Pay For Play? Heritage’s Cozy Ties With Foreign Weapons Maker Raises Concerns

The GOP think tank has been taking millions from a conglomerate while publicly promoting its landmines and autonomous machine guns.


The conservative Heritage Foundation has consistently fought international treaties banning weapons that pose an outsized threat to civilians in war zones. This would include anti-personnel landmines, cluster munitions, and “killer robots”—as well as regulations that would enforce arms embargoes on human rights offenders. And yet, Heritage fails to disclose a possible financial incentive for taking these positions.

Heritage received at least $5.8 million from the Hanwha Group between 2007 and 2015, according to the organization’s annual reports reviewed by Responsible Statecraft. Between 2010 and 2014, Hanwha—a South Korean conglomerate that has produced landmine and autonomous weapons systems—contributed a minimum of $1 million per year, making Hanwha one of the Heritage Foundation’s biggest donors. Hanwha was not listed as a donor after 2015, but Heritage permits donors to make anonymous contributions and Heritage and the Hanwha Group did not respond to questions about whether the funding arrangement continued after 2015.

However, Korean media regularly reports on the close relationship between Heritage and Hanwha, and suggested their friendly relationship was alive and well, at least as recently as October 2018 when Heritage Foundation founder Edwin J. Feulner and Hanwha Group Chairman Kim Seung-youn met in Seoul. This meeting was documented by The Korea Herald, a major South Korean English language newspaper. Topics discussed included: “difficulties faced by Korean businesses in the U.S., despite the successful renegotiation of the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement.”

“Feulner and the Hanwha chairman have maintained a working relationship for the past 30 years, holding regular meetings to discuss outstanding political and economic issues between the two countries,” concluded The Korea Herald article….

At minimum, tax exempt foundations should be forced to disclose all their financial transactions, it seems to me.

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