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Monday, February 6th, 2023

Sens. Peters, Grassley target lobbyists, foreign influence on U.S. policy in latest legislation

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Worried about undisclosed foreign influence on United States policy, U.S. Sens. Gary Peters (D-MI) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) introduced the Lobbying Disclosure Improvement Act this week to crack down on lobbyist and political party exploitation of a Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) loophole.

While FARA governs those who push foreign governments’ interests on the United States, it has a notable provision that exempts agents of foreign persons or organizations from registering under FARA if they have also registered under the Lobbying Disclosure Act. Essentially, while the government might be aware an entity is lobbying, they would not necessarily know they were lobbying on behalf of a foreign power if they registered a certain way.

“Foreign interference in our nation’s political process presents a serious threat to our communities in Michigan and across the country,” Peters, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said. “This commonsense, bipartisan bill will help increase transparency around foreign lobbying and ensure our government is working in the best interest of the American people.”

The new legislation would scrutinize the FARA exemption, demanding that all registrants under the Lobbying Disclosure Act also indicate as part of that registration whether they are taking advantage of the FARA exemption. In turn, the senators stated that this would help the U.S. Department of Justice hone in on the registrants they are scrutinizing for potential violations without imposing additional burdens.

“Sunlight is the best disinfectant when it comes to the people’s business,” Grassley said. “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.”