What is FARA?
The Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) imposes disclosure requirements and other legal obligations on any individual or entity that becomes an “agent of a foreign principal” unless an exemption applies. FARA is a public-disclosure statute originally enacted in 1938 as a legislative response to foreign propaganda activities in the U.S. during the run-up to World War II. FARA is codified at 22 U.S.C. § 611 et seq. and its implementing rules are located at 28 C.F.R. § 5.1 et seq.
Who is a “Foreign Principal”?
FARA defines “foreign principal” to include:
- Any foreign government, any foreign political party
- Any association, corporation, organization, or “combination of persons” that either was established under a foreign country’s laws or maintains its principal place of business in a foreign country
- Any individual outside the United States (other a U.S. citizen who is also domiciled in the U.S.).
Definition of an “Agent”
An “agent” is an individual or entity that acts “within the United States” at the order, request, direction, or control of either: (1) a “foreign principal”; or (2) a person “any of whose activities are directly or indirectly supervised, directed, controlled, financed, or subsidized in whole or in major part by a “foreign principal.” An individual or entity can become an “agent” even without a contractual relationship or formal agreement with a “foreign principal.”
Activities That Require Registration
In order to be an “agent” an individual or entity must perform one of the following activities within the United States “for or in the interests of” its “foreign principal”:
- Political activities. Intended to influence the United States Government.
- Public relations services
- Political consultancy
- Dispersing or collecting money
- Representation before an agency of the federal government
Activities Exempted from Registration
An individual or entity who fits the definition of “agent of a foreign principal” may still not be required to register under FARA if an exemption applies. These exemptions are narrowly described in the act and it is incumbent on the “agent” to show that an exemption applies in a specific situation.
Registering Under FARA
An “agent of a foreign principal” who is not exempted must register with the Department of Justice within 10 days after initially either agreeing to be an “agent” or performing FARA-registrable activities.
Disclosures After Registration
After registration, an “agent of a foreign principal” is subject to ongoing ongoing disclosure requirements and other legal obligations. These include a series of specific reports that must be filed on a regular basis detailing the activities of the agent on behalf of his principal.
FARA also provides civil and criminal penalties for those who violate the act’s provisions. No private right of action is available under FARA, but the Department of Justice does receive FARA-related complaints from private parties.
Additional Sources of Information
More detailed information on FARA’s provisions is available at the following websites.