WASHINGTON, DC – Two bipartisan bills authored by U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) to improve our nation’s ability to prevent foreign governments from attempting to influence U.S. policy have advanced in the Senate. The bills would close existing loopholes that foreign governments, including adversaries like the Russian and Chinese governments, can exploit to conceal their roles in lobbying efforts. The bills were advanced by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee where Peters serves as Chair, and now move to the full Senate for consideration.
“Increasing transparency around foreign lobbying activities will help prevent foreign adversaries, including the Russian and Chinese governments, from influencing our political process,” said Senator Peters. “These bipartisan legislation will shine a light on nefarious foreign lobbying efforts and ensure the government is working in the best interest of the nation.”
“Sunlight is the best disinfectant when it comes to the people’s business. We ought to always push for the greatest transparency possible, especially when it involves those trying to influence policy in our country on behalf of a foreign power,” said Senator Grassley. “I’m glad to once again join Senator Peters in these efforts that will ensure we know if someone is using their lobbying disclosure to exempt themselves from registering as a foreign agent.”
The Lobbying Disclosure Improvement Act would improve transparency of the activities of lobbyists who represent foreign persons or organizations by requiring them to indicate whether they are taking advantage of an exemption under the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) when they register under the Lobbying Disclosure Act. This would help the Department of Justice narrow the pool of registrants they are examining for potential violations, while not imposing any meaningful additional burden on registrants.
The Disclosing Foreign Influence in Lobbying Act closes a loophole in the Lobbying Disclosure Act that foreign adversaries – including the Chinese government – can exploit to conceal their roles in lobbying efforts. Think tanks and law enforcement agencies have identified instances in which foreign adversaries exploited this loophole by using closely-connected organizations and businesses to push their interests when lobbying the U.S. government. The bill makes clear that lobbying organizations must disclose when foreign governments and political parties participate in their lobbying efforts, regardless of any financial contribution to the lobbying effort.