The two men leading each party’s House campaign committees will meet Thursday to discuss the use of hacked materials in campaigns, they said at a Wall Street Journal/NBC News event Thursday morning.
“We want to try to figure out if there’s a way to come together on all this stuff,” National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Steve Stivers of Ohio said at the event at the Newseum that featured the chairmen of the House and Senate campaign committees.
But they appeared divided over the use of hacked materials, and who actually called for the meeting.
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico said campaigns, candidates and outside groups should not use materials in campaigns.
“There should be no use of stolen materials, of hacked materials, especially when it comes to foreign adversaries in any of our campaigns,” Luján said.
“If in fact, we don’t send a clear message to everybody that these stolen materials and hacked materials are not going to be used … that’s going to encourage people to steal this stuff and put it out,” Luján said.
The DCCC was hacked by Russian actors and research on Democratic candidates was stolen from the committee. The breach was part of a broader hack into the Democratic National Committee, which is in the same building as the DCCC. The New York Times reported that information stolen in the hack impacted roughly a dozen House races in 2016.
The NRCC and the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with House GOP leadership, used internal memos from the hack in advertisements in a Florida House race.
Stivers agreed campaigns should not use false or doctored materials in campaign ads but differed from Luján when it came to not using hacked materials that are in the public sphere.
“Once something’s in the public domain I’m not sure if you can say, ‘Everybody let’s just ignore it,’” Stivers said. “This is out there. But I think we need to do more to protect all of our assets.”
“I’m not going to run down one of my candidates who are using something that’s in the public if it’s out there,” Stivers later said. “But I do think we all need to fact-check the things we do and make sure we’re not pushing false and untrue materials.”
Stivers and Luján also had a bit of a tense exchange over what led to their Thursday meeting.
Luján sent a letter to Stivers last July asking to meet in the near future to discuss how to collaborate with federal agencies. He also said they should develop a plan to protect the committees and deter foreign interference in elections by the end of 2017.
But that meeting never happened, Stivers said, because Democrats dropped it.
“Ironically Ben’s been pushing this in the media, talking about this a lot,” Stiver said. “He said he wanted to get together and they dropped it. I had to bring it back up to him.”
“Steve,” Luján began to interject. “You texted me and said, ‘Don’t litigate this out in the media’ and I respected that.”
Stivers again said he brought up the meeting after DCCC staff did not reach out to his staff. Luján said they had been cooperating with the NRCC.
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