So determined are Republican members of Congress to kowtow to the broadcast industry that today members of a House Appropriations subcommittee voted to strip the Federal Communications Commission of its ability to post online information that is already supposed to be public about who is paying for campaign ads.
In April the FCC adopted rules requiring the top four broadcasters in the biggest fifty media markets to put their “political files” online. The political file includes information about individuals and groups that purchase political ads on the station. This ruling was an important step for transparency because it meant that instead of having to dig through a file cabinet in a local broadcaster’s office, anyone interested in learning who was paying for a political ad could access that information by going to the FCC’s website.
The National Association of Broadcasters have been fighting this transparency measure from its inception, preferring to keep secret information about where an expected $3 billion in political ad revenue is coming from. The FCC, in adopting the disclosure rules, stood up to the powerful broadcast lobby. Republican Members of the Appropriations subcommittee, not so much.
The appropriations bill will have to be marked up by the full committee before moving on to the House floor. Advocates, including the Sunlight Foundation and Free Press hope efforts by committee Democrats to strip the offending provisions from the bill are successful. House Republicans should not be able to blithely disregard Americans’ right to know who is paying for their elections.