FILE - In this June 11, 2014, file photo, a man walks past a mural in an office on the Facebook campus (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File) (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

FEC official seeks to investigate claims Russia bought anti-Clinton ads on Facebook

FEC Commissioner Ellen Weintraub hopes to convince Republicans who control the agency to expand the ongoing probe

Matthew Rozsa
May 23, 2017 9:56PM (UTC)

If Russian agents spent money on Facebook ads to spread anti-Hillary Clinton stories during the 2016 presidential election, FEC Commissioner Ellen Weintraub wants to know about it.

After reading a recent article in Time Magazine which claimed that American intelligence had proof of Russian agents spending money on the aforementioned Facebook ads, Weintraub became curious, according to a report by Politico. Because the agency is already investigating a complaint filed in December by two watchdog groups, Free Speech for People and the Campaign for Accountability, against President Donald Trump and the Russian government, the information from the Time article could wind up playing a role in that ongoing investigation.

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"I think there is potential there for finding a violation, but I don’t want to suggest that I have prejudged anything that could potentially come before me," Weintraub told Politico.

She later added, "If there are U.S. citizens involved in any way in spending foreign money to influence a U.S. election, then that would be something that we could and should pursue."

This isn't to say that the case would be an easy one for the FEC. Because three of the commission's six members are Republicans (two are Democrats and one seat remains vacant), it could be difficult to convince them to pursue a case against a president from their own party. Four members must vote that they believe a violation may have taken place before the agency can issue subpoenas, begin negotiating civil penalties or refer criminal charges to the Department of Justice.


In addition, Facebook told Time that it didn't have proof that Russian agents purchased ads on their site.

Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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