Comparison of Foreign Lobbying Registrations

GGD-98-129R: Published: May 29, 1998. Publicly Released: Jun 16, 1998.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO compared the number of registrations filed for foreign and foreign-affiliated clients under lobbying disclosure laws before and after the enactment of the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 (LDA), focusing on the: (1) number of such registrations that were filed in 1995 under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) or the Federal Regulation of Lobbying Act (FRLA), and filed in 1996 under FARA and/or LDA, in order to determine whether there had been an overall increase or decrease in foreign registrations from 1995 to 1996; (2) number of those 1996 LDA registrations that were new and of those that had been filed in the previous year under FARA or FRLA; and (3) registration actions after December 31, 1995, of those that had been registered under FARA in 1995.

GAO noted that: (1) overall, there appears to have been an increase of 145 registrations under the lobbying disclosure laws for foreign and foreign-affiliated clients from 1995-1996; (2) however, because GAO cannot determine the actual number of foreign and foreign-affiliated clients that may have been registered under FRLA in 1995, the true increase in registrations of such clients may be fewer than 145; (3) GAO found total registrations of 1,487 in 1995; (4) in 1996, there were a total of 1,763 registrations; (5) however, because 131 of the 1,763 were registered under both FARA and LDA, to avoid double counting, GAO subtracted 131 from the 1,763 to arrive at 1,632 registrations; (6) of the 1,632 registrations for foreign and foreign-affiliated clients GAO identified for 1996, 671 were registrations under LDA; (7) of these 671 registrations, 631 represented nongovernment and nonpolitical parties; (8) of these 631 registrations for nongovernments and nonpolitical parties, 393, or about 62 percent, were new registrations under LDA; (9) the remaining 238 registrations were filed in 1995 under FARA or FRLA; (10) of these 238, 119 registrations for nongovernments and nonpolitical parties had previously been filed under FARA in 1995, and 119 registrations were filed in 1995 for nongovernments and nonpolitical parties under FRLA; (11) of the 671 total registrations, GAO categorized 39 as foreign government and political parties and 1 as unknown; (12) among the 39, GAO found two foreign governments with registrations filed under LDA but not filed under FARA in 1996; (13) clients who are foreign governments and political parties are required to be registered under FARA; (14) therefore, GAO brought these two foreign governments and political parties to the attention of Department of Justice officials; (15) some of the clients who had been registered under FARA at the end of 1995: (a) were registered under LDA in 1996; (b) were registered during at least part of 1996 under both FARA and LDA; (c) remained registered only under FARA in 1996; and (d) had their registrations terminated with the federal government entirely; and (16) in GAO's work classifying foreign clients into: (a) nongovernments and nonpolitical parties; and (b) governments and political parties, GAO found a significant number of clients that were affiliated with foreign governments but that did not identify themselves as governments.

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