Hillary Clinton campaign officials discussed how to handle donations from foreign agents in an email exchange released by WikiLeaks, a discussion that apparently was ended when communications director Jennifer Palmieri ordered “Take the money!”
Federal law, however, makes it illegal for foreign nationals to contribute to U.S. political campaigns, and it imposes huge burdens and obstacles even for Americans to make donations if they are representing foreign interests.
Howard Richman at American Thinker wrote about the email exchange.
The Clinton campaign was faced with whether it “should continue to take money from people who were registered with the U.S. government as foreign government agents under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.”
Dennis Cheng, the Clinton campaign’s national finance director, said, “We are leaving a good amount of money on the table.”
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The next day, campaign manager Robby Mook said, “I’m ok just taking the money and dealing with any attacks.”
The verdict, however, apparently came the following day from Palmieri: “Take the money!!”
The Foreign Agents Registration Act was created in 1938 as a disclosure statute that “requires persons acting as agents of foreign principals in a political or quasi-political capacity to make periodic public disclosure of their relationship with the foreign principal, as well as activities, receipts and disbursements in support of those activities.”
The government explains, “The purpose of FARA is to insure that the U.S. government and the people of the United States are informed of the source of information (propaganda) and the identity of persons attempting to influence U.S. public opinion, policy, and laws.”
There are several other laws that could apply, including the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995, which requires registration of “certain organizations which engage in political activity.”
The Project on Government Oversight says there are requirements for “American lobbyists working on behalf of foreign clients” to release a great deal of information.
“This includes the actual documents used to influence policy makers, called informational materials. These materials include draft legislation, speeches, press releases and more, all created to influence U.S. policy.”
However, the organization noted: “The lobbyists do not always follow the letter of the law and enforcement by the Justice Department has been lax in recent years. Furthermore, the law itself seems to have loopholes that make enforcement difficult if not impossible. The Foreign Agents Registration Act is intended to bring transparency into the world of foreign lobbying. But when American lobbyists working on behalf of foreign interests fail to follow the law, or the Justice Department fails to enforce it, the American people are left in the dark.”
When there are foreigners acting as agents for foreign interests, the Federal Election Commission imposes a strict ban on political contributions and expenditures, which it has since 1966.
The ban came in an amendment to FARA that aims “to minimize foreign intervention in U.S. elections by establishing a series of limitgations on foreign nationals. These included registration requirements for the agents of foreign principals and a general prohibition on political contributions by foreign nationals.”
“In 1974, the prohibition was incorporated into the Federal Election Campaign Act.”
POGO reported it had examined thousands of documents spanning years of work, as well as public records, and found not only do foreign agents “routinely fail” to comply with the law, the “Justice Department office responsible for administering the law is a record-keeping mess. And we found loopholes in the law that often make it difficult if not impossible for the government to police compliance or to discipline lobbyists who fail to comply.”
The report continued: “Though federal law bars foreign money from U.S. political campaigns, there appears to be a gray area in the law that can let in such money indirectly.”
Toby Moffett, a former congressman from Connecticut who heads a lobbying company, told POGO: “Around the edges there’s a lot of loosey-goosey stuff going on. People representing foreign interests and not reporting.”
The Clinton campaign discussed going after donations on a “case-by-case” basis but ultimately decided, apparently, to take all the cash offered and respond to controversies after the fact.