Congressman Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) introduced two pieces of legislation on March 8th, to increase transparency and openness in the political system by making it easier to determine exactly who is sponsoring and paying for political ads. Luján’s bills make it easier to determine who is funding anonymous political ads and require that information filed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) about those ads be more available and accessible to the public.
“Since the Citizens United decision opened the doors to super PACs and unlimited money, dark money groups have flooded the nation’s airwaves. And far too often, we have no idea who is spending millions to promote their agenda,” Luján said. “While certain information about political ads is available, often the groups paying for those adds are front groups funneling money from anonymous donors. And when more fulsome information about these ads is available, it is not always accessible in a very usable way. If we are going to require this material to be publicly available – as we should – it should also be available in a way that allows the public to actually use it and evaluate who is trying to influence their vote. My common sense legislation calls on the FCC to take steps to make this information available and more accessible. ”
The first of Luján’s bills — the FCC Transparency Act — instructs the FCC to make political ad-buy information available in a format that is searchable, sortable, and downloadable. The other bill – the Keeping Our Campaigns Honest (KOCH) Act — requires political ads to include the names of significant donors behind political ads. These bills – introduced with Representatives John Yarmuth (D-KY), Peter Welch (D-VT), and over two dozen cosponsors – are supported by Common Cause and Public Citizen.
“Campaign finance reports across the nation are already made available according to state-of-the-art Internet disclosure systems, in a searchable, sortable and downloadable format. Yet the FCC – the agency that presides over the nation’s broadcasters – has so far refused to make its campaign finance records available to the public in the same machine-readable format. There is no excuse for this,” said Craig Holman, Government Affair/Legislative Representative for Public Citizen. “Public Citizen applauds Congressman Luján’s legislation to require the FCC to conform to today’s digital standards of easy and accessible transparency of money in politics.”
“At this critical moment when big-money special interests always seem to get their way, Common Cause commends Congressman Luján for introducing legislation to ensure that the political ad file at the FCC is sortable and machine-readable,” said Viki Harrison, Executive Director of the New México Chapter of Common Cause. “This bill will help strengthen our democracy so that everyday Americans will always have a strong voice in our government and know who is trying to influence our elections.”
“With at least $650 million in secret political money being spent in the last three federal elections, Americans are tired of being left in the dark about who is trying to influence their votes,” said Aaron Scherb, director of legislative affairs at Common Cause. “We appreciate Congressman Luján’s leadership in introducing the Keeping Our Campaigns Honest Act to ensure the FCC revises its sponsorship identification rules requiring the disclosure of the individuals funding anonymous ads.”