Portman, Rubio, Cotton, Reintroduce Foreign Influence Transparency Act

February 13, 2020 | Press Releases

WASHINGTON, DC — U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) reintroduced the Foreign Influence Transparency Act, which 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. The bill also requires organizations, such as the Chinese government-run programs known as Confucius Institutes, to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). 

“I am pleased to join Senators Rubio and Cotton in reintroducing 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 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. “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.”

“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.”

NOTE: In February of 2019, Senator Portman, as Chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), released a bipartisan 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. 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.

Following the release of the PSI report, the Department of Education, which admitted that enforcement of the law had been “historically lax,” increased its enforcement efforts and found that U.S. schools failed to report approximately $6.5 billion in foreign gifts and funds – according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.  Yesterday, Senator Portman issued a joint statement with the Ranking Member of PSI, U.S. Senator Tom Caprer (D-DE) in response to the report.