President Joe Biden's pick to oversee $1.2 trillion in infrastructure spending is a top adviser to a trade organization that seeks Chinese investment in American infrastructure.
Mitch Landrieu serves as strategic adviser to the United States China Heartland Association, which supports cultural and business exchange between China and 20 states in the American heartland. The association frequently partners with Chinese Communist Party front groups that operate abroad.
Landrieu's position with the Heartland Association could raise eyebrows given the organization's promotion of Chinese investment in domestic infrastructure projects. American officials have expressed concern that the Chinese government and state-linked companies use infrastructure investments in foreign countries to influence policy abroad. Heartland Association chairman Bob Holden, the former Democratic governor of Missouri, this year urged Chinese investment in U.S. infrastructure, saying it presents a "win-win" for both sides.
Landrieu is an unpaid adviser to the Heartland Association, according to Executive Director Min Fan. Fan said that the association's advisers—a list that includes Export-Import Bank nominee Reta Jo Lewis—"are all Governor Holden's friends who agreed to be consulted when we need their advice." Fan told the Washington Free Beacon that she is not aware of Landrieu's providing any advice to the Heartland Association.
Biden on Sunday appointed Landrieu, the former Democratic mayor of New Orleans, to serve as infrastructure coordinator, a position in which he will supervise spending on roads, bridges, ports, and other infrastructure across the country. The White House says Landrieu's work on rebuilding New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina makes him qualified for the post.
The Heartland Association has worked closely with two Chinese Communist Party organizations, the China-United States Exchange Foundation and the Chinese People's Association for Relations with Foreign Countries. An executive with the China-United States Exchange Foundation serves on the Heartland Association's board of directors.
CIA director William Burns testified this year that in his previous role as president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, he severed ties with the Exchange Foundation because of its efforts to influence American policymakers. Former secretary of state Mike Pompeo last year cancelled a diplomatic event sponsored by the Chinese People's Association for Relations with Foreign Countries, saying the group sought to "malignly influence" state and local leaders to advance China's foreign policy goals.
While the Heartland Association does not disclose its financial backers, the group has touted partnerships with Chinese automotive glass maker Fuyao Group and solar panel maker Wanxiang New America.