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PHANTOM THINK-TANKS -- The Independent Institute
The temptation is to treat all think-tanks as if they were real policy/advocate organisations with staff and participating members holding similar political and social ideas. This is probably true for some -- but for others, these organisations are ephemeral: they don't even have enough substance to be classed as an 'astroturf'.
David Theroux, the founder and 'President' of the Independent Institute in Oakland CA reveals this in his explanatory note to the Tobacco Institute, explaining how his phantom organisation was able to churn out "six to ten major books per year".

In contrast to traditional policy organizations, the Institute does not "house" its Research Fellows, but instead pays an honorarium on a performance basis only for work completed that passes the critical review of a special schloarly committee selected for the project.[1]

Translated: "We are only agents for publication, acting as a surreptitious link between the industry-selected authors and the tobacco industry. So we have no overheads. Our review panel will consist of like-minded academics who will support the project."

The chapters in the books were still sent to the Tobacco Institute for "improvements", checking and legal clearance, then returned for peer review by their fellow network associates. [2] [3] In fact the Independent Institute was linked to the Cato Institute, and they shared staff and 'fellows'.

Two of the Cash for Comment Economists Network who used the Independent Institute to construct a veneer of status and veracity to support their fabricated op-eds were:

  • Robert Higgs who styled himself "Research Director" of the Institute, even though there was no actual research to direct. He probably acted as administrator of publication and publicity when they produced books. David B Kopel became Research Director later - with an equal lack of qualifications and research to direct.
  • Barry W Poulson who became a "Senior Fellow" in an institute (which was devoid of actual fellow members) when he lost his prestigious position as Professor of Economics at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

In late 1993 Theroux's phantom Independent Institute received $56,750 from RJ Reynolds and $21,000 from Philip Morris. [4]