President Joe Biden is formally directing federal departments and agencies to make fighting global corruption a priority.
The president on Thursday issued a “national security study memorandum“ that directs the U.S. government to send to him in 200 days a report and recommendations on how the United States can better use its resources and partner with other countries to battle corruption.
In a statement accompanying the directive, Biden said corruption “makes government less effective,“ “exacerbates inequalities” and “attacks the foundations of democratic institutions.” “Fighting corruption is not just good governance. It is self-defense. It is patriotism, and it’s essential to the preservation of our democracy and our future,” Biden said.
Biden has said the United States needs to promote, strengthen and defend democracy against authoritarian systems like the ones in China and Russia. He and his aides argue that corruption hampers the U.S. and its democratic allies in that fight. That could include, for instance, if a rival government funnels money from oligarchs in ways that interfere with U.S. elections.
Biden aides hope the mere process of responding to Biden’s memorandum will lead to a flurry of ideas and possibly even implementation of initiatives that can help in the anti-corruption fight well before the 200-day deadline for the report and recommendations.
“With the memorandum, the president is formally establishing the fight against corruption as a core national security interest of the United States,” a senior Biden administration official said.
Among the administration’s goals is cracking down on efforts to launder money through residential real estate purchases in the United States. The memorandum also speaks in vague terms about promoting efforts to ”support and strengthen the capacity of civil society, media, and other oversight and accountability actors to conduct research and analysis on corruption trends.”
The Biden administration already has used existing legal mechanisms to impose corruption-related sanctions on various foreign individuals and entities.
On Wednesday, the administration imposed sanctions on three Bulgarians as well as more than 60 entities in their networks. The Treasury Department accused the Bulgarians of “abusing public institutions for profit.” The sanctions cut off the individuals’ and their companies’ access to the American financial system.