Changes Needed To Improve Government's Knowledge of OPEC Financial Influence in the United States

EMD-80-23: Published: Dec 19, 1979. Publicly Released: Dec 19, 1979.

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Whether large Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries' (OPEC) investments in the United States enhance the cartel's influence, financial and otherwise, on U.S. policy is a growing national issue. OPEC investment does not appear large and primarily is or has been in real estate and finance. The bulk of OPEC holdings in the United States are or have been portfolio investments, dollars and dollar equivalents.

Financial influence can take forms other than those of conventional investments. Some U.S. universities have received contracts and grants from OPEC countries. But overall, OPEC sources provide relatively little financial support to U.S. schools, and such funds appear to give OPEC members no additional influence over U.S. energy policy. OPEC member's financial involvement in lobbying and public relations, while often conspicuous, remains small in comparison to the expenditures of many other foreign governments. On the whole, OPEC investments do not appear to be a threat to the economy. However, GAO is concerned that U.S. officials might not be aware, on a timely basis, if particular strategic investments were made to influence policy. More current knowledge of OPEC and other foreign investment is needed. Improvements are needed in Federal monitoring activities to improve the Government's awareness of the extent and nature of OPEC financial influence in the United States.

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