The 10-year-old Progress & Freedom Foundation announced a change in leadership yesterday, naming Republican lawyer Raymond L. Gifford, the chair of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, as its next president.
"I will probably start by playing to my strengths, which are telecom and electricity regulation, and by looking to the state side of that equation, which is very important and often overlooked, " said Gifford, 35, an expert on regulatory law and economics -- and a protege of Gale A. Norton, the interior secretary and former Colorado attorney general.
President Jeffrey A. Eisenach is leaving the organization he co-founded to join former boss James C. Miller III at CapAnalysis, the economic consulting arm of Howrey, Simon, Arnold & White.
"I have loved being president of PFF and could have been president for a long time and been happy, but the job offer Jim made was one you don't say no to," said Eisenach, who wouldn't talk numbers but noted, "Let's just say the private sector pays better than the think tank sector." After 10 years, "I felt like it was time for a change."
PFF's low point came in the mid-1990s, when it was implicated in the House ethics committee investigation into then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.). After a three-year inquiry, the IRS cleared PFF, but the tank had suffered financially.
The foundation survived, focusing more narrowly on digital and telecommunication issues, and founding the well-regarded Aspen Summit, an annual conference on cyberspace policy. Its annual budget is about $2 million per year, all of which is raised from corporations.
The PFF job will be Gifford's first foray into professional Washington, although he has ties to the city, including a stepfather serving in Congress -- Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.). "I hope I'm ready to take the show to the big city and see how I do."
MORE CLOUDS ON RISING SUN: Things took a turn from the testy to the nasty last week when the usually unflappable Ron Nessen of the Brookings Institution abruptly ended a conversation with Japan scholar Mindy Kotler by yelling, "[expletive] you!" into the telephone and then slamming down the receiver.
"I am a graduate of Smith College," Kotler told us late last week. "That is not how you talk to Smith women." Or any other women, for that matter.
Well, it's not that Nessen wasn't provoked. Kotler acknowledged that she inadvertently accused Nessen, vice president for communication at Brookings, of working for presidents Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford. "I did not work for Nixon!" bellowed Nessen. (He was Ford's press secretary from 1974-76).
It all started last week, when this column reported the sacking of Brookings Japan scholar Edward J. Lincoln. The move infuriated some members of the Japanese community here and prompted at least three articles in major Japanese newspapers decrying the diminution of Japanese studies in Washington policy circles.
Nessen declared that Brookings had not lost its love for things Japanese, noting that eight Brookings scholars worked on Japan-related issues. Local Japan scholars allegedly "howled when we read that; we couldn't come up with more than three" and they were mainly part-timers, Kotler said.
So she called Nessen on Dec. 11 and demanded the names of the Gang of Eight. Of these "only three specifically mentioned Japan as an area of expertise in their Brookings biography," she wrote in Asia Policy Weekly. Only one "has Japanese language skills," and he was the sacked Ed Lincoln, who sits on the board of Kotler's Japan Information Access Project.
Nessen had no comment when reached yesterday.
SCORE ONE FOR THE WEB: This month marks the last print edition of the 27-year-old Population Today newsletter, published by the Population Reference Bureau.
"It was a decision based mainly on finances, on the limited pool of flexible funding," said PRB President Peter J. Donaldson. "The Web site has become very, very popular, and so in these times to maintain both the Web site and Population Today was more than we felt we could afford. We decided to focus on putting content on the site, and saving the money previously spent on printing and mailing the publication."
As a parting gift, the editors reprinted PT's most-requested article: "How Many People Have Ever Lived on Earth," by senior demographer Carl Haub, originally published in early 1995. Haub's admittedly "semi-scientific" speculation: about 106 billion. In other words, you are sharing the planet with about 5.8 percent of all people ever born.
THINKING FOR A MOVEMENT: You might have had to squeeze into the elevator with some rain-drenched peace protesters to get there, but the snacks were tasty and the atmosphere jolly in the 10th floor offices of the defiantly liberal Institute for Policy Studies last Friday night, where staff and friends celebrated the holidays and the publication of four new books.
"We've had a very good year," said IPS head John Cavanagh, laughingly admitting to some "antiwar profiteering" in the form of increased donations from people alarmed by the prospect of war with Iraq.
One of the new reports being feted is an attempt to answer the question that has dogged the anti-globalization movement from its start: "We know what you're AGAINST . . . What are you FOR?"
"Alternatives to Economic Globalization," drafted by a 19-member committee co-chaired by Cavanagh and Jerry Mander of the Public Media Center, lays out an intellectual agenda for the diverse group. Cavanagh said that IPS has de-emphasized books in recent years, but felt this particular work was needed.
"Even movements need reflection," he said.