Justice Dept. Criticized Over Foreign Lobbying Enforcement

(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

A government watchdog is criticizing the Justice Department for its enforcement of a law that requires lobbyists to register if they represent foreign leaders or their political parties.

In a report issued Wednesday, the Justice Department’s inspector general says FBI agents and prosecutors don’t agree on the intent of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or on what constitutes a prosecutable case.

Violations of the law carry penalties of up to five years in prison, but the report says only seven cases have been brought in the last 50 years.

The number of registrations has fallen sharply over the decades. Justice Department officials think the decline may be tied to filing fees first imposed in 1993 as well as the passage of the Lobbying Disclosure Act, which imposes less stringent requirements.

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