Democratic Alabama Sen. Doug Jones asked the Federal Election Commission Wednesday night to investigate a false flag operation that was designed to suppress conservative votes ahead of the midterm election.
Jones made his request less than a month after reports from The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Daily Caller News Foundation fleshed out the extent of the misinformation campaign. Much of the troll job was based on the Russian-style bot attacks of 2016.
“Such deceptive tactics have no place in American politics and must be repudiated by those involved in our political system,” Jones wrote in a letter to Ellen Weintraub, a Democratic member of the commission. There is no indication that the former U.S. attorney was ever aware of the tactics.
Jones, who barely beat Republican opponent Roy Moore, requested “a thorough investigation” and said the commission should “impose the maximum penalties allowed” if the campaign violated campaign finance laws. Analysts believe allegations that Moore sexually assaulted an underage woman three decades ago likely affected the election more than the troll job.
Democratic operatives with ties to the Obama administration created a “Dry Alabama” Facebook page suggesting alcohol is evil and should be prohibited, according to media reports. The page included images of car wrecks and ruined families. Its contents were targeted at business conservatives who are skeptical of prohibition.
Two wealthy Virginia donors who wanted to defeat Moore funded the project, according to a person who worked on the project and who spoke on condition of anonymity. The Dry Alabama project was one of two $100,000 campaigns designed to destroy Moore’s 2017 special election campaign.
Democrats also created a mass disinformation campaign suggesting Moore was in league with Russia. The Russian bot campaign was funded by tech billionaire Reid Hoffman, who denies having any knowledge of the tactics.
Operatives with New Knowledge created thousands of Twitter accounts posing as Russian bots to boost the election year chances of Jones—the accounts began following Moore’s Twitter account in October 2017. The project created a slew of Facebook accounts as well, which were designed to troll conservatives into opposing Moore.
It’s unclear how much the tactics influenced voters. But the alcohol-related effort was seen widely, according to activist Matt Osborne, who helped orchestrate the plan. He told reporters that the posts received 4.6 million views of Facebook posts, and 97,000 engagements, such as “liking” posts.
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