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

The South Korea Lobby

by Ben Freeman

The government of South Korea has a vested interest in attempting to sway U.S. foreign policy in its favor, and spends tens-of-millions every year on Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) registered lobbying and public relations firms. The FARA filings examined in this report reveal what these firms are doing for a South Korea that seeks to strengthen all of its economic, cultural, political, and military ties with the U.S.

Sustainable Defense: A Pentagon Spending Plan for 2021 and Beyond

by Sustainable Defense Task Force Co-Directors: William D. Hartung, and Ben Freeman

December 8, 2020

The events of 2020 have dramatically underscored the need to rethink the concept of national security. The COVID-19 pandemic, the devastation caused by climate change, and racial and economic injustice all pose risks to public safety and security as great, or greater than, traditional military challenges. It’s long past time for the United States to adopt a new approach to national security that prioritizes our most urgent challenges, reduces U.S. global military deployments and spending, defunds unnecessary weapons systems, and eliminates waste.

Japan's Influence in America

by Cassandra Stimpson and Ben Freeman

November 19, 2020

FITI analyzed every Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) Supplemental Statement filed in 2019 by firms working on behalf of clients in Japan. This report presents the findings of this analysis.

Report: U.S. Government and Defense Contractor Funding of America’s Top 50 Think Tanks

by Ben Freeman

Oct-14-2020

In an effort to move towards greater transparency of think tank funding in America, this report analyzes U.S. government and defense contractor funding at the top fifty think tanks in America, as ranked by the University of Pennsylvania’s Global Go To Think Tank Index, based on criteria like the quality and reputation of the think tank’s research and the reach of its publications. The analysis includes all U.S. government and defense contractor funding received by these think tanks from 2014-2019. This analysis builds upon a previous report released by FITI in early 2020, “Foreign Funding of Think Tanks in America,” and points towards a simple policy recommendation: think tanks should be required, by law, to publicly disclose their funders.

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.

Latest News

American primacy on the menu for big industry donors at CNAS

Ben Freeman's report cited

Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative

A review late last year by the Center for International Policy of 50 major U.S. think tanks found that CNAS was the single largest recipient of defense contractor money from 2014 to 2019. In our report, we were able to identify 29 different defense companies that have contributed to the think tank, with Northrop Grumman (the 5th largest U.S. defense contractor in 2019) as their biggest financial backer by far.

Turkey lobbies to get back in F-35 program; report lays bare $31 million in South Korean lobbying; faith groups lobby Biden to rescind Cuba terror designation: Thursday’s Daily Digest

Ben Freeman quoted

Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative

The Center for International Policy‘s Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative has a new report out today on the massive amounts of money US ally South Korea spends on lobbying and public relations firms to influence US policymakers and public opinion.

The Military-Industrial-Think Tank Complex

Ben Freeman's report quoted

Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative

A recent Center for International Policy (CIP) review of defense industry and US government support for 50 major American think tanks found that, from 2014 to 2019, “CNAS ... received more funding from defense contractors than any other think tank analyzed here.”

Biden and the Democratic Congress: A perfect storm for foreign lobbying reform?

by Ben Freeman

Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative

With a new government following the familiar playbook of promising to clean up Washington, foreign lobbying reform is once again all the rage. Democratic control of both the House and Senate increases the likelihood of passing FARA legislation. President Biden, unlike his predecessor, has indicated an interest in the issue. Perhaps most importantly, Trump is not only gone from the White House but is also being impeached over his role in fueling the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol. With Trump gone, Republicans now have greater political freedom to act.

Saudi Hires Over Dozen Lobbying Firms In US To Launder Its Reputation

Ben Freeman quoted

Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative

“The Saudis need to maintain their influence within the Republican Party post-Trump in hopes the Republican Senate can [help] block any bills that might hurt them, like prohibitions on arms sales or withdrawing troops from Yemen,” Ben Freeman of the Center for International Policy’s Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative, which seeks to promote transparency and accountability in global relations, said.

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