FOREIGN INFLUENCE TRANSPARENCY INITIATIVE

While investigations into Russian influence in the 2016 election regularly garner front-page headlines, there is a half-billion-dollar foreign influence industry working to shape U.S. foreign policy every single day that remains largely unknown to the public. The Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative is working to change that anonymity through transparency promotion, investigative research, and public education.

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.

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.”

Meet The Experts

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Ben Freeman

Director

ABOUT THE FOREIGN INFLUENCE TRANSPARENCY INITIATIVE

While investigations into Russian influence in the 2016 election regularly garner front-page headlines, there is a half-billion-dollar foreign influence industry working to shape U.S. foreign policy every single day that remains largely unknown to the public. The Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative is working to change that anonymity through transparency promotion, investigative research, and public education.

The Initiative believes that promoting transparency is the best tool for highlighting the impact – potentially for both good and ill – of foreign influence on American democracy. To this end, it works to devise policy solutions to increase the incentives for agents to properly register and report the work they are doing on behalf of foreign powers and to make the details of such contracts and work publicly available.

FITI also seeks to highlight how advocacy campaigns implemented on behalf of foreign powers have successfully influenced U.S. foreign policy, particularly lobbying that promotes a more militarized U.S. foreign policy. Finally, the Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative is dedicated to increasing public education about the role foreign powers play within American democracy. Efforts to accomplish this goal include collaborating with journalists to highlight corruption in the foreign influence industry and working with policymakers to devise solutions that minimize the ill effects of undue foreign influence.

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