How Russian efforts to influence D.C. took off in recent years
Reported Russian spending on its influence efforts in the United States skyrocketed during the years before its invasion of Ukraine last week, records show.
Why it matters: The numbers show the growth and scale of a lobbying-and-propaganda apparatus now crumbling under the weight of U.S. sanctions and intense internal pressure to punish Russian aggression.
- In just the past week, six U.S. lobbying firms were forced to drop Russian clients hit with U.S. sanctions.
By the numbers: Russia shot up the list of top spenders on U.S. influence efforts largely due to Justice Department demands that its state-run media organs register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
- In 2014, FARA-registered firms representing Russian interests got less than $800,000 for that work, according to OpenSecrets data.
- By 2019, that number had increased 5,774%, to more than $45 million, before scaling back to $35 million last year.
- In 2016, Russia was just the 73rd-largest spender on U.S. foreign influence. It was the third-largest in 2019, 2020 and 2021.
Be smart: Those numbers only account for a portion of the country's influence efforts, which also include lobbying by Russian companies on ostensibly apolitical commercial matters.
- A trio of U.S. firms, for instance, pulled in millions lobbying for the embattled Nord Stream 2 pipeline project. But that spending was reported through standard domestic disclosure channels, rather than FARA.