House Dems push FEC for tougher action on foreign election meddling

House Dems push FEC for tougher action on foreign election meddling
© Keren Carrion

House Democrats are pushing the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) to take more aggressive action in curbing foreign influence in U.S. elections.

Eighteen members of Congress led by Democracy Reform Task Force Chair Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) urged the FEC in a letter on Thursday to treat political advertisements on social media platforms in the same way that it treats TV or radio ads.

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Sarbanes and company argued that with such measures in place, foreign manipulation of social media platforms during the 2016 U.S. election would not have happened. 

“There is reason to believe that if we had a more effective disclaimer regime for political internet advertisements during the 2016 election cycle, a portion of the illicit foreign campaign spending might have been prevented,” the lawmakers wrote.

In October, the FEC asked for the public to weigh in on its disclosure rules for online political advertisements. The agency said it would consider that input for future guidelines for digital advertisements.

The lawmakers praised the agency’s decision to pursue guidelines, but said that they also wanted “separate, broader rulemaking that addresses head-on the topic of illicit foreign activity in U.S. elections."

Sarbanes, along with Sen. Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichElection Countdown: What to watch in final primaries | Dems launch M ad buy for Senate races | Senate seats most likely to flip | Trump slump worries GOP | Koch network's new super PAC Rand Paul endorses Gary Johnson's Senate bid The Hill's Morning Report — Trump’s legal jeopardy mounts after Manafort, Cohen felony counts MORE (D-N.M.), had previously lead a coalition of lawmakers in September in calling for the FEC to take action to prevent foreign governments from influencing the U.S. political process. The move followed revelations that Russian actors had purchased 3,000 political ads on Facebook during the election.

Lawmakers are also giving the issue legislative attention. Sens. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharSenate Democrats increase pressure for FBI investigation of Kavanaugh Election Countdown: Trump confident about midterms in Hill.TV interview | Kavanaugh controversy tests candidates | Sanders, Warren ponder if both can run | Super PACs spending big | Two states open general election voting Friday | Latest Senate polls GOP in striking distance to retake Franken seat MORE (D-Minn.) and Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerRussia docs order sets Trump on collision with intel community Hillicon Valley: North Korean IT firm hit with sanctions | Zuckerberg says Facebook better prepared for midterms | Big win for privacy advocates in Europe | Bezos launches B fund to help children, homeless Bipartisan trio asks US intelligence to investigate ‘deepfakes’ MORE (D-Va.) introduced the Honest Ads Act last month, which aims to hold digital platforms to the same political advertising standards as TV and radio stations.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said during the Senate Judiciary Hearing last week probing tech firms' action against Russian manipulation of their platforms, that he was taking steps to introduce his own legislation on the matter that would go even further than the Honest Ads Act, but did not offer specifics.