- Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama is staying silent about whether his office filed an official complaint into a misinformation campaign targeting his Republican midterm election opponent.
- Jones’s silence comes as Democrats and media pundits argue Russian-style misinformation campaigns could seriously impact candidates who run for office in 2020.
- Jones is also staying mum about the details behind the troll campaign as Moore enters the run for office in 2020.
It’s been almost seven months since Democratic Alabama Sen. Doug Jones’s office asked federal officials to investigate a misinformation campaign targeting his opponent in the 2017 midterm elections, but he’s silent about whether his office filed an official complaint.
Jones asked the Federal Election Commission (FEC) in January to investigate a false flag operation that was designed to suppress conservative votes ahead of the midterm election. Alabama’s Republican attorney general, Steve Marshall, announced a probe into the matter in December 2018 as well before eventually deferring to the FEC in January.
“What is obvious now is that we have focused so much on Russia that we haven’t focused on the fact that people in this country could take the same playbook and do the same damn thing,” Jones told Politico in January. “I’d like to see the FEC and the Justice Department look at this and see if any laws are being violated or were violated.”
His spokeswoman Heather Fluit told The New York Times in January that Jones was preparing an official complaint.
He went on to suggest authorities should “go after” whoever was responsible if an investigation determines the operation was illegal. Jones’s office has not responded to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s repeated requests for comments about whether the senator has followed up on his requests for an investigation.
FEC press officer Judith Ingram told TheDCNF the normal approach to begin a probe is to file an official complaint against a respondent, in this case the person or group responsible for the alleged operation. The agency can only divulge that there is a complaint if a requester can provide the names of the person filing the complaint.
The Justice Department also has not responded to TheDCNF’s request for comment. (RELATED: Doug Jones Reaffirms His Wish For An Investigation Into Democrat’s False Flag Operation)
Jones barely defeated Republican Roy Moore, who beat back reports that he sexually assaulted an underage woman three decades ago. Analysts believe the sordid allegations hurt his chances more than a troll job. Moore announced Thursday he is running for Senate in 2020.
The operation attracted attention from local and national media, falsely suggesting Russia was backing Moore’s candidacy. The Montgomery Advertiser, for instance, was the first to cover the story using the Russian bot angle. National media outlets quickly followed suit, with some reporters even mocking Moore for accusing Democrats of trolling his account.
The mockery died down after The NYT reported on the false flag campaign in December 2018.
The report noted Democratic operatives with ties to former President Barack Obama created a “Dry Alabama” Facebook page suggesting alcohol is evil and should be prohibited. Its contents were targeted at business conservatives who are skeptical of prohibition.
Two wealthy Virginia donors funded the project, according to a person who worked on the project and spoke to The NYT in January on condition of anonymity. The cost of the project totaled $100,000, the identical amount Facebook says Russia spent trolling voters on social media leading up to the 2016 election.
Democratic operatives also created a mass disinformation campaign suggesting Moore was conspiring with Russia, which was allegedly funded by tech billionaire Reid Hoffman, who denies having any knowledge of the tactics. He has also apologized for financially backing the caper.
Moore and Jones were running to replace Republican Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, who left the seat to join the Trump administration. Moore is considering another run for the Senate as Jones tries to hold his seat in a deep-red state. Some analysts argue Russia and other bad actors might be preparing a repeat of the troll campaign.
“They set off the powder keg, and we’ll never be able to come together in one reality again,” Clinton Watts, a former FBI agent who studies Russian disinformation, told The Washington Post in April, referring to Russian trolling operations. “Their work is done. We’re already at each other’s throats.”
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