Common Cause Backs Lawmakers’ Call for Full Disclosure of Political Ad Funders

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  • Scott Swenson, Dale Eisman
Letter from 168 House Members Urges FCC to Act

With the first caucuses of the 2016 presidential campaign just a few days away, Common Cause urged the Federal Communications Commission to take the advice of the 168 members of Congress who today called on the agency to require full disclosure of the money behind political ads on broadcast, cable, and satellite systems.

“The 2016 campaign season has already brought a torrent of nauseating, anonymous political smears on the airwaves. “Transparency in political ad sponsorship is the common sense antidote,” said former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, now a special adviser to Common Cause’s Media and Democracy Reform Initiative.

Copps noted that Section 317 of the Communications Act has long required broadcasters to “fully and fairly disclose” the sponsors of broadcast political ads. The super PACs and non-profit groups that increasingly dominate political advertising are identified in their commercials but typically have names that provide few clues about the money behind the ads.

“The lack of transparency in politics is harming our democracy, breeding even more mistrust in government, and depressing voter participation. The public has a right to know who is trying to influence their vote over the public airwaves and the FCC should honor that right,” the lawmakers’ letter asserts

“Kudos to Reps. (Anna) Eshoo and (John) Yarmuth and 166 of their colleagues for leading the fight for accountable ads. It’s what voters deserve and the law requires. The FCC must act with dispatch,” Copps said.

In late 2015, Common Cause partnered with the Sunlight Foundation, Campaign Legal Center, and the Georgetown University Law Center to file complaints calling on the FCC to compel broadcasters in 18 markets to provide the in-ad, on-air disclosure of the money behind ads sponsored by the Independence USA PAC. The complaints identified businessman and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg as the sole donor to Independence USA.