Common Cause Urges FEC to Enact Stronger Proposal for Disclosure of Online Political Ads Sponsors “Paid for By” Disclaimers
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Common Cause and 25,213 of its members and supporters have filed formal comments urging the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to adopt the stronger of two proposals (Alternative A) to update its rules by requiring online political advertisements to include “paid for by” disclaimers currently required for TV, radio and print ads. Common Cause joins a coalition of pro-transparency organizations delivering to the FEC comments from more than 100,000 people urging the adoption of stronger online ad disclaimer rules.
The comments emphasized that the rulemaking is long overdue as political advertising on internet has exploded in recent cycles with almost no disclosure of those funding such advertising. More than $1.4 billion was spent on political advertising online during the 2016 election cycle and a Russian “troll farm,” the Internet Research Agency, in St. Petersburg was spending more than $1.25 million per month in the Fall of 2016 distributing propaganda on the internet in order to help swing the presidential election.
Though the FEC has not been enforcing existing laws requiring disclosure of spending on “general public political advertising” when it comes to online political ads, the comments emphasize that Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller has charged 13 Russian nationals and three companies, including the “troll farm,” with criminal violations for undisclosed spending in the 2016 election.
“Americans have made very clear that they want to know whom or what is bankrolling political ads on the internet and Special Counsel Robert Mueller is enforcing disclosure requirements related to those ads – it is high-time the FEC follows suit,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause. “To safeguard the integrity of our elections, the FEC must bring online disclosure regulations into line with those that apply to television, radio and print. Congress must go further and pass the Honest Ads Act to strengthen disclosure requirements for paid online political activity.”
“There is too much at stake for the FEC to continue turning a blind eye to this huge vulnerability of our campaign finance regulations that has allowed Kremlin-backed companies and individuals to advertise anonymously online in an effort to sway our elections to the candidate of their choice,” said Paul S. Ryan, Common Cause vice president for policy and litigation. “Both the FEC and Congress must act and act decisively to address this serious national security issue. It is long past time for every member of Congress and every FEC Commissioner to put their country before their party and tighten the laws protecting Americans’ right to know who’s buying ads to influence their votes in our elections.”
Common Cause is also continuing its work to secure 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, click here.