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

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REPORT
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
REPORT
April 22, 2021

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.

The Taiwan Lobby
ISSUE BRIEF
April 14, 2021

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.

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

LATEST NEWS

May 4, 2021

The Rise of Restraint Is Shaking Up Washington

Ben Freeman quoted

Policy research is not free, and the world of nonprofit think tanks that help generate them is in fact a billion-plus dollar industry. “The theory is that think tanks serve as a kind of middle ground between academia and public policy,” said Ben Freeman, who studies think tank funding at the Center for International Policy, itself a think tank. “It’s like the ivory tower for policy nerds—so many great nerd worlds coming together.”

May 3, 2021

Justice ramps up Giuliani probe

Ben Freeman quoted

Ben Freeman, the director of the Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative at the Center for International Policy, thinks that Giuliani may be more exposed to potential liability than he claims because of how broad the language is in the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), which governs the disclosure of work within the U.S. on behalf of foreign principals.

May 4, 2021

States step in as Congress fails to fight foreign influence

Brian Steiner

Ultimately, however, the real onus must be on Capitol Hill. A state-by-state, “whack-a-mole” approach leaves too many loopholes for malign actors to jump through. Instead, federal lawmakers need to take charge, turning state lawmakers’ good intentions into momentum for a bipartisan push to modernize FARA and combat harmful foreign influence.

April 27, 2021

Qatar Adds US Lobbying Muscle After Saudi Rift, Trump's Snub

Ben Freeman quoted

"Ben Freeman, director of the Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative at the Center for International Policy and author of a 2020 report on Qatar’s lobbying operations, said the recent spate of engagements was 'something of an offensive hiring spree' for the country. 'If I’m Qatar right now, I see an opportunity in that you have a Biden administration that’s not cozied up to your adversaries, specifically Saudi Arabia,' he said. The crisis 'served as something of a lesson' for Qatar, which recognized it didn’t 'have immediate, indirect access to the policy makers they need to influence at that time,' said Freeman."

EXPERTS

Ben Freeman

Director, Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative
Ben Freeman
  • Gordon Adams, Distinguished Fellow at the Stimson Center and professor in the U.S. Foreign Policy program at the School of International Service, American University

  • Amy Belasco, former Specialist for the Defense Budget of the Congressional Research Service

  • Neta Crawford, Professor and Department Chair of Political Science at Boston University

  • Matt Fay, former Director of Defense and Foreign Policy Studies at the Niskanen Center

  • Ben Friedman, Senior Fellow and Defense Scholar at Defense Priorities

  • Laicie Heeley, CEO of Inkstick, Host of Things That Go Boom

  • John King, Founder, King and Brown Company LLC

  • Larry Korb, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and adjunct professor at Georgetown University

  • Lindsay Koshgarian, Program Director, National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies

  • Miriam Pemberton, Associate Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies

  • Mandy Smithberger, Director of the Center for Defense Information at the Project On Government Oversight

  • Col. Larry Wilkerson (Ret.), Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Government and Public Policy, William & Mary

  • Col. Isaiah "Ike" Wilson (Ret.), director, Strategic Studies Institute, Army War College​

  • CIP Senior Associate Carl Conetta was a consultant to the project

ABOUT

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.