Editorial: Increase enforcement of FARA


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Editorial Board

The Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) is a pro-transparency law that requires the disclosure of information from individuals acting on behalf of a foreign government or party. Although this law has been in effect since the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration, it has recently and repeatedly been in the news. The ISD Editorial Board believes violations of this act is a growing threat to our democracy.

Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign manager, and Michael Flynn, former national security adviser, both reported their involvements in foreign campaigns to the Department of Justice only after it was discovered that they left it off their disclosure forms. Trump’s business partner Richard Gates and Manafort have since been charged with violating the act. Now, an Iowa couple is feeling the heat for not disclosing their financial relation with Saudi Arabia.

These revelations highlight what seems to be a growing issue of alleged foreign intervention in our policy making. A pro-Russian Ukrainian political party, Turkey and Saudi Arabia are all known to have paid U.S. citizens to lobby on their behalf. Prior to this year, the DOJ has only sought criminal charges for violations against the act seven times in the past 50 years.

Foreign influence in our democracy is unlikely to end in the near future if violators of FARA are repeatedly let off the hook. Gov. Kim Reynolds and President Trump should both act immediately to ensure that those found in violation of the act are removed from their positions. In Reynolds’ case, the decision should be easy as the violators of the act are alleged to have misled veterans by not disclosing their funding source, which was Saudi Arabia.

These extraordinary allegations deserve answers. The public’s confidence in our democracy is faltering because of looming questions around foreign involvement at the highest levels of our government. Our elected officials and the DOJ must work together to restore the trust in our democracy and ensure that our country is free from undisclosed foreign intervention.