As tech companies and government agencies prepare to defend against possible Russian interference in the midterm elections, the Federal Election Commission has a different response: too soon. The four commissioners on Thursday deadlocked, again, on proposals to consider new rules, for example, for foreign-influenced U.S. corporations and for politically active entities that don’t disclose their donors. “We have reason to think there are foreign actors who are looking for every single avenue to try and influence our elections,” said Commissioner Ellen Weintraub, a Democrat who offered two proposals for new regulations. Both proposals failed on partisan 2-2 votes.
The FEC is debating the question in the shadow of several investigations of Russian election interference, which included an alleged $1.2 million-per-month campaign to place anonymous, socially divisive ads on prominent Internet platforms. Facebook is imposing new policies to eliminate anonymous advertisers. The FEC is developing rules for disclaimer labels on campaign and issue ads that appear online.
Weintraub invoked an investigation by the Senate intelligence committee to argue her own agency should do more. Committee chair Richard Burr, R-N.C., said last week, “There is no doubt that Russia undertook an unprecedented effort” in the elections. Ranking Democrat Mark Warner, R-Va., said “we have to do a better job” of protecting U.S. elections from foreign interference.