Rep. Elissa Slotkin Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Prevent Foreign Entities from Placing Ads to Influence U.S. Elections

May 28, 2019
Press Release
PAID AD Act closes loopholes that allow foreign entities to legally purchase campaign ads on social media, TV

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (MI-08) on Thursday introduced bipartisan legislation with Rep. Elise Stefanik (NY-21) that would close loopholes that currently allow foreign interests and foreign governments to legally purchase digital and TV ads for the purpose of influencing U.S. elections. Michigan was one of Russia’s top targets for social media ads in the 2016 election.


The Preventing Adversaries Internationally from Disbursing Advertising Dollars Act, or PAID AD Act, comes less than two weeks after the conclusion of Robert Mueller’s report. The report summary sent by Attorney General bar indicates that the report confirms, separate from the investigation into the President, that Russia sought to influence U.S. elections in 2016, particularly through social media ads targeted to states including Michigan.


“I'm proud to introduce the bipartisan PAID AD Act, which would make it illegal for foreign entities to purchase ads on TV or social media to influence our elections — something we now know happened extensively in Michigan in 2016,” Slotkin said.


“Stopping foreign entities from influencing U.S. elections is not a partisan issue. As a former CIA analyst and Pentagon official, I believe it's an issue of national security and preserving our democracy, and I'm proud to join my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in introducing this bill,” Slotkin added.


While current law prohibits foreign entities from contributing directly to campaigns, they are still legally allowed to purchase ads supporting or opposing a candidate on social media up until election day, and on TV up to 60 days before a general election or 30 days before a primary election.


The PAID AD Act would close those loopholes by expanding the scope of prohibition for foreign entities on any broadcast, cable, satellite communication, or digital communications which refers to a candidate for federal office. Specifically, it would:


  • Prohibit foreign governments, foreign nationals and foreign corporations from buying a campaign ad on television, radio, or the internet that promotes, supports, attacks, or opposes a candidate.


  • Extends the ban on electioneering communications, which currently applies only to broadcast and cable ads, to also cover “paid internet or paid digital communications.” Most Russian spending on ads in 2016 was through digital media.


  • Prevent foreign governments from buying a campaign ad that discusses a national legislative issue of public importance during an election year for the purpose of influencing an election. This would stop foreign entities from placing ads that, while not naming a candidate, used divisive issues to influence voters.


This legislation mirrors the amendment that Rep. Slotkin introduced and passed with broad bipartisan support as part of H.R. 1, the For the People Act of 2019. Slotkin is working with colleagues in the Senate who will introduce the Senate version of the bill in the coming weeks.