Earlier this year, Aipac was accused by other leading supporters of Israel of being “morally bankrupt” and of putting Israel’s interests ahead of American democracy after it launched a separate political action committee that endorsed 37 Republicans candidates who voted against certifying Biden’s victory after the 6 January 2021 storming of the Capitol.


Is it allowed to lobby for any state including state adversaries like China, Iran and Russia in the U.S.? I was reading about the Israel lobby and I was wondering if this would be allowed if Israel was a state adversary against the U.S. just like Iran, China or Russia, or are all forms of lobbying allowed. Because it in a sense makes sense for this to be allowed for Israel since Israel is one of the closest American allies, but I was wondering if there were limitations to lobbying groups in the U.S.

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Yes. For instance, a handful of people are officially foreign lobbyists for China. However, in theory, lobbyists representing a foreign government need to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which largely accounts for the small number of such lobbyists. Sure, China could hire a thousand people to lobby for them in the USA, but once they are publicly known to be agents of China, their effectiveness is likely to be limited, and China already has whole consulates full of official representatives who can and do advocate for the Chinese government's interest to the government of the USA.

That said, the enforcement of this law is vague and selective. In theory, an American who advocates for a foreign country is not automatically an agent of that country for the purposes of lobbying—collecting donations for earthquake victims in Haiti did not make organizations agents of the Haitian government. On the flip side, though, the law has occasionally been used to investigate non-profit organizations that do not primarily represent the interests of a specific country, but may have coordinated with its government or accepted funding in the course of charitable activities.

But things become fuzzier when there is some degree of coordination or at least conviviality with agents of the foreign government. AIPAC and its predecessor organizations have occasionally faced scrutiny under FARA, but have never been required to register. Lobbyists affiliated with Russia have used similar strategies to avoid having to register, as detailed here.

That said, another wrinkle with certain countries is sanctions. For instance, sanctions against Iran have prohibited some people from receiving money from people resident in the country, which could potentially affect lobbying for Iran involving financial compensation. Still, someone lobbying for the Iranian government in an unpaid capacity, who was registered as a foreign agent, would probably be able to do so legally.

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