September 26, 2017

Is it wrong for foreign leaders to try to influence American elections? Hillary didn't think so.

On March 13, 2016, during the primary season, Hillary Clinton (along with Bernie Sanders) did a town hall in which she was asked — by a man whose one concern was defeating Donald Trump — to "share with us three specific points of your anti-Trump game plan."

I won't bother — at this late date — to explain why her answer did not amount to "three specific points" or an "anti-Trump game plan." I just want to highlight the last thing she said, which I ran across yesterday as I was researching the question of why it's considered bad for foreign leaders to attempt to influence our election. There's been a lot of news lately about Russians buying Facebook ads — simply speaking to us with an intent to influence the election — and I'm puzzling over whether that matters.

At the end of her answer, after some talk about how her campaign is "inclusive" and she has "pretty thick skin," she said she had a lot of arguments against Trump but she wasn't going to "spill the beans" about what they were:
But one argument that I am uniquely qualified to bring, because of my service as Secretary of State is what his presidency would mean to our country and our standing in the world. I am already receiving messages from leaders -- I'm having foreign leaders ask if they can endorse me to stop Donald Trump.

(APPLAUSE)

I mean, this is up to Americans, thank you very much, but I get what you're saying.
The moderator, Jake Tapper, asked "And can you tell to tell us who?" She said:
Well, some have done it publicly, actually. The Italian Prime Minister, for example.
Tapper asked, "How about the ones that have done it privately?"
CLINTON: No, Jake.

(LAUGHTER)

CLINTON: We're holding that in reserve too.
Hillary was proud of her support among foreign leaders, held it out as a reason to choose her as the Democratic Party candidate, and offered to use it to persuade Americans to vote for her in the general election. Was this wrong? It sounded bad to me at the time. I said:
Do Americans want the foreign-endorsed candidate? We're seeing Trump tarred as xenophobic, and meanwhile Hillary touts herself as the choice of foreign leaders. This deserves a closer look, and I expect some lampooning from Trump.
I didn't think it was a good argument. I thought it could be very easily flipped and used against her. But I don't remember anybody at the time was saying it's outrageous for foreign leaders to attempt to make their preferences felt by American voters.


***

Here's the Federal Elections Commission's page "about the rules governing foreign nationals’ participation in U.S. elections" (noting that "the Commission held that a foreign national could attend, speak at campaign events for a federal candidate, and solicit contributions to the campaign").

On the question of independent ads paid for by foreign nationals, there's an issue of requiring disclosure. Consider "WHY FACEBOOK WILL STRUGGLE TO REGULATE POLITICAL ADS" (Wired):
On [September 21, 2017]... Mark Zuckerberg announced new transparency measures that would require political advertisers on Facebook to disclose who’s paying for their ads and publicly catalog different ad variations they target at Facebook users. Members of Congress, meanwhile, are mulling a bill that would require such disclosures.  These would be unprecedented moves, setting new standards for digital political ads. But they likely wouldn't prevent abuses....

52 comments:

Tommy Duncan said...

Ann, you can expect sternly worded posts from Chuck and Inga regarding your blatant political favoritism.

Assrat said...

Influencing foreign elections through propaganda is well within acceptable shenanigans, as far as international politics are concerned. If this were the worst thing countries did to one another I'd be happier indeed.

Quayle said...

The biggest elephant in the room is Bill and Hill supposedly selling air from their mouths for hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of foreign dollars.

Yet the prospect of her being President after that doesn't move the needle of the mainstream press.

rhhardin said...

It's all fair to me. The foreign influence thing is a retroactive effort by the loser to discredit the winner, which is what undermines the election.

Ralph L said...

Wasn't it the Obama 2008 campaign that intentionally disabled the country code on their credit card donations? And there was something about many multiple small donations from single sources.

How to balance transparency and potential doxxing ought to be a big issue for contributors, or an issue for big contributors.

rehajm said...

It seems a requirement of the left to accuse your political opponents of what you are guilty of yourself. Muddy the waters and all...

Did the Italian sovereign donate directly to Clinton’s campaign like the Germans the Saudis the...the...the...





Kevin said...

These aren’t the foreign leaders they’re looking for.

David Begley said...

Of course Hillary is incoherent. But what about this? "There's been a lot of news lately about Russians buying Facebook ads..." Why did Zuckerberg allow the Russians to do this? I thought Zuckerberg supported Hillary. His IP lawyers certainly did. As a private company, I doubt it had any duty to accept an advertisement from foreigners; different rule as to the candidates.

Ralph L said...

The foreign influence thing is a retroactive effort by the loser to discredit the winner, which is what undermines the election.

For once, Democrats toe the party line from Moscow unknowingly.

Kevin said...

It’s also a coincidence the Clinton Global Foundation took foreign money right up through the election and then was immediately shut down after Hillary lost.

No reason to audit a non-operating entity, is there?

Ralph L said...

David, I read somewhere that some of the ads were anti-fracking (pro-Hillary).

Matthew Sablan said...

No one cares that foreign leaders influenced our election. Hell, Germany let Obama take over a major city for some photo ops.

They just care that this time maybe they helped a Republican.

Kevin said...

I like when I type election and it autocorrects to ejection.

It’s more accurate to say Hillary was ejected from the political system on Nov. 8.

Comanche Voter said...

Italian support. You look at Hillary and understand that sometimes a meatball is just a meatball--even if it is wrapped in a pantsuit.

David Begley said...

Ralph L.

That wouldn't surprise me as something like 25% of Russia's GDP is from oil and gas.

Kevin said...

Hillary Clinton: [pause] Was that wrong? Should I not have done that? I tell you, I gotta plead ignorance on this thing, because if anyone had said anything to me at all when I first started here that that sort of thing is frowned upon... you know, cause I've worked in a lot of offices, and I tell you, people do that all the time.

Michael P said...

I think some of the distinction is that it is one thing for foreign entity X to say "Americans should do this, and here is why" when they identify themselves as the speaker, and rather different when they hide behind anonymity or another organization's name -- imagine a "Americans United For Justice And Peace", funded by and pushing ideas at the behest of a foreign government or two.

Ideally, people would be equally skeptical of all anonymous and unknown commenters, but that is not realistically going to happen, so there will still be reasons to argue that political speech by foreigners is okay when speakers accurately identify themselves, but not when foreign speakers hide their identities.

Ann Althouse said...

"Of course Hillary is incoherent. But what about this? "There's been a lot of news lately about Russians buying Facebook ads..." Why did Zuckerberg allow the Russians to do this? I thought Zuckerberg supported Hillary. His IP lawyers certainly did. As a private company, I doubt it had any duty to accept an advertisement from foreigners; different rule as to the candidates."

Read the Wired article linked at the end of the post.

It's not like Zuckerberg (or even anybody at Facebook) was monitoring what was happening. There are machines programmed to process all the money. We need to see how mindless Facebook is. I think that's valuable, and human monitoring would probably make it worse.

Matthew Sablan said...

Anonymity is a right for citizens. Letting the government pierce that anonymity to check if the speaker is foreign essentially kills the anonymous free speech of Americans. Private tax records and doxing have been released by the IRS.

So, sadly, anonymous speech by foreigners is just a reality to live with.

Assrat said...

I like Michael P's take on this.

It's a spectrum, with press releases on one side and breaking local law on the other.

David Begley said...

Russian trolls spent $150,000. Hillary spent $1 billion.

Matthew Sablan said...

Also, if illegal immigrants have the same rights as American citizens, how do you argue foreign entities don't have First Amendment rights?

Ficta said...

I was recently in a hotel in Geneva that proudly displayed the fact that George Clooney had hosted an Obama fundraiser there. The blatant hypocrisy of this "foreign influence" charge from democrats is staggering.

tim in vermont said...

But after eight years of Obama, we had somehow inveigled ourselves into a new Cold War with Russia all on the sly, doncha know.

"We have always been at war with Oceana." - Some book that was not supposed to be a "How To."

Bill, Republic of Texas said...

imagine a "Americans United For Justice And Peace",

How about a foreign government secretly financing a political organization called "One Voice" to influence an election? Would if be better or worse if the government was trying to get an ally or enemy defeated?

tim in vermont said...

Russian trolls spent $150,000. Hillary spent $1 billion.

It's like Global Warming, it's amazing how little money it takes to overcome a huge pile, when the actual truth (Has anybody disowned the WikiLeaks emails?) is on your side.

Molly said...

In a Bill Clinton campaign (96?) a Chinese national was found to have bundled (illegal) contributions from Chinese nationals for the Clinton campaign. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1996_United_States_campaign_finance_controversy Some believe that the Chinese gov't was a source of these funds.

Todd said...

So the entire "Russians hacked the election" is now "Russia [legally] purchased $100K of Google ads". This is still supposed to be "the worst thing ever".

No one said a thing when Obama's team purposely broke their donation web site to enable non-US donations.

No one went to prison when Hillary's team double and triple charged folks that donated to her campaign. Or when she sold out her office for contributions to her foundation.

The Russians and (or maybe not - what do the taps say?) Trump is super duper evil and bad.

They can all F*CK OFF.

P.S. and the NFL too, screw them. Hope the Superbowl ratings are in the crapper.

Todd said...

I mean Facebook , not google. Sorry.

Ralph L said...

After all the Soviets did for decades to screw up the US and the West, we're supposed to be upset about $150,000 in ads?

Hagar said...

How many billions has the U.S. spent on "Radio Free Europe" and similar efforts around the world?
Just one example, and that one of the more innocuous ones.
Everybody does this and always have to the extent their means and opportunities allowed.

Angel-Dyne said...

Tommy Duncan: Ann, you can expect sternly worded posts from Chuck and Inga regarding your blatant political favoritism.

Chuck, maybe, but Inga and the rest of the usual suspects can be counted on to steer clear of threads highlighting lefties doing the things that make them scream to high heaven when done by righties.

Hagar said...

The whole Viet Nam War was about foreign powers interfering in Viet Nam's "elections."

Ray said...

Russian Facebook ads seemed to be more about causing problems to the us, than supporting either candidate.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/technology/russian-operatives-used-facebook-ads-to-exploit-divisions-over-black-political-activism-and-muslims/2017/09/25/4a011242-a21b-11e7-ade1-76d061d56efa_story.html?pushid=59c9727dd4ac501c0000005f&tid=notifi_push_breaking-news&utm_term=.010f42313273

DKWalser said...

The biggest elephant in the room is Bill and Hill supposedly selling air from their mouths for hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of foreign dollars.

Correction: It's the biggest donkey in the room. And, because it's a donkey and not an elephant, no one in the media cares. Just as they didn't care about Gore raising campaign cash from Buddhist monks -- most of whom weren't US citizens.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

YES. Yes, yes, yes. Thank you, Professor! I have been beating that drum since the election and bemoaning the fact that as a topic it gets so little play.

The most recent stories w/Mantafort highlight just how far the goalposts have moved--the NPR story on the "latest developments" had a reporter breathlessly saying that the emails between Mantafort and some Russian businessman show "a connection" between the Trump campaign and "Russia." So we've gone from "they hacked the election" to "Trump colluded with the Russians to win" to "Russia used sneaky means to try and influence the election" to "there was some contact between people near Trump and people who are actually Russian." All of that with no acknowledgement that the nature and scope of the allegations has changed.

I'll point out again that the Podesta group, co-founded by Hillary campaign manager John Podesta, was heavily involved in foreign lobbying and consulting, specifically w/r/t Ukrainian and Russian issues.

The Russia Facebook ad story is such small potatoes, too. Hillary's campaign cost $1.25BILLION dollars. Some Russian people gave Facebook $100k for some ads. The people who run Facebook gave Hillary's campaign MILLIONS of dollars...so those Russian ad buys helped put money in Hillary's campaign!

And yes, if the actual issue is "foreigners influencing our elections" let's talk about the numerous foreign nations that expressed opinions, let's talk about the numerous foreign media corporations that ran ads and editorials picking sides, and let's talk about the ownership stakes foreign nationals have in "U.S." Media companies--Carlos Slim anyone?--and how they use those platforms to influence US opinions.

Oops, can't talk about any of that, though! Just "Russia Russia Russia."

Transparent bullshit still stinks.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Ann Althouse said...It's not like Zuckerberg (or even anybody at Facebook) was monitoring what was happening. There are machines programmed to process all the money. We need to see how mindless Facebook is. I think that's valuable, and human monitoring would probably make it worse.

Not would make it worse, ma'am: WILL make it worse. Zark Fuckerberg announced last week that his company is going to hire 2-300 additional workers to manually review ad buys. They're also going to show ad viewers info about the profile at which the ad is targeted.
The Dems are working on a bill that would require a bunch of disclosure for any ad buys over $10k. The funny thing is that "shadowy" groups like the Kochs and Soros-backed entities have been buying lots of ads for years apparently without bothering anyone...but when Trump wins suddenly it's a crisis of democracy.

Does no one remember Acorn and the tiny, little-covered stories that actually traced where their money actually came from? These additional disclosure rules will amount to the same kind of thing--big organizations will set up and fund lots of smaller organizations with nice-sounding names to funnel and wash money for ad buys through. All that will happen is it'll be tougher (more costly and more burdensome) for little guys to buy ads...like almost all "campaign finance reform" the end result is a practical restriction on the 1st Amend. rights of non-wealthy, non-connected individuals.

Yancey Ward said...

Has anyone actually seen any of the Facebook ads? I predict that if you do see them, it will turn out to be more pro-Hillary! than pro-Trump.

Martin said...

That clip was OBVIOUSLY set up--Clinton knew the question was coming and had agreed to it, her brain trust had developed the response in exhaustive detail, which she implemented in her usual accurate and soul-less manner.

All of which just further confirms that for all his mis-steps, there is still no reason at all to regret that Trump beat her.

Mattman26 said...

From the (UK) Telegraph, April 23, 2016:

"Front-runner for the White House Hillary Clinton has become the latest heavyweight American politician to wade into the referendum campaign and warn against a Brexit vote."

Oh, the horror!

Big Mike said...

Yup. It wasn't that Hillary Clinton had no coherent message. It was them Russians colluding with Trump. Yessir. It wasn't that she preferred to campaign in Arizona instead of campaigning in Wisconsin and Michigan. Nope, it was Trump colluding with them there Russkies. Got it.

Sebastian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sebastian said...


"I don't remember anybody at the time was saying it's outrageous for foreign leaders to attempt to make their preferences felt by American voters." Delicately phrased. I "don't remember" it either. Perhaps because it only became outrageous the day after the presidential election. And even now it isn't really outrageous: foreign progs helping progs is perfectly fair. Prog outrage is strictly selective and instrumental.

Mike said...

David Begley said...
Russian trolls spent $150,000. Hillary spent $1 billion.


Both in support of HRC apparently.

n.n said...

Neither Clinton nor Obama nor the DNC hesitate to employ and exploit foreign interests and influence to advance their domestic causes.

Gk1 said...

Kerry had tried to trot ot this same line of attack when he was running in 2004 too. He was also coy too and wouldn't name names but who cares? The fact those candy asses in Old Europe preferred him over Bush spoke volumes.

Michael The Magnificent said...

1996 United States campaign finance controversy

"No controlling legal authority" - Al Gore

jr565 said...

Good catch, althouse.
But even more than the endorsements there is proof of actual literal collusion between Hillary/DNC and the Ukrainian govt. democrats went to Ukraine, spoke to peopl at the embassy and used Ukrainians to help disseminate damaging info on manafort (much of which was bs). And Ukraine openly bragged about how they were tying to influence election. Further so much of the info democrats rely on to allege trump wrongdoing actually comes from Ukraine.
When DNC was supposedly hacked by Russians they didn't turn servers over to FBI. No they gave it to crowd strike. Crowd strike is it group heavily linked to Ukrainian govt, the dossiers leaked about manafort agains were
Direct collusion between dems and Ukraine. Direct collusion.

Then there's fusion gps. Again, Ukraine. Fusion is linked to the supposedly nefarious meeting between Russian lawyer and don jr. And then here's the steele dossier. Fusion gps Again. Pushed by democrats and also John McCain and the obama administration appeared to have used it to get FISA warrants started for people in trump camp.

Everywhere we look it's Ukraine colluding with Dems to impact election and all the supposed proof of any trump Russian collusion is similarly Ukraine in origin. So if we want to talk about foreign Govt trying to impact election the real story is not Russia. It's Ukraine. And it's not trump. It's Hillary.

bobby said...

Now that they've had a chance to review the FB ads supposedly bought by the Russians, here's what they found:

1. The ads weren't candidate-oriented. They were issue-oriented.

2. The ads favored positions that would benefit Hillary.

So, what little influence these ads bought, they bought for Hillary.

FryingPanHead said...

No, Yancey. As a matter of fact, just the other day I mentioned I've yet to be shown one of these Russian 'ads' that supposedly were on FB.

Gk1 said...

Can we finally ask at this point "What difference it makes?" Hillary lost because she was a horrible candidate. No one, not even the donors who this excuse was created for, really believe the Russians could have effected the outcome. Its not even interesting to watch it decompose in front of our eyes.

RunnerJeffM said...

Good thing foreign nationals don't vote in our elections because that would really be influencing and that would be bad.