They've repeatedly tried and failed to impose regulations on
Internet political communications, possibily even media sites like the
Drudge Report, but congressional testimony that unnamed Russians spent
$100,000 for politically themed ads on Facebook is sparking a new bid by Democrats on the Federal Election Commission.
Commissioner Ellen Weintraub and former FEC Chairwoman Ann Ravel
quickly reacted to reports on the Russian ads targeting voters, using
their favorite social media tool – Twitter – to indicate their new
"Oh, that's not good," tweeted Weintraub. "I wholeheartedly agree,"
responded Ravel to a series of tweets that included the Russia influence
Weintraub also demanded that the FEC address the issue of "internet political communications" at its next meeting on Sept. 14.
Facebook's involvement and proof of Russian spending on political ads
could give Democratic FEC critics of the freewheeling Internet the case
Republicans on the FEC have claimed for years that the Democrats have
been focused on the Internet in part because they want to silence
conservative outlets like the Drudge Report, conservative videos, and
But the Facebook revelation and huge amount of money involved should
give the Democrats a new weapon in their fight to regulate spending on
Internet sites beyond paid advocacy. Under current rules, paid online
ads that say, for example, "Vote For" or "Vote Against," are regulated.
The so-called Internet freedom rule, however, exempts free Internet
posts and advocacy by third parties.
Ravel, who is still influential in the campaign to regulate Internet
spending, signaled in another tweet her support for a national campaign
to pressure Congress to expand FEC rules to cover online campaigns.
"And it's becoming more and more important," she tweeted, "as all forms of campaigning moves to the internet."
Then late Thursday, Weintraub pushed further on Twitter, promising
more action on the politically split FEC. "We're *very* late on this.
Don't know why @FEC GOPers have obstructed us for months, but I'm not
done fighting. Stay tuned," she wrote.
She attached her demand that the issue be discussed next week to a
tweet that read, "So I'm putting it to a vote at @FEC: Do the American
people deserve to know who's paying for the political info they see on
Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at email@example.com