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

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


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


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


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


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.

Latest News

Canada’s Laws About Foreign Agents Haven’t Caught Up to the Modern World

Ben Freeman quoted

Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative

The U.S. law, first created in 1938 out of a fear of Nazi propaganda, is too broad, Mr. Freeman said. It requires registration for anyone doing non-commercial activities, notably political activities, at the request of a “foreign principal,” which can even be an individual, Mr. Freeman said. And he argued the U.S. needs more transparency, such as disclosure of foreign donations to think tanks.

One Third of Biden's Pentagon Transition Team Gets Money From the Weapons Industry

Ben Freeman quoted


Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative

“It’s telling the think tanks rep­re­sent­ed here — RAND, CSIS and CNAS — are among the top recip­i­ents of Depart­ment of Defense and Depart­ment of Defense con­trac­tor fund­ing,” says Ben Free­man of the For­eign Pol­i­cy Trans­paren­cy Ini­tia­tive, which recent­ly authored a report on think tank fund­ing. ​“CNAS and CSIS are lit­er­al­ly num­ber one and num­ber two in terms of dona­tions received from U.S. defense con­trac­tors in the last six years. RAND is, by far, the top recip­i­ent of Depart­ment of Defense fund­ing of any think tank.”

A Long Overdue Discussion on Pentagon Spending

by William Hartung and Ben Freeman


Sustainable Defense Task Force

In a series of interviews this month, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) expressed an openness to making modest reductions in the Pentagon’s near-record $740 billion budget, but he has also stated he is “unconvinced” by progressive calls for more substantial cuts. One of his key arguments has been that we can’t reduce Pentagon spending without a “conversation about what’s the strategy, what’s the plan going forward.” It’s long past time to have that conversation. One contribution has already been made by the Center for International Policy’s Sustainable Defense Task Force (SDTF), a group of former White House, congressional and Pentagon budget officials, retired military officers and think tank experts from across the political spectrum that we co-chaired.

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

Ben Freeman quoted


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."""

Is Pompeo’s ‘Crackdown’ on Foreign Influence Politically Timed?

Ben Freeman quoted


Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative

“China and Russia are doing a lot right now to exert undue influence in America, and it’s important we do everything we can to counter that,” Ben Freeman, Director of the Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative at the Center for International Policy, tells Responsible Statecraft. “But, the research we’ve done at FITI has shown they don’t do much in terms of think tank funding. A lot of the biggest players here are U.S. allies.”

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