WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Representative Eric Swalwell (D-CA) and U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) introduced the Duty to Report Act – legislation to help protect our elections from foreign interference by requiring federal campaign officials to notify law enforcement if offered assistance by agents of another government.
“When foreign adversaries seek to meddle in our elections, silence is not an option,” said Swalwell, a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and Committee on the Judiciary. “The most basic function of government is to protect its people from foreign attack. If we neglect that obligation – or flat out refuse it – then we are not actually a government. This is part of a series of reforms to demonstrate we are a government that will respond to foreign interference.”
“A duty to report foreign sabotage of our democracy is a matter of simple patriotism and common sense — but now needs to be an explicit legal duty too,” said Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. “If a foreign adversary offers a candidate for U.S. office illegal assistance, the first call should be to federal law enforcers not to criminal co-conspirators.”
The Duty to Report Act would impose a legal duty on federal campaigns, candidates, and PACs to report offers of assistance from foreign nationals, including material, non-public information, to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The legislation also would require disclosure of all meetings between candidates or campaign officials and agents of foreign governments, other than those held in a candidate’s official capacity as an elected representative.
The bill introduced today is a broader version of legislation that Swalwell first introduced last Congress.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report documented numerous instances of foreign actors seeking to assist the Trump Campaign during the 2016 presidential election. On one occasion, Donald Trump, Jr. accepted a meeting with purported Russian government officials, knowing that these officials were offering “dirt” on his father’s opponent in the 2016 presidential election. Instead of reacting with concern or alarm that a foreign power was trying to meddle in a U.S. election in violation of federal law, Trump, Jr. wrote, “if it’s what you say, I love it.” He and his colleagues – then-Trump Campaign Manager Paul Manafort and Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner – later met with the Russian representatives to do so.
Under current law, it is illegal for any foreign national, country, or entity to provide anything of value to a campaign or make an expenditure to influence a U.S. election. It is also illegal for a U.S. citizen to solicit or accept such assistance. But there is no legal requirement for Americans to report offers of such assistance. Had law enforcement been alerted to these incidents, Russia’s vast and sophisticated measures to attack our democracy could have been discovered much earlier. Enacting the Duty to Report Act will safeguard our democracy from foreign interference and ensure that US persons are held accountable for welcoming malign assistance from foreign governments attempting to influence our democratic processes.
“This isn’t a Democratic or Republican issue – any of our nation’s foes could try to tip the scale on behalf of any party’s candidate,” Swalwell said. “We’re all Americans, and we have to behave that way. Most of us probably hoped this would be common sense, but unfortunately, it seems we must specify it. This isn’t meant as a rebuke to President Trump or as an effort to relitigate the 2016 election—it’s a preventative, defensive measure for the future.”
“The faster the FEC and FBI know a foreign adversary is attempting to interfere in an election, the more quickly they can respond and guard against further attacks,” Blumenthal said. “Protecting the integrity of our elections – the pillar of our democracy – should be bipartisan priority.”
The legislation is co-sponsored in the House by U.S. Representatives Steve Cohen (D-TN), Hank Johnson (D-GA), Val Demings (D-FL), Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC). The legislation is co-sponsored in the Senate by U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).
Click here to read the full text of the bill.