Sunlight Foundation & ProPublica Release Foreign Lobbying Influence Tracker
by Roger Strother*, 8/20/2009
In 2008, K Street received $86 million from foreign sources to pursue their interests with representatives of the American people. While states and populations abroad certainly have legitimate interests in U.S. domestic and foreign policy, the origins of much of that money are still largely shrouded in secrecy. The data, until now, has been difficult for most Americans to access. As a result, the Sunlight Foundation and ProPublica joined together to track which foreign governments and corporations are lobbying for representation in the U.S. Congress.
This data is collected by the Department of Justice (DOJ) pursuant to the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA). FARA was enacted in 1938 as a way of fighting German war propaganda but has developed a broader role since World War II in tracking foreign influence.
DOJ has maintained a website since 2007 that contains image files of FARA disclosures online. None of the data, until now, has been available in a format which can be manipulated in a user friendly and searchable manner. The data used on the new website, foreignlobbying.org, covers 2008 and part of 2007.
The new website allows users to search by legislator, country, foreign client, lobbying firm, or contact issues.
According to the website, the country with the most Congressional contacts is Turkey – a result of that government’s attempt to block American legislation to retroactively declare the 1915 slaughter of Armenians by the Turkish government a genocide. Libya, a country only recently removed from the State Department terrorism sponsor list, ranked number five in terms of Congressional contacts.