Common Cause Urges FEC to Require Disclosure of Online Political Ads Sponsors

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  • David Vance

Today, Common Cause and 17,945 members and supporters filed formal comments urging the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to open a rulemaking to update its rules by requiring online political advertisements to include “paid for by” information just like TV, radio and print ads. In addition to collecting signatures of Common Cause members and supporters on its comments, Common Cause also drove thousands of its members to file comments directly with the Commission. Common Cause joins a coalition of pro-transparency organizations delivering to the FEC more than 150,000 signatures supporting the rulemaking.

The comments emphasized that the rulemaking is long overdue as political advertising on internet has exploded in recent cycles with almost no disclosure whatsoever of those funding it. More than $1.4 billion was spent on political advertising online during the 2016 election cycle and a Russian “troll factory” in St. Petersburg spent more than $2.3 million distributing propaganda on the internet in order to help swing the presidential election.

“In poll after poll, Americans have made very clear that they want to know whom or what is bankrolling the political ads that clog their internet feeds attempting to sway their votes,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause. “It is time for the FEC to bring online disclosure regulations into line with those that apply to television, radio and print, and for Congress to go further to strengthen disclosure requirements for paid online political activity.”

“The FEC cannot continue to turn a blind eye to this gaping hole in its campaign finance regulations that has allowed hostile foreign powers to advertise anonymously online in our elections,” said Paul S. Ryan, Common Cause Vice President for Policy and Litigation. “Both the FEC and Congress have jobs to do. They must put their country before their party and ensure that the American people know the identity of the parties buying ads in an attempt to dictate winners and losers in our elections.”

Common Cause is also working to win over additional cosponsors and pass the Honest Ads Act, introduced by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Mark Warner (D-VA), and John McCain (R-AZ), that requires disclosure of the sponsors of online political ads.

To read the comments filed today, click here.