The Washington Post

Mitt Romney campaign and the political utility of think tanks

TPM’s Benjy Sarlin has a nice catch Wednesday on how Mitt Romney’s camp now views the Tax Policy Center:

The Romney campaign is pushing back against a new study from researchers at the nonpartisan Brookings Institution and Tax Policy Center suggesting Mitt Romney’s tax proposals would actually increase taxes for a whopping a 95% of Americans, denouncing the Tax Policy Center as a “liberal” group. While the Romney campaign hasn’t rebutted the substance of the study, they claim the Tax Policy Center should be dismissed entirely as a biased source.
But the Obama campaign notes that Romney aides took a very different view of the group when they put out a similar analysis of Rick Perry’s tax plan during the Republican primaries. Here’s how a Romney press release in November described their work: Objective, Third-Party Analysis Showed Governor Perry’s Plan Would Raise Taxes On Millions Of American Families – But He Doesn’t Seem Interested In The Discussion.

A small bone to pick: The Tax Policy Center is a joint project of the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute. Therefore, it’s not accurate to say Brookings Institution and the Tax Policy Center because it would suggest Brookings doesn’t have a role in the Tax Policy Center.

None of that changes the point of Sarlin’s post. On one level, I suppose it’s about a Romney flip-flop. On another, these two instances perhaps show how research and expertise is something of utility for the Romney campaign to score political points rather than something to be heeded for the sake of policy development.

But here’s the question I have: Are think tank policy reports the most expedient tools of political utility the Romney campaign has in its arsenal?

Allen McDuffee writes about politics and policy and covered think tanks for The Washington Post from 2011 to 2013. He freelances and hosts a podcast at and is currently working on a book about the influence of think tanks in Washington.


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