Sunday's Super Bowl was the country's top rated sporting spectacle–but viewers in Washington area got something extra: more political ads.
It's not the first time someone has tried to mix politics and football, but thanks to a database that the Federal Communications Commission created six months ago this week, it is the first time that the money behind the advertising can be traced quickly to its source.
Local CBS affiliate WUSA has, so far, reported three political ads that ran last night. All the groups behind the three ads are organized as non-profit corporations and don't have to disclose who's funding them.
An ad aired by the Center for Union Facts
- Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a group founded by New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, spent $100,000 for a 30-second spot that highlighted the National Rifle Association's flip-flop on stricter background checks for gun buyers.
- The Center for Union Facts, a pro-business group that campaigns against "union officials' abuse of power… corruption, violence, and intimidation" paid $50,000 for a 30-second ad opposing so-called "card-check" — the requirement "that employees publicly cast their votes in unionization elections."
- The Center for Consumer Freedom, a group that's been tied to the restaurant industry, paid $50,000 for a 30-second ad slamming the Humane Society of the United States.
Both the Center for Union Facts and the Center for Consumer Freedom were organized by Richard Berman, owner of research, communications, advertising, and government affairs firm Berman and Company. Berman, a former vice president of public affairs at the Pillsbury Restaurant Group, has a long history of controversial advocacy. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington described Berman as an "over-the-top P.R. maven who has attacked the minimum wage, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and various consumer health campaigns."
The FCC requires all TV stations affiliated with the top four broadcast networks in the nation's 50 largest TV markets to post political ad buy documents online. These files are often the only way the public can see who's paying for political advocacy; spending on so-called "issue ads" does not have to be disclosed to the Federal Election Commission.