Political Ad Sleuth Exposes the Money Behind Election Advertising


Today, Sunlight and Free Press are proud to launch Political Ad Sleuth, a new project dedicated to collecting and posting online the information available in the political files of broadcast stations across the country. These files detail the name of the buyer, cost, air times and duration of political ads.

Until this year, these records have been kept on paper at stations’ main studios, where they were required to be available for any member of the public who wanted to inspect them. With public pressure by Sunlight and other groups, the Federal Communications Commission now requires some of them to be placed online, but they still aren’t easy to search. Until now.

With Political Ad Sleuth, you can view, search and sort the latest information on political ads purchased at television stations based on state, individual television market and even by a specific station. The information is gathered from the FCC’s database as well as submitted by journalists and volunteers who visit the stations not yet required to post their files online and upload copies of those files to the site. While Political Ad Sleuth is the most comprehensive tool available to research the influence behind these ads, the information is still not complete and we need your help!

Here’s what you can do:

  • Create an account on Political Ad Sleuth
  • Search for a candidate or committee to see if there are files that “need entry” (Want to see who’s spending for Romney? Obama?)
  • Enter data from the PDFs
  • Find your local television station not required by the FCC to post their files online (You can search for your state )
  • Visit your station and inspect the political files and upload to Political Ad Sleuth

Our Reporting group is already using Political Ad Sleuth in their stories and analysis.  With your help, we can uncover the influence behind our elections.

Political Ad Sleuth is a collaborative project by Sunlight Foundation and Free Press. For more information you can contact us at outreach@politicaladsleuth.com