Overnight Regulation: Dems ask FEC for new rules on online political ads | California cities sue oil companies over climate change | DOJ to start paying Madoff fraud victims

Welcome to Overnight Regulation, your daily rundown of news from the federal agencies, Capitol Hill, the courts and beyond. It's Wednesday night, and Congress is out of session the rest of this week for Rosh Hashana. Senate Republicans next week, though, are aiming to vote on their last-ditch ObamaCare repeal bill.

 

THE BIG STORY

Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday asked the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to establish new rules for online advertising platforms that would prevent foreign spending to influence U.S. elections.

The move comes after Facebook provided information to Congress and special counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the FBI's investigation into Russia's election interference, about Russian ad purchases during the 2016 campaign.

ADVERTISEMENT

"The recent revelations that foreign nationals with suspected ties to the Russian government sought to influence the 2016 election through social media advertisements are deeply concerning and demand a response," 20 House and Senate Democrats wrote in the letter.

Why does this matter? Facebook said it sold thousands of political ads over the past two years to fake accounts based in Russia. The social network estimated that 470 such accounts, which have since been suspended, spent about $100,000 on close to 3,000 ads in 2016.

Cristina Marcos has more here.

  

REG ROUNDUP

Telecom: Opponents of Sinclair Broadcast Group's proposed acquisition of Tribune Media are calling on Senate Democrats to put a hold on the reconfirmation of Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai.

A coalition of groups consisting of Allied Progress, Credo Action, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and Latino Victory is urging Democrats to block a vote on Pai's reconfirmation until Congress holds a hearing on the Sinclair-Tribune deal.

The deal has sparked opposition from various sides, including Democrats, public-interest groups, cable companies and even rival conservative media outlets. The critics worry that the deal, which would further solidify Sinclair's standing as the nation's largest owner of local television stations, could stifle independent media outlets.

Harper Neidig has more here.

 

Environment: San Francisco and Oakland, Calif., are suing five major oil companies, blaming them for the effects of climate change.

The cities announced Wednesday they each filed a lawsuit in their respective county courts against Chevron Corp., ConocoPhillips Co., ExxonMobil Corp., Royal Dutch Shell and BP.

The lawsuits by two of California's largest cities add to an emerging legal strategy to try to hold individual fossil fuel companies responsible for rising sea levels, extreme weather and other effects of human-induced climate change.

The attorneys cite company and industry documents they say show oil companies knew about the risks of climate change caused by fossil fuel emissions, but chose to publicly sow doubts about.

Timothy Cama has more here.

 

Finance: The Justice Department will begin compensating the victims of Bernie Madoff's multibillion dollar Ponzi scheme in the next few months, Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) announced on Wednesday.

Buchanan said he got a response this week to a letter he wrote to Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsFederal judge rules Trump defunding sanctuary cities 'unconstitutional on its face' FBI informant gathered years of evidence on Russian push for US nuclear fuel deals, including Uranium One, memos show Alabama election has GOP racing against the clock MORE in May complaining that victims had yet to see a dime from the $4 billion victim fund that was created in 2012.

Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd told Buchanan in a letter dated Sept. 18 that the Justice Department "is poised to issue initial distributions from the Assets Forfeiture Fund by the end of 2017" and that victims whose petitions have been approved have been notified.

Lydia Wheeler has the full story here.

 

Cybersecurity: The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and a slew of other advocacy groups are warning U.S. lawmakers not to get behind a proposal from the Justice Department that would allow some foreign governments to obtain electronic data directly from U.S. communications providers.

The proposal, which has been floated by the Justice Department since last year, is aimed at allowing foreign law enforcement swifter access to data on non-U.S. persons for relevant investigations on the basis that they meet certain requirements.

Currently, foreign governments seeking data stored by companies inside the U.S. follow processes laid out in what are called mutual legal assistance treaties, or MLATs. Under the current process, the Justice Department vets individual requests and, in the event it finds the standards are met, seeks an order from a U.S. court to provide access to the communications.

Read the story from The Hill's Morgan Chalfant here.

 

Environment: Former Secretary of State John KerryJohn Forbes KerryTrump's dangerous Guantánamo fixation will fuel fire for terrorists Tech beefs up lobbying amid Russia scrutiny Overnight Tech: Senate Dems want FCC chief recused from Sinclair merger | Tech rallies on Capitol Hill for DACA | Facebook beefs up lobbying ranks MORE hit President Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement as "political" and one that "forfeited American leadership" on climate change.

The agreement, Kerry said, was "not a real estate deal that transpired in a matter of days or weeks or even months," noting the lengthy negotiations that went into the deal.

"No burden was placed on the United States other than what we in United States defined for ourselves," Kerry said, pushing back on Trump's contention that the agreement is unfair to the U.S.

Devin Henry has the story here.

 

Environment: The Environmental Protection Agency is pulling EPA law enforcement officers away from other duties to protect Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittMy freedom is on the line to fight climate change, more will follow Sessions: DOJ prohibited from issuing guidance that creates new rules Overnight Regulation: Senators unveil bipartisan gun background check bill | FCC rolls back media regs | Family leave credit added to tax bill | Senate confirms banking watchdog MORE, according to a new report.

Officers from outside Washington have had to serve two-week stints on Pruitt's security detail since he started at the EPA in February, taking them away from environmental crime responsibilities, The Washington Post reported Wednesday, citing current and former employees.

Unlike his predecessors, Pruitt has around-the-clock security that requires of team of up to 18 officers, the Post reported.

The EPA spent more than $800,000 in a three-month period on Pruitt's security earlier this year, and has requested more funding for the operations. Officials have also sought an exception to the administration-wide hiring freeze for Pruitt's detail.

Read Timothy Cama's report here.

 

ELSEWHERE IN THE NEWS:

Upheaval at the top of Guggenheim, as SEC scrutinizes investment powerhouse (The Wall Street Journal)

CFPB says in memo it could have pursued $10 billion penalty vs. Wells Fargo (The Wall Street Journal)

Chemical industry ally faces critics in bid for top EPA post (The New York Times)

 

Send tips, story ideas and your puppy pictures to nweixel@thehill.com and follow me on Twitter @NateWeixel