Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Global Impact: It Is Unlikely That Actor Sean Penn Will be Asked to Register as a Foreign Agent

According to the Associated Press, it appears unclear as to whether US actor and activist Sean Penn was aware of the intended requests that would be made of him during his audience earlier this week with leftist Bolivian President Evo Morales.

Specifically, Morales, who met the Oscar-winning American actor yesterday (October 30) in La Paz, asked Penn to defend the chewing of coca leaf before the United Nations, lobby Chile to restore Bolivia's long-lost access to the Pacific Ocean and help persuade the United States to extradite a former Bolivian president.

COMMENT: In the past, those representing the interests of or appearing to represent the interests of foreign governments, particularly on issues that differ dramatically from prevailing US foreign policy, are required to register as foreign agents under the precepts of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), which was enacted in 1938.

FARA is a disclosure statute that requires persons acting as agents of foreign principals in a political or quasi-political capacity to make periodic public disclosure of their relationship with the foreign principal, as well as activities, receipts and disbursements in support of those activities. 

Disclosure of the required information facilitates evaluation by the government and the American people of the statements and activities of such persons in light of their function as foreign agents. FARA is administered by the US Department of Justice.

Unfortunately, enforcement of the FARA is generally very selective, with most targets being representative of the political party that is NOT in power.

It is noteworthy to point out that on January 31. 2012, Sean Penn attended a special ceremony in Port-au-Prince, whereby he was designated an ambassador-at-large by Haitian President Michel Martelly in recognition of his humanitarian work following the 2010 earthquake.

Notwithstanding, Mr. Penn has also visited top officials of Venezuela, Iraq and Iran.

Interestingly, Mr. Penn joined his close friend, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez at an election rally in the city of Valencia as recent as August 2012. At that rally, Penn rode atop a truck with Chávez past cheering supporters.
Whether or not Penn helped Chávez win another six years in office, AFTER fourteen years of autocratic control, the fact remains that the country’s Election Council determined that Chávez won 54% of the vote compared to opposition challenger Henrique Capriles’ 45% of the vote, even though exit polls suggest a much different result.
Yet, given the current left-leaning philosophies of the Executive Branch of the Obama Administration, it is very unlikely that the US Department of Justice will urge Sean Penn to register as a foreign agent.