On May 25, the Federal Election Commission deadlocked for the third time on a decision to implement new rules to prevent foreign spending in U.S. elections without detection

WASHINGTON- U. S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) sent a letter to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) urging the Commissioners to move forward on a rulemaking to protect future elections from foreign interference. On May 25, FEC commissioners deadlocked for the third time on a rulemaking decision to prevent foreign spending in U.S. elections without detection, despite confirmation from intelligence officials that Russia attempted to interfere in the 2016 elections.

“I am telling the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to do something while they deadlock over and over again as the election approaches. This decision should be immediately revisited and approved as a necessary step towards protecting our future elections,” Klobuchar said. “Evidence continues to grow that Russia not only attempted to undermine our democracy in 2016 but is still doing so with plans of interfering in future U.S. elections.”

Klobuchar has been leading the fight to protect our future elections from foreign interference. In March, Klobuchar and Senator James Lankford (R-OK) introduced the Secure Elections Act with Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Richard Burr (R-NC), Mark Warner (D-VA), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) to strengthen election cybersecurity in America and protect against foreign interference in future elections. The Secure Elections Act streamlines cybersecurity information-sharing between federal intelligence entities and state election agencies; provides security clearances to state election officials; and provides resources for states to upgrade election security. This bipartisan solution would bolster our election systems against future threats while protecting states’ primacy in running elections.

In October, Klobuchar introduced the Honest Ads Act with Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence, and Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, to help prevent foreign interference in future elections and improve the transparency of online political advertisements. Russia attempted to influence the 2016 presidential election by buying and placing political ads on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Google. The content and purchaser(s) of those online advertisements are a mystery to the public because of outdated laws that have failed to keep up with evolving technology. The Honest Ads Act would prevent foreign actors from influencing our elections by ensuring that political ads sold online are covered by the same rules as ads sold on TV, radio, and satellite.

Klobuchar and Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) have also introduced the bipartisan Stop Foreign Donations Affecting Our Elections Act to strengthen disclosure by requiring federal campaigns to use existing credit card verification protocols to help verify that online credit card donations come from U.S. sources. Last June, Klobuchar introduced the Helping State and Local Governments Prevent Cyber Attacks Act to help combat foreign interference by providing state and local governments with the information and resources they need to keep our elections secure and improve voter confidence.

In addition, Klobuchar has led Senate Rules Committee Democrats in a call for hearings and briefings on foreign attempts to hack into U.S. election systems and improving cybersecurity. Klobuchar also led a group of 26 senators in calling for a full account of the Election Assistance Commission’s (EAC) efforts to address Russian cybersecurity threats. In January 2017, Klobuchar introduced legislation with four other senators to create an independent, nonpartisan commission to comprehensively investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The full text of the letter can be found below:

Dear Commissioners:

I am writing the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to express concern about the deadlocked decision on May 25, 2018 that blocks the Commission from moving forward on a rulemaking to prevent foreign spending in U.S. elections without detection. This decision should be revisited and approved as a necessary step towards protecting our future elections.

With bipartisan agreement, the Senate Intelligence Committee determined that foreign actors illegally influenced the 2016 presidential election and that something must be done to stop this from occurring again. Senator Burr, Chairman of the Intelligence Committee, stated that “[t]here is no doubt that Russia undertook an unprecedented effort to interfere with our 2016 elections.” This followed the Department of Justice’s February announcement that a Grand Jury indicted thirteen Russians for “committing federal crimes while seeking to interfere in the United States political system, including the 2016 Presidential election.” Secretary Nielsen of the Department of Homeland Security stated that “we see [Russia] continuing to conduct foreign influence campaigns” when asked about the 2018 election cycle.

Intelligence officials have also confirmed that Russia purchased thousands of political advertisements during the 2016 election. Indictments by the Department of Justice show that Russian actors were spending $1.25 million dollars per month to purchase advertisements in the run up to the 2016 election. Evidence continues to grow that Russia not only attempted to undermine our democracy in 2016 but is still doing so with plans of interfering in future U.S. elections.

The FEC is the independent regulatory agency charged with administering and enforcing the federal campaign finance law. In light of the FEC’s vote on May 25th, I am requesting answers to the following questions:

  1. What steps is the FEC currently taking to protect our national elections from foreign influence?
  2. Following the 2016 presidential election, has the Commission taken any steps to increase its ability to identify or detect political spending by foreign sources?
  3. Are there any recommendations from the FEC on how Congress or the Administration can prevent illegal foreign spending in the 2018 and 2020 elections?

Thank you for your prompt attention to this serious matter.