While your St. Patrick’s Day preparations might involve donning all of your closet’s green clothing, the Sunlight Foundation felt it was a perfect time to check in on Sinn Fein, the nationalist political party that advocates for a united Ireland. The organization’s political work may take place back in Ireland, but a remarkable amount of fundraising for the group happens in the United States.
Records show that Sinn Fein raised just shy of $400,000 from November 2012 through the end of April 2013, which is the most recent data available. The bulk of that money – $370,445 – came from donations of at least $500 from individuals, unions, and construction-related businesses and associations. For example, Manhattan’s Eurotech Construction gave $10,000, Kathleen Virginia Hughes’s estate in Castaic, Calif., gave $13,745, and United Structural Works, based in Congers, N.Y., contributed $20,000.
Sinn Fein also tapped into the small donor crowd, bringing in $22,380.41 in donations of $500 or less during the same six-month filing period.
This data are available thanks to the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA, a law that requires people and organizations lobbying on behalf of foreign governments or other entities in the U.S. to register and disclose their activities and financial information with the Department of Justice.
In the next few weeks, the Sunlight Foundation will be rolling out a new tool that makes these FARA forms easier to sort and analyze. Although Sunlight has digitized several years of FARA data on the Foreign Lobbying Influence Tracker, the new tool will provide a much more powerful user interface as well as bulk data downloads. This means the wealth of detailed information available in each FARA form – political contributions, meetings with U.S. politicians, members of the media and more – will be more accessible and useable than ever before.
So, after digging into Friends of Sinn Fein’s digitized FARA form, Sunlight can easily tally up the group’s fundraising haul for the Irish political party and see the group’s contacts with federal and local politicians. In the six months the document covers, Friends of Sinn Fein met 14 times with members of Congress or senior congressional staffers. During a 10-day trip from Dublin in January 2013, for example, lobbyist Rita O’Hare had a meeting with Billy Tranghese from office of Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., and met directly with Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., Rep. Joseph Crowley, D-N.Y., Rep. Brian Higgins, D-N.Y., and Rep. Bill Keating, D-Mass. And on Jan. 21, O’Hare attended President Barack Obama’s inauguration.
In March 2013, O’Hare showed her wide reach of connections, meeting with a New York City Council staffer from Christine Quinn’s office on March 11, and then meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry at the State Department the morning of March 18. That same afternoon, she met with Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. The next day, Sinn Fein’s president, Gerry Adams, was on hand for the annual Congressional Friends of Ireland meeting and luncheon in Washington, D.C.
(And the yearly tradition continues: On Friday, Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny attended the St. Patrick’s Day lunch at the U.S. Capitol with Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. During a pre-lunch meeting at the Oval Office, Obama said, “We both share an interest in seeing Northern Ireland continue to take the next steps that are necessary to finally bring an end to what has so often been a tragic history.”)
Sinn Fein deployed Martin Ferris in November 2012 to connect with local government officials in New York and Massachusetts. On Nov. 10, U.S. Rep. Higgins met Ferris at the Buffalo Airport in upstate New York before a meeting with local officials. Two days later, Ferris traveled to Dartmouth, Mass., where he delivered the keynote at a University of Massachusetts Law School event. The university’s chancellor sponsored the event’s reception, and Massachusetts’s entire U.S. congressional delegation, as well as local mayors, was invited to attend.
And on Nov. 15, Ferris had a series of appointments with members of the Massachusetts State Senate and House, the head of the state’s Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, and Thomas P. O’Neill III, CEO of lobbying firm O’Neill and Associates and son of the late Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill.
As the Sinn Fein document shows, there’s a great deal of relevant information available in each FARA form that details the interconnected influence world of foreign lobbyists and federal and local politicians. Keep your eyes peeled for the official unveiling of Sunlight’s new FARA tool, which makes researching and reporting on these connections more user-friendly.