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Cotton, Gallagher raise Chinese lobbying concerns to DOJ

The two sent a letter to Attorney General Bill Barr with concerns about the lobbying registration practices of Chinese military companies in the United States.
Credit: YouTube

WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — Arkansas Senator, Tom Cotton, and Wisconsin Representative, Mike Gallagher, sent a letter to Attorney General Bill Barr with concerns about the lobbying registration practices of Chinese military companies in the United States.

Specifically, the members asked whether representatives of companies like Huawei, which has been deemed a Chinese military firm by the Pentagon, should be required to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).

Cotton and Gallagher called for the publication of a list of such firms by the Department of Defense last fall.

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Full text of the letter is below:

Dear Attorney General Barr,

We write to you today with concerns about the lobbying registration practices of individuals representing Chinese military companies in the United States.

As you know, on June 24, the Department of Defense (DOD) released a list of 20 Chinese military companies operating in the United States.[1] On August 28, the DOD added 11 additional companies to the list.[2] This report was required by Congress in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1999. Notably, the Pentagon deemed several Chinese technology companies, including Huawei, Hikvision, and China Telecom, to be military firms. We applaud the inclusion of these companies in the report, as we believe the DOD’s determination accurately reflects these firms’ close collaboration with the People’s Liberation Army.

A number of individuals and firms representing these Chinese military companies in our nation's capital have registered under the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA), not the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). These lobbyists may claim that they do not represent a foreign government or foreign political party, and therefore are eligible for the LDA exemption to FARA. However, the U.S. government has determined that these Chinese firms are extensions of the armed forces of the People's Republic of China. That begs the question: Does the LDA exemption to FARA still apply in this case?

Alternatively, these lobbyists for Chinese military firms may be relying on FARA’s “commercial exemption” to justify registration only under the LDA. The Department of Justice's (DOJ) materials on FARA note that the “commercial exemption” does not apply when the lobbying activities “are directed by a foreign government or political party, or they directly promote the public or political interests of the foreign government or political party.”[3] With the formal U.S. government determination that these firms are Chinese military companies, does FARA’s “commercial exemption” clause still apply to these firms?

If these exemptions to FARA do not apply to the representatives of these Chinese military firms, does the DOJ believe that lobbyists for these firms must register under FARA?

We appreciate your consideration of this important matter and we look forward to continued cooperation with the Administration to safeguard our democratic process from influence by hostile foreign powers.  

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