Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) introduced a bill this week that would toughen some of the disclosure rules for lobbyists working for foreign interests on Capitol Hill.
The legislation is meant to strengthen the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), the law that’s intended to prevent undue foreign influence in domestic policy. Grassley’s bill comes after special counsel Robert Mueller accused former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort earlier this week of making a false and misleading FARA disclosure, among other charges. Mueller is also investigating work that Democratic lobbyist Tony Podesta did on behalf of Manafort for a Ukrainian nonprofit.
“Policymakers are here to serve the interests of the American people, so we need to know when someone is pushing the priorities of a foreign interest,” Grassley said. “Unfortunately, we’ve seen time and again how lobbyists of foreign principals skirt existing disclosure laws to conceal their clients’ identities and agendas.”
FARA requires lobbyists working on behalf of a foreign principal to disclose their affiliations and agendas with the Justice Department. However, Grassley said the Justice Department lacks a comprehensive enforcement strategy for FARA and changes to lobbying rules in 1995 created ambiguity in registration requirements for foreign agents, leading to a drop in registrations.
Grassley’s bill would address these shortcomings by clarifying registration obligations of foreign agents, improving investigative tools for Justice Department officials and require Justice to develop a more comprehensive strategy for FARA enforcement.
“Hostile foreign nations have long sought to exploit every avenue when attempting to undermine the United States,” Grassley said. “Our bill ensures that those working with foreign nations appropriately disclose their relationships, ensuring transparency and protecting the democratic process.”