The FCPA defines “foreign official” as:
[A]ny officer or employee of a foreign government or any department, agency, or instrumentality thereof, or a public international organization, or any person acting in an official capacity for or on behalf of any such government or department, agency, or instrumentality, or for or on behalf of any such public international organization.
It is obvious that person holding political office is a foreign official. In this age of increasing privitization of government services and the sudden investment of government investment in private businesses, it is not clear when an entity is an “instrumentality” of a foreign government.
The OECD Anti-Bribery Convention uses the term “public enterprise” which it defines to include “any enterprise in which the government holds a majority stake, as well as those over which a government may exercise a dominant influence directly or indirectly.
Under the FCPA, Who Is a Foreign Official Anyway? by Joel M. Cohen, Michael P. Holland, and Adam P. Wolf of Clifford Chance examine some of thses issues in great detail. You can find the article in the August 2008 edition of The Business Lawyer.