In January, I noted that the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United v. FEC case would open the “floodgates of political money such as we have never seen before.” Since then, Sunlight has continuously pressed Congress to create a more transparent, accountable political disclosure system. We asked for online, real-time transparency provisions in the DISCLOSE Act. But as of today, Congress has failed to pass any legislation in the wake of Citizens United.
While this is disappointing, we’re putting the issue of tracking the money into everyone’s hands by launching a new website — Sunlight Campaign Ad Monitor (Sunlight CAM) — that turns everyone into ad watchdogs. This new site allows anyone to share real-time information on who is buying political ad time in support of or against candidates running for elected office or issues on the ballot. With hundreds of millions of dollars already spent on political advertising and even more expecting to be spent in the final weeks leading up to Election Day, we need everyone to help us keep track of the money. After all, if Congress won’t act, we still have to find a way to follow the money — voters have the right to know what private interests are paying for these ads.
Participating in this distributed research project has just three steps :
1. Identify—When you hear or see a political ad, visit http://SunlightCAM.com on your computer or smart phone.
2. Watchdog—Once you are on the site, note the type of ad your are reporting (radio, TV or Internet), as well as information about the media outlet it appeared on, which politician was mentioned, and if the ad included a “paid for by” line. Your anonymous submission will be added to our online database.
3. Share—Let others know what you find by sharing your reporting with friends on Twitter or Facebook.
We encourage reporters, bloggers and citizens to download the data from the site to do additional research on these ads and funders. Our own Reporting Group will also use Sunlight CAM to assist with its online investigations examining the flow of money in campaigns. And we also welcome the Associated Press Managing Editors association as a media partner for the site.
I am truly excited about this project, but it needs your help to so let’s work together to bring greater transparency to the political ads we see on TV, hear on the radio or watch online.
Join us at Sunlight Campaign Ad Monitor.