Modernizing the Foreign Agents Registration Act

ACR Brief 17 November

Modernizing the Foreign Agents Registration Act

Is FARA reform on the horizon? A new bipartisan bill, the Foreign Agents Registration Modernization (FARM) Act, would introduce some transparency and reforms, though not as many as recommended by an ABA Task Force in a recent report.

Our three-part series on FARA lays out the definitions and exemptions in the current Act, which governs foreign entities’ political activities in the United States and requires “foreign agents” to register with the Attorney General. We also discuss the new risk environment and strategies for compliance.

The FARM Act, introduced on November 4, 2021, is sponsored by Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D RI) and Cynthia Lummis (R WY), and Representatives Ro Khanna (D CA) and Ken Buck (R CO). It is focused on standardizing an electronic database of foreign agent information to increase accessibility to that data.

The ABA Task Force recommendations went further, including suggestions that some of the exemptions to the bill be revised, and that the DOJ be given the ability to issue civil investigative demands and fines.

At an ACI webinar about the Task Force’s report, Matt Sanderson, a partner at Caplin & Drysdale, said that some of the recommendations “can be undertaken by the Department, even in the absence of new legislation.”

Regarding the proposed bill, Sanderson told news site Axios, “There’s much more to be done, but I would imagine that the sponsors of the bill share that same mindset [as the drafters of the Task Force Report] – that this is a helpful step, but not the end all be all of FARA reform.”

Let us know your thoughts on FARA and the proposed FARM Act, and how your clients are complying.