The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

NRCC blows off DCCC request to team up against foreign hackers

The National Republican Congressional Committee dismissed as a “political stunt” a letter from its counterpart, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, asking for the two parties to team up on combating hacking ahead of the 2018 election.

“This letter was delivered by an intern and immediately leaked to the press to generate attention around a cheap political stunt,” National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Jesse Hunt said. “Cybersecurity is a high priority for us and has been for some time now. Unfortunately, the DCCC made it clear they’re more interested in trying to score political points than actually thwarting interference.”

DCCC Communications Director Meredith Kelly quickly hit back. “This is a disturbingly flippant response to a simple request that we set partisan politics aside and work together to better protect our elections from foreign adversaries and their cyberattacks,” she told The Washington Post.

The letter, first reported in The Post and dated July 10, was credited to Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), the DCCC chairman. Luján also chaired the DCCC in the 2016 cycle, when hackers repeatedly accessed DCCC emails and came away with in-house opposition research on candidates. After an initial hack that revealed personal information about members of Congress, Guccifer 2.0 shopped around the stolen oppo — some of which ended up in NRCC attack ads, more of it winding up in negative media coverage of the campaigns.

“We must work together this cycle as proud Americans — not as Democrats or Republicans — to protect against future attacks,” Luján wrote in the July 10 letter. “Specifically, I ask that we convene in the near future to discuss how to best establish a united front against foreign governments and collaborate with DHS, the FBI and other institutions to protect our elections. By the year’s end, we should establish a joint plan to protect our committees and keep foreign adversaries and criminal actors out of our elections.”

The NRCC’s response made clear that the Republican group, coming off a string of special-election victories, viewed the offer as a cheap headline. Luján, according to a source familiar with the DCCC’s request, saw Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio), the NRCC chairman, twice during the period between the letter and the dismissive statement, and the letter was not brought up. Meanwhile, the NRCC’s West Coast spokesman spent part of the week knocking down an attorney’s claim that Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) had benefited from Russian money.

“It’s sad Democrat Party hacks are resorting to conspiracy theories to smear Republican congressmen,” NRCC spokesman Jack Pandol told the Orange County Weekly.