Growing Trend of U.S. Politicians Co-opted by Foreign Governments

Photo credit: Governor Gavin Newsom’s Official Website, Published: Oct 30, 2023

Representative Henry Cuellar, a Texas Democrat, was recently implicated for accepting a $600,000 bribe from an oil company in Azerbaijan. He is being charged with working as an agent for a foreign entity while a U.S. government official because he lobbied Congress on the company’s behalf. The bribe was tied to a money laundering scheme that cycled through a bank in Mexico. Cuellar is also being accused of attempting to weaken US money laundering rules, particularly those that would hurt Mexican banks. Frighteningly, Cuellar is the leading Democrat on the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee.

Cuellar being coopted by foreign forces is a serious national security concern. Sadly, this is just the most recent case of a foreign entity or foreign government buying influence with elected officials in the US.

Last year, Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, along with his wife, was charged with accepting bribes from corporations in Egypt.

In 2013, the government-owned State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR) provided $750,000 for 10 members of Congress and 32 staffers to go on a junket to Baku, the country’s capital. In addition to the all-expense-paid luxury trip, the invitees also received thousands of dollars in gifts. Among the beneficiaries of Baku’s largesse were three former top aides to President Obama.

Apart from the obvious violation of ethics and the public trust, there was a national security angle to this trip as well. At that time, SOCAR was partnered with the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), and they needed the US to provide exemptions from US sanctions against Iran.

In 2020-2023, Utah lawmakers became the targets of investigation when it was found that they had accepted paid trips to China and later pushed legislation that would benefit the PRC. Similar allegations were made against two Utah lawmakers who accepted trips to Qatar.

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) poses the greatest and most persistent threat to US national security. Additionally, China has deep pockets, and the United Front Work Department (UFWD) of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is actively engaged in co-opting American officials. As far back as 1997, the FBI warned Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif) and five other members of Congress, that the PRC was targeting them for illegal campaign contributions funneled through foreign corporations.

The granddaddy of all foreign influence scandals involves the Biden family. In 2013, Hunter Biden traveled to China with his father, who was then vice president. On that trip, Hunter and a Chinese banker, Jonathan Li, formed a state-backed private equity fund, Bohai Harvest RST (BHR Partners). Chinese government shareholders controlled 80% of the company.

In the spring of 2014, Hunter Biden was appointed to the board of directors of the Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma. At that time, his father was leading US policy efforts toward Ukraine. Hunter Biden was paid $1 million per year, and there are allegations that his father received some of the money.

In 2015, BHR partnered with the Chinese state-owned military aviation contractor Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) to purchase an American technology company, Henniges, which manufactured dual-use components with military and civilian applications. Perhaps BHR’s most concerning investment was in China General Nuclear Power Company (CGN), a state-backed nuclear firm.

Companies controlled by Hunter Biden entered into several deals with Chinese entities, including China’s state-owned banks and other companies that had ties to the CCP. He was paid at least $4.8 million, and once again there were allegations that Joe Biden benefited from these transactions. While proving definitively that money flowed to the president may prove difficult, Hunter’s activity — funding dual-use technology, aviation, and nuclear projects in cooperation with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) — raises significant national security concerns.

Some US officials make trips to foreign countries that appear unnecessary, lacking clear justification or mandate from their roles. While not directly accused of corruption, these trips seem to stretch beyond their duties and may run counter to US foreign policy objectives. Additionally, these travels, funded by US taxpayers, raise concerns about potential corruption or undisclosed agreements. This was the case with California Governor Newsom, who recently visited China; New York Mayor Eric Adams, who went to Mexico, as well as Greece and Qatar; and New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell, who had trips scheduled for Dubai and Kenya. San Francisco Mayor London N. Breed also visited China, as did Menlo Park City Councilwoman Kirsten Keith.

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Dr. Antonio Graceffo, PhD, China MBA, is an economist and national security analyst with a focus on China and Russia. He is a graduate of American Military University.

You can email Antonio Graceffo here, and read more of Antonio Graceffo's articles here.


Thanks for sharing!