Office of Rep. Derek Kilmer announcement.
On Dec. 9, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Protecting Our Democracy Act — a sweeping package of reforms co-sponsored by Representative Derek Kilmer (WA-06) that aims to strengthen America’s democratic institutions against future presidents, regardless of political party, who seek to abuse the power of their office for corrupt purposes.
The proposals included in the legislation — many of which have been supported by both Democrats and Republicans in the past — aim to restore the government’s system of checks and balances and strengthen accountability and transparency. The bill includes the Honest Ads Act, bipartisan legislation introduced by Rep. Kilmer that aims to prevent foreign interference in future elections and improve the transparency of online political advertisements. The Honest Ads Act would ensure online political advertisements are better monitored by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and would enable the FEC to enact disclosure rules for online advertisement similar to those in place for television, radio, and satellite ads, with the goal of making clear to the American public who is funding these online ads and to inhibit foreign actors from purchasing them.
“I’ve been to every nook and cranny of our region. I’ve never spoken with anyone – anywhere – who thought elected officials should be able to use their public office for personal profit. I’ve never spoken to anyone – anywhere – who believes that elected officials should be able interfere in independent investigations or punish whistleblowers. I’ve never spoken to anyone – anywhere – who thinks we should allow foreign countries to interfere in our elections – and that’s why I’m proud that the Honest Ads Act is included in this legislation. Addressing these issues is what the Protecting Our Democracy Act is all about,” said Rep. Kilmer. “Our government should work for the American people. That’s why it’s important for Congress to root out corruption, strengthen our systems of checks and balances, and prevent foreign interference in our elections. I’m thrilled that the House has passed this bill – and I’ll keep pushing to get it signed into law.”
The Protecting Our Democracy Act was first introduced during the 116th Congress and reflects Congress’ determination to restore the guardrails of our democratic systems. This year, the bill also stands as the third pillar of the 117th Congress’ efforts to protect, support, and restore America’s democratic systems — complementing both H.R. 1, the For the People Act, and H.R. 4, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
Among other things, the Protecting Our Democracy Act will:
- Prevent the abuse of presidential pardons.
- Suspend the statute of limitations on federal crimes committed by a president or vice president.
- Enforce the Emoluments Clauses to keep federal officials from profiting off their service.
- Establish tools to enforce Congressional subpoenas and ensure federal officials remain accountable to the elected representatives sent to DC by the American people.
- Reassert Congress’ power of the purse by limiting the ability for the president to unilaterally substitute their own funding decisions for those of the Congress.
- Limit Presidential declarations of emergencies to ensure that they cannot unilaterally or unjustly set aside many of the legal limits of their authority.
- Prevent political interference in the work of the Justice Department.
- Protect the independence of inspectors general and require documentation of cause before an IG may be removed.
- Protect whistleblowers to ensure federal employees can lawfully disclose abuses of power.
- Strengthen the Hatch Act, the law limiting certain political activities of federal employees, to provide stronger enforcement and penalties for violations.
- Take steps to prevent foreign interference in American elections.
The Honest Ads Act, which was included in H.R. 1 and which passed the House of Representatives earlier this year, was first introduced by Rep. Kilmer in the 115th Congress. According to multiple intelligence reports, foreign adversaries have attempted to influence American elections by buying and placing political ads on online digital platforms. The identity of the purchaser(s) and developer(s) of the content for those online advertisements remain 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 disclosure and transparency rules as ads sold on TV, radio, and satellite platforms.
The Honest Ads Act proposes improving disclosure requirements for online political advertisements by:
- Amending the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002’s definition of electioneering communication to include paid Internet and digital advertisements.
- Requiring digital platforms with at least 50,000,000 monthly viewers to maintain a public file of all electioneering communications purchased by a person or group who spends more than $500.00 total on ads published on their platform. The file would contain a digital copy of the advertisement, a description of the audience the advertisement targets, the number of views generated, the dates and times of publication, the rates charged, and the contact information of the purchaser.
- Requiring online platforms to make all reasonable efforts to ensure that foreign individuals and entities are not purchasing political advertisements in order to influence the American electorate.
“Bad domestic and foreign actors having the ability to use dark money through online ads to influence our democracy silences the voice of American voters. We need the Honest Ads Act to improve online political ad disclosure requirements and protect our elections from sabotage and foreign interference,” said End Citizens United | Let America Vote Action Fund President Tiffany Muller. “We applaud Congressman Kilmer’s leadership on this commonsense, bipartisan legislation and thank him for his hard work to include it in the Protecting Our Democracy Act.”
“Online political ad regulation is critical to maintaining a healthy and well-informed democracy. During the last three federal elections, we have seen foreign agents and bad actors interfere through the internet and social media by purchasing anonymous online advertisements,” said CREW President Noah Bookbinder. “The Honest Ads Act would bring transparency to online political ads and stop abusive practices by applying the same disclosure requirements we demand of TV and print ads to online advertising.”