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State Department to Call on American Think Tanks to Disclose Foreign Funding

(Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday will push American think tanks to disclose their foreign donors, signifying a crack down on the significant growth of foreign funding to the organizations in recent years, according to a new report.  

While disclosure is not legally required, the Department will ask think tanks to “disclose prominently on their websites” funding they receive from foreign sources, according to a statement Pompeo is slated to make on Tuesday, first obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

“To protect the integrity of civil society institutions, the Department requests henceforth that think tanks and other foreign policy organizations that wish to engage with the Department disclose prominently on their websites funding they receive from foreign governments, including state-owned or state-operated subsidiary entities,” Pompeo will say in a statement.

Reports in recent years have shown how foreign funding has influenced a number of think tanks including the Atlantic Council, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and the Brookings Institute. Foreign governments and state-controlled enterprises have used their financial pull at the organizations to win positive news coverage and to reduce critical narratives.

A 2014 New York Times report found that more than a dozen prominent Washington research groups – which lawmakers, government officials and the media have relied on for independent policy analysis and scholarship – had received tens of millions of dollars from foreign governments. Those same think tanks had worked to push U.S. government officials to adopt policies that aligned with the donors’ priorities, the report said.

The Times report found that Qatar had gained influence at the Brookings Institute with a $14.8 million donation. More recently, a Free Beacon report detailed the influence of the Turkish government on the Atlantic Council, which led to the removal of experts from panels to comply with the Erdogan government’s wishes.

Pompeo’s statement will specifically mention Russian and Chinese attempts to win influence in the U.S. through donations to American think tanks, saying that they “seek to exert influence over U.S. foreign policy through lobbyists, external experts, and think tanks.”

“We hope one day soon that U.S. efforts to promote free and open dialogue about economic and personal liberty, equal citizenship, the rule of law, and authentic civil society, will be possible in places such as China and Russia,” Pompeo will say.

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