Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Mark Warner (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.
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 Slotkin (D-Mich.) and Elise Stefanik (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 McConnell (R-Ky.) labeled the bill the “Democrat Politician Protection Act.”
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.