July 15, 2022

Warren Calls for Answers from Brookings Institution About Allegations of Its Former President’s Lobbying for Qatar

Warren Calls out Troubling Accusations of Illegal and Inappropriate Lobbying By Brookings Officials and Leaders

Text of Letter (PDF)

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) sent a letter to the Brookings Institution following reports that former Marine Corps General John R. Allen, the former President of the Brookings Institution, is under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for making false statements and withholding documents about his role in possible illegal lobbying for the government of Qatar. Senator Warren is asking Brookings for answers about its efforts to prevent Allen and other researchers from violating the law or inappropriately or unethically aiding foreign governments, and about the Institution’s efforts to rein in its researchers' conflicts of interest.

“While Allen has resigned, this incident raises broader concerns about conflicts of interest and foreign influence at Brookings, and the impact that these financial ties with foreign entities may have on Brookings Institution staff and the work they do,” wrote Senator Warren.“The American people deserve to know how foreign countries and corporations buy influence over the federal government, and through think tanks that are designed to influence federal government decisions and actions.” 

Reports indicate that General Allen was “pursuing multi-million dollar business deals with the Qatari government” and led a behind-the-scenes influence campaign that  “played an important role in shifting the U.S.’s response” toward Qatar. According to authorities, Allen “lobbied then-National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster to have the Trump administration adopt a more Qatar-friendly tone.”

Although Allen has resigned, Senator Warren’s letter raises broader concerns about Brookings’ failure to address and disclose financial conflicts of interest. In 2015, Senator Warren sent a letter to Brookings regarding its failure to disclose that the financial industry funded research by Dr. Robert Litan, then a Nonresident Senior Fellow, and was given editorial control of his work products, calling into question the independence of his work. Last month,  Senator Warren sent letters to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, requesting information about Allen’s alleged lobbying for the Qatari government.

Senator Warren is asking Brookings for a response to a set of questions about its efforts to prevent Allen and other researchers from violating the law and preventing financial conflicts of interest by July 29, 2022.

Senator Warren has led efforts to fight government corruption and the revolving door that lets former government officials cash in on their service. Senator Warren’s Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act is sweeping anti-corruption legislation that would rein in corruption, strengthen ethics, end lobbying as we know it, improve the integrity of the judiciary, and reform campaign finance law. Her DoD Ethics and Anti-Corruption Act (S. 2396) would require the explicit approval of the Secretary of State for all former senior officials of the White House and Departments of State, Defense, and Treasury who seek paid work for a foreign government or non-governmental foreign entity, and bans former senior Pentagon officials from lobbying and behind-the-scenes lobbying DoD for four years. Senator Warren has also worked to secure commitments from nominees — including Secretary Austin and other Department of Defense nominees — on ethics standards.