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The Justice Department is Putting Foreign Lobbyists in Harm’s Way

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In Foreign Lobby Report, Joshua Rosenstein of Sandler Reiff Lamb Rosenstein & Birkenstock shares the challenges foreign lobbyists face when disclosure requirements are too rigid.

Complying with the US disclosure law regulating lobbyists and other foreign agents is no easy task.

The very age of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), enacted in 1938 and minimally updated since then, makes that task considerably harder. Indeed, neither the statute nor its implementing regulations squarely addresses the realities of the modern world.

In some areas of compliance, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has been accommodating, taking steps informally to apply creaky, rigid, archaic language to the 21st century.

Yet by refusing to do so in one critical area, the department is putting the safety of FARA registrants at risk, without any real policy rationale and without any consistency.

The law in several places requires that foreign agents furnish the department with employees’ personal home addresses. Not just the addresses of all the lobbyists, communications professionals and other people servicing a foreign client’s accounts, but also those of all partners and owners of a registering firm — even if they don’t themselves qualify as foreign agents, or even have any contact or involvement with the foreign client.

FARA also requires that all information required to be included in a registration statement — including those home addresses — must be made available on a publicly searchable database.

Until last year, it was not uncommon for the Justice Department to allow firms to file residential addresses via cover letter or some other means where the addresses were disclosed online as “on file with DOJ”, or simply redacted. The department was particularly accommodating when a registrant indicated that it had legitimate concerns for the safety of the individuals listed, especially those who received threats against them or their families… Read more

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