Copps Props Political Ad Source Disclosure

WASHINGTON: A public interest group is asking federal regulators to require full disclosure on political advertisements. Media Access Project filed a petition with the Federal Communications Commission asking that it set rules requiring “meaningful disclosure of the identity of those purchasing commercials relating to the election of candidates and other controversial issues of public importance.” The current rules are obsolete, MAP said.

“Existing campaign finance and IRS regulations allow organizations which are often hollow shells for one or a few organizations or individuals to purchase commercials without identifying the source of their funding,” MAP’s petition states.

As an example, MAP noted that a group calling itself Iowans for Responsible Government was the identified sponsor of $370,000 worth of TV ads attacking a Republican candidate as “a liberal” in the run-up to the primary. It was later disclosed that Iowans for Responsible Government was solely funded by the Democratic Governors Association. In another example, Concerned Taxpayers of America spent $450,000 on TV commercials in two Congressional races. The group consisted of two donors, according to The Washington Post.

FCC Commissioner Michael Copps said he welcomed the petition and urged his colleagues to take action on it.

“In the most recent election cycle last year, way over $2 billion was funneled into political ads, a record high for a midterm campaign,” Copps said in a statement. “We, the People have a right to know who is bankrolling these ads. . . . if some group called ‘Citizens for Spacious Skies and Amber Waves of Grain’ is actually underwritten by a chemical company that doesn’t want to clean up a toxic dump, viewers, listeners and voters should know this.”
-- Deborah D. McAdams