Foreign influence? House transparency in numbers

By Christine Lytwynec

Categories

News Oversight Politics

From transportation to climate change, members of Congress listen to expert testimony before they make decisions on important issues. But who gets a seat at the table and why? Is it possible they are advocating for a foreign government under the guise of expert advice? In an attempt to know more about any conflicts of interest, the House began in 2011 requiring anyone who testifies to disclose any money they have received recently from any foreign government related to the hearing. The Investigative Reporting Workshop built and examined a database containing details of these disclosures to shed light on who the House is bringing in to testify and what, if anything, they disclosed.

24,543

The total number of testimonies before House committees from 2011-2018 (based on data available through docs.house.gov). Approximately 10% of those testifying were members of Congress.

1,354

The number of witnesses who filled out a version of the disclosure form that had no question about foreign funding (2015-2018). That’s about 17% of the 7,772 witness disclosures from that period. In other words, about 17% of the forms didn’t even ask the required question.

6%

The percentage of people who testified before House committees from 2011-2018 who identified as affiliated with a think tank. In 2018, that was 177 witnesses.

Nearly 1 in 4 (23.6%)

Nearly 1 in 4 of the witnesses before the Committee on Foreign Affairs in 2011-2018 came from think tanks. For the Committee on the Budget, nearly 29% of witnesses came from think tanks.

122

The number of testimonies by conservative think tank the American Enterprise Institute, followed by Heritage Foundation (115), and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (94). The Foundation for Defense of Democracies was fourth, with 72 testimonies from 2011-2018.

94

The number of think tank witnesses who have testified before House committees with no Truth in Testimony form being posted publicly since the rule about foreign funding was added. (The Investigative Reporting Workshop has not determined whether the forms are missing because they do not exist or because they are simply not posted.) Additionally, at least 161 witnesses from think tanks during that period filled out a version of the witness disclosure form with no question about foreign funding.

7%

The percentage of people who testified before House committees from 2011-2018] and identified as affiliated with a college, university or school. In 2018, that number was below 6%, or 169 witnesses.

20%

The percentage of witnesses testifying before the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology were from educational institutions. About 17% of the testimony heard by the Committee on the Judiciary came from witnesses who identified as affiliated with educational institutions.