Ben Freeman

Ben Freeman

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.


June 24, 2021

What the COVID-19 Pandemic has Meant for Foreign Influence

by Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative

This brief aims to add to the discourse by, for the first time, studying how foreign influence and lobbying activities have interplayed with the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, this brief aims to conduct a preliminary survey of how the scale of these activities have been affected by the pandemic and how substantive issues around the pandemic have become the subject, object, or channel of foreign influence activities. By doing so, this brief aims to throw light on how the pandemic has interplayed with important themes around public health, global inequality, as well as the practice of lobbying and influence bartering. It aims to serve as a foundation for future research around these themes.

What the COVID-19 Pandemic has Meant for Foreign Influence
May 12, 2021

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.

The Saudi Lobby in 2020
May 10, 2021

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.

Restoring Trust in the Think Tank Sector


July 22, 2021

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

Ben Freeman quoted

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."

July 1, 2021

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.

July 9, 2021

Paying to play in Washington: winners, losers and suckers

Ben Freeman interviewed

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."

June 29, 2021

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.