Republicans Abandon Pact to Ban Use of Stolen or Hacked Info in Political Campaigns
On Thursday, The New York Times reported that House Republicans were sticking a fork in a deal they had been making with Democrats to bilaterally prohibit campaigns from using material that is stolen or hacked — potentially clearing the way for a rerun of the damage done to our political system during the last presidential election:
Leaders of the National Republican Congressional Committee, the campaign arm of House Republicans, and their counterparts at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had labored for much of the summer over a set of rules that would have governed the way the congressionally run committees and their candidates treated material like the thousands of pages of damaging Democratic documents stolen and leaked by Russian hackers in 2016.
Instead, the two parties were left on Thursday exchanging shots just two months before Election Day; Republicans claimed that Democrats had negotiated in bad faith and violated an agreement not to speak about the negotiations publicly, and Democrats insisted that Republicans were merely searching for an excuse to pull out. It laid plain once again the difficulty lawmakers in Washington have had bridging partisan divisions in the two years since Russia began its brazen attack on the American political system.
In 2016, Russian hackers allegedly gained access to private material from the Democratic National Committee, and the emails of Hillary Clinton adviser John Podesta, with much of it being passed along to WikiLeaks and doled out in a steady stream in the run-up to the election. Republicans did not take anything about this threat seriously, with then-candidate Donald Trump even urging Russia to hack Clinton's server to obtain her "missing" emails.
But some of the lesser-known beneficiaries of Russian hacking were House Republicans. The DCCC was also targeted by Russian hackers in 2016, and their documents were dumped publicly, prompting Democratic officials to demand House Speaker Paul Ryan and his counterparts at the NRCC not use any of the stolen material. While there is no evidence Ryan and the NRCC themselves used the material, it was used by the Congressional Leadership Fund, an independent super PAC affiliated with Ryan.
The collapse of these negotiations comes after Senate Republicans shot down $250 million in funding to help states protect their elections from threats, and killed a bipartisan bill that would have helped states better coordinate election security.