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Foreign Lobbying Loophole Bill on the Way

A bill to close loopholes that shield lobbyists from disclosing their relationships with foreign clients is expected to be introduced in the Senate today, reports The New York Times. Under the current law, lobbyists representing foreign entities in the United States must notify the Department of Justice. However, the law does not cover meetings outside the U.S., even if a U.S. official is involved.

The bill has cropped up amid a series of scandals that rocked Sen. John McCain’s campaign. The NYT explains the biggie:

For instance, a lobbying firm owned by Rick Davis, the McCain campaign manager, has worked in recent years for a Ukraine politician, Viktor Yanukovich. Both Mr. McCain and the Bush administration supported the opponent of Mr. Yanukovich, who had close ties to Vladimir V. Putin, then the president of Russia and now prime minister.

During this time, however, Mr. Davis’s firm, Davis Manafort, never registered as a lobbyist for Mr. Yanukovich even though Paul Manafort, Mr. Davis’s business partner, had met with the United States ambassador in Kiev on Mr. Yanukovich’s behalf.

It looks like McCain has probably known about the situation for several years.

In a related development, Mr. McCain may have first become aware of Davis Manafort’s activities in Ukraine as far back as 2005. At that time, a staff member at the National Security Council called Mr. McCain’s Senate office to complain that Mr. Davis’s lobbying firm was undercutting American foreign policy in Ukraine, said a person with direct knowledge of the phone call who spoke on condition of anonymity

Perhaps if there had been some disclosure rules in place we’d have known about this years ago, too.

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