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Oversight of Foreign Lobbying Suffers From Neglect, Indifference and Lack of Transparency

A federal law meant to track U.S. political activity by foreign interests suffers from lax enforcement, shoddy record keeping, glaring loopholes, and in many cases outright disregard by the firms hired to lobby on behalf of foreign entities, according to a report published today by the Project On Government Oversight.

POGO obtained and examined four years of records related to compliance with the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). POGO is making available to the public through a searchable database thousands of documents not previously accessible online: emails and other materials that show lobbyists in action communicating with government officials on behalf of foreign interests. 

POGO’s investigation found that while federal law bars foreign money from U.S political campaigns, there were many instances in which members of lobbying firms made political contributions to Members of Congress on the same day those firms lobbied them or their staff on behalf of foreign clients.

“Enforcement of the Foreign Agents Registration Act is, to put it bluntly, a running joke,” said POGO Executive Director Danielle Brian. “The Justice Department hasn’t shown much of an interest in holding lobbyists accountable for flouting the law.”

POGO’s report includes recommendations on improving FARA oversight, including improving transparency, giving the Department of Justice authority to levy civil fines, and increasing the amount of information lobbyists are required to file.

You can read the full report here or explore the database here.

By: Lydia Dennett
Investigator, POGO

lydia dennett Lydia Dennett is an investigator for the Project On Government Oversight. Lydia works on safety and security of nuclear weapons and power facilities, foreign lobbying and influence, and works with Department of Veterans Affairs whistleblowers.

Topics: National Security

Related Content: Department of Justice (DOJ), Foreign Lobbying

Authors: Lydia Dennett

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