Press Releases

Hern introduces the America: FIRST Act, forcing transparency from universities who accept foreign funding

Washington, June 11, 2020 | Miranda Dabney

Today, Representative Kevin Hern (OK-01) introduced the America: Foreign Influence Resistance Starts with Transparency (America: FIRST) Act in the House of Representatives. This legislation seeks to force transparency from universities who receive foreign funding, in particular from the professors and programs who promote the interests of those foreign nations. 

“It’s high time universities and professors get transparent about foreign funding,” Rep. Hern said. “The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations described universities as a ‘black hole’ for foreign gifts. In fact, a Department of Education investigation uncovered nearly $6 billion in undisclosed gifts from just eight universities between June 2019 and February 2020 in direct violation of Section 117 of the Higher Education Act.

“Laws exist that require universities to report foreign funding over $250,000 to the Department of Education, but so much can fall under the radar with a requirement that high. Additionally, there are currently no laws that require individual professors and departments to disclose funding directly to the American public. Universities and their professors occupy a position of public trust in this country, and public trust comes with an obligation for public transparency.”

Rep. Hern continued, “That is why I am introducing the America: Foreign Influence Resistance Starts with Transparency Act, or the America: FIRST Act. This will require all universities, professors, and affiliates to disclose how much funding they are receiving in foreign gifts whenever they publish an article related to said foreign country. For example, if a writer in Forbes is advising you to invest in a company, transparency laws require that the author disclose how much money they have invested in the company they are telling you to invest in.

“This is all about giving context to opinions that are being published with the legitimacy of a university name behind them. The reality is that China and other foreign countries know how the game works, and they funnel millions of dollars to these institutions specifically to exert soft power on American public opinion. It’s pay-to-play for China, and they’re paying off professors with the knowledge and intent that they will mislead the American people. This bill fights back against that.”

The bill has so far received support from Ambassador Nikki Haley’s Stand for America and the Republican Study Committee (RSC).

“We are proud to endorse the America: Foreign Influence Resistance Starts with Transparency Act in the RSC National Security Strategy. This legislation is a key component of our solutions-oriented approach to ensure a strong America at home and abroad. I thank Congressman Hern for introducing it and being a leader in the effort to ensure that U.S. foreign policy is serving the interests of the United States and the American people,” said RSC Chairman Johnson.

The bill text can be found here.