Institute for Policy Studies

Not to be confused with the UK-based Policy Studies Institute
Institute for Policy Studies
Abbreviation IPS
Motto Ideas into Action for Peace, Justice, and the Environment.
Formation 1963 (1963)
Type Policy think tank
Headquarters Washington, DC, United States
John Cavanagh[1]
$3.1 million (2013)[2]

The Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) is a left-wing[3][4][5] think tank based in Washington, D.C. It has been directed by John Cavanagh since 1998. The organization focuses on U.S. foreign policy, domestic policy, human rights, international economics, and national security.

IPS has been described as one of the five major, independent think tanks in Washington.[6] Members of the IPS played key roles in the civil rights and anti-war movements of the 1960s, in the women's and environmental movements of the 1970s, and in the peace, anti-apartheid, and anti-intervention movements of the 1980s.[7]



The institute was founded in 1963[8] by two former governmental workers, Marcus Raskin (aide to McGeorge Bundy) and Richard Barnet (aide to John J. McCloy).[6][9]

As soon as IPS opened its doors in 1963, it plunged into the anti-Vietnam War movement.[9] In 1965, Raskin and Associate Fellow Bernard Fall edited The Vietnam Reader, which became a textbook for teach-ins across the country.[10] In 1967, Raskin and IPS Fellow Arthur Waskow penned "A Call to Resist Illegitimate Authority",[11] a document signed by dozens of well-known scholars and religious leaders that helped launch the draft resistance movement. IPS also organized Congressional seminars and published numerous books that challenged the national security state, including Gar Alperovitz’s Atomic Diplomacy and Barnet's Intervention and Revolution. IPS was the object of repeated FBI and Internal Revenue Service probes.[6] The Nixon Administration placed Barnet and Raskin on their now infamous Enemies List.[12]

In 1964, several leading African-American activists joined the staff and turned IPS into a base of support for the Civil Rights Movement in the nation's capital. Fellow Robert Parris Moses organized trainings for field organizers of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee on the links between civil rights theory and practice, while Ivanhoe Donaldson initiated an assembly of African-American government officials. Port Huron SDS co-writer and Civil rights veteran, IPS Fellow Robb Burlage launched the critical health care justice movement as IPS published his book on New York City "medical empires"; founding the Health Policy Advisory Center and its widely read and quoted Bulletin, published for 25 years [archives:].

The IPS was also at the forefront of the feminist movement. Fellow Charlotte Bunch organized a historic women's liberation conference in 1966 and later launched two feminist periodicals, Quest and Off Our Backs. Rita Mae Brown wrote and published her path-breaking lesbian coming-of-age novel Rubyfruit Jungle while on the staff in the 1970s.


In 1976, the Institute's destiny became irrevocably linked with the international human rights movement when agents of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet murdered two IPS colleagues on Washington’s Embassy Row.[13] The target of the car bomb attack was Orlando Letelier, former ambassador to the United States from Chile, one of Pinochet’s most outspoken critics and the head of IPS's sister organization, the Transnational Institute (TNI). Ronni Karpen Moffitt, a 25-year-old IPS development associate, was also killed.

The Institute for Policy Studies hosts an annual human rights award in the names of Letelier and Moffitt to honor these fallen colleagues while celebrating new heroes of the human rights movement from the United States and elsewhere in the Americas. The award recipients receive the Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Award.

The Transnational Institute, an international progressive think tank based in Amsterdam, was originally established as the IPS's international program, although it became independent in 1973.[14]

In its attention to the role of multinational corporations, it was also an early critic of what has come to be called globalization. Richard Barnet's 1974 examination of the power of multinational corporations, Global Reach was one of the first books on the subject.


In the 1980s, IPS became heavily involved in supporting the movement against U.S. intervention in Central America. IPS Director Robert Borosage and other staff helped draft Changing Course: Blueprint for Peace in Central America and the Caribbean, which was used by hundreds of schools, labor unions, churches, and citizen organizations as a challenge to U.S. policy in the region.

In 1985, Fellow Roger Wilkins helped found the Free South Africa Movement,[15] which organized a year-long series of demonstrations that led to the imposition of U.S. sanctions.

In 1986, after six years of the Reagan administration, Sidney Blumenthal claimed that "Ironically, as IPS has declined in Washington influence, its stature has grown in conservative demonology. In the Reagan era, the institute has loomed as a right-wing obsession and received most of its publicity by serving as a target."[16]


In the early 1990s, IPS began monitoring the environmental impacts of U.S. trade, investment, and drug policies.

Since 1994, IPS has also published an annual report on the disparity between CEO and worker pay that has garnered widespread coverage in the mainstream media and helped put the issue of economic inequality at the center of the political debate.[17]


Harvey Klehr, professor of politics and history at Emory University, in his 1988 book Far Left of Center: The American Radical Left Today said that IPS "serves as an intellectual nerve center for the radical movement, ranging from nuclear and anti-intervention issues to support for Marxist insurgencies".[18] Joshua Muravchik, a former scholar with the American Enterprise Institute has also accused the institute of communist sympathies.[19] An analysis from The Heritage Foundation described IPS as, "an avowedly radical organization."[20]

In 1974, the Institute created an "Organizing Committee for the Fifth Estate" as part of its "Center for National Security Studies" which published the magazine CounterSpy. CounterSpy has in turn been the subject of scrutiny by various sources, which claim that the magazine's "driving force"[21] was Philip Agee (an ex-CIA and alleged Cuban/KGB agent[22][23][24]) and whose publications of the names and addresses of several employees of the Central Intelligence Agency contributed to the murder of the then CIA Station Chief in Greece, Richard S. Welch.[20][25]

In his book The KGB and Soviet Disinformation: An Insider's View Ladislav Bittman, a former Státní bezpečnost[26] agent who worked in misinformation operations, claimed that the IPS was part of the Soviet intelligence network.[27][28] Bittman argued that IPS was one of the several liberal think tanks that acted as pro-Soviet propaganda agencies.[29]



Senior scholars


Start-up funding was secured from the Sears heir, Philip Stern, and banker, James Warburg. Most of the money came from a foundation of Samuel Rubin.[6]


  1. "Institute for Policy Studies GuideStar Quick View". Guidestar. Retrieved 2 August 2013.
  2. "IRS Form 990 2013" (PDF). GuideStar. Internal Revenue Service. Retrieved 16 December 2015.
  3. Foster, Bill (June 21, 2014). "Peter Foster: Bill Gates' energy views are a turn-off". Financial Post.
  4. Stangler, Cole (June 17, 2014). "Making Sense of Obama's Clean Power Plan". In these Times.
  5. Soley, Lawrence (September–October 1998). "Heritage Clones in the Heartland". Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting. FAIR. Retrieved 2010-11-04.
  6. 1 2 3 4 Howard J. Wiarda; Esther M. Skelley (2006). The Crisis of American Foreign Policy: The Effects of a Divided America. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 102–103. ISBN 0742530388.
  7. The Internship Bible (10th ed.). The Princeton Review. 2005. p. 223. ISBN 0375764682.
  8. Scholars' Guide to Washington, D.C. for Central Asian and Caucasus Studies. M. E. Sharpe. 2005. pp. 171–172. ISBN 0-7656-1579-7.
  9. 1 2 "Institute for Policy Studies". The Heritage Foundation. April 19, 1977. Retrieved 2 August 2013.
  10. "A Call to Resist Illegitimate Authority".
  11. Barnet and Raskin are listed on the more comprehensive Master list of Nixon political opponents; History of IPS, IPS website
  12. Letelier case
  13. IPS 30th Anniversary Report
  14. FSAM Chronology
  15. Sidney Blumenthal, Washington Post, 30 July 1986, Left-Wing Thinkers
  16. Executive Compensation studies Archived September 27, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  17. Klehr, Harvey (1988) Far Left of Center: The American Radical Left Today p. 177
  18. Muravchik, Joshua (1984). ""Communophilism" and the Institute for Policy Studies". World Affairs. 147 (1).
  19. 1 2 "Institute for Policy Studies". Heritage Foundation. April 19, 1977.
  20. Binnenlandse Veiligheidsdienst, Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) (confidential Dutch intelligence report, 1982), p. 7, 8.
  21. Andrew p. 230, referencing Kalugin, Oleg (1995). Spymaster: The Highest-ranking KGB Officer Ever to Break His Silence. Blake Publishing Ltd. ISBN 1-85685-101-X. p. 191-192 Andrew states: "The KGB files noted by Mitrokhin describe Agee as an agent of the Cuban DGI and give details of his collaboration with the KGB, but do not formally list him as a KGB or DGI agent. vol. 6, ch. 14, parts 1,2,3; vol. 6, app. 1, part 22."
  22. Andrew, p. 231
  23. "Once Again, Ex-Agent Philip Agee Eludes CIA's Grasp", Los Angeles Times, October 14, 1997
  24. Chandler, Robert (2008). Shadow World: Resurgent Russia, the Global New Left, and Radical Islam. Regnery Publishing Inc. pp. 247–248. ISBN 978-1-59698-561-2.
  25. The Czechoslovak communist secret police.
  26. Ladislav Bittman (1985). The KGB and Soviet Disinformation: An Insider's View.
  27. S. Steven Powell (1987). Covert Cadre: Inside the Institute for Policy Studies. p. 359.
  28. The Idea of Propaganda: A Reconstruction. Greenwood Publishing Group. 2002. pp. 119–120. ISBN 0-275-97445-6.
  29. Gerhardt, Tina (24 January 2013). "Joseph Stiglitz and the World Economic Forum: Making the Connection Between Climate Change and Economics". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2 August 2013. Daphne Wysham, fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, agrees that one needs to look beyond GDP.

[1960 History: Burlage] See Chowkwanyun, Merlin, "Public Health Then and Now: The New Left and Public Health--The Health Policy Advisory Center, Community Organizing, and the Big Business of Health, 1967-1975"; American Journal of Public Health, February 2011, Vol. 101, No. 2; particularly page 240 reference to Burlage, Institute for Policy Studies, and Health Policy Advisory Center.

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