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Spanberger’s Amendment to Prevent Foreign Interference in U.S. Elections Now Included as Part of Major Campaign Finance & Ethics Reform Package

The Congresswoman’s Amendment—Now Part of H.R.1—Would Support Federal, State, & Local Efforts to Improve Election Security by Assessing Current Threats to Election Infrastructure, Sharing Findings

Washington, March 7, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger today spoke on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives to urge her colleagues to support and pass an amendment she introduced to strengthen the integrity of U.S. elections and prevent undisclosed foreign influence in the political system.

The amendment passed with bipartisan support and will be included in H.R. 1.

Spanberger’s amendment to the For the People Act, (H.R. 1)—a bill she cosponsored—would mitigate future foreign threats to the U.S. political system by requiring intelligence assessments to identify possible foreign threats to election infrastructure, so that states may take appropriate actions. During her speech, Spanberger called on Congress to recognize the urgent need to strengthen the security of federal and state election systems.

Click here to watch her speech. A transcript of her remarks is below:

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I rise in support of my amendment to H.R. 1.

This week, we are focused on fighting for the public interest, fighting for transparency, and fighting for accountability. We have a rare opportunity to restore faith and trust in our system of government. Thank you to all of those who have fought to bring us to this point and our upcoming major, historic vote on H.R. 1.

As we speak, I’m working under a mandate from the people of Central Virginia. They expect me to fight back against a broken Washington and to work to protect our democracy—whether from special interests, barriers to voting, or foreign influence.

Right now, we are seeing an uptick in hostile attacks against election systems across the globe. With the rise of the internet, anonymous hackers, non-state actors, and foreign intelligence operatives have risen as formidable and dangerous digital adversaries.

Our elections are the bedrock of our democracy. If our voting infrastructure is compromised or attacked, the entire integrity of our electoral system could come into question.

This was especially clear following Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. And it is almost certain that nefarious actors will continue their deliberate attempts to attack our elections or put in doubt the reliability of our democratic institutions.

During this time, it is critical that U.S. election officials have accurate and up-to-date information about where our election security systems are most vulnerable.

This amendment pushes back against foreign attempts to interfere in our electoral process and helps identify any potential threats that may exist.

This amendment would use the invaluable expertise of public servants in the intelligence community and Department of Homeland Security to strengthen the security of federal and state election systems.

My amendment would require a federal assessment of the scope of potential threats to the security of America’s election system, including cyber, terror, and state actor threats.

This assessment would happen 180 days prior to every general election to allow the states the opportunity to respond and strengthen their voting systems.

Additionally, the legislation would direct the Director of National Intelligence and DHS to update federal and state officials on possible vulnerabilities—and to provide assessments on how best to stop these threats.

As a former CIA case officer, I greatly appreciate the objective and nonpartisan work of the national security and intelligence communities. And with their help, we can fight back against foreign interference. We can safeguard our elections.

The dedicated men and women of our intelligence agencies have demonstrated their ability to collect information on foreign actors’ intentions and provide election security assessments that are intellectually rigorous, objective, timely, and useful to the states they would provide them to.

As we’re having important discussions about safeguarding the integrity of the vote, I urge my colleagues to support this amendment to H.R. 1.

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According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Russian intelligence services targeted election systems in at least 21 states leading up to the 2016 presidential election. And according to a January 2017 assessment from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, these Russian agents obtained access to the networks of multiple state and local electoral boards. While these attacks did not directly impact vote-tallying, these hostile cyberattacks reportedly led to stolen voter records, scanned networks, and breached voter registration databases—and they were deliberate attempts to undermine the integrity of the electoral process.

Specifically, Spanberger’s Strengthening Elections through Intelligence Act would direct the Director of National Intelligence to submit an assessment of elections threats to Congress, as well as the chief election official in each U.S. state. This report would need to be submitted to these officials no later than six months before a general election, and it would be crafted in consultation with DHS and the Election Assistance Commission to provide accurate and timely information to federal and state officials ahead of a November election.

Spanberger introduced the amendment as legislation last week.

Background

Spanberger is a cosponsor of H.R. 1, which would combat a culture of corruption in Washington by limiting the unmitigated political power of special interests and lobbyists, protecting and expanding the right to vote, and restoring ethics and accountability to the federal government. The legislation would also push public servants to put the public interest ahead of large corporations or mega-donors.

Earlier this week, Spanberger spoke at a press conference focused on H.R. 1 and the need to strengthen transparency and integrity across the U.S. political system. During the House Democratic Caucus weekly press conference, she called on her colleagues to take action to limit the influence of special interests in the democratic process, restore the faith that the American people have in our government, and pass H.R. 1. Click here to watch the full press conference.

Also this week, Spanberger spoke on the floor of the U.S. House in support of a bipartisan amendment to H.R. 1 she cosponsored to strengthen the integrity of U.S. elections and prevent undisclosed foreign influence in the political system. The bipartisan amendment would require the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to conduct an audit on foreign campaign contributions in U.S. elections. Additionally, it would require the FEC to report these findings to Congress. Click here to watch her full speech.

This legislation builds on Spanberger’s efforts to prevent foreign influence in the U.S. democratic process. Last month, she helped introduce a bill that would prevent foreign-owned corporations from funneling money into U.S. elections. To close a foreign spending loophole, the bill would apply the ban on contributions by foreign actors to domestic corporations, limited liability corporations, and partnerships that are foreign-controlled, foreign-influenced, and foreign-owned.

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