Representative Mike Gallagher, who chairs the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, and Congressional Republicans are urging a University of Montana institute linked to former U.S. ambassador Max Baucus to sever ties with a Beijing proxy group operating in the United States, as reported by National Review. The GOP lawmakers contend that the educational exchange program, in collaboration with the China-U.S. Exchange Foundation (CUSEF), is contrary to U.S. national-security interests.
While numerous Chinese government front groups operate discreetly in the U.S., CUSEF is a declared foreign principal whose lobbyists register as foreign agents with the Justice Department. The foundation has been embroiled in several controversies highlighting China’s malign influence in the U.S. Despite public warnings about CUSEF’s role as a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) agent, an the Max Baucus Institute maintains an active partnership with it. Baucus, a former Senator and U.S. ambassador to China appointed by President Obama, advocates for cooperation with Beijing, contending that public criticism of CCP misbehavior should be avoided.
In a letter to University of Montana President Seth Bodnar, Gallagher, along with Montana Representatives Ryan Zinke and Matt Rosendale, urged the school to terminate its association with CUSEF, cautioning that the university unwittingly supports the CCP’s malign objectives. The lawmakers also called for the implementation of a robust vetting process for foreign partnerships to prevent similar situations in the future.
The legislators specifically expressed concern about the Baucus Institute’s 2024 study trip to China, funded largely by CUSEF. The program, scheduled for May and June, focuses on comparative law and involves a partnership between the University of Montana, CUSEF, and Tsinghua University. The legislators raised alarms about the potential influence of CUSEF on the program, covering most expenses for participants except for air travel to China.
The letter to Bodnar coincides with warnings from the House select committee about the dangers posed by the CCP’s “united front” work, a network dedicated to advancing the Communist Party’s aims within China and abroad.
CUSEF, based in Hong Kong, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Despite previous scrutiny, Baucus has maintained his partnership with CUSEF, traveling to China in June as part of the exchange program. In a recent debate, Baucus criticized Gallagher’s stance on China-related issues, emphasizing that understanding China requires officials to visit the country.