Foreign Relations & International Law

Lawfare Daily: Georgia's Foreign Agent Bill with Thomas de Waal

Anna Hickey, Thomas de Waal, Jen Patja
Wednesday, May 29, 2024, 8:00 AM
What is in the “Transparency of Foreign Influence”  legislation passed by the Georgia parliament?

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On May 14, the Georgian parliament passed a controversial foreign agent bill titled “Transparency of Foreign Influence” which has led to mass protests across the country. Although President Salome Zourabichvili vetoed the bill, Georgia Dream, the majority party, overturned the veto on May 28, ensuring the enactment of this legislation.

Lawfare Associate Editor for Communications Anna Hickey sat down with senior fellow at Carnegie Europe Thomas de Waal to discuss what exactly was in the bill, why it was so controversial, how the U.S. and European Union have reacted, and why Georgia Dream decided to pass it now.


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Click the button below to view a transcript of this podcast. Please note that the transcript was auto-generated and may contain errors.



[Audio Excerpt]

Thomas de Waal: The West right across the board from the U.S. to all across the EU, and you've got, the Council of Europe giving its legal opinion. Everyone has told Georgian Dream not to propose this bill. It threatens threats of sanctions. And the answer seems to be, we don't care. Bring it on.

Anna Hickey: It's the Lawfare Podcast. I'm Anna Hickey, Associate Editor for Communications with Thomas de Waal, Senior Fellow at Carnegie Europe.

Thomas de Waal: I guess these are people who've grown up in a basically free democratic Georgia and they smell authoritarian rule in the air under Georgian Dream because this bill is just one of many measures that they've taken with the rolling back democracy.

[Main Podcast]

Anna Hickey: Today, we're talking about the foreign agent legislation recently passed by the Georgian Parliament and the democratic backsliding occurring across Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

On May 14th, the Georgian Parliament passed a controversial foreign agent bill titled Transparency of Foreign Influence. Tom, what exactly was in this bill?

Thomas de Waal: This bill is a weapon, you might say, by the Georgian government against non-governmental organizations, but particularly against Western-funded non-governmental organizations, NGOs, civil society, however you like to call them, in Georgia. So it's directed against them, and it's clearly directed against the West, the U.S. and the European Union, and their policies in Georgia.

What's in the bill specifically? It says that any organization which gets more than 20 percent of its funding from foreign sources—and that means pretty much all of them, because Georgia is a pretty low-income country—are subject to heavy scrutiny, reporting requirements, and, if they don't meet those reporting requirements, they're going to be hit with heavy fines and face potential closure. And there's a lot of discretion in this bill, which means that it's pretty much up to the Interior Ministry security forces to decide who they want to go after. So it's a bill which, tends to be about transparency, but is really about threats, you might say, against this whole set of non-governmental organizations.

And I guess, why them? Because, and we can obviously talk about that a bit more, because there is not so much of a political opposition in Georgia, which caused the government to account these kind of organizations, whether they be independent media, anti-corruption, election monitoring, and a whole host of other things, as the ones which really are the main checks and balances in the Georgian political system.

Anna Hickey: And so the majority party in the parliament right now is the Georgian Dream, do I have that right?

Thomas de Waal: That's correct. Yes.

Anna Hickey: And when did they win their election to become the majority party in the parliament? And do they have an election coming up? Why now are they trying to go after these NGOs and organizations that are trying to hold the government accountable?

Thomas de Waal: Yeah, obviously, to answer that question, you need to go quite a way back in the history of Georgia, post-independence. But there is an election coming up in October. If Georgian Dream wins that election, it wins an unprecedented fourth term in Georgia as the ruling party. No party has ever managed to do that in Georgia. Georgia's a democracy, but a flawed democracy, where it's a bit of a winner takes all kind of electoral system. Georgian Dream, voters have lost their enthusiasm for this party which first came into office in 2012. It's changed a lot since then. So it's very much about leveling the field of opposition, which eases their path to victory in a fourth term. That’s part of it.

Part of it is obviously the geopolitical context, in which this is a party which has traditionally balanced, navigated, like a lot of regimes in this part of the world, they haven't put all their eggs, hopefully, in the western basket. they're formally committed to joining the European Union, and they've often had a great relationship with the United States, but they've also done a lot of business with Russia, and the dial has very, very much turned away from the West by Georgian Dream. This is the geopolitical context. They look at Ukraine, they don't want to be part the war in Ukraine. And so they're no longer putting their bets on the West in a way that a Georgian government would have until recently.

Anna Hickey: And some have called this bill a Russian law. There are, in other post-Soviet states and Russian-allied countries in Eastern Europe, there are similar pieces of legislation like this foreign agent bill, and obviously in Russia as well. Does it seem like there was a push by Vladimir Putin and Russian political diplomats to pass this bill? Or is this something the Prime Minister and the Georgian Dream seemingly did by themselves?

Thomas de Waal: If there is a Russian hand, it's not out there in the open. It's something behind the scenes, something indirect.

I would call it a Russian-inspired bill rather than a Russian-instructed bill. You mentioned that there are a number of countries who passed legislation like this. Russia obviously set the scene. They were the first ones to do it back in 2012, deliberately using this language of foreign agents to try and put these NGOs, these civil society organizations, this fifth column within the country, trying to overthrow the state. So that was very much the Russian language there. And obviously borrowed on Soviet Communist rhetoric about [inaudible] foreign agents and so on.

Other countries have picked that up. They say over Tajikistan, central Asia, Azerbaijan. Also Hungary. Hungary has a sovereignty law, which also used the same kind of language. And Hungary is not, uncoincidentally, is Georgia's best friend within the European Union. This is Viktor Orbàn's Hungary, which is the super conservative, the most pro-Russian country within the EU. So this is a group of countries which were not formally aligned with Russia. Hungary is formally, obviously, within the EU and NATO, but they signal to Russia, they do business with Russia. So this is, I would say, the kind of club of countries that Georgian Dream wants to put Georgia in to be friendlier to Russia, but not necessarily to sign up completely with Russia.

Anna Hickey: You mentioned that in the four election cycles that the Georgian Dream has succeeded in, the party has changed a lot. When it started out winning elections, did it start out as a much more pro-EU, pro-U.S. party, and then has seen a change?

Thomas de Waal: If we go back to 2012, we had Mikheil Saakashvili, listeners may remember, who was the extremely pro-Western President of Georgia. He was President of Georgia during the war with Russia in 2008. Kind of pro-Western, but also increasingly undemocratic, increasingly eccentric, has really lost touch with the public. A lot of people across the political spectrum in Georgia were fed up with him. They wanted a change.

So they got behind Georgian Dream, which is a very bizarre project. It's a bit hard to sum up. It's led by this reclusive billionaire, Bidzina Ivanishvili, who came from a Georgian village, made billions in Russia, and then went back to Georgia. And he was the only man with the kind of independent, the financial firepower, the billions, to actually take on Saakashvili. When he decided to go into politics, a lot of people got behind him. But it was never quite clear what he stood for; it was more what he stood against. And that was Saakashvili. So a lot of people—there was a broad coalition and alliance of people who wanted Saakashvili out. Georgian Dream formed that alliance.

The name incidentally, it gets pretty bizarre. This story comes from a rap song, which was the rap song of Ivanishvili son, Bera, which you can find out there on YouTube. So it was pretty much clear what they were—again, much less clear what they were for, but it was, the first term in particular was very pro-European Democratic, they got a lot of stuff done with the EU-signed association agreement.

As time has gone on, the most progressive figures left that coalition, and it just became more and more a kind of inner core of people who are personally associated with Ivanishvili. The prime minister had no job, for example, before he worked in Ivanishvili’s bank. The interior minister used to be head of Ivanishvili’s bodyguard. So we're down to the bare bones of that inner core. So it's become increasingly anti-Western and increasingly associated with the kind of business interests of one guy. And that's really also a separate part of the story. The future Georgia is now heavily bound up with the personal business interest of the founder of Georgian Dream.

Anna Hickey: As different politicians have left Georgian Dream, as it seems to have coalesced around this one eccentric billionaire, have they created any powerful opposition parties? Or is it still really just the Georgian Dream that is the main party in parliament?

Thomas de Waal: The short answer is no. There is no really powerful opposition. There are a lot of people, including a couple of former Georgian Dream prime ministers out there, including, incidentally, the president. The president in Georgia is not a very powerful figure. She's more of honorary head of state. But she's very strongly against what's going on. She used to be Georgian Dream herself. So yeah, there’s popular individuals, but there's no strong party structure in Georgia. There's only really two parties, Georgian Dream and the former ruling party of Saakashvili.

And this is part of the problem, is you've got this kind of rather strange landscape, in which it's not clear who people can vote for. So the mass opposition that you've seen out there on your TV sets against this law is tens of thousands of young people out in the streets. They're basically not party-affiliated. They're basically self-organized. It's young people using Facebook and other social media or university, college network to get people to out. It's not a very structured opposition process. It's very self-mobilized.

Anna Hickey: What has the reaction been? So you've mentioned that there's been these widespread protests, but that they've been pretty decentralized. And so, has there been any figure that has stepped up? You said, the president has moved further away from the Georgian Dream.

Thomas de Waal: No, she's pretty outspoken. I don't think—she's not someone who's going to be the next leader. But she's an important figurehead. Short answer is there is no single leader. This is very much decentralized, particularly led by young people, by students, who've grown up in a basically free Democratic Georgia, and they smell authoritarian rule in the air under Georgian Dream because this bill is just one of many measures that they've taken with the rolling back democracy. But they don't necessarily identify with any particular political party.

Anna Hickey: In spite of all of this opposition, what is the current status of this bill? Is it enacted yet? Where are we at?

Thomas de Waal: So this bill is about to become law. The Georgian Dream parliamentary group have held together, and they have stuck together. They seem personally loyal to Mr. Ivanishvili. The West, right across the board from the U.S. to all across the EU, and you've also got Council of Europe giving its legal opinion. Everyone has told Georgian Dream not to propose this bill. There have been threats of sanctions. And the opposition seems to be, we don’t care, bring it on. Almost as if though they deliberately want to have this fight with the West. They want to prove that the West is out to get them. So that’s the context in which there seems to be absolutely no turning back.

Anna Hickey: In the United States, if Congress, our government, passed a bill that citizens found to be unconstitutional, it could be contested in the court system through the Supreme Court. Is there a mechanism for that in Georgia? And if there's not, is there anything these people protesting on the streets can do to push back against this law once it's passed, other than trying to vote them out in October?

Thomas de Waal: Basically, it's a matter of trying to vote them out in October. And I guess why this is so dangerous is that October is obviously still a few months away. People are very angry out on the street, and the government is cracking down. It's actually a lot of police brutality, intimidation of protesters, civic activists, opposition politicians. There's no de-escalation by the government, and the protesters absolutely don't want this to happen, and there's no court in Georgia which is going to vote this down either.

Anna Hickey: And you mentioned the repression that some of these protesters have faced. Have there been similar wide-scale protests against legislation the Georgian Dream has passed? Has there been similar public outcry, and then this very harsh police response? Or is this a new turning point?

Thomas de Waal: I think this is a turning point. Georgia, because the political system is quite immature, so we say it does a lot of its politics out on the street. There was the Rose Revolution of 2003, where there was a contested election, which the election seems to be stolen, and hundreds of thousands of people came out in the street, and the then president caved. He gave in, and there were new elections. There have been a lot of street protests since then.

It was a year ago that George and Dream first started to try and enact this law, and then they backed down after a lot of street protests, but they've returned to it. So yeah, there is this history of street protests, but I would say this is something different in Georgia, and more dangerous because you do have this absolute no compromise attitude from the government. You see police violence and you see this kind of citizenry trying to overturn it. And those with longer memories would recall that back in the early ‘90s, there was basically a civil war in Georgia in 1992 when Georgia's disastrous first [inaudible] nationalist president, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, was very repressive. The fighting broke out and there were armed groups who overthrew him. And that was a kind of long-running civil war in Georgia.

Now I'm not saying that's going to be repeated. You don't have paramilitary armed groups in the way you would have had in Georgia with the breakup of the Soviet Union. But I would say, the risk of some kind of violence, unfortunately, does grow the longer the standoff continues.

Anna Hickey: And then, using this law to look at Georgian democracy as a whole, how has it been faring since the Russian invasion of Ukraine? And obviously Georgia has a couple regions in the country that Russian forces have been occupying. How is, in general, Georgian democracy doing in 2024?

Thomas de Waal: I think Georgian democracy is not in great shape, and that's mainly because you've had one party in power too long, trying to bring on the power, and the main funder and head of this party is, I would use the word paranoid. He thinks that the West is after him, and he thinks the West is after his money. I think that is a key part of it. That's one reason why Georgian democracy is in retreat.

But to be sure, there are a lot of people who want to stand up for Georgian democracy, and particularly younger people and urban people out there in the capital, Tbilisi, so who had to fight for Georgian democracy. So that's the domestic side of it. The war in Ukraine obviously complicates things because people are afraid of what Russia does, and I guess there are two views in the country. One is, we support Ukraine. We go West. We put [inaudible] very much in the Western basket here. This is a fight for European democracy. And I guess that's what a lot of the repressives would think. And the second one is, no, we [inaudible] in this situation, we stay out of the wall, we keep our heads down, we deal with Russia. We can also, by the way, make quite a bit of money with Russia because all of these frontline states are suddenly the new crazy big trading partners of Russia because of Western banks. And Georgian Dream is very much in the second camp here. And about half the time, their message is, there is a so-called global party of war, they've used this phrase, which wants to drag us into war with Russia, and we are the party who is stopping that.

Anna Hickey: You also mentioned that Georgia has obviously historically been interested in joining the EU. Has the EU said anything, like if you pass this piece of legislation, we won't have an accession agreement with you? Or are they not quite going that far yet?

Thomas de Waal: Yeah, this is the other quite bizarre thing, is the end of last year, the EU did give candidate status to Georgia, thereby darting it on the track to acceptance of the EU. It's still a couple of steps behind Ukraine and Moldova, which are a bit further ahead in this process. But Georgia is very much the third member of that trio within European Union membership perspective. It really would have been unthinkable two or three years ago. But with the war in Ukraine, it has changed everything.

EU, you would’ve thought, had quite a lot of leverage here. And all the and EU leaders, officials, are saying don’t pass this law. It’s [inaudible] your European ambitions. But what they actually do [inaudible]. Do they freeze the accessions process? Do they try and do sanctions? Here, the trouble is the EU is very much strung by unanimity principle. And you have two or three countries, Hungary being the most obvious one, but maybe some others are hiding behind Hungary which are quite friendly towards this government and might veto any kind of negative step towards Georgia. So you've got a lot of rhetoric coming out of the EU, and not much action.

The U.S. is being much more forthright, the U.S. is beginning to talk about sanctions. But the U.S. is less of a player now than the EU is in Georgia because of this whole membership issue.

Anna Hickey: Kind of narrowing down on, I think some has called it the Hungary problem in the EU, with the unanimity potentially keeping the EU from enacting any stronger sanctions or rules against Georgia if they do pass this piece of legislation, is there anything, if and when Georgia passes this foreign agent law, is there anything the EU could do without unanimity? Could the EU Parliament pass anything other than just a strongly worded, mandamus saying, you shouldn't do this? Or because of the unanimity, it's really just too hard for the EU to do anything with actual consequences?

Thomas de Waal: I guess a couple of things to say here. One is that the EU—no one thinks that that the status, acceptance rules they're going to carry on in this environment. So even if they don't formally agree that everyone knows that coming into the election relations with the EU are in a nosedive and things are pretty bad. So even if they don't formally freeze things, the message will still be clear that the EU is not taking this any further at the moment. And that will be an issue in the election. Second thing is member states can still pursue sanctions, even if the EU as a whole doesn't. And it'll be interesting to see how some of the bigger EU member states, like France or Germany, if they do feel held back by Hungary, they could go it alone.

Anna Hickey: This October, looking ahead to this fall, other than this foreign agent law, what else is at the forefront of this election cycle? Is it really just EU relations and then this foreign agent law? Or are there other things going on in Georgia that are on the top of people's minds heading into elections this fall? Though, of course, they probably aren't thinking about elections yet, because Most countries in Europe don't have quite the American lengthiness of their election process.

Thomas de Waal: Sure. I guess people are thinking about elections in Georgia because a lot of people are thinking, how on earth is this going to end? And maybe elections are the only way to get the top of the street and avoid violence. But yeah, for sure.

I think it's, like a lot of European countries, Georgia has a bit of an urban-rural divide, with the urban professionals who think this is about democracy, this is about our future in Europe and foreign agents, or it's just one of many pieces of legislation that people are worried about. They're also worried about what Georgian Dream has done to the court system and many other things. And I guess then you've got the rural voters, who are very low income in many cases, only earning a few hundred dollars equivalent month. They're obviously more worried about socioeconomic issues. They're more, I wouldn't say politically friendly to Russia, but they're probably happy at increased trade with Russia because particularly, the Russian market is a destination for a lot of Georgia's agricultural goods. More than half of Georgian wine still goes to Russia, for example, and wine is quite a big deal in Georgia.

So it's a bit hard to generalize. But I think at all, Golden Dream came to power by a lot of these parties promising no poverty and unemployment and do a lot of stuff, which it simply hasn't. So I think one reason that they're worried is that they probably do their own private polling and realize that they're not as popular as they used to be, and the tactic is not so much to do something positive as to do something negative. It's basically through fear [inaudible] the opposition.

Anna Hickey: And then is there anything you're specifically watching to keep an eye on for just general Georgian democracy? Are there any figures that you're keeping an eye on of maybe they could start a party in opposition to the Georgian Dream, or is it all too much of a moving situation to really have any idea what's going to happen in the coming weeks and months?

Thomas de Waal: I think so there's two—in these coming elections, it's going to be a proportional system. You need to get five percent of the vote to get into Parliament. We're watching a few individuals who I think are capable of getting 5 percent of the vote and what they're up to. And hopefully, they're doing some coalition-building and some bridge-building with other politicians. So that's going on.

But I guess, the big picture here is how spectacular this kind of descent into this retreat from democracy—it's all happened in a couple of months. Even a couple of months ago, there were fairly normal discussions between Georgian Dream and the EU. And now just the speeches they give are just, it's conspiracy theory land. It's some of these, Marjorie Taylor Greene-land, if you want to put it like that—even the other Georgia, by the way—in which they're talking about Soros, or even the Freemasons have come up. Or that the Council of Europe, Venice Commission is actually against this and that the West is popping revolution. The rhetoric is pretty extreme. And so when you're dealing with a government like that, it's quite hard to know how to react, and this is why you see this kind of fairly panicked reaction from Western officials who thought they had a fairly normal and sane intellect, because only two or three months ago are now wondering what the hell has happened here.

Anna Hickey: And this question may just be because as an American, I view foreign policy from an extremely Americanized lens, but would there be any credence to the idea that other countries, like Georgian officials, would see a potentiality of Donald Trump regaining the presidency in America, and that then making this, America with all of its power in Europe more friendly towards Russia? So they're trying to rush this bill in before the elections and then, assuming that if Trump wins, they won't face these sanctions or repercussions? Or is Georgia a little bit too isolated and, as you were saying, not as reliant on America, that's not as much as a factor in their thinking?

Thomas de Waal: That's a really interesting one. A couple of months ago, the prime minister, Irakli Kobakhidze, he went to the CPAC convention in Budapest, hosted by Viktor Orbàn, which is this ultra conservative group. Incidentally, this Georgian Dream used to be affiliated with the kind of center-left socialists in the European Parliament, and now it's suddenly led to the far-right, which tells you a bit about how weird this party is. So I guess, in Budapest he would have hung out with some of these kind of Trump-ets seen from the right of the Republican Party, and maybe got some encouragement from them, because part of it is also this family values, so-called anti-LGBT agenda that they're also quipping.

So yeah, I think the Georgian government is one of several governments around the world, probably Turkey, Hungary, Serbia, Azerbaijan, are all looking and thinking that if Trump gets back in the U.S., it's going to be a much more friendly international environment for them. Whether that's just part of a big consideration, somewhat just part of the kind of general weather, it's a bit harder to say.

Anna Hickey: And then also thinking towards the elections this fall, if this piece of legislation is enacted, what is going to be the effects on the possibility of a free and fair and nonviolent election? How important are these NGOs to supporting elections?

Thomas de Waal: Yeah, I think that’s a critical point. So you've got several independent media organizations which may be facing closure or heavy fines if this law goes through, and you've got election monitoring organizations as well.

I haven't mentioned that there are thousands of other organizations in Georgia that do things like disability rights. There's a case of a police dog shelter which they might have to close if this law goes through, but maybe that's just collateral damage as far as the ruling party is concerned. The ones they really want to go after are these scrutinizing organizations.

And for sure, I think what Georgian Dream would like to have is one of these kind of non-election elections that you see across much of the post-Soviet space, like in Russia. I don't think it would be quite as bad as Russia, but that's maybe what they aspire to, where they control the media, they're in control of the process and that sort of [inaudible] then there's no one around really to see it.

Anna Hickey: Is there anything that just regular citizens either in Europe and America can do to support the protesters, or is this really just that the protesters in Georgia are going to try to prevent this piece of legislation from being enacted and if they can't they're going to go to the ballot box this fall?

Thomas de Waal: Yeah, I think it's pretty much that. I think they've got a lot of support and, also, I guess Western politicians have to be a little careful because it looks like Mr. Ivanishvili and his team are quite paranoid. They do think the West is out to get them. If the Western politicians are too active in supporting the free protest, that kind of confirms that they're serious as well. You have to be a little careful. I think it's important to be talking about elections and not [inaudible]. And it's going to be hard for Georgian Dream to retreat on the law. But they could at least come under pressure to bring forward elections, and that they have to have an open election. I think that's probably where the pressure is best applied, to be honest.

Anna Hickey: How effective do you think the EU and U.S. have been so far in the response? And is there anything that you think the governments should be doing in response? Or is it all just hope for the best?

Thomas de Waal: I can't really say because a lot is going on behind the scenes. And clearly, one reason Mr. Ivanishvili is paranoid is because he could face asset freezes. One reason he's paranoid, in fact, is that Credit Suisse, a couple of years ago, the Swiss bank who he was in a lawsuit with, had basically frozen a lot of his assets and used the war in Ukraine as an excuse to do that. There are vulnerabilities, and I'm guessing that some of the stuff going on behind the scenes is focused on that kind of stuff, sanctions, money issues, asset freezes that we're just not seeing.

Anna Hickey: And then before we wrap up our conversation, do you have any final thoughts about the democracy in Georgia or in Eastern Europe in general, and how that part of the world is doing and progressing right now?

Thomas de Waal: Yeah. I think Georgia, it's a bit of a weathervane here. I think how I see it, the war in Ukraine is obviously absolutely crucial here. When Ukraine was doing well in the war, people were seeing it as a hopeful sign for democracy in Eastern Europe. And now that the Russians are pursuing their counteroffensive and the Russians seem to be on the up, with being the wind blowing in the opposite direction. I think there are some one-party states like in Central Asia or Azerbaijan who are authoritarian. They're very good at doing business with Russia. They keep their relations with the West, but they don't cross Russia's red line very much kind of ravine-to-ravine negotiations, and the people are left out of it What the people want is secondary. And those states are doing absolutely fine because I don't think they're under imminent threat from Russia. They're not going to join NATO. They have some Western support for their sovereignty.

And then you've got democracies—and I'm thinking of Moldova and Armenia—where it's a whole different picture, like their relations with Russia are breaking down. They want to go West and what the people says matters, but they can't do a deal even if they wanted to with Russia over the people's heads. And Armenia can be problematic because it's a country which formerly allied with Russia, but now has a pro-Western government, which wants to change its orientation.

Georgia, this is a bit of a long introduction to say, is in the middle there. Georgia is the kind of wing, queen of states here, as the other Georgia in the U.S. The government wants to be one of those one-party states to do a deal with Russia, and the people want to be like Moldova and Armenia. They want to be more democratic. They want to move towards Europe. So what happens in Georgia matters, for sure.  

Anna Hickey: I think we will leave it there. Thank you so much for joining us today.

Thomas de Waal: Thank you so much.

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The podcast is edited by Jen Patja and your audio engineer this episode was Noam Osband of Goat Rodeo. Our theme song is from Alibi Music. As always, thank you for listening.

Anna Hickey is the associate editor for communications of Lawfare. She holds a B.A. in interdisciplinary studies: communications, legal studies, economics, and government with a minor in international studies from American University.
Thomas de Waal is a British journalist and senior fellow at Carnegie Europe.
Jen Patja is the editor and producer of The Lawfare Podcast and Rational Security. She currently serves as the Co-Executive Director of Virginia Civics, a nonprofit organization that empowers the next generation of leaders in Virginia by promoting constitutional literacy, critical thinking, and civic engagement. She is the former Deputy Director of the Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution at James Madison's Montpelier and has been a freelance editor for over 20 years.

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