Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Think Tanks May Soon Have to File As Foreign Agents Under FARA

It it possible that think tanks that accept foreign funds may soon need to file as foreign agents under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), a law requiring organizations advocating interests of foreign powers to disclose their relationship with those foreign governments.

In recent months, the Department of Justice (DOJ), which administers FARA, has taken an increasingly broad view of FARA's scope, making many organizations wonder whether their work may trigger FARA registration.

Here is more from Foreign Lobby Report:
The Department of Justice is sending shock waves across the advocacy community by treating certain grant-funded non-governmental organizations as agents of foreign governments.
The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) registered as a foreign agent of Norway earlier this month after being told that it was “obligated” to that country’s government because it had received money from the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD). The Washington-based nonprofit is the recipient of a five-year, almost $6 million grant from the agency to combat deforestation in Indonesia and South America.
The new requirement has clearly rankled a widely respected nonprofit that prides itself on its independence, and other nonprofits could soon find themselves in similar straits.

Foreign Lobby also notes that lobbying firm Waxman Strategies registered as a foreign agent for Norwegian-funded projects with the Center for International Policy (CIP), a think tank based in Washington, DC.

Nearly every major US think tank receives money from foreign governments as well as foreign businesses.

In its "FARA Guide for the Perplexed," the law firm of Covington & Burling LPP notes that FARA is written so broadly that it could potentially require registration even for some routine business activities at think tanks.

A number of foreign governments hire US-based lobbying firm to do outreach to think tanks.  One example is DiNino Associates, LLC, which provides government relations assistance and outreach to think tanks on behalf of the Indian Embassy in the US.

Another example is Gotham Government Relations, which assists Libya's Government of National Accord (GNA) which outreach to think tanks.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch piece about FARA entitled "When Think Tanking Becomes Illegal."