The Department of Justice’s FARA Registration Unit regularly issues what are called “Letters of Inquiry” when it believes an individual, company, non-profit, consultancy, or other party may need to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.  After a Letter of Inquiry is submitted, the FARA Unit decides whether a retroactive registration is necessary for the representation.  The FARA Registration Unit communicates this decision in a formal letter called a “Determination Letter” that explains its rationale and demands a registration filing.  Below are selected Determination Letters issued to potential FARA registrants.

Determination Letter Date and Recipient Name

Summary Description

FARA Exemptions Referenced

Foreign Agent Type

Foreign Principal Type

Registration Required?

6-21-2018 (RM Broadcasting)RM Broadcasting, LLC held a contract to broadcast programming on AM radio in the Washington, D.C. area on “a 24-hour, 7 days a week basis” from Rossiya Segodnya, a foreign media entity behind the Sputnik radio network that was “part of the Russian government.”  The FARA Unit concluded that RM Broadcasting’s work to transmit broadcasts in the U.S. qualified it to fit the FARA statutory definitions of “publicity agent” and “information-service employee” for Rossiya Segodnya.  The FARA Unit instructed RM Broadcasting to register within 30 days.  RM Broadcasting responded by filing for a declaratory judgment in a federal district court.U.S. Broadcasting CompanyForeign Media Entity; Foreign GovernmentYes
3-14-2018 (Andreae & Associates)Andreae & Associates, Inc., a U.S. public affairs firm, participated in a “media campaign entitled ‘Qatar: A Dangerous Alliance” that heavily criticized the Qatari Government under a contract with a foreign public affairs firm called Lapis.  The FARA Unit found Andreae & Associates’ response to a Letter of Inquiry “to be unpersuasive, and lacking sufficient facts.”  The firm, for example, stated that “no foreign government, government official, or surrogate provided financing or subsidized … the funding for the creating, preparation, or dissemination of the media campaign” and that “all funding … came via Lapis Communications, a private entity,” but the FARA Unit declared that “the facts surrounding the production and dissemination of the media presentation in question suggest otherwise” because Lapis indicated on its website that it provided services to the United Arab Emirates Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.  The FARA Unit additionally noted that Andreae & Associates: (1) was ineligible for the “LDA exemption” at 22 U.S.C. 613(h) because the UAE Government was the “the principal beneficiary” of the activity; and (2) had failed to meet its burden of proof to establish that another exemption applied.  Andreae & Associates subsequently filed a FARA registration listing Lapis as its foreign principal.Lobbying Disclosure Act Exemption (613(h))

 

U.S. Public Relations FirmForeign Public Relations Firm; Foreign GovernmentYes
3-14-2018 (Policy Impact Communications)Policy Impact Communications, a U.S. public affairs firm, produced a “website and related media campaign entitled ‘Qatar: A Dangerous Alliance” that heavily criticized the Qatari Government under subcontract with Andreae & Associates, which itself was working under a contract with a foreign public affairs firm called Lapis.  The FARA Unit found Policy Impact’s response to a Letter of Inquiry “to be unpersuasive, and lacking sufficient facts.”  The firm, for example, stated that “the firm was neither paid for nor influenced by a foreign government or official,” but the FARA Unit declared that “the facts surrounding the production and dissemination of the media presentation in question suggest otherwise” because Lapis indicated on its website that it provided services to the United Arab Emirates Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.  The FARA Unit additionally noted that Policy Impact: (1) was ineligible for the “LDA exemption” at 22 U.S.C. 613(h) because the UAE Government was the “the principal beneficiary” of the activity; and (2) had failed to meet its burden of proof to establish that another exemption applied.  Policy Impact subsequently filed a FARA registration listing Lapis as its foreign principal.Lobbying Disclosure Act Exemption (613(h))U.S. Public Relations FirmForeign Public Relations Firm; Foreign GovernmentYes
1-1-2018 (RIA Global)RIA Global, LLC, a U.S. company, served “as the U.S. extension of Rossiya Segodnya,” a foreign media entity behind the Sputnik radio network that was “part of the Russian government.”  The FARA Unit concluded that RIA Global’s efforts to distribute and produce Sputnik constituted the performance of “political activities” and qualified the company to fit the FARA statutory definitions of “publicity agent” and “information-service employee” for Rossiya Segodnya.  Finally, the FARA Unit determined that the exemption for “news or journalistic activities” exemption at 22 U.S.C. § 611(d) did not apply because RIA Global was “owned, directed, supervised, controlled, subsidized, or financed” by a foreign principal.  The FARA Unit therefore instructed RIA Global to submit a registration within 30 days, which the company subsequently filed.News or Journalistic Activities Exemption (611(d))U.S. Broadcasting CompanyForeign Media Entity; Foreign GovernmentYes
12-7-2017 (King & Spalding)U.S. law firm King & Spalding, LLC represented the Government of Turkey “in connection with U.S. sanctions matters” and consequently attempted to persuade the Department of Justice through a letter and related communications “to take certain actions” relating to Iran and relating to a pending criminal trial in which Turkey was not a party.  King & Spalding indicated that the effort was to convince the Department “to join with Turkish law enforcement agencies to plan an effective campaign against Iranians and Iranian-owned entities using Turkey to thwart U.S. enforcement of the sanctions regime.”  The FARA Unit remarked that the law firm’s effort to affect “U.S.-Turkey law enforcement cooperation concerning sanctions on Iran” was a “political activity” because it “was intended to influence DOJ officials with reference to the foreign policy of the United States and its political and public relations with Turkey.”  Additionally, the FARA Unit determined that the “legal representation” exemption at 22U.S.C. § 613(g) did not apply to King & Spalding’s work because the firm’s “attempts to influence or persuade DOJ officials … were not in the course of a criminal or civil law enforcement inquiries, investigations, or judicial proceedings,” given that the firm’s client was not a party to the criminal trial at issue.”  The FARA Unit instructed King & Spalding to submit a FARA registration within 30 days, which the law firm subsequently filed.Legal Representation Exemption (613(g))U.S. Law FirmForeign GovernmentYes
9-12-2017 (Reston Translator)Reston Translator, LLC held a contract to broadcast programming on FM radio in the Washington, D.C. area on “a 24-hour, 7 days a week basis” from Rossiya Segodnya, a foreign media entity behind the Sputnik radio network that was “part of the Russian government.”  The FARA Unit concluded that Reston Translator’s work to transmit broadcasts in the U.S. qualified it to fit the FARA statutory definitions of “publicity agent” and “information-service employee” for Rossiya Segodnya.  The FARA Unit instructed Reston Translator to register within 30 days.  Reston Translator ultimately submitted a FARA registration.U.S. Broadcasting CompanyForeign Media Entity; Foreign GovernmentYes
8-17-2017 (RTTV America)The FARA Unit, based on multiple information exchanges and a review of documents, concluded that a U.S. broadcasting company named RTTV America, Inc. was required to register under FARA due to its activities on behalf of media outlet RT and RT’s parent company TV-Novosti, which the FARA Unit described as “proxies of the Russian Government.”  The FARA Unit remarked that RTTV America served as “an alter ego” for RT in the United States, providing television production services and arranging for distribution of RT content.  In describing the arrangement, the FARA Unit noted particularly that RT received 99.7% of its funds from the Russian Government, that RT was regarded by the U.S. Intelligence Community as a “principal international propaganda outlet,” and that RT broadcasts “consistently mirror the opinions of the Kremlin.”  The FARA Unit found that RTTV America met the statutory definitions of “publicity agent” and “information-service employee,” and it was not eligible for any exemptions.U.S. Broadcasting CompanyForeign Media Entity; Foreign GovernmentYes
8-17-2017 (T&R Productions)The FARA Unit, based “upon information known to” it, concluded that a U.S. media production company named T&R Productions, LLC was required to register under FARA due to its activities on behalf of media outlet RT and RT’s parent company TV-Novosti, which the FARA Unit described as “proxies of the Russian Government.”  T&R was contracted to “produc[e] content in the United States” for RT at RT’s direction.  In describing the engagement, the FARA Unit noted particularly that RT received 99.7% of its funds from the Russian Government, that RT was regarded by the U.S. Intelligence Community as a “principal international propaganda outlet,” and that RT broadcasts “consistently mirror the opinions of the Kremlin.”  The FARA Unit found that T&R met the statutory definitions of “publicity agent” and “information-service employee,” and it was not eligible for any exemptions.  T&R ultimately filed a FARA registration.U.S. Media Production CompanyForeign Media Entity; Foreign GovernmentYes
3-31-2017 (Podesta Group)Podesta Group, a U.S. public affairs firm, represented the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine (“ECFMU”), a European non-profit organization for the purpose of “improving ties between Ukraine and the West ‘with the ultimate goal of Ukrainian admission to the European Union and alignment with other Western institutions.”  ECFMU was funded by “individuals ‘in Kiev who were affiliated with the Ukrainian government and the Party of Regions.’”  Podesta Group registered its representation of ECFMU under the Lobbying Disclosure Act, availing itself of the “LDA exemption” at 22 U.S.C. § 613(h).  After reviewing facts surrounding the representation, though, the FARA Unit concluded that Mercury did not qualify for the “LDA exemption” because “the principal beneficiary” of the representation, though, the FARA Unit concluded that Podesta Group did not qualify for the “LDA exemption” because “the principal beneficiary” of the representation was the Government of Ukraine and/or the Party of Regions, a Ukrainian political party.  The FARA Unit thereafter instructed Podesta Group to register the representation under FARA within 30 days.Lobbying Disclosure Act Exemption (613(h))U.S. Public Relations FirmForeign OrganizationYes
3-31-2017 (Mercury Public Affairs)Mercury Public Affairs, a U.S. public affairs firm, represented the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine (“EFCMU”), a European non-profit organization.  Mercury, according to its response to an October 5, 2016 Letter of Inquiry from the FARA Unit, worked to conduct an “influencer outreach campaign” to promote “Ukraine’s west-ward focus and goal of EU membership.”  Mercury had registered this representation under the Lobbying Disclosure Act, availing itself of the “LDA exemption” at 22 U.S.C. § 613(h).  After reviewing facts surrounding the representation, though, the FARA Unit concluded that Mercury did not qualify for the “LDA exemption” because “the principal beneficiary” of the representation was the Government of Ukraine and/or the Party of Regions, a Ukrainian political party.  The FARA Unit thereafter instructed Mercury to register the representation under FARA within 30 days.Lobbying Disclosure Act Exemption (613(h))U.S. Public Relations FirmForeign OrganizationYes
3-31-2017 (DMP International)

 

The FARA Unit sent a Letter of Inquiry to DMP International, LLC, a U.S. public relations firm associated with Paul Manafort and Richard Gates, to determine whether it should have registered for activities within the U.S. on behalf of a non-profit organization called the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine (“ECFMU”), the Ukrainian Government, and/or a foreign political party called the Party of Regions.  DMP, which responded on four separate occasions in 2016 and 2017, initially indicated that there was no agreement “to provide services to the ECFMU.”  The FARA Unit, however, obtained information from other sources and determined that Messrs. Manafort and Gates were required to register under FARA for all three foreign principals.  Specifically, the FARA Unit concluded that Mr. Manafort was required to register because he directed “lobbying and public relations campaigns for Ukraine in the United States, the goal of which was to promote the political and public interests of Ukraine” and the Party of Regions.  The FARA Unit also found that Mr. Gates “coordinated” that same campaign and was therefore required to register.  Finally, the FARA Unit remarked that DMP should register as well if “the activity was conducted through” the firm.  DMP ultimately submitted a late FARA registration, but Messrs. Manafort and Gates were prosecuted for willfully violating FARA.U.S. Public Relations FirmForeign Organization; Foreign Government; Foreign Political PartyYes
2-1-2017 (Squire Patton Boggs)Squire Patton Boggs, LLP, a U.S. law firm, represented the High Negotiation Committee of the Syrian Opposition (“HNCSO”), which was a group “formed to negotiate with the Assad government” whose membership included “Damascus-based oppositionists to moderate armed opposition groups.”  HNCSO did not “exercise governmental authority” and there was “virtually no likelihood” that the group “would ever become a Syrian political party.”  Squire Patton Boggs registered this representation under the Lobbying Disclosure Act and claimed the “LDA exemption” at 22 U.S.C. § 613(h).  The FARA Unit reviewed this LDA registration and generated a Letter of Inquiry on October 17, 2016, with Squire Patton Boggs responding on December 8, 2016.  Based on this exchange, the FARA Unit concluded that HNCSO was a “foreign political party” despite none of the group’s members serving in the Assad government because: (1) their activity was devoted to “the establishment, administration, control, or acquisition of administration or control, of a government of a foreign country”; (2) their activity involved “the influencing of the political or public interests, policies, or relations of a government of a foreign country.”  The FARA Unit remarked further that HNCSO was properly categorized as a “foreign political party” because it “engag[ed] in negotiations with the Assad government.”  The FARA Unit’s categorization of the HNCSO as a “foreign political party” meant that Squire Patton Boggs could not avail itself of the “LDA exemption.”  The FARA Unit instructed the law firm to submit its registration “as soon as possible.”Lobbying Disclosure Act Exemption (613(h))U.S. Law FirmForeign Organization; Foreign Political PartyYes