Thursday, June 16, 2022

New Bill Compels Think Tanks to Disclose Foreign Donations

Amid reports that former Brookings Institution president John Allen may have illegally lobbied on behalf of Qatar, lawmakers in the US House of Representatives have introduced a new bill requiring think tanks to disclose their foreign donations.

Here is more from the Washington Post:

A House bill introduced Thursday seeks to curb foreign influence in U.S. democracy by imposing a lifetime ban on members of Congress, senior military leaders and senior executive branch officials from lobbying for a foreign government or political party, among other measures.

The legislation would also compel tax-exempt groups, including think tanks, to disclose high-dollar donations and gifts from foreign powers and require political campaigns to verify that donors have a valid U.S. address, using the three-digit CVV code on the back of credit cards.

The legislation addresses issues brought to light more recently by the federal probe into whether retired four-star Marine Gen. John R. Allen, who resigned over the weekend as president of the Brookings Institution, lobbied on Qatar’s behalf without disclosing his activities as required under federal law. And the proposals come amid stepped-up enforcement by the Justice Department of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, including the decision last month to sue Steve Wynn, a developer and Republican megadonor, to compel him to register as an agent of China.

The bill’s sponsors also point to a 2020 study from the D.C.-based Center for International Policy that found that the nation’s premier think tanks received at least $174 million in funding from foreign powers between 2014 and 2018. Among those receiving the most foreign funding, according to the analysis, was Brookings.


The lead sponsor of the bill, which is being called the Fighting Foreign Influence Act, is Rep. Jared Golden (D-ME).  Co-sponsors include Reps. Lance Gooden (R-TX), Katie Porter (D-CA), and Paul Gosar (R-AZ).  Among other things, the bill would require a think tank to disclose gifts and donations from foreign powers greater than $50,000 in a given year.

The text of the bill can be found here.  Similar bills have been introduced in Congress in the past but have all stalled.  With limited calendar space amid a midterm election year, it is unlikely this bill will pass either.

As Think Tank Watch previously reported, Rep. Jack Bergman (R-MI) is pushing for an investigation into Brookings.

Update: Here is Politico's angle on the whole Allen/Brookings incident.