Congress and the Executive Branch should focus on making the work of lobbyists and other paid influencers more transparent.
Money in Politics Disclosure
To uncover the levers of access and influence in Congress and the White House, real time online disclosure of money in politics must become the standard.
- Enact Legislation to Disclose Dark Money in Elections
- Appoint FEC Commissioners Committed to Transparency
- The IRS Should Tighten and Enforce Rules Regarding Electioneering Activities of Nonprofits
- The SEC Should Require Companies to Disclose Political Spending
- Improve the FCC's Political File Database
- Mandate Disclosure of Tax Returns and Bundlers by Presidential Candidates
- Enact Legislation to Disclose Corporate Political Spending to Shareholders
- Require Senators to Electronically File Campaign Finance Disclosure Reports
There is a wealth of government data that must be made accessible to the public.
- Create an Index of Federal Agencies' Major Datasets
- Enact the Public Online Information Act
- Enact the Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act
- Make Congressional Research Service Reports Publicly Available
- Implement the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act
- Adopt FOIA Reforms
- Review the Personal Financial Disclosure System
- Report Earmark Requests from Congress Online
Improve the FCC's Political File Database
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) should adopt rules expanding its database of information about political advertising to include all media markets. The database should be publicly available in a structured data format and should integrate FEC identifier information. In addition, the database should identify the chief executive officers or members of the executive committee of any entity sponsoring or furnishing political ads.
In April 2012, the FCC imposed a rule requiring the top four broadcasters in the biggest fifty media markets to put information from their “political files” online. The political file includes information about individuals and groups that purchase political ads on the station. Prior to the rule, political files, which are required to be public, were available only by going to a broadcasters office to view a paper file. The ruling puts information about political ad buys online for the first time, however, the coverage is incomplete. In the midst of the 2012 elections, one hundred sixty media markets, including many key presidential battleground states, were exempt from online disclosure. In addition, the information that was collected by the FCC was not made available in a searchable, sortable format, making it much more difficult for users to parse and analyze the data.
Little is more fundamental to the functioning of our democracy than voters’ understanding of who is influencing our elections, and broadcasters have a responsibility, in exchange for use of the public spectrum, to demonstrate they are serving the needs of their community. Placing detailed information about political advertising online in a centralized FCC database is fundamental to broadcasters satisfying their responsibility.
Broadcasters profited handsomely from the $1 billion spent by outside groups on the 2012 election but the public was left in the dark about who was behind most of the expenditures. They must be required, without exception, to make the information from their public files readily available to the public.