A member of the Federal Election Commission is calling on the agency to investigate whether Russian agents paid for Facebook ads to spread damaging stories about Hillary Clinton ahead of last fall’s presidential election.
“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,” said FEC Commissioner Ellen Weintraub, a Democratic appointee to the commission.
Her assertion comes as agency staff is already moving to investigate a related complaint filed in December by a pair of watchdog groups against President Donald Trump’s campaign and the Russian government, according to two sources familiar with the agency’s handling of the complaint. They said that, if the investigation proceeds apace, agency staff could be expected to incorporate the recent revelations about Facebook ads into their fact-finding.
Experts suggested that it’s unlikely the FEC would be able to muster the votes to pursue a far-reaching finding against Trump, but they nonetheless see a narrow path for such a case at the FEC. One Republican campaign finance lawyer said that if it could be proven that Russia bought Facebook ads with the intent of boosting Trump, “it would be a serious DOJ criminal issue, and not an FEC administrative issue.”