May 20, 2021

Grassley Reintroduces the Foreign Agents Disclosure and Registration Enhancement Act

Prepared Floor Remarks by U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa
Reintroduces the Foreign Agents Disclosure and Registration Enhancement Act
Thursday, May 20, 2021
 
The Foreign Agents Registration Act is a law I’ve spoken about on this floor many times before.
 
At its core, the Foreign Agents Registration Act brings transparency and accountability to foreign influence in our politics.
 
It doesn’t prohibit activity. It requires those who lobby on behalf of foreign governments and interests to register their affiliations and activities with the Justice Department.
 
While it requires lobbyists on K Street to disclose if they’re lobbying on behalf of foreign governments and interests, it lacks the teeth necessary to enforce this and its other requirements.
 
Perhaps even more telling is the fact that it hasn’t been updated in the last 55 years.
 
Today, I seek to change that by reintroducing the Foreign Agents Disclosure and Registration Enhancement Act.
 
If enacted, this legislation would grant the Justice Department new investigative powers.
 
It increases criminal and civil penalties for violations to deter abuse.
 
The bill appropriately limits who in the Justice Department can use this authority, and provides essential due process protections. In fact, it’s based on identical authorities in the False Claims Act, which for years has helped root out waste, fraud and abuse.
 
And it tasks the Government Accountability Office with studying whether, and to what extent, the Lobbying Disclosure Act exemption to FARA is being abused.
 
These reforms are the result of my oversight and policy work dating to 2015.
 
These reforms are not partisan.   
 
And last Congress, this was a bipartisan bill.
 
This Congress, not a single Democratic colleague would re-join me and my Republican colleagues in cosponsoring this legislation even though they cosponsored it last Congress.
 
So I will ask my Democratic colleagues, what happened?
 
In December last year, I came to the floor for a live UC on this very same bill.
 
At that time, I had the support of the chairs and senior Democratic Senators of both the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee.
 
What changed between then and now?
 
Are the compromises we hashed out no longer relevant now that power has changed hands?
 
Maybe I should put it more bluntly: do my Democratic colleagues no longer care now that the Trump administration isn’t in power?
 
During the Trump administration I heard my Democratic colleagues speak loudly about the risks of foreign influence and the Trump administration.
 
We all heard it. Trump. Russia. All day, every day.
 
Well, what about Biden and China? We all know about the links between the Biden family and Chinese foreign nationals connected to the communist regime.
 
And those links are real and proven unlike Trump and Russia.
 
If the Democrats want to be intellectually honest on the issue of foreign influence they’re going to have to face the music on both sides of the political spectrum.
 
I’ve conducted oversight of the Foreign Agents Registration Act without regard to power, party or privilege.
 
I raised concerns about work for Ukrainians by Paul Manafort and the Podesta Group.
 
I raised concerns when the firm behind the discredited Steele Dossier failed to register for its lobbying work to repeal U.S. sanctions against Russia.
 
I subpoenaed Manafort to testify at a Judiciary Committee hearing on lax FARA enforcement. I praised Mueller for dusting off the law that had been ignored for so long.
 
I will remind my colleagues that we make laws to be equally enforced, no matter what party is in power.
 
The Foreign Agents Registration Act isn’t a right against left issue.
 
It’s about foreign influence, control and the preservation of our sovereignty.
 
Without our sovereignty we fail to exist as a nation.  
 
Last Congress, Senator Menendez objected to my live UC, stating that any Foreign Agents Registration Act reform should move through regular order.
 
I’m waiting for that to happen.
 
I look forward to working with Senator Menendez and the Foreign Relations Committee.
 
In fact, some of your members were previous cosponsors to this bill and I’d love to have them join me again.
 
The issues with foreign influence in our political system aren’t going away.
 
In fact, they’re only primed to get worse.
 
In the meantime, while partisan politics play out, the Foreign Agents Registration Act stands without necessary reforms.
 

I strongly urge my Democratic colleagues to work with me and my Republican co-sponsors to achieve much needed, meaningful reform to this very important law.