Ken Silverstein delivered a blistering account of the Lexington Institute in this month's Harper's magazine ("Mad Men: Introducing the defense industry's pay-to-play ad agency"). As one of the magazine's annotations (available to subscribers only), Silverstein uses a Lexington policy brief to talk about all the ways he can think of in a two-page spread in which Lexington acts as a public relations agency for its donor. But this is the gist:
Despite casting itself as an intellectual clearing house, it is in fact an advertising firm on retainer for the defense industry.
And the pay seems to reflect that rather than a non-profit, as Bruce Bartlett recently pointed out in his Forbes column.
Not surprisingly, the executives of such organizations are paid more like lobbyists than academics. According to the information posted at www.guidestar.com, the top two officials at Lexington were paid $360,000 each in 2008.
What that salary requires, according to Silverstein, is some risky decision-making. Loren Thompson, the chief operating officer at Lexington, "played a supporting role" in the 2003 fiasco surrounding Boeing's attempt to acquire a lease-to-buy contract with the Air Force for refueling tankers.
The contract--which at $24 billion would have cost the Air Force significantly more than simply buying a new fleet outright--was canceled when Senator John McCain discovered that an Air Force procurement official had fixed the deal for Boeing while negotiating a job for herself with the company. McCain also unearthed emails showing that the Air Force had used Thompson to sell the deal to the press. As a senior aiude to Air Force Secretary James Roche put it in one of the messages: "We've got Loren doing the Lord's work again. '3rd Party' support at its best."
Silverstein also pointed out that Thompson runs Source Associates, a for-profit defense consulting firm, with clients like Lockheed Martin--a company that figures favorably in Lexington's analyses.
Thompson, for his part, offered Silverstein this defense:
"I'm not going to work on a project unless somebody, somewhere, is willing to pay. This is a business, he told me. "My bottom line is that if what I write and say is true, it doesn't really matter what my motives are."