Friday, July 28, 2017

Think Tanks Using Congressional Hearings to Help Foreign Donors?

With more foreign money flowing into US think tanks, it is becoming more commonplace for think tanks and their scholars to use congressional hearings to lobby on behalf of their foreign donors.  The Institute for Gulf Affairs recently documented an example that brings some recent think tanker testimony into question.  Here is more:

Hundreds of thousands of dollars paid by the United Arab Emirates’ Ambassador to the U.S. to a witness testifying at a congressional hearing later today are casting doubts on his credibility, leaked documents show.
The Center for a New American Security, whose Director of the Middle East Security Program Ilan Goldenberg will testify before the House’s Foreign Affairs Committee, received at least $250,000 in from the United Arab Emirates embassy, the documents show.
The hearing “Assessing the U.S.-Qatar Relationship,” is scheduled for July 26 and called by Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chairman, House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Middle East and North Africa.
The emails also show Mr. Goldenberg’s extensive email and phone communications with U.A.E. Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba since last summer to fund CNAS work and a trip of Goldenberg and colleagues to the U.A.E.
The emails came from the group known as Global Leaks who sent it to the Institute for Gulf Affairs days ago.
The emails also show Goldenberg pushing business contracts for Lockheed Martin, while CNAS’s chief executive officer Michèle Flournoy was lobbying Al Otaiba for Polaris to win a U.A.E. government contract.
The August 2016 invoice was signed by Flournoy and submitted to Ambassador Al Otaiba to request payment for a study about U.A.E missile technology control regime. The study was given to Al Otaiba in February 2017 and distributed to U.A.E leadership, including Abu Dhabi’s crown Prince and strongman Mohamed Bin Zayed, emails show.
CNAS did not answer any questions posed by IGA but emailed the written testimony of Mr. Goldenberg delivered to the subcommittee and included a footnote acknowledging the $250,000 payment. The payment, the statement said, was for a Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) project carried out by CNAS and managed by Goldenberg. U.A.E. is not party to the MTCR.

The Institute for Gulf Affairs (formerly the Saudi Institute), a think tank run by Saudi dissident Ali al-Ahmed, goes on to note that this case "raises legal and ethical questions for congressional committees who rely on witnesses possibly compromised by foreign cash."

In 2015, the House passed a rule requiring witnesses of congressional panels to disclose whether they have been paid by foreign governments.

Update: Here is a new piece from The Intercept entitled "Hacked Emails Show UAE Building Close Relationship With DC Think Tanks That Push Its Agenda."  It has lots of interesting tidbits, including about a UAE-sponsored trip for think tank scholars that was organized by Ilan Goldenberg and Brian Katulis of the Center for American Progress (CAP).