A bipartisan coalition of eight senators is jump-starting an effort to crack down on schemes by China, Russia and other adversaries that skirt lobbying law and influence American policymakers.
Foreign ploys routinely make waves in Washington, from China allegedly looking for sway at a think tank connected to President Biden to a wealthy Russian allegedly compromising a former senior FBI official to do the bidding of the oligarch.
Efforts to conceal foreign lobbying are in the Senate’s crosshairs. Sens. Gary Peters, Michigan Democrat, and Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican, lead the proposal they say will close a loophole exploited by China to conceal adversaries’ hidden role in lobbying.
Mr. Grassley said Tuesday that the Disclosing Foreign Influence in Lobbying Act is needed because people ought to know if a foreign government or political party is trying to upend American policy.
“We’ve learned that the Chinese Communist Party has used other organizations as proxies to secretly push their agenda in the United States,” Mr. Grassley said in a statement. “This bill builds on existing lobbying and foreign agent laws to shine a light on that behavior so we know exactly where influence campaigns are coming from to ensure policy decisions are in the best interest of the American people.”
The Chinese Communist Party has used businesses to push their agenda with the U.S. government, effectively making the companies proxies for the communist regime without having to fully disclose activity under the law governing lobbyists’ actions, according to Mr. Grassley’s office.
The proposed change to lobbying law would require disclosure of foreign governments or political parties planning, supervising or controlling a lobbying effort regardless of whether those pulling the strings are footing the entire bill.
The senators’ bill passed by unanimous consent in September after advancing that month through the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, led by Mr. Peters.
Others again joining Mr. Peters and Mr. Grassley’s effort include Sens. John Cornyn, Texas Republican; Richard Durbin, Illinois Democrat; Maggie Hassan, New Hampshire Democrat; Kyrsten Sinema, Arizona independent; and Debbie Stabenow, Michigan Democrat. Sen. Josh Hawley, Missouri Republican, also jumped on board the new push to pass the bill in 2023.
“We cannot allow undisclosed foreign influence to overtake the voices of American voters,” Mr. Durbin said in a statement. “This bipartisan bill reminds those seeking to influence our government that we legislate on the needs of our constituents, not foreign lobbyists.”
• Ryan Lovelace can be reached at email@example.com.
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