Rubio Introduces Bill to Make Lobbyists Choose Between the US and Chinese Communist Party

‘Lobbying for both the Chinese and American defense industrial base risks significant conflicts of interest,’ the US senator said.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) introduced a bill Wednesday to require U.S. lobbyists to choose between representing the interests of the United States and those of communist China.

The proposed legislation, dubbed the “CCP Lobbying Divestment Act,” would prohibit U.S. defense contractors from hiring lobbyists registered to represent certain clients—namely, those placed on any federal agencies’ entity lists due to national security concerns. Such entities are subject to export restrictions and other sanctions.

“Many Washington, D.C.-based lobbying firms are working on behalf of Chinese companies with ties to the People’s Liberation Army and gross human-rights abusers while also representing American defense contractors,” Mr. Rubio’s office said in a press statement.

The office highlighted the implications of the issue: “Lobbying for both the Chinese and American defense industrial base risks significant conflicts of interest. Lobbyists could use privileged information, even if unintentionally, to assist their Chinese clients to the detriment of America’s national security.”

“Too many lobbying firms are reaping the financial benefits of representing clients with [Department of Defense] contracts while also working for those with ties to the Chinese Communist Party,” Mr. Rubio said in a statement.

“My CCP Lobbying Divestment Act would end this clear conflict of interest. It mandates that companies make a definitive choice: either work with U.S. government contractors or support Chinese government entities, but you cannot do both,” the senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee added.

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The bill would become effective 30 days after enactment.

If enacted, the Department of Defense (DoD) may withhold or claw back funds from defense contractors who fail to comply until they stop employing lobbyists also representing Chinese companies on the entity lists. Such companies were placed on the lists due to either having ties to the Chinese military or being involved with genocide in China’s Xinjiang region.

The bill makes an exception for any of the above scenarios if the secretary of defense certifies to the U.S. House and Senate Armed Services Committees that a waiver is necessary to protect U.S. national security.

U.S. lobbyist firms have come under scrutiny recently, prompting some to drop their high-profile clients.

For example, Chinese drone company DJI and Chinese genomics company BGI Group were added to the DoD entity list in October 2022 and March 2023, respectively.

Avoq LLC, a Washington law firm, terminated its lobbying engagement with DJI on Feb. 22, according to disclosure filings.
Steptoe LLP, another law firm, also dropped BGI from its client base last month. Steptoe’s filing shows that it made $270,000 from the engagement in 2023.

As the vice chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence, Mr. Rubio said at the committee’s annual Worldwide Threats Assessment hearing on March 11 that the Chinese Communist Party had “gotten very good at hiring lobbyists and even deputizing corporate America to come up here and lobby us for things that are beneficial to Chinese goals at the expense of this country, long term.”

Current lobbying disclosure loopholes have also gotten the attention of lawmakers.

A bill addressing one such loophole passed the Senate unanimously last June.

“Think tanks and law enforcement agencies have identified instances in which foreign adversaries exploited this loophole by using organizations and businesses to push their interests before the U.S. government,” according to the office of Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who introduced the bill.

“The bill explicitly requires lobbying organizations to disclose when foreign governments and political parties participate in their lobbying efforts, regardless of any financial contribution to the lobbying effort.”

The House companion version currently sits with the judiciary committee.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), one of the bill’s original co-sponsors, told Voice of America earlier this month that lawmakers were close to completing the work on this legislation, which enhances lobbying reporting transparency.

Original News Source Link – Epoch Times

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