House Democrats introduce new legislation to combat foreign election interference

House Democrats introduce new legislation to combat foreign election interference
© Greg Nash

A group of House Democrats led by Administration Committee Chairwoman Zoe LofgrenZoe Ellen LofgrenTop Democrats demand answers on DHS plans to deploy elite agents to sanctuary cities Gillibrand proposes creating new digital privacy agency GOP senator proposes overhauling federal agency to confront Big Tech MORE (Calif.) on Tuesday introduced new legislation aimed at combating foreign efforts to interfere in U.S. elections.

The SHIELD Act would require campaigns to report “illicit offers” of election assistance from foreign governments or individuals to both the FBI and the Federal Election Commission (FEC), and also take steps to ensure that political advertisements on social media are subject to the same stricter rules as ads on television or radio. 

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The bill classifies the “offering of non-public campaign material to foreign governments and those linked with foreign governments and their agents as an illegal solicitation of support,” while also closing gaps that allow foreign investment in aspects of U.S. elections. 

The bill is also sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerTrump adviser presses House investigators to make Bezos testify Nadler demands answers from Barr on 'new channel' for receiving Ukraine info from Giuliani Trump predicts Ocasio-Cortez will launch primary bid against Schumer MORE (D-N.Y.), along with Reps. John SarbanesJohn Peter Spyros SarbanesHillicon Valley: Facebook suspends misinformation networks targeting US | Lawmakers grill census officials on cybersecurity | Trump signs order to protect GPS | Dem senators propose federal facial recognition moratorium Lawmakers grill Census Bureau officials after report on cybersecurity issues Citizens United decision weathers 10 years of controversy MORE (D-Md.), Derek KilmerDerek Christian KilmerHillicon Valley: Judge approves T-Mobile, Sprint merger | FTC to review past Big Tech deals | State officials ask for more cybersecurity help | House nears draft bill on self-driving cars Bipartisan lawmakers introduce bill to combat cyberattacks on state and local governments House extends Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress for another year MORE (D-Wash.), Stephanie MurphyStephanie MurphySan Francisco mayor endorses Bloomberg Rep. Bobby Rush endorses Bloomberg's White House bid Sanders, Warren battle for progressive endorsements MORE (D-Fla.), Jamie RaskinJamin (Jamie) Ben RaskinBarr to testify before House Judiciary panel The Hill's Morning Report - Sanders, Buttigieg do battle in New Hampshire Democrats to plow ahead with Trump probes post-acquittal MORE (D-Md.), Susan DavisSusan Carol DavisOvernight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Pence says Turkey agrees to ceasefire | Senators vow to move forward with Turkey sanctions | Mulvaney walks back comments tying Ukraine aid to 2016 probe The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by USAA — House Dems subpoena Giuliani associates Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg to testify on Libra | Extremists find home on Telegram app | Warren blasts Facebook for not removing anti-Biden ad | California outlaws facial recognition in police body cameras | China rips US tech sanctions MORE (D-Calif.), G. K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), Marcia FudgeMarcia Louise FudgeGabbard calls on DNC chairman to step down after Iowa 'debacle' DNC chairman says he's 'absolutely not' considering resigning Key House Democrat says Perez must go: 'He doesn't lead on anything' MORE (D-Ohio), Pete AguilarPeter (Pete) Ray AguilarDCCC unveils initial dozen candidates for 'Red to Blue' program Senate removes 'white nationalist' from measure to screen military enlistees: report Hispanic Caucus dedicates Day of the Dead altar to migrants who died in US custody MORE (D-Calif.), A. Donald McEachinAston (Donale) Donald McEachinConsensus forming for ambitious climate goal: Net zero pollution DCCC unveils initial dozen candidates for 'Red to Blue' program Virginia governor seeking to remove Robert E. Lee statue from US Capitol MORE (D-Va.) and Tom MalinowskiThomas (Tom) MalinowskiDemocrats to plow ahead with Trump probes post-acquittal Sanders, Warren battle for progressive endorsements NJ lawmaker flips endorsement to Biden after Booker drops out MORE (D-N.J.).

Lofgren in a statement heavily criticized President TrumpDonald John TrumpFed saw risks to US economy fading before coronavirus spread quickened Pro-Trump super PAC hits Biden with new Spanish-language ad in Nevada Britain announces immigration policy barring unskilled migrants MORE and his administration for “welcoming” foreign interference in U.S. elections. 

“The Trump campaign and White House have welcomed and repeatedly solicited foreign assistance for his political activities,” Lofgren said. “This behavior is unacceptable, and it is telling that the White House has gone to great lengths to hide it from the American people.”

The House Administration Committee has played a major role in the election security debate in the House since the start of the new Congress. The committee has approved both the For the People Act, which includes sweeping election security and reform language, and the SAFE Act, which aims to improve the security of voting infrastructure.    

The House passed both bills along party lines earlier this year and sent them to the Senate, where Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellKentucky state official says foreign adversaries 'routinely' scan election systems Don't let 'welfare for all' advocates derail administration's food stamp program reforms Whistleblower retaliation: Stop confusing unlawful attacks with politics MORE (R-Ky.) has blocked them from consideration citing concerns around federalizing elections and language that does not pertain to election security. 

Sarbanes, the primary sponsor of the For the People Act and the chair of the Democracy Reform Task Force, warned in a statement on Tuesday that “foreign adversaries attacked our elections in 2016 and they’re coming for us again in 2020.” 

Sarbanes urged action to pass both the SHIELD Act and the other House-passed measures, noting that “Senate Republicans and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell must take up these critical national security bills as soon as possible. There’s no time to waste.”

The SHIELD Act was introduced the same day the Senate Intelligence Committee released the second of its reports on Russian interference efforts during the 2016 election, with volume two focused on Russian social media disinformation campaigns.

The committee recommended steps for Congress, President Trump, and social media companies to take to prevent the spread of disinformation in the upcoming 2020 elections, and found that Russian actors, at the direction of the Kremlin, engaged in a far-reaching disinformation campaign in the lead-up to the 2016 elections.