Last week, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, brought back a proposal to have some organizations register as foreign agents.
Rubio reintroduced the “Foreign Influence Transparency Act” which would require organizations, such as the Chinese government-run programs known as Confucius Institutes, to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).” The bill would also amend the Higher Education Act to “require universities to disclose donations, contracts, or the fair market value of in-kind gifts, from any foreign source if the amount is $50,000 or greater.” Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Education started to investigate some schools–including Yale and Harvard–for failing to report hundreds of millions in foreign donations.
“The American people should know when they are dealing with an agent of a foreign government, and this legislation will bring greater transparency to the activities of foreign nations operating in the United States,” Rubio said when he introduced the bill towards the end of last week. “By forcing agents of foreign governments to register with the Department of Justice, this legislation would close loopholes in current law that allow the Chinese Communist Party to infiltrate our colleges and universities through Confucius Institutes.”
U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, are cosponsoring the bill.
“If we want free speech and honest debate on college campuses, then we need to know when other countries are pushing their interests on U.S. soil,” Cotton said. “Requiring organizations like Confucius Institutes to register their activities with the Justice Department and disclose where they get their money is necessary to alert college students to the malign influence of foreign propaganda.”
“I am pleased to join Senators Rubio and Cotton in introducing this important legislation to increase transparency on our college and university campuses concerning foreign funding,” Portman said. “The fact that U.S. schools failed to report $6.5 billion in foreign funding, and that the Department of Education failed to enforce the law, is unacceptable. China has routinely exploited this lack of transparency by controlling, funding, and staffing Confucius Institutes at campuses across our country. Chinese teachers at U.S. Confucius Institutes pledge to the Chinese government that they will follow Chinese law and ‘conscientiously safeguard China’s national interests.’ We cannot allow this stunning lack of transparency to continue.”
The bill was sent to the Foreign Relations Committee. So far, there is no counterpart over in the U.S. House.
Reach Kevin Derby at email@example.com.