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Parties' leaders divided over the use of stolen campaign materials

Will the major parties put materials stolen by foreign adversaries to use during the 2018 campaigns?
A person man uses a laptop. (Karl-Josef Hildenbrand/dpa/AP)
A person man uses a laptop.

About a year ago, with U.S. intelligence officials warning of future foreign attacks on American elections, the Washington Post's Greg Sargent reported on a formal request from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to its Republican counterpart, seeking a "united front." Specifically, the DCCC hoped to create a "joint plan" against any Russian efforts to undermine the 2018 midterm elections.

Republicans rejected the outreach, questioning the Dems' sincerity.

About a month ago, Democrats gave this another try, but a spokesperson for the National Republican Congressional Committee told The Atlantic that the party hadn't responded due to a lack of "trust."

CNN reported yesterday that the debate isn't over.

The heads of the House Democratic and Republican campaign arms clashed Thursday over whether their candidates should use hacked emails and documents in midterm races this fall.Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said campaigns should "absolutely not" use those materials against opponents "in any form or fashion."But his counterpart at the National Republican Congressional Committee, Rep. Steve Stivers, said he wouldn't "run down one of my candidates for using something that's in the public domain."

The trouble, of course, is about creating incentives for theft.

If the parties agreed not to use materials stolen by foreign adversaries -- say, Russia, to pick a country at random -- then thieves hoping to influence our elections might make less of an effort in this area. But if Russians had confidence that they could steal materials, push them into "the public domain," and have Republicans use the information to win elections, this would encourage them to commit more crimes.

In fairness, this was not the lawmakers' final word on the subject. At the event hosted by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal, Stivers added, "We want to try to figure out if there's a way to come together on all this stuff," and he and Lujan were scheduled to meet later in the day to explore possible options. (They disagreed, naturally, on who initiated the meeting.)

As best as I can tell, the two haven't reached any kind of agreement, at least not yet. Watch this space.