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

arrow&v
ISSUE BRIEF
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
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
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

LATEST NEWS

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 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."

July 13, 2021

Lobbying For Lives During the Pandemic

by Aditi Bawa

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated just how wide the gaps are between the haves and the have nots. Countries that could mobilize resources designed effective responses, while others that were not equipped continue to struggle. As of June 2021, fewer than 1 in 500 people in the 29 lowest income countries have received vaccinations, as compared to 1 in 2 in the United States. But the vaccine gap isn’t the only inequity we should be paying attention to: There’s also a lobbying gap.

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.

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.