Are You a “Foreign Agent”? You Might Be Surprised.

Disgraced lobbyist and campaign operative Paul Manafort has been in the news over the past few months. Among other things, he has been accused of operating an influence campaign in the United States on behalf of a Ukrainian political party, while failing to disclose those actions as required by the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). This obscure statute—enacted in 1938 amid rising concerns about Nazi propaganda—requires organizations that are “directed, controlled, financed, or subsidized in whole or in major part by a foreign principal” to register with the Department of Justice. Because it is so dated and broad, the law has long been considered confusing and exceedingly difficult to enforce.

Naturally, Congress has sprung into action to root out this international corruption by targeting…environmental nonprofit organizations?

That’s right. This summer, the House Committee on Natural Resources sent letters to three prominent nonprofit environmental advocacy organizations, questioning whether they may be in violation of the FARA. According to the Charity and Security Network, these letters represent, “civil society’s worst fears about how the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) can be politicized to target nonprofits in the U.S.” At the same time, over a dozen pieces of legislation that seek to update FARA are pending in Congress.

The risk of being labeled a foreign agent isn’t limited to environmental organizations. Does your organization work internationally? Do you receive grants or donations from outside of the U.S.? If so, it may be helpful to learn more about this law so you’re able to stay in compliance, today, and work to improve it in the future.

Join Steptoe and the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law on Tuesday, October 9 at 12:30 pm for a discussion of the content of FARA, changes in the political environment that might affect enforcement, and how nonprofits and foundations might address compliance concerns.

Register for this free live or broadcast event by October 4.

Types: Blog, Policy Update
Global Topics: Congress, Public Policy
Policy Issues: Lobbying & Political Activity, Nonprofit Operations