September 28, 2022

Grassley Introduces Think Tank Transparency Act in Senate to Shine Light on Foreign Influence Campaigns

Legislation would mandate transparency for think tanks and other public policy-focused non-profit entities who take money from foreign principals

WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is today introducing legislation to require greater transparency of think tanks and other non-profit entities that inform and influence American public policy. The Think Tank Transparency Act was also introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressman Jack Bergman (R-Mich.).
 
“Billions of dollars go toward funding policy research, recommendations and expert testimony at public policy non-profits. Much of that comes from foreign powers, including China, Russia, Qatar and others. Those foreign powers clearly have an interest in directing American foreign, domestic and security policy to their benefit. Congress, the executive branch, and the American people deserve to know who’s influencing research and public policy in our country,” Grassley said.
 
“Think tanks have an enormous influence on U.S. public policy, and many receive millions from foreign entities who have a significant interest in how our policy is shaped. Congress and the American people deserve to know what these think tanks are up to, and who they’re working for,” said Bergman regarding the new legislation. “The assumption that they are non-political, academic entities advocating for policies in our national interest is not always accurate, given the increasing amount of funding they receive from foreign governments, often earmarked for specific projects,” Bergman noted.
 
The Think Tank Transparency Act of 2022 requires think tanks and non-profits engaged in influencing U.S. policy or public opinion to promptly make available for the American public all funds provided by foreign principals, as well as all contracts and agreements they enter into with foreign principals. Within 90 days of receiving funds from or signing agreements with foreign principals, public policy nonprofits will be required to disclose the funding and contracts to the Justice Department—who in turn will make such disclosures available for immediate public inspection on an Internet database similar to FARA.gov.
 
The bill also creates enforcement mechanisms so the Justice Department can impose compliance when necessary. Out-of-compliance entities will face a penalty of at least $1,000 per day, and the department may bring civil action to compel compliance. The legislation also provides that non-compliant entities must repay the full cost of obtaining their compliance if the Justice Department has to take action—recouping all taxpayer money spent.
 
Relatedly, Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), along with committee members John Cornyn (R-Texas), Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) called on the Justice Department to detail steps being taken to ensure that the Brookings Institution and other think tanks tied to foreign governments and enterprises comply with the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).
 
Full text of the legislation can be found HERE.
 

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