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Sweeping changes proposed for foreign lobbying law

Kate Ackley, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Political News

"There are good reasons to consider amending FARA. We are dealing with a 1930s statute that has really never been updated for modern times," said Minor, who advises clients that file lobbying disclosures.

But he believes the measures are "potentially an overreaction" to recent events. "There would seem to be other ways to address the current concerns about foreign governments and political parties without requiring the registration of everyone who represents foreign companies or associations," he said.

Grassley does not yet have any Senate co-sponsors for his bill, but the chairman has been in talks with Republicans and Democrats and believes that "it's a bill that can earn broad support from both sides of the aisle," said Grassley spokesman Taylor Foy.

The House measure has a handful of GOP co-sponsors including Reps. Ken Buck of Colorado and Brian Babin of Texas.

Some Democrats, including Rep. John Sarbanes of Maryland, say they are looking at the proposal and agree in principle with their Republican colleagues that the 1938 law should be revised.

"If we're going to protect our democracy from this foreign influence, FARA definitely needs to be strengthened," Sarbanes said.

Some of the provisions in the 34-page legislation stem from a 2016 Justice Department's inspector general report, which found lax enforcement of the foreign lobbying law.

Adam S. Hickey, deputy assistant attorney general, told Grassley's committee this summer that DOJ had fully implemented most of the 14 recommendations in the IG report and was working toward adopting the remaining ones.

FARA, for example, has made its advisory opinions publicly available, Hickey said.

Though Congress has shown no interest in pursuing an overhaul of lobbying or ethics laws, the widening Mueller probe may spur on such legislation.

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