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Thursday, June 20, 2024

Foreign Influence on US Politics

Many posts have analyzed how foreign governments try to influence American politics and policy.

 Catherine Kim at Politico:

So what’s behind this surge of foreign cash allegedly influencing U.S. politics? Are public officials simply getting more brazen in their interactions with foreign governments? According to Casey Michel, author of the upcoming book Foreign Agents: How American Lobbyists and Lawmakers Threaten Democracy Around the World, illegal foreign influence has been entrenched in our political system for decades — but it’s happening now more than ever.

Foreign lobbying of all sorts is a big business in the U.S., with countries and other entities spending over $5 trillion since 2016 to influence U.S. policy and burnish their own images. And despite bipartisan interest, attempts at reform have largely stalled out thus far.

Now, though, a confluence of factors including the Justice Department getting more aggressive on the issue, have led to this recent series of high-profile indictments. To better understand how foreign actors influence our politics and what their own goals are, Nightly spoke with Michel. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Are we seeing an uptick in foreign interference in our politics through lobbying? And if so, why is that the case?

We have seen an absolute explosion in recent years in terms of the scope and the scale of both foreign lobbying as well as foreign interference — without any kind of precedent in American history itself. And that’s for a few reasons: You had folks in Washington asleep at the wheel as it pertained to both the regulations and even the potential threat to these kinds of unchecked foreign lobbying. On the ground, there was a proliferation of Americans willing to provide foreign lobbying services beyond just traditional lobbying to authoritarian regimes, who were realizing just how wide open Washington was. It was really in the mid-2010s when things began to shift. And finally, folks started paying attention and realizing what the cost of ignoring these networks for so many years truly was.

From the FBI:

The counterintelligence and economic espionage efforts emanating from the government of China and the Chinese Communist Party are a grave threat to the economic well-being and democratic values of the United States.

Confronting this threat is the FBI’s top counterintelligence priority.

To be clear, the adversary is not the Chinese people or people of Chinese descent or heritage. The threat comes from the programs and policies pursued by an authoritarian government.

The Chinese government is employing tactics that seek to influence lawmakers and public opinion to achieve policies that are more favorable to China.

At the same time, the Chinese government is seeking to become the world’s greatest superpower through predatory lending and business practices, systematic theft of intellectual property, and brazen cyber intrusions.

China’s efforts target businesses, academic institutions, researchers, lawmakers, and the general public and will require a whole-of-society response. The government and the private sector must commit to working together to better understand and counter the threat.