Klobuchar, Warner introduce bill to limit foreign involvement in US political ads

Klobuchar, Warner introduce bill to limit foreign involvement in US political ads
© Greg Nash

Sens. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharFive takeaways from the Democratic debate As Buttigieg rises, Biden is still the target Leading Democrats largely pull punches at debate MORE (D-Minn.) and Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerBipartisan senators urge national security adviser to appoint 5G coordinator Hillicon Valley: Commerce extends Huawei waiver | Senate Dems unveil privacy bill priorities | House funding measure extends surveillance program | Trump to tour Apple factory | GOP bill would restrict US data going to China Klobuchar unveils plan to secure elections as president MORE (D-Va.) introduced legislation on Tuesday aimed at preventing foreign nationals from purchasing political advertisements, the latest move by Senate Democrats pushing for election security legislation.

The Preventing Adversaries Internationally from Disbursing Advertising Dollars (PAID AD) Act would amend federal campaign finance laws to ban foreign nationals from purchasing ads that name a political candidate and appear on broadcast, cable, satellite or digital platforms.

The legislation would also make it illegal for a foreign government to purchase “issue advertisements” during an election year.

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The senators argued that the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA), first passed in 1972, should be expanded beyond its current “narrow” definition of what constitutes “electioneering communication.” The law currently prohibits a foreign national from contributing to political campaigns, making independent expenditures or buying electioneering communication, but the senators want it to go further.

“Our intelligence community has been clear—foreign powers continue to interfere in our elections and they’ll keep doing so unless we stop them,” Klobuchar said in a statement. “Strengthening our campaign finance laws to prohibit paid political advertisements by foreign nationals and foreign governments is necessary to ensure American elections are free and fair.”

Warner emphasized that “we need to get serious about protecting our elections from foreign interference,” describing the PAID AD Act as “commonsense.”

In the House, a companion bill has already been introduced by Reps. Elissa SlotkinElissa SlotkinOvernight Health Care: Democratic group to only endorse AG candidates who back abortion rights | Protect Our Care launches seven-figure ad buy to boost vulnerable Dems | California sues Juul Group launches seven-figure ad buy boosting vulnerable Democrats on drug prices Overnight Health Care: Walden won't seek reelection | Senate Dems to vote this week to overturn Trump ObamaCare moves | Largest children's migrant shelter to close | Vulnerable Republicans balk at drug pricing bill MORE (D-Mich.) and Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikWill Republicans continue to engage in willful blindness? Trump calls latest impeachment hearings 'a great day for Republicans' Conway and Haley get into heated feud: 'You'll say anything to get the vice-presidential nomination' MORE (R-N.Y.) as an amendment to H.R. 1, the For the People Act.

The House passed this sweeping election security and reform bill along party lines in March, but the bill is unlikely to receive a vote in the Senate, where Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Health Care: Fireworks on health care expected at Dem debate | Trump FDA pick dodges on vaping ban | Trump to host meeting on youth vaping Friday | AMA calls for immediate vaping ban GOP senator blocks vote on House-passed Violence Against Women Act On The Money: Senate scraps plan to force second shutdown vote | Trump tax breaks for low-income neighborhoods draw scrutiny | McConnell rips House Dems for holding up trade deal MORE (R-Ky.) labeled the bill the “Democrat Politician Protection Act.”

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The PAID AD Act is similar in some ways to another bill backed by both Klobuchar and Warner, the Honest Ads Act, which is meant to increase transparency of who buys online paid political ads.

Klobuchar and Warner have also been on the frontline of Senate Democrats’ efforts to pass election security legislation. Both Warner and Klobuchar have tried to force floor votes on other election security bills they sponsor during the last week, though both were blocked in these efforts by Senate Republicans.

McConnell has consistently refused to allow floor votes on election security measures, citing concerns around the potential for these bills to federalize elections.