AP Photo/Seth Wenig

Bob Menendez Blocked Bills Reforming FARA Before Being Indicted for Acting as Foreign Agent

New revelations might shed some more light on the saga surrounding Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and his alleged corruption. The senator was recently charged with failing to register as a foreign agent. He is already facing charges related to bribery.

Now, it has been revealed that during his tenure as senator, Menendez was instrumental in shutting down reforms of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).

Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., who is now facing an additional charge of acting as a foreign agent in an indictment released Thursday, has a history of opposing Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) reforms, according to Senate records.

In 2020, Menendez blocked Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley’s bipartisan-led effort to create stricter penalties regulating influence of foreign entities on the U.S. government. The Foreign Agents Disclosure and Registration Enhancement Act of 2019 would have built upon existing law to boost disclosure to the public of foreign lobbying campaigns.

“It seems shortsighted to provide additional enforcement tools before we have figured out what that regime should look like,” Menendez said on the Senate floor, according to congressional records. “The disturbing rise of foreign influence campaigns that use a variety of measures to mask who is the ultimate source or beneficiary should serve as an alarm bell for all of us.

“So, before this body passes any tweaks or new tools and adds to the current patchwork of FARA regulations and exemptions, I think we should take a step back and take a comprehensive look, and we have not done that.”

Menendez also opposed the PAID OFF Act, which would have stopped lobbyists representing clients in countries designated as “foreign adversaries” from claiming exemptions provided by FARA. A bipartisan team of senators introduced the bill in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

Cornyn pushed to have the bill included in this year’s NDAA, which would have required clearance from the chairs and ranking members of two committees of jurisdiction, the Judiciary and Foreign Relations panels. According to a Senate GOP aide, Menendez was the only committee leader in either party that declined to sign off on it, and he has also blocked the bill from being passed on the floor by unanimous consent.

Menendez objected to its inclusion in the NDAA because it hadn’t gone through the regular committee process, a spokesperson for the senator told PI. The spokesperson added that Menendez “planned to work on broader FARA reform” through his committee.

Interestingly enough, Menendez blocked this legislation while he was already under investigation.

The lawmaker’s opposition to FARA reform bills is quite noteworthy in light of the fact that the Justice Department is accusing him of acting on behalf of the Egyptian government despite not registering as a foreign agent. The grand jury indictment notes that Menendez and his wife accepted substantial bribes from three businessmen in exchange for using his “power and influence as a Senator” to benefit the individuals and Egypt.

Menendez is accused of having secretly provided “sensitive” information to Cairo. The United States Attorney for the Southern District, Damian Williams, claimed the senator and his wife accepted bribes in the forms of cash, gold, and luxury items.

Predictably, Menendez has denied all the allegations. “I have been falsely accused before because I refused to back down to the powers that be, and the people of New Jersey were able to see through the smoke and mirrors and recognize I was innocent,” Menendez retorted, denouncing the charges as a smear campaign initiated by his enemies.

The allegations have prompted Democrats to call for his resignation. So far, Menendez has refused to step down and even indicated he will seek re-election. Still, in light of the Justice Department’s allegations, the senator’s opposition to a law designed to prevent people from working for the interests of foreign governments without being transparent is not a good look.

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