By Adam Andrzejewski, OpenTheBooks.com CEO/Founder | Published at Substack
NOTE: Today, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst introduced bicameral legislation (Accountability In Foreign Animal Research (AFAR) Act 2023) with Reps. Lisa McClain (R-MI) and Don Davis (D-NC) to ban taxpayer dollars to all Chinese and Russian labs for animal experiments.
Last month, OpenTheBooks.com joined up with Sen. Ernst to investigate tax dollars paid to entities within the adversarial nations of China and Russia. We made headlines nationally and co-authored an editorial in USA Today, which outlined the problem and kicked off a national debate regarding fixes.
What follows is the in-depth report of our findings with specific, troubling examples.
Since 2017, $1.3 billion of U.S. taxpayer money funded entities in China and Russia. It could be the tip of the iceberg and no-one knows the full amount.
Examples of government waste and taxpayer abuse are virtually limitless, but it’s particularly absurd when spending is directed toward foreign nations antagonistic to American interests.
OpenTheBooks.com teamed up with Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) to investigate federal tax dollars flowing to entities based in China and Russia. Using data obtained from government disclosures, we uncovered $1.3 billion in spending that ultimately ended up in the two adversarial countries since 2017.
The $1.3 billion is likely not the full story, as federal agencies do not track where all tax dollars are being spent.
Organizations that receive direct grants or contracts from federal agencies often share the money with subcontractors or sub-grantees who help fulfill the task or perform the research. But the federal government has inconsistent processes to track that money and cannot account for all of it. When our tax dollars move even further through entities abroad, we quickly lose track.
In a press release about the findings, Ernst said:
“It is gravely concerning that no one in Washington can actually account for millions sent to Russia and China for pointless projects. 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.”
China: $490 million
Washington is borrowing from China to give to China. That doesn’t make any sense.
$2M into the Wuhan Institute of Virology
$598,611 subgrant from EcoHealth Alliance from a National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases grant for coronavirus research.
$216,000 subgrant from University of California, Irvine from an NIH National Institute of Mental Health Grant to study transgenetic mice.
$1.1 million sub-agreement from the EcoHealth Alliance through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) grant for coronavirus experiments.
Subaward from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory from the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Mental Health for electroshock mice experiments.
In June 2023, the Government Accountability Office reported at least $1,413,720 million in taxpayer money flowed into the Wuhan lab. Their investigation revealed that the UC Irvine grant was never paid out even though the work was completed; only $815,100 of the $1.1 million USAID monies were paid (even though this letter from May 2021 indicated $1.1 million was paid); and the Cold Spring Harbor lab never finalized a contract with Wuhan.
Finally, in July 2023, the Biden administration suspended all funding to the lab.
$64M from Health and Human Services, including:
$298,080 in direct grants to the Chinese Centers for Disease Control (CDC) from the NIH Fogarty International Center for ethics training because “recent discoveries of research misconduct, which have had a negative impact on Chinese scientists and their U.S. collaborators, related to inadequate ethical review, neglect for human subjects protections, and publication fraud have highlighted China's under-developed research ethics capacity and infrastructure.”
The Chinese CDC received at least $70 million in U.S. government contracts, grants and subgrants since 2008.
$58.7M from Department of State, including:
$96,875 to promote gender equality through exhibition of New Yorker magazine cartoons
$25,000 to the Chinese surfing community for help on climate change – including beach parties for our diplomats.
$51.6M from Department of Defense, including:
$4.5M from Department of Veterans Affairs, including:
$3.6M from the Department of Agriculture, including:
$1.6 million from the National School Lunch Program. Dalian Jiahe Real Estate Broker Co., Ltd. took home the most with $1.37 million in sub-grants, including one $809,208 grant “to assist states, through cash grants and food donations, in providing a nutritious nonprofit lunch service for school children and to encourage the domestic consumption of nutritious agricultural commodities.”
$3.1M from the Department of Justice, including:
$2.8M from the Department of Education, including:
$1.68 million subgrant again to Dalian Jiahe Real Estate Broker Co., Ltd, including about $500,000 in Title I Grants “to help local educational agencies improve teaching and learning in high-poverty schools in particular for children failing, or most at-risk of failing, to meet challenging state academic achievement standards.”
Second-highest sub-grantee is Beijing Jianyan Ruihong Popular Custom Restaurant with nearly $700,000 for the same goal.
Russia: $870 million
$770.8M from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration ($4.1 billion since 2005), including:
$715M to the Russian Space Agency for “joint U.S./Russian Human Space Flight Activities.”
$55M to space craft and space station component manufacturer PAO S. P. Korolev Rocket and Space Corporation Energia for “hardware services that support International Space Station.”
$42.4M from the Department of State, including:
$76,686 for podcasts on “being queer,” “women in space,” and “people who survived a trauma.”
$548,892 to transport the classified intelligence pouch with three Russian moving contractors.
$24,024,755 to Elit Sekyuriti Servis for “local guard services,” and for updating the security system of the U.S. embassy in Russia.
$4.2M from Health and Human Services, including:
$770,466 to run gruesome experiments on cats at the state-run Pavlov Institute. The experiment called for removing the cats’ spinal cords before forcing them to walk on treadmills. The Biden administration cut of this funding after facing criticism.
$2,392,077 for research related to alcohol and drug addiction.
$4.7 million to a Russian company PAO Rosgosstrakh for health insurance. PAO Rosgosstrakh was later was sanctioned by the U.S. in 2022 for the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
$1.1M from Department of Interior, most of which went to support tiger conservation in Russia, including:
$780,765 to World Wildlife Fund
$189,463 Wildlife Conservation Society
Senator Ernst and Congressional Representative Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) introduced the Tracking Receipts to Adversarial Countries for Knowledge of Spending (TRACKS) Act, which would require public reporting of all funds going to any organization in China and Russia.
The bill would require all grant recipients and contractors can be held accountable to report where the money goes next, creating a comprehensive paper trail for the first time.
Washington sends mixed messages when it uses one hand to rattle sabers and the other hand to write checks. Our analysis reveals billions of dollars in spending on projects that are pointless, disturbing, alarming, and in some cases all three.
Americans deserve to know how and where all of our money is being spent, so they can hold government officials accountable for good outcomes. Lawmakers need this same knowledge to fulfill their oversight duties, and redirect American tax dollars to more productive endeavors.
As it stands now, no one in Washington can say for sure where some of our tax dollars finally end up.