U.S. Reps. Elissa Slotkin (MI-08), Lauren Underwood (IL-14), and Jason Crow (CO-6) introduced the FIRE (Foreign Influence Reporting in Elections) Act, a bill that would help prevent foreign interference in U.S. elections by requiring political campaigns to report attempts by foreigners to influence U.S. elections to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The FIRE Act stipulates that any foreign nationals attempting to make campaign contributions or offer information or coordination must be reported to federal authorities within a week. This bill would apply to all campaigns –– from presidential to state and local races.
In last week’s congressional testimony, Special Counsel Robert Mueller said he feared campaigns’ acceptance of foreign assistance would be “a new normal.” He underscored the threat of continued foreign interference in U.S. elections saying, “much more needs to be done in order to protect against these intrusions, not just by the Russians but others as well,” and, “they’re doing it as we sit here.” Last week, the Senate Intelligence Committee also released the first section of their bipartisan report, detailing Russia’s widespread attempts to penetrate our election system.
“Even well before the Mueller report was released, we have known that a foreign adversary attacked our political system and has continued to try to do so again,” Slotkin said. “The first portion of the Senate Intelligence Committee report underscores this threat, as did Mr. Mueller in his testimony, stating plainly that foreign actors are seeking to interfere in 2020 elections as we speak. Guarding our country against another attack on our political system should not be a partisan issue — it is a national security issue and it’s an American issue. The FIRE Act, which would ensure campaigns must always report to the FEC when they are contacted by a foreign entity offering donations or help to a candidate, is a critical step in responding to this threat and filling the gaps in our system so that a foreign adversary can never again influence our political process.”
“I’m proud to introduce this commonsense legislation with Congresswoman Slotkin to establish a clear legal obligation to alert federal authorities if there is an indication of foreign governments trying to influence our elections. We know that foreign adversaries are working to interfere in future elections, so the time is now to act to protect our democracy—we cannot afford to wait,” said Underwood.
“In 2016, we saw numerous examples of foreign actors seeking to influence our elections and prop up their candidate of choice. This is a direct threat to our democracy and threatens the integrity of our elections. I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing the FIRE Act, which would ensure that no campaign or candidate can claim ignorance when dealing with foreign actors and that we treat election security as a matter of national security,” said Crow.
The FIRE Act would:
- Require all campaign officials to report, within one week, any contacts with foreign nationals attempting to make campaign donations or otherwise coordinate with the campaign through the proffer of information or services.
- Require campaigns to implement a compliance system to monitor reportable contacts between campaign representatives and foreigners and to train all campaign employees and other associates on their legal obligations to report.
- Have the candidate certify that this compliance system is in place. The campaign would also be responsible for reporting applicable foreign contacts to the FEC, which would notify the FBI, and for preserving relevant records.
Sen. Mark Warner, Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, introduced a similar bill in the Senate.