March 1, 2018

New Bill Would Strengthen Rules for Americans Representing Foreign Entities

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Todd Young (R-Ind.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) today introduced the Foreign Agents Registration Amendments Act, a bill to strengthen the Foreign Agents Registration Act, known as FARA, to ensure Americans acting as agents of a foreign government report their activities to the U.S. government.

The bill would make the following reforms:

  • Creates a dedicated enforcement unit in the National Security Division to enforce FARA provisions.
  • Ends loopholes that allow individuals to avoid FARA enforcement actions.
  • Updates and clarifies civil and criminal enforcement provisions.
  • Increases public access to FARA disclosures.

“Transparency is absolutely critical when individuals, groups or organizations in the United States are advocating on behalf of a foreign entity,” Senator Young said. “Unfortunately, the DOJ inspector general has identified significant deficiencies in enforcing FARA. Last year, I introduced legislation to improve transparency and compliance with the law, and the bipartisan Foreign Agents Registration Amendments Act incorporates that legislation.”


Enacted in 1938, the Foreign Agents Registration Act requires that individuals, groups or organizations advocating on behalf of a foreign entity in the United States register with the Justice Department. The purpose of the law is to ensure the American public can clearly identify foreign propaganda and other information operations designed to influence U.S. policy and elections.

Generally, any agent of a foreign principle conducting political activities, publicity or advocacy in the United States must comply with the act’s registration and disclosure requirements. However, enforcement of these provisions is rarely conducted.

In 2016, The Justice Department’s inspector general documented significant deficiencies in the FARA program, particularly with respect to enforcement. The IG found that between 1966 and 2015, there were only seven criminal cases prosecuted under FARA.

Because FARA enforcement provisions are located in Title 22 rather than the federal criminal code, the DOJ’s FARA office interpreted its mandate as promoting voluntary compliance rather than criminal enforcement. The IG’s audit is available here.