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Rubio Joins Grassley, Bipartisan Colleagues in Reintroducing Bill to Boost Disclosure of Foreign Lobbying

May 20, 2021 | Press Releases

Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) joined Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA), John Cornyn (R-TX), Todd Young (R-IN), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) in reintroducing legislation to bring further transparency and accountability to efforts by foreign interests to influence American policy and public opinion. The Foreign Agents Disclosure and Registration Enhancement Act of 2021 adds teeth to existing law aimed at ensuring public awareness of lobbying campaigns pushed by foreign powers.
 
“I am pleased to join my colleagues in reintroducing this bipartisan bill to protect the integrity of democracy from foreign interference and influence campaigns,” Rubio said. “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 clear that we will hold individuals and foreign governments who attempt to interfere in our democracy accountable.”

“If lobbyists or public relations firms are peddling policy preferences at the behest of foreign powers, we ought to know about it,” Grassley said. “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.”

“Foreign governments seeking to influence American institutions sometimes attempt to evade these important transparency requirements,” Cornyn said. “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.”

“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,” Young said. “This legislation aims to strengthen federal requirements to ensure individuals working on behalf of foreign entities report their activities. The bill will give U.S. Department of Justice more tools to improver compliance and transparency which in turn will protect our national security interests.”

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 Committee on the Judiciary, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.