Post-Government Employment Restrictions and Foreign Agent Registration: Additional Action Needed to Enhance Implementation of Requirements Page: 2 of 37
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Accountability. Integrity. Reliability
Highlights of GAO-08-855, a report to
Why GAO Did This Study
Congress has enacted post-
restrictions and foreign agent
registration requirements with
the objectives of protecting the
U.S. government against the
improper use of government
information by former federal
employees and ensuring the
American people know the
identity of persons trying to
influence U.S. government policy
in the United States on behalf of
foreign entities. This report
discusses (1) the extent to which
selected agencies have
information on the post-
activities of former senior federal
employees who represent foreign
principals and (2) the challenges
the agencies face in enforcing
these requirements. We reviewed
federal ethics guidance, laws, and
other documents, and
interviewed officials at the
Departments of State and the
Treasury, the U.S. Agency for
International Development and
the U.S. Trade Representative.
GAO recommends that the Office
of Government Ethics strongly
encourage the agencies to
implement its suggestions for
documenting ethics advice. Also,
Congress may wish to consider
granting Justice the authority to
inspect records of persons Justice
believes should be registered as
foreign agents and requiring
persons claiming exemptions to
notify Justice. OGE concurred
with our recommendations.
To view the full product, including the scope
and methodology, click on GAO-08-855.
For more information, contact Jess Ford at
(202) 512-4128 or fordj @gao.gov.
RESTRICTIONS AND FOREIGN AGENT
Additional Action Needed to Enhance Implementation
What GAO Found
Executive branch agencies are not required to and do not collect and maintain
information on the post-government employment activities of former senior
federal employees who represent foreign principals. Post-government
employment restrictions prohibit former senior federal employees from
engaging in certain activities, such as lobbying or other advocacy
communications, for a specified period of time after leaving federal service.
The agencies we reviewed undertake a variety of activities, including
providing training and advice, to promote compliance with the restrictions.
The Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) requires that all persons in the
United States working as agents of a foreign government, foreign political
party, or other foreign principal disclose to the Department of Justice
(Justice) such connections as well as the activities they perform on behalf of
such principals in the United States. Justice provides information on FARA
registration requirements to the public. It also collects information on all
entities that register with Justice as foreign agents. However, the registration
information does not identify individuals who are former senior federal
employees. Nevertheless, of the nearly 8,000 senior federal employees who
left government service between calendar years 2000 and 2007, we identified
29 who registered as foreign agents and engaged in activities that ranged from
promoting tourism to lobbying on behalf of foreign principals such as the
governments of Argentina and Saudi Arabia. This number may not include all
former senior federal employees who represent foreign entities because
individuals engaged in exempted activities under FARA, such as diplomatic,
commercial, and legal activities, and those registered under the Lobbying
Disclosure Act, are not required to register.
The agencies we reviewed face information, legal, and resource challenges in
promoting compliance with the post-government employment restrictions and
monitoring FARA. One challenge is inconsistent documentation of advice
provided to senior federal employees on post-government employment
restrictions. While agencies document information such as ethics training
courses given, subject matters covered, and counseling services offered, they
do not consistently keep records of what advice was given to specific
employees. The Office of Government Ethics (OGE) has encouraged the
executive branch agencies to document such advice. For example, a 2005
OGE memorandum to all designated agency ethics officials discussed the
advantages of documenting advice and offered suggestions on when to
document ethics advice. Documentation of advice is useful for proving intent,
which can help to prosecute violations of the restrictions. In addition, a lack
of clear legal authority and a lack of resources have been cited by Justice as
barriers to increased monitoring of FARA compliance. For example, Justice
officials said the department does not have clear legal authority to inspect the
records of persons that it believes should be registered and that the
department does not have the authority to require advance written
notification from persons claiming to be exempt from FARA requirements.
Without advance written notification, Justice has no way of knowing whether
persons exempting themselves should in fact be registered.
,United States Government Accountability Office
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United States. Government Accountability Office. Post-Government Employment Restrictions and Foreign Agent Registration: Additional Action Needed to Enhance Implementation of Requirements, report, July 30, 2008; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc297088/m1/2/: accessed February 20, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.