Thirty-three members of Congress are listed on the “congressional advisory board” of an organization that is partnered with a Chinese Communist Party-affiliated (CCP) think tank, according to a Washington Examiner report.
The Humpty Dumpty Institute (HDI) is a New York-based organization that focuses on international diplomacy and humanitarian work. Its website boasts 33 members of Congress as members of their “congressional advisory board.”
The list includes seven House Republicans and 26 Democrats. The congressional advisory board “informally advises on programming and CAB [Change Advisory Board] members are active in HDI’s domestic and international activities,” according to its website.
Since 2017, HDI has had a partnership with the Taihe Institute, a Beijing-based think tank that employs more than a dozen members of the CCP. HDI worked with Taihe Institute on their first annual Taihe Civilizations Forum held in August 2017. HDI’s CEO was present for all of Taihe Institute’s forums, except the one held in 2021.
According to the Washington Examiner:
HDI CEO Joseph Merante, a former career U.S. foreign service officer, spoke at the Taihe Institute’s annual Beijing-based Taihe Civilization Forum every year between 2017 and 2020. During his talk at the 2017 Taihe Civilizations Forum, Merante urged China to improve its “cultural soft power” and worldwide influence by making better use of cultural and artistic exchanges. And in his 2018 talk, Merante highlighted the HDI’s cooperation with Chinese businesses such as the video game developer Perfect World.
Several Republican members of Congress have condemned HDI after learning of their ties to the Taihe Institute. Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) was unaware he was listed on HDI’s congressional advisory board.
Harris told the Washington Examiner:
It comes as a complete surprise to me that I am listed as a member. I was never notified by the Institute that I was named to the “Advisory Board,” and I have had no interaction with the Institute at all since 2019, when I traveled on one sponsored trip to the Port of Antwerp as a member of the Ports Caucus.
Further, Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) submitted his resignation from the board in a letter addressed to HDI on Saturday:
It is particularly abhorrent to me to be associated with an organization that has ties to a government widely known to actively support infanticide, engage in forced sterilization, exploit slave labor, and persecute religious minorities and political dissidents
Therefore, I renounce any participation in HDI’s Congressional Advisory Board and seek the removal of my name from any promotional materials, documents, letterhead, and website references of your organization.
Additionally, I implore you to reconsider your associations with the CP and to rethink what this connection has to your stated humanitarian mission.
No Democrat members of Congress on HDI’s advisory board have publicly spoken out against the organization following the bombshell report. However, the Washington Examiner noted that Rep. Al Green’s (D-TX) name was removed from the HDI website at some point between Monday and Tuesday.
Democrats on HDI’s congressional advisory board include some of the most prominent liberal lawmakers, such as Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), and Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI).
The Washington Examiner found no evidence that HDI sponsored congressional travel to China. HDI also denied accepting funds from any CCP “organ or entity” in a statement.
“HDI has never accepted funds from the Taihe Institute or any Chinese Government organ or entity,” the statement said. “HDI has never had a program in mainland China. HDI did present at conferences organized by Taihe. HDI’s presentations were limited to cultural diplomacy and the need for dialogue.”