Political campaigns have routinely recruited foreign entities to assist in their research on opposing candidates. This is confirmed by the actions of Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2016, which as a Politico investigation uncovered, enlisted Ukrainian officials for political assistance.
“Ukrainian government officials tried to help Hillary Clinton and undermine Trump… and they helped Clinton’s allies research damaging information on Trump and his advisers.”
Researching and digging up potentially damaging material on an opponent is a strategy as old as politics itself. Both sides of the aisle, Democrats and Republicans, have resorted to using this kind of research to undermine their opponents. I believe this practice can be acceptable, if undertaken in a way that is compatible with the applicable laws on this issue.
The chairwoman of the Federal Election Commission, Ellen Weintraub, stated earlier this year: “It is illegal for any person to solicit, accept, or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election.” The term in question, however, is “anything of value.” Legal experts, such as Stanford Law School professor Robert Weisberg and UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh, have argued the term “anything of value” would necessitate a quantifiable value, and because information does not have a quantifiable value, it would be acceptable legally by current law. Professor Volokh has gone even further and stated, “I’m inclined to think that even a narrow statute barring American campaigns from receiving very high level and sensitive information from foreign governments would be unconstitutional.”