Dec. 19, 2017
Groups Urge Congress to Strengthen the Law Requiring Disclosure of Lobbying for Foreign Interests
Support the ‘Disclosing Foreign Influence Act’
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Several reform organizations and academics are calling on Congress to pass new legislation strengthening the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), which mandates disclosure of foreign lobbying activities, to ensure that the American public knows who is trying to influence their policy.
The “Disclosing Foreign Influence Act” (S. 2039 and H.R. 4170), sponsored by U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and U.S. Rep. Michael Johnson (R-La.), would provide the U.S. Department of Justice with desperately needed enforcement tools to help ensure full disclosure of activities by foreign governments and foreign entities designed to influence American public policy. The Republican-sponsored legislation has attracted bipartisan support, showing its importance.
The organizations and academics encouraging Congress to strengthen FARA include Campaign Legal Center, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Common Cause, Issue One, Prof. James A. Thurber, Norman J. Ornstein, Project on Government Oversight, Public Citizen and the Sunlight Foundation.
The letter cites an audit by the Department of Justice’s Inspector General that documented a general disregard of FARA by lobbyists and foreign principals. Registrations of lobbyists have fallen dramatically, and disclosure reports by those who have registered often are incomplete and filed late.
The “Disclosing Foreign Influence Act” would provide the FARA Unit of the Department of Justice with subpoena authority to conduct investigations of possible violations of the law. It also would eliminate what is widely known as the “LDA loophole” in which lobbyists for foreign business interests may opt to file under the less stringent Lobbying Disclosure Act rather than FARA.
The groups also encourage Congress to go further and mandate electronic filing of FARA reports and develop a disclosure database that is searchable, sortable and downloadable.
The letter concludes: “This legislation would provide the critical tools necessary to the Department of Justice for vastly enhancing the effective administration and enforcement of FARA.”