House Democrats passed H.R. 4617 on Wednesday. The "Stopping Harmful Interference in Elections for a Lasting Democracy Act,” or the “SHIELD Act,” amends the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to require "implementation of compliance and reporting systems by Federal campaigns to detect and report such acts, and for other purposes," the text reads.
The legislation provides a specific timeline for notification.
COMMITTEE OBLIGATION TO NOTIFY.—Not later than 1 week after a reportable foreign contact, each political committee shall notify the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Commission of the reportable foreign contact and provide a summary of the circumstances with respect to such reportable foreign contact.
“(2) INDIVIDUAL OBLIGATION TO NOTIFY.—Not later than 3 days after a reportable foreign contact—
Democrats gave themselves a pat on the back for passing a bill that they say will "protect our democracy."
It was a busy and productive day in the House of Representatives. We passed the #SHIELDAct, an election security package to protect our democracy from the urgent and ongoing threat of foreign interference. (Thread 1/5) https://t.co/aDJCcGt7CK pic.twitter.com/NiYTDfyv6r— Rep. Dean Phillips (@RepDeanPhillips) October 23, 2019
Lawmakers introduced the bill a few weeks after a whistleblower complaint accused President Trump of trying to threaten Ukrainian President Zelensky into investigating his political rival Joe Biden. The whistleblower could only provide a secondhand account of the phone call, but Democrats used the complaint to launch an impeachment inquiry against Trump last month.
The office of Wyoming Republican Rep. Liz Cheney called the SHIELD Act House Democrats’ attempt to "circumvent the First Amendment."
“Securing America’s elections is crucial to the functioning of our democratic process," Cheney said in a statement on Wednesday. "Instead of working to achieve this fundamental priority, the legislation that Democrats brought to the floor this evening is a thinly veiled attempt to control political speech in the name of national security. By giving the federal government the authority to define what constitutes ‘legitimate’ news and forcing Americans who wish to engage in political speech to navigate burdensome bureaucratic obstacles, this bill is a clear violation of our First Amendment right to free speech.
"I hope our Democrat colleagues will realize the damage their partisanship and political games are doing. We must work together to pass meaningful legislation that secures our elections.”
Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE) shared his similar concerns with the SHIELD Act, likening it to a "Trojan Horse."
"This Trojan Horse legislation presents some seemingly reasonable protections but will have substantial consequences for American journalists because while it identifies ‘legitimate journalistic activities’ as protected from requirements in this legislation, it fails to define it,” he said. “So, who will define ‘legitimate journalistic activities? The government?”
He worries that SHIELD could prompt the Federal Elections Commission "to make laws that abridge the freedom of the press."
Bacon supports a Republican-led alternative called the Honest Elections Act, which he says takes steps to prevent foreign meddling in our elections without infringing on our constitutional freedoms.