Sending Office: Honorable Seth Moulton
I write to request your co-sponsorship of the Foreign Influence Registration Modernization (FIRM) Act, a comprehensive Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) reform bill that will make it easier to enforce the law, return the statute to its intended
purpose, and bring FARA into the 21st century.
Yesterday, federal agents
arrested Dr. Charles Lieber, Chair of Harvard University’s Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology. He was charged with lying to investigators about his participation in China’s Thousand Talents Plan, which recruits researchers including Americans
with access to sensitive intellectual property and other information of interest to America’s adversaries. According to The Boston Globe, Dr. Leiber is accused of receiving but failing to report up to $50,000 per month in salary and $150,000 per year in living
expenses from Wuhan University of Technology. He was also allegedly awarded more than $1.5 million by the university and the Chinese government to build a laboratory in Wuhan.
These arrests and other recent events have made clear that FARA isn’t working as designed and requires urgent reform. FARA is a transparency statute designed to help the government detect foreign agents and monitor foreign activities in America, and was
originally written in the 1930s. Over the past 80 years, it has failed to accomplish its intended goals. FARA’s broad and unclear definition of who should register as a foreign agent presents a danger of misuse. Under the current rules, the registry is flooded
with information that hinders the government’s ability to detect people who fail to register their activities.
The FIRM Act would narrow the disclosure requirements and modernize enforcement under FARA to better focus the DOJ’s efforts by allowing them to effectively target foreign agents that are currently going undetected. The FIRM Act does the following:
- Narrows the definition of a foreign principal to a foreign government or political party to make enforcement easier and more effective by clarifying who it targets. The new definition firmly targets groups of concern without capturing innocuous groups like
- Closes a loophole in academia by requiring individuals and organizations funded by countries that are known human rights violators, and any countries that are prohibited from receiving assistance under the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, from qualifying
for the scholastic and other exemptions.
- Requires statements and supplements to be filed in a digitized format and to be uploaded to a public database that is fully searchable, sortable, and downloadable.
- Allows the DOJ to enact a civil penalty of up to $200,000 for not complying with the law, in addition to the existing criminal penalties.
- Moves regulation of the Lobbying Disclosure Act to the Department of Justice to make it easier to cross-reference the databases and ensure that everyone who should be registering, does so.
I hope that you will join us in cosponsoring this legislation. If you have questions or would like to co-sponsor, please contact Ananda Bhatia on my staff at Ananda.Bhatia@mail.house.gov.
e-Dear Colleague version 2.0