Recent legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate could make significant alterations to the Foreign Agents Registration Act (“FARA”) and, among other things, would eliminate the Lobbying Disclosure Act Exemption (“LDA Exemption”). Though it may not become law, the most recent proposal is one of several efforts by federal lawmakers to amend the FARA to accomplish its purpose of identifying foreign influence in America. In recent years, several bills have been introduced into Congress proposing amendments to FARA, including a proposal to eliminate one of the most commonly relied upon exemptions for many different people and companies, the LDA Exemption. Though none have passed, careful monitoring of legislation is critical for anyone working with foreign principals to ensure compliance, as new changes could narrow or eliminate registration exemptions.

A quick look at the time to date:

  • In 2021, Sen. Charles Grassley proposed the “Foreign Agents Disclosure and Registration Enhancement Act of 2021,” which would have given significant new powers to the Department of Justice FARA Unit to enforce compliance, and provided DOJ with expanded civil investigative demand authority, increasing the maximum criminal and civil fines for FARA violations, and requiring that the Government Accountability Office (GOA) analyze FARA enforcement and audit the LDA exemption to FARA to ensure is effectiveness. This is not Sen. Grassley’s first effort, he introduced a prior bill which included an LDA Exemption repeal in legislation in 2017 (S. 2039, the “Disclosing Foreign Influence Act.”)
  • In 2022, a bipartisan group of U.S. House of Representatives lawmakers, led by Rep. Jared Golden, introduced the “Fighting Foreign Influence Act,” which, among other things, would impose a range of new disclosure requirements and limitations on think tanks (and non-profits), former government officials, and political campaigns with regard to donations and involvement with foreign principals or funders.
  • On February 22, 2023, Senators John Cornyn, Jim Risch, and Sheldon Whitehouse proposed the Preventing Adversary Influence, Disinformation and Obscured Foreign Financing (PAID OFF) Act, which aimed to eliminate the commercial and LDA Exemption for specific countries who are considered adversarial to America. Specifically, the bill would eliminate the exemptions for countries of particular concern, as statutorily defined, to include China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Cuba, and Syria. Those working on behalf of such countries would no longer be allowed to rely on the commercial activities and LDA Exemptions and be required to register under FARA.

Fluet attorneys continuously monitor and stay up to date with all things FARA. Check back for more developments and considerations!  

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