January 17, 2018 / 9:59 PM / a year ago

House panel approves bill to tighten oversight of foreign lobbying

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee approved a bill on Wednesday that would tighten oversight of lobbyists who work for foreign governments or companies.

The law received renewed attention when Paul Manafort, a Republican operative who briefly served as President Donald Trump’s campaign manager in 2016, pleaded not guilty last year to charges ranging from money laundering to acting as an unregistered agents of Ukraine’s former pro-Russian government.

The committee voted 15 to 6 to give the Department of Justice additional powers to enforce rules requiring lobbyists to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, also called FARA.

The bill would also close loopholes in FARA and require the Justice Department to develop a strategy for enforcing the law.

In the Senate, Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has proposed a similar bill.

Critics have argued that FARA reporting requirements are unclear and contain loopholes that allow American lobbyists to avoid disclosure of their foreign clients.

FARA was first passed in 1938 in the lead-up to World War Two in an effort to combat German propaganda efforts, and was later amended in 1966 to include lobbyists, according to the Justice Department.

Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Jonathan Oatis

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