Opinion

Regulator Heads Abroad For Conference On ‘Monitor And Control’ Of Media

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Rudy Takala Contributor

Congress, members of the media and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team are still studying whether Russia interfered in U.S. elections, but that isn’t stopping members of the Federal Election Commission from getting involved in some foreign election activity of their own.

According to the agency’s weekly digest, the commission’s Democratic Vice Chair Ellen Weintraub left for the Dominican Republic on Wednesday — one day after U.S. midterm elections — for a three-day conference sponsored by a branch of the Organization of American States (OAS).

The group, which describes itself as seeking to promote “effective exchange of knowledge, experiences and best practices of electoral administration,” conducts its activity using a combination of taxpayer dollars, foreign funding and philanthropic contributions, including from George Soros’ Open Society Institute.

The agenda for Weintraub’s conference reveals a number of break-out panel events — including one especially relevant to Weintraub’s interests, titled, “Regulating the Media: Models for Equal Access.”

Session notes for the panel seem to suggest federal “monitoring and control” of the media is an idea worth considering. “It should be noted that regardless of the type of regulation, some electoral organisms incorporate the monitoring and control of media among their functions.”

Weintraub has been an outspoken advocate of regulating more speech on the internet, which she has said is necessary to combat foreign election interference. She authored a 2017 memo advocating for the regulation of online political speech, claiming “thousands of internet political ads by foreign actors” had influenced the last presidential election.

That proposal would have affected websites such as Facebook and would have had an outsized impact on conservative websites such as the Drudge Report. Commission Democrats have sought unsuccessfully to overturn a 2006 rule that affirmed the right to free speech on the internet.

Weintraub isn’t the only commissioner to head for a warmer climate. The agency reported that her Democratic colleague, Commissioner Steven Walther, took a two-day trip to Mexico City in October to participate in the “Conference of the Inter-American Union of Electoral Management Bodies,” an event sponsored by the Mexican government through its National Electoral Institute and the Electoral Tribunal of the Federal Judiciary of Mexico.

The globe-trotting commissioners have accepted thousands of dollars each to travel the world since they joined the commission, according to agency records, with Weintraub’s total expenditures easily exceeding $10,000.

Weintraub has served on the commission since 2002 while Walther has served since 2006. Each separately spent two years serving as its chairman.

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