It is no secret that in Washington, foreign interests use money to influence legislation and foreign policy through a variety of schemes, often hidden. Foreign lobbying must be reported, by law, yet dozens of D.C. think tanks and other policy organizations take money from foreign countries and corporations without ever disclosing the details. The staffers who have received this financing then write policy papers and testify before Congress, posing as objective, disinterested experts. As Armenian Americans, we have seen an increase in so called think tank experts who utilize, or may utilize, these loopholes to white wash both Azerbaijani war crimes and Turkish human rights violations, in support of blatant policies that are contradictory to US foreign policy.
Thus, the Armenian Council of America has announced its support of the “Truth in Testimony Reform Resolution,” introduced by Republican Study Committee Chairman Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), which aims to close those loopholes and force congressional witnesses to disclose their foreign paymasters.
The proposed rule change currently has 43 co-sponsors. According to House procedures, this rule could be adopted by a simple-majority vote. The Senate currently does not have any requirement for witnesses to disclose foreign funding sources at all.
The new House rule would force all congressional witnesses to disclose all foreign funding sources over $5,000, regardless of whether the witness claims to be testifying on behalf of themselves or their organization. The rule would also eliminate the loophole that compels think-tankers to disclose their foreign funding only if they define themselves as a “fiduciary of any organization or entity with an interest in the subject matter of the hearing.”
Think-tank fellows are not the only class of witnesses that would be required to disclose their foreign financial ties. Consultants, advisers and all paid associates of foreign governments, foreign political parties and foreign state-owned enterprises and their subsidiaries would now have to disclose. Foreign consulting contracts usually fall outside of legal reporting requirements under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, the main regulatory framework for representatives of foreign governments, because they claim not to include lobbying. But under the Banks rule, that distinction would go away if these experts wanted to testify on Capitol Hill.
The Armenian Council of America is committed to promoting the civic and civil rights interests of the Armenian American community. ACA also aims to strengthen U.S. – Armenia and U.S. – Artsakh ties, the development of programs promoting sustainable economic growth and good governance in Armenia, while promoting the values and responsibilities of global citizenship.