Tester Backs Bill to Keep Foreign Interference Out of American Elections

Senator: “When Americans walk into the voting booth, that fundamental democratic act should be free from foreign influence”

With foreign interference in U.S. elections posing an imminent threat to American democracy, U.S. Senator Jon Tester is backing legislation that would increase transparency in digital advertising, require campaigns to report interference to federal authorities and close loopholes that allow foreign nationals to contribute to campaigns.

Following the 2016 election, national security agencies raised alarms about foreign interference in U.S. elections and their ability to drastically hinder American democracy, and these agencies continue to sound the alarm about the 2020 election this year. Tester is backing the Stopping Harmful Interference in Elections for a Lasting Democracy (SHIELD) Act to create resources that would help ensure elections in Montana, and across the country, are free of foreign meddling.

“When Americans walk into the voting booth to choose their elected leaders—that fundamental democratic act should be free from foreign influence, and Congress has a critical role to play in ensuring that happens,” Tester said. “This is a common-sense bill that’s simple: it keeps foreign entities from meddling in our elections, and I’m calling on my Republican colleagues to demand that Senator McConnell bring it up for a vote immediately.”

The SHIELD Act aims to prevent foreign interference in U.S. elections by requiring campaigns to report offers of illicit support to federal authorities, improving transparency of online political advertising, restricting the exchange of information between candidates and foreign agents and prohibiting deceptive practices related to voting procedures. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Senate Republicans have systematically blocked virtually any election security legislation from getting through the Senate ahead of the 2020 election season.

The SHIELD Act contains four provisions to beef up election security:

  • Honest Ads Act – Requires disclaimers on digital ads and requires large digital platforms to maintain a public database of political ad purchase of information for advisors whose purchases exceed $500 per year. It would also require broadcasters, cable and satellite providers and social media and other online platforms to make reasonable efforts to ensure that political advertising is not purchased directly or indirectly by a foreign national.
  • Reporting Foreign Contacts – Requires political campaigns, parties and political committees to report attempts by foreign governments or agents to influence our elections to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) within one week. It also requires campaigns to establish a reporting compliance systems.
  • Closing Foreign Interference Loopholes – 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 prevents campaigns from offering non-public campaign materials to foreign governments or their agents and deems any information sharing as an illegal solicitation of support.
  • Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation – Prohibits anyone from knowingly providing false information about voting rules and qualifications for voting within 60 days of an election. It also requires the Attorney General and FEC to work with state and local officials, nonprofit organizations and voter protection groups to establish a procedure for responding to false information and disseminating correct information.

Tester has been a champion for election security during his time in the Senate. He has slammed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for effectively barring any election security legislation from getting to the Senate floor for a vote. Last year, he supported the Election Security Act, and he helped pass a funding bill providing $425 million to help states protect their voting systems and bolster election security before the 2020 presidential election.