The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) — one of the most powerful conservative think tanks in Washington — received an unannounced US$550,000 contribution from the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) in 2009.
It is not known if this is an ongoing annual contribution or one that was made for that year only.
The contribution was revealed this week by US magazine The Nation, the self-described “flagship of the left.”
It said that AEI was one of the most consistent advocates for the sale of fighter jets to Taiwan.
“Previously undisclosed tax filings reveal that while issuing research reports and publishing articles on US-Taiwan relations, AEI received a US$550,000 contribution from the government of Taiwan, a source of funding the think tank has never acknowledged,” the magazine reported.
The funding raises ethical and legal questions about AEI’s Taiwan-policy work, it said.
It quoted senior fellow at the Sunlight Foundation Bill Allison as saying that any organization trying to influence public policy should disclose its donors.
The Sunlight Foundation is a Washington-based organization that advocates increased transparency and accountability in government.
According to The Nation, AEI’s schedule of contributors for 2009 was not intended for public disclosure, but was “acquired” through a filing error.
TECRO was AEI’s fourth-largest contributor for the 2009 tax year.
The magazine quoted TECRO spokesman Lishan Chang as saying: “The contribution was given by the Institute of International Relations of the National Chengchi University to AEI’s Asian Studies Program.”
“It was therefore an act of scholarly cooperation between the two research organizations with the goal of promoting academic exchanges and research on issues concerning Asia,” he was quoted as saying.
The Nation said that during 2009, AEI employees issued a number of written papers praising Taiwan’s government and urging the White House to approve arms sales.
“When contacted for comment, AEI declined to address questions about the independence of its Taiwan policy analysis or its funding from the Taiwanese government,” The Nation said.
“We do not discuss details of contributions beyond what is publicly available through our Form 990 and our Annual Report,” AEI director of media relations Judy Mayka was quoted as saying. “AEI is an educational, non-partisan, non-profit and operates in good standing and in compliance to the fullest letter of the law.”
The Nation said that AEI had a “track record” of providing an institutional base for “individuals who are supportive of Taiwan.”
It said former US 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.