The Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) is front page news in the wake of Russian involvement in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. Since its enactment in 1938, FARA has been rarely enforced, but Congress has recently considering several bills to increase its implementation.
This legislative push to ramp up enforcement has raised concern in the nonprofit and philanthropic communities. FARA’s provisions are so sweeping and vague that increased enforcement could capture a wide range of legitimate cross-border civil society activities. Whether it is US non-profits engaged in advocacy with global partners or international foundations disbursing funds in the US, FARA has the potential to significantly impact the sector.
Nor are these concerns limited just to the US. FARA’s sweeping provisions have repeatedly been used to justify “foreign agent” laws in other countries, including Russia, that stigmatize and undercut civil society groups. Strengthening FARA in the US could lead to tighter restrictions on non-profits and foundations abroad.
This online briefing, cosponsored by the Council on Foundations and the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL), discussed these concerns, recent legislative action in Congress, and possible fixes that would enable stronger enforcement of FARA without the unintended impacts on non-profits.
- Natalie Ross, Vice President, External Relations, Council on Foundations
- Nick Robinson, Legal Advisor U.S. Programs, ICNL
For more information on FARA and nonprofits
The Danger of FARA to Civil Society in the U.S. and Abroad: http://www.icnl.org/programs/US%20Programs/FARA%20home.html
NonProfits Face ‘Foreign Agent’ Tag, NonProfit Times, Jan. 16, 2018: http://www.thenonprofittimes.com/news-articles/nonprofits-face-foreign-agent-tag
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