House Democrats Push for More On-Air Disclosure

A number of House Democrats have co-sponsored legislation that would require the FCC to increase the amount of information revealed on-air for political ads. Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) is the author of the Keeping Our Campaigns Honest Act (or the KOCH Act, which is a not-so-veiled jab at one of their top targets with this legislation). In particular, the bill would mandate that the FCC revise its sponsorship identification rules to not just force disclosure of the sponsor of a campaign ad or a spot on a “matter involving the discussion of a controversial issue of public importance,” but would also require revelation of “the names of significant donors” to the sponsor.

One of the key co-sponsors of the bill, Communications and Technology Subcommittee Ranking Member Anna Eshoo (D-CA), recently asserted:

The problem stems from a weak interpretation of the disclosure rules in which editorial control is the test for who sponsored an advertisement. While a nonprofit organization designed to conceal its donors may technically claim it has editorial control over an advertisement, the true sponsors of the advertisement are those who put up the money to pay for it.

Rep. Eshoo, like other Democrats, has suggested the FCC already has the authority it needs to accomplish the intent of this bill. Indeed, this is not a new debate. Two years ago Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), now Ranking Member of the Senate Commerce Committee, pushed FCC Commissioners on this subject in a hearing, while Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) spoke forcefully against the agency taking any unilateral action in this partisan debate. In fact, the nomination of FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler was held up for a time by Senator Cruz because of this issue.

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations

Published: May 22, 2015

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