Washington lobbyists are required by law to disclose who they work for, how much they get paid and what issues they advocate for. But they’re not obliged to mention it when they do other work—like, say, appear as a policy expert at a think-tank event. [Ian] Brzezinski’s Atlantic Council bio, for instance, says he “leads the Brzezinski Group, which provides strategic insight and advice to government and commercial clients,” but it doesn’t disclose that he’s a registered lobbyist or identify his clients. The Rice University conference agenda listed Brzezinski as a senior fellow with the Atlantic Council without mentioning that he was lobbying for the company that wanted to build the project—or that another panelist was paying him. (Reached by phone, Brzezinski said he was unavailable and referred questions to the Atlantic Council; the Council did not return phone calls or emails requesting comment.)
Brzezinski’s role is hardly anomalous. We found at least 49 people who have simultaneously worked as lobbyists for outside entities while serving as top staff, directors or trustees of 20 of the 25 most influential think tanks in the United States, as ranked by the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program at the University of Pennsylvania.