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The Omnibus Spending Bill included $380 million in grant funding to help states secure election systems. If this were truly an urgent concern, why wasn’t it given higher legislative priority like the increase in defense spending?

In 2003, I married, graduated college and flew halfway around the world with my husband to serve for two years in the United States Peace Corps in the Republic of Moldova. It was a deeply rewarding and difficult experience. Moldova was one of the former Soviet states where Russian influence loomed large. I have seen, up close, the damage that can be done by unchecked external interference in elections.

The damage in Moldovan society took the form of twin maladies that ate away at the country’s strength: apathy and corruption. Many Moldovans I worked with felt their elections didn’t matter because their government was corrupt beyond repair. Russia controlled much of what they saw, read and heard in the media, carefully crafting an image of authority and power. I remember being present during a Moldovan election where Russia did not allow the media to host debates between candidates until after Election Day.

Russia’s meddling inside Moldova’s borders, both cyber and physical, fed apathy and corruption, resulting in a strain on the foundations of their electoral system. Starting to sound familiar?

My Moldovan experience is one reason I am so deeply concerned about Russian interference in our democratic institutions and in our elections. Utahns and all Americans need representation in Congress that takes seriously the modern, complex threats currently shaking our democracy. Our freedom is tied to our faith in our intelligence community, our national security and our elections. The strength of our democracy should not be subject to politics. It is not a progressive issue. It is not a conservative issue. It is an American issue.

Rep. Chris Stewart, the incumbent I am challenging, was recently in Salt Lake City. He held a security summit where he said there is a sense of urgency to stop Russian meddling in the upcoming midterms, but he went on to say, “Maybe we’ll be surprised (by the Russians) in ways we don’t really anticipate right now.” Utahns deserve representation that supports our intelligence community, rather than undermining their efforts, so we are not “surprised” come November.

The omnibus spending bill included $380 million in grant funding to help states secure election systems. If this were truly an urgent concern, why wasn’t it given higher legislative priority like the increase in defense spending? More concerning, this ignores the threats to our country from dark money in politics and breaches in our personal, private data and discounts our ability to actively counter foreign interference in our elections.

I will prioritize cybersecurity, data protection and supporting our intelligence community and the Department of Justice in their ongoing efforts to defend our democracy. False news stories and coordinated social media campaigns by foreign governments that manipulate our elections need swift action, and I am concerned about the lethargic and misguided response taken by this administration and the House Intelligence Committee.

6 comments on this story

We must reform campaign finance so elections cannot be funded by secret money. I am proud to say that each of my campaign’s over 700 donors has a name and a face. I have not accepted one cent from a corporate PAC. There are solutions to these complexities, but they deserve clarity and leadership in the preservation of our American democracy.

It is time to ensure that our elections are decided by the people, by you — not corporate donors, billionaires or foreign governments. I don’t want to see what “surprises” Congress allows to influence our elections. I want to protect them.