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Dems ask FEC to create new rules in response to Russian Facebook ads

Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday asked the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to establish new guidelines 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.

"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.

"We are fast approaching the 2018 election cycle. As such, it is imperative the Federal Election Commission begin this effort in earnest," they wrote.

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.

CNN, which first reported on the Democrats' letter, cited Facebook sources saying they expect Congress may try to require disclaimers on online political ads in the future, similar to political television ads.

The Democratic lawmakers suggested that any FEC guidance address how foreign actors can use corporate or nonprofit designations to avoid disclosing political spending; what advertisement platforms can do to prevent foreign campaign activity; and possible changes to disclosure standards for political advertisements.

They asked for a response from the FEC by Oct. 4.

The letter was signed by Democratic Sens. Martin Heinrich (N.M.), Ron Wyden (Ore.), Tom Udall (N.M.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Maggie Hassan (N.H.), Ben Cardin (Md.), Al Franken (Minn.), Jack Reed (R.I.), Ed Markey (Mass.), Chris Van Hollen (Md.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Cory Booker (N.J.), Bob Menendez (N.J.), Catherine Cortez Masto (Nev.), Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) and Kamala Harris (Calif.).

Four House members also signed on: Reps. John Sarbanes (Md.), John Conyers Jr. (Mich.), Elijah Cummings (Md.) and Derek Kilmer (Wash.).

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