Bipartisan senators push new bill to improve foreign lobbying disclosures

Bipartisan senators push new bill to improve foreign lobbying disclosures
© Aaron Schwartz

Senators are making a bipartisan push to improve the foreign lobbying disclosure process.

Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGOP can beat Democrats after impeachment — but it needs to do this one thing Trump administration planning to crack down on 'birth tourism': report Senate begins preparations for Trump trial MORE (R-Iowa) on Monday introduced legislation that would give the Justice Department more tools to investigate possible violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), a 1938 statute that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have characterized as outdated and weak.

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The measure — co-sponsored by Democratic Sens. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne Shaheen2020 forecast: A House switch, a slimmer Senate for GOP — and a bigger win for Trump Lewandowski decides against Senate bid Biden would consider Republican for VP 'but I can't think of one right now' MORE (N.H.) and Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinRoberts under pressure from both sides in witness fight Senate opens Trump impeachment trial Democrats ask if US citizens were detained at border checkpoints due to Iranian national origin MORE (Calif.), along with GOP Sens. John CornynJohn CornynDemocrats worry a speedy impeachment trial will shut out public Sunday shows - All eyes on Senate impeachment trial Cornyn disputes GAO report on withholding of Ukraine aid: It's 'certainly not a crime' MORE (Texas), Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioApple under pressure to unlock Pensacola shooter's phones Senators offer bill to create alternatives to Huawei in 5G tech Surging Sanders draws fresh scrutiny ahead of debate MORE (Fla.) and Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungIran resolution supporters fear impeachment will put it on back burner Senate GOP's campaign arm hauls in million in 2019 Sens. Kaine, Lee: 'We should not be at war with Iran unless Congress authorizes it' MORE (Ind.) — would allow the Justice Department to increase the penalties for people who fail to properly register as a foreign agent.

It also would require the Government Accountability Office to study whether and to what extent the Lobbying Disclosure Act exemption is being abused to conceal foreign lobbying activity.

Foreign lobbying has been in the national spotlight since special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSchiff: Trump acquittal in Senate trial would not signal a 'failure' Jeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House Judiciary to vote on impeachment after surprise delay MORE obtained guilty pleas under FARA from two prominent Trump 2016 campaign aides — Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortDOJ releases new tranche of Mueller witness documents Treasury adviser pleads guilty to making unauthorized disclosures in case involving Manafort DOJ argues Democrats no longer need Mueller documents after impeachment vote MORE and Richard Gates — over their lobbying work on behalf of pro-Russian forces in Ukraine.

Grassley has been one of the loudest voices calling for changes to foreign lobbying rules.

Grassley introduced the Disclosing Foreign Influence Act with Rep. Mike JohnsonJames (Mike) Michael JohnsonWhite House appoints GOP House members to advise Trump's impeachment team Five lingering questions as impeachment heads to Senate Figures to watch as White House mounts impeachment defense MORE (R-La.), which focused mainly on the Lobbying Disclosure Act, in the previous Congress.

Shaheen and Young have teamed up on two similar bills — one to give the Justice Department new authority to investigate potential violations and another, with Feinstein and Cornyn, to strengthen FARA.