One of the more insidious ways Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election was by placing political ad buys on Facebook designed to exploit fault lines in American culture, which likely helped Donald Trump win the presidency.
But one unlikely lawmaker who wants to prevent it from ever happening again is one of the president's staunchest allies in Congress: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). And right-wing activist groups are furious with him over it.
Graham is co-sponsoring the Honest Ads Act, a bill that would require online political advertisers to disclose their identity, the value of their ad buy, and who they are targeting — a measure that was first pushed in 2017 by Graham's longtime friend, the late Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). This bill would allow people to see whether an ad popping up on Facebook was funded by Russia, and allow them to take that into consideration.
But according to The Daily Beast, FreedomWorks, a right-wing organization that was instrumental in organizing the Tea Party movement, is demanding Graham remove his name from the bill, attacking it as a dangerous regulation of political speech. In a letter, the group is urging Graham to "reconsider" his support.
Dark-money 501(c)(4) nonprofit groups like FreedomWorks have thrived in the wake of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, which prohibited limits on independent political expenditures. The ruling did not, however, prohibit laws disclosing the sources of dark money — but such groups are vehemently opposed to these measures, wanting to protect the "privacy" of their donors and fearing that there would be public pushback against corporations and individuals who support their cause.
Graham appears to be listening, saying that he will "try to accommodate them" and "To the extent that [the bill] tries to redesign campaign finance law, I do not support that."