GOP’s Gallagher pushes back on Biden infrastructure coordinator over questionable ties to China

A leading House Republican who is hawkish on China said that President Biden’s pick of former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu to coordinate the $1.2 trillion infrastructure legislation should not serve in that post due to his previous role as an adviser to a pro-China business organization with ties to the Chinese Communist Party.

On Tuesday, Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) called Biden out and asked him to pick someone else because of Landrieu’s “strategic adviser” role for the U.S. Heartland China Association. The organization is a U.S.-based trade group that looks to secure Chinese investments in the United States and frequently teams up with Chinese counterparts who are part of the CCP’s United Front Work Department.

The latter group is known as the CCP’s main foreign influence vehicle, described by President Xi Jinping as China’s “magic weapon.”

“Mitch Landrieu served as an adviser to the United States China Heartland Association, a group that is funded by CCP United Front organizations and that promotes Chinese investment in U.S. infrastructure projects,” Gallagher said in a statement.

“This should disqualify him from overseeing the implementation of President Biden’s massive infrastructure package. The President must immediately reconsider this selection and find another individual — who hasn’t advised an entity funded by the CCP — to do the job,” the Wisconsin Republican added.

The connection to the China-centric group, which is based in Missouri, was first reported by the Washington Free Beacon.

“Landrieu is an unpaid adviser to the Heartland Association, according to Executive Director Min Fan,” the outlet reported. The group’s chairman and CEO is former one-term Missouri Gov. Bob Holden (2001-2005).

According to Holden’s LinkedIn page, he “helped bring the first Confucius Institute” to a college in the state, Webster University. U.S. intelligence agencies consider the institutes to be part of China’s overall foreign influence operations apparatus.

During a speech earlier this year, Holden called for “more foreign and direct investment into the Heartland.” In addition, he called for “infrastructure investment,” stating that Chinese funds “could be a win-win for people and cultures in our Heartland and for China.”

The former Missouri head of state also said that he had met recently with eight former governors, and they “all agree that trade with China, student exchanges with China, investments from and into China, and tourists from China are essential to our states’ economies.”

Holden delivered the speech at the “2021 Hong Kong Forum on U.S.-China Relations, put together by USCHA in collaboration with the China-U.S. Exchange Foundation and the China Center for International Economic Exchanges, both with connections to the CCP,” the Examiner reported.

Biden tapped Landrieu on Monday. The Democrat was mayor of the Crescent City from 2010 to 2018; his sister, Mary Landrieu, served as a U.S. senator for Louisiana from 1996-2014 when she was defeated by GOP Sen. Bill Cassidy. Prior to his stint as New Orleans mayor, Mitch Landrieu served as Louisiana’s lieutenant governor.

“In this role, Landrieu will oversee the most significant and comprehensive investments in American infrastructure in generations—work that independent experts verify will create millions of high-paying, union jobs while boosting our economic competitiveness in the world, strengthening our supply chains, and acting against inflation for the long term,” the White House noted in a statement.

“Appointing someone with the background and experience of having been a mayor and a state official responsible for infrastructure projects sends an important signal that the administration is focused on delivering on the promises and the opportunities that this bill presents,” Neil Bradley, the chief policy officer at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said, according to The Wall Street Journal.

But critics lambasted him over his record during his stint leading the Gulf Port city, saying he did little to actually improve infrastructure during his eight years as mayor.

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