WASHINGTON—United States Senator Bill Hagerty (R-TN), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has joined Senators John Cornyn (R-TX), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Deb Fischer (R-NE), and Marco Rubio (R-FL) in introducing the Preventing Adversary Influence, Disinformation and Obscured Foreign Financing Act (PAID OFF Act), which would help close Foreign Agents Registration Act registration loopholes that allow unregistered agents of foreign adversaries to lobby in the United States.
“For too long, exemptions in U.S. law have allowed many persons in the United States who are paid to actively promote the interests of Communist China and other strategic adversaries to avoid registering as foreign agents,” said Senator Hagerty. “I’m pleased to co-sponsor the Preventing Adversary Influence, Disinformation, and Obscured Foreign Financing Act to end these exemptions. As nations like Communist China seek to exert new forms of foreign interference and malign influence in our democracy, laws governing the registration of foreign agents must keep pace with this evolving threat to U.S. nationalsecurity.”
“To stop back-alley attempts by our enemies to influence American policymaking, it’s critical we close the loopholes allowing the worst offenders to spend millions of dollars on disinformation campaigns in the U.S.,” said Senator Cornyn. “This legislation would prevent adversaries like China and Russia from ‘ghost-lobbying’ by requiring foreign agents to register and disclose political activity to the Department of Justice.”
The Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) has not been amended since the 1990s, and the law has not kept up with modern foreign adversary influence campaigns using commercial activities and registration loopholes as subterfuge to spread disinformation. Currently, agents representing foreign adversaries are able to avoid FARA registration by taking advantage of the commercial activities and Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA) exemptions to avoid disclosing their lobbying efforts to the DOJ. This legislation would make it easier for the U.S. government to catch these unregistered agents in the act by removing the commercial activities and LDA registration exemptions that make it easy for foreign agents to lobby for America’s adversaries without having to disclose that they are being paid by a foreign adversary government. Foreign adversaries of the United States are defined by executive order as China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Cuba, and the Maduro regime.