Senators’ Amendment Would Require Federal Campaigns to Report Offers of Assistance From Foreign Governments
WASHINGTON, D.C. [06/20/19]—U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) is pressing for the protection of our elections from foreign interference by pushing a measure to require candidates, campaign officials, and their family members to notify law enforcement if offered illegal assistance by a foreign national.
Sen. Smith—along with a number of her Senate colleagues—filed an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to impose a legal duty on campaigns, candidates, candidates’ family members, and PACs to report offers of assistance from foreign nationals—including material, non-public information—to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and the FBI. The legislation also would require disclosure of any meetings between candidates or campaign officials and agents of foreign governments, other than those held in a candidate’s official capacity as an elected official.
“Accepting campaign ‘dirt’ on your opponent from a government is already illegal,” said Sen. Smith. “But there’s clearly more we must do to prevent foreign powers from undermining our democracy. Our amendment would require campaign officials to report bad actors in order to safeguard election security because the American people should be the ones who influence American elections.”
“Election security is national security. The NDAA is exactly the right piece of legislation to include our provision requiring campaigns, candidates, and family members to immediately report to the FBI and Federal Election Commission any offers of illegal foreign assistance,” Blumenthal said. “Accepting foreign assistance is already illegal. Soliciting such assistance is already illegal. I assumed that any moral, patriotic American would report these kinds of acts—but apparently I was wrong. So now all we are doing is turning what is already common sense—if a campaign gets an offer of help from a foreign government, which is illegal— hey must report it to the FBI.”
“Protecting the integrity of our elections—the backbone of our democracy—should not be a partisan issue. Duty to Report is a crucial step in ensuring no foreign attempts to influence our elections are successful,” said Swalwell. “President Trump's most recent comments prove the necessity of this legislation and we must put a stop to prevent this dangerous behavior once and for all.”
“President Trump’s open invitations to foreign actors to interfere in American elections have put the foundation of our democracy at risk,” said Whitehouse. “It should go without saying that any offer from another government to get involved in one of our elections is an acute threat to national security and must be immediately reported to law enforcement.”
“Protecting our elections from foreign interference is essential to defending the very foundation of American democracy,” said Heinrich. “President Trump’s blatant disregard for this critical duty means that Congress must pass legislation making it crystal clear that it is unacceptable to take information about electoral opponents from foreign governments and that a failure to report contact with foreign governments about election interference is a federal crime.”
“Americans running for political office shouldn’t have to be told to report offers of foreign assistance in American elections,” Leahy said. “But sadly, President Trump does. With nearly every comment or tweet, dismissing the seriousness of foreign interference, he shows just how critical this legislation is.”
“I cannot believe we have to reaffirm that candidates and campaigns should not accept illegal assistance from a foreign power (and have a duty to report it),” said Warren. “But here we are.”
“It is time that Congress comes together and takes meaningful action to stop illegal foreign interference in our elections. The President’s recent comments underscore the importance of the Duty to Report Act,” said Casey. “It’s appalling for any elected official to suggest that he or she might accept illegal campaign assistance from a foreign government. The Duty to Report Act will ensure that these offers of assistance from a foreign government are reported to the appropriate authorities so law enforcement can take the steps necessary to safeguard the foundation of our democracy—our elections.”
“Protecting our democracy from foreign interference shouldn’t be a partisan issue. If a candidate receives information from a foreign government on their opponent, they should report it to the FBI. Period. The president’s recent comments set a dangerous precedent, and we need to make it as clear as possible that accepting or soliciting dirt on your political opponent from a foreign government is illegal and un-American,” said Murphy.
“It shouldn’t take a law for candidates to know they need to tell the FBI when foreigners try to illegally influence our elections. But now that this administration has thrown every commonsense ethical standard out the window, it’s time to put it into black-letter law,” said Wyden.
Under current law, it is illegal for any foreign national, country, or entity to provide anything of value to a campaign or make an expenditure to influence a U.S. election. It is also illegal for a U.S. citizen to solicit or accept such assistance. However, there is no legal requirement for Americans to report offers of such illegal assistance. This amendment will safeguard our democracy from foreign interference and ensure that U.S. persons are held accountable for welcoming malign assistance from foreign governments attempting to influence our democratic processes.