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.

  • Letter Date & Recipient Name
    Summary Description

    The law firm Holland & Knight was retained by a foreign national to assist in promoting a candidate for President of Nigeria. The firm undertook representation of the candidate before the U.S. State Department in connection with the candidate’s visa application. The representation involved outreach to U.S. government officials to promote the candidacy, as well as contacting universities, think-tanks, and other non-profit groups to notify them that the candidate would be available to “speak about his candidacy for President of Nigeria and to discuss his plans for strengthening relations between the United States and Nigeria.”

    The FARA Unit disagreed with Holland & Knight’s assertion that it was exempt from registration under the legal representation exemption of FARA. According to the Unit, the firm’s work went beyond representing the candidate before the State Department in the adjudication of his visa application. Rather, the firm’s activities for the candidate were principally intended to benefit the candidate’s political party, as well as the Nigerian government through improved relations with the United States.

    Additionally, the FARA Unit determined the firm could not avail itself of the LDA exemption, as the exemption is not available for agents of foreign governments and foreign political parties, and the firm’s lobbying activities were undertaken on behalf of and to promote a foreign political party

    Fara Exceptions Referenced
    • Legal Representation Exemption (613(g)); Lobbying Disclosure Act Exemption (613(h))
    Foreign Agent Type
    • U.S. Law Firm
    Foreign Principal Type
    • Foreign Political Party
    Registration Required
    Yes
  • Letter Date & Recipient Name
    Summary Description

    Sada Cumber, former Special Envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference, was engaged by a Nigerian presidential candidate to build the candidate’s profile in the U.S. and promote his candidacy for President of Nigeria. Mr. Cumber’s campaign strategy to build the candidate’s profile in the United States included visits to the United States and meetings with former U.S. government officials. Additionally, Mr. Cumber disbursed money within the United States by retaining the law firm Holland & Knight “to provide legal counsel and assistance during the representation of the candidate for a visitor visa application.” The FARA Unit determined that Mr. Cumber was required to register under FARA because his activities in the U.S. on behalf of the candidate were undertaken to promote the candidate’s political aspirations and political party, which were “political activities” under the law. Additionally, Mr. Cumber disbursed money within the U.S. for or in the interest of the candidate – a registrable activity.

    Fara Exceptions Referenced
    Foreign Agent Type
    • U.S. Individual
    Foreign Principal Type
    • Foreign Political Party
    Registration Required
    Yes
  • Letter Date & Recipient Name
    Summary Description

    The North American Bureau of Xinhua News Agency, the Chinese government’s state news agency, was considered a “public institution” under Chinese law and established by the government “using ‘state-owned assets’ for the purpose of promoting ‘socialist material civilization and spiritual civilization’” and “set a good image of China abroad.” These aims were “reflected in how it presents the news as advocacy on behalf of the Government.” Xinhua also “report[ed] to the State Council and the Communist Party of China’s Propaganda and Public Information Departments.” On the basis of that and other similar factors, the FARA Unit concluded that Xinhua’s Bureau was required to register under FARA because it was engaged in “political activities” and acted as a “publicity agent” and an “information-service employee” for the Chinese Government and the Communist Party of China.

    Fara Exceptions Referenced
    Foreign Agent Type
    • U.S. News Bureau
    Foreign Principal Type
    • Foreign Media Entity; Foreign Government
    Registration Required
    Yes
  • Letter Date & Recipient Name
    Summary Description

    The North American Bureau of Xinhua News Agency, the Chinese government’s state news agency, was considered a “public institution” under Chinese law and established by the government “using ‘state-owned assets’ for the purpose of promoting ‘socialist material civilization and spiritual civilization’” and “set a good image of China abroad.” These aims were “reflected in how it presents the news as advocacy on behalf of the Government.” Xinhua also “report[ed] to the State Council and the Communist Party of China’s Propaganda and Public Information Departments.” On the basis of that and other similar factors, the FARA Unit concluded that Xinhua’s Bureau was required to register under FARA because it was engaged in “political activities” and acted as a “publicity agent” and an “information-service employee” for the Chinese Government and the Communist Party of China.

    Fara Exceptions Referenced
    Foreign Agent Type
    • U.S. News Bureau
    Foreign Principal Type
    • Foreign Government
    • Foreign Media Entity
    Registration Required
    Yes
  • Letter Date & Recipient Name
    Summary Description

    Turkish Radio & Television Corporation, the U.S. Branch of the national public broadcaster of Turkey, was indirectly governed by a governmental regulatory body called the Radio and Television Supreme Council established by Turkish statute and composed of Turkish Parliament members. The Corporation employed 30 individuals who worked as correspondents, editors, engineers, and operational staff, who disseminated programs in the United States through U.S.-based media platforms and distribution services. After reviewing documentation and meeting with counsel for the Corporation, the FARA Unit found that the Corporation was obligated to register and report under FARA because it engaged in “political activities,” served as a “publicity agent,” and acted as an “information service employee” for the Government of Turkey and its state media operation. The FARA Unit reasoned that the Corporation was directed and controlled by the Government of Turkey through “regulation and oversight” and by “controlling its leadership, budget, and content,” since the Government funded the Corporation, appointed part of the board of the Corporation’s umbrella entity and approved “agreements, contracts, and protocols with international radio and television institutions.” The FARA Unit also noted that the general broadcasting principles set forth in Turkish law called for compliance “with the State’s national security politics, national and economic interest requirements,” among other things. Finally, the FARA Unit noted that the Corporation’s “content consistently mirrors the policy positions expressed by the Government of Turkey.” The Corporation subsequently registered under FARA.

    Fara Exceptions Referenced
    Foreign Agent Type
    • U.S. Broadcasting Company
    Foreign Principal Type
    • Foreign Media Entity
    • Foreign Government
    Registration Required
    Yes
  • Letter Date & Recipient Name
    Summary Description

    CGTN America, a U.S. limited liability company, was the Washington, D.C. bureau of the state-run media entity China Media Group, which worked “under the guidance of the Publicity Department of the CPCP Central Committee.” CGTN America produced six hours of English-language content each day and distributed this programing in the United States. The FARA Unit found that CGTN America was required to register under FARA because it engaged in “political activities” and acted as a “publicity agent” and “information service employee” at the direction and control of the Chinese Government, Chinese Communist Party, and China Media Group. The FARA Unit cited style guides and public statements by CGTN America personnel, scholarly research, and Chinese officials to find that CGTN America was meant to serve as China’s “mouthpiece.” The FARA Unit noted, for instance, that CGTN America’s internal style guide states that “CGTN does not call Taiwan’s leader its ‘president.’ CGTN does not show Taiwan’s flag, ever.” The FARA Unit also engaged in an extensive analysis of CGTN’s news programs, concluding that the programs mirrored official Chinese policy positions. CGTN America subsequently registered, later changing its registered name to MediaLinks TV, LLC.

    Fara Exceptions Referenced
    • News or Journalistic Activities Exemption (611(d))
    Foreign Agent Type
    • U.S. Broadcasting Company
    Foreign Principal Type
    • Foreign Media Entity
    • Foreign Government
    Registration Required
    Yes
  • Letter Date & Recipient Name
    Summary Description

    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.

    Fara Exceptions Referenced
    Foreign Agent Type
    • U.S. Broadcasting Company
    Foreign Principal Type
    • Foreign Media Entity
    • Foreign Government
    Registration Required
    Yes
  • Letter Date & Recipient Name
    Summary Description

    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.

    Fara Exceptions Referenced
    • Lobbying Disclosure Act Exemption (613(h))
    Foreign Agent Type
    • U.S. Public Relations Firm
    Foreign Principal Type
    • Foreign Public Relations Firm
    • Foreign Government
    Registration Required
    Yes
  • Letter Date & Recipient Name
    Summary Description

    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.

    Fara Exceptions Referenced
    • Lobbying Disclosure Act Exemption (613(h))
    Foreign Agent Type
    • U.S. Public Relations Firm
    Foreign Principal Type
    • Foreign Public Relations Firm
    • Foreign Government
    Registration Required
    Yes
  • Letter Date & Recipient Name
    Summary Description

    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.

    Fara Exceptions Referenced
    • News or Journalistic Activities Exemption (611(d))
    Foreign Agent Type
    • U.S. Broadcasting Company
    Foreign Principal Type
    • Foreign Media Entity
    • Foreign Government
    Registration Required
    Yes
  • Letter Date & Recipient Name
    Summary Description

    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.

    Fara Exceptions Referenced
    • Legal Representation Exemption (613(g))
    Foreign Agent Type
    • U.S. Law Firm
    Foreign Principal Type
    • Foreign Government
    Registration Required
    Yes
  • Letter Date & Recipient Name
    Summary Description

    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.

    Fara Exceptions Referenced
    Foreign Agent Type
    • U.S. Broadcasting Company
    Foreign Principal Type
    • Foreign Media Entity
    • Foreign Government
    Registration Required
    Yes
  • Letter Date & Recipient Name
    Summary Description

    Saudi American Public Relations Affairs Committee, as U.S. entity, was owned and controlled by a foreign national and conducted an advertising campaign in the United States “promoting the view that Qatar is supporting terrorism and destabilizing U.S. allies in the Persian Gulf region.” The FARA Unit found that the Committee’s activities on behalf of the foreign national were “core political activity within the meaning of FARA” because they were designed to influence the American public and U.S. foreign policy concerning Qatar. The Committee argued that it was exempt from FARA’s coverage under the exemption for Lobbying Disclosure Act registrants because the Committee’s foreign principal was an individual and because any government beneficiaries of the work “would include not only Saudi Arabia, but every country that opposes terrorism.” The FARA Unit rejected that argument, noting that the Saudi Government was “the principal beneficiary” of the representation because the Committee’s campaign was “nearly a mirror image of the Saudi government’s recent foreign policy actions and pronouncements” and because another party already registered under FARA had disclosed a work plan mentioning the campaign was to promote “Saudi Arabia’s role as a regional and international security leader.” Because the Committee was conducting registrable activities outside any exemptions, the FARA Unit stated that the campaign needed to be disclosed on FARA registration and reporting forms. The Committee submitted and amended its registration to the Department of Justice.

    Fara Exceptions Referenced
    • Lobbying Disclosure Act Exemption (613(h))
    Foreign Agent Type
    • U.S. Organization
    Foreign Principal Type
    • Foreign Individual
    • Foreign Government
    Registration Required
    Yes
  • Letter Date & Recipient Name
    Summary Description

    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.

    Fara Exceptions Referenced
    Foreign Agent Type
    • U.S. Broadcasting Company
    Foreign Principal Type
    • Foreign Media Entity
    • Foreign Government
    Registration Required
    Yes
  • Letter Date & Recipient Name
    Summary Description

    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.

    Fara Exceptions Referenced
    Foreign Agent Type
    • U.S. Media Production Company
    Foreign Principal Type
    • Foreign Media Entity
    • Foreign Government
    Registration Required
    Yes
  • Letter Date & Recipient Name
    Summary Description

    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.

    Fara Exceptions Referenced
    • Lobbying Disclosure Act Exemption (613(h))
    Foreign Agent Type
    • U.S. Public Relations Firm
    Foreign Principal Type
    • Foreign Organization
    Registration Required
    Yes
  • Letter Date & Recipient Name
    Summary Description

    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.

    Fara Exceptions Referenced
    • Lobbying Disclosure Act Exemption (613(h))
    Foreign Agent Type
    • U.S. Public Relations Firm
    Foreign Principal Type
    • Foreign Organization
    Registration Required
    Yes
  • Letter Date & Recipient Name
    Summary Description

    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.

    Fara Exceptions Referenced
    Foreign Agent Type
    • U.S. Public Relations Firm
    Foreign Principal Type
    • Foreign Organization
    • Foreign Government
    • Foreign Political Party
    Registration Required
    Yes
  • Letter Date & Recipient Name
    Summary Description

    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.”

    Fara Exceptions Referenced
    • Lobbying Disclosure Act Exemption (613(h))
    Foreign Agent Type
    • U.S. Law Firm
    Foreign Principal Type
    • Foreign Organization
    • Foreign Political Party
    Registration Required
    Yes
  • Letter Date & Recipient Name
    Summary Description

    Turkish Radio & Television Corporation, the U.S. Branch of the national public broadcaster of Turkey, was indirectly governed by a governmental regulatory body called the Radio and Television Supreme Council established by Turkish statute and composed of Turkish Parliament members. The Corporation employed 30 individuals who worked as correspondents, editors, engineers, and operational staff, who disseminated programs in the United States through U.S.-based media platforms and distribution services. After reviewing documentation and meeting with counsel for the Corporation, the FARA Unit found that the Corporation was obligated to register and report under FARA because it engaged in “political activities,” served as a “publicity agent,” and acted as an “information service employee” for the Government of Turkey and its state media operation. The FARA Unit reasoned that the Corporation was directed and controlled by the Government of Turkey through “regulation and oversight” and by “controlling its leadership, budget, and content,” since the Government funded the Corporation, appointed part of the board of the Corporation’s umbrella entity and approved “agreements, contracts, and protocols with international radio and television institutions.” The FARA Unit also noted that the general broadcasting principles set forth in Turkish law called for compliance “with the State’s national security politics, national and economic interest requirements,” among other things. Finally, the FARA Unit noted that the Corporation’s “content consistently mirrors the policy positions expressed by the Government of Turkey.” The Corporation subsequently registered under FARA.

    Fara Exceptions Referenced
    Foreign Agent Type
    • U.S. Broadcasting Company
    Foreign Principal Type
    • Foreign Media Entity; Foreign Government
    Registration Required
    Yes
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