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With the announcement of the Trump tariffs on steel and aluminum – and the prospect of more trade curbs to come – the news organizations on which Americans rely for accurate and impartial information have understandably turned to private sector specialists for facts and analysis.

What’s much less understandable is that many of these specialists work at Washington, D.C.-headquartered think tanks that receive significant funding from foreign governments – many of whose economies will be profoundly affected by any major changes in U.S. trade policy. Even worse, the press coverage of the Trump tariffs has consistently failed even to mention these conflicts of interest – even though some news outlets have reported on the subject in considerable detail.

To give you an idea of how widespread these conflicts are, here’s a list of the foreign government donors for three major think tanks, drawn directly from their websites, and some figures indicating the often major sums these governments (including groups they fund) have contributed to these organizations’ budgets for the most recent data year available:

 

The Brookings Institution, 2016-17:

$1 million – $1.999999 million

Government of Norway:

$500,000-$999,999

Australian Government, Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade

United Arab Emirates

$250,000-$499,999

The Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership

Japan International Cooperation Agency

Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States

$100,000-$249,000

Australian Government, Department of Industry, Innovation, & Science

$50,000-$99,999

Government of Denmark

European Recovery Program, German Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy

European Union

Government of Finland

Korea International Trade Association

CAF-Development Bank of Latin America

Department for International Development, United Kingdom

Embassy of France

Japan Bank for International Cooperation

Temasek Holdings

The Korea Foundation

Korea Institute for Defense Analysis

Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands

 

Peterson Institute for International Economics, 2016

$25,000-$49,999

Korea Institute for International Economic Policy

Swiss National Bank

Up to $24,999

Central Bank of China, Taipei

European Parliament

Japan Bank for International Cooperation

Korea Development Institute

Korea International Trade Association

Embassy of Liechtenstein

Monetary Authority of Singapore

 

Center for Strategic and International Studies 2016-17

$500,000 and up

Japan

Taiwan

UAE

Academy of Korean Studies

Korea Foundation

$100,000-$499,999

Australia

Denmark

South Korea

Turkey

$5,000-$99,999

Canada

China

France

Liechtenstein

The Netherlands

United Kingdom

Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership

European Development Finance Institutions

Norwegian Institute of Defence Studies

Norwegian Institute of International Affairs

Shanghai Institutes for International Studies

Taiwan Foundation for Democracy

 

As I’ve written before, even analysts whose paychecks are wholly or partly written by foreign governments (or other special interests, like offshoring-happy multinational companies) can provide valuable insights.  They also have every right to weigh in on any policy debate they choose.  But unless you believe we don’t live in a world in which money talks, and that this goes double in a national capital, it’s clear that news consumers have an equally important right to know the source of the money behind the views they’re reading about – and that the media is letting its readers, viewers, and listeners down when this information is kept concealed.