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."
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.
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.