A Democrat-led FEC “inquisition” into foreign financial influences on U.S. elections has some fearing that conservative alternative media outlets may be in danger at a time when distrust of the mainstream media has led many Americans to rely on alternative media outlets for their news.

The Washington Examiner reports that a bid by Democrat Federal Election Commissioner Ellen Weintraub may target right-leaning outlets such as the Drudge Report, Infowars, and Breitbart News under the pretense of probing for foreign influence in federal and state elections through paid advertising.

Weintraub claims that illegal foreign influence could have played a role in the 2016 federal election and that it is necessary for the FEC to investigate campaign spending including media buys by overseas sources and partially-foreign-owned U.S. firms. She asserted, “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.”

According to Politico, Weintraub was motivated to launch the probe after Time magazine cited intelligence officials who claimed that Russian agents purchased Facebook ads to distribute election-themed stories and that Breitbart News and Cambridge Analytica may have assisted Russian efforts to spread such content.

Time magazine also reported that the FBI was investigating whether right-wing sites such as Breitbart News and InfoWars coordinated with Russia to bombard social media sites with anti-Hillary Clinton stories.

The Washington Examiner’s Paul Bedard contends that the probe should raise red flags, as it seems to be politically motivated. The outlet cites an elections law expert, also a critic of the Weintraub bid, who observed, “It’s pretty easy to see how this quickly becomes an inquisition into conservative media outlets.”

July 12, 2017