Matthew Continetti, writing for the Washington Free Beacon:
Foreign governments and their citizens are forbidden from contributing to U.S. elections. If a foreign government hires a lobbyist to influence the legislative or executive branches of the United States, that lobbyist must disclose his contracts and activities with the Justice Department in compliance with the Foreign Agents Registration Act. FARA is so strict that it applies not only to lobbyists, but to any American who works within the United States to influence our politics on behalf of a foreign interest. Break the law, and you go to jail.
Yet there is a loophole for foreign contributions to U.S. think tanks. And today that loophole is being exploited to an extent that mocks the very purpose of FARA. Earlier this month, the New York Timespublished a blockbuster report on foreign influence over D.C. nonprofits. Its conclusion: “Since 2011, at least 64 governments, state-controlled entities, or government officials have contributed to a group of 28 major United States-based research organizations, according to disclosures by the institutions and government documents.”
These institutions, the Times suggests, have received “a minimum of $92 million in contributions or commitments from overseas government interests over the last four years.” But who knows. “The total is certainly more.”
The report generated well-deserved outrage. A rule change has been introduced in the House to require think tanks to disclose sources of foreign funding when they testify before Congress. It’s a solid proposal. But it does not go far enough. Congress should pass a law making contributions to think tanks by foreign governments and foreign nationals subject to FARA. What else could that money be for, if not to influence policy and public opinion to further foreign interests? Here is one area where transparency is vital. Let the money be disclosed. Or let it dry up.
This is not a trivial matter. The Times investigation raised serious questions regarding national security. Among the nations attempting to influence U.S. politics by funding think tanks is China. No doubt Russia, which has been supporting anti-fracking campaigns in Europe and operates a propaganda outfit in the United States, is also involved. We won’t know for sure until the recipients of money from Beijing and the Kremlin complete their FARA forms.
Whole thing here.