Is Increased Disclosure Coming Under FARA?

Lobbyists and other influencers employed by international clients have traditionally reported the bare minimum in filings submitted under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA.  In fact, law firms have largely avoided disclosure altogether due to an exemption for legal work, including their undertakings in the burgeoning field of legal communications. However, increased scrutiny on consulting work for foreign clients could bolster disclosure by lobbyists and consultants, as highlighted in a recent New York Times piece in which two law firms reported extensive legal communications work on behalf of a foreign client, despite one vendor claiming the work was exempt from reporting requirements.

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New York Times on the "Weaponization" of Freedom of Information Laws

A fascinating story in today’s New York Times discussing the “weaponization” of the federal Freedom of Information Act and state open records laws.  The article discusses the use of the California Public Records Act by an association of private tax preparation companies to obtain e-mails, text messages, voice mail messages and notes created but a University of California Davis professor who has criticized private tax preparation companies, specifically their association with an IRS tax filing program called Free File.

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Corporate Disclosures of Political Contributions Shed Light on Dark Money

This week a news report documented how three corporations made $1.6 million in contributions to pro-Trump dark money group America First Policies, a group whose leadership has previously made racist, sexist, bigoted and pro-Nazi statements. The story is also notable for how it used corporate disclosures of political contributions to provide insight into a 501(c)4 "dark money" group, which is otherwise not required to disclose its donors.

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Internet Archive At Center of Joy Reid Blog Controversy

This week MSNBC host Joy Reid was called out over homophobic posts attributed to her political blog, The Reid Report, in the late-2000s. There are several fascinating elements to this story with important implications for how the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine, and a complementary system called archive.today, can be used when documenting a since-deleted website.

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Govtrack Database of Congressional Misconduct

Govtrack.us, a free website focused on following congressional legislation and lawmakers, has started compiling past and current congressional ethics investigations and other allegations of political malpractice against congress members.

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Washington Post Video Guide to Submitting FOIA Requests

This video provides a good six-minute primer on how to submit an effective Freedom of Information Act Request, with insights from a couple of the Washington Post's FOIA power users. The video provides several solid pointers for submitting a request which we'll elaborate on here

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Facebook Block Lists as Public Records

A pending lawsuit has the potential to establish precedent for whether the block lists of public officials’ Facebook and Twitter accounts are public records. These social media block lists effectively ban certain individuals and pages from communicating with an elected official’s social media account. 

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State by State Guide to Personal Financial Disclosures

VR Research has prepared a 50 state guide for how to search and download Personal Financial Disclosures for state legislators and other statewide elected officials. These records are an essential resource when conducting research on public officials, to understand their business dealings, financial backgrounds and potential conflicts of interest. 

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