April 23, 2018

An Open Letter to the Congress Concerning Foreign Agent Registration Act

Dear Members of the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate:

The undersigned members and partners of InterAction wish to bring to your attention concerns our broad community has concerning the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA). With renewed attention on how foreign governments are influencing U.S. political processes, it is understandable that Members of Congress are looking to bolster enforcement of FARA and are introducing legislation to update the law. As you debate such changes, we urge Members of Congress to consider clarifying and updating language, terminology, and definitions contained within FARA that adversely impact our community.

The current law was first enacted in 1938. In the decades since, many non-profit organizations have evolved and become international institutions with vast global networks. FARA’s provisions are so sweeping though that if interpreted on their face, many non-profits could be covered by the Act. For example, a U.S. non-profit that simply acted at the request of an international partner organization to hold a public meeting on a policy issue would arguably have to register as would an organization that solicited funding in the U.S. for an educational non-profit abroad, despite no connection to a foreign government or political party.

FARA was not written with our contemporary inter-connected non-profit world in mind. FARA’s broad definition of “foreign principal” currently includes not just foreign governments, but also foreign individuals, foundations,…