Russian media outlets reported spending more than $146 million on foreign influence operations and propaganda in the U.S. since 2016, with over $16 million on propaganda targeting the U.S. in 2021, OpenSecrets’ analysis of new Foreign Agents Registration Act records shows.
And that’s just the spending that Russian foreign agents have disclosed to the Justice Department under FARA.
The U.S. government has identified multiple online media sites that are directed by Russian intelligence services and not disclosed through FARA, spreading disinformation to undermine COVID-19 vaccines produced outside Russia. Social media platforms have also become a breeding ground for even more Russian propaganda campaigns that are often not disclosed in FARA filings.
Faced with rising concerns about Russian interference in U.S. elections and foreign influence more generally, the Justice Department has compelled multiple broadcasters and other middlemen helping Russian propaganda efforts targeting the U.S. to register as foreign agents.
During the 2020 presidential election, the Kremlin poured money into TV and media outlets aimed at influencing voters while tensions rose between the two countries. During the 2016 presidential election, the Russian government interfered to boost former President Donald Trump. Russia’s top media spenders include RIA Novosti and Rossiya Segodnya, government entities that administer global broadcasts of Russian state-funded networks RT and Sputnik.
In August 2020, Rossiya Segodnya contracted with Ghebi LLC, a Washington, D.C.-based production company incorporated by the editor-in-chief of a U.S. production company working for the Russian media entity called RIA Global. Since then, the LLC has reported more than $2.7 million in payments from the Russian government’s media entity that administers Sputnik.
The Russian government’s propaganda spending is rivaled most intensely by China, which spent more than any other country in 2020.
Chinese foreign agents reported about $67.2 million in total 2020 lobbying and influence spending. More than 80% of China’s foreign influence spending in the U.S. came from Chinese state-owned media outlet CGTN TV and the CCP’s English-language newspaper, China Daily.