US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is leveraging the fear of Russia and China to demand funding transparency from think tanks the State Department works with, while omitting the actual, documented sources of influence dollars.
Citing the need to “protect the integrity of civil society institutions,” Pompeo announced on Tuesday that think tanks and other organizations that “wish to engage” with the State Department need to “disclose prominently on their websites funding they receive from foreign governments, including state-owned or state-operated subsidiary entities.”
To protect the integrity of our relationships with think tanks and related institutions we’re taking a simple step to encourage transparency: think tanks that wish to engage with the @StateDept should disclose funding they receive from foreign governments. https://t.co/TRdy7cvMMM
— Morgan Ortagus (@statedeptspox) October 13, 2020
While Foggy Bottom welcomed the “diverse” outside expertise to better advance US interests, Pompeo said he was “mindful” that “some foreign governments, such as those of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Russian Federation” seek to influence US foreign policy through “lobbyists, external experts, and think tanks.”
The new policy is distinct from existing requirements under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) and while it doesn’t bar engagement with entities that refuse disclosure, strictly speaking, State Department staff are told to be “mindful” of it when deciding “whether and how” to work with them.
Pompeo has been one of the more outspoken Trump administration officials on the subject of China, arguing in July that Beijing is a threat to “our people and our prosperity” and that the “free world” has to “change communist China” or be changed by it, going forward. Last year, he tried to expand the mission of NATO to the “current and potential long-term threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party.”
The State Department has likewise leveraged the baseless accusations of “collusion” leveled at the Trump administration by the media and Democrats to harden the US policy towards Moscow.
Focusing on Beijing and Moscow in Tuesday’s announcement was “pretty hollow,” according to Sarah Margon from the foreign policy arm of George Soros’ Open Society Foundations, as it did not mention the well-documented funding of US think tanks and lobbyists coming from places such as Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, among others.
Going after China & Russia for their US think tanks support & retention of US lobbyists is pretty hollow when you omit so many other major players that do the same, incl UAE, Saudi, Qatar, Israel & Egypt (to name just a few other govts). https://t.co/sxNGbzy7u7
— sarah margon (@sarahmargon) October 13, 2020
Indeed, a 30-page report compiled by the Center for International Policy and published in February lists a number of countries funding US think tanks. China is mentioned in three instances, while the UK, Qatar and the UAE feature prominently. Russia is not on the list at all.
We tracked more than $174 million in foreign funding going to the nation’s top think tanks in our new report “Foreign Funding of Think Tanks in America.” It’s a must read for understanding this seldom discussed avenue of foreign influence https://t.co/jzRBIjgxzkpic.twitter.com/2bfQSHhiRb
— Ben Freeman (@BenFreemanDC) January 31, 2020