In a letter to Representatives Smith and Thornberry, the FACT Coalition endorses inclusion of the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Rewards Act (H.Amdt.559) in the NDAA. Doing so would represent an important step forward in tackling foreign corruption by incentivizing whistleblower cooperation with the U.S. government.
Thirty years after the end of the Cold War, the world is once again polarized between two competing visions for how to organize society. On one side are countries such as the United States, which are founded on respect for the inviolable rights of the individual and governed by rule of law. On the other side are countries where state power is concentrated in the hands of a single person or clique, accountable only to itself and oiled by corruption.
Alarmingly, while Washington has grown ambivalent in recent years about the extent to which America should encourage the spread of democracy and human rights abroad, authoritarian regimes have become increasingly aggressive and creative in attempting to export their own values against the United States and its allies. Russian President Vladimir Putin and other authoritarian rulers have worked assiduously to weaponize corruption as an instrument of foreign policy, using money in opaque and illicit ways to gain influence over other countries, subvert the rule of law and otherwise remake foreign governments in their own kleptocratic image.
In this respect, the fight against corruption is more than a legal and moral issue; it has become a strategic one — and a battleground in a great power competition.
Yet corruption is not only one of the most potent weapons wielded by America’s authoritarian rivals, it is also, in many cases, what sustains these regimes in power and is their Achilles’ heel.
Two years ago we published the Panama Papers after an anonymous source provided 2.6 terabytes of internal data from the dubious Panamanian law firm of Mossack Fonseca. We shared the data with 400 journalists worldwide and together revealed how the wealthy and powerful use shell companies to hide their assets. Such companies are exploited by dictators, drug cartels, mafia clans, fraudsters, weapons dealers and regimes like North Korea and Iran to hide their shady business transactions.
Russia’s economic means are limited. Therefore, the Kremlin prefers cheap asymmetric or hybrid warfare, such as the hacking of elections, cyberwarfare, manipulation of social media and the corruption of foreign politicians. We need to respond asymmetrically, hurting the Kremlin more than it hurts us.
Massive protests in Venezuela, Tunisia, Brazil, Morocco, and the Dominican Republic over the last few weeks have highlighted political graft around the globe, and the ensuing instability and violence that can result.