Grassley calls out foreign influence
One of the more troubling aspects to come out of Robert Mueller's investigation into the 2016 presidential election is how determined Russia was to spread fear, lies, and misinformation. But as Sen. Charles Grassley notes in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, there's a more insidious, and ongoing, foreign effort to influence our government...and it's being ignored:
The Mueller report goes far beyond the debunked collusion narrative, but the continuing political noise risks drowning out sirens warning of the real threat: surreptitious foreign influence in our political discourse.
Mr. Mueller’s team indicted dozens of Russians for a scheme to sow discord in American politics through social media and the release of hacked Democratic National Committee emails. But not enough attention has been paid to foreign interests secretly enlisting American cutouts to influence our laws and policies directly. This is a serious problem that should unnerve anyone in government being lobbied on policy matters.
If lobbyists or public-relations firms are peddling policy preferences at the behest of foreign powers, we ought to know about it. This week I’m introducing bipartisan legislation to beef up enforcement against clandestine foreign influence campaigns and encourage greater compliance with the often-ignored registration requirements for lobbyists working on behalf of foreign entities.
This is a very real problem that has gotten some new attention:
It might have started as a creative tactic by an aggressive team of investigators to pressure Mr. Manafort into spilling nonexistent details on the Trump campaign, but Mr. Mueller’s probe had the positive effect of jolting to attention the Justice Department’s FARA Registration Unit, as well as drawing attention to lobbyists whose work for foreign clients had been flying under the radar.
The charges spurred a rush on K Street, with new foreign-agent registrations increasing by 50% in 2017 from 2016. Attorney General William Barr recently pledged to prioritize enforcement.
Enforcement is key. But so too is monitoring, and possibly closing, the loopholes Grassley says currently allow what are essentially foreign agents to lobby government without having to disclose those ties. That needs to end.