BEN FREEMAN

Director, Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative

bfreeman@internationalpolicy.org

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.

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Recent Publications

Report: The Qatar Lobby in Washington

by Ben Freeman

May-13-2020

In June 2017, member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) severed diplomatic ties and blockaded Qatar, citing the country's ties to terrorist organizations. This damaged Qatari-U.S. relations, but only ten months after the blockade began, Trump met with the Emir of Qatar in the Oval Office.
This report investigates the Qatar Lobby and the work that it did in those ten months between 2017-2018 to mend its relationship with the U.S.

Report: Foreign Funding of Think Tanks in America

by Ben Freeman

Jan-29-2020

Think tanks vary considerably in terms of their objectives and organization, but many think tanks in Washington D.C. share a common trait—they receive substantial financial support from foreign governments. While these are often democracies with interests closely aligned with those of the U.S., a significant number of these foreign donors are undemocratic, authoritarian regimes whose aims often diverge significantly from U.S. interests. In a variety of instances, the public has learned that this foreign funding can significantly influence think tanks’ work. It can lead to a think tank producing reports favorable to a foreign power, think tank experts offering Congressional testimony in support of a foreign powers’ interests, or its scholars working closely with a foreign funders’ registered lobbyists.

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

by Ben Freeman

Oct-15-2019

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.

Report: Sustainable Defense: More Security, Less Spending

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

Jun-19-2019

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...

Report: The Saudi Lobby in 2018

by Ben Freeman

Apr-17-2019

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.

Latest News

Al Jazeera Builds Case Against Order to Register as Foreign Agent

Ben Freeman quoted

Sept-22-2020

Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative

Lobbyists for Al Jazeera are laying the groundwork for a potential challenge to the Donald Trump administration’s demand that its AJ+ online news channel register as a foreign agent. “My thought is that this reeks of [the Foreign Agents Registration Act] being used as a political weapon and a bargaining chip in an international negotiation,” said Ben Freeman, the director of the Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative at the Center for International Policy.

Washington lobbyists continue to cash in on dispute between Qatar and UAE

Ben Freeman quoted

Sept-16-2020

Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative

"It's certainly one of the biggest fights that I'm aware of, at least in recent memory," Ben Freeman, the director of the Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative at the nonprofit Center for International Policy, told Middle East Eye.

"I can't think of a bigger tiff that was more lucrative to [lobbyists] than this battle."

While Pompeo presses for reconciliation, Gulf rivals still spend millions lobbying against each other

Ben Freeman quoted

Sept-15-2020

Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative

$100 million...That’s about how much money the governments of the United Arab Emirates and Qatar have spent lobbying in Washington since the two countries broke diplomatic ties three years ago. Much of that spending has been focused on battling each other, with Abu Dhabi seeking to paint Qatar as a terror-supporting rogue state while Doha has defended itself as a trusted western ally.

“It’s certainly one of the biggest fights that I’m aware of, at least in recent memory,” said Ben Freeman, the director of the Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative at the nonprofit Center for International Policy. “I can’t think of a bigger tiff that was more lucrative to [lobbyists] than this battle.”

The Danger of Banning Foreign Lobbying

by Casey Michel and Ben Freeman

Sept-3-2020

Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative

Former Vice President Joe Biden has pledged to ban all foreign lobbying in the United States. This bold proposal reflects how seriously Biden and his advisers take the threat of foreign interference in U.S. politics. But such a sweeping measure risks causing more problems than it solves. A Biden administration should instead focus on reforming and refining existing regulations to help protect the United States’ democracy from the corrupting influence of foreign money.

Covert Cash - What US Universities Don't Want You to Know About Their Foreign Funding

Ben Freeman interviewed

Aug-31-2020

Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative

Why would American universities accept money from corrupt regimes who actively work against American interests? Why would they accept money from regimes whose human rights records clash with every American value we hold sacred? Covert Cash seeks to blow this subject wide open and drive awareness of the corruption and lack of transparency in US universities, which allow foreign governments to gain influence and a nefarious foothold in the United States.

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