Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Think Tank Files as a Foreign Agent for Korea

A longtime Washington think tank has just registered as a foreign agent for South Korea, an exceedingly rare move that was spurred on by the US Department of Justice, which administers the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), taking an increasingly broad view of FARA's scope in recent months.

Here is more from Foreign Lobby Report:

The progressive Center for International Policy (CIP) in Washington has registered as a foreign agent of the Korea Foundation, a Korean think tank that is partly funded by South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Henri Feron, a senior fellow on East Asia and International Law at CIP, has been awarded a one-year, $30,000 grant to conduct a study aimed at identifying a “a middle ground for all three conflict dimensions in Korea — the Korean War, the Korean Peninsula in Sino-American rivalry, and nuclear weapons.” The center objected to registering with the Department of Justice under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) but felt compelled to under the department’s increasingly expansive interpretation of the law in recent years.


Interestingly, CIP has recently written several reports critical of foreign funding of think tanks.  Donors to CIP include the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad), a directorate under the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Waxman Strategies, a lobbying firm founded by the son of former Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), has registered as a foreign agent for Norwegian-funded projects with CIP.

Meanwhile, a number of larger Washington think tanks that work with and essentially lobby on behalf of foreign governments, such as the Brookings Institution, Atlantic Council, and Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE), have so far declined to register as foreign agents.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch piece entitled "Think Tanks May Soon Have to File as Foreign Agents Under FARA."

The US Congress has toyed with the idea of clarifying FARA rules for think tanks over the years with little success.  As noted in a recent Congressional Research Service (CRS) report, a 2016 Inspector General report suggested refining FARA's broadly worded exemptions which sometimes make it difficult for think tanks that receive funding and direction from foreign governments to determine whether they qualify as foreign agents.

In October, the Trump Administration demanded that US think tanks and academic institutions publicly disclose what funding they receive from foreign governments or otherwise risk losing access to State Department officials.

After that declaration, some law firms suggested that think tanks should seriously consider filing under FARA.