Cornyn, Colleagues Introduce Bill to Prevent Foreign Adversaries from Influencing U.S. Policy

February 17, 2023

WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and U.S. Congressmen August Pfluger (TX-11) and Jason Crow (CO-06) introduced the Preventing Adversary Influence, Disinformation and Obscured Foreign Financing (PAID OFF) Act, which would help close Foreign Agents Registration Act loopholes that allow unregistered agents of foreign adversaries to lobby in the United States:

“For too long, America’s adversaries have taken advantage of loopholes in our lobbying system to influence policymaking through multimillion-dollar disinformation campaigns,” said Sen. Cornyn.“This bipartisan legislation closes those loopholes by requiring foreign agents from countries like China and Russia to register and disclose political activity to the Department of Justice.”

“When foreign adversaries skirt loopholes to lobby Congress, they directly threaten our democracy,” said Sen. Whitehouse.  “This bipartisan amendment is long overdue and will help prevent unregistered foreign agents from putting a thumb on the scale of American policy.”

“It is clear that our nation’s adversaries are looking to find avenues to influence our government and policymaking decisions, including exploiting loopholes that allow a backdoor for unregistered foreign agents to lobby on behalf of authoritarian regimes like the People’s Republic of China and Russia,” said Rep. Pfluger. “I am proud to co-lead this bipartisan, bicameral legislation with Senator Cornyn to close these loopholes and ensure we can properly combat foreign malign influence in our nation.”

“As we face the rise of adversaries like Russia and China, the U.S. must make clear that we will not tolerate foreign agents who seek to undermine our democracy by operating in the shadows,” said Rep. Crow. “The bipartisan PAID OFF Act would close the lobbyist loophole that allows misinformation to spread unchecked. We should pursue every avenue to end this corrupt influence and protect our national security.”

This legislation is also cosponsored by Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Bill Hagerty (R-TN), Jim Risch (R-ID), and Deb Fischer (R-NE).

Background:

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 Department of Justice (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 off by a foreign adversary government. This legislation would apply to agents lobbying on behalf of countries of particular concern, defined in statute as China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Cuba, and Syria.