On Senate Floor, Ranking Member Klobuchar Presses for Action on Election Security Legislation and Passage of the Honest Ads Act
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ranking Member of the Senate Rules Committee with jurisdiction over federal elections, spoke on the Senate floor today urging her Republican colleagues to take up legislation to protect our election infrastructure. The intelligence community, including Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) Director Christopher Wray, and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, has repeatedly confirmed that foreign agents have attacked and continue to attack our elections.
“It has been 1005 days since Russia attacked us in 2016, and we have yet to pass comprehensive election security reform,” Klobuchar said.
“The next major elections are just 378 days away – so the clock is ticking. We must take action now to secure our elections from foreign threats.
“Russia spent years planning a cyber mission to undermine the foundation of our democratic system. This mission has been called 'sweeping and systematic' by many including Special Counsel Mueller. Our military and intelligence officials from both Democratic and Republican administrations have confirmed over and over again that Russia launched a sophisticated and targeted cyber attack that was authorized by President Putin.
“Intelligence officials are once again sounding the alarm that adversaries are using social media to undermine the upcoming elections. Just yesterday, Facebook announced that it removed a network of Russian back accounts posing as locals weighing in on political issues in swing states. It never ends. Russia has a playbook that they and they are using it to attack us.
“We have to stop them. So how do we do this? Well, I have a very good solution. The Honest Ads Act, my bill with Senators Graham and Warner. The goal is simple, bring our laws into the 21st century to ensure that voters know who is paying to influence our political system.
“Right now, the political ads that are sold on TV and radio and newspapers are disclosed so that the public knows what they are. They're actually kept either in an archive, so campaigns and reporters can go over and see what they are and they can actually figure out what is this ad, why would somebody put in this ad against me, I believe in sort of the competitiveness of our election system. And if you disclose things, then you're going to get more information about what's wrong with those things. “The ads also have to say who paid for them. That's why you see those little disclaimers at the bottom or you see elected officials thing or their challengers saying I paid for this ad.
“But the same rules don’t apply to ads sold online. This leaves a huge loophole in the law that is especially dangerous because online ads are more popular than ever.
“There are many other bills that I'll come back and discuss in the next few weeks, which would help on foreign influence in our elections. But today I want to focus on this one because election security is national security and it's well past time that we take action. The American people should expect nothing less."
Klobuchar has been a leader in the fight to secure our elections and has introduced several pieces of legislation in the Senate to strengthen our election infrastructure and combat propaganda. Her bills would require backup paper ballots, provide $1 billion in election security grants to states for cybersecurity improvements and audits, strengthen the federal response to election security interference, and establish accountability measures for election technology vendors.
Earlier this year, Klobuchar reintroduced the Honest Ads Act with Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence, and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to help prevent foreign interference in future elections and improve the transparency of online political advertisements. Russia attempted to influence the 2016 presidential election by buying and placing political ads on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Google. The content and purchaser(s) of those online advertisements are a mystery to the public because of outdated laws that have failed to keep up with evolving technology. The Honest Ads Act would prevent foreign actors from influencing our elections by ensuring that political ads sold online are covered by the same rules as ads sold on TV, radio, and satellite.
Klobuchar has also led on other election security legislation including the Combatting Foreign Influence Act, the Digital Citizenship and Media Literacy Act, the PAID Ad Act, the Global Electoral Exchange Act, and the Invest in Our Democracy Act.
Klobuchar has sent numerous letters urging departments, agencies, and private companies to improve election security. In June, she sent a letter with Senator Wyden (D-OR) to the FBI asking them to clarify the steps they’ve taken to investigate problems with VR Systems, an election systems vendor that has undergone speculations of hacking in the 2016 election. In April, she led a letter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and FBI, urging them to establish a task force combining the efforts of social media platforms, local election officials, and also reporters and independent researchers, in finding and stopping disinformation and misinformation campaigns. In March, Klobuchar sent a letter to the three biggest voting machine companies in the U.S. asking tough questions about election security. Klobuchar has also sent numerous letters to the DHS and its Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), urging them to prioritize election security measures.
For broadcast quality footage of Klobuchar’s remarks, click HERE.
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