Justice Department Launches API for Foreign Lobbyist Data

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The new online portal offers the public easier access to documents filed under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, the law that put Paul Manafort in jail.

The Justice Department recently launched an online portal that helps people to find information on lobbyists who are working on behalf of foreign governments.

The new search tool offers easy access to troves of public documents filed under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, the 1938 law that requires lobbyists to disclose the foreign interests they represent and the finances around those relationships. 

The portal includes a “full-text search” feature that allows users to find all documents where a specific word or phase appears, as well as more advanced search functions for finding specific documents. Most notably, the portal also includes bulk data files and an API the public can use to more broadly analyze foreign influence in the U.S.

The bulk data files, which are available in CSV and XML formats, are updated daily, according to the site.

“The [Justice Department] is committed to providing transparency in government,” officials said on the API site. “The APIs made available by the [department] provide access to available FARA registration data and documents and they make using the data easier.”

Though the department is withholding some documents for privacy purposes, the “vast majority” are available online, officials said on the site. The public can still access all public foreign lobbying disclosures through the department’s FARA office.

Last month, Sen. Chuck Grassley introduced legislation that would increase penalties for lobbyists who don’t disclose their foreign ties and give the Justice Department more resources to investigate FARA violations. The bill came months after President Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort pled guilty to failing to register as a foreign agent of the Ukrainian government.