Lobbying Rules: Foreign Agents Registration Act
Posted on 07-26-2005 8:39 PM EDT
Various federal statutes and congressional rules impose extensive disclosure requirements on lobbying activities by “foreign agents” and “foreign principals” as well as restrictions on foreign nationals making campaign contributions and paying for gifts and travel for federal officials.
Two statutes regulate the disclosure of lobbying activity by foreign principals and foreign agents: The Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) and the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA).FARA covers lobbying activity by all foreign agents and foreign principals, but the law allows foreign agents who lobby on behalf of foreign business interests the option of registering under the less restrictive LDA. Other federal statutes, such as the Federal Elections Campaign Act and the Ethics in Government Act of 1978, restrict foreign nationals from making campaign contributions or buying gifts for government officials.
The Foreign Agents Registration Act was the first attempt at major lobbying reform at the federal level. FARA’s primary purpose was to limit the influence of foreign agents and propaganda on American public policy. The law arose specifically in response to a perceived propaganda drive by Adolph Hitler to fan the Nazi movement in the
FARA requires every agent representing a foreign principal to register with the Department of Justice and file disclosure forms outlining the purpose of representation, income and expenditures by the agent on behalf of the foreign principal. FARA requires only registration of foreign agents and disclosure of their activities. It does not attempt to restrict the behavior or lobbying activities of foreign agents, but other statutes do.
Definition of Foreign Principals
All foreign governments are explicitly defined as foreign principals, but the term also covers:
Definition of Foreign Agents
An agent of a foreign principal (a foreign agent) is any individual (agent, representative, employee, servant) or organization that acts at the order, request, or under the direction or control of a foreign principal, or whose activities are directed by a foreign principal, who:
FARA exempts several categories of foreign agents from the registration requirement:
Finally the term “foreign agent” does not include American newspapers or other media covering activities of foreign principals so long as the media are at least 80 percent owned by American citizens, and their directors and officers are also citizens of the United States.
Registration of Foreign Agents
FARA requires every agent of a foreign principal who is not covered by the exemptions listed above to register with the Department of Justice within 10 days of becoming such an agent. Any foreign agent engaged in political or para-military activity, or intending to overthrow the government, must also register under FARA. Additionally, FARA requires registration of persons who have received instruction in espionage, counterespionage or sabotage on behalf of a foreign country or political party. 
Registration and Disclosure Records
The original registration statement and semi-annual disclosure reports must include the following:
Every agent of a foreign principal shall, within 30 days after the expiration of each period of six months succeeding such filing, file with the Attorney General a supplemental statement, that is open to public. FARA does not specify what information must be included in the supplemental statement but leaves the details to the Attorney General. As of June 2005, the supplemental statement required foreign agents to disclose the following:
One of FARA’s principal purposes is to require that informational materials (sometimes referred to as propaganda) be conspicuously labeled with a statement that the material is paid for by a foreign principal, whose identity must be disclosed. The agent must provide two copies of the materials to the Attorney Generalno later than 48 hours after distribution.
Violations of FARA
Failure to register, keep accounts, mark informational materials, and provide a congressional committee with a copy of the agent’s most recent registration, as well as making a false statement or providing misleading information, are crimes. Any person who willfully violates provisions of FARA is punished by a fine of not more than $10,000 or by imprisonment for not more than five years, or both. Any alien convicted of a violation of FARA shall also be subject to deportation. Unintentional violations of FARA may simply result in an order by the Attorney General to the foreign agent or foreign principal to remedy the situation.
22 U.S.C. §611 et. seq.
 2 U.S.C. 1601 et. seq.
 22 U.S.C.§611 (b).
 22 U.S.C.§611 (c).
 22 U.S.C.§611 (o).
 22 U.S.C. §613.
2 U.S.C. §1601.
 22 U.S.C.§611 (d).
22 U.S.C. §612 (a).
18 U.S.C. §2386.
50 U.S.C. §851.
 22 U.S.C. §614.
 22 U.S.C. §618 (a).
 8 U.S.C.A. §1221 et seq.
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