Lobbying law, New in Lobbying

Justice Department makes public its lobbying disclosure orders

Transparency fans, rejoice.

The US Justice Department’s lobbying enforcement arm has just added a section to its web site containing its so-called “letters of determination” ordering would-be influencers to sign up as foreign agents. The letters spell out the department’s rationale for demanding that people register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), the Nazi-era anti-propaganda law that regulates foreign lobbying in the United States.

Some of the letters, notably the 2017 determination that former Donald Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort should register as an agent of Ukrainian interests, had previously been publicly accessible, for example via the Caplin & Drysdale law firm’s invaluable www.fara.us informational web site.

But the newly disclosed documents do offer some interesting revelations.

For example:

  • The FARA office referenced the China Global Television Network‘s own style guide as well as interviews with past employees in its December 2018 determination that CGTN should register as an agent of the Chinese government and China Central Television (CCTV). “The Chinese government’s and Chinese Communist Party’s influence on CGTN America’s programming is evident in CGTN America’s Style Guide,” the office conclude. “With regard to the sensitive issue of Taiwan, for example, the Style Guide states, ‘CGTN does not call Taiwan’s leader its ‘president.’ CGTN does not show Taiwan’s flag, ever. We do not alter the flag’s appearance in photos or video. We simply crop it out’.” The network registered in August 2019.
  • The office in 2017 required Saudi citizen Salman al-Ansari to amend his registration for his Saudi American Public Relation Affairs Committee (SAPRAC), concluding that the “principal beneficiary” of his nominally independent anti-Qatar media campaign “was and is the Saudi government.”

“This is another in a series of steps designed to promote transparency by providing information on how we have interpreted FARA in particular cases,” Justice Department National Security Spokesman Marc Raimondi told Foreign Lobby Report.