Bipartisan bill aims to curb foreign influence in US democracy
The proposed measures, which have not previously been reported, respond to growing concern on Capitol Hill that key elements of government and civil society remain susceptible to foreign interference, six years after the Kremlin launched a campaign to influence the 2016 presidential election.
The legislation addresses issues highlighted more recently by the federal investigation into whether retired four-star Marine General John R. Allen, who resigned over the weekend as president of the Brookings Institution , lobbied on behalf of Qatar without disclosing his activities as required by federal law. And the proposals come amid tougher enforcement by the Justice Department of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, including the decision last month to sue Steve Wynn, a Republican developer and megadonor, for the require to register as an agent of China.
DeSantis spokeswoman belatedly registers as agent for foreign politician
The bill has bipartisan support. Its main sponsor is Rep. Jared Golden, a veteran Democrat and Marine from a conservative-leaning Maine district, who said one of the main problems with the American political system is that “corruption is either completely legal or punished. slaps on the wrists”. .” A Golden aide said the congressman’s efforts to build consensus on a targeted anti-corruption package came in response to the GOP’s rejection of a broader bill on voting rights, elections, and government. ethics, known as HR 1.
Joining Golden in introducing the legislation were members as disparate as Representatives Katie Porter of California, a liberal consumer protection lawyer and rising Democratic star, and Paul A. Gosar of Arizona, a Republican sidekick to the former President Donald Trump who has been spreading conspiracy theories about everything from election security to the recent school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.
In a statement endorsing the legislation on Thursday, Gosar pointed to a measure that seeks greater transparency in online campaign donations. “Full disclosure of online contributions will ensure that the American people know the sources of campaign money and will go a long way toward maintaining a system of free and fair elections,” he said.
Federal law already prohibits contributions from foreign nationals to any federal, state or local election. But the bill’s sponsors say there are shortcomings, including the lack of a requirement for campaigns to use industry-standard tools to verify details of contributions online.
Porter stressed the bipartisan relevance of the legislation. “Americans are suspicious of government, regardless of which party is in power,” she said.
Lobbying outlet says DOJ investigation into its work for Burisma has been closed
The measures, while not quoting Allen or anyone else, are made desperately necessary by recent allegations, according to the bill’s sponsors.
Allen, who served as the top US commander in Afghanistan from 2011 to 2013, said his first contact with a political donor currently serving a 12-year prison sentence was related to the creation of a military advisory committee for the government. of Qatar, according to a search warrant filed with the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
Court records show the probe is focused on whether Allen secretly urged the Trump administration to temper its criticism of Qatar in 2017, when the country faced sanctions in connection with accusations of supporting Islamist extremism.
A spokesman for Allen said the retired general “has done nothing improper or illegal, has never acted as an agent of Qatar or any foreign government or principal, and has never obstructed justice”.
The bill’s sponsors also cite a 2020 study by the DC-based Center for International Policy which found that the nation’s major think tanks received at least $174 million in funding from foreign powers between 2014 and 2018. Among those receiving the most foreign funding, according to the analysis, was Brookings.
A Brookings spokesperson said the think tank “has strong independence policies to ensure that no financial support influences the research findings or policy recommendations of its experts.” Following a review in 2019, Brookings began subjecting foreign donors to extensive scrutiny, including an assessment of the funder’s “democratic status and track record of supporting independent civil society,” it said. said the spokesperson.
Most think tanks organized as nonprofits are not required to disclose their donors, although some, like Brookings, do so voluntarily. Legislation by Golden and others would require disclosure of gifts and donations from foreign powers greater than $50,000 in any given year.