from the tobacco industry.[3][4]

In 1990, the Brookings Institution sponsored and hosted a seminar at the Institute's headquarters in Washington, D.C. titled, "Health Risks to Airliner Occupants: Exposure to Environmental Tobacco Smoke and Other Pollutants."

Brookings, in a joint venture with the Urban Institute, created the Tax Policy Center which in 2000 compiled a list of tobacco tax revenues for all 50 U.S. States.

A brief search of tobacco industry documents at the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library showed no mention of Brookings as a tobacco industry ally, and no use of Brookings as a third party research group or other front.


Media Transparency lists the Brookings Institution as having received 78 grants totaling $5,711,782 between 1986 and 2003. (Figures unadjusted for inflation). [5]

The funding has come from:

In 2002, Haim Saban pledged $13 million to start a research organization at the Brookings Institution called the Saban Center for Middle East Policy. To put this Policy Center into perspective one should note:

  • the Brookings Institute is the principal Democratic Party think-tank and all issues, and it is a place where "politicians in-waiting" can bide their time until the next election.
  • Haim Sabban is a large media mogul, with large interests in the US, and his company is the largest broadcaster in Germany (owns "ProSiebenSat.1 Media, putting him in control of a company that owns the rough equivalent of CBS, ABC, TBS and Nickelodeon")
  • Saban says "I'm a one-issue guy and my issue is Israel".

It is difficult to imagine that the Brookings-Saban Center will be a think-tank that will represent or research the Middle East with the interests of the broad base of the Democratic party in mind.

Source: Andrew Ross Sorkin, "Schlepping to Moguldom", New York Times, September 5, 2004.

Money received July 1, 2005 – June 30, 2006


$1,000,000 and above:

$500,000 – $999,999:

Sometimes corporations give directly and sometimes through their foundations. Note that money can flow from a corporation to a foundation, then from that foundation to another foundation, and finally to a think tank. Brookings Institution also has categories $250,000 – $499,999, $100,000 – $249,999, etc. A small sampling of others giving these lesser amounts (in order of their listing):

SourceWatch resources on Brookings scholars

Board of Trustees

The Brookings Institution – Board of Trustees with Affiliations as of May 2007:[3]

Cooperation & Affiliation

While the Brookings Institute doesn't appear to be a close friend of the tobacco industry itself, it allies itself with tobacco industry friends ... such as with the...

  • American Enterprise Institute via the US AEI-Brookings Joint Center for Regulatory Studies. They run joint conferences, publications, research
  • Wharton School of Business, via the US Brookings-Wharton Papers on Economic Activity. They conduct joint research, run conferences, publications)

Brookings also has a few fellows who have regularly accepted tobacco industry money on a cash-for-service basis.

Related Articles

Contact details

The Brookings Institution
1775 Massachusetts Ave., NW,
Washington, DC 20036
Phone: (202) 797-6000
Fax: (202) 797-6004
Email: communications AT
Web site:

Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch articles


  1. Brookings Institution, home page, accessed July 2007.
  2. Annual Report, accessed July 2007.
  3. Board of Trustees, accessed July 2007.

External resources

External article

<tdo>resource_id=24062 resource_code=brookings search_term=Brookings Institution</tdo>