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senate Bill S. 1762

Should Enforcement & Punishment of Foreign Agents Registration Act Violations Be Increased?

Argument in favor

A perceived lack of consequences has led to little FARA compliance by lobbyists, who influence U.S. politics without disclosing their foreign relationships. Giving FARA teeth and empowering the Dept. of Justice (DOJ) to investigate FARA violations will help improve compliance with this law and keep foreign influence out of U.S. politics.

RjGoodman's Opinion
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10/14/2019
With ambiguous investigative responsibilities and a perceived lack of consequences has led to little FARA compliance by lobbyists, who influence U.S. politics without disclosing their foreign relationships. By giving FARA more severe consequences and assigning the Dept. of Justice (DOJ) to investigate FARA violations will help improve compliance with this law and keep foreign influence out of U.S. politics.
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operaman's Opinion
···
10/14/2019
I suppose I will support Sen Grassley's bill. However, I believed we had protection against foreign governments. Of course, we find out the prior bills to protect us was a toothless bill, so another bill is in the hopper. In this case, I shall demure to Sen Grassley, who has always appeared to be a Patriot against Liberals and progressive socialists.
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One4All4One's Opinion
···
10/13/2019
Congress must cleanse its self of all the criminals (including the senate), obstructionists, and foreign agents (like Moscow Mitch). Until we get people in Congress who support our Constitution instead of abuse it for their personal and party gain America will continue to swirl around the bowl headed for the sewers. It would also help if the MAGAts would learn (and care) about facts versus lies, try to save our environment, and do without their their AKs like most responsible adults.
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Argument opposed

The DOJ is already ramping up its FARA enforcement, as evidenced by the seven FARA-related criminal prosecutions stemming from the Mueller investigation. There’s no need to further enhance FARA legislatively — the DOJ merely needs to continue doing what it’s already doing.

jimK's Opinion
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10/14/2019
DrCindyBean: I agree with you completely. I think putting investigative and punitive teeth into foreign lobbyist protection is a good thing to do generally. But, we have to have a DOJ that is not overwhelmingly directed to shielding the President. I think the greater issue is in putting controls on the independence of the DOJ and its mission from being used to support a presidential political agenda. Kind of like it mostly was in the past. Sadly, I think this will have to be formalized to prevent future abuse of an AG acting as a president's personal attorney and enlisting the extensive DOJ apparatus to shield the president from constitutional oversight.
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KansasTamale's Opinion
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10/14/2019
NOT IN THIS ADMINISTRATION. THE DOJ IS A TRUMP PUPPET & WILL NOT DO WHAT IS RIGHT & WILL USE IT AGAINST THOSE WHO TRUMP IS AFRAID OF BECAUSE THEY SPEAK THE TRUTH ABOUT HIM & HIS MINONS.
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10/14/2019
I think we need this corrupt criminal trump regime out before any changes are made. trump and trump’s corrupt criminal regime use and misuse and abuse - every chance they get - they turn every thing into weapons to bludgeon anyone who disagrees with trump- anyone who stands up against his lies and bullying. Impeach trump. Remove trump and trump’s corrupt criminal regime from our government. Now.
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What is Senate Bill S. 1762?

This bill — the Foreign Agents Disclosure and Registration Enhancement Act of 2019 — would amend the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) in an effort to improve compliance with and enforcement of its requirements. To this end, this bill would grant the Dept. of Justice (DOJ) new investigative power in the form of Civil Investigative Demand authority to probe possible violations by those who should register as foreign agents; increase criminal and civil penalties for violating FARA; and charge the Government Accountability Office (GAO) with studying whether, and to what extent, the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA) exemption to FARA registration is being abused.

Specifically, this bill would make three key amendments to FARA: 

  • Granting the Attorney General the power to issue civil investigative demands (CIDs) to compel production of information, such as documentary material or oral testimony, needed to assess whether certain activities undertaken by individuals or entities require FARA registration under existing statute.
  • Increasing criminal fines for certain willful FARA violations from $10,000 to $200,000; increasing fines for deficient registration statements or unlawful contingent fee arrangements from $5,000 to $15,000; and implementing new fines, ranging from $1,000 to $200,000, for failure to file timely or complete registration statements, failure to file timely or complete supplemental disclosures, or failure to remedy deficient registration statements after notice.
  • Empowering the DOJ to develop and implement a comprehensive strategy for improving compliance with and enforcement of FARA, which will be subject to GAO review and analysis. The GAO is also tasked with auditing current use of the LDA exemption to FARA registration to determine whether the exemption is operating as intended or creating opportunities for misuse.

This bill would also require the DOJ to develop and implement a comprehensive enforcement strategy for FARA and require the GAO to produce a report on the effectiveness of this bill’s amendments to FARA.

Impact

Lobbyists; lobbyists for foreign countries; foreign countries; the DOJ; GAO; the US Attorney General; FARA; and FARA violators.

Cost of Senate Bill S. 1762

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-DepthSen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) — one of the most vocal Congressional critics of existing FARA enforcement and compliance — introduced this bill to shine a light on foreign interests’ efforts to influence American policy and public opinion by adding teeth to existing law aimed at ensuring public awareness of lobbying campaigns pushed by foreign powers: 

“If lobbyists or public relations firms are peddling policy preferences at the behest of foreign powers, we ought to know about it. Long before Special Counsel Mueller’s team sparked a renewed interest in enforcing the Foreign Agents Registration Act, I was raising concerns about undisclosed foreign lobbying and a lack of FARA enforcement. 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.”

Original cosponsor Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) adds that FARA is routinely ignored and punishment for failure to comply is nonexistent

“FARA is meant to ensure one thing: that Americans working on behalf of foreign governments and political parties disclose those relationships. Unfortunately, this law is routinely ignored and too often enforcement is lacking. Our bill provides tools and resources in order to improve the enforcement of FARA in order to protect our electoral process and other institutions. We know that Russia, China and other foreign actors continue to work to influence Americans; FARA is one key tool to ensure they’re not successful.”

Ken Silverstein, a longtime Washington reporter and the creator of WashingtonBabylon.com, argues that the DOJ’s reluctance to enforce FARA, along with easy loopholes to get around it, are the real issues when it comes to FARA compliance

“The Department of Justice’s own inspector general has confirmed just how toothless the FARA enforcement is. In September 2016, DOJ issued a report that tallied all the prosecutions under FARA since 1966—a total of seven. Only one of the individuals charged was convicted at trial; according to the report, two pleaded guilty to FARA charges, two were convicted on non-FARA charges and two saw their cases dismissed. An important reason for this lack of enforcement is that there are virtually no enforcers. The FARA team at DOJ is small, poorly funded and relies on voluntary compliance. According to a POLITICO story from October, ‘it usually investigates possible failures to register only when its staff reads about them in the media.’... And here's another trick that's even better, and it's not just used by Russia. Let's say a government wants a lobbyist or someone else to do some work for them in Washington. Maybe it's lobbying and maybe it's not exactly lobbying. The country simply has a major American law firm hire the lobbyist or PR executive, and now you're not lobbying for Russia, you're providing litigation support for a certified American law firm. And it's 100 percent legal and outside the purview of the ever more meaningless FARA statute. Makes you wonder why there’s a law at all.”

This bill has five bipartisan cosponsors, including three Republicans and two Democrats.

This bill is similar to Sen. Grassley’s Disclosing Foreign Influence Act from the 115th Congress, but with a few substantive and procedural differences. Most significantly, while the previous bill would’ve eliminated the LDA exemption, this bill only calls for an audit of the LDA exemption

In the 115th Congress, multiple Senators introduced a wide array of FARA reform bills. Thus far in the 116th Congress, all the Senators that individually pushed FARA reform bills last Congress have come together in a bipartisan manner to champion this single bill.


Of NoteFARA was enacted in 1938 to combat foreign propaganda by requiring organizations and individuals engaged in lobbying or public discourse on behalf of a foreign government to register with the Dept. of Justice (DOJ) and disclose their funding and the scope of their activities. Under FARA, foreign lobbyists must register with the DOJ within 10 days of reaching an agreement with their foreign clients and file a copy of their contract at the same time. Then, they must file semi-annual reports on everything they did for their foreign clients and any funds exchanged, including any political contributions made by lobbyists. Additionally, any promotional materials sent on behalf of foreign clients to more than one person must be filed with the Justice Department within 48 hours of distribution.

However, compliance with FARA is very low, and the DOJ Office of the Inspector General (DOJ OIG) reports that penalties for FARA violations are currently “exceedingly rare.” In fact, from 1966-2015, the DOJ brought only seven criminal FARA cases, resulting in only three convictions.

In a 2016 audit, the DOJ OIG found “widespread delinquency” in FARA compliance rates. In a review of documents filed from 2013-2015, the DOJ OIG found:

  • 62 percent of new registrants filed their documentation late;
  • 50 percent of those already registered failed to file their semiannual reports in a timely manner;
  • 61 percent of registrants failed to file their informational materials within the required 48-hour period; and
  • 47 percent of information materials didn’t meet a requirement that they disclose that they were distributed on behalf of a foreign power.

The DOJ’s auditor’s concluded, “these compliance rates are unacceptable.” The Project on Government Oversight (POGO), looking at DOJ’s findings, found that one reason for the poor FARA compliance was DOJ’s reliance on “voluntary compliance” to enforce the law.

The FBI disagrees with DOJ’s position, as its agents believe that more aggressive prosecution of people who haven’t registered under FARA would discourage a range of activities, including spying. However, FBI agents can’t pursue FARA cases without the DOJ’s backing, and the DOJ’s enforcement unit is reluctant to pursue criminal charges because it believes it’s difficult to prove “willful violation”  (the standard needed to charge under FARA) in most cases.

Outside of Congressional legislation, the DOJ has taken its own steps to promote FARA compliance. In June 2018, the DOJ published approximately 50 redacted advisory opinions issued on FARA since January 2010. Before this, there had been only three publicly available opinions. Lawfare speculates, “The Justice Department’s stated commitment to greater transparency in how it enforces FARA suggests that more advisory opinions will be published in the future, further enhancing public understanding of a law that has become a significant tool in the government’s approach to addressing foreign influence operations in the United States.”

There has been increasing scrutiny of FARA’s effectiveness due to recent high-profile battles over foreign influence in American politics and public policy. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation produced seven criminal prosecutions related to FARA, including that of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, who was indicted under FARA violations. Notably, the seven criminal prosecutions that Mueller’s investigation precipitated comprise nearly half of all FARA prosecutions since FARA was last updated in 1966 (there have been only 15 FARA-related criminal prosecutions from 1966 to 2019).


Media:

Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com via Creative Commons)

AKA

Foreign Agents Disclosure and Registration Enhancement Act of 2019

Official Title

A bill to amend the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938 to provide the Attorney General with greater authority to promote enforcement and disclosure requirements for agents of foreign principals, and for other purposes.

bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The house has not voted
  • The senate has not voted
      senate Committees
      Committee on Foreign Relations
    IntroducedJune 10th, 2019
    With ambiguous investigative responsibilities and a perceived lack of consequences has led to little FARA compliance by lobbyists, who influence U.S. politics without disclosing their foreign relationships. By giving FARA more severe consequences and assigning the Dept. of Justice (DOJ) to investigate FARA violations will help improve compliance with this law and keep foreign influence out of U.S. politics.
    Like (44)
    Follow
    Share
    DrCindyBean: I agree with you completely. I think putting investigative and punitive teeth into foreign lobbyist protection is a good thing to do generally. But, we have to have a DOJ that is not overwhelmingly directed to shielding the President. I think the greater issue is in putting controls on the independence of the DOJ and its mission from being used to support a presidential political agenda. Kind of like it mostly was in the past. Sadly, I think this will have to be formalized to prevent future abuse of an AG acting as a president's personal attorney and enlisting the extensive DOJ apparatus to shield the president from constitutional oversight.
    Like (55)
    Follow
    Share
    NOT IN THIS ADMINISTRATION. THE DOJ IS A TRUMP PUPPET & WILL NOT DO WHAT IS RIGHT & WILL USE IT AGAINST THOSE WHO TRUMP IS AFRAID OF BECAUSE THEY SPEAK THE TRUTH ABOUT HIM & HIS MINONS.
    Like (30)
    Follow
    Share
    I think we need this corrupt criminal trump regime out before any changes are made. trump and trump’s corrupt criminal regime use and misuse and abuse - every chance they get - they turn every thing into weapons to bludgeon anyone who disagrees with trump- anyone who stands up against his lies and bullying. Impeach trump. Remove trump and trump’s corrupt criminal regime from our government. Now.
    Like (23)
    Follow
    Share
    Impeach! And remove the real foreign asset!
    Like (20)
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    Share
    Congress must cleanse its self of all the criminals (including the senate), obstructionists, and foreign agents (like Moscow Mitch). Until we get people in Congress who support our Constitution instead of abuse it for their personal and party gain America will continue to swirl around the bowl headed for the sewers. It would also help if the MAGAts would learn (and care) about facts versus lies, try to save our environment, and do without their their AKs like most responsible adults.
    Like (17)
    Follow
    Share
    I suppose I will support Sen Grassley's bill. However, I believed we had protection against foreign governments. Of course, we find out the prior bills to protect us was a toothless bill, so another bill is in the hopper. In this case, I shall demure to Sen Grassley, who has always appeared to be a Patriot against Liberals and progressive socialists.
    Like (17)
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    I think the key here is to enforce what’s there already to work with. If people are not complying or enforcing the laws or rules what good is changing it going to do.
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    Go ahead and increase penalties if it makes Republicans feel like they are cracking down on FARA violations. But keep in mind there were no widespread violations before Trump was illegally put in office. And it’s doubtful if there will be a big issue after he is gone. Corrupt politicians beget corrupt followers with money.
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    Grassley is desperate to look like a *good Republican. Newsflash, Chuck: you’re done and so is your caveman party of traitors and bigots.
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    This bill is Grassley trying to look like he is doing something, when in fact, it’s already being done. Impeach Grassley, impeach Trump, let the country be run by its people and not wealthy oligarchs.
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    This is a serious matter, made more serious by decline in ethical behavior, loyalty to our country and morality. The punishment should be severe enough to ensure that such activity is not even considered by anyone.
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    Obviously the DOJ is not doing a good enough job of enforcing these laws in a way to keep people from still violating it. Giuliani and Manafort are good examples of the influence that foreign agents may exert on the very top of our government. In order to protect our democracy from foreign interference, all lobbyists must be investigated and held accountable.
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    The United States can not allow foreign operatives to continue to hide behind diplomatic immunity.
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    Grassley is a sneaky fuck. Exactly who does he define as a foreign agent: Clinton? Biden? Trump? What are the criteria? Who determines and what’s the evidentiary threshold? Fuck you Gr-Ass-ley. Another Republican wolf in sheep’s clothing stink bomb. Traitor.
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    UH...NOPE DO WE REALLY TRUST THE DOJ?? THE PERSONAL ATTORNEY FOR THAT MORON IN THE WHITE HOUSE?? UH HUH!!
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    If this were any other administration or DOJ I would say yes. We must now accept our government is not whole. Our president’s intentions are obviously not in the best interest of America or the American people! I envision this Bill, should it pass, being weaponized for the political purpose of a rouge President, GOP and DOJ. Enough is enough! IMPEACH! Sweep the trash from our government, then deal with good common sense legislature that plugs holes that have allowed this to happen and asses severe, nonnegotiable penalties for those who place no more regard for our government than what they an steal from it. And while I am at it, I don’t know which ambassadors own their own planes, but I know the American people had damn well better not be paying for their use!
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    Foreign Agents Disclosure and Registration Enhancement Act , hopefully American First and the NRA will register as Russian agents! Grassley may need to watch what he hopes for, the republicans are back by Russian operatives and have money funneling to them through PAC’s! All PAC’s should have to disclose donors and source of money! Hunter Biden is nothing compare to Ivanka Trump and Jared Corey Kushner involvement in foreign countries, they are part of this administration and is a conflict of interest!
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    I think If there are groups lobbying on behalf of other countries in America it should be stopped. Actually lobbying all together should be stopped it’s a way for someone to buy the Government from the people. Instead big companies should pay fair taxes
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    Too much government already.
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