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Potential California Law: Campaign Cash for Secure Devices?

Political candidates in California would be able to use campaign funds to help secure their office computers and personal devices if a new bill introduced by a state legislator becomes law.

Under the proposed bill, candidates could also allocate campaign funds to secure devices used by staffers, pay for security-related hardware and software purchases and hire consultants, such as managed security service providers, to bulk up security. (via the Washington Post)

Some of the impetus for the bill, authored by California State Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin (D-Thousand Oaks), comes from hacks last summer on two California political campaigns and from the high-profile cyber attacks that beset the 2016 Presidential election. Should the bill become law, it would be the first of its kind among the states.

The proposed bill has gained the backing of California Secretary of State Alex Padilla. “We saw what this cyber threat looks like on a big public level in 2016,” Padilla told the WP. He plans to urge election officials in other states to consider similar legislation.

“California loves being first,” Padilla said, as the WP reported. “As the bill goes through the process here I’ll be meeting with other secretaries of state…to talk about the California experience and urge them to consider the same.” Irwin also intends to promote the bill at the National Conference of State Legislatures’ Task Force on Cybersecurity in June.

Late last summer, hackers hit the campaigns of Congressional candidates Dave Min and Hans Keirstead, both Democrats who subsequently failed win spots in the primary to dislodge Republican incumbents from Orange County seats. While attackers weren’t able to get at confidential information in either instance, Padilla apparently took it as a wake up call, issuing a set of recommendations candidates could use to help lock down their campaigns, including installing software updates and rapid response to incidents, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“If there’s activity that causes voter confusion or undermines people’s confidence in electoral process, that is a concern for me,” Padilla said at the time.

A year ago, Congress designated $380 million to help states bolster election security measures such as protecting voter rolls, upgrading computer systems and boosting cyber security training. But politicians running in campaigns weren’t authorized to use the funds to protect their own devices.

A Federal Election Commission ruling approved in December allowed members of Congress to use overflow campaign funds to protect their personal devices once they are seated.

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