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

The Saudi Lobby in 2020

by Ben Freeman

At every turn, however, the Saudi monarchy has been able to rely on an expansive and entrenched collection of lobbying and public relations firms in the U.S. that have worked to minimize the damage from these transgressions. Despite the best efforts of the Saudi lob- by, it has become increasingly clear that Saudi Arabia has lost the battle for the Beltway and seen its influence in Washington dramatically decline. In response, the Kingdom has done what any monarchy with millions to spend on influence in America might do: shift its influence operations to the states.

Restoring Trust in the Think Tank Sector

by Ben Freeman

Given public distrust of the U.S. policymaking process, think tanks have a valuable opportunity to take tangible and necessary steps to help reinstill public confidence in the government’s ability to address our nation’s economic, health, environmental, and foreign policy challenges.

The Taiwan Lobby

by Holly Zhang and Ben Freeman

American democracy has continually seen influence domestically from international players pushing their own portfolio of preferences. Taiwan's complicated relationship with China and their uniqueness as a state barring for sovereignty are no exception, in an effort to maintain a democratic stronghold the island of Taiwan lobbies within American borders. In this new report, a full analysis of these lobbying efforts is conducted and synthesized.

Recent Proposals to Amend the Foreign Agents Registration Act: A Survey

by Ben Freeman, Brian Steiner, and Tarun Krishnakumar

This Policy Brief surveys recent proposals to amend the Foreign Agents Registration Act to identify key trends and areas of focus.

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.

Latest News

Tom Barrack's arrest spotlights UAE's role in shaping Trump's foreign policy

Ben Freeman quoted

Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative

Our Ben Freeman, Director of FITI, was quoted extensively in this article about UAE's role in shaping Trump's foreign policy. "It pains me to admit it a little bit, but the UAE was fantastically successful in moving Trump to their side. It's hard to find an issue during the Trump administration that the UAE was pushing for that they weren't at least partially successful in accomplishing."

Paying to play in Washington: winners, losers and suckers

Ben Freeman interviewed

Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative

Our Ben Freeman sits down with the Crashing the War podcast to discuss "how Washington think tanks — particularly foreign policy and national security institutions — are taking hundreds of millions of dollars from the government, foreign countries, and the defense industry."

Dollars and Decadence: Making Sense of the US-UAE Relationship

Ben Freeman co-panels discussion

This Noria Research panel explores the relationship between the United States and the United Arab Emirates, analyzing its profound consequence for the world.

COVID-19 upended foreign lobbying priorities. Here’s how some countries shifted their U.S. influence campaigns during the pandemic.

FITI COVID Lobbying Brief discussed, Ben Freeman quoted

Many governments who spent the most on lobbying for Covid-19-related aid couldn’t afford lobbying contracts, according to Ben Freeman, who leads the Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative at the Center for International Policy. The think tank recently compiled a study examining how coronavirus affected foreign lobbying, including several agents that halted lobbying altogether amid the pandemic.

Foreign Lobbies, Influence Peddling, and Think Tanks w/ Ben Freeman

Ben Freeman interviewed

Joining us on this edition of Parallax Views is Ben Freeman, Director of the Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative at the Center for International Policy. We discuss the Foreign Agents Registration Act and its history as well as the role of Saudi lobbying on the Republican Party and Qatari lobbying on the Democratic Party. Additionally, we discuss the need for transparency when it comes to foreign lobbies and Ben explains why these issues should matter to average American citizens and voters. The American-Israel Public Affairs Committee is also discussed.