Rep. Sewell Praises House Passage of Election Security Legislation
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell (AL-07) voted Wednesday in support of H.R. 4617, the SHIELD Act (Stopping Harmful Interference in Elections for A Lasting Democracy Act), legislation to protect against foreign interference in America’s elections, including by foreign governments.
“There is nothing more fundamental to the strength of our democracy than the sanctity of our elections and defending them against foreign interference and attacks. The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election and they and other foreign entities continue to be a daily threat to our democracy,” Sewell said. “It is critically important that the Senate take up and pass the SHIELD Act, commonsense, bipartisan legislation that will help safeguard and ensure our elections are decided by the American people, not foreign actors.”
Following are key provisions of the bill:
The bill creates a duty to report illicit offers of campaign assistance from foreign governments and their agents.
- The bill requires political campaigns, parties, and political committees like PACs and Super PACs, to report contacts that involve offers of unlawful campaign assistance by foreign governments, foreign political parties, and their agents, to authorities at the FBI and the FEC. This ensures violations can incur criminal or civil liability. The bill also requires campaigns to establish compliance mechanisms.
The bill prevents foreign interference in future elections by improving transparency of online political advertisements.
- The SHIELD Act modernizes campaign finance law to uphold Americans’ right to know who is behind election-related advertising and disinformation, including better disclosure of the sources of online political advertisements.
- Specifically, the bill establishes disclosure rules for online political advertising and guards against foreign interference via digital platforms. It incorporates provisions from the Honest Ads Act (H.R. 2592), which updates the rules that apply to online political advertising by incorporating disclosure and disclaimer requirements that currently apply to traditional media.
Closes loopholes that allow foreign nationals and foreign governments to spend in U.S. elections.
- The Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission in 2010 unleashed new modes of dark money spending through artificial entities, including Super PACS, corporations and certain nonprofit organizations. The SHIELD Act takes steps to close loopholes that could permit foreign nationals, including foreign governments, to spend money to influence and interfere with United States elections.
- For example, the bill strengthens the foreign money ban by prohibiting foreign nationals from participating in decision-making about contributions or expenditures by corporations, PACS, Super PACs, and other entities and closes other avenues of foreign spending to influence elections, including digital advertising. It also closes other gaps in the law that allow foreign governments to influence American elections.
Restricts exchange of campaign information between candidates and foreign governments and their agents.
- President Trump’s campaign officials shared campaign polling data with a person associated with Russian intelligence and with the expectation it would be shared with an oligarch linked to the Russian government. The SHIELD Act closes this gap in the law by deeming 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.
Prohibits deceptive practices about voting procedures.
- Finally, independent experts have identified voter suppression tactics the Russians used in 2016 on social media, including malicious misdirection designed to create confusion about voting rules. In response, the SHIELD Act includes provisions to:
- Incorporate the Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act to prohibit anyone from providing false information about voting rules and qualifications for voting;
- Provide mechanisms for disseminating correct information; and
- Establishes strong penalties for voter intimidation.
The SHIELD Act is supported by numerous organizations, including Common Cause, the Brennan Center for Justice, People for the American Way, Democracy 21, NAACP, Public Citizen, End Citizens United Action Fund, Franciscan Action Network and Network Lobby for Catholic Social Justice.