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Stronger Law on Foreign Agents Eyed Amid Russia’s Links to Green Groups

Congress appears ready to crack down on individuals and groups who work on behalf of Russia and other foreign nations but don’t fully disclose those ties.

Legislation toughening requirements and closing loopholes in the 80-year-old Foreign Agents Registration Act is advancing in response to growing concerns that some advocacy groups and lobbyists have been permitted to conceal financial and other connections with foreign governments.

In a recent phone interview with The Daily Signal, Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., who introduced the legislation amending the law, expressed confidence that his bill could clear both houses of Congress with broad support.

“We are grateful this became a bipartisan bill and that the leadership of the judiciary committees in the House and Senate saw real value in it, and this has created a groundswell of support,” Johnson said, adding:

I suspect we are going to move the bill because transparency is good for everyone, and this is about disclosing to the American people who is trying to influence our politics. We have lots of foreign influences attempting to lobby the federal government all the time, and transparency is not a big thing for us to ask.

Johnson tweeted Tuesday:

paid $$$ to as they lobbied U.S. government officials. Podesta group was not registered under FARA at the time, hiding foreign interests from the American people.

Read my op-ed in the @DailyCaller here –> 

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The Foreign Agents Registration Act, which predates World War II, requires anyone who acts as an agent of foreign principals “in a political or quasi-political capacity” to disclose that relationship periodically, as well as “activities, receipts, and disbursements in support of those activities,” according to the Justice Department.

For too long, certain organizations with ties to foreign interests have been permitted to “operate in the shadows,” Johnson, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, said.

“Washington lobbyists have been working overtime to kill the bill,” he said of the measure he introduced in October.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, introduced a companion version of the bill.

Russian Connection

The law isn’t achieving all that it should, Bonner Cohen, a senior fellow at  the National Center for Public Policy Research, a free-market think tank based in Washington, told The Daily Signal.

“The Foreign Agents Registration Act calls on individuals and organizations to provide full disclosure when they are working to advance the public policy interests of a foreign government,” Cohen said.

“This appears to be exactly what these green groups are doing,” he added, “and the law should be applied to them.”