Today, in the spirit of Sunshine Week, the Center for Responsive Politics introduces Foreign Lobby Watch, allowing users of its OpenSecrets.org website to search filings required under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).
“Sunshine Week reminds Americans how fundamental it is for citizens to have access to public information that helps us more effectively engage in policy debates and monitor the work of our representatives in Washington,” said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics. “That’s even more critical in the wake of evidence that foreign governments attempted to shape public opinion and electoral outcomes in the 2016 election.”
FARA – a 1938 law passed in reaction to Nazi propaganda efforts here in the U.S. – requires those representing foreign governments and other foreign interests to file extensive information with the Department of Justice about what, exactly, they are doing for their clients. But the searchability of the filings is limited.
Today, the Center for Responsive Politics has launched the first phase of this new project on OpenSecrets.org : We now standardize registrants, foreign principals and locations, and parse the PDF text of each filing to allow for full-text searching. CRP inherited this project from the Sunlight Foundation, which previously hosted a tool called Foreign Influence Explorer.
What will you find? A quick search of “Russia” in our database, for example, found 77 firms represented 170 governmental or pseudo-governmental entities, pulling up 274 records since 1950.
Check out Ashley Balcerzak’s latest story, “Russia hired Edelman in 2016 to help deal with Yukos fallout,” which details Russia’s efforts to turn the tide of public opinion in its favor after an international arbitration court at The Hague ruled the country would have to pay $50 billion to shareholders of the former Yukos oil company.
A second phase of this project will provide important added functionality, allowing CRP and others to connect the data on foreign lobbying to other related data sets, including lobbying reported under the Lobbying Disclosure Act.
Happy Sunshine Week!