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 Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) reintroduced 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, frequently exploited by the Chinese Communist Party, which allows some entities to conceal their role in lobbying efforts.
The bill is cosponsored by Sens. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, John Cornyn (R-Texas), Dick Durbin, (D-Ill.) Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.).
“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.
“Adversaries could take advantage of loopholes in current lobbying regulations to advance agendas that are not in the best interest of Michiganders and the American people,” said Peters. “This bipartisan bill will close these loopholes, increase transparency in foreign lobbying practices, and strengthen national security by blocking efforts by foreign adversaries to influence our political process.”
“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.
“In the United States, Americans are and must be the main purveyors of American policy. We cannot allow undisclosed foreign influence to overtake the voices of American voters,” said Durbin. “This bipartisan bill reminds those seeking to influence our government that we legislate on the needs of our constituents, not foreign lobbyists.”
"We must close any loopholes that China, Russia, or other countries can use to weaken our democracy. I’m glad to join my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in introducing this bill to increase transparency in foreign lobbying activities,” 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,” Sinema said.
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 has led legislative proposals and oversight efforts to improve enforcement of and compliance with the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Identical legislation received broad bipartisan support during the 116th Congress, but was eventually blocked on the Senate floor.
Text of the Disclosing Foreign Influence in Lobbying Act is available HERE.