The Manhattan Institute for Policy Research is a conservative think tank based in New York. Founded in the mid-1970s as the International Center for Economic Policy Studies, the institute sharpened its focus on economic, social, and anti-crime policies, eventually becoming an important source of ideas for the administration of New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani in the 1990s. A 1999 New York Times article described the think tank as home for "a range of species on the right-hand side of the political spectrum: market conservatives, social conservatives, old-style aristocratic conservatives, libertarians, as well as a few registered Democrats and a self-described liberal or two."
The institute produces briefs, commentaries, and policy papers on a host of mostly domestic-oriented issues. According to its website, it operates "six policy centers, which study and promote reform in areas ranging from health care, higher education, legal policy, urban development, immigration, energy, and the economy." Some of its more prominent scholars have included Tamar Jacoby, Heather Mac Donald, Myron Magnet, Steve Malanga, Sol Stern, and Abigail Thernstrom.
The institute publishes theCity Journal, a quarterly magazine on politics and culture whose ideas were once praised by the neoconservative writer John Podhoretz for having made New York "a civilized place again." It convenes a "Young Leaders" circle for "young professionals in the New York metropolitan area interested in free-market ideas and public policy." It organizes evening lectures and cocktail parties with "such leading thinkers as David Brooks, Shelby Steele, William Kristol, and Steve Forbes" for aspiring young conservatives. It also operates a special "Inter-American Policy Exchange" designed to export its ideas to Latin America.
Much of Manhattan's work addresses New York's racial divides. According to Right Wing Watch, "Many of the Center's writers attribute the socio-economic problems of the black community to an overriding sense of victimization, a reliance on government social programs, and a culture adverse to education and individualist social advancement. Accordingly, they contend that government programs such as welfare and affirmative action reinforce the community's sense of dependence and victimization." Many of the Institute's fellows also oppose "government programs intended to accommodate immigrant concerns, such as bi-lingual education."
The institute is well known for advocating the "broken windows" theory of crime and public order, an approach to crime prevention developed by senior fellow George Kelling that relies heavily on an intense police presence. Many institute fellows have strongly supported the New York Police Department's (NYPD) controversial "stop and frisk" policy, which critics and even a federal judge have argued unfairly targets non-white New Yorkers for police harassment. Institute fellow Heather Mac Donald, for example, has credited the policy with "saving lives," charging critics with ignoring "black-on-black crime" and arguing that if anything, "The stop rate for blacks is actually lower than their violent crime rate would predict."
Several writers associated with the institute comment on foreign policy and counterterrorism, particularly those who write for City Journal. One contributing editor to the journal is Judith Miller, a hawkish journalist previously known for peddling Ahmed Chalabi's false intelligence about Iraq's fictitious nuclear weapons program and later for being jailed after refusing to disclose her meeting with Lewis "Scooter" Libby during the 2005 "Plamegate" scandal. From her perch at the institute, Miller has variously championed the Obama administration's targeted assassination program, defended the NYPD's counterterrorism investigations of "ethnic communities" and Muslims not suspected of any crime, and expressed "profound skepticism" about a Russian-orchestrated deal to disarm Syria of its chemical weapons stocks.
Hoover Institution fellow Victor Davis Hanson, another City Journal contributing editor, also has a long track record of hawkish foreign policy advocacy. Like Miller, Hanson staunchly advocated many of the Bush administration's more controversial foreign policy decisions and counterterrorism policies, once deriding the "popular media" for "reduc[ing] the Bush-Cheney administration nearly to the status of war criminals, people who had trumped up nonexistent threats in service to a police state desperate to invent enemies." An unrepentant champion of the Iraq war, Hanson has credited the war with helping to "avoid another September 11" and blasted its critics as "defeatists" and leftists beset by "anti-Americanism and romanticization of the Third World." Vice President Dick Cheney chose the Manhattan Institute as his venue for a 2006 speech in New York promoting the war.
History and Influence
The International Center for Economic Policy Studies (ICEPS) was founded in the mid-1970s as a forum for Anglo-American ideologues and operatives who promoted "free market" and socially conservative philosophies. It changed its name to the Manhattan Institute in 1978.
The co-founders were William Casey and Antony G.A. Fisher. Casey, a Wall Street speculator who later became President Ronald Reagan's CIA chief, served as the first chairman of ICEPS. A longtime conservative, Casey is best known for drawing up the founding papers for the National Review and serving as the founding director of the National Strategy Information Center. Fisher, a British economist and devotee of University of Chicago economists Friedrich von Hayek and Milton Friedman, served as chairman of the Institute for Economic Affairs in London and became a close adviser to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
The organization has had considerable influence on conservative policymakers. Summarizing the institute's strategy, institute President Lawrence Mone said in a 2002 speech to the conservative Philanthropy Roundtable: "We make sure we have the right messenger; people like Charles Murray, George Kelling, and Peter Huber, and then, we market our message to the right people through our books, forums, and City Journal. It takes time, and it takes money, but in the end we know we are making a difference."
To turn "intellect into influence," the institute employs a three-step strategy. "The first vehicle," Mone explained, "is an aggressive book-publishing and marketing program, which redefines debates on national issues." Rather than publishing books itself, as do many think tanks, the institute demands that its scholars "pass the 'market test' of commercial trade houses." Secondly, the institute publishes the quarterly magazine City Journal, which is aimed at New York elites. And thirdly, the institute holds "Manhattan Forums," which "bring together cross-sections of the nation's elites-from the worlds of government, business, journalism, and philanthropy."
The institute's influence is reflected in part through homages from high-profile Republican figures. In 2006, presidential hopefuls Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Rudy Giuliani both spoke before Manhattan Institute audiences. Giuliani, who as mayor of New York City tapped the Manhattan Institute for a host of policy ideas, consistently praised the think tank, including in a statement featured on the institute's website: "Many of the institute's emblematic ideas—from the notion that low taxes encourage businesses to the concept that police should be treated with respect—were originally greeted with skepticism but have since been embraced by well-run cities everywhere. Congratulations on a quarter-century of making a difference."
That same year, Vice President Dick Cheney delivered a major foreign policy speech on the Iraq War at the Manhattan Institute. In his introductory marks, Cheney commended the institute as a "place of tremendous creativity, of original thinking, and of intellectual rigor." He continued: "The scholars of the Manhattan Institute have shown, time and again, the power of good ideas to shape public policy and to have an impact on the lives of people here in New York and across the nation. I congratulate you for building such a fine reputation, and for maintaining it over the years."
President Bush also chose the Manhattan Institute as the location for his 2006 speech on restoring the line-item veto to the presidency. Bush thanked the Manhattan Institute for supporting "pro-growth economic policies-policies that really send a clear signal that we are still the land of dreamers and doers and risk-takers." Bush had previously visited the Manhattan Institute to deliver a major policy speech in 2002. The institute enjoyed strong connections with the George W. Bush administration. For a short period, John J. DiIulio, a senior fellow of the institute, was head of the administration's Office for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.
Funding and Leadership
The Institute has enjoyed the support of several corporations and right-wing foundations over the years. According to Right Wing Watch, "Major contributors include Exxon Mobil, Chase Manhattan, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Lilly Endowment, Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Sarah Scaife Foundation, Roe Foundation, [and the] Smith Richardson Foundation." As of its 2011 tax filings, it had nearly $15 million in net assets.
From 1985 through 2005, the Manhattan Institute received $18.9 million from foundations such as the Sarah Scaife Foundation, Smith Richardson Foundation, Bradley Foundation, Olin Foundation, Earhart Foundation, Carthage Foundation, William Donner Foundation, and Gilder Foundation. Other major grants came from foundations including the John Templeton Foundation, William Simon Foundation, Castle Rock Foundation, Shelby Cullom Davis Foundation, Walton Family Foundation, Jaquelin Hume Foundation, and Claude Lambe Foundation.
The Manhattan Institute's Board of Trustees is led by Paul Singer, a hedge fund billionaire and major funder of Republican causes and neoconservative think tanks, including the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Its president is Lawrence Mone. The board includes a host of investors and attorneys, including Third Point LLC founder Daniel Loeb, a backer of the controversial pressure group the Emergency Committee for Israel. Weekly Standard editor William Kristol is another prominent member. Past trustees have included former Project for the New American Century director Mark Gerson, former American Enterprise Institute chairman Bruce Kovner, and conservative columnist Peggy Noonan.