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White House Threatens to Veto Bill Requiring Campaigns to Report ‘Illicit Offers’ From Foreign Governments


The White House on Wednesday said President Donald Trump would veto a bill requiring federal election campaigns to report “illicit offers” of campaign assistance from foreign governments and their agents.

House Democrats earlier in the day passed the Stopping Harmful Interference in Elections for a Lasting Democracy Act (SHIELD), an election security bill which would require candidates for federal office to notify the FBI and the FEC should any foreign government and agents thereof offer to assist their campaign. The bill would also impose new rules on political advertisements placed on social media platforms similar to those currently governing radio and TV ads.

The SHIELD Act would also restrict “exchange of campaign information between candidates and foreign governments and their agents,” citing Trump campaign officials who “shared polling data with a person associated with Russian intelligence and with the expectation it would be shared with an oligarch linked to the Russian government” (see: Paul ManafortRick Gates, and Konstantin Kilimnik).

While the White House acknowledged that “transparency and accountability” were vital to elections, it argued that the bill’s reporting requirements would overly burden campaigns without furthering securing U.S. elections, calling the act “redundant, overly broad, ambiguous, and unenforceable.”

“While the Trump Administration seeks to limit foreign national interference in our elections by strengthening FECA and combatting illegal behavior, the SHIELD Act would produce harmful unintended consequences without achieving that goal,” the White House statement said.

The administration’s threat to veto the bill comes at a precarious time for President Trump, as evidence he pressured the government of Ukraine to investigate a political opponent in exchange for military aid continues to mount, further fueling Democrats’ impeachment efforts.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), one of the bill’s co-sponsors, defended the bill as essential to maintain the integrity of future U.S. elections.

“Free and fair elections are at the core of what it means to live in a democracy like ours. Free and fair elections are at the heart of what it means to be a citizen of the United States. It is our solemn duty to defend them,” she said from the House floor Wednesday.

Siding with the White House, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the bill was antithetical to constitutional principles of free speech.

“It’s a transparent attack on the First Amendment that has united an unlikely band of opponents across the political spectrum,” McConnell said in a statement issued Wednesday opposing the measure.

[image via ROBERTO SCHMIDT_AFP_Getty Images]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.