Tag Archives: Election

Joe Biden to campaign for Conor Lamb in Pennsylvania special election

Former Vice President Joe Biden, famously born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, will campaign for a Democrat in a special election at the other end of Pennsylvania. Republicans have been spending heavily on the race, which pits Democrat Conor Lamb against state Rep. Rick Saccone, while national Democrats have spent comparatively little. 

Before confirming he would visit the district to campaign:

During an address to House Democrats on Wednesday, Biden gave Lamb, a Marine veteran and former prosecutor, a shout-out saying he has a “genuine chance of winning” the seat. “Mr. Vice President, they called you PA’s third Senator for a reason: You know our people. Thanks for the support,” Lamb responded on Twitter. 

If that doesn’t convince you that Conor Lamb is for real, consider that the head of a top Republican Super PAC said that “I watched 30 seconds of Rick Saccone on video and I watched 30 seconds of Conor Lamb on video, and I quickly decided this would be a race.” Or watch Lamb’s ad defending Social Security and Medicare.

Help send Conor Lamb to defend Social Security and Medicare from a seat in the House. Can you chip in $3?

A group of industry insiders are putting Russian election meddling up for ad awards

 A small group of advertising industry insiders have developed a novel campaign for this years’ ad awards season — nominating Russia’s misinformation and manipulation efforts for an award. According to a report in The New Yorker, these ad insiders have already put the case study they made for Russia’s election interference  — “ProjectMeddle.com” —… Read More

House Democrats press for 'immediate hearings' on 2018 election security

House Democrats on the Judiciary Committee are urging their GOP chair, Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, for “immediate hearings” on the hacking threats to the U.S. electoral system in 2018. In a letter to Goodlatte, Democrats expressed alarm that the Justice Department has “taken little—if any—action to secure our election systems” in advance of November. Politico writes:

“We cannot afford to ignore the mounting evidence of a coordinated effort to undermine the most basic and essential aspects of democratic process,” the lawmakers told Goodlatte, pointing to news stories about Russian intrusions into voter registration databases, voting system vendors and state election offices. […]

Democrats are also angry with the White House for not imposing congressionally mandated sanctions on Russia in retaliation for its 2016 actions.

Specifically, Thursday’s letter harps on a vow Attorney General Jeff Session made at a November hearing to brief the committee on DOJ’s election security work. The Democrats wrote that DOJ still has not provided a briefing or responded to questions sent to Sessions in early December.

The letter comes on the heels of a top Homeland Security official this week finally confirming that Russia did successfully hack the election systems of some states in 2016. As a part of the hearings, Democrats would like to hear from leaders of the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department, who are giving mixed signals about how much action the Trump administration has taken to prevent future incursions by Russia or other hostile actors.

Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee are also pushing for public hearings related to Russia’s attack on our elections, including testimony from Jared Kushner and Trump Jr. about their 2016 Trump Tower meeting with the Kremlin-linked lawyer and her coterie.

Despite numerous legislative proposals and several congressional reports, Congress has yet to pass a bill that specifically addresses election security with just weeks left before the 2018 primary season begins.

Somehow, the GOP-led Congress has failed to do anything at all in support of protecting our upcoming elections from intrusion. That’s interesting given that they also blocked efforts to alert the public about Russian hacking prior to Election Day in 2016. 

Here's What Russia's Hacking Of The 2016 Election Has To Do With The Winter Olympic Games

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Alexey Nikolsky / AFP / Getty Images

In February 2014, when Russia hosted the Winter Olympic Games at Sochi in the country's southwest, its athletes won an unprecedented 232 gold medals. Less than two years later, the World Anti-Doping Agency, the watchdog for drug use in international sport, took aim at that performance, saying it rested on a massive doping conspiracy directed by the Russian government.

Russia's reaction was quick — and also unprecedented. Soon, its intelligence agency was hacking into WADA's computer system.

Now, as the next Winter Games begin in South Korea — without the official presence of Russia, which has been banned for cheating the last time — it’s clear that the hack of the World Anti-Doping Agency came from the same playbook Russia has used in elections around the world, including the most recent US presidential election.

WADA announced in September 2016 that it had been hacked and that athletes' medical files had been taken and were being posted to the internet. That was only a few months after the Democratic National Committee acknowledged that its computers, too, had been hacked and its stolen emails posted on the web.

Now it's clear that the same culprit was responsible in both cases. A rare declassified joint report by the US’s National Security Agency, Central Intelligence Agency, and Federal Bureau of Investigation reached that conclusion last year, as had several internationally known cybersecurity companies.

The culprit? Russia's Main Intelligence Directorate, or GRU, the country’s largest foreign military intelligence agency. Cybersecurity companies call the GRU hackers by a variety of names, but they are most commonly known as APT 28 or Fancy Bear, and they've been operating since 2004.

According to an analysis by the Japanese firm Trend Micro, 2014 to 2016 was a particularly active time for the GRU hackers, which it calls Pawn Storm. During that period, the group created email phishing campaigns targeting at least 12 countries' militaries, eight ministries of defense, six political parties, and seven media outlets around the world, including BuzzFeed News.

And the hackers are likely to continue their operations. “Pawn Storm is becoming increasingly relevant particularly because it is doing more than just espionage
activities,” Trend Micro concluded. “We can see how the group has become
more adept at manipulating events and public opinion through the gathering and controlled release of

And not just about US politicians. Its WADA hacks were intended to tarnish the reputations of some of the best known figures in world sports.

Olympic gymnast Simone Biles

Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty Images

For US gymnast Simone Biles, Fancy Bear revealed the presence of methylphenidate in her system, a drug used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

“Whenever you’re at the top, it’s very easy for a lot of people to bring you down,” Biles told BuzzFeed News. “I take it for a certain reason, just like if you have asthma you take an inhaler. It is what it is. I take medicine. If you have a problem, I’m sorry.”

“One of the things we’ve seen most prominently is the degree of meanness in Fancy Bear’s attacks,” Toni Gidwani, director of research at cybersecurity firm ThreatConnect, told BuzzFeed News. “The WADA breach is an example where you had sharing personal information of a bunch of athletes who were involved in the Russian doping scandal as whistleblowers or not involved at all. But we’ve seen a similar type of pattern in the way that they’ve gone after journalists and civil society activists. There’s a pretty clear intention to intimidate these people who were acting against perceived Russian interests.”

Tensions between the Russian government and WADA began in November 2015, when WADA declared that its Russian affiliate had failed at its job of adequately testing Russian athletes for performance enhancing drugs.

The next year, Grigory Rodchenkov, who headed that affiliate, confessed to a massive state-sponsored doping scheme in the lead-up to the 2014 games and provided extensive evidence to both the New York Times and WADA itself. Rodchenkov is currently in protective custody in the US.

It’s not unusual for any sophisticated nation-state hacking group to have a wide interest in important targets around the world. But Fancy Bear is different from many because “they’re noisy,” Gidwani said. “They’re one of the more visible threat actors.”

It's also developed in recent years a practice of not merely gathering information, but spreading it online, often in misleading ways that align with Russian interests. In 2014, as Russia was in the process of finalizing its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, a pro-Russia “hacktivist” group believed to be a front for Fancy Bear published Ukrainian military documents. The story made few waves in the US, but was reported by Russian state media.

That was similar to what would happen to Democrats’ files after they were pirated from DNC computers: Some were posted to a newly created site, DC Leaks; some were posted by Guccifer 2, a hacker persona who appeared online and encouraged the media to write about the documents; and some were handed to WikiLeaks, which posted batches of Democratic emails for weeks leading up to the election.

Similarly, after the GRU hackers hit WADA, a website called “Fancy Bears” — a clear reference to the name researchers had given them — began slowly leaking non-Russian athletes’ medical files. In addition to Biles' ADHD medicine, Fancy Bear revealed the use of anti-inflammatory steroids by basketball player Ellena Della Donna and tennis greats Venus and Serena Williams. All of those uses had been approved by WADA.

Though Fancy Bear has demonstrated sophisticated hacking capabilities, its penetration into both the Democratic National Committee and WADA came from a basic spearphishing attack, where a target can be tricked into giving up their password. That’s what happened with a staffer at the Democratic National Committee, and it’s what led to Olympians’ files being breached, according to WADA's former chief technology officer, Robert Jackson.

“Somebody at the International Olympic Committee fell for a spearphishing email with my name on it,” Jackson told BuzzFeed News. The email, sent to around 10 people, mimicked Jackson’s email signature, though shoddily. “Colors were wrong and certain information was wrong. It asked this guy to reset his password. He fell for it. He basically gave them his password.”

Once it had gained access to a high-ranking IOC employee’s email address, Fancy Bear was able to log into WADA’s Anti-Doping Administration & Management System database and download athletes’ files, many of them American.

Soon after the breach, Jackson said, he contacted international law enforcement agencies, which convinced him Fancy Bear was indeed behind the attack.

Just as the Democrats' leaked emails led to months of breathless media coverage, headlines around the world covered the American Olympians’ medical files, even though WADA had cleared them to use those drugs.

“Russian Hackers Expose Drug Use By America's Greatest Female Athletes,” Maxim wrote. “Simone & Serena Drug Use EXPOSED In Russian Hack!,” declared Radar. Online. “WADA hack raises questions about therapeutic use exemptions, security,” said USA Today. And RT, the Kremlin-sponsored news channel, framed the story as “Top US athletes deny cheating after hackers show usage of banned substances.”

After WADA’s first wave, Travis Tygart, the head of USADA, WADA’s American affiliate, reached out to those four athletes. “It’s cyber-bullying at its worst, attempting to smear innocent athletes who end up being the victims,” Tygart told BuzzFeed News. “Our immediate concern and compassion went out to those athletes. It’s really another step when you attempt to smear and destroy clean athletes who hadn't done anything other than follow the rules.”

But then Fancy Bear released another batch of American athletes’ files, to considerably less fanfare, and then a third round. Tygart’s team, overwhelmed with the number of victims, had to settle for recording a password-protected video message to those athletes. USADA has given BuzzFeed News permission to show it to the public for the first time.

View Video ›


Though the IOC did in fact ban Russia from formally competing in the 2018 Winter Games, citing the country’s “unprecedented attack on the integrity of the Olympics,” athletes who were found to have not participated in the doping scandal will be allowed to compete. Their uniforms, instead of representing their country’s flag, will have neutral colors and call them “Olympic athletes from Russia.” None of the IOC’s multiple statements on Russian cheating mention hacking.

Remarkably, Fancy Bear returned with a handful of other leaked Olympic emails this January, mostly related to the decision to ban Russia for doping, published on the same site the group has used since 2016. When asked if Russia would face any additional punishment for repeatedly hacking Olympic entities, the IOC declined to comment, saying that “Cybersecurity is a top priority at the Olympic Games since a long time but we will not discuss details in public.”

The Kremlin did not respond to a request for comment. However, the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs put out a statement Wednesday that accused BuzzFeed News of participating in an “information war against Russia,” claimed Russia is “ready to help investigate cyberattacks against any affected country,” and claimed that nations that oppose its actions in cyberspace “are building up their own military cyber capabilities, conducting illegal spying and violating human rights.”

Morning Digest: Ann Wagner not ruling out Senate bid, but special election in her backyard's a worry

The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, and Carolyn Fiddler, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.

Leading Off

MO-Sen, MO-02: Very interesting. In response to reports (all of which have relied only on anonymous sources) suggesting that GOP Rep. Ann Wagner might be reconsidering her decision not to run for the Senate, Wagner herself isn’t shooting down the notion. In a new interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Wagner didn’t rule out a run, instead saying, “I am focused on my work … in the 2nd Congressional District.” When pressed further as to whether that constituted a proverbial “Shermanesque” disavowal, Wagner would only say, “I won’t be quoting Sherman today.”​

Campaign Action

​If Wagner goes for it, of course, that would set her up on a collision course with state Attorney General Josh Hawley. And while his campaign has gotten bruised up lately, he still remains the apparent favorite of much of the Missouri GOP establishment. But Wagner at least is unlikely to blame human trafficking on the sexual revolution, and while she has her weaknesses, she’s a very strong fundraiser, an area where Hawley has lagged. (His burn rate, in particular, was much higher than Claire McCaskill’s in the fourth quarter of last year.)

There’s also another reason why Wagner might want to seek a promotion. On Tuesday night, Democrats flipped a dark red seat in a state House special election in Missouri (see our item below), a district that happens to be contained almost entirely within Wagner’s congressional seat. Ominously, that legislative district, the 79th, is considerably redder: Donald Trump won it 61-33, a far wider margin than his 53-42 win in the 2nd Congressional District. By contrast, Trump won Missouri 56-38, though of course Wagner would be a challenger rather than an incumbent if she ran for Senate, and McCaskill is no pushover.

But even at home, it’s not necessarily smooth sailing. Wagner’s drawn a credible Democratic opponent in attorney Cort VanOstran, who actually outraised her last quarter, $115,000 to $104,000. Wagner still has a huge cash lead of $2 million to VanOstran’s $334,000, but Missouri’s 2nd is one of the best-educated and most affluent districts in the country—precisely the sort of suburban turf where Trumpism plays worst. Wagner might have a rocky 2018 no matter where she runs.

Mexico's National Election Institute Is Partnering With Facebook To Fight Fake News

Designer491 / Getty Images

Mexico's National Electoral Institute (INE) and Facebook signed an agreement on Tuesday to identify and eliminate the spread of fake news on the behemoth social network during the country's elections later this year.

In addition to Facebook, the institute plans to sign similar agreements with Google and Twitter.

Lorenzo Córdova, the president of the INE said in a statement that the agreement has two main points: “on the one hand, the identification of fake news, and on the other hand, the shared conviction between Facebook and INE that the best way to combat the so-called fake news, is to generate accurate, validate and objective information.”

This type of agreement, Cordova said, is the first of its kind worldwide.

During the 2016 presidential elections in the US, Facebook was accused of being the main platform for spreading fake news. The social media giant has since then found itself the center of a debate over just what controls the platform should have over its content. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said they would take steps to eliminate groups or profiles that broadcast fake news, but has struggled to determine how best to tackle the issue.

This post was translated from Spanish.