A recent article posted by the Huffington Post explored how easy it is for foreign nationals to get around U.S. political laws. The article explores how vulnerable elections in the United States can be to foreign manipulation as demonstrated by Russia’s purported involvement in the 2016 election that elected Donald Trump despite the fact that he lost the popular vote by more than 3 million votes.
End Citizens United, or ECU, feels that the Huffington Post article made many valid points. The organization is committed to many causes that affect the fabric of life in America. These include gun control, election reform, campaign finance reform and opposing the ideas and right-wing policies of the Citizens United organization, which is why the group is called “End Citizens United.” This political-action committee, or PAC, tends to support grassroots causes that fall to the left of the political center. The PAC raises money so that it can fight corporations and billionaires. The Supreme Court decision in Citizens United Vs. F.E.C. established the legal opinion that corporations have the same rights as people, which allowed companies to spend unlimited funds to control American elections.
Russia Uses “Citizens Vs. F.E.C.” Decision to Sway the Presidential Election
The Huffington Post article charges that a Russian Company with direct ties to the Kremlin bought political ads that helped to influence the presidential election in favor of Donald Trump–or caused Hillary Clinton to lose. Although foreign interests are banned from spending money in a U.S. election, laws, oversight and enforcement efforts are ineffective in controlling foreign powers that are determined to meddle. Right-wing politicians and special interest have meddled with U.S. laws by instructing lobbyists to make illegal payoffs, finance their causes with untraceable spending, develop close relationships with senior lawmakers and generally flout the rule of law.
2006: Facebook opened to non-students.
2006: The last time the FEC revised rules re: online political ads. It’s more than time for change.
— End Citizens United (@StopBigMoney) October 31, 2017
Foreign Governments–and a Billionaire–Can Seize the Reins of Government
The Russians used a campaign heavy on innuendo in critical electoral states. A friendly American–Melvin Redick of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania–posted a Facebook link to a new website. Redick purportedly wrote, “These guys show hidden truth about Hillary Clinton, George Soros and other leaders of the US.” Redick further posted on June 8, 2016: “Visit #DCLeaks website. It’s really interesting!”. A subsequent investigation found that there was no “Melvin Redick” in Pennsylvania records. The photo of him in a backward baseball cap with his young daughter apparently originated from a Brazilian who stated that the photo had been borrowed by a friend.
The posted materials on the website included information that was stolen from Americans by Russian Hackers. This material would cast a pall over the Clinton campaign. In the meantime, candidate Trump seemed to work in harmony with this effort by accusing Clinton and the Democrats of planning to steal the election. This charge diverted attention away from the Russian effort to steal the election for their preferred candidate. Russia continued to release information on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms. The investigation by the New York Times revealed how the Russians used social media to propagate anti-Clinton propaganda.
Russia’s Illegal Digital Ad Campaign
Russia apparently spent more than $100,000 on various political and social ads in Facebook that primarily targeted the Democrats and Hillary Clinton. The ads ran for a period of two years according to NBC News. More than 3,000 Facebook ads promoted phony accounts and pages that were subsequently suspended. A CBS News report mentioned that a group calling itself “Secured Borders” publicized an anti-immigration rally in Twin Falls, Idaho.
The Huffington Post article suggested that $100,000 might just be the tip of the iceberg. Legal loopholes and enforcement gridlock allow political supporters to spend without accountability in today’s elections. The Federal Election Commission, or FEC, recently reported that it had 15 pending cases of illegal foreign campaign spending as of January 2017.
Democrats–and End Citizens United–have opposed secret political spending for decades. Trump’s efforts to tar Clinton with the election-fraud political brush seems to be clear evidence of collusion in the Russian strategy according to many rank-and-file critics of the Russian attempt to meddle in the election. Trump has denied any contact with Putin or the Russians. However, campaign emails sent by George Papadopoulos between March and October of 2016 included seven requests for Trump to meet with Putin. One email contained this subject line: “Meeting with Russian Leadership — Including Putin.”
Various articles in respected publications suggest that there can only be a few reasonable conclusions about Russia’s involvement: Russian wanted Clinton to lose, Trump to win and to throw a spanner into America’s much-vaunted democratic process.
About the PAC End Citizens United
End Citizens United is committed to restoring the democratic election process and limiting the influence of corporations, billionaires and special interests in the legislative process. The organization supports campaign reform, overturning the Supreme Court decisions that empower corporations as people, passing state ballot measures for campaign finance reform and ending undisclosed and illegal campaign contributions. Other organizational goals of the ECU include:
- Electing pro-reform candidates at all levels of government
- Raising money to oppose right-wing PACs by soliciting small grassroots contributions
- Promoting ballot measures in all states to reform election finance rules
- Demonstrating political power and the will to oppose well-financed vested interests
ECU uses grassroots contributions to fight billionaire mega-donors, lobbyist money and illegal foreign influence peddling. The organization endorses candidates who commit to campaign reform and other causes that are dear to liberals and Democrats. The ECU recently endorsed Randy Bryce to oppose Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House and the choice of many Republicans for President in 2020. Ryan has committed to protecting the status quo as regards election financing, which makes him the highest profile target of ECU activists. According to ECU, undisclosed donations invariably hide special interests and make elected officials beholden to them. The current investigation of Russia’s successful attempt to influence the U.S. presidential election clearly demonstrates the risks of weak campaign finance laws that can’t get to the source of funds without the trigger of a major scandal.