Thursday, October 9, 2014

Rep. Wolf Forces DOJ's Hand on FARA Ruling for Think Tanks

The fallout from last month's New York Times piece on foreign government funding of US think continues, with Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) demanding that the US Department of Justice look into whether think tanks are violating federal law by accepting foreign government money without registering as so-called "foreign agents."

Here is the letter, dated October 8, that Rep. Wolf sent to Attorney General Eric Holder.  The letter cites last month's New York Times article on think tank funding, and says that he does not think that think tanks such as Brookings, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), and Center for Global Development (CGD) intentionally sought to circumvent Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) laws or act inappropriately.

Rather, Rep. Wolf said that the DOJ needs to review its guidance and enforcement of FARA to provide clarity on whether funding from foreign government or state-run institutions to US think tanks should be disclosed under the law.  He also called on the DOJ to update its FARA regulations and guidance to help define whether the receipt of this form of foreign government funding would qualify a think tank as a foreign agent.

The New York Times, which broke the story, quotes a Justice Department spokesman of saying that they are aware of Rep. Wolf's letter and are reviewing it.

Here is a Think Tank Watch list of responses to the original New York Times piece on foreign government funding of US think tanks.

Shortly after that NYT piece, Rep. Frank Wolf called on the Brookings Institution to stop accepting money from all foreign governments.

Also in response, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) floated a proposal that would require witnesses that appear before congressional committees, including think tankers, to disclose the amount and source of any money received during the current fiscal year or either of the two previous fiscal years by the witness or an entity the witness has been paid to represent.

More details coming soon...