YoungMonday, U.S. Senator Todd Young (R-Ind.) joined a bipartisan coalition of senators to introduce legislation to shine a light on efforts by foreign interests to influence American policy and public opinion. The Foreign Agents Disclosure and Registration Enhancement Act of 2019 adds teeth to existing law aimed at ensuring public awareness of lobbying campaigns pushed by foreign powers. The bill is led by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and cosponsored by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

“This legislation aims to strengthen rules to ensure individuals working on behalf of foreign entities report their activities. Doing so gives the FBI more tools to protect our national security interests and will ensure greater transparency,” said Senator Young.

“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,” said Senator Grassley. 

Congress passed the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) in 1938 to identify Nazi propaganda and other foreign efforts to influence U.S. policy. The law mandates that anyone working on behalf of a foreign government, political party, or entity in order to influence U.S. policy or public opinion must register with the Justice Department as a foreign agent. However, since it was updated in 1966, FARA has only been used in 15 criminal prosecutions – seven of which stemmed from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. 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 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.