Two of U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin’s (D-Holly) bills to prevent foreign interference in the U.S. political process passed as part of the SHIELD (Stopping Harmful Interference in Elections for a Lasting Democracy) Act on Oct. 23, 2019. Since being sworn in, Slotkin, a former CIA officer and Pentagon official, has been a leading advocate for legislation to address vulnerabilities in our political system, and protect the U.S. from interference by foreign actors and governments seeking to influence elections.
Portions of the SHIELD Act were modeled after two bills Slotkin introduced: the PAID ADs Act, a bill that would make it illegal for foreign entities to purchase campaign ads that effectively support or oppose a candidate, including on social media; and the FIRE Act, which stipulates that any candidate who receives an offer of campaign contributions or information from a foreign national must report it to federal authorities within a week.
“No matter who you are, what political party you’re from, we can all agree that foreigners have no role in our political process,” Slotkin said in remarks on the floor of the U.S. House. “As a former CIA officer and Pentagon official, as the wife of a 30-year Army officer and the stepmom of a current Army officer, I know that when our country sees a threat, we have the responsibility to act and to consider ways to protect our country.”
“I’m incredibly proud to be supporting the SHIELD Act,” Slotkin continued. “Certain portions of it are modeled off legislation I’ve been working on. The PAID ADs Act in particular — this very basic idea that foreigners should not be able to buy an ad for or against a candidate in an American political election. That should be illegal, plain and simple.
“Michigan was particularly targeted by these ads. They are divisive, they are hateful, and they are meant to split us apart and stoke fears in our community. It is a classic playbook that the Russians have used in Eastern Europe and now they’re using it here in the United States. The SHIELD Act closes these loopholes that currently allow foreign entities to purchase campaign ads. I’m thrilled to support it.”
Earlier this month, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a bipartisan report detailing Russia’s robust and ongoing disinformation campaign to influence the U.S. political process. Just this past week, Facebook announced it had removedRussian and Iranian networks of accounts who were spreading disinformation related to the 2020 election. According to the Washington Post, one Russian account even portrayed itself as a voter in Michigan.
Michigan was particularly targeted by these types of digital ads in 2016, which sought to sow discord and influence voters.
The SHIELD Act would:
- Make it illegal for foreign entities to purchase ads that effectively support or oppose a candidate in a U.S. election
- Require political campaigns and committees to report offers of campaign assistance from foreign governments
- Close loopholes that allow foreign nationals and governments to spend money in our elections
- Restricts exchange of campaign information between candidates and foreign governments and their agents
- Prohibits anyone from providing false information about voting rules and qualifications
Rep. Slotkin also offered two amendments to the SHIELD Act: the first would develop regulations to disclose social media bots, which are used as tools for foreign disinformation campaigns; and another that would direct the Government Accountability office to study the outstanding challenge of preventing lobbyists representing foreign governments from contributing to U.S. elections.