May 19, 2022

Grassley Leads Bill to Crack Down on Undisclosed Foreign Influence

Lobbying disclosure update closes loophole exploited by Chinese Communist Party to conceal efforts to sway U.S. policy

WASHINGTON – A bipartisan group of senators, led by Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), introduced legislation aimed at cracking down on foreign adversaries’ efforts to secretly influence U.S. policy.  The Disclosing Foreign Influence in Lobbying Act closes a loophole that the Chinese Communist Party frequently exploits to conceal its role in lobbying efforts. The bill is cosponsored by Sens. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), Dick Durbin, (D-Ill.) Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, John Cornyn (R-Texas), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.).
 
“If a foreign government or political party is trying to sway American policy, we ought to know about it. We’ve learned that the Chinese Communist Party has used other organizations as proxies to secretly push their agenda in the United States. This bill builds on existing lobbying and foreign agent laws to shine a light on that behavior so we know exactly where influence campaigns are coming from to ensure policy decisions are in the best interest of the American people,” Grassley said.
 
“Attempts by our foreign adversaries, including the Chinese and Russian governments, to influence our political process through lobbying present a serious national security threat. This commonsense, bipartisan bill will increase transparency in foreign lobbying activities and ensure that our government is working in the best interest of people in Michigan and across the nation – not our foreign adversaries,” Peters said.
 
“This is basic stuff: Foreign entities shouldn’t quietly pull strings on U.S. lobbyists. We need to know if foreign governments or foreign political parties are working to influence U.S. lobbyists. For too long, a loophole has let foreign governments slide under the radar when they influence lobbying without making a monetary contribution to the lobbying. This bill will close that loophole. We need to know who is influencing lobbyists, regardless of how much they’re contributing,” Sasse said.
 
“In this democracy, our citizens are and should be the main purveyors of American policy. Undisclosed foreign influence on our government is a grave cause of concern. This bill is a reminder to American citizens and those seeking to influence the American government that we legislate based on the needs of our constituents, not foreign lobbyists,” Durbin said. 
 
“It’s no secret that China will try anything to tilt American foreign policy in its favor, including surreptitiously using proxies to lobby the U.S. government. This bill would help ensure China can’t slip through the cracks of our foreign agent registration requirements and allow us to track their attempts at influencing policies that could negatively affect the Chinese Communist Party,” Cornyn said.
 
“We must crack down on efforts from Russia, China, and other countries to secretly influence our government. This bipartisan bill takes commonsense steps to protect our national security, freedom, and independence by closing a lobbying loophole used by foreign countries, and I urge my colleagues to join us in moving this important legislation forward,” Hassan said.

“Our commonsense, bipartisan bill will keep America safe and secure by closing loopholes used by foreign adversaries like China and Russia to attempt to influence American policy,” said Sinema. 
 
Federal lobbying law requires both lobbyists and the organizations that retain them to register their activities with the government to provide transparency in policy influence efforts. However, think tanks and law enforcement agencies have identified schemes in which the Chinese Communist Party has used closely-connected organizations and businesses to push their interests when lobbying the U.S. government. The company, which may be registered under the law, effectively becomes a proxy for the government or political party, which is not registered.  The Disclosing Foreign Influence in Lobbying Act makes clear that foreign governments and political parties that participate in the planning, supervision, direction or control of a lobbying effort must disclose their activity, regardless of any financial contribution to the lobbying effort.
 
Grassley has long advocated for improved transparency in foreign influence campaigns, and is leading a proposal to improve enforcement of and compliance with the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Identical legislation received broad bipartisan support last Congress, but was eventually blocked on the Senate Floor.
 
Text of the Disclosing Foreign Influence in Lobbying Act (S. 4254) is available HERE.
 

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