Portman, Rubio, Cotton, Hagerty Introduce Foreign Influence Transparency Act

WASHINGTON, DC — Today, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) joined Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Tom Cotton (R-AR), and Bill Hagerty (R-TN) in introducing the Foreign Influence Transparency Act, which would require organizations, such as the Chinese government-run Confucius Institutes, to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). The legislation also amends 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. It also requires institutions that have entered into an agreement with a Confucius Institute to disclose the full agreement on its website and to the Department of Education or risk losing their Student and Exchange Visitor Program. Congressman Joe Wilson (R-SC) introduced the legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives. 

“I’m pleased to once again cosponsor this important legislation to increase transparency in foreign funding on our college and university campuses,” Portman said. “As my bipartisan report from the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations proved, China has routinely exploited this lack of transparency by controlling, funding, and staffing Confucius Institutes at campuses across our country. That report also documented how Confucius Institutes can stifle academic freedom and provide students with an incomplete, and sometimes inaccurate, picture of Chinese history, government actions, and policies that run counter to U.S. interests at home and abroad. We cannot allow this stunning lack of transparency to continue at American colleges and universities.” 

“I’m proud to once again reintroduce the Foreign Influence Transparency Act, which seeks to bring greater transparency to the activities of foreign governments operating in the United States,” Rubio said. “This legislation will strengthen foreign disclosure requirements for American colleges and universities and close existing loopholes in our law so that entities like China’s Confucius Institutes are required to register with the Department of Justice as foreign agents.” 

“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.” 

Confucius Institutes support the Chinese Communist Party’s efforts to project malign foreign influence and indoctrinate faculty and students with disinformation and propaganda – both in the United States and around the world,” Hagerty said. “It is important that colleges and universities who have agreements with these foreign agents be required to register with the federal government to publicly disclose the terms of these relationships and the revenue they are receiving from an apparatus of the Chinese Communist Party.”  

“Foreign entities, such as the Chinese Communist Party controlled Confucius Institutes, have been taking advantage of both our institutions of higher education and K-12 schools,” Congressman Wilson said. “The CCP isn’t shy about this. In 2009, Li Changchun, then head of propaganda for the CCP, called Confucius Institutes ‘an important part of China’s overseas propaganda set-up.’  Colleges and universities must be transparent about their relationships with these malign actors. This bill holds these institutions accountable, allowing parents and students to see the source of their education.” 

NOTE: Last year, Portman and Senator Tom Carper (D-DE), then the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), released a bipartisan PSI report detailing the lack of transparency in how American colleges and universities manage Confucius Institutes—which are located at more than 100 American colleges and universities and have received more than $150 million in support from the Chinese government. These Confucius Institutes are controlled, funded, and mostly staffed by the Chinese government. The report found that U.S. schools failed to comply with statutory requirements to report foreign gifts to the Department of Education. Nearly 70 percent of U.S. schools with a Confucius Institute that received more than $250,000 in one year for a Confucius Institute failed to properly report that information to the Department of Education.  

Last Congress, Portman introduced the bipartisan Safeguarding American Innovation Act which included the Foreign Influence Transparency Act and plans to reintroduce the legislation to increase transparency, prevent foreign interference on U.S. campuses, and protect American research and IP from global competitors again soon.