Q: What is the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), and what are the differences in registration and reporting between FARA and the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA)?
A: The Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938 (as amended) requires any lobbyist who represents a foreign government, elected official or political party as a foreign agent to file his financial information and published materials with the Department of Justice. This only applies to foreign public officials; lobbyists representing foreign private companies register under the LDA. See the full text of the law, forms, and other disclosure requirements at Justice.gov.
On registration and reporting:
- The Act requires every agent of a foreign principal, not otherwise exempt, to register with the Department of Justice and file forms outlining its agreements with, income from, and expenditures on behalf of the foreign principal. These forms are public records and must be supplemented every six months.
- The Act also requires that informational materials (formerly propaganda) be labeled with a conspicuous statement that the information is disseminated by the agents on behalf of the foreign principal. The agent must provide copies of such materials to the Attorney General.
- Any agent testifying before a committee of Congress must furnish the committee with a copy of his most recent registration statement.
- The agent must keep records of all his activities and permit the Attorney General to inspect them.
According to guidance issued by the House Ethics Committee, the technical amendments to the LDA made in 1998 reflected a determination that the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) standards are appropriate for lobbying on behalf of foreign governments and political parties, but that LDA disclosure standards should apply to other foreign lobbying. An agent of a foreign commercial entity is exempt under FARA if the agent has engaged in lobbying activities and registers under the LDA. An agent of a foreign commercial entity not required to register under the LDA (such as those not meeting the de minimis registration thresholds) may voluntarily register under the LDA.
Information for today’s post is from the Department of Justice, with further information condensed from the Lobbying Compliance Handbook, now with an all-new chapter on Campaign Finance for Lobbyists.
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Tags: FARA, FARA registration, LDA, lobbyists for foreign governments