American Enterprise Institute’s undisclosed source of foreign funding raises ethical and legal questions about AEI’s Taiwan-policy work

Eli Clifton, “The Secret Foreign Donor Behind the American Enterprise Institute“, The Nation, June 25, 2013

The right-wing think tank received big money from Taiwan’s government at the same time that it was churning out policy papers and articles urging US military aid to Taipei.

The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) has emerged as one of the Beltway’s most consistent advocates for the sale of advanced fighter jets to Taiwan. Previously undisclosed tax filings reveal that while issuing research reports and publishing articles on US-Taiwan relations, AEI received a $550,000 contribution from the government of Taiwan, a source of funding the think tank has never acknowledged.

In 2009, AEI, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, received the contribution from the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO), Taiwan’s equivalent to an embassy.

The think tank couches its hard-nosed advocacy of arms sales and trade agreements with Taiwan as a strategic necessity for the United States. “Withholding needed arms from Taiwan in the present makes a future conflict—and US intervention therein—more likely,” wrote AEI senior research associate Michael Mazza in an October 2011 article in The Diplomat.

But AEI’s undisclosed source of foreign funding raises ethical and legal questions about AEI’s Taiwan-policy work.

AEI’s “schedule of contributors,” a form typically not intended for public disclosure but acquired through a filing error, names TECRO as the organization’s fourth-largest contributor during the 2009 tax year, following Donors Capital Fund ($2,000,000), Paul Singer ($1,100,000) and the Kern Family Foundation ($1,071,912). The US Chamber of Commerce contributed $473,000, making it AEI’s seventh-largest donor.

In a November 3, 2009, article for, AEI resident fellow Daniel Blumenthal, the current director of the think tank’s Asian Studies group, slammed the Obama administration’s Asia policy for “the absence of any agenda on Taiwan.”

Blumenthal accused the White House of failing to uphold an “implicit bargain” in which Ma would “ease tensions with the Mainland” in exchange for Washington “strengthen[ing] Ma’s hand by strengthening our ties to Taiwan.”

“The Obama team is not helping Ma,” wrote Blumenthal. “We have not sold any arms to Taiwan even as China has continued its arms buildup across the Strait. And Obama has no plans of yet to deepen economic ties as Taiwan goes forward with a China [free trade agreement].”

In a November 18, 2009, article for, Blumenthal continued his push for arms sales. “China has built a military capable of destroying the island if America does not assist Taiwan. Though obligated by law, the Obama administration has not sold a single weapon system to Taiwan,” a reference to the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, which requires the United States “to provide Taiwan with arms of a defensive character.”

AEI has a track record of providing an institutional base for individuals who are supportive of Taiwan.

Former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz joined AEI as a “visiting scholar” in 2007 and, in 2008, was named chairman of the US-Taiwan Business Council.

Read the full article here.