March 9, 2018

FEC Must Not Shirk Its Responsibility to Prevent Russian Meddling in Our Elections

Statement of Craig Holman, Government Affairs Lobbyist, Public Citizen’s Congress Watch Division

Note: The Federal Election Commission’s Republican Chair Caroline Hunter said on Thursday that rules aimed at preventing foreign influence on U.S. elections through greater disclosure of online political ad sponsors might not take effect before the 2018 midterms.

Russian cyber operations to meddle in the 2018 elections are already gearing up, but it looks like the Federal Election Commission (FEC) once again won’t be there to do anything about it.

Despite the fact that online campaign advertising has skyrocketed 2,000 percent since 2014, the hopelessly deadlocked FEC has failed to implement effective disclosure rules for digital advertising. This meant that in the 2016 elections, voters were inundated with online campaign messages from undisclosed, and even misleading, sources. Russia had a field day secretly playing in our elections, and the Russian activity was only a small part of the widespread online electioneering mischief.

Republican commissioners on the FEC finally have recognized that their reluctance to impose disclosure rules on digital campaign advertisements helped make Russian meddling possible. They are waking up to the need to change course. But not now, not “in the middle of the election season,” says Republican FEC Chair Caroline Hunter.

Russia and dark money organizations may sigh in relief, but Americans should not. Online campaign advertising is expected to amount to 22 percent of all campaign ads in the 2018 election, and voters need to know who is paying for all that advertising now – not after the damage is done.

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