Cicilline Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Close Russia Today Loophole

WASHINGTON – U.S. Congressman David N. Cicilline (D-RI), who serves as co-chair of
the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee (DPCC), and U.S. Congressman
Matthew Gaetz (R-FL) today introduced legislation to close a loophole in foreign
agent registration requirements that Russia Today exploited extensively during last
year’s presidential election.

«Foreign propaganda dressed up as a legitimate news outlet is still foreign
propaganda,» said Congressman Cicilline. «In this era of social media and a 24/7
news cycle, the American people have a right to know when a hostile foreign
government is sending propaganda right into their living room. This bill will help
ensure that Vladimir Putin’s regime can’t spread fake news with such ease ever
again.»

The Foreign Agents Registration Modernization and Enforcement Act will provide the
U.S. Department of Justice with increased investigative authority to identify and
prosecute entities that seek to unlawfully influence the political process. Under
the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), individuals, groups, and organizations
advocating on behalf of a foreign government are required to register with, and
report their activities to the Department of Justice so that the American public may
more clearly identify foreign propaganda or other disinformation campaigns. Some
organizations, including the Kremlin’s propaganda arm Russia Today, have been able
to avoid FARA registration requirements by structuring their business operations to
appear autonomous from foreign governments.

The bill introduced today by Cicilline and Gaetz will allow the DOJ to compel the
production of documents from any person or entity as part of an investigation
relevant to compliance with FARA. Currently, the DOJ would only have the authority
to compel the production of such documentation after initiating a civil or criminal
proceeding.

In January, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) released an
unclassified assessment of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Among its findings, the ODNI concluded that Russia Today actively collaborated with
WikiLeaks and served as a critical part of the Kremlin’s «state-run propaganda
machine» that disseminated disinformation accusing Secretary Clinton of poor health
and ties to Islamic extremism.

A copy of the Foreign Agents Registration Modernization and Enforcement Act can be
viewed by clicking
here.