Monday, June 28, 2004

Foreign Lobbyist Database Could Vanish

From The Center for Public Integrity:

WASHINGTON, June 28, 2004 — Justice Department officials say a huge database that serves as the public's lone window on lobbying activities by foreign governments has been allowed to decay to a point they cannot even make a copy of its contents.

Responding to a recent Freedom of Information request from the Center for Public Integrity, the Justice Department's Foreign Agent Registration Unit said it was unable to copy its records electronically because their computer system was "so fragile." In a letter, the head of the unit's Freedom of Information office said that simply attempting to make an electronic copy of the database "could result in a major loss of data, which would be devastating."

The database details millions of dollars spent on lobbying activities by foreign governments, companies, and foundations.

Those activities include everything from wining and dining lawmakers to broadcasting issue ads on American television and radio stations.

Unlike foreign governments and political parties, foreign companies can file their lobby forms with the Senate Office of Public Records on Capitol Hill. Under the 1995 Lobbying Disclosure Act, private companies based outside the United States need only to fill out much shorter forms for Congress instead of the substantial information required by FARA.


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