June 20, 2019

Schiff Introduces Legislation to Strengthen Prohibition on Political Campaigns Solicitation or Receipt of Foreign Assistance

Washington, DC – Today, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, introduced the Prohibiting Foreign Election Assistance Act, which would clarify and strengthen the prohibition on political campaigns soliciting, accepting, or receiving foreign assistance. Schiff’s bill was drafted in response to analysis in Special Counsel Mueller’s report describing his decision to decline to prosecute Trump campaign officials for criminal campaign finance violations.

Schiff’s bill would clarify that information sought or obtained for a political advantage qualifies as a “thing of value” for purposes of the existing ban on foreign contributions. Additionally, it would strengthen the penalties for violation of the ban. Finally, it would require the Federal Election Commission to provide written explanation of the ban on foreign contributions to all political committees, and for those candidates and committees to acknowledge in writing that they understand and have informed their staff, vendors, and volunteers.

Chairman Schiff stated:

“For the last two years, the country has been gripped by an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, yet the president still thinks that it’s ok to accept campaign assistance from a foreign power. That’s why I’m introducing legislation to make it crystal clear that seeking or obtaining foreign assistance in the form of dirt on an opponent from a foreign power or foreign national is illegal and ensuring all campaigns and employees are informed of the law banning foreign campaign contributions. Seeking foreign assistance in a political campaign is unethical, unpatriotic, and wrong – this bill will reinforce that it’s also illegal.” 

In the Mueller report, the Special Counsel describes the decision not to charge Donald Trump Jr. or other participants in the June 9, 2016 Trump Tower Meeting at which the Trump campaign was offered derogatory information about Hillary Clinton. The report states that while there were “reasonable arguments” that the information offered would constitute a “thing of value” under the statute, the Office determined it could not obtain a conviction for two reasons. First, they would need to show that the Trump Campaign acted “willfully” with knowledge of the illegality of their conduct. And second, the prosecution would need to establish that the information offered and provided met the definition of “thing of value.”

This legislation is meant to complement other proposals that have been introduced in the House and Senate, including legislation introduced by Senator Warner, Representatives Malinowski and Swalwell, and others to create a “duty to report” contacts and offers of assistance by foreign agents.

The bill text can be found here.