Friday, February 24, 2012
Senators Encourage FCC Effort to Make Campaign Advertisements More Transparent
Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) and seven other senators issued a letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski yesterday encouraging swift implementation of a proposed rule to make political advertisements more transparent.
“With the 2012 election season already underway, citizens have a right to know who is purchasing public airtime to support or oppose candidates,” the senators wrote. “More people rely on TV stations for information than any other medium, making transparency in advertising critically important. However, the creators of campaign ads often hide behind confusing organizational names that do not provide adequate information about who is actually paying for the ads, or worse, can actually mislead the public about the identity or purpose of the advertisement.
“The online posting of information in broadcast stations’ political file cannot wait until months after the election; citizens deserve to know who is responsible for funding these advertisements today.”
This problem has become widespread in this election cycle with the Citizens United decision creating a proliferation of ads backed by opaque outside groups. A recent analysis by OpenSecrets.org found that, as of January, more than 95% of spending on the 2012 elections had been backed by outside groups as opposed to candidates and political parties. At the same point in 2008, the ratio was roughly 50-50.
The proposed rule would require broadcast stations to make files related to political advertisements available publicly online. The stations are currently required to make the files available to the public, but only in paper form. Additionally, the Senators requested that the information be posted in a searchable database to make it easier for voters to find information about the ads they are viewing.
In addition to Udall, the letter was joined by Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Al Franken (D-MN), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Mark Begich (D-AK), Daniel Akaka (D-HI), and Jon Tester (D-MT).
The full text of the letter follows below and is available online here.