by Alexander Paul, Planet Free Will:
Conservative news outlets like Infowars, Breitbart and the Drudge Report could soon be facing an inquisition from the FEC for coordinating with the Russians to blitz the realm of social media with deceptive anti-Clinton stories that effectively could have influenced the 2016 presidential election.
This could happen if top Federal Election Commission Democrat, Ellen Weintraub, is able to get her way during this Thursday’s FEC meeting.
The Washington Examiner reports:
The plan, set for discussion at Thursday’s FEC meeting, could open the door to political subpoenas targeting the websites, their editorial news decisions, and their owners, maybe even Matt Drudge and Alex Jones, according to an expert analysis.
In her effort targeting foreign influence in federal and state elections, Commissioner Ellen Weintraub would probe spending by overseas sources and even partially-foreign-owned U.S. firms on campaigns, including their media buys. Foreign influence is illegal in elections.
She said that tackling foreign influence in elections could be the FEC’s finest hour, adding, “I believe that this Commission can indeed rise to the challenge of understanding what happened in the 2016 election and plugging any legal or procedural holes that could allow foreign actors to interfere with our future elections.”
Politico recently reported that “Weintraub’s interest was piqued by an article published last week by Time magazine that revealed intelligence officials had evidence that Russian agents bought Facebook ads to disseminate election-themed stories. It also indicated that congressional investigators were examining whether Russian efforts to spread such content were boosted by two U.S. companies with deep ties to Trump — Breitbart News and Cambridge Analytica.”
The Time Magazine article which influenced Weintraub also pointed to Russian ties to conservative ownership and funding as a potential target of investigators. The report reads, citing McClatchy, “FBI counterintelligence investigators were probing whether far-right sites like Breitbart News and Infowars had coordinated with Russian botnets to blitz social media with anti-Clinton stories, mixing fact and fiction when Trump was doing poorly in the campaign.”
The FEC will decide at this Thursday’s meeting whether or not to investigate websites like the Drudge Report, Infowars, Breitbart, and others on the right for violating election spending rules by allowing advertising on their Facebook pages by Russian entities.
“It’s pretty easy to see how this quickly becomes an inquisition into conservative media outlets,” an elections laws expert and critic of the Weintraub bid told the Washington Examiner.
“Commissioner Weintraub appears to be laying the groundwork to subpoena people at Breitbart, Drudge, and Infowars – maybe even Matt Drudge and Alex Jones themselves,” he added.
Infowars founder Alex Jones responded on Tuesday to the news of Weintraub’s actions by saying that he is under a “criminal espionage investigation by the FBI,” and denied ever taken any money from Russia.
“I have never gotten one scintilla of money from Russia. I’ve never got any directives from Russia,’ Jones said. “This is outrageous! I mean, they want us shut down.”