WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley, Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, reintroduced legislation to shine a light on efforts by foreign interests to influence American policy and public opinion. The Foreign Agents Disclosure and Registration Enhancement Act adds teeth to existing law aimed at ensuring public awareness of lobbying campaigns pushed by foreign powers. The bill is cosponsored by Senators John Cornyn (R-Texas), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and is identical to bipartisan legislation introduced by Grassley in 2019. 
 
“If lobbyists or public relations firms are peddling policy preferences at the behest of foreign powers, we ought to know about it. Unfortunately, we’ve seen uneven application of laws designed to shine a light on foreign lobbying. This bill gives the Justice Department new tools to detect and deter secret foreign lobbying and ensures policymakers and the American public know when influence campaigns are being pushed by foreign interests. The bill is the product of years of negotiations and it’s time we get it on the books,” Grassley said.
 
“Foreign governments seeking to influence American institutions sometimes attempt to evade these important transparency requirements. This legislation would give the Department of Justice more resources to investigate actions by foreign powers and put into place enforcement mechanisms to ensure those who do not comply face consequences,” Cornyn said.
 
“I am pleased to join my colleagues in reintroducing this bill to protect the integrity of democracy from foreign interference and influence campaigns. Extensive foreign influence efforts are ongoing in our universities, state, local and federal governments, and even private sector corporations. I will continue to focus on bipartisan efforts to make it clear that we will hold individuals and foreign governments accountable who would attempt to interfere in our democracy,” Rubio said.
 
“Since 2019, I’ve pushed to lift the curtain on how foreign lobbying campaigns — most notably those by strategic rivals like China — work to influence Americans. This legislation aims to strengthen federal requirements to ensure individuals working on behalf of foreign entities report their activities. The bill will give the U.S. Department of Justice more tools to improve compliance and transparency which in turn will protect our national security interests,” Young said.
 
Congress passed the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) in 1938 to identify Nazi propaganda and other foreign efforts to influence U.S. policy. The content-neutral law requires anyone working on behalf of a foreign government, political party or entity to influence U.S. policy or public opinion to register with the Justice Department as a foreign agent. However, since it was updated in 1966, FARA has been used sparingly in criminal prosecutions, and enforcement has been inconsistent. The Foreign Agents Disclosure and Registration Enhancement Act strengthens FARA by providing the Justice Department with more tools to investigate possible violations and increasing penalties for failure to properly register as a foreign agent. The bill also provides important oversight checks on the use of those new tools and improves FARA advisory opinion transparency and requires the Government Accountability Office to study whether and to what extent the Lobbying Disclosure Act exemption is being abused to conceal foreign lobbying activity.
 
This bill is identical to bipartisan legislation first introduced in 2019 after years of congressional oversight and input from federal agencies and U.S.-based stakeholders. It earned bipartisan support from leaders on the Senate Judiciary, Intelligence and Foreign Relations committees.
 
As then-Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Grassley raised concerns about lax FARA enforcement in 2015 regarding lobbying work by former Clinton administration officials for a Georgian political party, and again in 2016 regarding a Russian effort to overturn U.S. sanctions. Grassley also raised concerns about work for Ukrainians by Paul Manafort and the Podesta Group. Grassley later held a hearing on the issue where Paul Manafort was subpoenaed to testify. Manafort was later indicted for FARA violations. More recently, Grassley questioned whether foreign state-owned media organizations and foreign business arrangements involving members of the Biden family complied with FARA.
 
More information on Foreign Agents Disclosure and Registration Enhancement Act
 
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