FIRST ON FOX: Republican Senators Tom Cotton and Marco Rubio warned Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen about the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and Kremlin-linked company trying to buy a storied American media brand.
Cotton and Rubio wrote to Yellen on Tuesday regarding the Sun Group’s bid to acquire Forbes, calling on the Treasury secretary “to conduct a review and take appropriate action to protect America’s national security” in regard to the proposed acquisition “without delay.”
“The implications of allowing entities close to the Russian government and the CCP to own and operate an influential American media outlet are grave,” the senators warned. “Forbes reportedly holds a significant market share among younger Americans, with tens of millions of monthly users.”
“This puts Forbes in a unique position to collect and store sensitive personal data on these populations and influence their opinions,” they continued. “Further, foreign powers could use Forbes’ wide reach to influence voters during close elections.”
“This is especially significant as Forbes has published stories in recent years documenting the CCP’s influence over TikTok and participating in the ongoing genocide of the Uyghurs and other non-Han Chinese ethnic groups in Xinjiang. This reporting would undoubtedly be censored if Forbes is acquired by entities closely affiliated with the CCP.”
The GOP senators pointed out that foreign “adversaries have previously attempted to acquire Forbes” last year when “the CCP attempted to buy Forbes through Magnum Opus Acquisition Limited, a special-purpose acquisition company.
“Fortunately, that effort was scuttled after the CCP’s involvement came to light,” Cotton and Rubio wrote.
“Our adversaries have tried to further obfuscate their efforts this time to evade scrutiny,” they continued. “Sun Group, an investment firm with reportedly close ties to both the Russian government and the CCP, has partnered with a Magomed Musaev, a former Kremlin propagandist, to acquire Forbes.”
The senators wrote that “Sun Group is reportedly attempting to present the buyout of Forbes as an American venture by employing U.S. surrogates” in the form of 28-year-old entrepreneur Austin Russell, who the senators note has “no media background.”
“Russell is masquerading as the lead buyer of Forbes, claiming to purchase 82% of the company with a mere $10 million,” they wrote. “However, it is evident that Russell is merely a conduit for larger foreign investors, with Sun Group alone reportedly investing up to $300 million, nearly 40% of the capital for Forbes.”
“Adding to these suspicions, Suleyman Kerimov, a U.S.-sanctioned Russian oligarch with ties to Vladimir Putin, reportedly gave Russell $20M to launch his start-up, Luminar. Further, $100 million of the Forbes buyout capital will reportedly flow through two American daughters of businessman Shiv Khemka, the owner and Vice Chairman of Sun Group.”
Cotton and Rubio noted that the “CCP’s participation in this venture is also concerning” and that the “People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) State Council, through its ownership of China National Gold Group, has a 70% stake in a Russian gold mine that is co-owned by Sun Group and is one of Sun Group’s largest assets.”
The senators also highlighted that “China’s state-owned SAIC Motor, which is supervised by the PRC State Council, reportedly has a lucrative contract with Russell’s Luminar that tripled Luminar’s stock in 4 months.”
“Most of Russell’s own net worth is tied up in Luminar stock, giving the PRC State Council, through SAIC Motor, significant leverage over Russell,” the Republicans warned. “If this acquisition moves forward, the CCP’s influence over Luminar, Russell, and Sun Group would translate into influence over Forbes.”
“Foreign investors would control nearly 50% of the total capital involved in the Forbes acquisition and the ‘lead’ American buyer appears compromised by foreign influence. Looking at the voting stock of this proposed buyout, the amount that would be held by Russell, Sun Group and Chinese nationals (all of whom are influenced by the PRC State Council) reportedly totals over 90% of the voting stock.”
Cotton and Rubio wrote it “is evident that the dangers of the proposed Forbes acquisition greatly exceed the acceptable level of risk established by Congress under the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act (FIRRMA) and by President Biden under Executive Order 14083,” and called for a review of the proposal “without delay.”
Fox News Digital also obtained a memo sent around Capitol Hill by Obama-era National Intelligence Council Chairman Gregory Treverton calling on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) to “veto” the proposal.
“If it does not, it is high time for Congress to bar Russian and Chinese government-linked entities from owning our news media assets,” Treverton wrote.
“Neither Russia nor China would ever allow Americans to own their news media, so why would we allow entities with close ties to the Russian and Chinese governments to own ours?” he added.
Treverton wrote the “argument for action… goes well beyond tit-for-tat reciprocity” and warned that the “national security concerns at risk are serious.”
“When compared to other business media companies, Forbes has the #1 market share among U.S. Millennials and Generation Z, with tens of millions of American monthly users,” Treverton wrote. “Forbes collects and stores sensitive data on millions of Americans.”
“Given that it analyzes the search results of millions of visitors per month to its websites, Forbes would be a valuable resource for the Russian and Chinese Governments to research the concerns of millions of Americans regarding their business, politics, and the economy,” he warned.
A Forbes spokesperson told Fox News Digital this “is not the first time outside interests have tried to drive false narratives about this deal.”
“Austin is the sole decision maker in this acquisition, and he has all capital contractually committed with the majority being American,” the spokesperson said.
“If the Senators are interested in learning about the transaction, we would welcome the opportunity to meet with them,” the spokesperson added.
As treasury secretary, Yellen sits at the helm of CFIUS.
Republican lawmakers are not the only ones sounding the alarm on the proposal. In April, progressive California Democrat Rep. Eric Swalwell also blasted the deal. Swalwell spokesperson Jessica Gail told Politico the congressman “opposes any efforts by entities linked to the Chinese or Russian government attempting to acquire U.S. media companies.”
“The Congressman is seeking to learn more before making any formal requests,” Gail added.
The proposal for the communist country-linked company’s acquisition of a U.S. media firm comes as conservative outlets have to navigate the social media landscape’s evolving push for censorship.
An adversary’s takeover of a trusted U.S. media outlet could cause irreparable harm to the nation as well as censor important stories about the atrocities committed by the regimes that lead them.
Should the CCP gain any modicum of control over Forbes or another American outlet, the records of their genocide of Uighur Muslims, suppression of Christians and dissidents and military incursions into Taiwan could be wiped away.
Fox News Digital reached out to Russell, Sun Group, and the Treasury Department, but did not receive responses.