On November 1, 2017, Public Citizen and Free Speech For People submitted a letter to the Federal Election Commission urging it to draft new rules to require online political advertisements to identify who’s behind the ads, and suggesting a framework for new rules. Others filed similar supportive comments in the days that followed. And on November 16, 2017, the Federal Election Commission voted to start drafting new rules for disclaimers for paid Internet and digital advertisements. We commend the Commission for starting this process, and look forward to reviewing draft rules in the coming months.
But the Commission cannot stop with this rulemaking. The Commission must also address the pending enforcement complaint that Free Speech For People and the Campaign for Accountability filed against the Russian government and the Trump campaign in December 2016 (and amended in May and June 2017). That complaint alleges violations of the Federal Election Campaign Act through digital advertisements (including on Facebook) and social media postings paid for by the Russian government, in possible coordination with the Trump campaign.
The complaint is approaching its one-year anniversary. And the Commission is well aware of the high public interest in this complaint: besides the formal legal filings, we (in partnership with Rootstrikers and CREDO Action) also delivered more than 200,000 petition signatures to the Commission calling on the agency to immediately investigate whether Russian agents and the Trump campaign violated federal campaign finance laws during the 2016 campaign.
The stakes for the integrity of our elections and our democracy could not be higher, and the Commission needs to act now.