The U.S. government has given Chinese and Russian entities at least $1.3 billion for various research programs over the past five years, according to an analysis released Wednesday by Republican Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst and watchdog group Open the Books.
The analysis revealed that millions of taxpayer dollars have been given to, among others, a Chinese software developer for military tech support, a Russian health insurance provider that has since been sanctioned and Chinese agriculture companies. And it showed the federal government gave $2 million, more than previously reported, to the Chinese state-run Wuhan lab studying bat coronaviruses.
“Washington’s continued spending is so out of hand, it is losing track of Americans’ hard-earned taxpayer dollars, but I am creating accountability for every penny,” Ernst said in a statement after releasing the report.
“It is gravely concerning that no one in Washington can actually account for millions sent to Russia and China for pointless projects,” the Iowa Republican continued. “But I have the receipts. I’m shining a light on this reckless spending, so bureaucrats can no longer cover up their tracks and taxpayers can know exactly what their hard-earned dollars are funding.”
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In addition to releasing the analysis, Ernst introduced the Tracking Receipts to Adversarial Countries for Knowledge of Spending (TRACKS) Act that would require all federal funding for organizations in China and Russia to be tracked and disclosed. Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wisc., who chairs the China Select Committee, introduced companion legislation in the House.
Overall, using data obtained from the Congressional Research Service, Ernst and Open the Books tracked $490 million in U.S. grants and contracts paid to Chinese entities and another $870 million paid to Russian entities. The Government Accountability Office previously estimated the U.S. funneled just $48 million to Chinese entities over the five-year period ending in 2021.
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According to Ernst’s analysis, one program, a $58.7 million State Department grant, included giving a Chinese organization, Beijing-based Crossroads Cultural Communication, $96,875 for “gender equality” through the exhibition of New Yorker magazine cartoons.
“To increase awareness on gender equality and women empowerment through an exhibition of works by women cartoonists of the New Yorker Magazine in China,” the 2021 grant description states.
Another, a $51.6 million grant from the Department of Defense, resulted in $6 million in funding for Chinese tech firm Beijing Juehua Trading Co. to provide “deployment and distribution command” software for the U.S. military. And Chinese food producers were awarded $1.6 million under the Department of Agriculture’s National School Lunch Program which was designed to assist domestic producers.
The $2 million in research funding for the Wuhan Institute of Virology — the Chinese lab some experts have blamed for leaking coronavirus, sparking the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 — included $1.1 million from the U.S. Agency for International Development and $600,000 from the National Institutes of Health. The funding was indirectly transferred through EcoHealth Alliance, a U.S. non-governmental organization.
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In addition, a $4.2 million Health and Human Services program granted $770,466 to the Pavlov Institute, a state-run lab located in St. Petersburg, Russia, to experiment on cats running on treadmills. The Biden administration ultimately cut off funding for the program after criticism from groups like White Coat Waste and Republican lawmakers.
Ernst’s analysis also showed that the federal government wired $4.7 million to Russian company PAO Rosgosstrakh for health insurance. That same company was sanctioned by the Treasury Department amid the Ukraine invasion in 2022.
Also, $1.45 million was granted to entities in Russia for COVID-19 pandemic virus tracking.