Director, Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative

Dr. Ben Freeman is the Director of the Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative at the Center for International Policy, where he works to expose how foreign governments are influencing U.S. public policy and elections. This work builds upon his book, The Foreign Policy Auction, which was the first book to systematically analyze the foreign influence industry in the U.S.

Before launching the Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative, Dr. Freeman was the Deputy Director of the National Security program at Third Way. Prior to joining Third Way, he served as the National Security Fellow at the Project On Government Oversight from 2011 to 2013, where he spear-headed creation of the “Foreign Influence Database,” a repository of propaganda distributed by foreign agents that was previously unavailable online.

Dr. Freeman earned his Ph.D. from Texas A&M University, completing a dissertation that investigated the ability of foreign governments to effectively lobby for economic and military assistance from the United States. Upon graduation, Dr. Freeman taught in the Political Science Department and the Bush School of Government and Public Policy at Texas A&M. His work has appeared in numerous media outlets, including the New York Times, Politico, and CNN, and he has testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Recent Features


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Recent Publications

Report: The Emirati Lobby: How the UAE Wins in Washington

How has the UAE maintained its privileged status? In short, the UAE has a vast and immensely influential lobbying and public relations campaign in America that has allowed the monarchy to exert considerable sway over U.S. policy, while keeping the UAE’s indiscretions largely hidden. In this report we attempt to tell the story of that influence operation.

by Ben Freeman


Report: Sustainable Defense: More Security, Less Spending

An alternative defense strategy that avoids unnecessary and counterproductive wars, reduces the U.S. global military footprint, takes a more realistic view of the major security challenges facing the United States, and reduces waste and inefficiency could save at least $1.2 trillion in projected spending over the next decade while providing a greater measure of security...

Sustainable Defense Task Force, co-directed by William Hartung and Ben Freeman


Report: The Saudi Lobby in 2018

If the findings in this report are any indication, the Saudi lobby in Washington is feverishly contacting Executive branch officials and Congressional offices to stymie legislation that would punish Saudi Arabia for its actions, and they’re likely making campaign contributions to those same Members of Congress.

by Ben Freeman


Report: The Saudi Lobby: How the Kingdom Wins in Washington

The brutal murder of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Arabia consulate in Turkey has placed newfound and long overdue scrutiny on Saudi Arabia’s influence operation in the United States.

by Ben Freeman


Report: Making Sense of Foreign Agents Registration Act Advisory Opinions

The first comprehensive list of Advisory Options under FARA...

by Sarah Jolley, Hannah Poteete, Ben Freeman


Latest News

Why Is a Washington State Senator Lobbying for Cambodia?


But Ben Freeman, director of the Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative at the Center for International Policy, argues that just because something is legal doesn’t mean it’s ethical. “Even if Senator Ericksen isn’t directly cashing in on his office, he’s making money as a foreign agent while serving as an elected official,” Freeman said. “At the very least this poses a lot of questions about potential conflicts of interest,” Freeman added. “It’s fair to say his constituents would prefer he fight for their interests, not a dictator’s. Do we really want our representatives to be on the payroll of foreign powers?”

Ben Freeman quoted

Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative

REVEALED: UAE-linked donors gave $3m to Democrats and Republicans after Trump won


Ben Freeman, the director of the Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative at the Washington, DC-based Center for International Policy, told MEE expanding giving to the Republican party made sense after 2016. "If you are looking to rub elbows with high-ranking party offices - the Mitch McConnells and Devin Nuneses - your best bet is to hit up the party. You are in the loop with everybody," he said. "This actually fits the mold of what we typically see in the foreign influence space. Foreign lobbyists aren't picking sides, they're doing whatever they can to influence both sides and that often means giving substantial sums of money to both parties."

Ben Freeman quoted

Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative

Investigation: Buttigieg Took Thousands of Dollars From Active Foreign Agents


Mayor Pete swore off 2020 campaign money from lobbyists—but there are still questions around his foreign-linked money.

Ben Freeman mentioned

Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative

CAP Publicly Distanced Itself From the UAE. 8 Months Later, It Was Still Meeting with UAE Lobbyists.


CAP and Katulis’ relationship with UAE lobbyists goes back further. A recent report by Ben Freeman of the Center for International Policy found that UAE “foreign agents,” most commonly Harbour’s Richard Mintz, contacted Katulis “at least 11 times according to their 2018 FARA filings, primarily regarding a ‘CAP group trip to UAE/KSA’ in late April and early May 2018,” writes Freeman (who also provided In These Times the FARA documents for this article.). The records show that then, as now, Mintz was the main contact for Katulis.

Ben Freeman quoted

Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative

Indictment Details How Emirates Sought Influence in 2016 Campaign


In charges unsealed this week, the Justice Department laid out new elements of an effort by an American ally to buy access in Washington.

Ben Freeman quoted

Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative

Center for International Policy

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