The Federal Election Commission will vote today on whether lawmakers can use leftover campaign cash to secure their personal tech devices and email accounts against hackers. The proposal, from Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), comes amid rising concern that Kremlin-linked hackers are targeting the personal email accounts and other data of lawmakers and their office and campaign staffs. Hacked information from those personal accounts could be used for blackmail or as a jumping-off point to break into email accounts for campaigns, congressional offices or even federal agencies. More importantly, hackers could strategically release hacked information to upend a political campaign, as Russia did with hacked emails from the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee in 2016, or to sway a political or policy debate.
The proposal is based on a similar FEC advisory opinion from 2017 that determined members of Congress could use leftover campaign funds to upgrade physical security systems at their homes, such as installing cameras, sensors and locks.
“Given the growing cybersecurity threats posed by foreign governments hacking the personal accounts and devices of elected officials, it is common sense to permit these same funds to be spent on cybersecurity as well,” Wyden told me in an email.
A cybersecurity firm told Wyden’s office this year that one of the Russian government hacking groups that breached the DNC was also targeting the personal email accounts of senators and Senate staff, according to a September letter Wyden sent to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and leaders of the Senate Rules Committee. Wyden did not name the cybersecurity company.