Federal Election Commissioner Ellen Weintraub today told her fellow Commissioners that the FEC must  “respond forcefully” to reports of foreign attempts to influence the 2016 election. As she explained, “This is an all-hands-on-deck moment for our democracy.” Unfortunately, despite the rare full house at the FEC open meeting that was scheduled to discuss this, the FEC decided to postpone discussion until a later meeting.

This is a critical issue that the FEC cannot ignore. In December 2016 (as amended in May and June 2017), we filed a complaint before the Commission seeking immediate investigation of potential violations of federal campaign finance laws by the Russian Government and, potentially, President Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.  We’ve also published a special report that summarizes the state of the evidence regarding Russian government efforts to influence the 2016 election and potential Trump campaign coordination with these efforts. Then earlier in June, we launched FECMustInvestigate.org, a public demand for the FEC to act, which led to the delivery of 200,000 signatures to the FEC demanding that it investigate these activities.

Commissioner Weintraub’s memorandum today called on the FEC to take six steps: seek assistance from other government agencies, including closed-door briefings, such as the Department of Justice and the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network; review whether the Commission’s enforcement program needs further resources to handle foreign electoral influence activities; beef up, as necessary, the FEC’s own data integrity against foreign hacking; address the corporate loophole by which foreign-influenced corporations can spend money in U.S. elections (a loophole that Free Speech For People is working to address through local and state law since the FEC has not acted); determine whether new rulemaking is needed; and make legislative recommendations to Congress.

She concludes with a quote from a Newsweek opinion piece by Free Speech For People’s Legal Director Ron Fein and former CIA lawyer and federal prosecutor Julian Schreibman:

The allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 election … represents the greatest threat to the integrity of our elections that the nation has ever seen. So if the FEC can rise to the challenge, this could be its finest hour.

The FEC spent virtually the entire meeting discussing an unrelated topic before adjourning. But these issues are not going away. In a striking contrast, on the same morning that the Federal Election Commission decided not to even discuss foreign interference in U.S. elections, the City Council of St. Petersburg, Florida voted 5-3 to advance an innovative ordinance that would push back against political spending by foreign-influenced corporations. If Washington won’t step up to protect our elections from foreign interference, then cities and states will have to do it themselves.

Commissioner Weintraub memo on Commission's Response to Foreign Election Interference.pdf (720 downloads )