FCC: Broadcasters Must Disclose Political Ad Purchases

The Federal Communications Commission adopted on Friday a rule to require major broadcasters to disclose online who is funding campaign ads and how much they are spending for them.

“In this kind of day and age, this kind of transparency is a no-brainer and it’s something that’s needed,” said Mary Boyle, spokeswoman for Common Cause, according to a Reuters article. Common Cause is a Justice at Stake partner group.

Some transparency advocates, however, said the action did not go far enough because the rule is limited to the largest broadcasters, a Washington Post article said.

In a Huffington Post commentary, Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, an assistant professor of law at Stetson University, commended the FCC for “a big step in the right direction” while saying other federal agencies need to fill the gap that remains.

Specifically, she referred to a petition before the Securities and Exchange Commission seeking to require disclosure from publicly traded companies of their corporate expenditures on elections.

Shortly after the landmark campaign finance ruling Citizens United was handed down by the Supreme Court in 2010, Bert Brandenburg, executive director of Justice at Stake, emphasized the importance of campaign finance disclosure in judicial elections.

“States that elect judges should immediately enact strong, real-time reporting laws, so that special-interest spending is forced into the sunlight. Voters have a right to know who is paying to put judges on their courts,” he said. To learn more about the importance of robust disclosure laws, see the JAS issues page on the topic.

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