House Democrats introduce new legislation to combat foreign election interference

Greg Nash

A group of House Democrats led by Administration Committee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (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. 

{mosads}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 Nadler (D-N.Y.), along with Reps. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.), Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Susan Davis (D-Calif.), G. K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.), A. Donald McEachin (D-Va.) and Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.).

Lofgren in a statement heavily criticized President Trump 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 McConnell (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.

Tags Derek Kilmer Donald McEachin Donald Trump Jamie Raskin Jerrold Nadler John Sarbanes Marcia Fudge Mitch McConnell Pete Aguilar Stephanie Murphy Susan Davis Tom Malinowski Zoe Lofgren

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