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Sewell votes for bill to try to prevent foreign interference in future elections

Congresswoman Terri Sewell during a committee hearing. Office of Rep. Terri Sewell

Wednesday Congresswoman Terri A. Sewell (D-Selma) voted for H.R. 4617, the SHIELD Act (Stopping Harmful Interference in Elections for A Lasting Democracy Act). The legislation is intended to protect against foreign interference in America’s elections, including by foreign governments.

“There is nothing more fundamental to the strength of our democracy than the sanctity of our elections and defending them against foreign interference and attacks,” Representative Sewell said. “The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election and they and other foreign entities continue to be a daily threat to our democracy,” Sewell said. “It is critically important that the Senate take up and pass the SHIELD Act, commonsense, bipartisan legislation that will help safeguard and ensure our elections are decided by the American people, not foreign actors.”

The bill requires political campaigns, parties, and political committees like PACs and Super PACs, to report contacts that involve offers of unlawful campaign assistance by foreign governments, foreign political parties, and their agents, to authorities at the FBI and the FEC. This ensures violations can incur criminal or civil liability. The bill also requires campaigns to establish compliance mechanisms.

The bill prevents foreign interference in future elections by improving transparency of online political advertisements.

The SHIELD Act establishes disclosure rules for online political advertising and guards against foreign interference via digital platforms. It incorporates provisions from the Honest Ads Act (H.R. 2592), which updates the rules that apply to online political advertising by incorporating disclosure and disclaimer requirements that currently apply to traditional media.

The SHIELD Act makes it more difficult for foreign nationals and foreign governments to spend in U.S. elections.

The bill 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 closes other gaps in the law that allow foreign governments to influence American elections.

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The SHIELD Act forbids the offering of non-public campaign material to foreign governments and those linked with foreign governments and their agents as an illegal solicitation of support.
It also prohibits deceptive practices about voting procedures. The SHIELD Act incorporate the Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act to prohibit anyone from providing false information about voting rules and qualifications for voting. The bill provide mechanisms for disseminating correct information; and establishes strong penalties for voter intimidation.

The SHIELD Act is sponsored by Congressman Jason Crow (D-Colorado) who says that much of the act is common sense; that he would not have thought necessary until the Trump campaign of 2016.

The Trump Administration dismisses any claims that there Russians played a significant part in the 2016 election. Republicans argue that there should be a requirement of national photo ID to prevent election fraud, including foreign nationals living in the U.S. from participating in our elections, something the SHIELD Act does not address.

The SHIELD Act is supported by numerous organizations, including Common Cause, the Brennan Center for Justice, People for the American Way, Democracy 21, NAACP, Public Citizen, End Citizens United Action Fund, Franciscan Action Network and Network Lobby for Catholic Social Justice.
The bill now moves on to the Senate.

Terri Sewell represents Alabama’s Seventh Congressional District.

(Original reporting by Fox News and NBC News contributed to this report.)

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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