Dems call on FCC to investigate Kremlin-run news agency’s influence in election

Dems call on FCC to investigate Kremlin-run news agency’s influence in election
© Greg Nash

Three Democratic House members are calling on Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai to investigate the role of the Russian government-run radio network Sputnik in the 2016 presidential election.

In a letter to Pai on Monday, Reps. Anna EshooAnna Georges EshooHillicon Valley: Court rejects Chelsea Manning appeal | Facebook hires lawyer who helped write Patriot Act | Senator seeks details on Russian interference in Florida | Amazon hiring alcohol lobbyist | Ex-Obama aide lobbying for Sprint, T-Mobile merger Former Obama aide lobbying for T-Mobile-Sprint merger T-Mobile merger poses more questions than answers MORE (D-Calif.), Mike DoyleMichael (Mike) F. DoyleHouse votes to reinstate Obama-era net neutrality rules House panel approves bill reinstating net neutrality rules House Dems plan April vote on net neutrality bill MORE (D-Pa.) and Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) argue that Sputnik may have been used as part of the Kremlin's efforts to meddle in the election and urge Pai to evaluate whether the radio network's broadcast license is serving the public interest.

"In Washington, D.C., listeners need only tune their radios to 105.5 FM to hear the Russian government’s effort to influence U.S. policy,” the letter reads. "Disturbingly, this means the Kremlin’s propaganda messages are being broadcast over a license granted by the FCC."

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Under the 1934 Communications Act, the FCC is charged with ensuring that broadcasters licensed in the U.S. act in the public interest.

In their letter, Eshoo, Doyle and Pallone contend that, if Sputnik was used by the Russian government to influence the 2016 election, it constitutes a clear violation of the U.S. public interest.

Eshoo and Doyle signed onto a similar letter to Pai in May, expressing concern about the Russian government-funded RT cable network.

"Sputnik's alleged role in the Russian campaign to influence the 2016 election raises the same concerns and violates the public interest by giving a foreign government a microphone to spread propaganda," the letter reads.

The U.S. intelligence community concluded in a report made public in January that the Russian government sought to sway the 2016 election through an influence and hacking campaign.

The Kremlin has denied the allegations. Multiple congressional committees are investigating the matter, and special counsel Robert Mueller, who was appointed in May, is conducting a criminal probe into the allegations.