Friday, February 3, 2023

Former Congressman Calls for Think Tank Transparency

Former Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) just penned a piece for Newsweek calling for greater think tank transparency when it comes to foreign influence.  Here are some excerpts:

There is currently no way for members of Congress to discern which think tanks are funded by foreign governments—making think tanks effective vehicles for foreign funders to shape U.S. policy right under our noses. There exists a widespread belief that think tanks are exempt from FARA disclosure requirements. While that belief is mistaken, FARA is unlikely to be an effective tool to promote transparency around think tank funding.

To tackle this pressing issue, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Rep. Jack Bergman (R-Mich.) have introduced legislation to require a greater degree of transparency around the foreign funding of think tanks and other public policy-focused nonprofit entities, so that the public and government officials can know about any foreign influence behind research or policy recommendations. The Think Tank Transparency Act would mandate that nonprofits engaged in influencing U.S. policy or public opinion promptly disclose all funds that they receive from foreign entities, as well as all contracts and agreements they enter into with foreign entities. Those nonprofits would have to disclose their funding and contracts to the Department of Justice—which will make such disclosures available for immediate public inspection—within 90 days.


Among other things, Zeldin notes that since 2020, the Stimson Center has actively lobbied against the Homeland and Cyber Threat Act (H.R. 1607), legislation to help those who are victims of foreign hacking activity. 

Zeldin says that the think tank has had "an unusually close working relationship" with Qatar in recent years.  "It received at least $600,000 from Qatar in 2019, and the Qataris appear to be the sole funder of the Stimson Center's "Just Security 2020" program, which works on issues related to cyberattacks.