Press Releases

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and U.S. Rep Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), a member of the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs, teamed up with U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and U.S. Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) to introduce bipartisan legislation that would make it unlawful for a foreign national to contribute money, either directly or indirectly, to a state or local ballot initiative or ballot referendum. The Protecting Ballot Measures from Foreign Influence Act would overturn a July decision from the Federal Election Commission (FEC), which gave a green light to foreign nationals seeking to finance campaign efforts related to ballot initiatives after ruling that a federal law banning foreign money in campaigns applies only to federal, state and local candidate elections.

“The Protecting Ballot Measures from Foreign Influence Act further safeguards our elections from foreign interference by making it illegal for foreign donors to contribute to any ballot initiative or referendum,” Sen. Warner said. “There is no circumstance under which foreign entities should be able to sway the American democratic process and this legislation works to ensure that.” 

“American elections should remain American elections. Local and state ballot initiatives here in the United States should be focused on the concerns of a community — not the interests of a foreign individual, company, or nation,” Rep. Spanberger said. “The current loophole that allows foreign entities to influence these initiatives should be closed immediately, and I am proud to work with a bipartisan group of legislators in both the Senate and the House to make that happen. The Protecting Ballot Measures from Foreign Influence Act would reassert the American people’s rightful control of their local ballot measures, and I am proud to work with Senator Warner, Senator Rubio, and Congressman Banks on this critical effort.”

“Foreign donors should not be able to influence America’s democratic process,” Sen. Rubio said. “It is already illegal for foreign nationals to donate to political candidates, parties, and committees. The Protecting Ballot Measures from Foreign Influence Act will extend that commonsense protection of our political process to ballot initiatives and other referendums. We must do everything we can to protect the votes of American citizens.”

“The FEC’s decision to let foreign actors directly influence U.S. policy fights undermines our democracy,” Rep. Banks said. “That’s why I’ve joined Sens. Rubio and Warner and Rep. Spanberger to overturn it and ensure Americans voices are heard.”

As the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Warner co-led the Committee’s bipartisan investigation into interference in the 2016 election, eventually issuing a comprehensive, five-volume report that concluded the Russian government engaged in an aggressive, multi-faceted effort to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, and that the willingness of top officials on the Trump campaign to accept and even welcome Russian assistance represented a grave counterintelligence threat to our nation. Sen. Warner also introduced the Foreign Influence Reporting in Elections (FIRE) Act, legislation that would require political campaigns to report attempts at foreign elections influence to the appropriate federal authorities at the FEC and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

A copy of the bill is available here.