Non-profit

Tobin Project

Website:

www.tobinproject.org

Location:

CAMBRIDGE, MA

Tax ID:

20-3105790

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(3)

Budget (2017):

Revenue: $569,254
Expenses: $1,222,784
Assets: $2,904,998

Formation:

2005

Type:

Think tank

Founder:

David A. Moss

The Tobin Project is a left-of-center economic think tank that organizes and funds academic research and policy proposals to advance liberal priorities in economic regulation and national security policy. Founded by a Harvard University professor of business administration and named for an economist best known for promoting robust government intervention in the economy, the Tobin Project is an important interface point where left-of-center academics and policymakers coordinate to develop and promote left-leaning economic and international relations policies. [1] [2]

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), then a Harvard Law School professor, first introduced her proposal for what would become the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) at a 2007 Tobin Project working group meeting and developed the regulatory body’s controversial and possibly unconstitutional structure through the Tobin Project process. [3] [4] [5]  She is a former member of the Tobin Project’s steering committee.

History

The Tobin Project was founded in 2005 by David Moss, a Harvard University professor of business administration. He named it in honor of  his former professor James Tobin, a Nobel laureate in economics who has been called “America’s most distinguished Keynesian economist.” [6] [7] With significant support from high-profile left-of-center foundations and with its connections to left-wing academic circles through Harvard and other universities, the Tobin Project has grown a network of  700 professors, 150 graduate students and policy makers from more than 200 institutions to develop and promote left-wing policies.

Together they develop research questions for the network, conduct conferences, and publish books based on the research conducted with the intent to influence policy in core areas including corporate engagement in politics, financial market regulation, economic inequality and “sustainable” national security. [8]

In 2013, the Tobin Project received the “MacArthur Award for Creative & Effective Institutions” from the left-of-center MacArthur Foundation for its contributions to policies that increased federal regulation of the financial industry, including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. [9]

Leadership

David Moss is a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, former student at Yale University of James Tobin and founder of the Tobin Project. [10] [11]

Tobin Project founding board member Arthur Segel is a professor of management practice at Harvard. He was named one of the “30 most influential players in real estate” by Private Equity Real Estate magazine, and is a board member of the influential left-leaning Urban Institute. [12] Segel is a significant donor to Democratic Party candidates, and served in the administration of former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis (D-MA). [13] The Tobin Project used Segel’s connections from his career in real estate and finance and from his political involvement to attract its initial policymaker participants.

Stephanie Khurana served as acting executive director and currently serves as a director of the Tobin Project. She is managing director of the left-of-center Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation that acts as a venture capital investor in non-profit and for-profit organizations engaged in energy, education, and other largely left-wing social change topics. [14]

Other directors include Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, Charles H. Ledley, and Jamie Mai of the left-of-center Mai Family Foundation. [15]

Policy Priorities

Tobin Project scholars have promoted a variety of left-of-center policy priorities over the years, including:

  • Increased enforcement of the Voting Rights Act to safeguard “racial bloc voting.” [16]
  • Determining methods of increasing regulatory oversight of industries. [17]
  • Increased power and authority for the S. Environmental Protection Agency, while limiting states’ environmental regulation powers. [18]
  • Promoting the viewpoint that, “the great recession happened because the growing American financial sector sought to base its business around selling risky mortgages to individuals.” [19]
  • Mandatory state voter registration. [20]
  • Giving responsibility for electoral district creation to “citizen assemblies.” [21]
  • Creation of a national voter registration list for federal elections, managed by the federal government. [22]
  • Government funding of elections through a four-to-one “match” of small-dollar donations or a tax deduction for such donations. [23]
  • Promoting increased wealth redistribution. [24]
  • Downplaying the value of American military engagement around the world in safeguarding the global economic order. [25]

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Then-Harvard Law School Professor Elizabeth Warren first presented her proposal for what would become the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) at a Tobin Project working group in 2007. [26] [27] Her work to develop and promote the CFPB would later become a key theme of her successful candidacy for the U.S. Senate from Massachusetts and in her campaign for the Democratic Party nomination for President in 2020. [28] [29]

The structure of the CFPB, as designed by Warren during her work with the Tobin Project, is the subject of significant controversy over its insulation of the agency from the normal checks and balances limiting the power of federal government agencies. [30] In 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide a case claiming the agency’s structure violates the Constitution, which the Trump administration argues it does. [31] [32]

Funding

The project is backed financially by high-profile left-of-center foundations such as the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, Fidelity Investments Charitable Gift Fund, Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, and the Mai Family Foundation. [33] [34] [35]

2018 expenses of $1,243,984 were similar to 2017’s total of $1,222,784 as revenue dropped from $544,331 to $541,500 during the same time frame. In 2018 salaries accounted for 69.4% ($863,596) while expenses represented 26.8% ($333,443) of Tobin Project’s spending. [36]

Assets have declined significantly from 2014 forward due to declines in revenue without a corollary reduction in expenses. Assets of $4,351,981 in 2014 had dropped to $2,187,961 at the close of 2018. [37] [38]

References

  1. Gudrais, Elizabeth. “Rebooting Social Science.” Harvard Magazine, June 17, 2014. https://harvardmagazine.com/2014/07/rebooting-social-science. ^
  2. “James Tobin.” Econlib. Accessed February 25, 2020. https://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/bios/Tobin.html. ^
  3. “May 2007: Risk Working Group Meeting.” The Tobin Project. Accessed February 25, 2020. https://www.tobinproject.org/news-article/may-2007-risk-working-group-meeting. ^
  4. Frankel, Alison. “CFPB Just Told SCOTUS It’s Unconstitutional. What Does That Mean for Its Mission?” Reuters. Thomson Reuters, September 18, 2019. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-cfpb-standing-lawsuit/cfpb-just-told-scotus-its-unconstitutional-what-does-that-mean-for-its-mission-idUSKBN1W32UJ. ^
  5. “March 2009: Financial Product Safety Commission Act of 2009 Builds on Elizabeth Warren’s Research.” The Tobin Project. Accessed February 25, 2020. https://www.tobinproject.org/news-article/march-2009-financial-product-safety-commission-act-2009-builds-elizabeth-warrens. ^
  6. “James Tobin.” Econlib. Accessed February 25, 2020. https://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/bios/Tobin.html. ^
  7. McMurrie, Beth. “Tobin Project Coordinates ‘Transformative Research’ by Scholars and Policy Makers.” chronicle.com. Chronicle of Higher Education, March 1, 2013. https://www.chronicle.com/article/Tobin-Project-Coordinates/137619/. ^
  8. “Scholar Community.” The Tobin Project. Accessed January 8, 2020. https://www.tobinproject.org/community/scholar-community. ^
  9. “Tobin Project.” MacArthur Award for Creative & Effective Institutions. MacArthur Foundation. Accessed February 25, 2020. https://www.macfound.org/maceirecipients/71/. ^
  10. Moss, David A. “Faculty & Research.” David A. Moss – Faculty – Harvard Business School. Accessed January 8, 2020. https://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Pages/profile.aspx?facId=6518. ^
  11. McMurrie, Beth. “Tobin Project Coordinates ‘Transformative Research’ by Scholars and Policy Makers.” chronicle.com. Chronicle of Higher Education, March 1, 2013. https://www.chronicle.com/article/Tobin-Project-Coordinates/137619/. ^
  12. “Team.” Regent Properties. Accessed February 25, 2020. https://www.regentproperties.com/team. ^
  13. “Political Campaign $$$Contributors By Last Name *Individuals Who Have Contributed $200 or More.” Campaign Finance – Money, Political Finance, Campaign Contributions. Accessed January 8, 2020. https://www.campaignmoney.com/finance.asp?pg=1&type=in&criteria=segel&ra=95600&rc=53&prevpage=6&cycle=16&fname=arthur. ^
  14. “Team.” Stephanie Khurana | DRK Foundation | Supporting passionate, high impact social enterprises. Accessed January 8, 2020. https://www.drkfoundation.org/team-member/stephanie-khurana/. ^
  15. “Leadership & Staff.” The Tobin Project. Accessed January 8, 2020. https://www.tobinproject.org/about/leadership-staff. ^
  16. “Race, Reform, and Regulation of the Electoral Process: Recurring Puzzles in American Democracy.” The Tobin Project. Accessed February 25, 2020. http://tobinproject.org/books-papers/race-reform-regulation-electoral-process. ^
  17. “Preventing Regulatory Capture: Special Interest Influence and How to Limit It.” The Tobin Project. Accessed February 25, 2020. http://tobinproject.org/books-papers/preventing-capture. ^
  18. Meisner, Marc Allen. “Design for Environment: Lessons from Environmental Protection.” Tobin Project. Accessed February 25, 2020. http://tobinproject.org/sites/tobinproject.org/files/assets/Eisner_Mark_Design for Environment.pdf. ^
  19. Fligstein, Neil, and Adam Goldstein. “Catalyst of Disaster: Subprime Mortgage Securitization and the Roots of the Great Recession.” Tobin Project. Accessed February 25, 2020. http://tobinproject.org/sites/tobinproject.org/files/assets/Fligstein_Catalyst of Disaster_0.pdf. ^
  20. Fraga, Luis Ricardo. “Six Ways to Reform Democracy.” Boston Review, September 6, 2006. http://bostonreview.net/six-ways-to-reform-democracy-voting. ^
  21. Fraga, Luis Ricardo. “Six Ways to Reform Democracy.” Boston Review, September 6, 2006. http://bostonreview.net/six-ways-to-reform-democracy-voting. ^
  22. Fraga, Luis Ricardo. “Six Ways to Reform Democracy.” Boston Review, September 6, 2006. http://bostonreview.net/six-ways-to-reform-democracy-voting. ^
  23. Fraga, Luis Ricardo. “Six Ways to Reform Democracy.” Boston Review, September 6, 2006. http://bostonreview.net/six-ways-to-reform-democracy-voting. ^
  24. Charité, Jimmy, Raymond Fisman, and Ilyana Kuziemko. “Reference Points and Redistributive Preferences: Experimental Evidence.” NBER. National Bureau of Economic Research, March 5, 2015. https://www.nber.org/papers/w21009. ^
  25. Drezner, Daniel W. “Military Primacy Doesnt Pay (Nearly As Much As You Think).” International Security38, no. 1 (2013): 52–79. https://doi.org/10.1162/isec_a_00124. ^
  26. “May 2007: Risk Working Group Meeting.” The Tobin Project. Accessed February 25, 2020. https://www.tobinproject.org/news-article/may-2007-risk-working-group-meeting. ^
  27. Warren, Elizabeth. “Unsafe at Any Rate.” Democracy Journal, 2007. https://democracyjournal.org/magazine/5/unsafe-at-any-rate/. ^
  28. Stewart, Emily. “Elizabeth Warren Has Just One Plan.” Vox. Vox, September 20, 2019. https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2019/9/20/20867899/elizabeth-warren-cfpb-founding-plans-obama-president. ^
  29. “Elizabeth’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Is Standing Up For American Consumers and Holding Wall Street Accountable.” Fact Squad. Warren for President, August 19, 2019. https://facts.elizabethwarren.com/cfpb/. ^
  30. Cowley, Stacy. “Court Gives President More Power Over Consumer Agency Chief.” The New York Times. The New York Times, October 11, 2016. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/12/business/dealbook/consumer-financial-protection-bureau-court-ruling-unconstitutional.html?_r=1. ^
  31. Howe, Amy. “Justices to Review Constitutionality of CFPB Structure.” SCOTUSblog, October 18, 2019. https://www.scotusblog.com/2019/10/justices-to-review-constitutionality-of-cfpb-structure/. ^
  32. Frankel, Alison. “CFPB Just Told SCOTUS It’s Unconstitutional. What Does That Mean for Its Mission?” Reuters. Thomson Reuters, September 18, 2019. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-cfpb-standing-lawsuit/cfpb-just-told-scotus-its-unconstitutional-what-does-that-mean-for-its-mission-idUSKBN1W32UJ. ^
  33. “Supporting the Tobin Project.” The Tobin Project. Accessed January 8, 2020. http://tobinproject.org/about/support. ^
  34. Mai Family Foundation, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990-PF), 2016, Part XV Line 3, Accessed January 8, 2020. ^
  35. Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form990-PF), 2014, Part XV Line 3, Accessed January 8, 2020. ^
  36. Tobin Project, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990), Part I Lines 18, 3, 15, 17, 2018 and 2017. Accessed January 8, 2020. ^
  37. Tobin Project, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990), Part I Line 22, 2018. Accessed January 8, 2020. ^
  38. Tobin Project, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax (Form 990), Part I Line 22, 2014. Accessed January 8, 2020. ^
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: February 1, 2006

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2017 Dec Form 990 $569,254 $1,222,784 $2,904,998 $43,452 N $544,331 $0 $18,220 $228,646
    2016 Dec Form 990 $1,122,696 $1,282,143 $3,542,431 $27,587 N $1,116,019 $0 $5,352 $139,364
    2015 Dec Form 990 $614,288 $1,291,651 $3,710,657 $35,968 N $607,026 $0 $5,479 $154,107 PDF
    2014 Dec Form 990 $1,345,237 $1,185,207 $4,387,128 $35,147 N $1,337,592 $0 $5,043 $317,745 PDF
    2013 Dec Form 990 $1,667,358 $1,117,112 $4,234,872 $42,870 N $1,652,932 $0 $11,510 $320,614 PDF
    2012 Dec Form 990 $1,511,665 $1,106,455 $3,688,991 $47,194 N $1,490,500 $0 $19,448 $0 PDF
    2011 Dec Form 990 $1,197,586 $1,023,647 $3,291,166 $54,579 N $1,176,978 $0 $19,161 $278,000 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    Tobin Project

    1 MIFFLIN PL STE 240
    CAMBRIDGE, MA 02138-4947