This week, a bipartisan group of Members of Congress introduced the REFUSE Act to close the loopholes that foreign actors have used to secretly influence U.S. democracy. CLC advised the House offices on the text of the bill. The bill would close the loopholes that can allow foreign-owned corporations and foreign-funded dark money groups to spend money on elections and contribute to super PACs, and would strengthen the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) so voters know which foreign interests are trying to influence policy. Introduction of the bill comes at a time of rising public scrutiny over foreign influence—including Paul Manafort’s undisclosed lobbying for foreign governments and allegations of Russian funding for the National Rifle Association (NRA).
The REFUSE Act would protect our right to self-government by closing loopholes that foreign actors have used to secretly influence American democracy, as the Russians did in 2016. Among the changes outlined in the bill, it would expand the definition of “foreign national” – currently prohibited from donating to U.S. elections – to include corporations that are more than five percent owned by foreign governments or more than 20 percent owned by other foreign individuals or entities. It similarly defines a 501(c)(4) nonprofit as “foreign influenced” if it receives more than 5% of its funding from foreign governments or more than 20% of its funding from other foreign nationals.
Additionally, the bill addresses the outdated FARA law that was passed in 1938. It repeals the FARA exemption for lobbyists who register under the Lobbying Disclosure Act and strengthens enforcement mechanisms. This portion will ensure that voters know which foreign interests are trying to influence U.S. policy.
Current co-sponsors include the following:
- U.S. Rep Marcy Kaptur (OH)
- U.S. Rep Walter Jones (NC)*
- U.S. Rep Jerry McNerny (CA)*
- U.S. Rep Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC)
- U.S. Rep Pramila Jayapal (WA)
- U.S. Rep Mark Pocan (WI)
- U.S. Rep Jamie Raskin (MD)
- U.S. Rep Carol Shea-Porter (NH)
- U.S. Rep Maxine Waters (CA)
*Current Chairmen of the House Campaign Finance Reform Caucus